Winding through western North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Mountains encompass small towns, such as Brevard and Little Switzerland, the popular resort town Hot Springs, and Asheville. Families staying in one of the area’s many Blue Ridge vacation rentals spend their days exploring the great outdoors, taking guided tours, and visiting nearby attractions. Make your family vacation a memorable one by checking out these family-friendly activities and attractions.
1. Drive Up the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs the Blue Ridge Mountains into Virginia, but its main attraction is the Linn Cove Viaduct, which seems suspended in midair. Take a day trip from Asheville, across the viaduct, to Julian Price Memorial Park for an afternoon of canoeing on Price Lake.
Begin your adventure exploring the exhibits and the 22-foot interactive map at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center. Then, travel north, through the Tanbark Ridge Tunnel, to the Graybeard Mountain overlook at milepost 363.
Stretch out your legs in Little Switzerland by following the half-mile Grassy Creek Waterfall Trail down to a 30-foot waterfall. On the way back to your vacation home, stop at Craggy Gardens to watch the sunset over the Black Mountain Range.
2. Prospect for Gems at Emerald Village in Little Switzerland
Purchase buckets containing ore mined from local mines and rough gemstones, and let your kids use Emerald Village’s long, covered flumes to mine for gems. Find up to 25 varieties of gems including amethyst, garnet, ruby, and sapphire. Before leaving, tour the Discovery Mill building, visit the Museum of North Carolina Minerals, and pan for gold.
3. Take a Helicopter Tour
Asheville Helicopter Tours take visitors on a flight that gives them a bird’s eye view of local attractions, landmarks, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tour times vary depending on the tour purchased. Take tweens and teens on a 15 or 30-minute helicopter tour, but opt for the seven-minute tour if you have younger kids just in case they get scared.
4. Tour the Biltmore House
Stroll through the 225-room Biltmore House to see a banquet hall with 70-foot ceilings, a massive library containing 10,000 books, and magnificent 16th-century tapestries, as well as the indoor pool and bowling alley. Then, walk along the ground’s trails to see the estates nine landscaped gardens. The estate offers guided house and estate tours, making it easy to customize your family’s visit. Take a guided house tour to check out the grounds from the rooftop and see the servant’s quarters, or choose the Legacy of Land Tour to explore the estate by motor coach. If you have children who are at least eight years old, consider taking a one-hour estate tour on horseback.
5. Take an Interactive Ghost Tour of Asheville
Ghost Hunters of Asheville’s Downtown Spirits Ghost Tour takes you through the downtown area. During the tour, the guide tells ghost stories and recounts some of Asheville’s haunted history. See jaw-dropping photos from past tours of mists, orbs, and apparitions, and use EMF meters and dowsing rods to find apparitions yourself.
6. Pick Apples at the Orchard at Altapass
Take your family to the Orchard at Altapass for an apple-picking adventure. Hike through the orchard’s network of trails exploring the forested area in the mountain cove. Then, take your little ones to the orchard to pick apples. The orchard also houses a terrarium that’s used to raise Monarch butterflies.
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7. Go Hiking at the Cradle of Forestry in America Heritage Site
The Cradle of Forestry in America heritage site offers three different hiking trails, designed to teach children about various forest issues. See an ozone garden, a portable sawmill, and a train from 1917 on the Forest Festival Trail. Afterward, stroll down the Discovery Forest Trail, through a beautiful wooded area, to get back to the Forest Discovery Center. Once there, stop at the center to ride a firefighting helicopter simulator and go on a nature-based scavenger hunt before attempting the Biltmore Campus Trail, which teaches kids about life as a Biltmore Forest School student. The rustic campus houses a one-room schoolhouse, a general store, cabins, a blacksmith shop, and a garden.
8. Walk Across the Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain
Walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, America’s highest suspension footbridge, to see breathtaking, panoramic views of Grandfather Mountain’s Linville Peak. An access elevator takes you up to the bridge, which hangs more than a mile above ground, making it easy for you and the little ones to enjoy the amazing view.
9. Tour Linville Caverns
Follow an experienced guide into a mountain cavern to learn about the history of Linville Caverns. The 35-minute tour takes your family along pathways lined with cool rock formations where you can see an underground spring that’s home to native trout. The caverns stay at a brisk 52 degrees Fahrenheit year-round and are often damp, so dress your kids in warm clothing and sensible shoes.
10. Go Zip Lining at the Nantahala Outdoor Center
The Nantahala Outdoor Center offers five different aerial and zip line adventures. It includes one that zips you across the Nantahala Gorge from 600 feet above the Nantahala River. Your kids need to weigh at least 60 pounds to go zip lining, so it’s not an adventure that’s suitable for really young kids.
11. Go Rafting on French Broad River
Take your family on a rafting trip down the French Broad River. Hot Springs Rafting offers guided whitewater rafting tours that are catered toward adventurous, experienced rafters. If your family is new to rafting, rent fun kayaks. Whitewater kayaks are perfect for beginners. You can also rent a raft for a self-guided tour of a calm portion of French Broad River.
12. Slide Down the Natural Water Slide at the Sliding Rock Recreation Area
Sliding Rock, which is located in Pisgah National Forest, is a 60-foot natural water slide that flows down the side of a mountain into an eight-foot-deep pool of water. If you don’t want to participate in the water slide fun, watch the kids soar down the slide from one of two observation platforms.
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