The Mom's Guide to Asheville

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For families who love the outdoors, culture, arts, and/or sampling sweet treats, Asheville is not to be missed. You can float the day away on the French Broad River, explore the fabulous Biltmore Estate, and much more. Here’s how this small mountain city delivers big family-travel memories. 

What to do

Grove Arcade

You’ll find a bit of everything at Grove Arcade; this cozy shopping location is filled with local brands. There are specialty shops, restaurants, and a bookstore all located in a beautiful historic building — the perfect escape when the weather isn’t cooperating; just make sure to wear your mask inside. Located in the downtown area, Grove Arcade makes for a great place to wander and grab a cup of coffee or an ice cream treat.  

Asheville Pinball Museum

The pinball museum is temporarily closed through the end of January 2021 due to COVID-19 precautions, but when it reopens this spring be sure to hit up this favorite of kids and parents alike (particularly teens). You pay one entry fee to play over 80 pinball and classic video games — token- and quarter-free. Thankfully, the museum limits the number of people at any one time, so you’ll have a chance to play all the games you want. The museum is located just across the street from the Grove Arcade. 

Biltmore Estate

The Vanderbilts built the Biltmore Estate — a sprawling country estate plus 250-room château — in 1895. It’s the largest privately owned home in the United States, and an easy drive from downtown Asheville. The Biltmore gardens and grounds overflow with flowers and special events year-round. The estate has adapted its experiences and has increased already-major disinfection protocols for 2021 travelers’ safety.

Craft Beer

There are over 40 craft beer breweries in Asheville, and a local (and national) favorite is Fat Tire by New Belgium Brewing. At the New Belgium brewery and tasting room, all are welcome to take the free tour; kids just can’t enjoy the free beer samples of course. There are, however, outdoor activities for the kids — and in the Liquidation Center, they can play games while you sample a few more brews. The brewery also boasts a picture-perfect (and pandemic-friendly) patio and viewing deck just alongside the French Broad River and its walking paths. 

Where to explore

Blue Ridge Parkway/Mount Mitchell

Mount Mitchell is the highest peak (elevation: 6,683 feet) of the Appalachian Mountains — and the highest peak in eastern North America, conveniently located about an hour northeast of Asheville. The drive to Mount Mitchell State Park is along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, where you can appreciate miles of dramatic landscapes. 

And if you love the mountains, Asheville is home to countless kid-friendly hikes, gorgeous waterfalls, and plenty of mountain biking opportunities throughout the surrounding temperate forest.  

Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in North Carolina. With easy accessibility, it’s a favorite spot for travelers of all ages along U.S. 276 near Brevard. The falls drop 60 feet, and there’s parking just along the road — with steps that lead you down to the bottom of the falls. Bring a picnic and savor an afternoon playing on the rocks or splashing in the water — just under an hour west of downtown Asheville. 

Where to eat

Early Girl Eatery

For a more rustic retreat, look no further than one of Asheville’s hidden gems: the Willow Winds forest cabins. The whole family will love the treehouse vibes, cooking breakfast together in the in-cabin kitchen, and snuggling up by the fire as a brook babbles outside.

As you wander Asheville, be sure to notice all the amazing sculptures and art displays; you’ll find pigs, cats climbing streetlights, a big flat-iron, and many other fun pieces. Asheville may be a small city, but its variety — and its weirdness — can’t be beat.

A version of this story was originally published in June 2019.

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