Our family travel guide with ten tips for traveling with small kids and making the most out of your next family-friendly vacation to Asheville, North Carolina.
Every June our family likes to get away and kick off the summer season with a fun and relaxing getaway. We typically head to Boston and Maine to visit family and friends but this year we decided to explore a new city we’ve never visited: Asheville, North Carolina.
Our son Asher, who goes by “Ash”, spent weeks giggling about the name Asheville. You should have seen his look of amazement when we landed at the airport and his named was all over t-shirts, magnets, hats and more.
Which leads me to my first tip: I highly suggest you fly into the Asheville Regional Airport instead of one of the larger airports located further out. Just 10 miles (15 minutes) from downtown, this small airport is a dream for parents with little ones. The security lines are short and the rental cars are located right out the side entrance.
Once we arrived, we headed into the city to grab lunch and stumbled upon City Bakery, a family-run, independently owned restaurant with several locations downtown. I was expecting a run-of-the-mill sandwich or bagel but immediately my mind was blown. Almost everything on the menu was locally sourced from the mustard to the bread.
We grabbed lunch to-go and decided to find a park outside which leads me to my second tip: take advantage of the great outdoors. Lucky for us, our GPS pointed us to the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The fresh air and bright sunshine was a welcome change of scenery and were perfect for allowing our boys to get out their energy after a long morning of travel.
Our friends at Explore Asheville mentioned that Blue Ridge Parkway is known as one of “America’s most beautiful drives” so after lunch we decided to let the boys nap in the backseat while the adults enjoyed a couple of hours of serenity and scenic landscapes. The lush views of the Smoky Mountains were absolutely breathtaking.
My third tip is to stay at a family-friendly hotel with plenty of kid-friendly amenities. We stayed in an Executive King at the Crowne Plaza Resort Asheville which was perfect for our family of four. The small partitioned section of the room (not shown) was ideal for separating our noisy 3 year old from our 18 month old at nap time and at bedtime. We also loved having a fridge in the room for cold drinks, fruit and yogurt.
The hotel is located adjacent to the Asheville Racquet Club which offers a full-service fitness floor, group exercise classes and on-site childcare. We ended up heading to the pool instead but it’s always nice to have options, right?
My fourth tip is to eat at least one meal at Posana Restaurant located on Historic Pack Square in the heart of downtown Asheville. Featuring regional cuisine with an emphasis on farm-to-plate, Co-owner and Executive Chef Peter Pollay not only got my husband to eat goat cheese but he converted me into a pimiento cheese lover! Who knew it was so dang delicious? Added Bonus: His own kids, self-proclaimed foodies, helped him design the kids menu. My boys devoured their seared trout and marinated chicken.
After Posana, grab the kids and head to French Broad Chocolates for a sweet treat. Located just one block away, this is THE spot in town for everything chocolate, coffee and ice cream. I mean let’s be real, what else is there in life? We shared the dark chocolate ice cream, liquid drinking chocolate and coffee bean ice cream with cocoa nibs. It was a serendipitous moment for all of us. Trust me, you don’t want to skip this tip number four!
To help you burn off the fried okra and sipping chocolate, tip number five is to visit Chimney Rock Park located just 25 miles from downtown Asheville. For just $8 you can rent a backpack childrens carrier which our 18 month old loved. My husband was a trooper and carried him up all 400+ steps to the top of Chimney Rock. Believe me when I tell you, it was worth the effort! The mountain views and fresh air were completely breath-taking and a moment my family will never forget!
For a little fuel post-hike, we headed back downtown to experience the world-famous Tupelo Honey Cafe. Our expectations were high after the countless recommendations to check out this local landmark but I’m happy to report they were exceeded on every level. I’ve never tasted a biscuit with so much flavor in my life and the fried chicken was crispy, juicy and just what the doctor ordered after our morning of climbing. You will not want to miss this tip number five!
My sixth kid-friendly tip for visiting Asheville is to enjoy one of the many restaurants that offer outdoor seating. Not only is it great for energetic toddlers who don’t always love to sit still but these open-air environments provide just the right amount of background noise to drown out any noisy boys who might be late for nap time.
We got our outdoor dining fix twice during our trip. First, we headed to 12 Bones BBQ to experience an authentic North Carolina barbecue. President Obama eats here when he’s in town and I can see why. Let me tell you – I am officially on team vinegar BBQ sauce! Tangy, salty, smoky, and delicious – I licked my plate clean and have zero regrets.
Second, we checked out Ben’s Tune Up located in the South Slope Neighborhood district featuring 10 breweries all within walking distance. Winning! Not only does this restaurant feature killer homemade ramen but it’s also America’s first sake brewery. How cool is that? Mom and Dad were able to enjoy frosty beverages and the kids had a little free space to roam. It was perfect.
My seventh tip for visiting Asheville with kids is to allocate 2-3 hours to explore the world-famous Biltmore Estate. Before arriving, we truly hadn’t wrapped our minds around just how expansive and large-scale the Biltmore experience is for families. If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey like I am, the Biltmore is a must-see during your stay. To make the most of your time with littles, I suggest going during slower times of the day which happens to be the afternoon.
For dinner with a view, my eighth tip is to head to Edison Craft Ales + Kitchen located inside the Omni Grove Park Inn. Featuring picturesque views of the mountains and a real piece of American history, this meal was a highlight of my trip.
Upon arrival to our table, the waiter gave our kids activity packets that kept them occupied throughout our entire meal. Mommy got to sample local beer and take tasting notes while the boys colored and played with flash cards.
The food was fresh and inventive. I can’t wait to recreate this incredible kale salad I enjoyed made with edamame, sweet corn and homemade ranch dressing.
To balance our heavier meals at lunch and dinner, we started each day with a light and healthy breakfast at Green Sage Cafe. With two convenient locations – one downtown and one in the plaza next to our hotel – this casual restaurant was so good we ate there all three mornings!
From fresh squeezed juices to inventive organic egg dishes to a kids menu full of healthy options, tip number nine is to start your day at Green Safe Cafe.
The last and final tip for visiting Asheville with kids is simple but crucial: be flexible! Traveling with toddlers and active preschoolers is not always a walk in the park. Try to have an open mind and remember that if you’re stressed out and frazzled, your kids will pick up on that energy and be stressed out and frazzled too.
Stay tuned for a future post on tips for flying with little kids but in the meantime, check your calendar and make time to visit Asheville! It’s a family-friendly destination for all ages and we can’t wait to go back!
For some other great travel guides highlighting Asheville, check out these sites:
What are your favorite spots to visit in Asheville? I’d love to hear from you! To check out more behind-the-scenes photos from this trip and more, be sure to check out #LemonTravel on Instagram!
Disclosure: Explore Asheville coordinated our hotel accommodations, meals, and activities during our stay. I was not compensated to write this post. All thoughts are my own.
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