Nestled at the foot of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, amid national forests and sense-stimulating scenery, Asheville, North Carolina, offers a range of outdoor adventures and hands-on activities for children of all ages. In fact, with the Pisgah National Forest, Adventure Center of Asheville, and the Asheville Pinball Museum, this mountain town may just be the perfect destination for families.
Discover 10 of the best kid-friendly activities Asheville offers.
Pisgah National Forest
Start big with a visit to Pisgah National Forest, which surrounds Asheville with more than 500,000 acres of mountains, waterfalls, and forests. Take the kids to the Pisgah Ranger District, where you’ll find Sliding Rock and other stunning waterfalls. Go horseback riding in the Appalachian Ranger District or take kayak lessons after a long hike in the Grandfather Ranger District. No matter which ranger district you choose, we guarantee your little ones will be in awe of the mountains and the many activities they’ll find along the way.
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
If you’re traveling with little scientists or if you simply want to inspire an interest in space, be sure to set aside time to visit the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI). Nestled deep in the Pisgah National Forest, this NASA facility is also an educational center that welcomes astronomers of all sizes and skill levels. Your kids will love exploring the Galaxy Walk, seeing an antenna that once communicated with astronauts, and checking out the gallery of artifacts from the Space Shuttle Program. Enroll the kids in a science camp program for more space fun.
Western North Carolina Nature Center
Wildlife lovers big and small will appreciate a trip to the Western North Carolina Nature Center, which houses injured and orphaned animals. Kids will enjoy viewing black bears, mountain lions, and more than 60 species in natural habitats as well as getting up close to reptiles and amphibians. We recommend timing your visit so that it coincides with one of the many animal feedings scheduled throughout each day.
Adventure Center of Asheville
Looking for a real adventure? Spend an afternoon at the Adventure Center of Asheville, which offers a list of adrenaline-pumping fun. Explore Asheville Treetops Adventure Park, packed with 60 climbing and zipping challenges way up in the trees. Or hop on a bike at Kolo Bike Park, which features 4 miles of mountain bike terrain. Little adventurers will love KidZip, a ziplining challenge for children ages 4 to 10. Children of all ages will have a blast on QuickJump, a free-fall adventure for the family.
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
Want to sit back and relax as you soak in the Great Smoky Mountain scenery? This fun railroad trip takes the family through tunnels and over mountains. You and your family will have plenty of ways to have a special experience on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Enjoy the views from the open-air gondola or splash out on a first-class trip. Visiting in winter? Don’t miss the themed Polar Express Train during the holiday season; the kids may even be lucky enough to spot Santa.
Asheville Museum of Science
Have an aspiring scientist in the family? You won’t want to miss your chance to explore the Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS). This awesome spot features more than a dozen zones to discover, with a Hall of Minerals, a GeoDome Panorama, a Fossil Dig, and a Climbing Experience. Be sure to take the kids to the Southern Appalachian Forest and discover temporary exhibits such as the Hurricane Simulator or the French Broad River Water Table. You can also find a Toddler Nest — ideal for tiny scientists.
Did you know that North Carolina is the only state where you’ll find gem-grade emeralds? Deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can mine for these beautiful green gemstones yourself. Kids will love discovering the wonders of Emerald Village, a network of 12 historic mines, and they won’t want to miss the special after-hours opportunities here. Join a Black Light Mine Tour to see the emerald mines exposed in the glow of ultraviolet lights.
Looking for an indoor activity that can easily keep big kids entertained for hours on end? Head straight to the Fun Depot. Let the kids run around with laser tag games, let them loose on go-karts and bumper cars, or challenge them to a round of mini golf. The Fun Depot also has a climbing wall so the kids can practice their dexterity skills. Don’t worry about fueling up before you go, either; the Fun Depot has an on-site snack bar.
Asheville Pinball Museum
In the mood for some old-fashioned fun? Children will love playing classic games, and you’ll appreciate the trip down memory lane at the Asheville Pinball Museum, which is actually an interactive arcade. This spot is home to more than 75 pinball machines and vintage video games, so everyone is sure to find a favorite.
Don’t worry about bringing enough quarters for the family to have a good time. After paying the admission fee, everyone in the family can play unlimited games with no need for tokens.
No Taste Like Home
Getting hungry? After all those adventures, you’ll need to take the kids to get something to eat. But why sit down at a cafe when you could forage for your food instead?
No Taste Like Home offers wild food adventures like no other with a series of tours through the Asheville area. You’ve never experienced a hands-on tour quite like this one. Let the team’s experienced guides show you how to find berries, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, and edible greens in the most unexpected places. We recommend going for the Regular Tour, which includes a cooking demo and tasting, along with an optional cooking class.
Whether your kids are the outdoorsy types, science lovers, or fun seekers, they’ll find plenty of adventures in Asheville. With so much to do in Asheville, you’ll want to stay for several days. Don’t miss your chance to explore the above 10 kid-friendly activities during your next trip to Asheville.