Discover the Western North Carolina Nature Center

Discover the Western North Carolina Nature Center

Tucked away in the beautiful North Carolina mountains just minutes from downtown Asheville you'll find one of North Carolina's best kept secrets. The Western North Carolina Nature Center is one of those places that kids and adults alike will fall in love with. If you've never been to the Western North Carolina Nature Center, now is the perfect time to start planning your visit! Lets get started planning your visit to this wonderful family-friendly attraction. 

A Little History

Many visitors to Asheville and local residents alike have memories of the “old zoo,” which had been in Asheville since the Great Depression. The original Asheville Zoo housed exotic animals including elephants, lions, and monkeys. However, because of financial hardships, the old zoo had to sell or give most of the animals to other zoos.  

What is now the Friends of the WNC Nature Center, a 501c3 non-profit charity, was formed as the “Western North Carolina Zoological Society” in October 1974, and with the Center staff, developed the mission statement: "To educate the public about the natural history, flora and fauna of the Southern Appalachians and to develop public responsibility for its conservation." The Center is now home to over sixty species of wild and domestic animals and hundreds of species of plants, all representative of this unique bio-region of the Southern Appalachians. The Center is currently operated by the City of Asheville Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Arts Department.

Getting There

Getting to the nature center is easy from any of our vacation rentals. The Nature center is just minutes from downtown and is an easy adventure to fit into your day. 

75 Gashes Creek Rd, 

Asheville NC 28805

Office open daily 10:00am-5:00pm

What to Expect

While visiting the nature center, you will have the exciting opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the mountains most interesting creatures! Since most of the animals at the center have been rehabilitated due to injuries, were abandoned, or otherwise have not lived in the wild, the animals are very comfortable with humans. What does this mean for you as a visitor? It means you get to have very up close and personal encounters with these wonderful animals in exhibits that mimic their natural habitat! One of our favorites is seeing the bear! What's yours? Leave a comment to let us know what's your favorite exhibit.

You will also have access to exhibits that explain our local ecosystem and educational presentations about your favorite animals. Make sure to check out the river otter exhibit... a favorite amongst visitors! 

Want to take a quick tour? Check out the video below to see a little snippet of the Western North Carolina Nature Center. 

Summer Camps for the Kids

Did you know the nature center has some wonderful summer camps for the kids? That's right mom and dad! If you're looking for something for the kids to do during your Asheville mountains vacation, then we have just the place for them. And guess what? Sign up begins today, February 17th, 2020! 


Camp is available for kids in grades first through fourth grade. 

Fees are as follows:

Registration is $200 per child per week. Friends of the WNC Nature Center Members receive a $25 discount. After Care is $50/week for Members and Non-members.


Monday – Friday, 8:30 am – 3:00 pm (arrival time 8:15-8:30 am) After Care – 3:00-5:00 pm (additional fee, see below)

Visiting with Children with Special Needs

Sensory bags are available for free for parents of children with autism or sensory processing disorders. Free sensory bags can be signed out at the gift shop upon entering the center. They are sponsored by KultureCity, a national non-profit and include headphones, a fidget toy, and a feelings chart. How great is that?

Tips for Families

Picnic Area

There is a great picnic area for families, so feel free to bring a lunch and save a few bucks! There are concessions on site also, so if you would like to eat at the center you have a couple of different options. 


There is a lot of walking at the nature center, so be sure to bring a stroller for the little ones. If you do not have one they can be rented on site. 


There are restrooms by the ticket booth that are convenient and handicap accessible. 

Petting Zoo

The small petting zoo portion of the nature center is a favorite for kids, but remember it closes at 4:00 p.m. 

Are you ready to "go wild" and book your Asheville vacation? If so, there is always time to find a great deal on a beautiful cabin or perhaps a downtown cottage! No matter what when you want to visit, this spring and summer are wonderful times to visit our lovely city. Give us a call today at 828-274-6978 and let us help you make your Asheville vacation dreams come true. 

Discover the Western North Carolina Nature Center

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