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Mountain Play Lodge
This large indoor play space for kids 10 and under offers two age-appropriate play floors with miniature village, toddler slides, large jungle gym, large slides and more. For parties, they offer themed party rooms with host and cleaning services included. You may bring your own food, drinks and cake, or use in-house beverage service. Room rentals start at $139 + admission for party guests.
Fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains
See the world-famous Synchronous Fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each spring in late May and early June. Sign up early for the lottery for parking passes to see the show in the Elkmont area.
Picnic at Crabtree Falls
Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 349: The Crabtree Falls area has a large picnic area. A little north of the picnic area, there is a campground with a 2.5-mile hiking trail to beautiful Crabtree Falls. The trail goes by the base of the Falls, and there are some rocks for small picnics there. The picnic area is open from mid-May through October.
Picnic at Linville Falls
Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 317: The riverside picnic area near the Visitors Center is open from April through October. An alternative choice is taking your picnic down to the base of the Falls on the large rocks (3/4-mile strenuous hike from Visitor's Center, via the Gorge Trail) any time of year. There are three other overlooks for the Falls via other trails; however, those overlooks are designed for viewing, not picnics.
With a prime corner location in the beautiful Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville, find superior local and organic produce and meats for a bounty of fresh flavors with contemporary style. Lunch features soups, salads, hand-tossed pizzas and burgers. Dinner offerings range from mussels and calamari to locally sourced steaks and pork, along with signature cocktails and local brews. Prime outdoor dining patio. 1 Page Avenue.
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
All Day Darling
Located in Asheville’s historic Montford neighborhood, this cozy bistro offers fresh coffee and baked goods, smoothies, salads, dinner specials, cocktails and more. Enjoy beer or wine on the patio in the warmer months! Open daily 7 AM- 9 PM. 102 Montford Ave.
Kolo Bike Camp, Adventure Center of Asheville
Kolo Bike Park at the Adventure Center of Asheville hosts 2 summer bike camps: Kolo Kiddie Camp (ages 5-7) and Kolo Flow Camp (ages 8-15). Campers will explore bike trails and pump tracks, learning new skills and jumps. See the website for camp details and skill levels. Weekly sessions run June-Aug, 8:30 AM-4:00.
Off the Wagon Dueling Piano Bar
Their musicians impress with their repertoire of thousands of popular songs from the last 50 years. It's an all request show. Rock-and-roll and sing-along while you enjoy cocktails, wine or a craft beer in their beautifully restored historic building on one of the last brick-paved streets in downtown Asheville. 22 North Market Street.
Mountain Farm Museum, Oconaluftee Visitor Center & Mingus Mill
Located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, see historic farm buildings in an open-air museum and get plenty of great information from rangers. Nearby you can explore Mingus Mill, a historic grist mill dating from 1886.
This casual full-service vegetarian-friendly restaurant with two locations in West Asheville features Caribbean inspired pasta dishes, rice dishes, daily specials, and desserts. Enjoy a variety of local microbrews and wine. Open daily 11:30 AM-10 PM. 751 Haywood Rd
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.
All About Aerospace, Asheville Parks & Recreation
Campers will learn about the forces of flight, how rockets blast off, and the design of aircrafts through hands-on STEM activities. July. 8:30 AM-5:30 PM, ages 8-12. $50/session
Farm Visits & Tours
Visit farms and learn about their local food. See buffalo and alpacas, sample local cheeses, watch bees make honey, visit wineries, pick apples and more. Plus, tour historic farms at Biltmore and in the Great Smoky Mountains.
White Duck Taco
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. 388 Riverside Dr
Melt Your Heart
Gourmet grilled cheese is the specialty of this eatery on wheels! Enjoy classics with specialty options like smoked gouda pimento or cream brie. Or specialty sandwiches like their ham and smoked gouda sandwich with caramelized onions and stout mustard. You can find them at Wedge at Foundation 7 days a week. See their weekly hours on Facebook.
In the heart of downtown Asheville, this farm-to-table restaurant welcomes pooches with a dog menu including house-made dog biscuits, entrees and even serves a bacon-soy ice cream dessert! 1 Biltmore Ave.
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 out the STEM laboratory and hurricane simulator- they even have a “toddler nest,” for the littlest ones to experience hands-on learning.
Little Pigs BBQ
Serving locals and visitors alike since 1963, this family friendly barbecue joint serves meats smoked over hickory wood plus popular broasted chicken and hushpuppies. Known for their fast and friendly service, stop in for a combo plate and leave satisfied! 84 McDowell St
Rocky's Hot Chicken Shack
Feast on some “Tennessee style” hot chicken and southern soul food. They prepare their unique fried chicken to order, so it’s not spicy unless you want it that way! Ingredients are sourced locally and classic American recipes are made from scratch daily. Two locations in Asheville: West at 1455 Patton Avenue, and South at 3749 Sweeten Creek Road, Arden.
This neighborhood restaurant in West Asheville, called UJ by locals, offers classic pub food, local drafts, and a friendly environment. The Universal Fries are a house favorite and the ultimate comfort food! Dine indoors or enjoy the large, dog-friendly patio. Open: Mon-Thurs until 1 AM, Fri/Sat until 2 AM, Sunday until 12 AM. 784 Haywood Rd.
An Asheville staple since 1999, this bakery specializes in European-Style breads and pastries, as well as pies, muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, and sweet breads like their Chocolate Cherry Sourdough. Stop in for coffee, sandwiches, soup and salads too. 60 Biltmore Avenue.
WNC Overnight Summer Camps Guide
Discover the best residential camps for older kids and teens near Asheville in Western North Carolina, with sessions ranging from 3 days up to 8 weeks that include a wide variety of activities including whitewater rafting, zipline tours, creative writing, painting or science and technology workshops.
Mt. Mitchell Balsam Trail
(3/4 mile loop, easy) Take a loop hike through the dense, aromatic fir forest high atop on the summit of Mt. Mitchell. Great place for a cool walk on a hot summer day.
All Souls Pizza
This beloved pizzeria specializes in heavenly woodfired pies with seasonal ingredients, and a masterful crust (they mill their own flour with local grains). They also offer an array of salads, polenta and pasta dishes. Family-friendly! Open for lunch Fri-Sun 11:30 AM-5 PM, Dinner Tues-Sun 5 PM-10 PM. 175 Clingman Ave
Wilderness Cove Tubing
Tubing the Green River in Saluda is an exciting float that includes class I & II rapids. Enjoy the splashing water, great swimming holes and relaxation, with tube rentals and shuttles available for 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-hour floats. Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends.
The Chemist, Asheville
Located in Asheville’s South Slope, this women-owned craft distillery produces vapor-infused, small batch gin by way of prohibition-era chemist techniques. They also feature unique brandy collaborations with local artisans. Book a public or private tour and/or enjoy craft cocktails in their 1920’s inspired bar, Antidote. Bar hours: Mon-Fri 4 PM-12 AM, Sat/Sun 2 PM-12 AM.
Fox-N-Otter Adventure Esacpes
This locally owned, family friendly business creates brain-twisting puzzles where participants try to escape perplexing scenarios. Though younger children are welcome, kids ages 10-15 are ideal for puzzle solving. They offer multiple party packages that include a private escape room with options to upgrade for added perks. Packages start at $125.
Hickory Nut Gap Farm
This working farm offers beautiful scenery and a naturally engaging space for active children. The Party Shack space on the farm has a covered area and picnic tables, with nearby treehouse, tunnel slides and creek for splashing. Add ons like horseback riding and birthday party catering are available. Packages start at $125.
A little further into the RAD, Fresh West offers woodfired pizza in a casual environment, with a great menu of local brews, fresh salads, soups and specials. Open Mon/Wed/Thurs 11 AM-9 PM, Fri/Sat 11 AM-10 PM, Sun 12-9 PM, Closed Tuesday. 342 Depot St
This food truck serves healthy and fresh gourmet and folk dishes like salads, soups, empanadas and sweet crepes, with gluten-free options. Their brick & mortar serves brunch on Sundays from 11 AM- 3 PM. You can find them at New Belgium on Wednesdays. See their weekly schedule on their site.
Sky Lanes, West Asheville
Make it a family date at this West Asheville bowling alley, open daily with lots of options for kid-friendly bowling, including bumpers and assist ramp. In-house Bar & Grill menu has a wide variety of bowling alley munchies like nachos and fries, and items like salads, sandwiches, burgers and more. Games: $4, shoe rentals start at $3.
Great Smoky Mountains NC Travel Guide
Order the free 115-page Great Smoky Mountains North Carolina Travel Guide that includes activities and adventures in 7 counties that surround the national park, published by Smoky Mountain Host.
Gwynn Valley Camp, Brevard
This overnight summer camp for kids located on a working farm offers farm activities, nature lessons, hiking, sports, blacksmithing, climbing, archery, crafts, and more. Programs focus on sustainability, community, outdoors, wilderness, and leadership. 7-day to 3-week sessions, June-August 2022. Completed grades: K-10th. Cost: $2,050-$5,550/session
White Duck Taco, Asheville
This popular riverfront taco shop located in the River Art’s District of Asheville is a casual, kid & dog-friendly restaurant. Large outdoor space has picnic tables and room for kids to run around. 388 Riverside Dr, Asheville
Deep Creek Tubing
Rent a tube and float down Deep Creek on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City. Float by one waterfall and hike to two others.
(1 to 12 miles, easy to strenuous) More than 12 miles of hiking trails range in difficulty from easy nature walks to strenuous backcountry challenges. Our favorite is taking the Grandfather Trail from the Swinging Bridge area and returning along Underwood Trail. The popular Profile Trail is a 7-mile roundtrip, strenuous trek up to the highest peak.
(4 miles round-trip, moderate) At an elevation of 5,920 ft., this is the highest grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains. The hike near Clingmans Dome is not overly strenuous but includes a good bit of uphill and rocky sections. And you won't see the crowds that you find on other hikes in the Smokies.
Ramen and Noodle Bowls
Enjoy a bowl of happiness with delicious ramen and noodles at these top restaurants. Asheville chefs spice things up with an Appalachian twist by using local, seasonal and fresh ingredients.
Picnic at Biltmore Estate
With thousands of acres to explore, there are plenty of options for picnics! While there is not an official "picnic" area, spread a blanket along one of the hiking trails, along the river, or in gardens (except the Walled Garden). For a more secluded picnic, take the Deer Park Trail that begins by the South Terrace. Other great spots include the Lagoon (pic), the Diana statue atop the hill facing the house, and the gazebo on Bass Lake. Bring your own or order a picnic at the Bake Shop, located adjacent to the Biltmore House.
Wake Foot Sanctuary
Located in the heart of Asheville’s shopping district, this unique communal space allows you to take a break from exploring the city, cozy up in a plush chair and enjoy a custom foot soak made from essential oils, dried herbs and botanicals. Sip on hot tea with treats while you soak. Add on massage by a licensed massage therapist and soak up the bliss!
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 to aid in their exploration of trees, insects, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Programs like Week Naturalist, ecoExplore, Discovery Camp and more engage kids in hands-on experiences with nature.
Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway Picnics
There are plenty of roadside stops (many by a cascading river) on this Byway through the Pisgah National Forest. The section on U.S. Highway 276 between Brevard and the Blue Ridge Parkway passes by Looking Glass Rock, Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock and the Forest Discovery Center. Home to many waterfalls. Just four miles south of the Parkway is the Pink Beds Picnic area with an easy four-mile loop hike.
Relive the romantic Victorian era in Asheville's oldest house (circa 1840). Explore opulent period rooms, history exhibits and grounds designed by the renowned Olmsted Brothers. 1.5 miles from downtown Asheville.
Mexican and Latin Food
Find fresh, delicious, and creative Mexican and Latin food at these restaurants. While tacos and burritos are always crowd-pleasing, also discover molcajetes, stuffed fried plantains, and ceviche. And don’t forget the margaritas.
Rumbling Bald Trail
(1.5 miles, moderate) Hike this loop trail in Chimney Rock State Park to the boulders and cliffs of Rumbling Bald Mountain, a popular rock climbing spot. Free access area near Lake Lure.
This Italian-inspired eatery in the center of downtown Asheville fuses the traditions and philosophies of Italian cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. The seasonal menu serves family-style, hearty traditionals, along with new Italian dishes. Fantastic wine selection. Reservations strongly recommended. 24 Wall St
Rankin Vault Cocktail Lounge
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 craving. 7 Rankin Ave
(32 Banks Avenue, Asheville, South Slope) Catawba opened its big, seven-barrel specialty brewery and tasting room downtown in 2015. They also have a place in Biltmore Village. They have a dozen of their brews on tap. Open every day. Their main production facility is in Morganton.
Black Mountain Ciderworks
(100 Eastside Drive, Black Mountain) Their Tasting Room has four ciders on tap, made from Henderson County apples.
PARI Learning Center, Rosman
Kids can explore the universe and beyond at this 200-acre historic campus in Pisgah Forest. Offering campers an out-of-the-world experience, the camp will focus on astronomy and planetary subjects like astrobiology. See a radio telescope and have fun with activities like building and launching model rockets. 6th-12th graders. 2-3 week sessions June-August 2022.
Mandala Springs Eco Retreat, Blue Ridge Parkway
This 30-acre eco-retreat surrounded by national forest is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway with some of the best fall color views in the Blue Ridge Mountains! Enjoy camping, glamping, tiny home rentals, trout stream, hiking, and more! They also have onsite yoga classes and bodywork treatments.
Diamond Brand Gear, Asheville
This 138 year old company manufactures hand-crafted durable outdoor gear made from a wide range of materials,from heavy to high performance to ultra-lightweight. Products include tents, bags, packs and more.
Osega Gymnastics, Fletcher
This active camp (available in full and half-day options) is fun for kids of all skill levels with a once a week visit to the pool for full-day campers. Activities include daily ninja & gymnastics lessons, games, arts & crafts, and free play in the gym. Weekly sessions run June-Aug, 8:30 AM-5:30 PM, ages 3-14. $95-$160/week
The Bull and Beggar, River Arts District
Classic European cuisine, cocktail bar and raw bar set in a warm warehouse revamp in the River Arts District. Menu highlights include a two tier raw seafood platter with fresh oysters, clams, shrimp or go big with their 34 oz dry-aged, bone-in ribeye. Reservations recommended. 37 Paynes Way, #007
Fonta Flora Brewery
(317 North Green, Morganton) This microbrewery is striving to create a totally unique North Carolina/Appalachian style of beer. By utilizing local grains and foraging the countryside for wild flora, we are taking brewing back to its agricultural roots.
Indoor Activities for Kids
Find a variety of indoor activities for kids including indoor playgrounds, swimming, STEM centers, hands-on learning and children museums.
Battery Park Champagne Bar and Book Exchange
Dogs are welcome in this unique book store in downtown Asheville serving wine, champagne, espresso drinks, snacks and dog treats upon request! Peruse the aisles or have a seat with your dog on an oversized chair to read. Be sure to say hello to Corky, the house bar dog. 1 Page Ave.
East Fork Falls
See a beautiful 18-foot cascade near the road in Headwaters State Forest, south of Brevard. It's a one-tenth of a mile trail with a short, steep section.
This casual Thai restaurant has served up classic dishes with big flavor for over 10 years in Asheville. Enjoy flavorful classics like Green Curry, Pad Thai, and Mango Sticky Rice, along with a diverse sushi bar. Enjoy lunch specials and outdoor dining! 535 Merrimon Ave
Flat Rock Playhouse
See a fabulous professional show at the State Theatre of North Carolina, about 30 miles south of Asheville, with an eight-month season of plays including Broadway musicals, comedy and drama.
Nantahala River Rafting Guide
The most popular river for whitewater rafting and kayaking is about 12 miles west of Bryson City in the beautiful Nantahala River Gorge. The site of the Freestyle Kayaking World Championships, find class II and III rapids, along with calm sections perfect for a dip. Fun for ages 7 and up, with no experience necessary. Choose from nine outfitters, all offering a variety of options.
Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro
Find a warm, cozy atmosphere where the food and service will delight your senses. Enjoy handcrafted cocktails, ample wine offerings, a selection of local draft beer, an extensive rhum list, and of course, delicious food prepared by Chef Owen McGlynn. Free parking in their private lot downtown. 125 South Lexington Avenue.
In the heart of Asheville in Pack Square is this comfortable place for friends, families and strangers to simply lean in and enjoy each other's company. A place where food and drink is at its uncomplicated best. Chef John Fleer's menu is inspired by seasonal ingredients and pays homage to the bounty of regional and American cooking. A wood-fired oven and grill complement the rustic creations. 7 Pack Square.
Waynesville Recreation Center Indoor Pool
This indoor pool and water park is open daily throughout the year, making it a great way for kids to be active on rainy day or snow day. They also do pool parties! A family day pass is $20, and good for up to 6 people. Other pool pass options available.
High Five Coffee Bar
Formerly called the Dripolator, this local's favorite is on the other side of I-240 with their own parking area. Their barista's are Counter Culture Coffee-trained to craft only the finest beverages. 190 Broadway Street.
This downtown cafe and bakery serves fresh breads, pastries, salads, sandwiches, soups, and more. Shop the pantry for local and regional foods, housewares, and artisanal products. They’ll even pack a picnic for you to take on your mountain adventures! Open Mon-Fri 7:30 AM-4 PM, Sat/Sun 8 AM-5 PM. 10 S Lexington Ave
While it's part of the city, West Asheville has its own vibe and busy Haywood Road lined with restored buildings filled a big variety of restaurants, bars, breweries, and funky shops.
Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS)
Ideal for children ages 3-9, this museum offers 2-hour science themed birthday parties with educator-led activities in STEM classroom, table & chairs, games and free time in the exhibit hall for up to 25 kids. Parties are $275 and offered on Sat/Sun only.
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.