With so many things to do and see, Asheville is quickly becoming a popular destination for families with kids – and it’s easy to see why! Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this vibrant city offers stunning scenery and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure. In fact, Asheville is known as a nature lover’s paradise. Your family can hike, bike, fish, and more in the beautiful mountains surrounding the city. Not to mention, adventure sports like whitewater rafting and rappelling! Plus, if you’re in the mood to have a low-key day or stay indoors, there are plenty of fascinating museums and artistic neighborhoods to explore. So, if you’re planning a family vacation to Asheville, stick around for the best things to do in Asheville with kids, where to stay, and even a sample itinerary!
Explore Fun Neighborhoods in Asheville
One of the best parts of traveling is exploring different neighborhoods and taking in the local vibe. Here are two great areas that families will enjoy meandering in Asheville.
Stroll Through Downtown Asheville
One of the best ways to explore Asheville with kids is on foot, and there’s no better place to start than downtown. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to keep everyone entertained, as well as some great parks and playgrounds. Stroll down Main Street and pop into the many unique boutiques or art galleries for a souvenir.
Foodies can sample the local fare at one of the many local restaurants, cafes, or food trucks. And, of course, there’s no shortage of ice cream or dessert shops for a sweet treat. A few favorites include:
If kids want to burn some energy, explore the historic Pack Square Park. Or, rest your feet by sitting and people-watching. Parents can even sip a beer at one of Asheville’s many breweries!
Need a break from walking around downtown Asheville with your kids? Take a Gray Line Trolley Tour! Lasting around an hour and a half, this fantastic tour runs through the downtown area, pointing out historic landmarks and interesting facts along the way. It’s a great way to learn about Asheville’s past while staying warm and comfortable. Plus, since it’s hop-on, hop-off, you can explore at your own leisure and stop to enjoy whatever you want.
Roam the River Arts District
If you’re looking for a day of culture and fun for the whole family, look no further than the River Arts District. This vibrant area is home to an array of art galleries, studios, shops, live music venues, and restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. And what better way to explore it all than on foot? While meandering, you’ll find plenty of interactive opportunities to spark your children’s imaginations.
Some of our favorites include watching artists at work at Curve Studios or the Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts, showcasing contemporary and traditional works of art. Then, head over to one of the district’s many restaurants or cafes. Grab lunch at 12 Bones Smokehouse or the White Duck Taco Shop. For dinner, try one of the many restaurants in the area, such as the fan-favorite nightlife spot, The Foundry.
Bike rentals are also available throughout the district, making getting around and taking in the sights easy. Families can also relax at one of the many parks in the area, such as Carrier Park.
Best Outdoor Things to Do in Asheville with Kids
Outdoor adventures are a huge draw to Asheville for families. Home to the Blue Ridge Parkway and within two hours of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is a wide array of unique outdoor things to do in Asheville with kids. From hiking to white water rafting, here’s what we recommend!
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Asheville is home to some of the best hiking in the country, and there are plenty of great trails for families with kids. So, pack a lunch and some snacks, and enjoy a day of fresh air and exercise. Here are the best things to do in Asheville with kids!
Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest is a great place to hike with kids. There are plenty of trails to choose from, all with different difficulty levels. And, since Pisgah National Forest is so close to Asheville, it makes for a great day trip. Here are a few fun places to check out within the Pisgah National Forest with kids:
- Sliding Rock is an especially popular spot for families. The hike from the parking lot area is short and easy (around 0.3 miles), making it perfect for kids. Once you reach the top of the rock, you can slide down into the pool of water below and cool off on a hot day!
- Looking Glass Falls is another excellent option for families, accessible via a short, 0.3-mile trail from the parking lot.
- Moore Cove Falls or Slick Rock Falls are other terrific options if you are looking for a longer hike.
- Pisgah National Forest is also a popular place for mountain biking.
Chimney Rock State Park
Asheville is a haven for outdoor lovers, and Chimney Rock State Park is one of the best places to go hiking with kids! Located just 30 minutes from Asheville, Chimney Rock is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in North Carolina. It’s also a popular hiking destination for families of all ages, and for a good reason! At around 3.9 miles, the moderate-level hike to the top of Chimney Rock is an excellent option for families with kids. Not to mention, the views from the top of the rock are incredible! Be sure to stop by the Visitors Center to pick up a map before you start exploring. However, if you’re not up for the hike, you can also take an elevator to the top.
For a different kind of adventure, families can also go rock climbing. Several companies, such as Fox Mountain Guides and Climbing School, offer guided tours and lessons.
Mount Mitchell State Park
If you’re looking for a fun activity with the kids in Asheville, go hiking at Mount Mitchell State Park. Located near Burnsville, the park is just north of Asheville and is a great place to hike and explore. There are over 40 miles of trails; you can even camp overnight if you want to make it a more extended trip.
Try the 0.4-mile hike to Mount Mitchell’s summit for an easy hike. This hike is perfect for families with small children or those who want to enjoy the incredible views without spending all day on the trail. For a longer hike, head to Deep Gap Trail. This 8.2-mile trail takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the park. You’ll see waterfalls, old-growth forests, and open meadows with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
DuPont State Forest
DuPont State Forest is a wonderful place to take your kids for hiking and picnicking! Located in Cedar Mountain, this 12,500-acre state forest is around a half-hour from Asheville and features many things to see and do. In fact, the forest is home to over 80 miles of hiking trails, including easy trails for little legs.
There are also several waterfalls to enjoy (which make for some great photo ops). One of the most popular routes is the 3-mile trail around Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls. Each waterfall showcases a scenic view and overlooks accessible via short walks, so adding all three to your visit is easy without exerting too much energy. The forest is also home to many types of wildlife, including Golden eagles, so keep your eyes peeled for fun animal sightings!
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
A road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains is an unforgettable experience, and there’s no better place to do it than on the Blue Ridge Parkway! This picturesque drive stretches for 469 miles along the Appalachian Mountains, taking you through some of the most beautiful scenery in North Carolina. Your kids will love spotting all the different types of animals that call the parkway home, and they’ll be fascinated by the many tunnels and bridges that dot the route.
Of course, everyone can appreciate the stunning views of the mountains and valleys below. Feel free to get out of the car, stretch your legs, or try a hike. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the many scenic overlooks!
To learn more about the area’s history, Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center is one of the best things to do in Asheville with kids of all ages. The center has various interactive exhibits geared toward children, ranging from subjects like Cherokee history to wildlife. Plus, there’s even an interactive map of the parkway! The movie theater is also a great place to take a break from exploring the city and relax with a good film. Near the Visitors Center, there’s also a 1.4-mile loop, which ultimately connects to the Mountains-To-Sea Trail. Remember to ask the rangers if you have any questions or for personalized road trip tips!
Watch for Cataloochee Elk in the Great Smoky Mountains
One of the best places to see wildlife near Asheville is in the Great Smoky Mountains. Around an hour and a half away, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to many different animals, including the rare Cataloochee elk. The Cataloochee elk are a subspecies of elk native to the Appalachian Mountains.
Once nearly extinct, their numbers have increased in recent years thanks to conservation efforts. If you want to see Cataloochee elk in the wild, the best time is in the fall. That’s when the males actively seek mates and often congregate in open meadows. The park has several overlooks where you can get a good view of the Cataloochee Valley to see the elk. However, they can also be seen in other parts of the park, so keep your eyes peeled when hiking or driving.
See the Sunset from Craggy Gardens
There’s something magical about watching the sunset from atop a mountain. And at Craggy Gardens, you can do just that! Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, this breathtaking overlook is just outside Asheville and offers stunning views over the landscape. It’s also the perfect spot for a sunset picnic as a family. You can reach it in just an easy 1.9-mile hike, so it’s ideal for kids of all ages. Plus, the 360-degree views are magnificent! Remember to bring your camera to capture the beautiful colors with an unobstructed view. Before you head up, you could also stop at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center to learn more about the local plants and animals. Also, pack some sweaters or layers – it can get windy and chilly up there!
Appreciate a Peaceful Afternoon at the Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens at Asheville are a great place to appreciate nature with your kids. Nestled on 10 acres of lovely land on the edge of the University of North Carolina, the gardens feature over 600 species of plants, a children’s garden, and much more. Trails wind through the different gardens and offer incredible views of the surrounding mountains.
Then, kids will love exploring the many gardens to learn about different plants and animals (just be sure they stay on the paths!). Kids can also pick up an Investigation Passport at the Visitor’s Center to help them learn about the animals, birds, insects, and, of course, plants that call this botanical garden home. The gardens are also home to various events throughout the year, including concerts, festivals, and educational programs.
Spot Wildlife at the WNC Nature Center
Kids love few things more than seeing animals up close, and at the WNC Nature Center, this dream can come to life! Located just 10 minutes from downtown Asheville, this 42-acre zoological park is a hidden gem among the city’s attractions. Kids will love learning about local wildlife and their habitats through a series of interactive exhibits.
Families can also roam the scenic property, go for a hike, or just enjoy a picnic lunch. There are several miles of trails winding through the forest with majestic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Of course, the main draw is the 60+ species of animals you may have a chance to see, including red wolves, bobcats, cougars, and elk! They also offer a variety of educational programs that are perfect for kids of all ages.
Cruise Down the French Broad River with Whitewater Rafting
Looking for a fun and adventurous way to spend a day with your kids in Asheville? Why not go whitewater rafting on the French Broad River? Located just outside of Asheville in the town of Marshall, the French Broad River is one of the best places to go whitewater rafting in Western North Carolina. With Class I-III rapids, it’s perfect for families with kids of all ages who are looking for a little bit of excitement on their vacation.
Several companies offer whitewater rafting trips, including Hot Springs Rafting Company, Asheville Adventure Company, and French Broad Adventures, which have various check-in points and outposts. You’ll float through gorgeous mountain scenery as you make your way down, and it’ll almost feel like a roller coaster!
There are various options, including half-day to full-day choices, with various difficulty levels. Beginners can start with a float trip for a half-day (ideal for ages 4+), a great way to get comfortable on the river. For those looking for more of a challenge, there are also Class III and IV rapids available on longer full-day trips. Most moderate rafting tips for either half or full days are ideal for kids ages 8 and up. Or, there are more challenging routes for ages 11 and up. Be sure to look into your specific adventure for more information and the location of each trip.
Book a Horseback Riding Lesson
Asheville has endless opportunities to explore the great outdoors with your kids. One of the best ways to do this is by booking a horseback riding lesson! There are different local stables outside the Asheville city limits. However, one unique place to experience a lesson is at the Biltmore Estate.
To see the property from a different perspective and appreciate Asheville’s natural beauty, visit the Biltmore Equestrian Center. Here, families can take a private one-hour or two-hour horseback riding tour with the Pisgah National Forest as their backdrop. Led by experienced guides, the rides are a ton of fun, whether you’re experienced or a complete novice. Families can also take a half-hour carriage ride to see the property from a wagonette carriage! Since spots fill up quickly, we recommend booking early to ensure availability.
Soar Through the Treetops on a Zipline
Ziplining is one of the best ways to take in the sights of Asheville! There are several zipline companies in the area, each offering different experiences. For an all-in-one experience, visit The Adventure Center of Asheville. This family-friendly attraction offers anything from ziplining and climbing to hiking and biking. There are dozens of different ziplines ranging from beginner to expert! Brave kids will love the Big Zip, which starts at 70 feet off the ground and reaches speeds of up to 50 miles per hour! There’s a tree-based obstacle course and a handful of different climbing walls for something a little more low-key. If you prefer to stay closer to the ground, plenty of hiking and biking trails are nearby too. Plus, they also offer yoga and meditation classes.
If you’re looking for a zip-lining tour, try French Broad Adventures. Or, you could book through Navitat Canopy Adventures. They offer a Treetop Tour, which is ideal for beginners since it combines six zip lines, two bridges, two rappels, and two hikes. Participants must weigh between 90 and 250 pounds. Intermediate-level zip-liners can try The Mountaintop Tour, which boasts a zip-line measuring 3,600 feet long! Adrenaline seekers can’t get enough of The Ultimate Adventure Tour, featuring six hours of activity!
Try Rappelling at Big Bradley Falls
In the heart of the Green River Gorge, Big Bradley Falls is one of the tallest and most popular waterfalls in Western North Carolina. At 200 feet high, the cascade tumbles over a series of ledges into a large pool below, making it the perfect spot for an adrenaline-pumping rappel adventure. Companies such as Green River Adventures or Pura Vida Adventures offer tours to take you through this beautiful natural area. Keep in mind most tours are for ages 15 and up. Lasting around 4 hours, they usually begin with a short hike to the top of the falls, where you’ll see the stunning views of the valley below. Then, you’ll rappel down the side of the falls, getting up close and personal with the rushing water.
This is an adrenaline-pumping activity that the whole family will enjoy, and it’s a great way to spend a day in Asheville! River tubing and canyoneering are also popular activities here.
Get a Behind-The-Scenes Look at a Working Farm
Hickory Nut Gap Farm is a perfect spot for kids to learn more about agriculture in the areas surrounding Asheville. Located in Fairview, around twenty minutes away, this working farm has been operating for over 100 years. Today, families can participate in all sorts of fun activities!
When the weather is nice, take a farm tour and interact with all kinds of animals, from cows to pigs. There are also nature hikes and even opportunities to help out with farm chores like feeding the chickens.
In the fall, Hickory Nut Gap Farm transforms into a veritable corn maze, and kids will love getting lost in the sprawling paths. There’s also a pumpkin patch to pick your own pumpkins to take home. And no matter when you visit, stop by the on-site farm store to stock up on fresh produce, eggs, honey, and more.
Explore The Biltmore Estate
Asheville is home to many incredible attractions, but one of the most popular is the Biltmore Estate. This historic estate was once the summer home of George Vanderbilt and is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area.
Families can take a self-guided audio tour to learn about the Vanderbilt family and their incredible wealth. You’ll see various rooms, including bowling alleys, pools, gyms, and kitchens. There’s also a separate audio guide for kids that will make the experience more interesting for them.
Then, be sure to explore the grounds. The gardens feature flowers and various plant species from around the world. There are also plenty of hiking trails, and kids can burn off some steam at the playground. Or, rent a bike to explore the trails. There are also horseback riding lessons and a petting farm with sheep, goats, llamas, pigs, and more.
Families can also stop for a bite at the Stable Cafe or visit The Creamery for a sweet treat. For a more intimate and detailed experience, families can also take a guided tour in small groups. You’ll learn fascinating stories about the people who once lived here and also visit some “behind the scenes” areas where other visitors aren’t allowed. Make sure to reserve your tour in advance since they sell out quickly, especially during the holiday season.
Historic Biltmore Village
Historic Biltmore Village is a great place to explore after visiting The Biltmore Estate. This quaint little village has plenty of stores and restaurants to keep the kiddos entertained, all nestled within a picturesque setting. Kids will love exploring the different shops and trying out the different food options.
We recommend visiting the Biltmore Ice Cream Parlor, which serves up homemade ice cream and sorbet in various flavors. The shop also has a selection of milkshakes, floats, and sundaes. There’s also plenty of green space to enjoy, making it the perfect place to spend a day with your kids. Be sure to check out the schedule of events before you visit so you can plan your day around the activities that interest you and your family.
Visit a Museum – Best Indoor Things to Do in Asheville with Kids
Asheville is home to many excellent museums, many of which are great for kids. If you’re looking for a rainy day or indoor activity to slow down a bit, here are some of the best things to do in Asheville with kids!
Asheville Pinball Museum
Situated in the heart of Asheville’s historic downtown, the Asheville Pinball Museum is a must-see for any visitor to the area. With its retro decor and friendly staff, it has a fun and inviting atmosphere that’s especially perfect for families. It’s also home to over 50 classic and modern pinball machines and arcade games dating back to the 50s, 60s, and 70s, as well as some from the “Golden Age Of Video Games” in the 80s and 90s. From young children to seasoned pinball wizards, everyone will have a blast playing with the machines and learning more about the history of the game. Admission includes unlimited play, and you can also purchase pinball parts and accessories from the on-site shop. This is a necessary stop on any Asheville family vacation!
Asheville Museum Of Science
Asheville Museum of Science is a great place to take your kids if you’re looking for something fun and educational to do in Asheville. Located in the heart of downtown, this hands-on museum is dedicated to providing interactive exhibits about STEM learning. Your kids will have a blast exploring all the different exhibits with subjects ranging from space exploration to the human body and the natural world. They can even dress as paleontologists and dig for fossils in a life-size dinosaur sandbox! Plus, the planetarium offers multifaceted displays of the stars and planets and shows throughout the day, so there is always something new to see. The museum also offers several educational programs that are perfect for families.
Hands-On! Children’s Museum
Hands-On! Children’s Museum is among the best things to do in Asheville with young kids! Located in nearby Hendersonville, this family-friendly museum is designed to provide children with a hands-on learning experience with subjects such as science and history. Interactive exhibits allow little ones to touch, feel, and explore the museum in a fun and inventive way!
Plus, there’s always something new to see and do, thanks to the museum’s ever-changing special exhibitions. One of the highlights is the Science Zone, where kids can experiment with different physical properties like friction and gravity. There’s also a water play area where kids can build block towers and dams and a construction zone where they can use real tools to build projects. The museum also has a cute cafe and gift shop so that you can make a day of it.
Take a Day Trip to nearby Waynesville or Weaverville
There are plenty of things to do in Asheville with kids, but sometimes it’s nice to get out of the city and explore the surrounding area.
A great day trip option is Waynesville, which is about a 30-minute drive from Asheville. Here, you can visit the Folkmoot USA Cultural Center, which tells the history of international folk dance and music. There are also plenty of shops and restaurants in downtown Waynesville so that you can spend the day browsing and exploring. Plus, it’s an outdoor haven for biking, hiking, and more.
Weaverville is another excellent option for a day trip from Asheville. It’s only about 20 minutes away, and there’s plenty to do there as well. Downtown Weaverville is filled with antique shops, so it’s perfect for anyone who loves to find unique treasures. There are also several art galleries in town, as well as a few cafes and restaurants.
Where to Eat in Asheville with Kids
Asheville is a foodie town, so there are plenty of great restaurants to enjoy with the whole family! Sunny Point Cafe is an excellent option for breakfast or lunch, with a wide variety of both healthy and indulgent options on the menu. Kids will love the pancakes, and you can’t go wrong with the eggs Benedict.
For dinner, there’s a selection of fantastic restaurants in downtown Asheville. The Laughing Seed Café is known for its delicious vegetarian and vegan cuisine, but they also have a great kids’ menu too. More upscale options include hot spots like Cúrate (tapas), Posana (farm-to-table), H&F Burger, Rhubarb (farm-to-table), and Buxton Hall (BBQ). Or, for something a bit unique, families can dine on French food at Bouchon, Korean at Stone Bowl, Indian at Chai Pani, and Ramen at Gan Shan West.
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Where to Stay in Asheville with Kids
Or, you could also consider the Omni Grove Park Inn. Located right in the heart of downtown Asheville, This historic hotel is within walking distance of all the best shops, restaurants, and attractions. Plus, there are a variety of family-friendly amenities, including an indoor pool, kids’ club, and babysitting services.
Other fantastic hotels in Asheville for families include the Country Inn & Suites Asheville River Arts District, Elevation Alofts Hotel, and Highland Lake Inn & Resort, around 30 minutes from Asheville in Flat Rock. Finally, read about all 9 Best Hotels In Asheville For Families!
A Sample Four-Day Asheville Family Vacation Itinerary
Now that you’ve discovered the best things to do in Asheville with kids, you’re probably wondering how to plan an itinerary. Luckily, our sample 4-Day Asheville Family Vacation Itinerary has everything you need! We’ve included an ideal mixture of outdoor activities, cultural attractions, and opportunities to relax. Use this as a flexible guide to exploring the wonderful city of Asheville. Here’s a sample itinerary for exploring Asheville as a family!
- Day 1: Depending on when you arrive in Asheville, you may want to rest. Then, spend your next full day at The Biltmore Estate. Since there’s so much to do here, from the petting zoo to hiking, biking, and exploring the historical architecture, it can definitely keep you busy for a long time! Explore The Biltmore Village for dinner and consider staying overnight.
- Day 2: Hiking is a popular activity in Asheville. So, you should definitely try dedicating at least part of your day to enjoying the views. We recommend Pisgah National Forest with its various waterfalls. And if you have time, add a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Other must-see hiking spots include Chimney Rock State Park and Mount Mitchell State Park. Watch the sunset at Craggy Gardens, then explore the restaurant scene in downtown Asheville.
- Day 3: Day three should be packed with adventure to make the most of your itinerary! We suggest taking a whitewater rafting trip on the French Broad River with various companies (both kids and adults will love it!) You could also try other adventurous activities like rappelling, zip-lining, and more. Then, explore downtown Asheville or go to the River Arts District to browse galleries and cute boutiques.
- Day 4: This is a prime day for animal lovers with a visit to the WNC Nature Center. It’s home to several hikes, plus creatures like bears, elk, and cougars. Or, if you have more time in Asheville, spot elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Families can also take a peaceful stroll through the Botanical Gardens At Asheville. If it’s raining, consider an indoor visit to a museum like the Hands-On Children’s Museum or the Asheville Pinball Museum.
Find more details by reading An Asheville Family Vacation: 4-Day Itinerary With Things To Do.
We hope you liked this list of the Best Things To Do In Asheville With Kids! From outdoor adventures to exploring the city’s rich history and culture, you’re guaranteed to have a blast in this fantastic North Carolina city. Enjoy visiting Asheville with your kids!
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
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