Asheville NC Vacation The Ultimate Vacation Destination
  • May
    1

    Western North Carolina’s  Spring flowering season has just begun in the lower elevations of Asheville and Hendersonville, and with plenty of winter moisture, a spectacular spring it will be!  We toured the Biltmore Estate Azalea Gardens on Thursday, April 29, 2010, and their trees and shrubs were beautiful beyond words.  The foresight of George W. Vanderbilt, who built the Biltmore Estate, Frederick Law Olmsted (the father of American landscape architecture), and Richard Morris Hunt (the architect of the Biltmore House) shows every time we walk the grounds of Americas largest single family home.  The planning, the layouts, the plant placement, the walls, the gardens, the fields, and the water features all were combined to create a magical wonderland.  The family of George Vanderbilt continued the traditions since the house first opened Christmas Eve, 1895, and are still creating more and more joy for themselves and for us.

    Spectacular Azalea Colors at Biltmore Estate's Azalea Garden - photo by Robert Bowles of www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com

    Spectacular Azalea Colors at Biltmore Estate's Azalea Garden - photo by Robert Bowles of www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com

     

     

    Ginny adores wandering the acres of pathways of the Biltmore Estate's Azalea Gardens.  www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com

    Ginny adores wandering the acres of pathways of the Biltmore Estate's Azalea Gardens. www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com

    While hiking the Mountain-to-Sea Trail earlier in the week, Stephanie and I noticed some beautiful orange flowering trees, and wondered what they were.  Imagine my delight upon arriving at our Mountain Laurel Lodge to see the exact same flowering tree in our own backyard!  I believe they are Flame Azalea (rhododendron calendulaceum) or Florida Azalea (Rhododendron austrinum).   There are several other shrubs and bushes that have already shown their spring flowers, and we’ve yet to identify them with certainty, although we are pretty certain the following are also in the Rhododendron and Azalea species. Perhaps someone reading this may have an answer.

    While hiking the Mountain-to-Sea Trail earlier in the week, Stephanie and I noticed some beautiful orange flowering trees, and wondered what they were. Imagine my delight upon arriving at our Mountain Laurel Lodge to see the exact same flowering tree in our own backyard! I believe they are Flame Azalea (rhododendron calendulaceum) or Florida Azalea (Rhododendron austrinum). There are several other shrubs and bushes that have already shown their spring flowers, and we’ve yet to identify them with certainty, although we are pretty certain the following are also in the Rhododendron and Azalea species. Perhaps someone reading this may have an answer.

    Our latest vacation rental home acquisition, the Mountain Laurel Lodge, has as its back yard a mountain side rising up to a peak, almost entirely covered in Mountain Laurels, Rhododendrons, Dogwoods, and other trees and shrubs unidentified or perhaps unseen by us so far.  We can’t wait for the surprises in store for us, especially when the huge number of Mountain Laurels and Rhododendrons open up for their private spring decoration show.  There is still time to rent the home for your vacation to witness the show for yourself!  www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com

    Our latest vacation rental home acquisition, the Mountain Laurel Lodge, has as its back yard a mountain side rising up to a peak, almost entirely covered in Mountain Laurels, Rhododendrons, Dogwoods, and other trees and shrubs unidentified or perhaps unseen by us so far. We can’t wait for the surprises in store for us, especially when the huge number of Mountain Laurels and Rhododendrons open up for their private spring decoration show. There is still time to rent the home for your vacation to witness the show for yourself! www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com

    Photos and text by Robert A Bowles,  www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com, 828-274-9777.  While visiting the Biltmore Estate, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Smoky Mountains, please call us to reserve one of our luxurious vacation rental cottages, chalets and lodges.  You deserve to be spoiled!

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  • Oct
    23

    Always changing with the seasons, the famous Biltmore House and grounds take great pride in presenting the most fabulous works of art….including their own ever changing artistic creations in landscaping.  Just off the Biltmore House library is a large area often used for summer outdoor concerts, which is transformed at the end of summer into a “CARPET OF FLOWERS.”  As seen in the photo, the beauty sculpted in a floral carpet design is displayed against the backdrop of the awesome Blue Ridge Parkway and Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. 

    Ginny is delighted to be back at the Biltmore Estate to visit the awesome "Carpet of Flowers" on display in August.

    Ginny is delighted to be back at the Biltmore Estate to visit the awesome "Carpet of Flowers" on display in August.

    During your stay in our area, you are invited to stay at one of our luxury vacation rental homes where you will be spoiled with fabulous amenities including hot tubs, massage chairs, king beds, gas log fireplaces, beautiful settings, gorgeous furnishings and so much more!  Purchase your Biltmore Estate tickets from us and enjoy two full days at the Biltmore for the price of a one day admission ticket!  www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com  Contact us at 828-274-9777 or email us at joyah@aol.com. 

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  • Oct
    18

    Asheville & Hendersonville NC is famous for many things, and in the Fall, a main attraction is the “Changing of the Leaves.”  The Blue Ridge Parkway gives “leaf peepers” a show throughout the entire Fall season.  The leaves begin changing to awesome colors at the higher elevations first and then sweep down the mountains as the days and weeks pass.  This year (2009) at the end of September and early October, the colorful leaf pallets began at Mount Mitchell (over 6500 feet) and at Mount Pisgah (over 5500 feet).  The truly spectacular colors have now begun spreading down the mountains towards Asheville & Hendersonville, and as of October 16, 2009, they are just beginning their transformation into breathtaking huge splashes of colors at these lower elevations.  As you can see in the photos, the forests surrounding the Biltmore Estate are just beginning to brighten. 

    Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC as seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway in mid-October 2009.  Fall colors are just beginning to show.  www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com

    Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC as seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway in mid-October 2009. Fall colors are just beginning to show. www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com

     

    You still have time to come experience it for yourself.  One of the best ways to really “feel” the changing of the leaves is to hike one of our many trails.  You can witness the changing forests as you walk through the fallen leaves underfoot, see the sun dancing through the leaves above, and see them drop and swirl around you.  It is a simple, heart-felt joy to be here at this time of the year!  You are invited to stay at our luxury vacation rental homes where you will be spoiled with fabulous amenities including hot tubs, massage chairs, king beds, gas log fireplaces, beautiful settings, gorgeous furnishings and so much more!  Purchase your Biltmore Estate tickets from us and enjoy two full days at the Biltmore for the price of a one day admission ticket!  www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com  Contact us at 828-274-9777 or email us at joyah@aol.com. 

    Here's a view from the Blue Ridge Parkway taken in mid-October 2009 of downtown Asheville, with the Biltmore Estate Sheep Barn in the foreground. www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com

    Here's a view from the Blue Ridge Parkway taken in mid-October 2009 of downtown Asheville, with the Biltmore Estate Sheep Barn in the foreground. www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com

     
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  • Apr
    10

    Home of 750 juried members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the Folk Art Center, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost #382, is an amazing place to shop for a diverse selection of awesome one-of-a-kind handmade crafts, see live demonstrations & explore the incredible 3 galleries.  The offerings are always changing with a wide variety of art from basketry, jewelry, pottery, quilts, hand-woven clothing, glass work, paintings, wood carving, printmaking, metal sculpting and so much more!  If you want to bring home a souvenir from Asheville, this is the place to shop! 

     

    The buildings are shared by the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the Blue Ridge Parkway Information Center and the Eastern National Bookstore.

     

    For more information, contact the Southern Highland Craft Guild

    Ø  Phone:  828-298-7928

    Ø  Email:  shcg@buncombe.main.nc.us

    Ø  Website:  www.southernhighlandguild.org

    Ø  Directions:  From any of the Asheville entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway head north to Milepost #382 (Near the junction of US 70)

    Ø  Address:  Folk Art Center, 382 Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville NC  28805

    Ø  Open:  Daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

    Ø  Hours: Jan – March: 9 AM – 5 PM, April – Dec 9 AM – 6 PM

    Ø  Admission:  FREE

     

    While visiting our Blue Ridge Parkway and Asheville areas, you are invited to stay at one of our deliciously luxurious vacation rental homes complete with hot tub, massage chairs, king beds with sumptuous bedding, delightful surroundings and so much more!  BILTMORE HOUSE TICKETS:  We are authorized Biltmore Estate ticket distributors.  Buy your DISCOUNTED Biltmore tickets from us to save on gate entry price, avoid waiting in ticket lines, tickets upgradeable to season passes, free wine tasting tickets  and best of all, tickets are good for TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS instead of just one day at their higher one day price!  Contact us at 828-274-9777 or email us at Joyah@aol.com or see our website at www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com  

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  • Apr
    10

    In the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountain Range, you’ll find MOUNT PISGAH standing at 5,721 feet.  It is easily accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 407) about 15 miles southwest of Asheville NC.  Mt. Pisgah is easily spotted from many miles away by the identifying 339 foot TV tower perched at its peak.  In fact, it is the highest TV antenna east of the Mississippi at 6,023 feet above sea level.

     

    At the site of Mt Pisgah is an Inn, Gift Shop & the fabulous Pisgah Inn Restaurant with floor to ceiling windows offering spectacular long range views and the food served is excellent!  You can hike the 1.6 mile trail up to the peak for awesome views (moderate difficulty and steep toward the top) and we would suggest NOT hiking during a lightning storm!  At the Mt. Pisgah parking area you’ll also find the Buck Spring Trail leading to the historic exhibit of the stone remains of the George Vanderbilt Hunting Lodge which was quite popular with his Biltmore Estate guests. 

     

    We highly recommend taking a leisurely drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville.  Pull off at the various look-outs along the way to enjoy the awesome views and maybe take a stroll along one of the many hiking trails, then head on to the Mt. Pisgah Restaurant to indulge in a delicious meal or dessert.

     

    Reviewed by Stephanie Joy Johnson of Asheville’s luxury vacation cabins, chalets, cottages and homes:  www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com  YOU DESERVE TO BE SPOILED and you will be outrageously spoiled at our vacation rental homes by our awesome amenities!!! Buy your discounted BILTMORE HOUSE TICKETS from us…save money, no waiting in line and tickets are good for TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS instead of just one!  828-274-9777  Email: Joyah@aol.com

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  • Apr
    9

    Awesome panoramic views from Mount Mitchell

    Awesome panoramic views from Mount Mitchell

     

    A beautifully scenic 50 minute drive northeast from Asheville NC on the Blue Ridge Parkway will take you to the 1855 acre MOUNT MITCHELL NC STATE PARK, which at 6684 feet is the highest point east of the Mississippi!  Once there, stroll around the 1385 SF visitor exhibit area full of interesting information on the unique flora and fauna found at this altitude. Take the short hike (1/4 mile) to see breath-taking vistas from the Observation Deck lookout.  Explore the variety of nature paths and hiking trails….the highest hiking trails in North Carolina.

     

    Since you are a bit far from civilization, be reassured that there is a pleasant restaurant on the grounds where you can enjoy a meal while you watch the awesome views from the huge picture windows.  Remember to bring a jacket since even during the summer it can be chilly at this altitude.

     

    Ø  Admission:  is FREE and open year round (except Christmas). 

    Ø  Hours:  Park opens at 8 AM year round and closes at 6 PM Nov – Feb, 7 PM March & October, 8 PM April & September, and 9 PM May – August.  Be aware that with winter snow conditions, the Blue Ridge Parkway is often closed and you’ll need to call the park to check which roads are open.

    Ø  Phone:  828-675-4611.

    Ø  Website:  http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/momi/main.php

    Ø  Email:  mount.mitchell@ncmail.net

     

    Reviewed by Stephanie Joy Johnson of Asheville’s luxury vacation cabins, chalets, cottages and homes:  www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com  YOU DESERVE TO BE SPOILED and you will be outrageously spoiled at our vacation rental homes by our awesome amenities!!! Buy your discounted BILTMORE HOUSE TICKETS from us…save money, no waiting in line and tickets are good for TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS instead of just one!  828-274-9777  Email: Joyah@aol.com

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  • Mar
    7
    Ginny takes a break on her winter hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooking the French Broad River in Asheville NC.  During the summer months the scenery will be lush and wildlife abundant!

    Ginny takes a break on her winter hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooking the French Broad River in Asheville NC. During the summer months the scenery will be lush and wildlife abundant!

    The stunningly beautiful FRENCH BROAD RIVER flows through the heart of Asheville, North Carolina as well as the picturesque Biltmore Estate.  You can see why this free-flowing wide river attracted the establishment of such a unique mountain city on its banks.  Today it provides fabulous recreation including fishing (small mouth bass & catfish), rafting, kayaking, canoeing or just the pleasure of watching the amazing river as it flows by.  It is only one of two rivers that flows toward the north in the U.S. and is the third oldest river in the world.  Beginning at Rosman NC, it flows 210 miles northwest through the Appalachian Mountains into the Tennessee River, then into the Mississippi River and on to the Gulf of Mexico.  Take a gentle ride or experience a rapids raft adventure down the French Broad River for an experience of a life time.

     

    RECREATION ON THE RIVER: 

    • Check out the local in town Asheville Outdoor Center for a gentle French Broad River trip by canoe, raft or kayak.  It’s a great way for kids and families to experience the natural beauty, wildlife and history of this mountain area. You can even see the Biltmore Estate grounds as you float through its property.  The Asheville Outdoor Center now has added mining for fossils, minerals and precious stones along the river as part of your mountain experience.  You can call them at 800-849-1970 or 828-232-1970 or go their website for more details: www.paddlewithus.com.
    • For a white water rafting adventure on the French Broad River and only 24 miles out of Asheville, check out the French Broad Rafting Expeditions with various river tours from 9 miles to 5 miles and from class I to class IV rapids.  It promises to be a memorable adventure!  They are open 7 days a week from March through October. Their number is 800-570-7238 and their website is:  www.frenchbroadrafting.com/whitewater.htm.
    • If you are visiting The Biltmore Estate, for a fee additional to entrance admission price, you can enjoy their French Broad River float trips by raft or kayak either with a guide or on your own.  Available April through October.  See below on how to buy your DISCOUNTED Biltmore Estate entry tickets.

    WHERE TO STAY:  You are invited to stay at our luxurious Asheville vacation rental cabins, cottages and chalets while in the area.  Visit our website at www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com for your choice of a quality home with all the amenities to pamper you….hot tubs, massage chairs, king beds & sumptuous bedding, beautiful settings, high speed wireless Internet, gas log fireplaces and so much more!  Call us at 828-274-9777 for your reservation.

     

    We are authorized Biltmore Estate ticket distributors.  Buy your DISCOUNTED Biltmore tickets from us to save on gate entry price, avoid waiting in ticket lines, tickets upgradeable to season passes, free wine tasting tickets and best of all, tickets are good for TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS instead of just one day!  Contact us at 828-274-9777 or email us at Joyah@aol.com or see our website at www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com 

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  • Mar
    3

    Ginny is exhausted before she even starts up this strenuous but gorgeous trail leading up to Mount Pisgah!  Hike this trail in sections unless you are ready to do some serious hiking!

    Ginny is exhausted before she even starts up this strenuous but gorgeous trail leading up to Mount Pisgah! Hike this trail in sections unless you are ready to do some serious hiking!

    The famous Shut-In Trail, which parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway up to the 5721’ Mount Pisgah (about 30 – 40 minutes by car from Asheville), was originally part of a trail built by George Vanderbilt for his family and friends staying at his Biltmore Estate leading to his hunting retreat at Mount Pisgah.  Hiking this trail is definitely NOT for the faint of heart….or body!  It’s a long, steep, up and down ridge trail….and incredibly beautiful.  If you were part of the Biltmore Estate guests visiting during its era, you would have been provided horses from the Biltmore Estate Stables and have ridden up to their Mt Pisgah lodge. Much of the original trail that was graded is no longer in existence and it now follows the ridge line.  (Of course, the Estate servants would have been sent in advance to prepare for the guests’ comfort!)  The 900+ mile long Mountain-To-Sea Trail (marked with a white circular blaze) also shares this route for part of the distance.  We like to enter the Shut-In Trail just off the Blue Ridge Parkway by Hwy 191 before the entrance to the WNC Arboretum (a sign marks the spot – see Ginny’s photo).

     

     

    While visiting our Blue Ridge Parkway and Asheville areas, you are invited to stay at one of our deliciously luxurious vacation rental homes complete with hot tubs, massage chairs, king beds with sumptuous bedding, delightful surroundings and so much more!  After a long day on the trail, you’ll appreciate these important amenities!  www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com 

    BILTMORE HOUSE TICKETS:  We are authorized Biltmore Estate ticket distributors.  Buy your DISCOUNTED Biltmore tickets from us to save on gate entry price, avoid waiting in ticket lines, tickets upgradeable to season passes, free wine tasting tickets  and best of all, tickets are good for TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS instead of just one day at their higher price!  Contact us at 828-274-9777 or email us at Joyah@aol.com or see our website at www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com 

     

    Shut In Trail is a lush forest trail just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    Shut In Trail is a lush forest trail just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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  • Mar
    2

    Known as “America’s Favorite Drive,” the scenic 469 mile long BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY winds through the spectacularly beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains (part of the Appalachian Mountain chain).  Starting at the Shenandoah National Park, Virginia and ending in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs directly through the mountain city of Asheville NC.  Be sure to stay in or near Asheville (www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com) to explore the wonders of this amazing Blue Ridge Parkway National Park.  Throughout the length of the Parkway, you’ll find many pull out areas and marked hiking trails.  Visit the many waterfalls, visitor centers, picnic areas, panoramic vista overlooks, Mount Mitchell, Mount Pisgah, the Pisgah National Forest, Folk Art Center, and so much more! 

     

    While in the Asheville area, we suggest exploring from Mile Post (MP) 350 to 412 (Smaller numbers are to the north and larger numbers head south):

    • MP 350:  MOUNT MITCHELL (about 30 minutes north of Asheville) the highest point East of the Mississippi at 6684 feet and the Mount Mitchell State Park with nature trails, museum, campground, restaurant and awesome views from the look out tower and restaurant.
    • MP 364:  CRAGGY DOME view with an elevation of 5640′ and the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center (MP 364.6)  During June and July you’ll witness the awesome blooms of the rhododendron, mountain laurel, azaleas and other wildflowers.
    • MP 382:  FOLK ART CENTER VISITOR CENTER  More than just a visitor center, this is one of our favorite places to shop for unique gifts by the Southern Highlands Handicraft Guild!  The beautiful building houses wonderful exhibits, artwork, jewelry and crafts for sale. Also housed are a library and auditorium for informative presentations, and of course, visitor information.  
    • MP 407: MOUNT PISGAH (about 30 miles south of Asheville) at 5721.’  Once a part of the Biltmore Estate, there is a winding trail from off the Pisgah parking lot that leads to the top with fabulous vistas.  There is also a motel and quality restaurant with floor to ceiling picture windows with out-of-the-world views!   
    • MP 412:  View of COLD MOUNTAIN  at 4542’ made famous by the best-seller book and movie with the same name. 

     

    BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY DETAILS SUMMARY:

    • Length of Road:  469.1 miles Virginia to North Carolina
    • Speed Limit: 45 MPH unless posted slower
    • No Entrance Fee – This is a FREE park
    • Winter Months:  The road is not maintained during the winter so winter conditions may force some closures.  Note: through the city of Asheville, the Parkway is usually open except during snow or ice conditions. 
    • Construction:  Begun during the Depression in 1935 as a public works, the Parkway was completed in 1987 at Grand Father Mountain.
    • Websites: 

    Great for Mile Post Views:  http://www.virtualblueridge.com/

    Blue Ridge Parkway Association:  http://www.blueridgeparkway.org/ 

    National Park Service:  http://www.nps.gov/blri/

    We invite you to visit stay at one of our luxury vacation rental cabins, cottages, chalets or homes in the Asheville and Hendersonville NC locations:  www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com  or call us at 828-274-9777 to make your reservations. 

     

    BILTMORE HOUSE TICKETS:  Buy your DISCOUNTED Biltmore Estate tickets from us to save on gate entry price, avoid waiting in ticket lines, tickets upgradeable to season passes, free wine tasting tickets  and best of all, tickets are good for TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS instead of just one day!  Even if you don’t stay with us, we can still sell you the tickets!  http://www.ashevillevacationhomes.com/BILTMOREESTATETICKETS.html

     

    Ginny enters the Blue Ridge Parkway ready for her hike on the Mountain-To-SeaTrail.

    Ginny enters the Blue Ridge Parkway ready for her hike on the Mountain-To-SeaTrail.

     

     

    Pull out at any of the number of turn-outs along the Blue Ridge Parkway for magnificent panoramic views!

    Pull out at any of the number of turn-outs along the Blue Ridge Parkway for magnificent panoramic views!

     

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  • Feb
    24

    The 434 acre botanically diverse North Carolina Arboretum, located near Asheville, NC, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 393, is a beautiful nature center where relaxing with nature has never been so easy.  Flowers and butterflies soothe the mind as you follow the Arboretum trails with the musical sound of Bent Creek stream keeping time with your steps.  Mountain biking, quilting, birding, bonsai viewing, segway touring, and much more are available in this portion of the Pisgah National Forest.  Part of the University of North Carolina, it is focused on education, research, conservation and economic development with a wide variety of educational programs for all ages. The Arboretum is a “must-see” for visitors!  

     

    The Arboretum has numerous trails open to hikers and bicyclists.  Details:  http://www.ncarboretum.org/Horticulture/trails.htm.  Plants, flowers and trees are marked with informational signs throughout the park.  The Mountain-to-Sea Trail runs through a portion of the Arboretum site, and is easily accessed from outside the gate, on the road leading to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  You can park off the pavement in the graveled areas.  The trail heading south will put you at Mt. Pisgah, the former site of George W. Vanderbilt’s hunting lodge.  Vanderbilt, who built the Biltmore House, could see Mt. Pisgah from his home, and would send his servants up a day before he and his guests would make the trip, via horseback.  They’d signal from the top of the mountain to let him know of their progress and any unforeseen needs.

     

    The Arboretum staff and volunteers are loaded with information, and classes of all types are available.  See their website for details.   http://www.ncarboretum.org/  So, make a day of it, and enjoy nature as much as the bees do on Rhododendron flowers!  Tuesdays have free entry and other days there is a nominal charge of $6 per car. 

      

    Article & Photos by Robert Bowles for our guests staying at our Asheville & Hendersonville vacation rental homes, cabins, chalets & cottages.  www.AshevilleVacationHomes.com  Buy your DISCOUNTED Biltmore Estate Tickets from us good for 2 Consecutive Days instead of just 1! 

    Arboretum Rhodendron attracts bee visitor

    Arboretum Rhodendron attracts bee visitor

     

     

     

    Wandering through the many Arboretum trails, you'll notice carefully marked foliage signs identifying the diverse plant life.

    Wandering through the many Arboretum trails, you'll notice carefully marked foliage signs identifying the diverse plant life.

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