5 Fun Things to Do with Kids in Asheville

Here's why Asheville is one of my favorite places to visit with my kids.
Visiting the Biltmore Estate is one of the top things to do in Asheville (Photo: ExploreAsheville.com)
Visiting the Biltmore Estate is one of the top things to do in Asheville (Photo: ExploreAsheville.com)

A perfect blend of urban and outdoors adventures, Asheville is one of the country’s top family vacation spots for kids and parents who love both. Its Blue Ridge Mountains setting offers access to expeditions that range from mild to wild, and as a city Asheville is both eclectic and artsy, with a flourishing food and craft beer scene that grownups will enjoy.

Top Things to Do in Asheville with Kids

Asheville is one of my favorite places to go with kids and, if your family loves a little bit of everything when traveling, it should probably make your list of family vacation ideas too. Here are my top recommendations for things to do when you’re there.

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1. Explore the Great Outdoors around Asheville

Children crossing a stream on the hike to Catawba Falls near Asheville, North Carolina
My kids loved hiking to Catawba Falls outside Asheville (Photo: Cortney Fries)

Outdoor recreation is the name of the game in Asheville, which boasts some of the most picturesque and biodiverse terrain in the country. Families can hike, chase waterfalls, paddle, raft, swim, boat, canyoneer, zipline, and slide. My family’s favorite excursions on our recent trip included zipping on some of the nation’s longest and fastest zip lines and hiking to Catawba Falls, a 100-foot multi-tiered waterfall in the Pisgah National Forest. What’s crazy-cool about the three-mile round-trip hike to Catawba Falls is that you can climb and play in the spectacular cascading waterfall as well as several stops along the way.

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Asheville has a natural water slide, called Sliding Rock, that you can coast down into a cool pool of water. If the idea of rappelling down a waterfall gets your adrenaline pumping, you can find canyoneering near the city. Whitewater rafting is another heart-pounding experience available in Asheville. For tamer trips, there are plenty of scenic hikes and drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

My family also enjoyed floating down the French Broad River with tubes from French Broad Outfitters. Bring snacks and a cooler to make a leisurely afternoon of it. The company also rents bikes and kayaks. Another option is the Mountaintop Tour from Navitat, which includes side-by-side zip lines so fast that it actually feels like time slows down as you glide up to 65 miles per hour over the verdant forest. Navitat zip lines are suitable for first-timers as well as experienced thrill seekers between 70 and 250 pounds.

2. Eat and Drink at Asheville’s Distinctive Restaurants and Breweries

Beers, sodas, and soccer at Whistle Hop Brewery near Asheville, North Carolina
Whistle Hop Brewing was a hit with my whole family (Photo: Cortney Fries)

Asheville is known as a food utopia with everything from fresh, local eats to upscale, culinary indulgences from renowned chefs. Vegan, gluten-free, sweet, sour—you name it, Asheville is brimming with restaurants to answer every craving. My family loved Asheville’s Southern brunch offerings like buttery biscuits with thick, country gravy, crispy chicken and waffles, and savory shrimp and grits. Order yourself a satisfying meal at Sunny Point Café or Open Oven Brunch & Bakery. Both offer outdoor seating.

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With more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the United States, is it surprising that my family’s most requested Asheville stop was a brewery? Whistle Hop Brewing became my kids’ favorite destination because its outdoor space includes soccer goals, mini golf, disc golf, and a tube slide. I can’t say my husband was upset about sampling the local beers and listening to live music, either. Plus, a new love of disc golf was born for my brood at this family-friendly brewery in the Asheville area.

3. Dig into Asheville’s Eclectic Art Scene and Alluring History

Biltmore from its park near Asheville, North Carolina
No trip to Asheville is complete without a visit to Biltmore Photo: @JadaChabala via Twenty20)

No trip to Asheville is complete without a visit to Biltmore. America’s largest home was built over a century ago for the Vanderbilts and it still wows today with architectural marvels and expansive gardens. Choose from a standard audio tour or a kids version narrated by the Vanderbilt’s Saint Bernard.

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You’ll be guided through the lavish rooms, past the swimming pool, bowling alley, and once-bustling kitchen while hearing stories about the owners and guests, including why the basement is painted like Halloween. Take time to explore the lush gardens, visit the winery, shop Antler Hill Village, and enjoy a meal. My kids loved the chocolates from the winery and playing at Pisgah Playground. There’s also a farmyard and a Wildlife Discovery activity where you can meet feathered friends.

For a taste of Asheville’s arts scene, head to the River Arts District and check out the work of more than 200 local artists. From April through October, you can get into the beat at the Friday Night Drum Circle in Pritchard Park where dozens of drummers, dancers, and people watchers gather for this Asheville tradition.

4. Enjoy Asheville’s Delicious Biodiversity

child trying a forest-foraged snack in Asheville, North Carolina
My daughter enjoyed foraging for snacks (Photo: Cortney Fries)

With eight million acres of mountains and gorges, Asheville is incredibly biodiverse. More plant and fungi species can be found here than any other area of similar size in North America. Interested in wild food gathering and forest bathing? Asheville’s No Taste Like Home food tours are the fun and safe way to do it.

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Expert guides will escort you through natural areas and teach you what’s safe and which plants are best avoided. You can even take three of your picks to a local restaurant to have a chef whip up a dish with your fresh finds. A foraging tour is a great way to encourage your children to love nature and the environment.

5. Relax in Asheville’s Cozy Accommodations

Man looking out at the sunset from Angie's Mountain Overlook vacation rental in Asheville, North Carolina
My family loved every minute of our stay at Angie’s Mountain Overlook (Photo: Cortney Fries)

Asheville offers secluded cabins, campgrounds, modern hotels and cozy B&Bs. My family loved every minute of our stay at Angie’s Mountain Overlook, a vacation rental through Greybeard Rentals. Not only did the home offer stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from a bubbling outdoor hot tub, but also had kid-friendly features like a game room, basketball hoop, and bunk beds.

I’ll never forget the kaleidoscope of colors surrounding the Blue Ridge Mountains from sunrise to sundown, the distant mountains a beautiful cornflower blue. Enveloped in pastel pinks and purples as the sun set, surrounded by an emerald canopy of trees, the view is nothing short of mesmerizing. But even more special is being surrounded by the ones you love on a memorable family vacation.

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Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries is a seasoned travel journalist, with her writing and expertise appearing in Redbook, MSN, Parents, FamilyVacationist, Family Vacation Critic, Chicago Parent, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and several AAA magazines. Exploring the outdoors, learning, and trying new things are her favorite activities, best accompanied by family and friends. When she’s not hiking, sleeping in an ice hotel, or soaking up different cultures, she can be found cooking and creating with her husband and two children in the Chicago area.