9 Mountain Activities for Kids and Teens

Many of North Carolina’s leading mountain destinations attract visitors of all ages. While those who’ve celebrated more birthdays than they care to admit enjoy the panoramic views, quaint towns and relaxed pace of life, the kids (or grandkids) in their group thrill in the region’s adventures, from uncovering treasures to zipping through the sky.

When you’re planning your next family trip, consider one of these fun mountain activities for your boys and girls.

1 Search for Gems

1 Search for Gems

Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine in FranklinSee on mapSee on map

 

You’ll dig the Cowee Valley’s beautiful scenery while driving to this mine, which is open May to October. And your kids will love getting wet and dirty while searching for naturally occurring rubies, sapphires and other precious stones. With each paid admission, you have use of a screen box and receive two buckets of native soil. It takes an hour or so to sift through each at the flume line, where staff help identify any questionable finds. Remember bug spray, sun screen – rent an umbrella for additional sun protection – lunch to enjoy at the picnic grounds and cash. The mine doesn’t accept credit or debit cards.

Ideal for ages: 2 to 12

 

2 Let Your Imagination Lead

2 Let Your Imagination Lead

Children’s Playhouse in BooneSee on mapSee on map

 

It’s the perfect place to brighten a dreary day. Let your children’s imagination run wild, exploring hands-on activities such as a pretend grocery store, ball pit, puppet theater, dollhouse neighborhood and train table. There are arts and crafts to stimulate creativity and science exhibits that make learning fun. And when the weather breaks, head outside to the playground.

Ideal for ages: 2 to 12

 

3 Choose Your Game

3 Choose Your Game

Hickory Dickory Dock in HickorySee on mapSee on map

 

There’s plenty of room to run and play here. Start with the more than 50 arcade games – which use reloadable cards instead of coins or tokens – then jump into the soft play area, steer a mini bumper car or take aim at a spirited game of laser tag. There also is mini golf and a 3-story indoor playground. And when you get hungry, the snack bar serves big slices of pizza.

Ideal for ages: 2 to 12

 

4 Sample Mountain Life

4 Sample Mountain Life

Orchard at Altapass in Spruce PineSee on mapSee on map

 

Located at Milepost 328.3, this is the perfect stop for little Blue Ridge Parkway travelers who need to stretch their legs. In the fall, enjoy fresh cider and sweet caramel apples while you pick fruit in the orchard. But fun doesn’t depend on the calendar. Learn local history and ecology on the 45-minute storytelling hayride, which runs May through October, or grab an activity book that walks you through four hiking trails anytime. Enjoy live traditional mountain music, dancing or a game of checkers inside the orchard’s store. There you also can learn about the monarch butterflies raised onsite or purchase apples and canned goods, such as jam or pickles, to take home.

Ideal for ages: 2 to 12

 

5 Ride the Rails

5 Ride the Rails

Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock

 

Shrilling whistles and clacking train wheels have been calling families here for more than six decades. Ride the 3-mile loop behind one of two coal-fired steam locomotives, which chug through daily Wild-West themed excursions, complete with cowboys, robbers and plenty of excitement. Or plan your visit to coincide with one of the many special events such as visits by Thomas the Tank Engine and seasonal activities at Christmas and Halloween. There’s plenty to enjoy off the rails, including amusement rides, arcade games and refreshments. Take the chairlift to Miner’s Mountain, where you can pan for gold, ride in a boat or relax on a shaded bench.

Ideal for ages: 2 to 12

 

6 Climb One of North Carolina’s Best-Known Landmarks

6 Climb One of North Carolina’s Best-Known Landmarks

Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State ParkSee on mapSee on map

 

Start on the 0.6-mile Great Woodland Adventure Trail, whose 12 interactive stations tell the stories of local animals, many of which you can meet at the Animal Discovery Den afterward. The 0.75-mile Hickory Nut Falls trail leads you to the East’s second-tallest waterfall. The Outcroppings Trail’s 499 steps take you past the Grotto and Pulpit Rock and through the Subway, which always echoes with laughter. Save some time and energy to climb Chimney Rock, the 315-foot tall granite outcropping where views stretch 75 miles to Lake Lure and beyond. While hours and scenery change with the seasons, family dogs are always welcome. Just remember the leash.

Ideal for ages: 13 and up

 

7 Search for the Supernatural

7 Search for the Supernatural

Ghost Hunters of AshevilleSee on mapSee on map

 

Even skeptics will enjoy the stories on this downtown ghost tour, one of three these guides offer in western North Carolina. Learn about haunted buildings, unsolved murders and an apparition that wanders a park. You’ll get the chance to prove their existence with provided ghost-hunting equipment: dousing rods, electronic voice phenomena recorders, electromagnetic field meters and thermometers. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a digital or film camera to capture orbs, mists and other ghostly shapes. Interference from electrical fields diminishes the effectiveness of smartphone cameras.

Ideal for ages: 13 and up

 

8 Fly Through the Sky

8 Fly Through the Sky

Navitat Canopy Adventures near AshevilleSee on mapSee on map

 

Choose from two tours, both about 2.5 hours long and led by friendly and experienced guides. Moody Cove Adventure includes zip lines up to 1,250 feet long and 200 feet high that are strung through the forest canopy, a bridge, spiral tree staircase and rappelling at the end. The Blue Ridge Experience’s side-by-side dual zip lines stretch up to three-quarters of a mile between mountaintops. Its views and 65 miles per hour speeds will leave you breathless. While zip line experience isn’t necessary, rider requirements for each differ; check the website for specifics. If you’d prefer to keep your feet on the ground while waiting for others, the brook-side picnic tables are perfect for soaking in the setting or reading a book.

Ideal for ages: 13 and up

 

9 Reach New Heights

9 Reach New Heights

Rock Dimensions Climbing Guides in BooneSee on mapSee on map

 

Start on the 40-foot outdoor climbing wall, where patient and safety-conscious guides teach the basics. If you’re ready for more, try the tower-to-rock course, which adds an afternoon climb in Pisgah National Forest to a morning on the climbing wall. Full-day climbing and spelunking excursions are available, too. If you desire a more controlled setting, try the balance beam, trolley slide, cargo net traverse and other obstacles on the Discovery Course, whose exit is a zip line. Regardless of where your adventure takes you, you’ll discover more self-confidence.

Ideal for ages: 13 and up

 

 

Updated March 25, 2018
About the Author
Pete M. Anderson

Pete M. Anderson

Pete M. Anderson is a Gastonia-based writer whose work also has appeared in Business North Carolina, Carolina Sportsman and Thousand Islands Life. He enjoys exploring North Carolina, especially its diverse fishing holes, local race tracks and world-renowned barbecue joints.

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