photos courtesy of LaZoom and Navitat

The combination of a comedy-tour-on-wheels and an exhilarating joyride over the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains is surely an eclectic medley. Yet LaZoom and Navitat, both local businesses, mix together well. “We believe in strengthening the fabric of our community,” says Jim Lauzon, co-owner of LaZoom. He points out that Navitat shares similar visions of providing fun activities for both locals and tourists.

LaZoom offers a few twists to sharing Asheville’s rich history: Guides in elaborate costumes point out landmarks as the bus rolls through downtown and north to Montford, the town’s oldest planned neighborhood. The City Tour, its most popular, sees the bus venture throughout the area, covering tales of Asheville’s trolley system and the demise of Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of famed 20th century author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. LaZoom encourages its customers to grab a local brew before hopping on their brightly colored wagon of fun.

The Haunted Tour unearths eerie secrets about the city as it travels around the streets at night (these tours start at 8:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and depart from the Thirsty Monk). On the Haunted Tour, a camera is a necessity — the caravan guarantees you’ll see a ghost.

The Art Tour occurs on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and offers a bit more culture and a little less hysterics. The bus spends time in the River Arts District as well as downtown and in West Asheville, inviting musical acts to join them on the bus. This tour provides an opportunity for people to buy local art.

Heading over to Navitat (in nearby Barnardsville), you can shoot between branches at speeds of 35 miles per hour. The longest line is 1,100 feet, and as you fly through the sky you’re not only in the trees but above them. At some points you are more than 200 feet in the air, rocketing over valleys and hearing the wind in your ears. It’s a breathtaking way to experience the mountains.

There is more than just soaring and landing on platforms, however: You hike, walk across sky bridges and rappel through the air. It is truly a cocktail of outdoor experiences.

Adventures go on whether the sun is shining or the clouds are pouring. On clear days you can see all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

— Gabe Dunsmith lives in Asheville.

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