If you’re looking for a dose of the great outdoors for your next family vacation, check out Asheville. Situated in the Western part of North Carolina, Asheville and its surrounding area has tons to do for kids of all ages. It had been years since we’d been (college!) and were looking for a place to escape the heat and do some more mountain-y activities. Here’s our pick for the top 5 activities to do in and around the city with kids in tow.
Stunning vistas and some great short hikes make this spot 45 minutes from Asheville a great family spot. Chimney Rock is an impossibly placed boulder high up providing some spectacular views of the surrounding valley. It’s great for all ages and fitness levels as you can hike up on your own or take the elevator up 26 flights in 30 seconds. There’s also a great waterfall hike (1.2 miles) and a 0.6 mile Woodland Adventure just for kids with educational stops along the way to learn about various local wildlife.
Opening hours vary due to season so check the site for specifics depending on your time of visit
The main areas are paved so you can bring a stroller. For the hikes a backpack/carrier would work best.
A shuttle takes most cars up to the base of the summit (there is parking up there but it’s very limited) so be sure to take what you need before you head up.
If you’re keen to see this lavish estate but wary of taking kids, you’ll be pleased to know there’s definitely kid friendly activities abound. Once you amble your way through the home and gardens you can find your way to the Antler HIll Village (drive or take a shuttle) where they have several restaurants, a playground, a petting zoo and a winery where while adults can sample the local vintage (and kids can get free grape juice).
Open 365 days a year, but opening hours vary by season. Check their site depending for updates.
You can bring a stroller (though much of the garden paths aren’t paved) or baby carrier. It can be a lot of walking.
It can get quite hot in the summertime and often you’ll be outdoors for quite a bit. Bring sunscreen.
The ticket booth is a separate building and lines can get long so be prepared for a queue.
There’s a parking shuttle from an offsite lot to the main house.
Looking Glass Falls
Thirty miles from Asheville there’s the popular and beautiful Looking Glass Falls. It’s easily accessible as it’s right off the road. It’s most popular in the summer time as many tourists use the 60 foot waterfall as a spot to cool off.
If you’ve never taken a slide down a natural rock this is your chance! It’s 60 feet of slippery rock into an eight foot pool awaiting you at the bottom. There’s plenty of places for viewing if you don’t want to take the 60 degree plunge. Bathrooms, changing areas and a lifeguard make this area convenient for families.
Admission during staffed times are $3 per person. It can get very busy during peak season and hours so come early to enjoy more access and shorter lines.
WNC Nature Center
The Western Carolina Nature Center is a great stop off for kids, especially the littles. It’s 42 acres featuring native Appalachia animals (otters, black bear, wolves) with various kid-friendly stops along the way featuring areas to play, climb and build. They also have a gem mining station (separate purchase) where your kids can hunt for quartz and other gemstones.
Open from 10am-5 pm daily. Admission is $10.95 for adults/$6.95 for children/free kids under 2
Bring a stroller as it’s paved the whole way
Limited food options (shaved ice and a food truck were there, otherwise vending machines)
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
Though we ran out of time to check this one off the list it frequently makes the top recommendations for families in the Asheville area. An hour drive to Bryson City and you’ll arrive at the historic depot where you can catch a train for a view of the countryside. Options include a lunch and stops in various locations depending on your selection. Also options for combining activities (ie, white water rafting, zip line) depending on the age of your kids and their interests. Departure times vary by season as well as pricing depending on your selection. Check out their website for more specifics.