If you’re searching for fun kid activities in Asheville, NC, you have tons of options year-round for both indoor and outdoor activities. Kids’ activities in Asheville range from exploring nature trails and checking out waterfalls, to playing in vintage arcades, zipping across treetop zip-lines, and jamming in a drum circle. Learn about some of the adventures you can experience in Asheville, NC, with kids, including some free and cheap activities.
1. Connect with nature in Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest is a beautiful place for outdoor kids’ activities in Asheville, NC, with expansive hardwood forests and mountain peaks, waterfalls, and family-friendly hiking trails. In the summertime, older kids can enjoy sliding down a natural waterslide into the cool waters below at the Sliding Rock Waterfall. The Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education offers educational activities for kids of all ages and includes hands-on exhibits, wildlife, and a fish hatchery.
2. Enjoy natural beauty on scenic mountain drives
Asheville offers beautiful scenic drives winding through incredible natural landscapes and popular sightseeing destinations. Attractions along the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway include several major waterfalls and the Cradle of Forestry Historic Site, which has historic buildings and equipment, an old logging train, and a discovery center. Along the renowned Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll find spots like Craggy Gardens and Mount Mitchell on the north side of Asheville and attractions like the Folk Art Center, Graveyard Fields, Devil’s Courthouse, and Black Balsam south of the city.
3. Explore the farmyard and playspace at the Biltmore Estate
You might not initially put the Biltmore Estate on your list of kid activities in Asheville, NC, but you’ll actually find a surprising amount of kid-friendly activities on this historic property. Included in your admission to the majestic Biltmore House is access to Antler Hill Village, where you’ll find family-friendly activities, a farmyard petting zoo, and a large children’s playspace. Beautiful scenic walking trails are found around the gardens and estate, and you can even rent bikes to explore the property.
4. Visit animals from the Appalachian Mountains at Western North Carolina Nature Center
If you’re looking for kid activities in Asheville, NC, you’ll find animal exhibits and activities at the Western North Carolina Nature Center. This center focuses specifically on the animals and plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains, from larger animals like black bears, bobcats, and wolves to smaller creatures like snakes, salamanders, and weasels. You’ll also find animal programs and learning activities as well as interactive nature play areas. Since this is a smaller facility, tickets are reasonably priced, and kids 2 and under are free.
5. Cool off in the water at the Splasheville play fountain
Free summer fun in Asheville with kids can include playing in the Splasheville splash pad, located in downtown’s Pack Square Park. Jets of water spray in different patterns across the play fountain as kids shriek with delight and run through the splash pad. Asheville also houses several public pools with affordable entry fees for seasonal swimming and play for all ages. Seasonal operation times vary, so check the city’s website for more information before visiting.
6. Zoom across zip lines at Adventure Center of Asheville
Adventure Center of Asheville</ offers high-energy outdoor adventures for families and kids ages 4 and up. Bigger kids, teens, and adults can play in the urban canopy across 11 zip lines, some as long as 1,200 feet. Kid Zip is a full zip-line park for children ages 4 through 10 and includes 9 zip lines and climbing elements. There are also mountain bike courses and trails for all experience levels, including a bike playground for young kids. Reservations are strongly recommended for all attractions at this location.
7. Dig for fossils at the Asheville Museum of Science
Asheville Museum of Science focuses on playful learning experiences and hands-on exhibits for kids of all ages. You can explore areas ranging from an interactive STEM lab and panoramic touch screen to exhibits on minerals, dinosaur skeletons, and fossils. Play areas include the Toddler Nest and an Appalachian Forest Tree Climb, and the museum also hosts regular kids’ events and family activities.
8. Hop aboard an Asheville train ride
A great way to enjoy the sights around Asheville, NC, with kids is on a historic train ride. Craggy Mountain Line is located just north of downtown Asheville and offers the chance to ride in restored vintage rail cars on a kid-friendly, 7-mile-round-trip sightseeing journey. The Craggy Mountain Line also offers seasonal events and activities for kids. If you’re up for a longer excursion, check out the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad for journeys through the mountains ranging from 3.5-hour tours to full-day adventures. Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, just over an hour's drive from Asheville, also hosts special events, dinner trains, and seasonal festivities.
9. Try out old-fashioned prospecting at Asheville’s gem and gold mines
Gem mining is one of the unique kids’ activities in Asheville, with the area’s mining history stretching back over centuries. Family-friendly locations in and around the Asheville area include gem and gold mining at Emerald Village, located in picturesque Little Switzerland, and panning in the Old-West style Thermal City Gold Mine. Asheville Outdoor Center is just outside of downtown Asheville and offers the chance to pan for gemstones in an old-fashioned sluicing box, along with opportunities to explore an old-time wagon and tepee.
10. Work together to solve puzzles in escape-room games
Asheville is home to several family-friendly escape rooms where you and your family can work together to find clues, solve puzzles, and untangle a mystery within an hour. Fox-n-Otter offers exciting themed games that can be completely adapted to accommodate kids of all ages, making it a popular choice for family fun in Asheville, NC. The Conundrum hosts themed theatrical escape games and activities, with some suitable for children as young as 7 and 8. Breakout Games houses a rotating selection of themed escape games for families, with some theme options appropriate for kids as young as pre-teens.
11. Play nostalgic games in Asheville’s retro arcades
Family things to do in Asheville include vintage gaming spots and colorful arcades, perfect for some indoor family fun. Asheville Pinball Museum is a cozy vintage pinball and gaming arcade offering a flat fee for all-you-can-play pinball games that range from the 1950s through the 20th century. Asheville Retrocade is a larger gaming space that also offers a flat fee for all-you-can-play gaming ranging from classic and modern video games to skeeball, pinball, foosball, and billiards.
12. Jam to the music at downtown Asheville’s drum circle
Family fun in Asheville for music lovers should include a visit to the weekly drum circle in downtown's Pritchard Park. During warm weather, typically April through October, the drum circle is a free event that usually begins around 5 or 6 pm on Friday evenings. Drummers of all kinds gather and play thundering rhythms and beats. Following an organic movement of music, the group has no leader and no actual “song,” just rhythm and flow. Anyone is welcome to bring a drum and join the circle, dance in the courtyard, or simply sit and enjoy the powerful beats and community vibes.
13. Learn how to forage for wild edibles with No Taste Like Home
No Taste Like Home offers unique forage-to-table eco-tours in Asheville that are led by expert field guides. You’ll learn how to identify and harvest wild edibles, some of which you may even find in your own backyard, including mushrooms and berries, greens and flowers, fruit, and nuts. After gathering, you can keep your harvest or have them cooked in a demonstration for you to taste. Different tours are available and suited for all ages, making this a very cool kids' activity in Asheville, NC.
14. Explore the city on Asheville’s Urban Trail
Asheville’s Urban Trail is a free family activity where you’ll tour some of the city’s historic locations and colorful past residents. As you follow the self-guided tour downtown, you’ll find sculptures, plaques, and art pieces that relate to historic happenings within the city, moments of importance, and the remarkable individuals who have lived and worked here. The full walking tour typically takes families around 2 hours to complete, but you can explore smaller sections of the tour if specific locations interest you.
15. See vintage planes and aviation history at Western North Carolina Air Museum
At the Western North Carolina Air Museum, you can get up close to historic aircraft from the golden age of aviation. This is a great spot for kids, as they’re encouraged to interact and be hands-on with vintage planes and learn about their history from pilots and passionate aviation fans. You may even be lucky enough to see one of these planes fly during your visit, as the museum sits beside a small active airport. Though admission is free, the museum is a nonprofit, so you might consider making a donation or purchase from the gift shop to support their historic collection.
16. Learn about native plants at The Botanical Gardens at Asheville
The Botanical Gardens at Asheville house over 600 species of plants native to the Southern Appalachians across a 10-acre garden. Rather than presenting an overly manicured formal garden, they take a more nature-centric approach, encouraging flourishing ecosystems and plant life diversity across natural landscapes. This is a good free activity with older kids, as the Botanical Gardens maintains a rather strict set of rules and doesn’t allow play of any kind in the gardens.
17. Enjoy an evening of Shakespeare with the Montford Park Players
Asheville’s Montford Park Players is a long-running Shakespeare theater company that provides seasonal performances of classic plays in an outdoor amphitheater. You can picnic on the grass and enjoy an evening performance in the summer months. Though the shows are free to attend, the Montford Park Players are entirely volunteer-based, so you might consider donating to their community arts endeavors if you're able.