48 Hours in Asheville … with Kids
Asheville has become an American destination city, with numerous events for locals and tourists alike, such as the Beer City Festival, the Leaf Downtown festival or Grand Tasting in late summer. Between the many outdoor opportunities and the vital downtown scene, it can be tough to decide how to spend your time in this great city.
While Asheville often tops lists for craft beer and fine dining, our area’s family friendly activities are less well known. I’ve put together a handy insider’s list of my favorite things to do with kids.
Start the weekend off right by heading downtown to Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company on Coxe Avenue. Asheville Pizza’s large covered patio area is pet friendly, so if you are traveling with a dog in tow, it’s an especially great spot to relax. After dinner, head to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Old Europe or True Confections for a treat. In Pack Square, you can look for the guy who sells Alien Rocket toys for hours of fun in pack square after twilight. If you happen to get into town early, visit the Curio toy store, Climbmax or Malaprop’s bookstore for other family friendly downtown destinations.
- 8:00 am First stop is Sunny Point for breakfast. Their farm-to-table approach with their menu is excellent, the biscuits can’t be beat, and it’s the only place I know where you can order a breakfast salad (highly recommended!).
- 9:00 am After breakfast, head to Asheville Treetop Adventure, where your kids will gain all kinds of confidence while they’re having a blast zipping through trees or trying out the obstacle course. Be sure to make a reservation first, and get there about 30 minutes prior to your scheduled time to fill out paperwork.
- 12:00 pm Next stop is Westend Bakery to pick up a picnic lunch; be sure to call ahead with your order to avoid a line. Then head to the North Carolina Arboretum which offers numerous easy trails, an outdoor model train set and gardens.
- 4:00 pm If you happen to be here in August, be sure to check out the Asheville Creative Arts (innovative theatre for children of all ages); they offer top-notch performances, usually at Magnetic 375. Our kids are still talking about Don’t Count Your Chickens Until They Cry Wolf and other shows they’ve seen including Charlotte’s Web and Frog and Toad. Get your tickets for the August show of How I Became a Pirate now. (Saturday afternoon shows are usually at 4:00).
- 6:00 pm Before dark, the kids are welcome to join you at the Bywater, where the whole family can enjoy grilling out in their backyard by the river. You’ll want to stop at Greenlife or Whole Foods to pick out your own grilling favorites. Or if you want a night out without the kids, consider dropping them off for Parents Night Out at close-by Asheville Community Movement. (Note: Bywater requests a $5 membership fee—good for 1 year—which you can purchase at the door).
- 8:30 am The Early Girl Eatery on Wall Street downtown doesn’t open until 9:00, but you’ll want to be one of the first in line. It’s always packed, and in addition to enjoying great food, the whole family can enjoy drawing on the paper table covering.
- 10:00 am
Option 1: Animal lovers should head to the WNC Nature Center to visit the river otters, red wolves, and cougars among other species. Wildflower enthusiasts will enjoy the .6 mile Trillium Trail in early spring while any rockhounds should be sure to check out the mining sluice. For ease and convenience, you can grab lunch at Captain Dave’s Pirate Dawgs, while you’re there. If you want a healthier lunch option, plan ahead and stop at either Greenlife Grocery on Merrimon Avenue, or at Whole Foods on Tunnel Road, before going to the Nature Center. Both have great options in their prepared foods section.
Option 2: In addition to numerous hiking trails in Pisgah Forest or Dupont Forest, Asheville offers a variety of greenway walks and bike paths right in the city. For bike rentals, look to Kolo, Spinlister, or Beer City Bicycles. Then pick a walk or bike path from the following lists:
Kenilworth Park has tennis courts, bathrooms in summer, swings, playground, and a large field. It’s tucked away in the Kenilworth neighborhood and rarely crowded.
Carrier Park features an inline hockey rink, a large playground, bike track, volleyball, bocce ball and basketball courts. There are some sheltered picnic tables as well as bathrooms. Carrier and French Broad River park connect by bike path and the path is suitable for young kids.
WT Weaver Park features a bike path, creek, playground, shelter, & basketball court.
French Broad River Park features a shelter, bike path, swings & dog park. Beautiful river setting and a great place for the kids to practice bike riding.
Other outdoor areas include:
Botanical Gardens at UNCA feature one of the best wildflower walks around. In late April or early May, you’ll find trillium and May Apples among other treasures.
Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary: If you have a birding app on your phone, you’ll like this boardwalk stroll through lakeside bird habitat.
- 4:30 pm One of our favorite dinner spots is White Duck Taco on Roberts Street. The kids love looking at the nearby graffiti (just be sure they don’t get any ideas about drawing on the walls at home) and when boredom strikes they are free to play around on the patio where you’re seated.
Rainy Day Activities for Kids in Asheville
For a rainy day alternative to any of the above morning or afternoon activities, check out the following ideas.
- Enjoy indoor rock climbing at Climbmax
- Try drop in classes for your Mighty Mite at Asheville Gymnastics
- Head to Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company on Merrimon Avenue for wings, ale, pizza & salad while the kids enjoy the arcade games or a family movie. Afterwards, find your way down the street to long-time Asheville favorite The Hop for a scoop of house made ice cream.
- Check out Spellbound Children’s Bookstore for a good book. The owner, Leslie, is incredibly knowledgeable and can make a great recommendation for your young reader.
- Additional Options
Here are a few more kid friendly restaurants to try:
- Bouchon’s Creperie has both sweet and savory crepes, great french fries, and a wonderful outdoor courtyard.
- 12 Bones on the river is the barbecue joint where President Obama had lunch when he visited!
- The patio at Pack’s Tavern. Parents can relax here while kids play in the Pack Park fountain in summer, and the wet kids can go back and forth. The food is simple pub food; the patio location combined with beer selection are the real attractions.
- Mamacitas. Reasonable prices, plus kids love the simple mexican food combinations, while parents love the complex ones!
- White Duck Taco’s downtown location. Enjoy creative tacos, kid-friendly menu options, and the interior courtyard patio.
Off-the-beaten-track places to stay:
- The Princess Anne Hotel gets great reviews and it’s situated just outside of downtown. Their master suites are perfect for families.
- If you’re bringing a crowd, you may want to check out the Willow Winds Cabins. Just a short way from town, Willow Winds has loads of activities for the kids to enjoy while you catch up with long lost friends and family.
- If you’re on a budget, and you’re up for a truly different, mountain experience, try the Log Cabin Motor Court. Originally built in the 30s, the cabins offer wood burning fireplaces, pets are welcome, and best of all, there are no phones in the cabins. You’ll feel like you’re getting a true getaway, but you’ll be 10 minutes from downtown Asheville.
- Check Air BnB and VRBO. There are many great properties in these systems, including some that are cheaper than downtown hotels. We recommend locations that are within 2 miles of downtown, and thus in close proximity to one of these areas: Biltmore Village, Downtown, West Asheville, RAD, or Montford.
If you need more ideas about places to stay, check out Explore Asheville’s site.
Still at a loss for things to do? Check out this comprehensive list of similar suggestions and more!