I may not be a parent, but I was once a kid myself (allegedly). To furnish this article, I had to delve deep into the pools of my memory, into those long-forgotten years when everyone was much taller than me, and I had to fight a primal instinct to constantly hit things with sticks. I still fight that instinct. It’s a part of us all.
Anyhow, I gathered up some promising possibilities for family activities in Asheville, and I turned them around in my mind. Would child-me be bored by these outings? Or rather, would I be fascinated? What follows is the result of those meditations.
Seldom do you find a soul that isn’t lightened by some good old-fashioned fresh mountain air. And if you intend to take your family to Asheville in the first place, I can only assume I address some true connoisseurs of the great outdoors.
Now there are certainly no shortage of hiking destinations hereabouts, mainly up the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I think the best bet if you’ve got kids in tow is the NC Arboretum. They’ve got a variety of paved and unpaved paths, manicured gardens, and first-rate Appalachian wilderness. Whatever difficulty level best suits your family, you can find a suitable path here at the Arboretum.
As an added bonus, you’re only a fifteen-minute drive from downtown, keeping the “Are we there yet’s?” to a minimum.
Expense: $16 per vehicle for non-members.
This destination lies at the very center of my memories of growing up in Asheville. For a time, I think I assumed it was the only building in downtown.
Although relatively small, as far as museums go, the Asheville Museum of Science prides itself on a variety of interactive exhibits aimed at kids 3-12, designed to instill in them an appreciation for the wonders of the natural world. Minerology, astronomy, ecology, climate science, and to top it all off: a dinosaur skeleton.
Speaking as adult-me, I can say I’d still be interested in a visit to this museum for my own edification (and to touch the dinosaur skeleton, if they’ll let me).
Expense: $9 per person. I suggest parking in the garage just south of the Asheville Museum of Art. Reliable, and not too far a walk.
Long ago, some enterprising Ashevilleans looked up at the trees and said “Yeah. We should go up there.” Thus, the Adventure Center of Asheville was born.
They’ve got a variety of outdoor activities for the whole family, each of which could easily fill a day. If you’ve got some acrobatic sorts on your hands, I suggest the Treetop Adventure Park. Imagine an obstacle course, but it's in a tree. The Park spans a host of trails, with the lower ones being suitable for kids as young as 4, while the higher trails can offer a challenge even to adults.
If you can’t get enough of arboreal antics, you can follow up with the Kid Zip, the world’s first zipline designed for children under 10. If you’d prefer to keep your feet on the ground, check out their Kolo Bike park, rentals on-site.
Expense: $55 for entry to the Treetop Adventure Park or the Kid Zip. $49 for youth bike rental and entry, $54 for adult bikes.
Another prime cut from the depths of my recollections, the WNC Nature Center is the best way to acquaint yourself and your children with Asheville's vibrant local fauna. They’ve got black bears, red wolves, river otters (a true crowd pleaser, these), barn owls, goats (pettable), snakes, turkey vultures, and even red pandas.
I expect you’ll have to tear your wards away from the otter enclosure. Personally, I’m partial to the bears. I’m sure you’ll all come away with your own favorite animals.
Expense: Tickets are $10 for kids 3-12, and $14 for youths and adults.
The old tried and true. You scream, I scream, the very Earth itself would scream for ice cream, if it could. Yes, at the end of a long day of walking, and taking in all the sights, sounds, and excitement, the family will truly appreciate some well-deserved ice cream.
No matter where you are in Asheville, its likely a local creamery isn’t too far away. If in south Asheville’s Biltmore Park, I tend to visit Cold Stone Creamery. If in downtown, I go for the Marble Slab. But if you truly want some of the best ice cream in Asheville, look no further than the Hop.
With locations in the north of town, the west, and a new ice cream counter in downtown’s S&W dining hall, it should be easy to work the Hop into your visit to Asheville. And with shakes, malts, floats, vegan ice cream, ice cream for dogs, and such famous flavors as “unicorn poop” and “apples and honey,” there is plenty here to satisfy every ice-cream palette.
Expense: Two scoops for $6. At that price, I’ll take ten.
The North Carolina Arboretum
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806
The Asheville Museum of Science
43 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
The Adventure Center of Asheville
85 Expo Dr, Asheville, NC 28806
WNC Nature Center
75 Gashes Creek Rd, Asheville, NC 28805
The Hop Ice Cream Cafe (North Asheville)
640 Merrimon Ave #103, Asheville, NC 28804