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Western North Carolina Nature Center - cougar

Visiting the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, NC

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Depending on the ages of your kids, it can be a challenge to find activities that will entertain everyone in the entire family. Visiting the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, NC provides a fantastic place for families to experience animals and plants native to the Southern Appalachian region and is a great way to be entertained and educated all at the same time. Featuring over 60 species of animals, including red wolves, cougars, black bears and the ever-entertaining river otters, this adventure is one that will prove to be fun for everyone.

Exhibits and Animals

Owned by the City of Asheville, the Western North Carolina Nature Center is dedicated to connecting people with animals and plants of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Nature Center has 42 acres of award-winning exhibits, with more than 150 wildlife native to the mountains of North Carolina and one of the largest collections of Southern Appalachian animal species in the world. Here your family will have the opportunity to connect with and learn about a plethora of interesting creatures — including reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals — that they may never have the chance to view in the wild. Priceless.

Western North Carolina Nature Center - River otter

River otters are active, playful and so much fun to watch.

Some of my family’s favorite places included Black Bear Ridge, an exhibit that includes American black bears, hawks, owls and white-tailed deer; the Western North Carolina Farm, featuring endangered farm animals like the Cotswold sheep as well as everyday critters, some of which you can pet like the donkeys and goats; and Otter Falls, which gives an up-close view of the North American river otters and several species of aquatic turtles. Our scenic half-mile trek on the Trillium Nature Trail journeyed through forested areas along the Swannanoa River and proved to be nice little hike that was well-suited for kids.

Western NC Nature Center Hours

The Western NC Nature Center is open seven days a week from 10 am to 5 pm, except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Visitors should plan to spend about two hours at the center if they’d like to experience the entire thing. When planning your visit, you might want to keep in mind that the petting area is open from 10 am to 12 pm and again from 2 to 4 pm. The center also offers live animal presentations, with different topics each day, like “Feeding the Otters” or “All about Owls,” that take place at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm.

Western North Carolina Nature Center - Live animal presentation

You’ll learn cool facts at the live animal presentations at the Western NC Nature Center!

Tip: While there are vending machine with snacks and drinks, if you’re planning to be there around a meal time you may want to pack small picnic to enjoy at one of the tables scattered throughout the nature center.

Low Entrance Fees

Everybody who knows me knows I love a great deal and this is one of the best around! Admission is only $10.95 for adults (Asheville City Residents – $7.95), $9.95 for seniors 65 and over (Asheville City Residents – $6.95) and $6.95 for youth ages 3-15 (Asheville City Residents – $5.95) and ages 2 and under are free. What?! Yes, this may be the deal of the century and it includes the petting area and live presentations too! Please keep in mind that they are always accepting donations… so if you happen to have an extra $10 or $20 in your wallet, it would be greatly appreciated.

And, for a hotel that’s conveniently located to all of the fun in Asheville, check out Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park.

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Belonging to the rare breed known as native Floridian, Mary Ellen is a wife, mother and freelance writer, currently living in Sarasota, on Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast….

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