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(2.8 miles roundtrip, moderate) Hike back in time as you discover the rock foundations of Rattlesnake Lodge, an early 1900s family retreat. The hike is only a 30-minute drive from downtown Asheville. You can extend the hike since it is part of the Mountains to Sea Trail. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 375.
Hands On! Children's Museum
This children's museum in historic Downtown Hendersonville has interactive exhibits with focuses on science, identification, classification, fine and gross motor skills, technology, engineering, math and more. Party package includes admission for 24 total guests (adults + children), table/chairs for 12 kids, and a gift for birthday child. Packages start at $140.
Pack's Tavern, Asheville
Established as a go-to spot in downtown for good beer, delicious food and a great view overlooking Pack Square Park in a beautifully restored 1900s building. Offering multiple dining spaces: expansive North Bar with 32 taps and big TVs, South Bar with TVs and free live music every weekend, and a romantic outdoor patio. 20 South Spruce Street.
Eda Rhyne Distillery, Asheville
This Asheville distillery is located in historic Biltmore Village, near Biltmore. They specialize in small batch whiskeys, sourcing heirloom corn and grains, as well as local botanicals to create aromatic and earthy flavors. Their cocktail bar is open Wed/Thurs 3-9 PM, Fri/Sat 1-9 PM.
Still Point Wellness Massage and Float Spa
Experience deep relaxation with Salt Water Floatation (sensory deprivation) and stress relief with Esalen Massage. Detoxify and destress with a Far Infrared sauna session, or explore how thoughts manifest in the body with Somatic Psychology. Personalized packages for couples and individuals.
Learn about Cherokee Indian heritage at several museums, including the Museum of the Cherokee and Oconaluftee Indian Village. Each summer, see Unto These Hills. Learn about and buy crafts at Qualla Arts.
(147 Coxe Avenue, Asheville) Wicked Weed opened their nearby barrel house and sour tap room in the South Slope in late 2014 to store 1,000+ wine and bourbon barrels. This tasting room has 16 taps for sour and wild beer. Open daily. Read more about the South Slope Brewing District.
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 exhibit areas geared for kids 10 and under. For kids 11 and up they offer a hands-on maker space called The Factory that offers workshops. The Factory is one block KidSenses.
Nantahala Gorge Picnics
Picnic by the Nantahala River while watching whitewater rafters and kayakers negotiate the rapids. At NOC, Big Wesser cafe has street tacos and riverside outdoor tables. A few miles down the road is the Ferebee Memorial on the Mountain Waters National Scenic Byway with a picnic area featuring tables, charcoal grills, flush toilets, and river access.
Go to these spots for authentic Thai staples like pad Thai, tom yum, drunken noodles, red curry, and other creative Asian fusion dishes.
Lake James State Park
(.5 to 3.5 miles, easy to moderate). This state park with a beautiful lake has seven hiking trails and a beach for relaxing afterwards.
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. Open daily.
For delicious southern and soul comfort food, head over to these finger lickin' good places for buttermilk biscuits, crispy fried chicken and sweet tea.
Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria
Enjoy fresh sourdough pizza, lasagna, and sandwiches at this long-time local's favorite with 40+ beers on tap. They showcase regular live music and have 4 billiard tables and 5 dart lanes upstairs. Open Sun-Wed until 9 PM, Fri/Sat until 1 AM. 42 Biltmore Avenu
Picnic in Cataloochee Valley
Tailgate and watch elk graze nearby in meadows just after sunrise or just before sunset in this beautiful valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Don't feed the wildlife.
Discovery Camp, NC Arboretum
The North Carolina Arboretum offers a variety of camps for varying ages and interests including outdoor exploration, hiking, arts & crafts, local ecology, geocaching, disc golf, biking, and more. Weekly sessions run June-Aug, 9 AM-4 PM, Grades K-8. $350-$395/week
Asheville Pinball Museum
Featuring many diverse underground treasures like raw minerals, meteorite, gemstones and fossils the museum is a great place to take kids to see the many exhibits and especially highlights like a tyrannosaurus rex skull, a mastodon tusk and teeth, and a wooly mammoth leg bone.
Savor some of Carol's sweet creations while you sip your coffee. Located in the Grove Arcade, she features made from scratch soups, biscuits, cookies, cakes, pies and more. 1 Page Avenue.
Find hiking trails ideal for children that aren't too long or strenuous with kid-friendly highlights like waterfalls, picnic areas, paved trails for strollers and more. Also find tips for hiking with kids in Western NC!
Cafes & Bistros
See the best bistros in our “Paris of the South” - including traditional bistros with French and European cuisine and a big variety of small restaurants and cafes with many culinary styles.
Wortham Center for the Performing Arts
This 500-seat theatre in the heart of downtown host many top-notch performances by professional touring artists and local arts organizations. The intimate theatre has exceptional acoustics and sightlines. Check out their calendar with events every week. Located at 18 Biltmore Avenue.
Located at the base of Roan Mountain and the mile-high scenic drive, this town has several galleries and studios. Home to the Rhododendron Festival. Penland School of Crafts is nearby.
Alexander's Ford Overmountain Trail
(1.5 miles, easy) Hike a section of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail that was used for by local militia heading to an important battle in the Revolutionary War.
New Belgium Brewing
(21 Craven Street, Asheville) Sample brews in the riverside Liquid Center Tasting Room, located just across the French Broad River from downtown Asheville. And take a free, 90-minute brewery tour.
Gan Shan West
This relaxed neighborhood eatery serves a diverse array of noodle dishes, along with weekly, varying specials. Their seasonal menu features dumplings, ramen, fresh veggies, kimchi and more to be enjoyed indoors or on their back patio. Mon-Sat, 4-9 PM. 285 Haywood Rd
Linn Cove Viaduct
(1 to 8 miles roundtrip, moderate) Hike under and above the Viaduct from the visitor center. Hike south to Beacon Heights or continue north on the Tanawha Trail to Rough Ridge. Blue Ridge Parkway Milespost 304.
Eco Explorer Camp, Asheville Parks & Recreation
A three-day camp focused on exploration and fun outdoors! Activities include hiking, stream investigation, animal visits, climbing wall and a mountain field trip. Two sessions in June. 9 AM-5 PM, ages 6-8. $105/session
Cooking grounded in the traditions and ingredients of the Carolinas with modern southern seasonal farm-to-table menus, fresh catches from the coast of the Carolinas, as well as local microbrews, prestigious wines, and inventive cocktails. 47 Biltmore Ave
Dalton Distillery, Asheville
As downtown Asheville’s first legal distillery, Dalton Distillery features top-shelf rum and vodka. They also have fun specialty liquors like agave vodka, apple vodka, and coffee infused rums made from local roasters. Their full-service bar features a patio, billiards, arcade games and table tennis. Bar is open daily, 5 PM-2 AM.
Their small downtown area is filled with restaurants, galleries and interesting local shops. And it's only 10 minutes from both downtown Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Twice a year, they host the big Weaverville Art Safari with dozens of artists opening their studios to visitors. Nearby is Vance Birthplace State Historic Site.
Founded on the traditions of 19th century Waldensian settlers from Italy. Stop by the Visitor Center in the historic Rock School for things to do including Waldensian Museum, Trail of Faith, Old Rock School Art Galleries, and model train museum.
Mela Indian Restaurant
This popular, award-winning Indian hub in downtown Asheville stands out for their authentic tandoori dishes, offered in an airy, modern setting. Locals love their lunch buffet and favorite dishes include their chicken masala and tandoori chicken with a mango lassi. 70 N. Lexington Avenue
For a taste of the big island, this newcomer eatery crafts Hawaiian dishes (including poke), cakes, and pastries paired with specialty cocktails. Their Synergetic Smores feature marshmallows in rotating flavors, and house-made Graham crackers and chocolate. Open for lunch and dinner Tues-Sat, 11:30 AM-3 PM, 5-9 PM, Sunday 11:30-3 PM, 5-9 PM. 27 Foundy Street, Suite 20
Elevated Mountain Distilling, Maggie Valley
This craft distillery is located near The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Maggie Valley. Their top-shelf whiskey, moonshine, and vodka is inspired by the owner’s Smoky Mountain heritage and family traditions. Stop by the tasting room for a tour or a taste! Hours: Mon-Thurs 10 AM-7 PM, Fri/Sat 10 AM-10 PM.
Specializing in European-Style breads and pastries, they bake over twenty varieties of artisan breads and rolls using centuries-old hand-shaping and baking techniques. Also, their master baker is constantly conjuring up new ideas for breads that stand out in flavor, texture and overall quality. Stop in for coffee, sandwiches, soup and salads too. 60 Biltmore Avenue.
With a large selection of classic and modern video games, pinball machines, air hockey, skeeball and more, this family-friendly business welcomes people of all ages.They offer a variety of party packages, that include 2-3 hours of play time, 25 passes, and table. You can even rent the entire arcade. Packages start at $200.
Ultimate Ice Cream
It’s all about flavor at this ice cream shop on historic Charlotte Street in the famous Grove Park Inn area. Small, local dairy farms provide the creamery necessary to create fun flavors like Goat Cheese Bing Cherry and boozy ice cream like Pumpkin Whiskey. Each flavor of the month benefits local nonprofits. 195 Charlotte Street
Heintooga Road & Balsam Mtn, Great Smoky Mountains
The less-crowded Heintooga picnic area and campground at Balsam Mountain is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway. And go "car hiking" on the 14-mile Heintooga-Round Bottom Road that starts at an altitude of 5,535 ft. and descends through the lush forest to Cherokee.
Bryson City Restaurants
For a small town, you'll find a nice variety of restaurants, ranging from southern home cooking to a brewery and gourmet dining. A nice reward after a day of exploring the Great Smokies and Nantahala River.
Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
They assist the National Park Service to preserve and protect the Great Smoky Mountains by raising funds and public awareness, and by providing volunteers for needed projects. Total disbursements to the Park surpass $50 million.
Asheville Pinball Museum
This downtown Asheville treasure trove for pinball and classic video games is a great rainy day activity with over 80 games. Play a flat rate admission, no tokens or coins necessary. Admission for adults is $15, 10 and under are $12.
Fork Lore, Biltmore Park
Located inside the Hilton in Biltmore Park Town Square, they fuse southern comfort with modern sophistication, inspired by the chef’s grandmother’s kitchen. How about bananas foster French toast, eggs benedict many ways, and a variety of egg dishes from a nearby organic farm? Don't forget a mimosa or Bloody Mary. Serves breakfast 7:30-10 AM Monday-Friday and 7:30 AM-2 PM on Saturday/Sunday. 43 Town Square Blvd.
Fox-N-Otter Adventure Escapes, Asheville
This locally owned, family-friendly business creates brain-twisting puzzles where participants try to escape perplexing scenarios. Younger children are welcome, puzzles are geared towards kids ages 10-15. Single admission is $28/person, with group packages available.
Mountain Play Lodge, Asheville
This large indoor play space, ideal for kids 10 and younger, offers two age-appropriate play floors with a variety of soft play equipment including a miniature village, toddler slides, and a large jungle gym with slides. Find a variety of food and beverage options for purchase, including snacks, coffee, and even beer and wine! Admission: $8-14. Don't forget to wear socks!
Cathey's Creek Falls
This 80-foot waterfall in Pisgah National Forest is just six miles west of downtown Brevard near U.S. Highway 64. It's a short but steep hike to the cascade hidden away in a lush cove.
Located in Brevard, this is the oldest frame house in western NC (dating back to 1815). Tour the home and beautiful grounds mid-May through mid-October on Saturdays 10 AM-4 PM and Sundays 1-4 PM. Operated by the Transylvania County Historical Society. 2753 Asheville Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC.
Creekside Taphouse, Asheville
Located in the Haw Creek neighborhood of East Asheville, this taphouse specializes in burgers, wings and brews. This large, casual setting is great for kids with games, large outdoor space with patio, volleyball court, playground area and flowing creek. Kids and dogs are welcome! 8 Beverly Rd
This favorite local hangout features creative American fare, local beer and craft cocktails.Their delectable Vault Burger features 100% grass-fed beef from local farms, taking home local awards year after year. Enjoy the patio or sit at the walnut bar inside. They’re open until 2 AM, perfect for a late night cravings. 7 Rankin Ave
Parker-Binns Vineyard and Winery
This family-run vineyard is located in the foothills and has a very relaxed atmosphere. Try wines in their tasting room and on outdoor patios with mountain views. They use all their own grapes: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chambourcin, Petit Manseng, and Muscat. 2275 Whiteside Rd, Mill Spring, NC 28756.
Bricks 4 Kidz, Asheville
These half-day enrichment camps give campers motorized building challenges each day, along with crafts, games and time for creative building. June-Aug, 9 AM-12 PM and 1-4 PM, Ages 5+
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
See art exhibits at this downtown Asheville gallery and learn about the fascinating history of Black Mountain College. 56 Broadway
(1 mile roundtrip, moderate) Near Chimney Rock, hike to the summit of this bald mountain with wonderful views. It's an easy drive from downtown Asheville!
Slick Rock Falls
This cascade near Cove Creek Falls flows across an overhanging cliff in Pisgah National Forest. It's a short walk from the road. You can walk behind it when water is not too high. Located near the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.
French Broad Brewing Co.
(near Biltmore Village, 101 Fairview Rd, Asheville) Sample their year-round European-style beers: the Wee-Heavy-Er Scotch Ale, 13 Rebels ESB, IPA, Ryehopper, Gateway Kolsch, and Anvil Porter. Tasting Room also has an assortment of seasonal specialties, and frequently a beer on cask. Open daily.
All Souls Pizza
This wood-fired pizzeria located in the River Arts District of Asheville features pizza dough made with freshly milled grains and high quality, seasonal ingredients. They also offer an array of salads, polenta and pasta dishes. Family-friendly! 175 Clingman Ave
(2.5 miles roundtrip, strenuous) Hike to Stairway Falls on the Horsepasture River from Gorges State Park via the trail to Rainbow Falls in Pisgah National Forest.
The Little Gym
This indoor gym for kids offers a variety of 1.5 hour party packages includes up to 16 guests, two hosts, set-up/clean-up, juice boxes, t-shirt and water bottle for birthday child. Add-ons include themes, paper products, invitations and more. Packages start at $240.
Newfound Road Picnics, Great Smoky Mountains
Along Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) through the middle of the Park, there are two large picnic areas in addition to overlooks. The Chimneys picnic area is on the Tennessee side (near the Chimney Tops hike). The Collins Creek picnic area is on the North Carolina side, about six miles from Cherokee. They both have tables, grills, restrooms and a nature trail.
Top 10 Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains Park NC
From world-renowned hiking trails like the AT to lesser-known gems, see our favorite 10 hikes from the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, nearest the Asheville area.
There are dozens of farmer's markets throughout the mountains. The biggest by far is the Western North Carolina Farmers Market that is open every day in Asheville. In downtown, the City Market on Market Street is every Saturday 8 AM-1 PM and the French Broad Co-op Market is Wednesdays 2-6 PM. Find more markets and pick up the Local Food Guide by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
This fascinating National Park Service site honors the accomplishments of Carl Sandburg and wife Lilian. Tour their home with all original furnishings, visit the goat farm and hike trails at Connemara. Many programs. Located in Flat Rock, just south of Hendersonville.
Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians
Through exhibits and videos, learn about past fly fishing legends, the evolution of rods and reels, basic knots, fly-tying, types of gear, types of gamefish, regional fishing waters and the history of fly fishing in the Southeast. Open Mon-Sat, 9 AM-6 PM. Free admission. 210 Main Street (Chamber of Commerce) in Bryson City.
White Duck Taco Shop
This popular riverfront taco shop located in the River Art’s District of Asheville is a casual, kid & dog-friendly restaurant with a large outdoor space with picnic tables. Order tacos at the counter and enjoy them riverside. 388 Riverside Dr
Vegan and vegetarian comfort food are at the heart of this locally loved, downtown eatery serving plant-based fare that's affordable and delicious. They serve lunch, dinner, and late night food. 116 N. Lexington Ave
For the best view with your breakfast, drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to Pisgah Inn, located at 5,000 ft. elevation with panoramic mountains views. They are open seven days a week, serving hearty breakfast dishes 7:30-10:30 AM in April through October. Get there early to get a great table (no reservations), especially on weekends. Located at milepost 408.7 (about 15 miles south of Asheville - allow about 30 minutes driving time).
(66 Broadway Ave, downtown Asheville) Asheville’s retail store just for beer lovers with 600 Belgians, Belgian-style, high-gravity, craft brews, microbrews, and the best from around the globe.
Western North Carolina Farmer's Market
Come and enjoy the atmosphere and bounty of the mountains. The retail area features displays of high-quality fruits and vegetables, mountain crafts, jams, jellies, preserves, sourwood honey and dozens of other farm-fresh items. The market is open year-round, seven days a week.
Barley's Taproom, Asheville
Enjoy fresh sourdough pizza, lasagna, and sandwiches at this long-time local's favorite with 40+ beers on tap. Their stage showcases live bluegrass, jazz, and Americana music with no cover charge. Upstairs is the Billiard Room with four regulation slate billiard tables and five regulation dart lanes. 42 Biltmore Avenue, downtown Asheville
Picnic at Mt. Pisgah
Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 407: A large picnic area includes grills, tables and restroom facilities. All are ADA compliant and handicapped accessible. It is located near the Pisgah Inn (one mile south) where you can order picnic food (April-October). You can take a strenuous hike to the top of Mt. Pisgah, but there are no great picnic spots at the summit.