Running from Washington, D. C. to Knoxville, the Blue Ridge Parkway takes visitors on a delightful journey of beauty and discovery. Extend your child’s Blue Ridge experience with these incredible learning opportunities within “spittin’ distance” of America’s Favorite Highway.
“You’re not going to school today!” my mother said as I entered the kitchen on a cold December morning during my sixth grade year. “It snowed in the mountains last night. We are going to go see it.”
My sixth grade year was my family’s first year living in North Carolina. We had lived in Florida until that point, and my only memory of snow was the one time we had flurries when I was six. I had never thrown a snow ball, made a snow angel, or even seen a field covered in the white stuff.
We drove the two hours up to Boone that morning. By the end of the day, I had a newfound love of all things snowy and mountainous. Over the years, I’ve fallen further in love with the Blue Ridge and the abundant opportunities for fun, adventure, and learning throughout the mountain range.
One of our favorite travel guide publishers, Moon Travel Guides, has sponsored this post. We love their Moon Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip guide and recommend it to any family planning a Blue Ridge adventure! Find the Moon Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip book at this link.
We now live about three hours from the mountains. As a family, we’ve built memories that include apple picking in Hendersonville, cherry picking just over the border in Virginia, mining for gold outside of Asheville, and many more along the Parkway.
We love the peace, beauty, and bonding that can be found in the nature of the mountains. We also love the learning opportunities we’ve discovered along the way. I have 17 of our family’s favorite Blue Ridge Parkway adventures to share with your crew.
Geologic Adventures on the Blue Ridge Parkway:
Take in a site that’s been amazing viewers for generations. In a stunning limestone gorge, your family can experience the 215-foot tall nature-made bridge. Along with the views of the bridge, you’ll enjoy 6 miles of hiking trails, a Monacan Indian Villiage, and a 30-foot tall waterfall. Living history programs will help your family learn about how the area’s resources were used for survival for many generations across the centuries.
Admission: Ages 6-12 – $6, Ages 13-Older – $8
2. Blowing Rock
On the northern end of the North Carolina section of the Blue Ridge is an incredible place where the snow falls upside down. A place of mystery and legend, the Blowing Rock is a place that must be seen when you’re traveling along the Parkway. When you visit, you’ll learn about the Native legends that surround the rock, and about our modern meteorological understanding of this unique site.
Admission: Ages 4-11 – $2, Adults – $7, Military and Seniors – $6
Hours are seasonal, please check the website before your visit.
Only half an hour south of Asheville and the Parkway, you’ll find a hunk of rock towering over the waters of Lake Lure. One of America’s first natural attractions, the Park has had a storied history. Native Americans were the first to step foot on the Chimney, and your family can follow their footsteps from the Chimney rock all the way around the mountain to Hickory Nut Falls. The Park has worked hard over the years to detail and conserve the natural flora and fauna, and is home to many strong conservation efforts for your family to learn about.
Admission: Ages 5-15 – $7, Adults – $15
Hours are seasonal, please check the website before your visit.
While not specifically a “geologic” learning opportunity, this trail takes your family on a journey under one of the most photographed portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Linn Cove Viaduct has been wowing families for decades, and has become an iconic portion of the Blue Ridge. With this trail, you have the opportunity to see how the Viaduct was built into the mountain. Little engineers will love checking out this part of the Parkway!
Historic Adventures on the Blue Ridge Parkway:
Home of the Battle of New Market, the Virginia Museum of the Civil War is a place for learning and reflecting on the war that tore the country in two. With a 300-acre battlefield park, a historic farm, and a visitor center for the Shenandoah Valley, there’s plenty to see and learn from at this interesting museum.
Admission: Ages 6-12 – $6, Adults – $10, Seniors – $9
Visit a beautiful restored mill along with authentic farm buildings and equipment dating to the early twentieth century. Along with the incredible peak into yesteryear, the Mill is one of the most photogenic spots along the Parkway. Visit in the summer and early fall, and you’ll see demonstrations of the skills mountain settlers used to make life possible throughout the Blue Ridge. Also on site is Matthew’s Cabin, a relocated historic cabin used for cultural demonstrations.
Learn more about Mabry Mill.
The view from the front steps of Flat Top Manor at the Moses Cone Memorial Park is one of my absolute favorite views in the North Carolina mountains. Flat Top Manor was the summer retreat of Moses Cone, one of the textile top dogs at the turn of hte twentieth century. At the park, you’ll see the Manor, estate, carriage trails, and the Southern Highland Craft Guild.
More than just a big house, the Biltmore is a step back in time to the pinnacle of the Gilded Age. From the interior garden to the servant’s quarters on the top floors, you’ll see the top technologies of the time and how they were used to make life easier for the residents of the Estate.
Basic Admission: Prices vary by day and time. Children’s tickets start around $25 and Adult tickets start around $50.
Cultural Adventures on the Blue Ridge Parkway:
Music was and is the heart of the culture of the Blue Ridge. Experience living history and culture through the musical displays, performers, and more at this unique center of culture and history. Check the performance schedule before you travel, as concerts and performances vary each day.
Many parts of the museum are free for visitors. You can purchase concert tickets on the website.
Learn about the culture, history, arts, and crafts of the original peoples of the Blue Ridge Mountains. See basket-weaving, pottery, carving, beadwork and more along with learning the Story of the Cherokees through an interactive exhibit.
Admission: Admission varies between $6 and $10 per person.
A 100 year old school dedicated to preserving mountain handicrafts and skills, Arrowmont is a perfect destination for creative families on your visit to the Blue Ridge. Your family will enjoy the beautiful art and craft work on display at the school’s galleries. You’ll also be able to shop for art supplies in the school store. If someone in your family that’s over 18 is intersted in learning a new skill, check out the school’s list of classes and workshops.
Natural Adventures on the Blue Ridge Parkway:
North Carolina’s mountains are teaming with minerals of all kinds. Learn about the area’s resources with this interactive museum that’s perfect for your little geologist.
13. Cades Cove
Cades Cove was once a home to a mountain community, but is now one of the most visited places in the Smoky Mountains. It’s also home to a plethora of wild life. These creatures are the reason so many people visit the area. Cades Cove has an 11 mile, one-way road through the community that usually takes an hour or more to complete. From your vehicle, or by foot if you decide to park and walk, you are almost guaranteed to see at least a few deer or other animals. On my family’s most recent trip to the area, I counted at least 22 deer, including several teeny spotted fawns! If you’re looking for a place to get your kids close to nature, pack some snacks and take a drive through Cades Cove
Fun Festival adventures on the Blue Ridge Parkway:
A rain or shine festival of Americana, Folk, Blues, Rock, Jazz, and Soul music. The festival is usually held in September.
Celebrate the Scottish heritage of many of the Blue Ridge residents at this premier gathering of the Scottish Clans. You’ll be delighted with traditional dancing, piping, drumming, athletic competitions, and much more. The Games are held each July.
Celebrate the onset of fall and apple season in the heart of North Carolina’s Apple Country. Taking over downtown Hendersonville for four days, you’ll find everything from live bands to a parade and a street fair. While you’re in the area, stop by our favorite growers: Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard!
This craft fair brings artisans from the Southern Highland Craft Guild to an event filled with traditional handmade items. You’ll be able to see everything from pottery to woodworking. The event is a beautiful sight to behold, and is very inspiring for creative children to attend. Located in downtown Asheville, the Craft Fair is held one weekend in July and one weekend in October each year.
Admission: 12 and under – Free, Adults – $8
More Adventure Learning Posts from TCHSL:
Join our FREE newsletter!
Join the This Crazy Homeschool Life blog family to get updates, free printables, and more!