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Cece Nunn

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10/11/2011 - Cece Nunn
by StarNewsOnline.com

Looks like its gonna get busy around the Mountains of Western North Carolina and Asheville this week and next - leaves, festivals - oh, and The President of the United States is coming.  Again.  GET OUT AND ENJOY!

The beautiful colors of fall make the Asheville area a popular tourist destination. Photo courtesy of Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau

Published: Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 12:30 a.m.

In her 51 years of marriage, Wilmington resident Kitty Richardson traveled to the North Carolina mountains on vacation with her husband, O'Neal, dozens of time.

Facts

Free Ticket Tuesday

Because fall is one of the best times of the year to visit Asheville, the StarNews features department has teamed up with the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau to offer up a prize package that we'll be giving away on our arts and entertainment blog, The WAE, on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The package includes:

Two tickets to Biltmore
Two tickets to Chimney Rock State Park, plus two 15-minute "taster" rock climbing sessions
Two passes to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad (includes two youth admissions, but cannot be used in October)
Two passes to Navitat Canopy Adventures zipline tour
A $50 gift certificate to The Marketplace restaurant, one of Asheville's top farm-to-table dining establishments

To enter a random drawing for the contest, go to www.StarNewsOnline.com/WAE between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday and follow the instructions there.

They especially loved the display of fall foliage in Asheville and the surrounding area.

"It was a good family atmosphere, and the beauty of it was awesome," Kitty Richardson said. "North Carolina is so blessed to have the shore and the mountains."

O'Neal died in January, but Richardson said she hopes to make the trip this year.

She won't be the only one.

Fall leaf forecaster Kathy Gould Mathews, a botany professor at Western Carolina University in Culowhee, said this year's leaves are expected to put on a beautiful show of yellow, orange and red. Starting with sourwoods and dogwoods, cold temperatures break down the green pigment in the leaves to reveal the fall colors underneath.

"The cold snaps at night bring on that really brilliant appearance of color all at once," Mathews said last week.

Sourwoods and dogwoods turn red, while tulip poplars become yellow before changing quickly to brown, Mathews said.

These tips offer visitors some help to see the best the fall leaves have to offer:

Weekly fall color reports: To help visitors find the best and brightest autumn color each week, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority works with park officials, attractions and biologists in the region to compile weekly fall color reports, available at FallIntheMountains.com.

 

Where to go: Anywhere you have a nice vantage point of the surrounding mountains, Mathews said. "You can see the beautiful colors along the sides of the highway. In fact, that's sometimes where you see the most brilliant leaf color because those road cuts tend to be really dry because they're steep and the water runs off."

Leaf watching isn't the only thing to do in Asheville and western North Carolina this fall. The following are some other activities to consider in addition to, or to enhance, your leaf tour:

Moogfest

Moogfest, Oct. 28-30 this year, encompasses three days of music. Named after musician and sonic pioneer Robert Moog, the festival also includes exhibitions, installations, films, workshops and discussions. This year's lineup includes Brian Eno, Moby, The Flaming Lips and many more performers. Details: www.moogfest.com.

Biltmore

George Vanderbilt's 250-room Biltmore Estate welcomes millions of visitors each year. This month, the Biltmore Legacy building is the site of an exhibition of Louis Comfort Tiffany's stained-glass designs inspired by nature. The exhibition is included in the price of admission to Biltmore, which is $49, according to Biltmore's website. Details: www.biltmore.com.

Ride the Railroad

With a depot in Bryson City, about an hour from Asheville, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers four- to four-and-a-half hour adventures and can be a good way to see the fall leaves. Details: www.gsmr.com.

Fly through the trees

Navitat Canopy Adventures is a canopy zip line tour in the Blue Ridge Mountains, 20 minutes north of downtown Asheville, offering day and night adventures. Details: www.navitat.com.

Wildwater Adventure Centers also offers Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures, in addition to its rafting tours. Details: www.wildwaterrafting.com/ashevillezip.php

Blue Ridge Parkway Tour

A 469-mile scenic route, the Blue Ridge Parkway follows the highest ridges between Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains national parks. Chimney Rock is 25 miles southeast of Asheville on the parkway and the N.C. Arboretum - a 434-acre showcase of cultivated gardens, hiking and biking trails and Bonsai, as well as ongoing exhibits - is located at milepost 393. Details: www.NPS.gov/blri, www.ChimneyRockPark.com, and www.NCarboretum.org.

When to go: Mathews predicted last week that "this year everything might be peaking the second week of October." But the display, especially in the lower elevations, should continue through mid-November.

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