Open 361 Days a Year: Admissions 10:00am – 3:30pm; park closes at 4:30pm


The WNC Nature Center offers a range of fun opportunities for people of all ages, including daily animal programs, interactive Nature Play areas, and hands-on learning activities.

Daily Animal Programs

Animal programs have been temporarily suspended to limit crowding  around habitats.

The Nature Center provides short, free public animal programs each day. Depending on the program, you’ll have a chance to see the otters feed, hear the backstory of our screech owl, touch a snake or turtle, and more!

To find out the animal programs for the day, you can call the Nature Center on the day of your visit at 828-259-8080 or view the daily schedule inside the barn when you arrive.

The Nature Center also hosts a variety of family friendly special events throughout the year.

Nature Center staff show a turtle to children during an Animal Education program.
Making a sunflower out of found nature items through nature play.

Nature Play Packs

Access to Nature Play Packs has been temporarily suspended as a safety precaution.

One of the most important things a child can do is explore! We offer Nature Play Packs to help facilitate exploration and learning at the Nature Center. Our packs are appropriate for a variety of ages, starting with children as young as three! 

There are four different play themes:

  • Explore Outdoors (ages 3+)
  • Fairy Houses (ages 3+)
  • Junior Veterinarian (ages 3-8)
  • Fort Building (ages 8+)

Packs are free to rent, but materials are limited, so swing by the Gift Shop on your way in to check one out today!

Nature Play Areas

Find out just how fun nature can be! Studies show children who play outside are more physically active, more creative and imaginative in their play, and show better concentration. 

Practice your poise on natural balance beams, get in tune with nature with wooden drums and a xylophone, slide like an otter, paint with water, build a chute, construct a fort, and more. 

Nature Play areas are designated on the Nature Center maps by a green box with a white “play” icon inside.

Nature Play areas
A father and son look for animals.

Activity Sheets

Activity sheets and scavenger hunts are available for you to download and print on your own before you come. The Nature Center cannot provide print copies, clipboards, or pencils for this activity.


Gem & Fossil Mining

The mining sluice has reopened at two-thirds capacity as a safety precaution.

Pan for gems or fossils in our mining sluice! Mining roughage is available for purchase in the Nature Center Gift Shop.

Family gem mining at the Nature Center
Plush animals and tshirts in the Nature Center Gift Shop

Gift Shop

The Gift Shop is open Monday to Sunday from 10:00am to 4:30 pm.

Located near to the Front Entrance, the Nature Center Gift Shop offers a variety of souvenirs, apparel, toys, plush animals, jewelry, and snacks. Friends of the WNC Nature Center members receive a 10% discount on purchases.

Stop by the Nature Center Gift Shop to

  • Purchase mining roughage for the mining sluice — currently open at 2/3 capacity for social distancing
  • Check out Nature Play Packs (free) — not currently available
  • Rent a Wild Wagon stroller (limited availability) — not currently available


Guests are welcome to enjoy a picnic at our picnic areas near the Birthday Cabin on the second level of the park. Snacks and drinks are also available for purchase at the Nature Center Gift Shop and vending machines. 

You may also leave the park to visit a variety of nearby restaurants and reenter the same day with your ticket receipt.

Picnic Area at the Nature Center.