Biltmore Estate Tops State Survey of Popular Museums and Historic Sites

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 Magazines.

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.

TOP NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUMS AND HISTORIC SITES

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

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