UPDATE: The WNC Nature Center has been working diligently to prepare for a safe reopening that follows CDC, State, and local guidelines. From September 28 to October 4, there will be a members-only week for Friends of the WNC Nature Center. We will reopen to the general public on Monday, October 5. Learn more here.

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

Some high-touch Nature Play areas have been temporarily closed as a safety precaution.

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, less aggressive, 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.

Scavenger Hunts

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 been temporarily closed 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

Gift Shop hours are Monday through Saturday, 10:00am to 12:30pm and 1:00pm to 4:30pm, and Sunday from 12:30pm 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 percent discount on purchases.

Stop by the Nature Center Gift Shop to

  • Purchase mining roughage for the mining sluice
  • Check out Nature Play Packs (free)
  • Check out KultureCity Sensory Bags (free)
  • Rent a Wild Wagon stroller (limited availability)


The picnic area has been temporarily closed as a safety precaution. There is a picnic shelter at the nearby Asheville Recreation Park (located on the Nature Center map).

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.