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In 2010, the Blue Ridge Parkway will celebrate its 75th anniversary. However, fans of “America’s Favorite Journey” already have reason to celebrate, thanks to the recent opening of the Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center.

Construction of the new Destination Center took much less time than did construction of the entire Parkway. In fact, by the mid-1950s, only about half of the Parkway had been completed. “Mission 66,” a nationwide program designed to upgrade National Park Service facilities for the agency's 50th anniversary, became part of the impetus for speeding up the completion of many sections of the roadway.

It was almost successful, with just 7.7 rugged miles around Grandfather Mountain remaining. With the addition of the revolutionary Linn Cove Viaduct, the entire route of the Parkway was finally opened to the public in 1987. The Blue Ridge Parkway continuously records the highest number of visits in the national park system (17.35 million visits last year).

At milepost 384 just outside Asheville, N.C., the new Destination Center features exhibits highlighting the natural and cultural diversity, economic traditions, and recreation along the 469-mile drive. The facility also features a 70-seat theater, information and orientation services, and a bookstore.

Outside and indoors, the building reflects cutting edge ,energy-saving technology. Constructed to LEED certification standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), it features active/passive heating and cooling, radiant floor heating, a green roof and other energy-efficient designs. Blue Ridge Parkway superintendent Philip Francis says, “We are excited that in addition to orienting visitors to the region and parkway, the structure exemplifies natural resources stewardship for the long-term.”

The theater’s main attraction is a new movie called “The Blue Ridge Parkway-America’s Favorite Journey.” Shown hourly in high-definition surround sound, the 24-minute film captures a father-daughter journey along the parkway. Other exhibits include a variety of listening stations and interactive exhibits--including an electronic, interactive wall map.

Open 9am to 5pm daily, closed major holidays. www.blueridgeheritage.com, (828) 298-5330.