Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the longest linear parkways in the United States. This 469-mile stretch of road starts in Front Royal, Virginia and winds its way down to Cherokee, North Carolina. While riding along this parkway, you’ll enjoy the breathtaking views. Blue Ridge Parkway vacation rentals vary from rustic cabins and quaint mountain homes to picturesque farmhouses tucked away in the woods. Covering such a vast territory, the Parkway offers many things for families with children to do and see. This guide details 12 of the top family-friendly activities.

1. Mine for Gems

Multiple commercial gem mines are located along Blue Ridge Parkway. This group activity is perfect for families with children of all ages. While mining, you‘ll sit at a long flume filled with running water and sift through a bucket of rough material using a screen box. If you find treasure, you have the option of keeping the rough stones or creating a keepsake item, such as a necklace or a ring.

2. Go Rock Climbing

Each spring, thousands of visitors flock to the Blue Ridge Parkway to climb the Appalachian Mountains. There are several starting points to choose from, including the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area in Marion, North Carolina, Ship Rock in Linville, North Carolina, and Ravens Roost Overlook in Lyndhurst, Virginia. Bring your equipment with you to your vacation rental, or stop by Backcountry Outdoors or Bluff Mountain Outfitters to rent everything you need. This activity is ideal for families with older children.

3. Experience a Whitewater Rafting Tour

Experience the thrill of floating down a fast-moving river on a raft with your entire family. Safe for children of all ages, whitewater rafting provides an unforgettable adventure. A trip to Watauga River is ideal for families with young children. Located at Watauga Lake in North Carolina, this river provides gentle rapids that are easy to traverse. Older children would love Big Laurel Creek in Ashville, which has rougher waters and offers a bit more excitement.

4. Hike in Shenandoah National Park

Stretch your legs and explore the forest of the Blue Ridge Parkway by visiting Shenandoah National Park. With over 500 miles of trails that take you through ancient caves, alongside towering waterfalls, and through fields of wildflowers, there is something for everyone to see. Have fun identifying the many species of birds that call the park home. Young kids enjoy the guided ranger program, which allows them to earn a badge and become a certified park ranger.

5. Cycle Along the Parkway

For families that enjoy cycling together, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a dream come true. Some of the biking trails can be challenging for inexperienced riders, but there are plenty of wide-open areas that are ideal for beginners, including Highway 80 just south of Little Switzerland, North Carolina. If you didn‘t bring bikes to your vacation rental, don’t worry. There are plenty of outfitters along the parkway that offer rentals, including Sycamore Cycles in Pisgah Forest and Blue Ridge Cyclery in Charlottesville, Virginia.

6. Kayak the Still Mountain Lakes

Enjoy the excitement of kayaking along Blue Ridge Parkway. Price Lake at Grandfather‘s Mountain offers smooth waters with wilderness on both sides. For more experienced paddlers, the French Broad River in Ashville offers a thrilling adventure. Other places to explore include Watauga River, Cheoah River, and Nolichucky River.

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7. Fish for Trout

The Blue Ridge Parkway is an angler‘s dream come true. Whether you are a youngster just learning to fish or a seasoned professional, you‘ll find many spots to catch a bounty of trout. Located on the south end of the park, Cherokee Trophy Waters has some of the biggest trout in the Smoky Mountains. If you‘re at the north end of the parkway, stop at the Rapidan River in Shenandoah National Park for fly fishing.

8. Explore Luray Caverns

Luray Caverns is a beautiful cavern located beneath the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Take a guided one-hour tour around huge thousand-year-old stalactites and stalagmites formations, and then enter the expansive throne room. Temperatures are cool in the cavern, which makes this an ideal activity if you want to beat the summer heat.

9. Slide Down Sliding Rock in North Carolina

One of the most popular swimming holes in North Carolina, Sliding Rock is located along Looking Glass Creek in the Pisgah National Forest. Spend the day sliding down this 60-foot rock into an 8-foot pool of water, and then bring a picnic lunch to enjoy before heading back to your vacation rental.

10. Explore the Natural Bridge State Park in Virginia

Enjoy a true historic landmark at the Natural Bridge State Park. Once owned by Thomas Jefferson, the Natural Bridge is a 215-foot tall limestone gorge that has been carved out by Cedar Creek. It is accessible by a 6-mile trail that connects the Monacan Indian Village and Lace Falls. There is a small visitors center that provides more information on the bridge and the area and a gift shop filled with souvenirs.

11. Enjoy the Snow

Don‘t let cold weather stop you from planning a trip to parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway. While many spots along this winding road are closed to through traffic, there are many places to travel to experience some snow. Take ski lessons at Ski Shenandoah in Harrisonburg, Virginia, or go snowshoeing at Ober Gatlinburg in Gatlinburg Tennessee.

12. Walk Across the Mile-High Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain

Offering 360-degree views of Grandfather Mountain, the mile-high swinging bridge is an exciting spot to complete your trip along the parkway. This 228-foot bridge is the tallest suspension bridge in the United States and is sure to wow everyone in your family.

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