I’ve been meaning to finish this post for ages; a master list of things to do in Asheville with kids! It seems like all the sites Google loves on this topic recycled the same ideas between each other, but there are so many other options! I have a separate chunk of free kid activities in Asheville, NC for budget travelers, day trip suggestions, kid friendly hotels in Asheville, and our favorite restaurants in the area with special stuff for kids. If you’re planning a trip here and have a question, just leave a comment and I’ll reply! We’ve lived here for two years and love exploring the area; I haven’t done every single thing on this list but I’ll get there 🙂
If you’re planning a trip to Asheville and/or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, check out these posts too!
- 7 steps to plan a family vacation
- National park books for kids
- 40+ Asheville date ideas
- Asheville homeschool resource guide
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Things to do in Asheville with kids
Is Asheville good for kids?
I feel very confident in saying yes! I think Asheville has a great mix of indoor & outdoor activities, activities for different ages, and just overall has a family friendly vibe. It’s easy to drive around, the hiking is plentiful and fun, and there are loads of cool day trips nearby to extend your trip!
Here are some regional books about the area for kids!
Is Biltmore kid friendly?
When we first moved here, I’ll be honest, I’d never even heard of Biltmore Estate. Once I got the scoop, and saw ticket prices, I was very skeptical. But curiousity won out, and we headed over. It IS expensive, there is no way to sugarcoat that. With that being said, we really enjoyed going (and ended up buying season passes actually, the grounds are so fun to explore!). The house will be a bit challenging if you have, say, 4 kids under 4 or something but I would say overall, Biltmore is definitely kid friendly and my family really enjoys visiting. Get money saving tips and see more of what there is to do there, in my post with tips for visiting Biltmore with kids!
What is there to do in Asheville for toddlers?
Let’s face it, toddlers are pretty happy anywhere as long as they have food and space to run around. Parks and playgrounds are easy to find around town and kids menus at restaurants are common. The museums (and nature center) are small enough for the parents to enjoy things they can read and see but large enough to have designated hands-on kid activities. It’s a great place to visit with toddlers for sure!
My top 10, must-see Asheville spots:
This is my top 10 list of places I think everyone should visit when they come to Asheville! We’ve traveled a fair amount in the US and these experiences and places feel the most unique and “Asheville-y” to me. Keep reading for even more ideas too!
- Biltmore Estate- famous & expensive, this place can easily take up a full day once you’ve toured the house, the indoor gardens, the outdoor gardens, and the playground/Blacksmith area. It’s a huge part of Asheville culture and a great blend of interests for adults & kids. They also have specialty tours like falconry lessons or horseback rides for certain ages and additional fees. Before you go, check out my post with tips for visiting Biltmore with kids!
- WNC Nature Center– This place focuses on animals who currently live or lived in the area in the past, with a smaller, more intimate vibe than a traditional zoo. In addition to a guaranteed bear sighting, their playground has fun climbing apparatus and there are paved trails to burn more energy.
- Blue Ridge Parkway- Almost 500 miles of picturesque driving, this road gives great views and lots of pretty stop-offs! If you’re not a hiker, this is the best way to get a slice of nature without hitting the trail. There are scenic overlooks and little towns sprinkled along the way, the nearby visitor’s center is free and a good place to stop in and ask questions!
- Take a mountain view hike- Moving here from Iowa, I was not prepared for the mountain views for as far as your eye can see. Taking a hike up in elevation, romping among the balds is an experience everyone should have! Check out options in my post of kid friendly easy hikes near Asheville NC.
- Take a waterfall hike- If you’re coming from somewhere without waterfalls, introduce your kids! There are loads to explore including one you can walk behind and several you can swim at the base. Check out options in my post of kid friendly easy hikes near Asheville NC.
- Go downtown- Downtowns & kids don’t always mix but Asheville’s main downtown is pretty quiet, with 2 lane roads. There is often live music and buskers aplenty, with street art and little shops to pop in and out of.
- Go to a gem mine- We have only done this at the WNC Nature Center but there are a few options in the area; check out Elijah Mountain or Asheville Gem Mine.
- Visit the River Arts District– I wouldn’t recommend this one with itty bitty kids but pre-k and up will enjoy this artsy area! There are a ton of small shops with artisans working on display so you can pick and choose which might be the most dicey. I highly recommend the Jonas Gerard shop, there was art everyone could explicitly touch, lots of open space, and live painting demonstrations sometimes! There are several RAD buildings with lots of murals and good food within walking distance as well.
- Well played board game cafe– This won’t be exciting if you’re visiting from an area that has its own board game cafe, but if not, this is your spot! You pay for a pass (kids are free) and play unlimited board games and order milkshakes or snacks. Lots of kid friendly games and the staff are great.
- See live theater- Check out a play or musical! Tickets are affordable and theaters are small; click through and see what’s playing in the area when you’re planning on visiting.
Free kid activities in Asheville, NC
In my opinion, Asheville is pretty affordable for vacations, but if your budget is tight, consider some of the fun, free kid things to do in Asheville! If you’re a local or know a local with a library card, use the Zoom pass to check out the Arboretum, Nature Center, Art Museum, Science Museum, and more for free.
- Carl Sandburg home– A National Park site, it’s a fun free place to roam. You can tour the house and learn more about Sandburg’s life (we have, it was interesting but close quarters and only for kids who can keep hands to themselves, also not free, get timed tickets at the gift shop) BUT we usually just go and hike the trails after visiting the goats! Check out a book of his poetry for kids or short stories for kids before you go! We love stopping by the nearby Park at Flat Rock in the same trip, it’s super fun with open space and a huge climbing structure.
- Hike a track trail (or really any free trail but these are special)– certain trails around the area have fun little brochures with activities and learning information in them, free of charge! Read more about the program here.
- Visit Splashville– In the heart of downtown, this splash pad has lots of open green space nearby for playing! Double check for closures before you go, and be aware it doesn’t have its own parking lot (there is a ramp across the street or street parking).
- Visit the Asheville Botanical Gardens– Check out the beautiful flowers and try their investigation passport activity; but be clear that they do not want kids running around and roughousing in the gardens, per their website.
- Drop by the Friday Night Drum Circle– An Asheville classic, join in the fun and dance to the beat. It starts around 5pm or 6pm in Pritchard Square Park during warm months.
- Jam at the Shindig on the Green– Seasonally available downtown on Saturday evenings, this is a popular live music event for the whole family!
- Walk Asheville’s Urban Trail– A downtown walk touring sculptures and learning about the area’s history! There is a free scavenger hunt for kids to work on as you go, too.
- Go geocaching– Geocaches are both on the trails and in urban areas, it’s a fun free digital treasure hunt! Check out my photo walkthrough of how to easiest explore geocaching with kids here.
- See an outdoor performance by the Montford Park Players– So this is technically free but please, plan to donate when they pass the hat, they run by donations! They run seasonal performances in a casual ampitheater with a small concession stand. My kids loved Robin Hood.
- Check out planes at the Western North Carolina Air Museum– Donations are welcome here of course; it’s down south of the city in Hendersonville with planes on display and friendly volunteers willing to talk about aviation with kids.
Also a few of the ideas in my top 10 are free too! Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, take a hike, or visit the River Arts District.
Even more things to do in Asheville with kids
- Swing by the North Carolina Arboretum– this place is big, with lots of room to roam and explore. They have a rotating indoor exhibit that is usually kid friendly and interactive, along with kid tool backpacks you can rent for free. There’s a small bird observation space and animal exhibits in the education center, and a model train that runs seasonally, in addition to the beautiful flowers, sculptures, and bonsai.
- Take a kid friendly Lazoom Tour– Geared at 5-12 year olds, this is a popular small business in the area, I’d love to try one!
- Adventure Center of Asheville– Whiz through the trees on these fun ziplines and adventure courses! They have a kid specific spot, for 4+
- Go river rafting with Nantahala Outdoor center– I’d personally avoid the french broad but there are two other options within a short drive!
- Stop by the Asheville Museum of Science– This is a smaller museum but easily walkable from downtown and has several fun things to do, especially for younger kids. I shared pictures of a few of them above, there is also a large rock & mineral collection and rotating smaller exhibits. They’re also open Sunday, which can be hard to find around here!
- Asheville Pinball Museum– A bit of a niche interest but if your kids like pinball, this is a good spot for you! Pay one admission fee and play unlimited times once you’re in.
- Spend time at Mountain Play Lodge– This indoor play place is geared towards the 8 & under crowd, with a separate play area for itty bitties. Clean, big, and fun; see more details in my full review post of Mountain Play Lodge in Asheville here.
- Check out Sunny Day Playspace with littles- a new indoor play space geared at kids 6 & younger, details here.
- Go on a train ride– Craggy Mountain Line is in the city proper and more of a historic treat than a scenic one, or drive an hour west near the national park and ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.
- Check out Play Space AVL with littles– an indoor play space geared at toddlers, details here.
- Catch an Asheville Tourists game– Minor league baseball is low pressure and fun for the family, we aren’t super into sports but had a good time when we caught a game.
- Ride down sliding rock, the natural waterslide– This is for OLDER KIDS only! The pool at the end is deep & cold; their rules state that kids 7 & under must slide with an adult. This was closed due to damage from Tropical Storm Fred, updates will be posted on the USFS site.
- Visit Chimney Rock Park– A part of a state park, with a paid entrance fee, this is a popular destination. They have a tiny nature center with live animals and a short, interactive kid’s trail along with longer trails, a waterfall with tiny swimming hole, small cave, and epic overlook after a zillion stairs.
- Visit the Asheville Art Museum– Newly reopened, this is a small museum you can tack on to a full day downtown. They have several exhibits and a large kid’s room with room to play and craft. See more details on what to expect when visiting the Asheville Art Museum with kids!
- Swim at the Waynesville Recreation Center indoor pool– Popular with locals, they have some fun fountain and play elements that allow for public swimming inside.
- Play games at the Asheville Retrocade– Another throwback play place with skeeball, video games, pinball and more.
- Pick apples and play at the Sky Top apple orchard– Only open seasonally, they have fun things for kids to play on and do along with tasty apples to pick and treats to buy.
- Jump on the trampolines at Launch– A nation-wide franchise, this place has lots of different ways to bounce around and play while getting energy out.
- Do a family escape room-Two local, family friendly options are The Conundrum or Fox-n-Otter.
- Get a dose of astronomy at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute– You have to schedule a visit but they have gems, meteorites, and other space stuff on display. Check into regular star gazing presentations as well.
- Make some art together– Skip cheesy souvenirs and make something you can take home! Here we painted pottery at Claying Around, if you have a big group consider a painting party with Painting With A Twist.
- Explore downtown on a fun Gray Line trolley tour– Hop on an old-timey troller car and use it to get in between destinations or just see the sights!
- Check out fish & sharks at Team Ecco Aquarium– This is a small but well kept aquarium that kids can watch marine animals being fed, peek into tanks,
- Explore the Cradle of Forestry‘s nature center– Open seasonally, this area has interactive exhibits, trails, regular events, and lots of kid friendly activities in the great outdoors.
Kid friendly day trips from Asheville, NC
Whether you want to explore further out or looking for options as you head out of town, these are some kid friendly spots within 2 hours of Asheville!
- Stop into Kidsenses Children’s Interactive Museum in Rutherfordton, NC– This is a small but densely packed kid’s museum in a cute downtown street strip. Big bubble making, an art station, dress-up, pretend play, climbing options, and more! Approximately 1 hour south of Asheville.
- Check out the big bridge at Grandfather Mountain in Linville, NC– This is a large operation that’s very popular famous for a long swinging bridge. There are also wildlife exhibits, trails, a nature museum, and lot of pretty views! Approximately 1.5 hours north-east of Asheville.
- Play at Hands On! Children’s Museum in Hendersonville, NC– This is smaller than Kidsenses but closer; I’d say most kids over the age of 6 might be bored quickly. They have a lot of fun things packed in though and it’s on the cute downtown street so you can add a visit to the Mineral & Lapidary Museum and the cute little bakery downtown too. Approximately 30 minutes south of Asheville.
- Go underground in the Linville Caverns in Marion, NC– Check out the cool rock formations and hopefully catch some wildlife on a cave tour. Approximately 1 hour north east of Asheville.
- Hit up Great Smoky Mountains National Park via the closest area, Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Gatlinburg, TN– The visitor center itself has a pretty, flat trail along the river where you can often see elk and then a historical village with some learning mixed in! It’s then another short drive to the Deep Creek area of the park that has several pretty waterfalls and tubing. Approximately 1 hour west of Asheville.
- Visit a huge gem mine setup at Emerald Mine in Little Switzerland, NC– This is the biggest gem mine in the area, with lots of different mining options and a museum. Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes north east of Asheville.
- Play at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate in Greenville, SC– Significantly larger than the museums in Hendersonville or Rutherfordton, this is a place you can spend a whole day! Multiple floors and an outdoor play area kept my kids very happy. Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes south of Asheville.
Where to eat in Asheville with kids
- Creekside Taphouse– With a playground for the kids and outdoor seating, it doesn’t get much easier than this! American food with lots of beer & bbq sauce options.
- Pizza Mind– Kids get to make their own mini pizza at the table, there is a kid friendly show on the TV and an old school toy claw machine so bring quarters.
- Asheville Pizza and Brewing– The North Asheville location plays movies (tickets sold separately) and has lots of fun things to look at while you munch.
- The Hop– Get some artisan, yummy ice cream from this local faovrite; they were named by Huffington Post and Domino Magazine as one of the 12 Best Ice Cream Shops in America.
- French Broad Chocolate Lounge– Lots of locally made treats and a cozy spot to enjoy them, right in the heart of downtown.
I don’t have any specific AirBNB recommendations (see why we love them ourselves here!) but a few commercial places to consider”
- Asheville Cabins of Willow Wind-Quiet log cabins with loads of amenities sound perfect for families. There are on site playgrounds, party games, even a fishing pond!
- Omni Grove Park Inn- A hotel option that welcomes kids, giving them sweet treats at check in and a backpack of fun items to borrow and explore the area with.
- The Biltmore Hotels– Free guest activities include movies, bonfires, morning yoga, hikes and tours. Plus, there are kids menus at all Biltmore estate restaurants.