It wasn’t all that long ago that Asheville’s tourists made an astonishing discovery: There’s more to the town than the Biltmore Estate. No one is certain who it was that leaked the secret, but ever since the word got out, downtown has never been the same. Ever since that remarkable day, a variety of curious (if perhaps clueless) visitors have been trying their darnedest to figure out where this “culture” they keep hearing about actually is.
So, perhaps it’s fitting that a pair of visitors-turned-locals have created just the service to show them.
“The tour is for everybody: tourists and locals alike,” says Jen Lauzon, co-founder of a new and eccentric guided-tour experience called LaZoom Tours. “People come to town hearing that there are so many great things happening in this town, and everyone wants to know more about it.”
The idea behind LaZoom is to take the typical tour-bus experience and turn it into something more memorable. “We’ve taken some of the more obscure stories from Asheville’s history and embellished them a little, turning them into skits and performance pieces,” Lauzon explains. Participants are treated to an act that incorporates elements of sketch and improv comedy, live music and interactive theater to bring Asheville’s offbeat charm to life.
And then there’s the bus.
“Over the last year, we’ve turned a regular old yellow school bus into our tour bus,” Lauzon beams. “We’ve taken out the windows, so now it’s open air, and we’ve replaced the seats with wood-backed benches. In the front of the bus we’ve built our stage, which is where we do the most ridiculous things.”
If it sounds a little like a Vaudeville act on wheels, you’ve pretty much got the idea.
“My husband Jim and I have always had a blast writing Vaudeville-style pieces and performing them,” Lauzon says. “We don’t mind making fools of ourselves in front of people.
“The tour itself has been a longtime dream of Jim’s,” she adds. “We used to live in New Orleans, and his original vision was to do the tour through the French Quarter.” The couple moved to Asheville four years ago to raise their daughter, but had always planned to return to Louisiana. Following the Hurricane Katrina disaster, however, Lauzon says that “the reality hit us that we really didn’t want to go back.”
LaZoom Tours, which run just under 90 minutes, include a stop at the Asheville Brewing Company for a true taste of what the town has to offer. They operate Wednesday through Sunday, from May through October. Tickets are $22 for adults, and $10 for kids ages 5 to 12. And, in a refreshing twist, local adults also get a break, with tickets for them priced at $18. The bus is also available for special events.
For more information, call 225-6932 or visit www.LaZoomTours.com