How To Asheville: Family Edition
July 22, 2016 6:04 PM   Subscribe

Freecellwizard and I will be heading to Asheville, NC for a week with two kids, ages 9 and 11. Although we've visited the area several times, we've never had the kids with us and are wondering if there are kid-specific fun things to see/do up there that would appeal to a pair of Pokemon/Minecraft/Steven Universe/Undertale-loving children who must be cajoled away from their various digital devices.

We've planned a trip to the Biltmore Estate (they are enchanted with the idea that it is like a castle, also they like animals and there's a farm at Antler Hill apparently), and we will take them downtown one day to visit French Broad Chocolate Lounge and Malaprop's. That's not enough activity to fill four day, though. Forecast is calling for rain possibly every day, so bonus points for stuff we can do indoors.

Double secret extra bonus? Can you identify local non-chain restaurants that would satisfy extremely picky children without simultaneously robbing the adults of their will to live? Early Girl seems like an option for breakfast but what about lunch and dinner? They will eat pizza, bagels, smoothies and any sort of bread items without tears or complaint.

Thanks in advance!
posted by little mouth to Travel & Transportation around Asheville, NC (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: The weather pattern has been consistently short sharp afternoon rumbly thunder-showers around 4pm, but otherwise dry. Humid, though, till it breaks. Get up on higher elevations via the Parkway for cooler and less muggy air.

Outdoors: Ziplining? Tubing on the French Broad? If you're around on a Saturday when the Shindig is on -- it takes a break after this Saturday -- then there's an area fenced off where kids can dance along (and hunt Pokémon). And ice cream. And its replacement on the 30th-31st weekend is LEAF Downtown.

(The Arboretum or Nature Center might be options, but there I don't see any kid-specific days or events on the calendar. And there's the Fun Depot as a ball-pit and minigolf last resort.)

Pizza: APB either downtown or north (with a lunch buffet downtown); Mellow Mushroom. The biscuit and waffle places might also work, and if they're okay with BBQ, then 12 Bones and Luellas and even Buxton Hall, especially if you promise them doughnuts afterwards.
posted by holgate at 7:33 PM on July 22, 2016


Best answer: Take a day to drive out to Pisgah National Forest - it's about a half hour / 40 minutes from downtown - and go to the trout hatchery and Looking Glass Falls and maybe even Sliding Rock. The trout hatchery is SO cool for kids, and you can swim under the falls at Looking Glass, it's great. I also love the Nature Center but it is by any other name a zoo - it's a very good one though.

Seconding holgates suggestion of at least one evening at APB but with kids I'd definitely recommend the Merrimon Ave location over the downtown one, there's just more there for them. I would skip Buxton Hall - it's very expensive & kinda formal - and try to go to 12 Bones instead; they're only open for lunch but are in the River Arts district and way more laid back. Walk in West Asheville is not a great restaurant but it's pretty kid friendly and at least relaxed for adults, ditto All Souls pizza. Zia in West Asheville if your kids will do Mexican is really good too.

If you are here for Leaf downtown then that's a great day, they have lots of kid centric activities.

I will be lynched by the tourist board for saying this but - I would be very cautious about tubing the French Broad with kids. Yes it is supposed to be all cleaned up but this summer we went from drought, which meant the water was low and near the toxic bottom to thunderstorms, which stir up the bottom. The bottom is made of E. coli, tires and industrial / agricultural waste. Canoeing or kayaking IMHO is much safer. Get a water quality app - I use Swim Guide - and keep an eye on it. If you do decide to tube - and everybody does nowadays! - just be aware, shower afterwards, take lots of bottled water and sunscreen.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:17 PM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Carl Sandburg home keeps decendants of his wife's goats on the property.
posted by brujita at 8:35 PM on July 22, 2016


The Carl Sandburg Home is undergoing a huge renovation right now -- all its contents have been packed away -- but the goats are much fun and exceptionally tolerant of petting.

If you do go down to Pisgah National Forest, then the Cradle of Forestry is one of those visitor attractions that feels like it hasn't changed in years, and it would be a shame to update it because it's charming in its retro-ness. The volunteers there are also very generous with their time to visitors.
posted by holgate at 10:35 PM on July 22, 2016


Best answer: Things my nephews (7 & 11) have enjoyed:

Gem mining (pick any place, they're all the same)

Tubing the French Broad--we prefer the river reaches outside of Asheville, which hopefully have better water quality. The views are much prettier. This company in Brevard may be the one we used last year. They don't allow coolers full of beer, which likely means your fellow tubers would be less unpleasant.

Robert Lake Park in Montreat. It's just a city park with a really good playground, except it's where 3 creeks come together and the creeks are incorporated into the park and it's awesome. Bring a picnic.

Western NC Nature Center is another kind of retro place, but it's cool to see the native animals.

Warren Wilson College has a working farm, so you can visit pigs and cows.

If you go to Montreat, you could try My Father's Pizza in Black Mountain (the best pizza place ever). In Asheville, FarmBurger is just farm-to-table burgers and fries and stuff (really good shakes), and Chai Pani is "Indian street food", so you could order a bunch of samosas and naan and let them try other things if they want--there are several tapas places with varying degrees of authenticity and fanciness that could work the same way, where the adults eat what they want and the kids could eat bread and try a few other things. If your kids will tolerate Mexican at all, Salsa's is my favorite Asheville restaurant--not fancy, just really good Latin American/Caribbean flavors.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:40 AM on July 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Would a reconstruction of a historic Cherokee village interest them? Cherokee is a reasonable drive from Asheville, if so.
posted by Anne Neville at 5:41 AM on July 23, 2016


I visited Asheville recently for the first time and absolutely loved it! It was nice being in a place that felt very southern and LGBTQ+ friendly despite the horrible new state law. I was so happy to see so many rainbow flags and inclusive Y'all bathroom signs in many shops and eateries.

There are already many great suggestions above but here are a few more. Homegrown was our go-to for breakfast: fantastic down-home food with veggie options and a friendly atmosphere. Luella's had great BBQ and a relaxed atmosphere, too (and even they had veggie options!)

We kept finding one great eatery and shop after another downtown and were also given great suggestions by locals: Trade and Lore Coffee, Kilwin's for ice cream and chocolates, and more. Wicked Weed Brewing had tasty beer and one of the most delicious sandwiches of my life; if it appeals to you, I'd go during the day to avoid the long wait. I second the suggestion of Shindig on the Green for Saturday night entertainment perfect for families. I stocked up on books at Malaprop's and am glad you're going. I also liked Appalachian Strings in Grove Arcade and Asheville Bee Charmer where you can taste a variety of honeys for free.

The Biltmore itself was lovely -- house and gardens -- but the side attractions were somewhat hard to reach and not worth the effect IMHO. You can bring your own snacks and beverages, which I recommend because it was super hot there earlier this month and the cafés and ubiquitous drink stands overpriced.

We spent four days and three nights in Asheville, which included our drive there and back. We could have spent longer or less. If we had had more time, I would have loved to have gone hiking in the mountains or explored small towns nearby. I hope you and your family have a great trip!
posted by smorgasbord at 7:50 AM on July 23, 2016


There's an adventure park with ziplines and a "treetop canopy obstacle course" that they might find fun. On the west side of town near Sam's.
posted by achrise at 8:27 AM on July 23, 2016


Food: Most of the West Asheville restaurants (Haywood Rd.) are pretty kid-friendly; the Universal Joint, West End Bakery, and The Hop (ice cream) are especially so. Biscuit Head is delicious. (Early Girl does serve lunch and dinner, and it is delicious, but the wait times can be 1-2 hours in high tourist season.) Nthing the Merrimon location of Asheville Pizza & Brewing co.

Activities: The WNC Nature Center has a lot of cute critters. The Friday night drum circle downtown is a spectacle, though I left Asheville in 2009 and I hear the tourists outnumber the drummers these days. Craggy Gardens is a nice kid-friendly hike and picnic spot close to town on the Blue Ridge Parkway; Craggy Pinnacle (right next to it) is great if your kids are up for a steep climb. (It's steep but short, so it's not super-intense.) La Zoom tours are genuinely hilarious--and I generally hate tours of any kind--but the humor is pretty raunchy. I see on their website that they have a kids' tour, but I don't know anything about it. The Pinball Museum. (More of an arcade; you can play the pinball games.) There are several places that show outdoor movies in the summer--The Wedge (brewery in the River Arts District), and The Orange Peel, and some sponsored by city parks & rec.
posted by xylothek at 12:40 PM on July 23, 2016


Tupelo Honey is a family friendly place, three locations in Asheville.
posted by greta simone at 12:42 PM on July 23, 2016


Best answer: Asheville Pinball Museum is a great time-spender. The art museum is kid friendly depending on what your kids like. There are lots of great hikes, geocaching, etc. And if you eat at early girl, stop by next door and I'll introduce you to my monkeys!
posted by rikschell at 4:20 PM on July 23, 2016


Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the helpful suggestions, and special shout out to rikschell and partner for being so friendly and welcoming. Everyone go visit Purl's in Asheville if you get the chance!
posted by little mouth at 7:23 PM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


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