Who's having more fun –
you or the kids?
Located in the land of summer camp, the Dry Ridge Inn has a special place in the hearts of children and teens, all of whom will find lots to love about the mountains, year ‘round.Splashing in the river, searching for gravestones of famous people, learning about cougars in a nature center – there’s as much here for you as there is for your children. It’s hard to say who will sleep better when you get back to the inn – your kids exhausted from their day of fun or you, satisfied that you gave them a good time.
That’s easy enough in the Asheville/Weaverville area. Nor will you have to drive far - Vance Birthplace is a state historic site 10 minutes from the inn. The birthplace of North Carolina’s Civil War governor Zebulon Baird Vance, the site includes a five-room log cabin built around original chimneys, as well as several “out buildings” that indicate what kind of life Gov. Vance had as a boy growing up in the Reems Creek Valley.
He’s buried in Asheville’s historic Riverside Cemetery. A favorite adventure among new residents is something your family will enjoy – searching for his grave and those of authors O. Henry and Thomas Wolfe, Confederate generals James Martin and Thomas Clingman and local luminary George Masa, a Japanese photographer who documented much of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1920s.
The Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville has animals that everyone will adore. You’ll see (and learn about) black bear, bobcat, cougars, gray wolves, dwarf goats and a silly groundhog or two. The center’s Appalachian Center houses a colorful selection of reptiles and amphibians native to the mountain area.
At the Historic Johnson Farm in Hendersonville, you can show your family farm life in the mountains as it existed a century ago. The house, made of bricks fired on site from mud taken from the nearby French Broad River, was the home of a wealthy tobacco farmer. It came to include a barn, blacksmith shop, smokehouse, tool shed, boarding house and cottage.
Want to help the kids blow off some steam? Asheville’s Fun Depot has bumper cars, bowling, indoor and outdoor go-carts, indoor miniature golf and an arcade gallery. There’s also a soft play area for your littlest ones. In downtown Asheville, ClimbMax Climbing has indoor and outdoor climbing walls. A few doors down is Fired Up! Creative Lounge, a paint-your-own pottery studio that awaits your child’s funky monsters and critters on mugs and bowls.
Speaking of Asheville, older children might appreciate a tour of the city’s history, via the Asheville Urban Trail. The 1.7-mile walk downtown begins and ends at Pack Place and takes participants along 30 stations of bronze sculptures that illuminate aspects of the city’s formation. The walk takes about two hours (and there are plenty of cafes and coffee shops along the way!). Gets maps at Pack Place. How about spending the cool of the evening outside, at the ballpark? The Asheville Tourists, affiliated with the Colorado Rockies, play ball in Asheville’s beautifully remodeled McCormick Field, a decades-old ballpark that has seen the likes of Babe Ruth, Willie Stargell, Sparky Anderson and Cal Ripkin.
Kids love the water, and the mountains around the inn are full of rivers, lakes and creeks. One of the most exhilarating rides in the area is down the natural water slide at Sliding Rock near Brevard. This smooth, water-worn chute is 60 feet of spray and squeals that empty into a refreshing rock-bound pool.
Many locals like the popular swimming hole in the Green River near Saluda. (Take Interstate 26 from Weaverville south to Saluda. Get off on exit 28, and go north on Holbert Cove Road. Turn left onto Green River Cove Road. You’ll see the swimming area at the bottom on the left.) There are also plenty of creeks in the area for wading. Some local favorites are along hiking paths at Looking Glass Falls and Graveyard Fields.
One of America’s favorite poets, Carl Sandburg lived nearly in Flat Rock. Children will enjoy the 30-minute tour of the Carl Sandburg Home. Five miles of trails lay around the house, as do gardens and descendants of Mrs. Sandburg’s dairy goats.
Chimney Rock State Park near Lake Lure has hiking trails for all ages, a 404-foot waterfall and a 75-mile view. Linville Caverns, an hour’s drive from Weaverville, is near Grandfather Mountain. The caverns (a cool place on a hot afternoon) are a series of rooms and passageways, nearly all of which you can see during your guided tour.
In Cherokee, the Oconaluftee Indian Village gives children (and parents!) a glimpse of the 18th century lives of the Cherokee Indians, the original inhabitants of much of Western North Carolina. Afterward, cool your feet in the river at Oconaluftee Islands Park near the village.