#9 of 23 Asheville Things To Do

North Carolina Arboretum

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North Carolina Arboretum - A Natural Choice
Staff Score:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Nestled in the botanically diverse Southern Appalachian Mountains, The North Carolina Arboretum is a beautiful place to spend a day in a natural setting while hiking, biking, enjoying a picnic or just relaxing. Perfect for groups, families, outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

Spending time outdoors is one of the main draws of North Carolina living and travel. The beautiful sites that surround the blue ridge parkway and the greater Asheville area are some of the most beautiful in all the nation. Clean air, majestic woods and a wide variety of flora are just a few of the reasons why a visit to the North Carolina Arboretum should make it on to your must-visit list.

Nestled in the botanically diverse Southern Appalachian Mountains, The North Carolina Arboretum is a beautiful place to spend a day in a natural setting while hiking, biking, enjoying a picnic or just plain old relaxing in nature. Perfect for groups, families, outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, the arboretum isn’t just a pretty park.

7In fact, the arboretum offers engaging indoor and outdoor exhibits focused around science, education, arts and culture. With rotating exhibitions at the Baker Exhibit Center that provide interactive, enriching exhibits for all ages and interests, the exhibits featured during the school year are a great destination for field trips and youth groups as well as families.

The Education Center also rotates its exhibits throughout the year, showcasing  regional artists and craftsmen that highlight the region’s rich cultural and crafts heritage.

All this nature and learning can work up an appetite so be sure to pop over to the Savory Thyme Cafe. Closed on Mondays, the café offers light dining options, including salads, sandwiches and soups, using natural, local and organic ingredients between the hours of 11am-4pm Tuesday through Saturday and 12pm-4pm on Sundays. Located on the main floor of the Education Center,   sit in the indoor/outdoor dining area and enjoy a meal or order a pre-packed lunch to enjoy on the grounds of the arboretum.

With 65 acres of cultivated gardens, including the Bonsai Exhibition Garden and the National Native Azalea Collection accredited by the Plant Collections Network and 10+ miles of hiking and biking, pet-friendly trails ranging from easy to moderate/difficult, The North Carolina Arboretum really does has something for everyone. Hosting a wide variety of family-friendly, including exhibits, self-guided tours, geocaching and an EcoLab containing live reptiles, maybe one visit ins’t enough!

Interested in immersing yourself in the arboretum? Lucky for you, it’s not just a place to enjoy for a day, you can take classes there as well! With their year-round youth and adult educational programs, be sure to visit their website for current offerings in the fields of environmental sustainability, art, science and economic development.

And don’t forget about the gift shop featuring a vibrant selection of fine paintings, prints, pottery, jewelry, glass, fiber art, and many other craft items created by local and regional artists.

Insider Tips:

  • Dogs are welcome on property, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Only service animals are permitted inside buildings and the Bonsai Exhibition Garden. Please be mindful of the gardens and other guests by picking up after your pet.
  • Guests may take photos and videos for personal use. All commercial photography (this excludes professional photography services such as engagement photos, family portraits, etc.) must obtain a special permit issued by the National Forests in North Carolina.