UPDATE: As of July 1, 2020, until further notice, the WNC Nature Center remains temporarily closed to the public. The Nature Center is working closely with local officials to develop a plan to safely reopen. This will most likely take place during Phase 3 of North Carolina’s Stay Safe COVID-19 order. We anticipate opening during the month of September and will update the website and our social media platforms as soon as a date is confirmed.
Adult chaperones are charged the same fee as the students as long as the fee is collected by the school administrators. Any adult or additional child wishing to pay the WNC Nature Center directly at the door on the day of arrival will be charged the full admission fees plus any applicable sales tax.
Safety and supervision comes first when visiting the Nature Center.Teachers and chaperones must stay with students and supervise at all times during the visit. The recommended chaperone/student ratio is 1:5 for grades 1-3, and 1:10 for 4th grade and up.
During your visit, your group is welcome to explore the grounds on your own, either as a whole class or in small groups with adult chaperones. No guides are available unless you have reserved our “Wild About Wildlife” guided program in advance of your field trip. While we expect our animals to be the main attraction (of course!), we offer several other activities for you to use during your visit:
Scavenger hunts are available for you to download and print on your own before you come. No copies are available in print here at the Center. If you plan on doing scavenger hunts, please make sure you bring clipboards, pencils, and enough copies for your students.
Nature Play Zones
Nature Play Zones are located throughout the park. Studies show children who play outside are more physically active, more creative and imaginative in their play, less aggressive, and show better concentration. So practice your poise on natural balance beams and stump jumps, get in tune with nature with some musical elements, slide like an otter, paint with water, and more.
The Petting Area at the barn is open most days until 4 pm (subject to close for inclement weather and animal health needs). If you stop by the petting area, please come one class at a time, leave all bags/snacks/drinks outside the petting area, and be sure to wash your hands when you are finished.
The Nature Center will remain open rain or shine. Have your child dress appropriately since 90% of our center is outdoors. Should the WNC Nature Center close during your scheduled event for an extreme weather event (snow/ice), we will reschedule your event with your teachers or reimburse your organization in full.
As for food, most schools ask that bagged lunches be sent with your child. Drink and snacks are available in vending machines on the grounds and in the Gift Shop (open 10:30am to 5:00pm or earlier upon advance request).
In addition to the Gift Shop, there is also a vending machine in the barn that houses a selection of plush wildlife ($9.00 each) and a Penny Press Machine ($0.51 cents) that has the Nature Center logo and your choice of animal design.
You can pre-order discounted souvenir bags through the Gift Shop for your field trip, as well as self-guided Gem and Fossil Mining bags for the mining sluice (open seasonally from mid-March to October). Please Fieldtrip Concessions and Souviner Bags with your reservation if you would like to order them. Payment is not required until the day of your visit and must be separate from your group admission payment.
Safety is the Nature Center’s top priority for all visitors, staff and animals. To create a safe haven for all, please do not throw items, run on the trails or make loud noises. Above all, please DO NOT FEED the animals. Visitors not abiding these safety rules will be asked to leave the Nature Center with no refund of admission fee. Teachers and chaperones must stay with students and supervise at all times and enforce the Nature Center code of conduct.
If a group must cancel a scheduled visit, please call the Nature Center at least 14 days prior to the scheduled arrival. The Nature Center remains open rain or shine. When cancelling, please speak directly to a Nature Center staff person or email the information to email@example.com. Call 828-259-8081 between 8:30am to 4:30pm to cancel.
From I-40 take exit 53B, then exit 8 off I-240. At red light, take a right on to Fairview Rd.
From I-240 take exit 8, at red light turn left on to Fairview Rd. At second light, take a right on to Highway 81 (Swannanoa River Road). Go approximately 0.7 of a mile and turn right on to Azalea Rd. Take the first right on to Gashes Creek Rd. (across bridge).
Buses should turn *right* into the first lot after the stop sign by the basketball courts and park below on the level below the barn. Do not unload buses on any of the main parking levels.
Parents with individual cars may park on either of the main parking levels. Handicap and stroller parking should park on the top level.
We look forward to seeing you soon!
~WNC Nature Center Education Department