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26 Feb 2024
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Things to Do & EventsVacation Tips

Traveling with kids can be exciting since you’re experiencing the magic of new people, places, and adventures through their eyes, but it also comes with unique challenges. To help make traveling a little easier, we’ve created a family-friendly guide that keeps everything from logistically traveling with a stroller to finding kid-friendly cuisine to fun activities for every season in mind!

Tours + Rides

The Biltmore Estate is most often prized as a grown-up wonderland, but there are several kid-friendly activities offered including the Antler Hill Barn & Farmyard, biking and hiking trails, the Pisgah Playground, Nature Glimmer Hunt (13 and up) and falconry, and special audio tours of the Biltmore House. 

When you see LaZoom’s purple and gold bus weaving in and out of downtown streets (sometimes with a biking nun by its side), you’ll most likely associate it with adult comedy. However, this Asheville staple also offers a Lil Boogers Lazoom Kids' Comedy Tour that is as wildly entertaining as it is educational. Geared toward 5 to 12-year-olds, it’s great fun any time of year. When laughing and learning go hand in hand, you can’t go wrong!

If your kiddos can’t get enough of trains, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Scenic Train in Bryson City (approximately an hour from Asheville) is a must. They offer a variety of trips and special events throughout the year (including the Bunny Hopper Express, Peanuts™ The Great Pumpkin Patch Express, and Polar Express). Your ticket also gives you complimentary admission to the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum.

Located in Asheville, the Craggy Mountain Line, which first traveled in 1889, takes you on an open-air ride through history and offers amazing views of surrounding mountains and rivers. They also have seasonal rides like their July 4th Historical Trolley Ride, Jingle Bell Trolley, and Fall Hayride on the Rails. 

Nature Centers + Parks + Outdoor Fun

Western North Carolina is an outdoor oasis home to thriving flora, fauna, and fun. Asheville’s Blue Ridge Mountains are teeming with adventure and have something for people of every skill level and activity preference. From hiking trails to zipline canopy tours to nature centers, outdoor fun is just a quick drive from Asheville’s city center.

North Carolina Arboretum- While your kids enjoy the gardens and trails, they can also join the ecoEXPLORERS crew, young citizen scientists who help professional scientists study the plants and animals that call NC home. Don’t forget to pick up a TRACK Trail guide to write down encounters along the Arboretum’s Natural Garden Tail. Families can even log their hike to earn free prizes through the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program!

WNC Nature Center- From Nights at the Nature Center to Wolf Howls to Painting with the Animals, the WNC Nature Center will inspire while educating your little ones. Your kiddos can learn how the animals are fed and cared for and even see an animal enrichment session at select times during the year (in the summertime, resident black bears Uno and Ursa were given a special popsicle treat). There are also themed play areas throughout the park to enjoy.

Robert Lake Park- Located in Montreat, this large playground is surrounded by creeks and towering trees, making it feel like a hidden gem that the forest has grown around. There are swings, a play structure, a wooden boat, and several picnic tables (covered and open-air) throughout, making it the perfect summer afternoon destination. 

Carrier Park Playground- This local favorite playground in the River Arts District along the French Broad River Greenway has a ton of walking space, a basketball court, sand volleyball courts, a velodrome, a hockey rink, and a playground with toddler swings and wooden structures (including an airplane, firetruck, and castle) for kids to explore. 

Laurel River Trail- Located near Hot Springs (approximately 40 minutes from Downtown Asheville), this family and pet-friendly trail follows an old railroad bed alongside the scenic Laurel River. There are so many spots along the trail to stop for a picnic, set up a hammock, and cool off in the water. While the entire trail clocks in at about 3.5 miles one-way, it can be hiked to any length. During the first section of the hike, it’s relatively flat (aside from a gentle decline at the beginning from the parking area), but keep in mind that it becomes more narrow and overgrown the further you go. Since you can choose how far you go in, this is a great trail to bring a cooler, stroller, or anything else you may want or need for a relaxing day in nature. 

Sliding Rock- Need a cool down during the hot days of summer? If so, Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard is just the ticket. Every year, tons of children and adults slide down this natural mountain waterfall after waiting in the often longer-than-life line (but we can assure you that it’s totally worth it!). The slope down is 60 feet, and you’ll land in a chilly 8-ft deep pool of water that’s usually around 50 degrees. 

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, you can expect lifeguards on duty, and the on-site changing rooms to be open 7 days a week (10 AM-6 PM). It costs $5 per person during the high summer season (children 3 and under are free). It is free to visit during the off-season but keep in mind that restrooms will be closed and lifeguards off duty. 

While children are permitted to slide, they must have an adult if under the age of 7. Life jackets, children's floaties, and water shoes are highly recommended! If you’re hanging out in downtown Asheville, Spalshville in Pack Square Park is a popular interactive splash pad that will keep your kiddos refreshed and entertained. For more water-based activity recommendations, check out our blog, Lakes, Floats & Falls to Help You Beat the Summer Heat

Adventure Center of Asheville- Asheville’s Adventure Center is home to KidZip– America’s first zipline adventure designed for kids 4-10 years old that is self-guided. It includes 9 Ziplines and 4 fun climbing elements. The ziplines range from 50 feet to 250 feet long, and they range from 25 feet high to ground level. This exciting and unique adventure will inspire big smiles.  

Mini Golf in the Mountains- In my family, no vacation is ever complete without a friendly mini-golf competition at a kitschy local course. In Asheville (beside the Krispy Kreme), Tropical Gardens offers an 18-hole miniature golf course, an arcade, and batting cages. Oh, and Sno-Cones of course. Star figures along the course include quirky flamingos, elephants, volcanoes, giraffes, and electric blue waterfalls. 

They close during the winter season, but they are a great activity during the spring, summer, and early fall. In Chimney Rock, you’ll find the Adventure Mini Golf situated along 400 ft of the Rocky Broad River. Throughout the 18-hole course, you’ll continually pause to enjoy the gorgeous view of the river framed by the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

Apple Picking + Hayrides- While you’d be hard-pressed (see what I did there) to find an apple orchard in our area without kid-friendly activities, a couple of our favorites can be found along Hendersonville’s “Apple Alley” on US Hwy 64. Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard offers a 5-acre corn maze, apple cannon, jump pad, wagon rides, and U-pick apples, pumpkins, and flowers (Zinnias and Sunflowers).  There’s also a market with the coveted apple cider donuts made at their in-house bakery, apple cider slushies, and other apple-flavored treats. 

Grandad’s Apples Farm, situated on 100 acres, has similar offerings like the U-pick apples, corn maze, and apple cannon, but they also have a cow train for the kids to enjoy. At the Country Store, you can purchase apple turnovers, fried pies, apple bread, caramel apples, ice cream, and more! For hayrides and horserides, head to Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview. On fall weekends, you can watch a cider-making demonstration or catch a 60-minute walking tour for groups of 4 or more once a month on Saturdays to meet the baby goats, chicks, and calves that call the farm home. 

Museums + Arts + Interactive Fun

Aquarium & Shark Lab- Located in Hendersonville, Team ECCO is the only ocean education lab and immersive marine study center in WNC, Upstate SC, and Eastern TN, and it’s the first inland aquarium in NC! In the exhibits, you’ll find 300 aquatic friends in their specially designed habitats. During your visit, you can also experience the small shark and ray feeding and a reptile encounter. There are educational sessions and events throughout the year as well. Admission ranges from $5.25 to $7.50 depending on your child’s age. 

Asheville Museum of Science- Located on Patton Ave, AMOS features hands-on exhibits and a variety of scavenger hunts to help guide youngsters through the museum. From gemstones to outer space to everything in between, the science museum is a kid-friendly destination that offers a fossil exhibit with a terra box filled with sand, a toddler foam block area, a forest climbing structure with a bird’s nest at the top, and an area to build and test small cars. Admission is free for children 2 and under and $10 for visitors over 3. 

WNC Air Museum- This museum, located near Flat Rock, is home to a collection of airplanes celebrating the “Golden Age of Aviation" with airplanes on display without planes of glass or ropes restricting them. 

Perfect for your future pilot, you’ll be able to view the airplanes and spend the afternoon hanger-flying with their staff. North Carolina is known as the “First in Flight” state after all, so this museum is certainly worth visiting!

KidSenses + The Factory- Approximately an hour from Asheville in the town of Rutherfordton, this interactive museum encourages children of all ages to understand the world and themselves through hands-on learning experiences in areas of science, math, art, and culture.

Home to 14 different interactive exhibits (a few of which include Bubble-Ology, WFUN TV Station, Creation Station, and Kid's Pueblito Cafe), a 7,500 sq. ft. Children’s Garden (open seasonally), and 5,000 sq. ft. Factory with Laser Cutters, 3-D Printers, and CNC-Robots. This unique space has something for every interest!

Claying Around- This bright and spacious creative studio in Asheville offers paint-your-own pottery, pottery wheel and clay hand-building lessons, fused glass creation, and canvas painting.  Kids Clay Club runs for 2.5 hours on select evenings (April-July) during which time they create something out of clay or do some drawing, painting, or other mixed-media projects. With themes like Wacky Wall Clocks and Picasso Face Hangings, this “summer camp” extravaganza is suggested for kids aged 8-14. Did we mention pizza and drink will be provided?!

Hands-On! Children’s Museum- Filled with kid-powered exhibits that encourage curiosity and creativity, this museum features 13,000 sq. ft. of hands-on learning space. From the kid-favorite Airways Exhibit to the Hurrican Eye of the Storm Exhibit to the Sun, Earth & Universe Exhibit, your littles will be inspired to learn, play, and problem-solve. There are special events throughout the year, and there are Story Times every Wednesday from 10:30-11 AM. 

ArtPLAYce at the Asheville Art MuseumDesigned just for kids (and kids at heart), this special sensory-rich section of the AAM allows children to explore colors, shapes, textures, and patterns by trying out a variety of one-of-a-kind interactives created by regional artists. Kids can also create their very own unique pieces of art! Don’t forget to pop into the gift shop before you head out to purchase a game, book, craft project, or keepsake. 

Indoor Fun + Play: 

Mountain Play Lodge- Located in Arden, this indoor play center offers equipment ranging from a miniature “Asheville”(complete with police station, doctor’s office, and Biltmore House replica) to a 3 part jungle gym with 6 slides.

Their gated play floors (for toddlers and bigger kids) have a selection of soft play items for children to climb and slide down. If your kiddo is celebrating a birthday in Asheville, you can rent out their castle or pirate ship party room to make it extra special. If your little ones have tons of energy, this place will be a hit!

Asheville Pinball Museum + Retrocade- If you and your kiddos have an affinity for video and arcade games, a visit to the Asheville Pinball Museum or Asheville Retrocade is a must! The former has 35 pinball machines and 35 classic video games that you can play to your heart’s content while the latter has 5,000 Video Games, Pinball, Skeeball, and Foosball to keep you entertained for hours on end. Adults will love it because retro music is always playing, and there’s a great selection of local craft beers!

Smoky Mountain Sk8way- Located in Waynesville, the Smoky Mountain Sk8way & Family Entertainment Center offers 20,000 sq. ft. of fun–including an indoor skating rink, a full-service snack bar, bounce houses, an obstacle course, 3 slides, 40 arcade games, a prize redemption shop, and a new 18-hole mini golf course. They even have holiday-themed events throughout the year with special activities!

Well-Played Board Game Cafe- This gaming oasis in downtown Asheville has a collection of 700+ games that are organized by category and difficulty level. They even have Gamemasters to help you choose the best ones for you and your group. The cafe offers beer, wine, coffee, and small bites to help fuel your play. Adults are $7 each ($10 on the weekends),  kids aged 6–13 are $5 each, and children under 6 are free with a paying adult. This flat fee covers an entire day of play, so plan to make a whole day of it!

Riveter Adventure- Located in Fletcher, the Riveter boasts a full-service rock climbing gym, outdoor dirt jump lines for biking, a fitness studio, an infrared-heated yoga studio, and more. Their dedicated kids' cove features six auto belays (2 of which span suspended Geometrix cubes), as well as shorter climbing + bouldering walls (a portion of which tops out at the World’s Coolest Slide). 

Every 4th Friday of the month is Parents' Night Out so you can drop your kids off at the Climbing Gym (pizza provided) while you stay on site to enjoy one of the adult activities and hang out at the Libation Station, or you can leave and do your own thing–it’s totally up to you! 

Fox-N-Otter Adventure Ecapes- These brain-twisting puzzle rooms are great fun for the entire family. Fox-N-Otter has 3 locations (1 in the Asheville Mall, 1 in South Asheville, and 1 in Hendersonville), but there is just 1 game at the Asheville Mall location (called Super Secret) specially designed for children aged 8-12. The rest of their games are intended for groups with at least 1 adult actively playing with the team.  If you’re bringing children aged 4-7 along, they will likely enjoy playing in the themed environments and are often good at finding items, but the puzzles are most likely beyond their ability to solve. 

Sky Lanes Bowling Alley- Open since 1963, this Asheville institution is open daily with lots of options for kid-friendly bowling (including bumpers and an assist ramp). They also offer an in-house Bar & Grill with bowling alley favorites like nachos, french fries, wraps, and more. You could also grab a bite beforehand at Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack or Little Louie’s a few doors down. They also offer crowd-favorite cosmic bowling if you and your littles don’t mind staying up a little later. 

Launch Trampoline Park- Don’t let the name fool you, this indoor fun park offers much more than just trampolines. Here, you’ll find a rock climbing wall, a virtual reality station, an arcade, a ninja course, a foam pit, an indoor soccer field, indoor sports courts for basketball and dodgeball, and a restaurant to keep your energy up between activities. 

Family-Friendly Restaurants + Breweries

As notorious picky eaters who often get impatient while dining out, the restaurants below offer entertainment as well as yummy food options that are kid-approved (i.e. tasty hot dogs, delicious burgers, and crispy chicken sandwiches to name a few): 

Whistlehop Brewing- This train-themed taproom in Fairview is family and pet-friendly and offers 3 acres of outdoor space that feature a fire pit, charcoal grills, picnic tables, and tons of outdoor games/activities (including mini bowling, mini golf, disc golf connect 4, bocce, a giant culvert slide, and soccer). 

Zillicoah Beer Co.- Situated alongside the French Broad River just outside the River Arts District, this family and pet-friendly brewery offers tons of covered and open-air outdoor space along with an on-site food truck (Master BBQ), a fire pit, picnic tables, hammock stands, and live music on select days. 

Asheville Pizza and Brewing- This local pizza and beer joint has 3 locations, but we recommend the one on Merrimon Ave in North Asheville because it is a mash-up pizza joint, second-run movie theater, and brewpub all wrapped up into one space. Kids are always welcome, and there is always a rotating variety of films (several of which are kid-friendly) to watch while eating a delicious pizza!

Highland Brewing- This brewery has 2 locations (one of which is in the S&W building in downtown Asheville), but we recommend the original taproom because of its spacious layout, meadow addition, and special family-friendly events throughout the year. The Meadow bar has a lush lawn to bring your own chairs, and it’s open for the summer season. This taproom location also has rotating food trucks, walking trails, a disc golf course, cornhole boards, and volleyball courts, though these activities are typically reserved for adults. 

Sierra Nevada- Located in Mills River just south of Asheville, this stunning brewery is the closest to the Asheville airport and serves as the East Coast production facility of Sierra Nevada Brewing (which was founded in Chico, CA). While all kids are welcome, kids must be 12+ to enjoy a brewery tour, so keep that in mind when planning. 

Nestled along the French Broad River, this brewery offers stunning scenery and a thriving garden along with its awe-inspiring building and brewery equipment. With plenty of outdoor space for lounging and playing, you can also head inside to sample some southern-inspired cuisine. 

Ichiban- Hibachi is entertaining as it is delicious, and kids usually get a kick out of the fun tricks and maneuvers (I mean who doesn’t love an onion volcano and egg toss?) Chances are your kiddo will be mesmerized as they watch their food being cooked right in front of them, and it will inspire even the pickiest of eaters to try something new. 

Foothills Grange- This eatery and bar by Foothills Meats is in the heart of downtown Black Mountain and offers an expansive outdoor space with plenty of picnic and bar-style seating. Ideal for a chill night out, there are covered picnic tables, a large patio, a kids’ play area with dirt piles and Tonka trucks, and a permanent food truck serving up hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and tallow fries. The main building houses the bar which has 16 taps, a great selection of bottles and cans, and slushies for kids (and for adults who want a slushie cocktail).  

Creekside Taphouse- Considered a neighborhood joint for families and friends to hang out, this taphouse is located in the beautiful Haw Creek neighborhood on 2 acres. It offers plenty of outdoor space with a flowing creek and features a playground area for the kiddos. They also serve up pub favorites such as chicken fingers, wings, burgers, and pizza. They even host weekly events like Music Bingo every Tuesday and Trivia Thursdays and have 10 TVs (8 inside and 2 outside) always playing the latest games.

White Duck Taco- This Asheville original opened its doors in 2011 at its River Arts District location, but it has since added 2 more locations in Asheville and beyond in neighboring NC cities as well as in SC and TN. The RAD location is ideal for pets and kiddos, as it’s located on the East Bank of the French Broad River with ample outdoor space. The Skyland Duck in South Asheville also has some outdoor space for your kids and pets to run around. 

S & W Market- With vendors like Buxton Chicken Palace, The Hope Ice Cream, and Farm Dogs (sure to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters), along with Bun Intended (Thai) and Mikasa Criolla (Peruvian) for the adventurous foodies, this historic art-deco food hall is a feast for the eyes and well as the stomach! 

Asheville Cabins with Family-Friendly Amenities

Greybeard has a handful of homes that provide items like booster chairs, Pack N’ Plays, and stair gates to make your stay as convenient as it is comfortable, and we have several homes that offer kids' toys and books, game rooms, and other amenities like fenced yards and basketball courts. Check out our list of recommended homes below to see what specific kid-friendly amenities they offer: 

If you have a question about what home best suits you and your family’s needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our reservations team who can help you narrow your search and find the perfect vacation home.

For our homes that do not come equipped with children’s items you need, we’d recommend renting through BabyQuip, a local company that offers self-pick-up and return as well as a delivery option for baby gear during your stay. 

Whether your mountain stay is centered around a family reunion, holiday celebration, or much-needed retreat from school and work, the Greybeard team is here to offer recommendations and answer any questions you have on how to make the most of your family vacation. If you’re hoping to travel with the whole family, don’t forget to browse our pet-friendly rentals!

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