Biltmore Estate Tops State Survey of Popular Museums and Historic Sites

May 09, 2005, 01:00 ET from Carolina Publishing Associates

    MATTHEWS, N.C., May 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Asheville's Biltmore Estate, the
 lavish home and grounds of George Vanderbilt, is the most popular of North
 Carolina's 385 public and private museums and historic sites, according to a
 statewide survey released today.
     The first-ever ranking of the state's museums and historic sites was
 conducted by Carolina Publishing Associates of Matthews, publishers of the
 annual Carolina Heritage Guide and Carolina and Virginia Field Trips
     Biltmore Estate is currently celebrating its 75th anniversary as a tourist
 attraction.  The largest home in America was completed in 1895 and opened to
 the public in 1930.
     Biltmore was followed in popularity by two state-owned facilities, the
 North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh and Fort Macon Historic
 Site in Atlantic Beach.  Rounding out the top 10 most popular museums and
 historic sites were:
      - Discovery Place, Charlotte
      - Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills
      - Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Manteo
      - North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh
      - Exploris Museum, Raleigh
      - North Carolina Museum of Life & Science, Durham
      - North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh
     The appeal of Biltmore Estate, Buncombe County's second largest employer,
 stems from the ongoing commitment to "continue to look for ideas which will
 keep Biltmore fresh for any guest and add more value to the total estate
 experience," according to Randy Fluharty, senior vice president of sales and
 marketing for Biltmore.
     Fluharty pointed out that through the years the home has been joined by a
 world-class winery, the Inn at Biltmore, a farm village, and outdoor
 activities such as biking, horseback riding, fly fishing, float trips and
 carriage rides.
     "We want everyone to know what life might be like if George Vanderbilt
 were still hosting his friends and guests," Fluharty said.
     Carolina Publishing Associates compiled the survey from 2004 attendance
 figures supplied by museums and historic sites.
     "North Carolina's tourism industry is truly defined by its many museums
 and historic sites," said publisher Sam Rogers." Biltmore Estate and many
 others like the Battleship North Carolina, the Wright Brothers Memorial and
 Old Salem are sites with prominent national tourism reputations which speaks
 well for the tourism business in North Carolina."
     Rogers added that the top 25 most popular historic sites and museum
 destinations will appear in the 2005-06 edition of the Carolina Heritage
 Guide, due to be available in July, 2005.
     In addition to Biltmore Estate, three other mountain region museums made
 the top 25 survey. The Carl Sandburg Home and National Historic Site in Flat
 Rock joined the list, as did the Cherokee Historical Association and the
 Museum of the Cherokee Indian, both in Cherokee.
     The triangle region of the state had the largest number of museums, with
 six entries. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh ranked
 second in overall attendance.  Other triangle-area museums include the North
 Carolina Museum of Art, Exploris Museum, the North Carolina Museum of History
 and the State Capitol Building, all in Raleigh.
     The coastal region is home to the most popular historic sites. Fort Macon
 Historic Site in Atlantic Beach topped the list of coastal attractions
 followed by the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, Fort
 Raleigh National Historic Site in Manteo, Wilmington's Battleship North
 Carolina and the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort.
     In recognition of the popularity of NASCAR racing, three racing-themed
 museums were included in the top 25. the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of
 Fame in Mooresville, the Hendrick Motorsports Museum in Charlotte and the
 Roush Racing Museum in Concord all made the list.
     Four of the most popular museums come from the Charlotte area --
 Discovery Place, the Mint Museum, Hendricks Motorsports Museum and Roush
 Racing Museum.
     A complete listing of the top 25 museums and historic sites follows.
          Attraction                    Location          2004 Attendance
      1.  Biltmore Estate               Asheville           881,273
      2.  North Carolina Museum
           of Natural Sciences          Raleigh             700,000
      3.  Fort Macon Historic Site      Atlantic Beach      600,000
      4.  Discovery Place               Charlotte           555,040
      5.  Wright Brothers National
           Memorial                     Kill Devil Hills    498,947
      6.  Fort Raleigh National
           Historic Site                Manteo              279,112
      7.  North Carolina
           Museum of Art                Raleigh             263,496
      8.  Exploris Museum               Raleigh             250,373
      9.  North Carolina Museum
           of Life & Science            Durham              240,000
      10. North Carolina Museum
           of History                   Raleigh             222,690
      11. North Carolina Auto
           Racing Hall of Fame          Mooresville         200,147
      12. Battleship North Carolina     Wilmington          189,699
      13. North Carolina Maritime
           Museum                       Beaufort            187,933
      14. Mint Museum                   Charlotte           163,000
      15. Airborne and Special
           Operations Museum            Fayetteville        156,569
      16. Hendrick Motorsports
           Museum                       Charlotte           150,000
      17. Cherokee Historical
           Association                  Cherokee            120,243
      18. Old Salem, Inc.               Winston-Salem       110,982
      19  North Carolina State
           Capitol Building             Raleigh             108,034
      20. Roush Racing Museum           Concord             100,000
      21. Carl Sandburg Home
           National Historic Site       Flat Rock           100,000
      22. North Carolina
           Transportation Museum        Spencer              97,739
      23. Historic Bethabara Park       Winston-Salem        91,059
      24. SciWorks Science Center       Winston-Salem        86,097
      25. Museum of the
           Cherokee Indian              Cherokee             85,146

SOURCE Carolina Publishing Associates