We know you’d rather stay in the motel room and watch the Cartoon Network, but the adults won’t let you. And they’re probably right: It’s your summer vacation, and you came all the way here (or maybe you live here), so why not get out and do something? Here are some parent-friendly, but still potentially cool, ideas to get you started:
Just walking around downtown Asheville can be fun. There are lots of great places to eat, huge antique malls crammed with weird old stuff, interesting old buildings to look at (like the S&W Cafeteria building, just off Pritchard Park) and some surprising sculpture: See if you can find the giant iron, or the life-sized metal girl drinking from a turn-of-the-century water fountain. Free concerts happen on many Friday nights at Pack Square, and lots of kids take off their shoes and wade in the reflecting pool in the shadow of the Vance Memorial, while the adults dance or just hang out.
Right across the street, you’ll find Pack Place. It’s home to four museums, and a single ticket gets you into all of them. At the Asheville Art Museum, you’ll find paintings, drawings, photographs and sculpture by national and local artists. The museum also offers Summer Art Camp ’98 for kids, with weekly sessions from June 22 through July 31, 9 a.m-noon and 1:30-4:30 p.m. At art camp, you can learn to create paper sculptures, make and illustrate accordion books out of recycled, handmade paper, and draw and paint plants and animals. Tell your parents the cost for all summer art-camp sessions is $65 for museum members and $75 for nonmembers. Call 253-3227 for details.
Also at Pack Place, The Health Adventure has fun, interactive exhibits for toddlers through teenagers, including a TV set (located inside a car chassis) that shows a video of a car wreck, displays about the body and how it works, toys, computer games, and — new this summer — a great hands-on exhibit about science during the time of Alexander the Great. The Colburn Gem and Mineral Museum is crammed full of huge, beautiful jewels, gems and crystals. And in one exhibit, you can move continents around and make a six-foot volcano erupt, too! The YMI Cultural Center, housed just behind Pack Place on Market Street in a national-historic-landmark building commissioned by George Vanderbilt in 1893, hosts exhibits, programs, classes and performances that represent some of the best of African-American art, culture and history. All Pack Place venues are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, 1-5 p.m. The admission cost for adults is $6.50; youths ages 4 to 15 pay $4.50. Call 254-6373 for more info.
The Nature Center, at 75 Gashes Creek Road in East Asheville, is the number-one place in the city to take kids, according to this year’s Mountain Xpress readers’ poll. It’s a modern zoo, with animals native to this area living in natural settings, plus great indoor exhibits, too. Check out the deer and bears from elevated walkways, not to mention cougars, bobcats, wolves, foxes, raccoons, eagles, vultures, otters, turtles, snakes, owls and more. There’s also a petting zoo and a great gift shop with cheap toys, cool shirts and interesting books. Peacocks strut freely near the paths: If you’re lucky, or if the wind gets underneath them, these colorful birds will spread their tail feathers. The Nature Center is open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Cost for adults is $4, and youths 2 to 15 pay $2. Call 298-5600 for more info.
Right next door to the Nature Center is Recreation Park and its adjoining amusement park, with country-fair-style rides for kids of all ages, a snack bar, playground equipment and a community swimming pool (with a very big shallow end, for kids who just want to splash around). Rec Park is open weekdays 12-6 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sundays 1-7 p.m. The amusement-park section is open Tuesday through Saturday, 12-8 p.m., and Sundays, 1-8 p.m. Admission is $2.
It’d be a shame to miss the mountains while you’re here, so a hike is probably a good idea. Any good trail guide will have lots of suggestions, but one of my favorite hikes is just a short drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville. Take the Parkway north past the Folk Art Center (the huge shop there has interesting crafts, books and music for adults and kids, and the exhibits on the second floor are always fun) and past the Craggy Gardens Visitors’ Center to a parking area on the left, near milepost 364. Follow the easy trail uphill less than a mile (passing a tangled, twisted tree growing around the rocks about half way up) to spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Black Mountains, the Craggies, the Great Smokies and the Black Mountain Reservoir. If you go at the right time in the next few weeks, the rhododendrons — twisty, woody shrubs with flat, dark-green waxy leaves — will be in bloom, covered with big, sticky white flowers. The trail is too rough for strollers, but kids as young as age 4 can get up and down under their own power.
If walking trails aren’t rad enough, Climbmax, at 43 Wall St., features a 40-foot-tall outdoor climbing wall, and an indoor climbing gym with a 25-foot wall, geared to all skill levels — from complete beginners to rock-climbing experts. The staff makes sure you’ll stay safe. And if you want to do it for real, they take beginners and experts out to the real rocks for all-day climbing adventures, as well. Call 252-9996 for details and hours (Climbmax is closed on Mondays).
The Asheville Tourists, a minor-league team for the Colorado Rockies, play their home games at McCormick Field (at the southern most end of Charlotte St.), and it’s a lot of fun, even if you don’t care who wins or loses. The grown-ups might like to hear that beer is cheaper on “Thirsty Thursday” evenings. General admission is $5 for adults, $3 for kids, and the stadium is small enough that every seat is a great one. Games start at 7 p.m. (2 p.m. on Sundays). Call 258-0428 to see if the Tourists are playing at home.
Finally, don’t let yourself be limited by these suggestions. There’s tons more stuff to do here, from family-friendly concerts, dance and theater performances (check Mountain Xpress for current listings), to rafting (from calm waters to raging currents), to mountain biking, to spectacular waterfalls (check out our separate article in this issue).
So get the adults moving, and get out there. Remember, TV has nothing but reruns in summer, anyway.