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Archive for May, 2009

‘Green Bash’ Scheduled for May 23rd

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Green Bash

ASHEVILLE, NC – On Saturday, May 23rd at 9p.m. Seven-Star Inc. teams up with Catalyst POETIX to present the first-ever "GREEN BASH" as a benefit for the Green Cities Institute, at 191 Lyman St., a.k.a. "The Star Factory."

Boasting a line-up of regional heavyweight talent, GREEN BASH features spoken-word poets of The Poetix Vanguard, hip-hop stylings of Preach Jacobs, the freshest DJ sounds of Bowie, Mindelixir, The Midnite Ace, and Cameron Corey with digital projection art from VJ collective The NightLight Riders.

The GREEN BASH sound system consists partly of Atlanta’s infamous "80 Megaton" consisting of 4 x 18" subwoofers generously being provided by Mellow Mushroom along with 600 square foot of light up dance floor.

Merging innovative, multimedia event production with the global sustainability movement, Seven-Star Inc. and Catalyst POETIX endeavor to positively impact the community through raising cultural awareness and promoting sustainability. Seven-Star’s mission is to accelerate the global market towards sustainable economy, ecological wisdom, and social justice through green event/entertainment development and production. Catalyst POETIX specializes in providing innovative experiential arts programs to heighten community awareness and empower youth. Together, the GREEN BASH will support the start-up of a new not-for-profit called Green Cities Institute which is developing a new native language eLearning platform offering "how-to" on-line seminars on hot water solar heater kits, permaculture, small scale green building, and community self-sufficiency.

The Green Cities Institute is the brainchild of Joseph B. Malki founder of the Green Cities event series and Chief Business Development Officer at Seven-Star, Inc. and Ajay Nair, CEO of BartiNet.com. Mr. Nair is a native of State of Kerala, India and his background is focused on business management and sustainable habitat planning. Both Mr. Maki and Mr. Nair’s inspiration comes from studying the lack of sustainable infrastructure in the developing world, particularly in slum communities. Mr. Nair states, "The non-availability of training materials in native languages like Hindi, Tamil, Urudu and Arabic prevents a massive underclass from reaping the rewards of permaculture, solar technology and other sustainable initiatives. Many times, the solutions are low-tech and available but for lack of access to knowledge. Our hope is to work with UN Habitat, mobile aggregators, social media and universities around the world to provide accessible training to the worlds most under privileged communities in their own languages." The green cities movement is hitting stride across the world as government and businesses are discovering more than a silver lining in solar, wind, composting and other green ventures. However, this green "boom" has largely ignored the world’s poorest.

In 2005, Seven-Star produced the United Nations World Environment Days’ Green Cities Expo. This year, they have re-launched the event series with a different twist. "It’s time for greater collaboration between all sectors of society around sustainability and its inherent cost savings. Artists, poets, and musicians have been excluded from the deeper conversations, but that’s changing. Green Bash is the beginning of integrating their voices and creativity on behalf of causes like the Green Cities Institute. When you combine outrageous fun with a cause, people pay attention. Artists have the power to shape this global dialogue and help the most unfortunate. Being ecologically active and involved in social justice is more than hip, its a timeless idea of being "good"

Doors open at 9pm and there is a $10 cover charge. For more information, call Graham Hackett at (828) 712-3808 or email [email protected]

Asheville Tourists Come Up Short Against Greenjackets

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Asheville Tourists

ASHEVILLE, NC – The Asheville Tourists and Augusta Greenjackets took the field Monday night to conclude Saturday’s suspended game and play a seven-inning contest to close out this homestand at McCormick Field. Asheville extended their existing lead in game one to 5-1 before the Augusta bats woke up and blasted 12 runs on 16 hits to take the opener, 12-6. Game two saw Greenjackets RHP Kyle Nicholson go the distance, shutting out the Tourists lineup in a 4-0 Augusta win.

Play began Monday night with Asheville leading 3-1 in the top of the fourth inning and RHP Michael Marbry on the mound. Marbry stranded two inherited runners before allowing six runs on five hits over 1.2 innings. Augusta would score at least one run in each of their five turns at bat, with Jonnathan Aristil, Isaiah Froneberger, and Stephen Dodson each allowing at least a run in the 12-6 loss.

Asheville seemed to have the advantage in the pitching matchup for game two, but Augusta RHP Kyle Nicholson got the better of Christian Friedrich Monday night. Friedrich pitched well, allowing three runs (two earned) on three walks, and five hits while striking out seven, earning his second loss of the year. Nicholson was great, shutting the Tourists out on seven hits and two walks, striking out five. Nicholson hunkered down each time Asheville threatened offensively, stranding nine base runners through seven innings.

The Augusta offense was provided by RBI hits from Josh Mazzola and C.J. Ziegler, fueling the Greenjackets win. Tourists shortstop Carlos Martinez went 2-for-3 in the loss.

The Tourists (14-22) will now travel to Rome to take on the Braves (22-16) for a four-game series beginning Wednesday night at 7:00. Wednesday night will feature a matchup between Asheville RHP Dan Houston (0-1, 3.12) and Rome RHP Randall Delgado (1-3, 4.03).

Asheville Honors Excellence in Public Service Nominees

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Asheville, NC

ASHEVILLE, NC – The City of Asheville announced the city-level winners of the annual Excellence in Public Service Awards. The winners were selected from a nominated pool of eighty-four exceptional city employees, all of whom made significant contributions to the City and to the Asheville community during 2008. The following city employees were honored as follows:

  • Outstanding Executive Manager Tim Splain, Commander of the APD Criminal Investigations Division (CID)
  • Outstanding Manager Gary Cornett, Assistant Fire and Rescue Chief
  • Outstanding Technician Ed Eads, APD crime analyst Outstanding Team APD K-9 Handlers, Sgt Joe Johnson, Russ Crisp, Sonia Escobedo, Craig Loveland, and Scott Muse
  • Outstanding Supervisor Kelly Hinz, AFR senior specialist
  • Outstanding Professional Lynn Hollifield, Health Services Manager
  • Outstanding Administrative Professional Ginger Holt, Administrative Assistant for Water Resources Department
  • Outstanding Trade and Service Maintenance Employee Eric Evans, Building Inspector
  • Suzanne S. Turner Unsung Heroine Award Liz Calloway, Administrative Assistant for Streets Division of Public Works
  • Hoyt Abney Outstanding Community Service winner Debbie Messer, Computer Support Specialist

City winners will join winners from federal, state, county and municipality offices for the region’s Excellence in Public Service ceremony on Wednesday, May 20, at UNC Asheville.

UNC Asheville Celebrates 81st Annual Commencement

Monday, May 18th, 2009

UNCA graduation

ASHEVILLE, NC – More than 4,000 family and friends gathered on UNC Asheville’s Quadrangle Saturday morning to celebrate UNC Asheville’s 2009 graduating class. Some 612 students were honored during the 81st annual Commencement Ceremony, including 365 spring graduates, 221 winter graduates and 26 summer graduates. They were all treated to an impromptu performance by honorary degree recipient Doc Watson as well as an inspiring commencement address by Thomas L. Purce.

Among the students were the first three graduates of the joint UNC Asheville – N.C. State University bachelor of science degree in engineering with a concentration in mechatronics. The students took engineering classes on campus taught by NCSU faculty, along with the regular UNC Asheville coursework. The program was created in response to the express needs of the manufacturing community in Western North Carolina and is one of a very few programs in the country that has a concentration on mechatronics, which incorporates mechanical and electrical engineering. Twins Alan and Daniel Griffee of Weaverville have landed jobs locally, while Esraa Halim will return to Egypt this summer to visit family and consider graduate school.

Early in the commencement ceremony, UNC Asheville Chancellor Anne Ponder awarded honorary degrees to Evergreen College President Thomas L. Purce and legendary musician Arthel "Doc" Watson.

Purce has served as president of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., a nationally recognized public liberal arts institution, for nine years. Purce has also held top-ranking administrative roles at Washington State University and Idaho State University and was the first black elected official in Idaho, serving as city councilman and then mayor of Pocatello.

Watson, a Western North Carolina native, is a legendary guitar player, songwriter, and singer of bluegrass, folk and country music. Blind since the age of one, Watson became an avid musician. He got his big career break at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, and recorded his first solo album the following year. Watson has since won seven Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of the Arts and was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

After receiving his honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, Purce addressed the graduates, urging the students to make a lifelong commitment to education and community service.

"It is not the intention of this university to graduate citizens into the world who think that their only reason for getting an education is to increase their personal income… Personal income is important but so is creating a world community that recognizes the intrinsic importance of every human being on the globe" Purce said.

"As you chart the course of your life, keep your eye on a fixed point," he continued. "Like the navigators of old, find your north star. The knowledge and the values that follow from your strong liberal arts education will be your star."

Three graduates were presented with UNC Asheville’s highest student awards.

Asheville native Nicholas Ladd received the William and Ida Friday Award for Community Service. Ladd, who served as student body president this year, was a tireless advocate for students and their access to affordable education. He was also a leading voice on campus for sustainability, especially in reducing the carbon footprint of the residence halls. Over the years, Ladd participated in "alternative" spring breaks, giving his week off to do service projects in Asheville, New Orleans and Huntsville, Ala. A double major in environmental studies and philosophy, Ladd will head to medical school this fall so that he can continue his service to others.

The A.C. Reynolds Award and the Thomas D. Reynolds Prize for Leadership and Campus Service was presented to senior health and wellness promotion major Jewell Gist. Most notably, the Asheville native was instrumental in the opening of the University’s new Intercultural Center this spring, which is home to student organizations as well as the offices of Multicultural Student Programs and the Center for Diversity Education. She also worked on pre-orientation programming for new students and coordinating heritage month activities to honor multicultural students.

Megan Miller, a classics major from Tryon, N.C., was named the recipient of the Manly E. Wright Award, which is presented to the student first in scholarship. During her time as a student, Miller conducted research on paleography, earning $6,000 in grants and invitations to present her findings at national conference. Recently, she received the Nina Simone Senior Scholarship Award and was awarded a Fulbright Award to continue her studies in Great Britain, where she has been accepted at Oxford University. While at Oxford, she will be supported by the 2009 Lionel Pearson Fellowship from the American Philological Society. A first generation college student, Miller bested four finalists from Ivy League schools for the $27,000 Pearson scholarship.

During the ceremony, Chancellor Ponder also honored the University’s faculty and staff with annual top awards.

John Meyers was named Distinguished Staff Member. Meyers, who serves as the instructional technology consultant in the Center for Teaching and Learning, was instrumental in moving the University to a more flexible and cost-effective online course support tool. He is known campus-wide for his enthusiasm and patience in teaching difficult technical concepts to both faculty and staff.

The Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award was presented to Tim Forrest, professor of biology. Forrest, who joined the faculty in 1996, holds a doctorate in entomology from Florida State University. In the classroom, Forrest is noted as being demanding but fair, passionate about his subject, and ready to make the extra effort to help students succeed. One student noted that Forrest is "always available to help, always responsive to my interests, always unflinchingly honest about the quality of my work, he has shown me an example of the working diligence and passionate spirit of a gifted scientist, which is what I aspire to be." During the summers, Forrest coordinates an educational "Bug Camp" for middle school students who are underrepresented in the sciences.

Prior to the close of the ceremony, Chancellor Ponder announced two new UNC Asheville traditions. At the beginning of Commencement, graduates were greeted by an Alumni Bell, a gift of alumni and friends of the University. The large, cast bell will be rung at Convocations and Commencements as well as other official occasions of celebration and remembrance. The University flag was also raised for the first time. The student-designed flag will fly with the American and North Carolina flags on the Quad.

Chancellor Ponder closed the ceremony with a reminder to the graduates.

"Graduates, as you leave here today and go into the world, I know that you will remember fondly your Alma Mater," she said. "May you be assured in the knowledge that the University of North Carolina at Asheville is behind you all the way."

Meals On Wheels Host 2nd Annual ‘Wheel Ride for Food’

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Meals on Wheels

ASHEVILLE, NC – Meals On Wheels of Asheville-Buncombe County will hold its annual Wheel Ride for Food Cycling event to raise money to provide food and services to local homebound elderly. This is the second year for the event which boasts challenging metric half-century (32-mile) and metric century (65-mile) routes that lead riders through scenic parts of North Asheville, Weaverville, Marshall, Ox Creek, Town Mountain and downtown Asheville before returning to the original starting point at Carrier Park.

The ride is organized and managed by local cyclists and volunteers and is held in conjunction with the Mountain Sports Festival at Carrier Park in Asheville. All skill levels are welcome.

Date: May 30, 2009 @ 8:30 AM
Early registration $40.00 / Day-of registration $55.00

Price includes ride, raffle, souvenir shirt, sweet swag bag and lunch!
Registration can be done through ACTIVE.COM or by calling Terri Bowman at Meals On Wheels – (828) 253-5286.

Sponsors and volunteers are still needed for this event. If interested, please contact Terri Bowman at (828) 253-5286

Asheville’s Flower Gallery Launches Website

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Flower Gallery Asheville

ASHEVILLE, NC – Downtown florist the Flower Gallery has launched a Web site at www.flowergalleryashevillenc.com.

Owner and designer Luck McElreath, a native of Bangkok, said she draws on Asian influences in her floral design.

The retail location, at 46 Haywood St., is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Call (828) 258-8427 or (800) 825-5516

New Lowe’s Opening in Weaverville

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Lowe's

WEAVERVILLE, NC – A new 117,000-square-foot Lowe’s Home Improvement store will open to the public at 7 a.m. on Friday, May 22.

Employees are stocking more than 40,000 items right now, according to a company press release. Typically, a store this size represents an $18.5-million investment and creates up to 175 jobs.

Wal-Mart is scheduled to open a new Supercenter near the Lowe’s on June 17.
The two retailers are in the Northridge Commons development, which is just off Future Interstate 26 at the Weaverville exit. Initially, developers planned to also build a 30,000-square-foot retail strip to house smaller shops, but those plans are on hold because of the recession.

Lowe’s of Weaverville, as the company refers to the store, will hold a formal grand opening ceremony at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 28. Lowe’s will offer a "Card Match Day – Buy a Gift Card, Help Build a Home." Shoppers can buy a Lowe’s Gift Card and Lowe’s will match purchases up to $5,000 to support Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s next building project.

The store is located at 24 Northridge Commons Parkway. Lowe’s has more than 1,650 stores in the United States and Canada, but it has slowed its expansion pace this year. In the 2008 fiscal year, which for Lowe’s ended in January, the chain planned to open 120 stores. Plans for 2009 call for 75-85 new stores.

"Lowe’s has slowed the pace of new store development, but we’re still dedicated to the long term," spokeswoman Karen Cobb said in December, adding that the company does extensive market research before opening a new location and remains enthusiastic about the Weaverville market. "When we make a decision to open a new store, it’s because there are homeowners to serve, and we feel like there’s plenty of growth potential in the community."

Based in Mooresville, Lowe’s had fiscal year 2008 sales of $48.2 billion. It serves approximately 14 million customers a week. Founded in 1946, Lowe’s is the second-largest home improvement retailer in the world. For more information, visit www.Lowes.com.

Asheville Tourists Revved Up for NASCAR Night

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Asheville Tourists

ASHEVILLE, NC – The Asheville Tourists are changing gears in their next homestand by teaming with Time 4 Sports and hosting NASCAR night, Friday, May 15th. The event will feature a NASCAR show car, a driver look-alike contest, and several NASCAR-themed games, contests, and giveaways leading up to that night’s Tourists game against the Augusta Greenjackets at 7:05.

The festivities will begin as soon as fans enter the stadium, where they can check out Casey Mears’ Number 07 Jack Daniels Show Car. From there, interested fans are encouraged to enter the Dale Earnhardt, Jr. look-alike contest at the Guest Services Gazebo. The Tourists fan judged by the crowd to be the most Junior-like will receive a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. jacket provided by Time 4 Sports and a pair of tickets to the May 24th race.

There will also be a contest involving the following night’s Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte. Fans can enter a top-5 contest for the chance to win four tickets to the Sprint Cup Series at Charlotte on May 24th. There will be a table on the concourse at which fans can submit their predicted Top 5 finishers for the All-Star race the following night. Any fan that correctly submits the top 5 finishers in order will receive free tickets to the May 24th race, and should no fan guess correctly, the tickets will be awarded to the entrant with the most accurate submission. Winners will be awarded their tickets during the Tourists game against Augusta on Monday, May 18th.

Any NASCAR know-it-alls can test their mettle in the Time 4 Sports NASCAR trivia contest. Three contestants will go head-to-head to answer a series of challenging NASCAR questions. The fan with the most correct answers will receive a pair of tickets to the May 24th race and a Jeff Gordon jacket supplied by Time 4 Sports.
Finally, one lucky fan will leave McCormick Field with four suite tickets to the May 24th race in Charlotte. Whenever a fan makes a transaction of $10 or more on NASCAR night, they will receive an entry to the raffle. Fans may enter as many times as they like. The winner will receive the four suite tickets and second-and-third place winners will be drawn, each taking home four standard tickets to the May 24th race.
The night’s festivities will also include NASCAR-themed on-field promotions and giveaways, supplied by Time 4 Sports on Airport Road in Arden. Tickets for Friday’s NASCAR night and all remaining Tourists home games are available by contacting the Tourists box office at (828) 258-0428.

Charles Osgood Films CBS Sunday Morning at Asheville’s Biltmore Estate

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Biltmore Estate

ASHEVILLE, NC – Charles Osgood is everything you think he is. The longtime host of CBS Sunday Morning and anchor of the Osgood File news program on the radio is every bit himself off camera as he portrays on camera or on mic.

Sunday Morning spent two days filming for this Sunday’s show at Biltmore in Asheville, NC. During his down time, Osgood talked candidly with fans (spending about 15 minutes with some of them) and graciously posed for pictures. He spoke to people as if they had been long time friends.

Sunday’s episode will be based at Biltmore and focused on design. It will include some of Biltmore’s greatest assets as well as other pieces on fashion and design.

The show will air Sunday morning at 9, right after News Channel 7 Sunday Morning.

Watch Rich Klindworth’s entire interview with Charles Osgood: link to WSPA

Asheville Named ‘Top 5 Bargain Destination" in USA Today

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Downtown Asheville

Article originally appeared in Thursday’s edition of USA Today

Recession, the swine flu, and airline capacity cuts: On the one hand, it seems like the odds are stacked against travelers. On the other, there are a lot of great travel deals and a whole world out there. So if you’re looking for bargain travel this summer, you’re in luck. In fact, I found so many good deals that, in addition to the top five, I added a roundup of more destinations that should be on the radar of anyone looking for an affordable vacation.

I’ve monitored trends, industry news, and sale patterns to point you in the direction of places that offer the best bargain value for the coming season. Below you’ll find examples of deals presently available for summer trips. Like all deals, these are sure to expire; however, a little research on your part can yield similar results when you’re ready to book.

Los Angeles

The winning combination of new air service, solid deals, and fewer visitors make the greater Los Angeles area a bargain hotspot this summer. L.A. airports have seen a drop in passenger traffic this year, but airlines are still adding new service, which means more choice and less competition for travelers. Need more convincing? The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) just named Los Angeles a top budget-friendly destination. And, Disneyland is offering free admission to visitors on their birthday.

So about those new routes. Virgin America just started service between San Francisco and John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Meanwhile, Delta has expanded service between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. There are so many sales on domestic air travel this summer, it’s hard to keep track of them all. AirTran (book by May 12), Alaska (book by May 14), Delta (book by May 18), Southwest (book by May 14), United (book by May 14), and Virgin America all have flights on sale to Los Angeles airports. No matter when you book, you can always check the latest domestic airfare deals for your dates.

On the ground, there are more ways to save. Santa Monica has a Sun, Sea, Save promotion that offers travelers a third night free and a variety of free attraction passes when booking at participating Santa Monica hotels. The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau lists current L.A. discounts on restaurants, tours, and more. And, Disneyland deals are available directly through the park or via providers such as Expedia and JetBlue.

Dominican Republic

With this many deals and discounts, the Dominican Republic could convincingly rename itself the Deals Republic this summer. But deals aren’t the only reason to consider the DR: Two low-cost airlines are starting new service to the island, and industry publication Travel Weekly named the Dominican Republic the number one Caribbean destination late last year, a testament to its broad travel appeal. However, bear in mind that summer is hurricane season, so if you do plan a Caribbean vacation, be sure to get trip insurance and consider traveling outside of the late August and early September peak storm season.

New service from low-cost carriers puts the Dominican Republic within reach for more travelers. Starting on June 18, Spirit will begin service between Ft. Lauderdale and Santiago, and on June 19, JetBlue kicks off service between Boston and Santo Domingo.

Options abound on the vacation package front. CheapCaribbean.com is offering discounted air-and-hotel packages such as four-nights and airfare from $560 per person (at press time, this deal was set to expire on May 11, but may be extended or replaced by a similar offer). JetBlue had an air-and-three-night package at the Riu Mambo all-inclusive resort in Puerto Plata for $405 per person. These are just a few of the vacation deals you should be able to find to the Dominican Republic this summer from online travel agencies and airlines.

At resorts around the island, discounts are the norm this summer. Club Med Punta Cana is offering 50% off the second person on stays of three nights or longer, or free stays for kids 15 and younger for seven-night stays. The Excellence Punta Cana Resort has 15 to 25% off summer rates, and the Puntacana Hotel has 40% off rates to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

National Parks

If you’re within driving distance, on a budget, and enjoy the outdoors, a national park (or state or regional park) can be an ideal summer bargain destination. Accommodations are as cheap as you’ll find them (though you’ll have to pack your own bed … or sleeping bag) and you’ll be surrounded by free activities like hiking, bird watching, and swimming. If everything but the sleeping on the ground sounds good, you can forgo the camping in favor of an in- or out-of-park hotel or motel. However, unless you’re planning on staying at one of the no-reservations campgrounds in a park, don’t wait until the last minute to book your accommodations; this bargain option is one many summer travelers will likely take advantage of this season.

Not sold yet? Here are some numbers that illustrate the sorts of vacation costs you can expect at national parks. At Yellowstone, for example, the entrance fee (good for up to six people) is just $25. Campsites for up to four people range between $12 and $25 per night. And early summer room rates near the park start at $59 per night. If you’re not within road-trip distance of the park, you might consider flying into Salt Lake City, where you’ll be able to take advantage of U.S. summer airfare sales from many major airlines. For more tips, Priceline.com blogger Brian Ek has a detailed and money-saving post on the best way to visit Yellowstone on a budget.

Other parks offer similarly good value. In Yosemite, you’ll pay $20 per car and $14 to $20 for a campsite. And at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, entrance is free and campsites cost between $14 and $23 per night.

Australia

This summer is a particularly good time to save money on an Australia vacation. The U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) is reporting that travel to Australia is 20% cheaper now than it was a year ago. Plus, competitive pricing from airlines and other promotions such as discounted vacation packages and air passes make Australia an intriguing choice for travelers who can spend a little more but are still on a budget this summer.

The flight time from Los Angeles to Sydney is about the same as between L.A. and Rome. And this summer, it may actually be cheaper to fly to Australia than to Europe. A spot-check of flights from San Francisco in July puts a round-trip flight to Sydney at $763 versus $1,040 to Rome. Even from the East Coast, Australia flights are competitive with airfare to Europe.

Fares and vacation packages bring Australia’s affordability into better focus. Qantas is running a sale with round-trip flights between L.A. or San Francisco and Brisbane, Melbourne, or Sydney from about $620, or from New York starting at $820. V Australia recently ended a similar deal, and may offer more sale fares to stay competitive. Qantas also has a four-city Australia air pass from $999, which allows travelers to visit multiple cities on a single airfare. For $999, the airline has an air-and-hotel package with six nights’ accommodations as well.

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville earns top-five status by being an already affordable destination with new low-cost airline service. AirTran will begin flying between Orlando and Asheville starting June 11, with introductory fares of $69 one-way. You might also check flights into Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (about an hour and thirty minutes away) and Charlotte Douglas International Airport (about two hours away) to compare fares if the lowest price is a priority.

In the Specials and Deals section of ExploreAsheville.com, you’ll find savings such as 50-percent off a second night at the Four Points by Sheraton, $25 per night gas rebate card from the Crowne Plaza, and discounts at museums around town. You can also take advantage of the site’s Asheville budget travel planner, with free activity ideas and more savings opportunities. Plus, Asheville is an ideal jumping-off point for a visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway, known as "America’s Favorite Drive" and a can’t-miss (and free) activity. For more information, the Asheville Travel Blog offers a current look at events and activities in town.

By Christine Sarkis, SmarterTravel.com