The Blue Ridge Parkway Association announces that the annual 2013 Blue Ridge Parkway Familiarization Tour will be held April 6-14.
The tour is in partnership with the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Tennessee Travel and Tourism and the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
For more than a decade, the Blue Ridge Parkway Association has hosted the motor coach tour for AAA travel counselors throughout the U.S. and Canada to promote travel and tourism to the parkway region.
This year, 31 AAA travel counselors representing 17 states and Canada will spend nine days learning about history, communities, attractions and things to do as they travel the Blue Ridge Parkway to adjoining Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah national parks.
Originally conceived as a road to connect the two national parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway has grown into a destination of its own, becoming the most visited unit of the National Park Service.
“After this tour, participants are more knowledgeable about the scope of opportunities for visitors,” said Tom Hardy, executive director of the Blue Ridge Parkway Association.
“They have a real connection to the natural, cultural and historic gems that define the communities in our region,” he said.
The 2013 FAM will be especially important to the parkway and adjacent national parks, he said. Under mandate from the federal government, the recent sequestration means some facilities and programs along the iconic road will be shuttered during the busy spring-fall travel season.
Despite these closures, most of the parkway remains open and its impact on local communities remains significant, he said. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and NPS Director Jon Jarvis announced recently that $1 invested in the NPS returns $10 to local economies.
Consistent with the parkway tag line, “More Than a Road,” this tour visits many adjacent communities and regional points of interest in the Blue Ridge Parkway corridor, Hardy said.
Highlights of the tour include Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Cherokee, Asheville, Biltmore Estate, Chimney Rock Park, Grandfather Mountain, Boone and Blowing Rock, Blue Ridge Parkway Music Center, Mabry Mill, Roanoke, Va., Natural Bridge of Virginia, Lexington, Va., Luray Caverns and Winchester, Va.
As an official partner organization of the Blue Ridge Parkway — National Park Service, the Blue Ridge Parkway Association has provided tourism and visitor information to travelers since 1949.
This is achieved through the publication of The Blue Ridge Parkway Directory & Travel Planner, information on http://www.blueridgeparkway.org
and the Blue Ridge Parkway — Travel Planner mobile app.