Looking for some family fun in or around Asheville, North Carolina? Check out our list of the top family-friendly outings for exploring Asheville with kids! Western North Carolina is a virtual outdoor playground with parks and gardens, kid-friendly hikes, whitewater rafting, ziplining, biking, and more. For urbanites, Asheville features indoor play centers as well as museums, guided tours, and lots of art, music, and history to discover. Choose your own adventure and find some fun things that the whole family can enjoy! (Photo above: Antler Hill Village at Biltmore)
Biltmore Family Outing
If you’re an annual pass holder, head to Biltmore to begin your day exploring the estate’s trails and gardens. Antler Hill Village is a great home base for the day with plenty of parking and access to trails, the farmyard (see the heirloom breed chickens and pet the goats), and Pisgah Playground. Check out the Creamery, restaurants, Outdoor Activity Center, and more. See our Biltmore For Kids guide for more ideas!
Outdoor Water Fun
In the warmer months, nothing beats floating on a cool mountain river! Try tubing, rafting, or kayaking. For a natural waterslide to beat the summer heat, Sliding Rock is a popular choice, and you can check to see when the lifeguards are on duty. Or plan a visit to NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) in the Nantahala Gorge—a 500-acre playground for outdoor lovers featuring whitewater rafting, paddleboarding, ziplining, mountain biking, and an adventure park. Want to slow down and soak up some sun? Hit up one of 6 Mountain Beaches or 7 Great Lakes in the area for stunning views and quiet contemplation.
Learn Local History
Uncover the history of the area through Asheville’s Top Museums and Historic Sites. (See the full list of Children’s Museums near Asheville.) Downtown, walk Asheville’s Urban Trail (1.7 miles) marked by public sculptures and landmarks at 30 different stops or try the Hood Huggers tour for an immersive tour into black history in Asheville. About an hour’s drive from Asheville, visit Cherokee, home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, with “must-see” stops at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Oconaluftee Indian Village. For a look at ancient history, the petroglyph at Judaculla Rock offers a fascinating glimpse into the past.
Pay a visit to the new, state-of-the-art Asheville Art Museum with collections highlighting work from Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia. Just for kids, (and kids at heart), the ArtPLAYce at the museum provides hands-on play and art activities for all ages. Pop into the gift shop before you head out for a fun collection of games, books, craft projects, memorabilia, and more. A mural scavenger hunt is another idea, with plenty to see downtown as well as in the River Arts District (RAD)—the original home to Asheville’s artistic community. The Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway is another must for art lovers and features the finest in traditional and contemporary craft of the Southern Appalachians. Or follow the scenic drives of the Blue Ridge Craft Trails and make stops through small towns to see regional glass blowing, blacksmithing, pottery, fiber arts, quilting, and so much more.
Quintessential Downtown Asheville Fun
All are welcome to dance to the beat of their own drum every Friday night (April-October), at Asheville’s Drum Circle in Pritchard Park. In the summertime, Splashville, an interactive splash fountain in Pack Square Park, is a favorite for kiddos. The Flying Bike - Electric Bike Tours is a unique way to tour downtown and the surrounding historic neighborhoods, with pedal-assist for the hills! For the readers in your family, Malaprops Bookstore and Coffee Shop has an excellent selection of children’s books. Afterward, pop into the historic Woolworth Walk featuring hundreds of local artists (and try milkshakes from their Old Fashioned Soda Fountain) or stop at French Broad Chocolate Lounge for a sweet treat.
Wild Family Times
See wildlife up-close at the Western North Carolina Nature Center (WNC Nature Center), a 42-acre wildlife sanctuary, home to wolves, bears, river otters, bobcats, cougars, red pandas, and more. Or try a Wild Food Foraging Tour, and hunt for wild mushrooms and fruits, alongside an expert guide who will provide a cooking demo for a true taste of the region. Grandfather Mountain has an amazing mile-high swinging bridge that kids and adventure-seekers love, and is also a nature preserve with wildlife habitats and a nature museum. And, for an unparalleled look at nature, check out the elk in Cataloochee Valley.
Hike and Hunt Waterfalls
Find hiking trails that are suitable for kids; not too long, not too strenuous, but just right so that even the littlest family member can keep up. For unstoppable views and kid-friendly fun, try Chimney Rock Park. Kids in Parks is another great option and offers a growing network of TRACK (Trails, Ridges, Activities, and Connections for Kids) educational trails with free activity guides for children—perfect for family vacations to Asheville. In addition to several easy hikes, find discovery stations, visit live animals, and climb a rock tower. Chasing waterfalls? See our Waterfalls for Kids guide with wading pools for splashing, picnic spots, and more.
Joysticks and Pinballs
Who will land the highest score in your family? Find out at Asheville’s arcades: the Asheville Pinball Museum downtown with 45 pinballs and classic video games, and West Asheville’s Retrocade, which features classic arcade games and modern video games, pinball machines, air hockey, skeeball, and more. See our full list of Indoor Activities for Kids.
Asheville Tourists Baseball Games
Take your fam out to the ballgame! Asheville’s minor league baseball team aptly named the “Tourists” play in historic McCormick Field in downtown Asheville. Root for the home team and enjoy fun entertainment during the game. For the adults, Thirsty Thursdays offer great local craft beer specials. Read more about the Asheville Tourists Games.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Got a train fanatic in your group? Well, then the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will be a dream come true! Enjoy scenic train excursions from Bryson City through the mountains, along rivers and valleys, and through tunnels. Plan ahead to book the Polar Express over the holidays and take the family on a journey to the “North Pole” to see Santa. Don’t forget to wear your pjs!
Rainy day got you wondering what to do? See our top 20 Indoor Activities for Kids in and near Asheville. On the list you’ll find museums like the Asheville Museum of Science, play spaces like Mountain Play Lodge with an indoor playground designed especially for kids 10 and under, and SkyZone, an indoor jump park with wall-to-wall trampolines!
The Adventure Center of Asheville
Only five minutes from downtown, the Adventure Center of Asheville is tucked away in a tree preserve across the French Broad River. Explore the Zipline Canopy Adventures (ages 8 and over), Kid Zip (ages 4-10), the Treetops Adventure Park (ages 4 and over), or Kolo Bike Park.
Asheville Parks and Recreation maintains 54 public parks and a growing system of greenways. Check out Pack Square downtown, home to many festivals and outdoor events. Also downtown is Pritchard Park, home to the Friday night drum circle. Carrier Park offers views of the French Broad River and has a velodrome for cycling or roller skating, a giant playground, roller hockey rink, basketball court, lawn bowling, sports fields, and a picnic pavilion. It is linked via a trail to the French Broad River Park, which features a dog park for small and large breeds. See Asheville Parks & Greenways for more.
A Day on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Stop at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center (195 Hemphill Knob Rd, Asheville) for maps, souvenir shopping, and more. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers 469-miles of non-stop recreational cruising, connecting Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. Print our Mile-by-Mile Guide to take along, which includes top Parkway waterfalls, overlooks, picnic spots, hikes, maps, tips, and more.
The Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
The North Carolina Arboretum has a 434-acre campus in Pisgah National Forest with groomed trails and beautiful gardens. Just two miles from downtown at the University of North Carolina, you’ll find the Botanical Gardens with an easy walking trail, bridges over streams, meadows, and a woodland ridge that leads to a wildflower cove.