Non-stop fun (and a museum or two)

Whether you live here or you’re just visiting, you’d probably like a snappy retort for when the young’uns announce, “I’m booooored.” Here’s a good start toward planning a weekend/holiday/summer’s worth of activities sure to please both the parents and the kids.

Family bonding

Asheville’s Fun Depot (7 Roberts Road) is just what it sounds like: sheer entertainment. Look for arcade games, laser tag, mini-golf, go-carts, a climbing wall, batting cages and a diner with kid-approved meals like pizza and burgers. Info at or 277-2FUN.

Asheville’s Food Lion Skate Park, located on the corners of Flint and Cherry streets, gives skaters 17,000 square feet to ollie, nollie and hand-plant. Fees are $2 for resident day passes and $4 for nonresidents, with annual memberships and helmet, elbow and kneepad rentals available. Info at

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad & Tweetsie Railroad are two very different train excursions. GSMR offers a variety of site-seeing tours, including a Gourmet Dinner train and a Mystery Theatre train (info at Tweetsie Railroad is a Wild West theme park with amusement rides, zoo, and of course an action-packed train trip (info at

Johnson Farm (3346 Haywood Road, Hendersonville) is a historic farm turned boarding house and tourist retreat turned educational facility. These days, visitors can take a tour, meet the animals, check out nature trails and exhibits and have a picnic. Info at 891-6585.

Old Pressley Sapphire Mine, found at 240 Pressley Mine Road in Canton, still contains moonstones, sapphires and other semiprecious stones. Visitors can try their luck at mining — after all, the 1445-carat Star of the Carolinas, one of the world’s largest sapphires, was discovered here. Info at 648-6320.

The great outdoors

A horse for everyone at the WNC Nature Center

• Whitewater rafting is a favorite area adventure for ages 8 and up. Book trips for individuals, families or groups through French Broad Rafting (800-570-RAFT), Huck Finn Rafting Adventures (877-520-4658), USA Raft (800-USA-RAFT) and Nantahala River Rafting (800-GET-RAFT).

Lake Powhatan, a quick drive from downtown Asheville, is part of the U.S. Forest Service. The locale has camping spots, a beach with life-guarded swimming, and plenty of hiking, biking and horse-riding trails (which link up to both the Arboretum’s trail system and the National Forest, for those who really want an adventure). Info at 670-5627.

North Carolina Arboretum (100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville) is a 426-acre public garden, including greenhouses, an extensive bonsai collection, ongoing classes and educational programs, a cafe and more. Info at or 665-2492.

• North Carolina’s only caverns, Linville Caverns, are located in Marion. Opened to visitors since 1939, the below-ground phenomenon can be toured from March through November. Info at 756-4171.

Western North Carolina Nature Center (75 Gashes Creek Road, Asheville) is a zoo without cages and bars. The animal residents were injured, rescued or are former pets that can’t be returned to the wilderness. Instead, they live in natural habitats where they can be viewed by and (in the case of the otters) interact with human visitors. Info at 298-5600.

Educational forays

Bonding over bubbles at the Health Adventure

• Located in downtown Asheville (2 South Pack Square), Pack Place houses the Health Adventure (info at 257-4521), the Asheville Art Museum (253-3227) and the Colburn Gem and Mineral Museum (254-7162) — all featuring programs for school-aged children.

Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee is a life-sized replica of a 1750s-era community, open May through October. Costumed guides lead visitors through the past while artisans demonstrate native crafts. Info at 497-2315.

• The Thomas Wolfe Memorial (52 North Market St.) is actually not the birthplace of Asheville’s native author, but it is the boarding house he made famous in Look Homeward, Angel. An informative tour is only $1. Info at 253-8304.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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