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.

Open 361 Days a Year: 10:00am – 5:00pm, last entry 4:30pm

Schools & Groups

The WNC Nature Center is a great place for a field trip! View 60 species of native animals (including river otter, black bear, cougar, red wolf, and gray wolf), enjoy the outdoors, and get involved in STEM.

Program Offerings

All Guided Programs are available Monday through Friday, from August to April. No programs are available in May. Self Guided Visits and In-School Programs are available all year! 

Opportunities for Groups of 10 or More Students:

Guided Programs, 30 Minutes

Discovery Programs: Interactive Nature Experiences

Snakes and Turtles

Grade Level:  K – 12th
NC Essential Standards: K.L.1.1, 1.L.2.2, 2.L.1.1, 3.L.1.1, 4.L.1.2, 5.L.1.2, 6.L.2.3, 7.L.1.4, 8.L.3.2

What makes reptiles special?  Explore the ecology and biology of turtles and snakes in this hands-on session.  Compare and contrast native reptiles through discussion and age-appropriate games/activities. You’ll even get to meet a couple of our live animal ambassadors!

Wild Tales

Grade Level:  K – 1st
NC Essential Standards: K.L.1.2, SL.K.2, 1.L.1.1-2, SL.1.2

Animals have been a part of stories from ancient legends to modern bedtime tales. Join us for a Cherokee story with an exploration of the natural history of the featured native animals.  Students will take part in the tale and meet some living animal characters.

Masters of Metamorphosis

Grade Level: K – 2nd
NC Essential Standards: K.L.1.2, 1.L.2.2, 2.L.1.1-2

Metamorphosis is nature’s special way of growing up for insects and amphibians. Meet a live animal “metamorphosis master,” role play the life cycle of a butterfly, and sculpt a tadpole into a frog.

Down on the Farm

Grade Level:  K – 4th
NC Essential Standards: K.L.1-2, 1.L.1, 2.L.1.1, 4.L.1.2-3

Discover the steps of wool production, play a sleuth game with farm clues, and be a bee in a pollination simulation. This adventure connects animals to agribusiness, food production, and even human culture. Teacher/chaperone participation required.

Nature At Night

Grade Level:  2nd – 6th
NC Essential Standards: 2.P.1.2, 3.L.1.2, 4.L.1.4, 5.L.2.3, 6.L.2.3

Nature doesn’t go to sleep at night – owls, opossums, and a whole different cast of animals come out after the sun goes down.  Analyze unique survival adaptations such as camouflage, hearing, sight, and echolocation as you compare your senses with those of local nocturnal animals.

Pollinator Partnerships

Grade Level:  3rd – 5th
NC Essential Standards: 3.L.1.2, 4.L.1.2, 5.L.2.3

Do you enjoy apples, tomatoes, or blueberries?  If so, you can thank a pollinator! Learn all about the insects, birds, and other animals whose mutually beneficial relationship with certain flowers produce the fruits and seeds that we and many other animals enjoy.

Tools and Turtles

Grade Level:  3rd – 8th
NC Essential Standards: 3.L.1, 4.L.1.4, 5.L.2.1, 7.L.1.4, 8.L.3.1

Want to be a veterinarian? There’s a lot to learn about animals, but you also need to learn the right tools. Discover some of the implements ‘vets’ use and how to take measurements, practice your skills on a model turtle, and meet a live turtle ambassador.

Guided Programs, 60 Minutes

Investigation Programs: Hands-on Animal Science

*All Investigation Programs require teacher/chaperone participation.

Crafting A Habitat

Grade Level: K – 1st
NC Essential Standards: K.L.1.2, 1.L.1.1, 1.L.2.2

What does an animal really need? Take a mini-tour to analyze how the Nature Center designs habitats for some of our resident animals.  Students will then put their creativity to the test by working in teams to construct their own model habitats.

Life Cycles

Grade Level: 2nd
NC Essential Standards: 2.L.1.1-2

Investigate metamorphosis and other changes animals experience as they grow. Match the stages of various animals from newborn to adult, observe and sketch a living life cycle, and role play the life cycle of a bird.

Locomotion: Anatomy & Physiology

Grade Level: 3rd
NC Essential Standards: 3.L.1.1

Examine animal movement through multiple stations. Compare and contrast anatomical differences between animal species. Move like an animal to discover the various muscle groups within our body. Calculate how far animals travel in our Migration Map challenge. Create an animal’s story using tracks.

“Dirt” and Decomposers

Grade Level: 1st – 3rd
NC Essential Standards: 1.E.2, 3.L.2.4 

Get the “dirt” on soil.  Investigate the living and nonliving components of soil, compare different types of soil, and discern the who, how and why of decomposition.  You’ll even get to meet a few living soil residents.

Avian Attributes

Grade Level: 4th
NC Essential Standards: 4.L.1.2, 4.L.1.4

Examine the world of birds to explore how animals’ adaptations help them survive. Students observe and analyze a live raptor and then work collaboratively to construct a unique species from a mix of bird heads, bodies, and feet, plus describe the habitat needs of their animal creation.

Zoo Ecosystems

Grade Level: 5th
NC Essential Standards: 5.L.2.1-3

How do we recreate a habitat for a wild animal? Go behind the scenes to see how we create homes for our resident animals accounting for biotic, abiotic, and human factors, then work collaboratively to design your own habitat for species that could live at the Nature Center in the future.

Prehistoric Appalachians

Grade Level: 4th – 8th
NC Essential Standards: 4.E.2, 8.E.2, 8.L.4.1

Red panda, tapir, alligator, and rhino – not species you’d expect to find here today, but all are found as fossils in our region. Explore how fossils are formed, the tools and methods scientists use to study fossils, and what fossils can tell us about the prehistoric Appalachians.

Wild About Wildlife Guided Tour

Grade Level: 1st – 12th
NC Essential Standards: Coming Soon!

Learn more about native wild animals as you tour animal habitats and visit the fox, raccoon, cougar, bobcat, coyote, and wolf habitats. Natural science concepts such as behavioral adaptations, food chains, communication and other survival techniques will be covered.

Self Guided Visits

Our 42-acre wildlife park houses more than 150 animals native to the mountains of North Carolina. During a self guided visit, you can explore the Nature Center at your own pace and use our animals and facilities to meet your own educational goals. Sketch the cougar, practice map reading skills, go on an animal alphabet search, or just have fun exploring! We also offer short, free public programs each day at an animal habitat open to all visitors.  Age-appropriate scavenger hunts will be emailed upon registration.

In-School Field Trip Programs

The WNC Nature Center also offers in-school field trips within 50 miles of Asheville, NC. Let our outreach educator bring hands-on programs and living animal ambassadors to your classroom. 

If you have questions, please contact Jordan Rutherford in advance at jrutherford@ashevillenc.gov or 828-259-8081. A reservation is required to guarantee Group rates. To request an Academic Group Field Trip, use the Reserve Tab at the top of this page.

Group Fees

Academic Groups (Public, private, or home school groups with a reservation of 10 or more students for Admission Only/Self Guided Tour):

  • School groups within Asheville City (preK-12th grade): $4.00 per student or adult
  • Schools groups outside Asheville City, including Buncombe County (preK-12th grade): $5.00 per student or adult
  • School teachers, teacher assistants, and commercial bus drivers receive free admission.
  • Friends of the WNC Nature Center Members or any other affiliated zoo memberships are not valid with a group reservation.  

Scheduled Educational Programs (add this to the Academic Group Admission Fee above)

  • $1 per program per student and/or adult chaperone
Non-Academic Groups
  • Each group of 10 or more paying individuals will receive a 50-cent discount on adult and senior admissions. Children ages 3-15 are admitted at the regular rate, and children 2 and younger are admitted free. 
  • Please collect all admission fees from paying individuals and submit one payment only per group. Individual participants paying for themselves at our Front Ticket Office will pay full admission rates. 
  • Friends of the WNC Nature Center Members or any other affiliated zoo memberships are not valid with a group reservation.  
  • Please ask all members of your party to arrive at the same time prior to entering the Nature Center grounds.   

Program Reservation Inquiry

Plan your field trip using the Guided Programs Tab, then complete and submit the form below to request a field trip. A reservation is required to guarantee group rates. Submitting this form does not guarantee your reservation. You may also email jrutherford@ashevillenc.gov or call the Education Department at 828-259-8081 if you have questions.

Planning Your Field Trip

  • Use the tabs above to estimate admission and program fees, learn about guided programs of interest, and request a group reservation. 
  • If you have questions, email jrutherford@ashevillenc.gov or call the Nature Center Education Department at 828-259-8081.
  • Use the resources below to prepare for and make the most out of your field trip to the Nature Center!
  • Information about field trip concessions and souvenir bags can be found in Things to Know Before Your Field Trip.

Payment & Cancellations

Academic Group Payment:

    • Full payment for guided program fees is due 14 days prior to the scheduled reserved arrival date. One non-refundable payment for the entire group must be made for both students and adult parent chaperones. Teachers, teacher assistants, and bus drivers of private and public schools are given free admission.  Please pay admissions fees on the day of your field trip to ensure you are paying for the exact number of attending students.
    • Payments are accepted as check or credit card (Visa or MasterCard). Make check payable to the WNC Nature Center. An Invoice will be included with your Reservation Confirmation. Teachers will be notified of their payment status prior to arrival via email.
    • Any adult wishing to pay directly at the door on the day of arrival will be charged the full admission fee of $10.95 + 7% tax/person.  If the lead teacher collects payment from all the adults and submits this payment on check-in, chaperones receive the discounted rate described above.
    • The Nature Center will remain open rain or shine. Have your students dress appropriately. Should the WNC Nature Center close during your scheduled event for any reason, we will reschedule your event or reimburse your organization in full.
    • Friends of the WNC Nature Center Family Memberships or any other affiliated zoo memberships are not valid with a school reservation.

Non-Academic Group Payment:

    • Please collect all admission fees from paying individuals and submit one payment only per group. 
    • Payments are accepted as check or credit card (Visa or MasterCard). Make check payable to the WNC Nature Center. 
    • Friends of the WNC Nature Center Members any other affiliated zoo memberships are not valid with a group reservation.


If a group must cancel a scheduled visit, please call the Nature Center at least 14 days prior to the scheduled arrival.  A service fee of $50.00 will be applied to all cancellations less than 14 days from reserved arrival date. The Nature Center remains open rain or shine. When cancelling, please speak directly to a Nature Center staff person by calling 828-259-8081 or email the information to jrutherford@ashevillenc.gov. Call 828-259-8081 between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm to cancel.