Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville is the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center. Stop here to learn about the entire 469 miles and 75-year history of the Parkway - from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Western North Carolina. Located at Milepost 384 (about a mile south of the U.S. 70 intersection, 8 miles southeast of downtown Asheville) the Parkway Visitor Center features innovative, high-tech interactive exhibits.
The unique I-Wall is a 22-foot interactive map of the entire Parkway which provides multi-media information on places. There are two information desks. Parkway rangers share guidance by the gift shop. Toward the back is the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area desk with helpful volunteers with plenty of ideas of things to do throughout the North Carolina mountains and foothills. The Center’s exhibits highlight the natural and cultural diversity, economic traditions and recreational opportunities found along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The theater’s main attraction is the movie “The Blue Ridge Parkway - America’s Favorite Journey.” Shown hourly in high-definition surround sound, the 24-minute film captures a father-daughter trip along the motor road that incorporates history and the region’s contemporary sights and sounds.
Hours of operation are from 9 AM to 5 PM daily. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Admission free. Call them at 828-298-5330 for more info. Nearby are the Folk Art Center and North Carolina Arboretum.
A 1.2-mile loop trail starts from the parking lot of the Visitor Center and joins the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. This is a moderate 45-minute hike, great for stretching legs after a road trip.
In January 2009, the Destination Visitor Center for the Blue Ridge Parkway attained LEED Gold status in a rating that acknowledges the building's design exceeds the standard for high energy efficiency. The center, completed in January 2008, includes a 10,000-square-foot green roof that was seeded with drought-tolerant native plants, hydronic radiant-heated flooring, a high-efficiency HVAC system with an energy recovery unit and daylight harvesting with a lighting system that is expected to reduce lighting loads by 78 percent. Among the more visually striking features are the 13 passive solar Trombe walls that stand in a sawtooth formation on the south facade. Named for French designer Felix Trombe, such walls are designed to absorb solar heat and release it to the interior of a building. At the center, the sun heats air space that's sandwiched between the glass wall facing the exterior and an inner concrete wall. The heat is transferred into the building via vents. The Trombe walls help insulate and warm the building in the winter and cool it in the summer.