More and more families are coming to Asheville and the Western North Carolina mountains for the wide variety of unique family-friendly vacations offered. In the age of screens, more parents are seeking out hands-on activities for their children with outdoor exploration, STEM-focused learning, arts, music and more. Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, see a variety of things to do in Western NC that get kids engaged with hands-on (screens off!) experiences.
Why are hands-on activities so beneficial for kids? Hands-on learning (also called experiential learning) is the process of learning by doing. It fosters the brain’s ability to retain information through a combination of movement, exploration, touch, manipulation and engagement - often with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) based activities.
There are plenty of hands-on learning experiences for kids in and around Asheville. Places like children's museums, art museums, science museums, nature centers, and more offer a variety of activities in one place. So whether your little one wants to know what a cloud is made of or how to build a robot or what color red and yellow makes - there is something for everyone to get interested.
The great outdoors offers the best hands-on experiences for kids. Western North Carolina has no shortage of outdoor activities that combine movement, communication, listening, touch and more that excite multiple parts of a child’s brain. So get outdoors and let the learning begin! For many outdoor adventure ideas, see our guides for Waterfalls for Kids, Kid-Friendly Hikes, Kids in Parks and Summer Camps.
Hands-On Education & Children's Museums
Kids in Parks: Educational Trails in the Blue Ridge
Kids in Parks is a growing network of trails with free activity guides for children and families. Together, you'll engage with the outdoors by identifying trees and birds, viewing the forest from… read more
Chimney Rock Park for Kids
Children of all ages love the spectacular views from the famous rock formation - plus the elevator ride up. In addition to several easy hiking trails, find discovery stations on the half-mile… read more
NC Arboretum, Asheville
The Arboretum offers a variety of unique experiences while children discover the wonders of nature in a safe, enriching environment. Rent Discovery Backpacks, available for kids to use with tools… read more
Oconaluftee Indian Village
This living history outdoor village portrays eighteenth-century Cherokee life on the mountainside above the town. Interact with villagers as they hull canoes, make pottery and masks, weave baskets… read more
Mineral & Lapidary Museum, Hendersonville
Featuring many diverse underground treasures like raw minerals, meteorites, gemstones, and fossils the museum is a great place to take kids to see the many exhibits and especially highlights like… read more
The Learning Center at PARI
This former NASA campus in Pisgah National Forest is now a fascinating space and science center open for camps, events and occasional tours. See exhibit galleries, a gem and meteorite collection,… read more
Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS)
This fully interactive science museum in downtown Asheville is a must visit for the whole family! Exhibits include elements of forestry, minerals, planetary exploration, dinosaurs and more. Check… read more
Ideal for kids 6 and up, this hands-on program uses Legos to help kids develop problem solving and critical thinking skills as they build machines and other constructions, utilizing engineering,… read more
This large, interactive space in Rutherfordton offers fun indoor and outdoor exhibits where kids can learn and stimulate imagination through hands-on playing. There are 14 different interactive… read more
Cradle of Forestry for Kids
Located in Pisgah National Forest near Sliding Rock, learn all about our forests and environment at the location of the nation's first forestry school. Watch a movie, explore 15 hands-on exhibits… read more
Hands On! Children's Museum, Hendersonville
This children's museum in historic Downtown Hendersonville has interactive exhibits with focus on science, nature, engineering, motor skills, and more. Exhibits include pet vet hospital, grocery… read more
Western NC Nature Center
Learn about the area's natural resources, see 60+ animals in their native habitats including red pandas and red wolves. Explore many exhibits on this 42-acre wildlife park in the city of Asheville… read more
Safari Edventure, Marshall
This non-profit organization is committed to providing hands-on quality encounters with wildlife, plants and the environment. Kids can interact with kangaroos, sloth, lemurs, porcupines, sugar… read more
Gem Mining Top Spots
Gem mining has been a favorite activity for visitors to the mountains of North Carolina for many years. Most gem mines in the Asheville and Franklin areas are open from spring through autumn. Also… read more
See more pages from our Family Guide: Top 20 Family Vacations | Kid-Friendly Hikes | Waterfalls for Kids | Biltmore for Kids | Family-Friendly Hotels & Lodging | Top 20 Indoor Activities for Kids | Kids in Parks | Places for Kid's Birthday Parties| Overnight Summer Camps | Day & Half-Day Summer Camps