Asheville itinerary: Everything you need to know for awesome family fun
The weather may try to trick your body into thinking it should stay home, under the covers, until spring arrives. But don't listen to it. Winter is a wonderful time to travel; I write about why here. Smart people know that winter travel is not only less busy, but often less expensive. So, start packing. Now is the time for a getaway. I've included an itinerary at the end of the article to help make your winter travel easier.
People are noticing this quirky little city. Lonely Planet just listed this destination as the No. 1 top US destination in 2017.
And we can see why.
Even if you plan a short day or two getaway, you can still arrange an exciting and full itinerary. Another plus--Asheville has food, y'all. Food that will make you clap as the server approaches your table. The restaurant scene in Asheville is the real deal and can rival many big city destinations.
Just 4.5 hours from downtown Nashville, and 3.5 hours from Chattanooga and Atlanta, Asheville is a centrally located hot spot in the Southern region.
Hidden away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this city (known for its artsy and eclectic vibe) is starting to raise travelers' eye brows and fill Pinterest junkies vacation boards.
But is it a destination for families? And are there things to do there in the cold of winter? I teamed up with the Asheville CVB to sample some of the best attractions their city has to offer and to answer those questions. They hosted our family so we could pass along ideas for your next Asheville trip.
Things to do in Asheville
Omni Grove Park Inn
Omni Grove Park Inn is a luxury hotel in the mountains with views overlooking Asheville. It's lobby alone makes the visit worth the trip. The facility hosts a variety of events and exhibits throughout the year; we went right after Christmas when the Gingerbread Houses and the Christmas lights were still set up.
Tips for Omni Grove Park Inn:
- The spa is also a wonder to behold. Plan to purchase a day-pass and hang out there all day.
Adventure Center of Asheville: Treetops Adventure Park
This family-operated business is a treat for your entire family! The park in Asheville is just one of five adventure centers they own in the South. Some of their other parks include white-water rafting and overnight river excursions. The Adventure Center of Asheville, which is 5 minutes from downtown, has mountain biking trails, a Zipline Canopy Adventure, a Treetops Adventure Park, and America's first zipline adventure built for kids under 10. Prices are affordable, and they even have homeschool discount days.
Tips for Treetops Adventure Park:
- During the winter, their hours vary, so be sure to call ahead before planning your visit.
- Large groups can be accommodated by making special arrangements.
- During the winter, wear layers, thin beanies to fit under your helmet, gloves (not mittens), and hand warmer packs (for extra cold days).
North Carolina Arboretum
Real outdoorsy folks tell me that hiking in the winter is better than the summer -- no bugs, no heat, no snakes. Even so, I was a little skeptical that I'd enjoy an outdoor Arboretum during the dead of winter. Turns out, it was a nice way for my kids to work out those travel jitters.
This was one place they could run and play and be loud and touch things, the opposite of usual travel behavior. Surprisingly, bird watching is a thing in the winter, too. Who knew?
The Arboretum offers free backpacks with bird whistles, binoculars, bird guides, etc. to visitors. There is also an indoor exhibit that varies by season, but it provides an interesting and educational reprieve from the cold. Other family friendly activities include geocaching, TRACK trails, and an EcoLab (closed for renovations,to reopen in Spring) to observe live animals.
Tip for NC Arboretum:
- Dress warmly. It will make walking and exploring much more enjoyable.
- Check the website prior to visiting to be sure the exhibit intrigues you. The Life-Sized Bugs were worth the trip for us, however, the exhibits change every few weeks.
Asheville Pinball Museum
"What is a pinball museum, and why should I go? I don't care about pinball machines that much, and it sounds boring for kids."
I almost skipped out of this activity because, honestly, those were my thoughts. As I was walking in, I met a family outside, apparently taking a photo prior to leaving. I asked them suspiciously, "how was it? Is it worth the money? Their smiles and fervent nods made me curious, so I went inside.
I was hooked.
The museum has the best policy: enter and walk around for free, but you can't play any games unless you pay a one-time admissions fee (good for the entire day). No problem, right?
The Pinball Museum is full of old, historic, and new pinball machines. It also has every vintage arcade game imaginable, including a Nintendo and Sega. My 80's self was wide-eyed when I saw Frogger, Q-bert, Donkey Kong and Galaga. I was so offended by my 7 year old touching the screen of the PacMan game like an ipad that I immediately purchased passes for the entire family and called it-- a necessary education.
Tips for Pinball Museum:
- Your pass is good for the entire day. If you eat downtown, go to the museum before dinner. Then, return afterwards for more family game time fun.
- Also, ask the staff about the history of the pinball machine. It was surprisingly intriguing.
There is so much written about the Biltmore, there's not much more that I could add. The house tour is self-guided and lasts for about 2 hours, but there's more to see after that. Leave some extra time to wander the gardens, the greenhouse, and stables.
Your ticket also comes with a complimentary wine tasting. Be sure to visit the winery before you leave, even if you have the kids! They allow the little ones to stand in a special spot near you to taste grape juice!
Tips for Biltmore:
- Purchase the audio equipment to enhance your tour. They make audio tours specifically geared to children. My 6 and 7 yr. olds listened to the entire audio and were never bored.
- Bring home the Biltmore experience. Purchase bottles of wine during your wine tasting.
- Wear good walking shoes. The estate is huge. You'll burn a lot of calories--which just means more room for wine and dessert!
- Go right after the New Year, and you can see the gorgeous Christmas lights without all the crowds.
Listen to "Serafina and the Black Cloak" audiobook.
- If you've got kids who enjoy listening to audio books, download Serafina and the Black Cloak and listen to it on the drive over to Asheville. The story is fictional, but it takes place in the Biltmore, so it's an enjoyable way to prime your kids for the Biltmore experience. I do have to mention that the book is action-packed and at times suspenseful, so be sure to listen along with younger kids who may be sensitive to those themes.
DON'T WANT TO BUY THE AUDIOBOOK? Try your library first. I tried borrowing the audiobook from my local library, and unfortunately, there was a wait list. So, I signed up for an Audible trial and downloaded Serafina and Black Cloak for FREE.
Visit the Asheville Bee Charmer for a honey tasting.
- Stop by the Asheville Bee Charmer when you are exploring downtown. The owners, Jillian and Kim, have created a unique honey paradise with a ton of beeswax products you will want to buy for all your friends back home. You can sit down at the honey bar and sample flavors like chocolate honey, mint honey, and ghost pepper honey. What's most inspiring about the store is the owners' story of how they left their established careers and decided to open the Asheville Bee Charmer store, having no experience in bee keeping and despite their family's warning that:
"NO ONE WILL EVER BUY HONEY FROM YOU."
Boy, were they wrong?