Sure‚ Asheville has plenty of activities to keep grown-ups busy – from lounging in a spa to rappelling down a rock face. But it’s also brimming with great places for kids to play.
A 60-foot natural water slide in Pisgah National Forest‚ a children’s science museum‚ native animal exhibits‚ nature hikes‚ guided rock climbing‚ a fun center with laser tag‚ batting cages and bumper cars – you’ll find a diverse range of fun stuff around here to keep the whole family entertained.
Tour a 19th-century mountain pioneer homestead. Go horseback riding on wooded trails overlooking Asheville. Visit Food Lion Skate Park‚ a world-class skateboard park offering daily skate times. Hike to a majestic waterfall. And that’s just for starters.
One must-see stop is the 43-acre Western North Carolina Nature Center‚ which includes a petting area‚ an educational farm‚ and a 2/3rd mile nature trail along the Swannanoa River.
“This has become part of the culture of the Asheville region for many families‚” says Keith Mastin‚ education director for the WNC Nature Center. “We house 250 animals that are native to the Appalachian Mountains‚ from the smallest of insects and spiders up to the black bear‚ the gray wolves and the tawny mountain lion.”
About 100‚000 people each year visit the nature center‚ a laid-back place where families are encouraged to enjoy picnic lunches. It takes about 90 minutes to tour the center‚ which is handicapped-accessible and features a mature canopy forest.
Chimney Rock Park‚ about 25 miles southeast of Asheville‚ is another popular outdoor destination. The easy‚ half-mile Great Woodland Adventure is a good hiking choice for many youngsters. This interactive trail features activities and whimsical‚ oversized sculptures that tell about the park’s forest critters. The park also offers more than 3.5 miles of nature trails‚ a 404-foot waterfall‚ 75-mile views‚ rock-climbing instruction‚ and special events throughout the year.
If an indoor adventure is more your speed – and if you want to squeeze some educational activities into the fun – check out The Health Adventure downtown‚ which includes 11 galleries filled with educational exploration activities. The kids can brush up on dental hygiene by using a 3-foot-long toothbrush to clean a giant set of teeth‚ or learn about motion in the Dizzy Tunnel. Little ones under age 6 can roam freely in the Creative Playspace‚ where a climbing structure‚ costumes‚ puppets and other toys are the right speed for the younger set.
Asheville’s Fun Depot offers a different sort of indoor experience‚ with 60‚000 square feet of games – indoor mini golf‚ laser tag‚ batting cages‚ arcade games‚ a climbing wall‚ bumper cars and multilevel go-kart tracks. For the youngest customers‚ the Fun Depot has a soft-play toddler area where little ones can crawl‚ bounce and slide. There’s also a kid-friendly arcade area with rides such as a carousel and bulldozer.
“You might be surprised to learn that adults have just as much fun here as kids‚” says Heather Myers‚ director of marketing and sales for the Fun Depot. “It’s not uncommon to see moms and dads zooming around our outdoor go-kart track‚ racking up points in laser tag and then taking a swing in our batting cages.”