Last summer my sister moved to Asheville, North Carolina, which is awesome because it gave me an excuse to get to know the hot spot better. Asheville has become a beacon for hip, young folks attracted to the beautiful locale and the easy living. Asheville also draws visitors for the Biltmore Estate, a Vanderbilt mansion with extensive grounds, a thriving food and arts scene and it’s impressive local brews.
With tons of hiking, water sports, and other outdoor adventures, great food, and history, there’s something for everyone in Asheville, but what makes it a great destination for kids? Luckily, I got to spend two weeks in Asheville which gave me enough time to dig a little deeper and get the inside scoop on the best attractions, places to eat and what to do in Asheville with kids.
Find more family fun destinations in our Family Travel City Guides and be sure to check our picks for North Carolina's best beaches for families.
- Asheville Pinball Museum is my top pick mostly because even many locals don’t know about it and it’s a real gem. More an arcade than a museum, pay a flat $10 fee, $7 for kids 12 and under, and play as much as you like from the collection of 35 pinball machines, including some original games from the 1940s.
- Asheville is a great place to access the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway for incredible views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Pack a picnic and stop off at...
- The Pisgah National Forest for an easy trail like the flat, shady Pink Beds Loop Hike or the Andy Cove TRACK Trail which has downloadable kids guides.
- Don’t miss Sliding Rock, an awesome natural water slide, also in the Pisgah National Forest.
- Try tubing, kayaking or rafting on the Broad French River.
- Explore the local flora and fauna at the free Botanical Gardens of Asheville with an Investigation Passport for the kids, then cool off with a dip in the path-side stream.
- Borrow a geocaching packet, a discovery day pack, join a Wee Naturalist Program or just take a hike to explore the exquisite cultivated gardens and miles of nature trails at The North Carolina Arboretum.
- Bring anything you can bang and join the lively Friday Night Drum Circle (Starts around 5 or 6 in Pritchard Square Park during warm months.)
- Or take a blanket and stake out a spot for great free outdoor music at Saturday evening’s Shindig on the Green.
- Kids of all ages love cooling off at Splasheville, the geyser-spurting fountain in Pack Square Park.
- Take a hike at scenic Chimney Rock Park and then cool off at Lake Lure.
- View the scenic mountains from a vintage train ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.
- Explore the mineral collections at the Asheville Museum of Science with a scavenger hunt guide, or try the water table or fossil dig with younger kids.
- Big kids can burn off some energy indoors with laser tag, go-karts, mini golf, bumper cars, a climbing wall and more at Fun Depot.
- Or take little ones on a rainy day to indoor playground, Mountain Play Lodge.
- Stop for a snack just so you can eat in a real London double-decker bus at Double D’s Coffee and Dessert.
- My family could not get enough of Biscuit Head, the breakfast spot that serves giant Southern-style biscuits. Get them with fried catfish, chicken, eggs or just enjoy the extensive butter bar.
- Kids can play unlimited free arcade games while parents nosh on Carolina BBQ at Moe’s Barbeque.
- Stop by for vegan, gluten-free, goat’s milk or regular ol’ ice cream in eccentric flavors at The Hop. Check the schedule of weekly children’s events too.
- Sidewalk chalk, outdoor seating and a relaxed atmosphere means kids can roam a little while parents sample some local brews at Universal Joint.
- Check out the eclectic found object sculpture garden created by artist Christopher Mello at the corner of Westwood Place and Waynesville Avenue in West Asheville. There are some toy dump trucks and gravel to play with, a fun circular lawn and lots of neat nooks and crannies to explore.
- Indulge in desserts and drinks at French Broad Chocolate Lounge.
- Plan for one of the many fun festivals all spring and summer long.
- Plan on spending an entire day at the Biltmore Estate to take advantage of the extensive grounds as well as a house tour. There’s a farm, children’s maze, horseback riding and lots more family friendly activities. Don’t skip the house tour which is so over the top even kids will appreciate it.
- Enjoy a cold one while kids romp in the beer garden, explore Millers Estate Garden, and jam to live music at Sierra Nevada Brewery.
There's so much to see at the Biltmore Estate I thought it was easier to show it in a video: