Explore and Learn at the Western North Carolina Nature Center

by Carrie McLaren with 2 comments

While researching and planning last month’s visit to Asheville, I knew I wanted to incorporate a little education into our trip– all while having fun, of course!

I lived in the Western North Carolina area during college, so I was familiar with the animals and plant life that made up the area, but I wanted my children to learn about it too.

WNC Nature Center Entrance

The Western North Carolina Nature Center is home to 42 acres and over 60 species of animals with educational exhibits, great walking trails and beautiful views. And it was the perfect place to spend our morning — admist the trees and fantastic weather — in summertime!

Some friends that live in Asheville have season passes and decided to join us for our visit. Little Ethan was the perfect host — showing us all of his favorite spots at the park.

Western North Carolina Nature Center - Flower

Here’s a look at our fun morning exploring the Western North Carolina Nature Center and what you can expect on your visit —

Time to Explore

As you leave the main center, take time to visit the butterfly garden and the indoor Appalachian Station where you’ll find a variety of snakes and frogs. I loved that each of the window displays had an adjacent step for kids to get a better view. I even caught Maggie taking pictures with her own camera!

I loved that each of the window displays had an adjacent step for kids to get a better view. I even caught Maggie taking pictures with her own camera!

WNC Nature Center - Appalachian Station

Wolves, Bears, Otters and More!

One of the things I was most excited to see at the WNC Nature Center? Wolves! And while they were tough to catch on camera (they were constantly moving!), I’ll admit I didn’t really know that much about them.

A few facts I learned during our visit —

  • Since 1990, 13 red wolf pups have been born at the WNC Nature Center. This accounts for 3% of the total worldwide population.
  • In the early 1900s, gray wolves were found in 35 of the 50 states. Today, that number is only nine.

WNC Nature Center - Wolves

The Otter Falls area of the nature center brought a lot of laughs as we watched the otters sliding around their area. They were so active and standing up on their back legs to get a better look around the park.

This area also had a fun play area for kids – complete with slides for practicing otter moves. Tons of seating areas with views of the otters too.

WNC Nature Center Collage 2

When we made our way over to the Black Bear Ridge area, Maggie squealed out loud — and honestly, so did I. She had never seen a bear — and the ones at the WNC Nature Center were active and she loved watching them. It was pretty impressive to see.

Other animals we saw during our visit — hawks, owls, bobcats and in the farm area of the center, we saw sheep, donkeys, goats, chickens and more. There’s no shortage of animals — we even took part in an animal encounter session with a nature guide.

WNC Nature Center - Animal Encounter

Hands-On Fun at the Western North Carolina Nature Center

In addition to the great learning opportunities, we took advantage of the cooler weather and explored the hands-on fun. From playgrounds to puppet theaters, building blocks and exploring musical instruments made from wood and rocks — there was plenty of fun to be had at the park.

This is a place you definitely don’t want to forget your camera. So many fun places to capture your kids in action!

Western North Carolina Nature Center Quad Collage

I wish I had planned better for our visit and brought along a picnic lunch. There were plenty of picnic tables throughout the park — just perfect for a family lunch! While there is no snack bar or food vendors, the park has plenty of vending machines with juices and snacks available for purchase. Plus, Whole Foods offers cold lunch options in the cabin gift shop.

We enjoyed a nice break during our time at the park — and it was the perfect ‘pick me up’ for more playtime on the playgrounds!

Western North Carolina Nature Center (WNC Nature Center)

Learn More About the Western North Carolina Nature Center

Ready to plan your visit to the WNC Nature Center? Visit their website at www.wncnaturecenter.com where you’ll find information on operating hours, upcoming events and a helpful map of the nature center.

Also be sure to follow along with the WNC Nature Center Facebook page and over on Twitter at @WNCNatureCenter – they post some fun pictures of the animals that call the WNC Nature Center their home.

The WNC Nature Center is also a part of the AZA Passport Reciprocity program – so if you are a member of your hometown zoo or aquarium, you may receive discounted admission at the nature center!

Are You Ready to Visit the WNC Nature Center? 


** My family and I received complimentary admission to the Western North Carolina Nature Center. Thoughts and opinions here are my own. ** 


  • Barbara Robinson

    Enjoy your information! Do you have info on NYC in November for travel with children.

  • Oreeexy



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