We are lucky to live in one of the most family-friendly places on the planet, where fun (and often free) things to do with kids of all ages abound. So after your day hike to Graveyard Fields, afternoon at Splasheville or stroll through the Western North Carolina Nature Center, where should you and your family head to eat?
Many locals are aware of the tried-and-true hot spots for families with kids, such as Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co. on Merrimon Avenue, where you can sit at picture-covered theme tables while the kids color, or let them run around the game room while you wait for your food. Then there’s The Hop (two locations), where the ambiance is as delicious as the ice cream.
But there are even more family-friendly options out there. Here is a small sampling.
Downtown, Early Girl Eatery is another classic kid-friendly joint, with toy buckets for the kids to play with while you dine. In nice weather, the shady courtyard tables at Crêperie Bouchon on North Lexington Avenue are perfect for a family outing; the kids can run and play while you end the day with a Nutella crêpe.
Also downtown, Mojo Kitchen & Lounge has a stash of kids’ toys, games and books, and provides live family entertainment on Wednesdays, along with a Reggae Family Jam event on Saturdays (2-5 p.m.). Over on Patton Avenue, Farm Burger offers a fun, relaxed family restaurant with a game area that both kids and parents can enjoy.
In the family-friendly haven of West Asheville, The Brew Pump on Haywood Road provides a kid- and dog-friendly fenced-in beer garden where you can play a game of cornhole and order up some grub from one of the food trucks, such as Doc Brown’s BBQ.
At Lookout Brewing Co. in Black Mountain, owners John and Alison Garcia offer Jenga, Connect Four, checkers, Mancala and chess on a handcrafted chess table (a gift from a generous customer). In warmer weather, there’s cornhole, hula-hooping and sidewalk chalk. Kids can partake of bottled root beer, hot chocolate and an endless supply of free popcorn made without artificial colors or flavorings and popped with coconut oil. Thursday is movie night, which often features family-friendly classics like The Goonies and E.T.
Meanwhile, Frank’s Roman Pizza (on South Tunnel Road in East Asheville and Sardis Road in West Asheville) offers Kids Pizza Saturdays. “The kids get to pick out three toppings,” owner Barry Gardner says, “and then we bring out the dough, a cup of sauce, a big pile of cheese and their toppings to their table. They get to build their pizza the way they want it. We then cook their creation and bring it back to the table, always to big smiles and giggles. The kids love to make their own food and have a great time.” Plus, Frank’s also has a game room and plenty of tables.
Blue Sky Café in Fletcher also goes the extra mile for the little ones, boasting a play yard, lots of games and a great kids’ menu to boot. Owner/Creative Chef Julianna Pletcher says she and her husband, Mark, created their vision of a kid-friendly restaurant in 2002 to fill a need: “We had two young children and noticed there weren’t many places we could go out to eat and feel comfortable with them.” Their restaurant includes a kids table with toys, books and puzzles; outside on the patio, there’s a sandbox, playhouse and kid-sized picnic tables. “Our kids menu is also unique in that we offer many options, most of which are not fried, [unlike] so many other places,” Pletcher notes. “We also offer animal cookies at the end of their meal.” Now that’s a tradition anyone could appreciate.