Asheville seeks image as adventurer's haven

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- The Asheville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau said it is beginning to recognize the value in marketing the city's rural environs as an adventure destination.

Natural settings such as Great Smoky National Park, The Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisco National Forest and the Bent Creek Experimental Forest all lie in and around Asheville.

Also located in Asheville is the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate, a country retreat created more than a century ago by George Vanderbilt.

The Biltmore Estate, in addition to offering tours of Vanderbilt's mansion, winery and grounds, features a program called Explore Biltmore Estate.

Guided by staff, guests can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, float trips and carriage rides.

"When an agent calls, we find out what his group wants to do and connect him with the appropriate people," said a spokeswoman for the CVB's group sales department.

Asheville attracts tourists year-round, with fall foliage and spring flower blooms the big draws. Some ski trails are open in winter, and rafting is a summer option, she said.

There also is a mix of ages and interests among visitors, she added. Seniors are drawn by the foliage, while youth groups are attracted by the history and adventure that the destination provides.

Although packages are not available through the CVB, the bureau is mobilizing itself to harness the resources available to clients by working with Nantahala Outdoor Center, an outdoor recreation provider, and the Biltmore Estate, according to the spokeswoman.

The Biltmore Estate offers packages with accommodations at a number of hotels as well as the newly opened Inn on Biltmore Estate. Packages include admission to the home and grounds.

For package information, call (800) 411-3910. For more on the estate, visit the Web at www.biltmore-estate.com.

The Asheville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau can be reached at (828) 258-6101. For group sales, call (828) 257-4960.

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