Asheville’s popularity as a kid-friendly town has made it the go-to spot for families to visit, and to live. Even the youngest set can get in on the Asheville action, with a variety of activities available for year-round fun. Here are a few favorites.
The City of Asheville’s free interactive splash play fountain in downtown’s Pack Square Park delights children with its 21 jets of water that run in 12 combinations. The fountain usually operates from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week from April through September. https://www.ashevillenc.gov/service/find-a-pool-or-splashville-information/
A visit to George Vanderbilt's 250-room chateau, gardens and farm offers many fun and educational activities for children of all ages. Guided tours of the house specially suited to children are available. In addition, the gardens – with expansive stretches of lawns to run through – often incorporate displays to wow even the youngest visitors. Antler Hill Village & Winery offers a playground, live music, a Creamery, and kid-friendly dining options. The Farm in Antler Hill Village gives children the opportunity to interact with farmyard animals including chickens, goats, horses and sheep. Kids can also explore and climb on antique tractors and wagons, play with toys and games from the 1800s, participate in fun daily crafts like churning butter or making a basket, and see demonstrations by a blacksmith, woodworker, beekeeper, and others. Children 9 and under are free with a paying adult. Visit https://www.biltmore.com for hours and admission.
Botanical Gardens at Asheville
The Botanical Gardens at Asheville is a 10-acre independent, non-profit botanical garden adjacent to UNC-Asheville. The garden, which is free to visit, offers children ages 4 to 10 five “Investigation Passports,” which focus on animals, birds, insects, nature words, and plants. Each free Investigation Passport encourages kids to use their observation skills and senses while exploring the Gardens. The passports include investigation tips, pre-investigation and observation activities, and a fun take-home activity. Upon completion of the garden activities, kids can get their passports stamped at the visitor’s center. https://ashevillebotanicalgardens.org
Cradle of Forestry and Forest Discovery Center
The 6,500-acre Cradle of Forestry Heritage Site in Pisgah National Forest was home to the first forestry school in the country, the Biltmore Forest School, founded in 1898. Highlights include the 1.3-mile Forest Festival Trail, which features an ozone garden, antique portable sawmill, and 1914 Climax locomotive (which kids can climb aboard); and the 1-mile Biltmore Campus Trail, which winds through the Biltmore Forest School’s rustic campus. A one-room schoolhouse, general store, cabins, blacksmith shop, and garden provide opportunities to glimpse the lives of the first American forestry students and the families who lived there. The Forest Discovery Center features educational films, 15 hands-on exhibits, children’s games, a fire-fighting helicopter simulator, an “underground” forest floor tunnel, nature-based scavenger hunts, a gift shop and café. The Cradle of Forestry also offers The Adventure Zone, a collective of hands-on indoor and outdoor activities designed to help children and adults with autism become active in the outdoors and gain a better understanding about the natural world. Visit https://cradleofforestry.com for hours and admission.
The Asheville Museum of Science
Western North Carolina’s home for experiential science learning, discovery and exploration, AMOS strives to spark the imagination and foster lifelong curiosity. Among its features are the Colburn Hall of Minerals, the STEM lab, an interactive panorama screen, Teratophoneus dinosaur skeleton and fossil dig, Southern Appalachian Forest tree climb, Terrabox elevation simulator, Toddler Nest, fun temporary exhibits, and a museum store. The museum’s newest addition is its French Broad River water table, which teaches children how human actions affect the health of the area’s river ecosystem. Visit https://ashevillescience.org for hours and admission.
The WNC Nature Center
This 42-acre zoological park aims to foster stewardship among both young and old of Western North Carolina’s native wildlife and habitats. The center is home to more than 60 species of wild and domestic animals – including otters, black bears, wolves and a cougar – and hundreds of species of plants, all representative of the Southern Appalachians. The center also hosts kid-friendly events throughout the year. Visit https://wildwnc.org for hours and admission.
Asheville Treetops Adventure Park features KidZip, a zipline destination geared to children ages 4-10. KidZip – either self-guided for older kids, or with an adult escort for younger kids – includes nine ziplines and four climbing elements, with ziplines ranging in length from 50 to 250 feet. Visit https://www.ashevilletreetopsadventurepark.com/kidzip to reserve tickets.
Mountain Play Lodge
This indoor play and party center – perfect for a rainy day – offers play equipment for even the tiniest tots, including a miniature “Asheville” to explore, a giant three-part jungle gym, soft play items to climb on, over and under, all on padded flooring and within the safety of play floor gating. https://www.mountainplaylodge.com
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