Consider Asheville for a cool getaway

Hit the road this summer for a weekend up in cool Asheville, North Carolina.

Leave the clunker at home and rent a brand new compact car for the drive north from Alamo. Rentals cost $20 a day from the Atlanta airport through Sept. 30. Make a 24-hour or more advance reservation.

Cars at this special rate can be picked up from 9 a.m. Thursdays and return by the same pick up time on Monday. Rental must include a Saturday overnight stay.

Naturally, a trip to Asheville must include a peek at the goings-on at the Biltmore Estate. With your admission ticket, enjoy special summer evening concerts on July 23-25, 30, 31 and Aug. 1.

Also, the Flower Carpet event will be held Aug. 14-30. More than 100,000 colorful plants decorate a space nearly a quarter of an acre. Admission is included with daytime tickets. An Insider Tip: One of the best views of the garden is from inside Biltmore House from the windows of the newly-opened Louis XV Suite.

During the summer, kids of ages 10-16 are admitted free to the Biltmore Estate when accompanied by adults.

Other ways to save on admission is to purchase tickets after 2 p.m. A ticket is valid for the remainder of admission hours and the next day is free. Or, upgrade your one-day ticket to include a second day for $10.

Don't miss a visit into Asheville, one of the South's most vibrant and charming towns.

Places to stroll include Woolworth Walk - an art and craft emporium - where more than 150 local artists are displaying and the historic Grove Arcade for shops, eateries and a fresh market.

And on weekend nights during the summer, enjoy a free Shakespearean performance of the Montford Park Players - North Carolina's Longest Running Shakespeare Festival.

Just minutes from town is Asheville's River Arts District - once a place of ugly warehouses - but today transformed to a hip working arts district and an area dotted with restaurants, pubs, live music venues.

And when it's time to treat yourselves, stay at the way upscale Grand Bohemian Hotel - a Tudor inspired boutique hotel recently opened in Biltmore Village, steps from the gates of the Biltmore Estate.

The Art of Romance package includes Superior room accommodations with Egyptian-cotton bedding, luxurious faux fur throws and pillows, posh four-fixture bathrooms, luxurious bathrobes and slippers, spacious closets, hand-carved furniture and original artwork. Techies will enjoy Bose CD clock radio, cordless phones, wifi, LCD TV, and e-concierge services.

Also included in this steal-away package is a welcome beverage of choice (red, white or sparkling wine), a $100 dining credit to the gourmet Red Stag Grill and gourmet room service breakfast for two (tip not included). Per night room rates for a Saturday night from $429. Add a Friday night stay for $299.

If these rates are simply too rich for your budget, at least have a look at this gorgeous hotel via the Internet. You just might find a reason to go after all!