5 Kid Friendly Places to Visit in Western North Carolina

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It’s almost that time of year – SPRING BREAK!!!

While college students across the world are booking partying hot spots like Cancun and Daytona Beach, there really are a ton of places that are wonderful for taking the children in your family for Spring Break.

One of those wonderful kid-friendly places is the Smoky Mountain National Park in Western North Carolina.

I have a soft spot for the Smoky Mountain area because my dad is from Brevard, a small college town right outside of Ashville. We go at least once a year – one year we went three times! There are so many wonderful things to do and see that you and your children will both have a marvelous time.

What exactly is there to do? Well, I’ve compiled a small list of our favorites for you!

Mine for Precious Gems in Sapphire, NC

There are a ton of places all around the Smoky Mountain mountain range, where, for $15, you can play prospector and rummage through a pile of dirt and find garnets, amethyst, rubies and emeralds. Western NC was emerald rich back in the days, and there is still plenty of loot left! We always do this when in NC and Sapphire is our favorite place to go.

Kid Friendly Places in Western North Carolina

Cherokee Indian Reservation – Cherokee, NC

One of my – and my daughter’s – favorite places to go when we are in NC is the Cherokee Indian Reservation. They have a wonderful museum about the Cherokee’s dealings with the British called the Trail of Tears Museum. I am not able to take photos inside the museum, but trust me, it is both educational and heart-wrenching.

There are also a lot of fun things to do in Cherokee, like riding a tram to the top of a mountain to see the beautiful scenery around you – for about $5. There are ice cream parlors, mini golf courses and go-kart racing!

tram ride in cherokee nc, Kid Friendly Places in Western North Carolina

What you’re seeing is actually “Maggie Valley” between the mountains!

One of our favorite things to do in Cherokee is to visit the Cherokee Bear Zoo on Main Street. They have about 10 bears, a petting zoo with goats and donkeys, as well as rabbits and sometimes they have Tigers and Lions as well. It is actually a breeding program, which I find really nice. When we went for Spring Break 2010, there was a little grizzly cub and we got to take a photo with it (no, it didn’t eat our faces off).

cherokee bear zoo in cherokee nc, kid friendly places in Western North Carolina

These grizzly bears were totally making out.

Ghost Town in the Sky Amusement Park – Maggie Valley, NC

Ghost Town in the Sky is an amusement park that you have to take a tram up the side of a mountain to get to! It’s so much fun!

ghost town in the sky, kid friendly places in Western North Carolina

You park at the bottom of the mountain and take a tram up to the park at the top!

This is personally my favorite thing to do in Maggie Valley! It’s not always open, so you have to check and see if they are running before you go. The entire park is set up like the old west (which is funny, considering it’s actually located in the South), and there are saloon shows, old-time soda shops and lots of shops to browse in. There’s even a wild west shoot out!

ghost town wild west show, kid friendly places in Western North Carolina

Ghost Town in the Sky was the actual set for the movie “Ghost Town” and this scene is a reenactment of a scene from the movie!

Pretty Place or Greenville Chapel – Cedar Mountain, NC

Pretty Place is actually what us NC locals (I consider myself a local because I used to live in NC) call Greenville Chapel, a YMCA camp and a functioning church that is quite literally built into the side of a mountain. It’s always open and free if there aren’t any services going on – it’s booked solid during the summers for weddings, so call ahead before you make the drive out!

pretty place cedar mountain nc, kid friendly places in Western North Carolina

This view always makes me teary-eyed. I’d go to church every week if this was my church!


Pisgah National Forest – Pisgah Forest, NC

Pisgah Forest is the next town over to where my family lives, in Brevard. I’ve been driving up into Pisgah for as long as I can remember. Some of our very favorite things to do are located there…

Like Sliding Rock. It is literally a humongous rock that has water running over it (naturally) and you slide down it into a pool of water below.

sliding rock, pisgah national forest, kid friendly places in Western North Carolina

That’s my daughter at the top! She was 8 during this trip.

My thin Florida blood can’t handle the 50 degree water in the river below, but my daughter loves it!

sliding rock in NC, kid friendly places in Western North Carolina

I wish I had an iPhone in 2006, because these photos don’t do the forest justice!

There’s also the ever popular Looking Glass Falls, which we visit whenever we are in NC. It’s a beautiful waterfall, and there is a lovely swimming hole beneath it!

Looking glass falls nc, kid friendly places in Western North Carolina

I was so used to seeing this huge waterfall in NC that the first time I went to Niagara Falls, I wasn’t very impressed!

There also a ton of picnic areas in Pisgah National Forest, as well as river rafting and toobing! Most of these places are free or charge a very nominal fee – for instance, Sliding Rock has a $1 park entrance and the Bear Zoo in Cherokee charges $5.

The pictures in this post have been compiled over 8 years worth of trips to North Carolina, and I realized while adding them to this post – wow, I really need to invest in a decent camera!

You can find lots of high quality photos and more information about the places I’ve mentioned at VisitNC.com.

And don’t worry about lodging – there are many hotels, motels, vacation rental homes, cabins and bed and breakfasts to choose from!

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