July 21, 2021, 10:19 a.m.

4 Great Family Activities in the Blue Ridge Mountains

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The Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina are a great destination for all ages! With miles of trails and endless forests, this area is an outdoor wonderland well worth exploring on foot, bike or horseback.

The region is rich in natural beauty and cultural history alike, and these activities rank at the top of our list for adults and kids alike. Check out these ideas for your next family vacation to the mountains:

1. Gem Mining

Gem mining at Emerald Village

Take your crew to hunt for buried treasure at a local gem mine, where everyone is sure to walk away with a few sparkling discoveries. At Emerald Village, your family can tour a historic mineral mine — ask about the Blacklight Tours — and then prospect for gems at the mining sluice.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway nearby, the Museum of North Carolina Minerals highlights the role of mining in the region’s history through hands-on exhibits.

2. Waterfall Hunting

It’s hard to beat that feeling of awe when you come around a curve in the trail to see a rushing waterfall cascading down a mountainside. Luckily, there are several falls nearby that feature short, easy trails perfect for younger explorers.

Check out the 80-foot wonder of Tom’s Creek Falls off US Hwy 221, and be sure to take a peek at the old mica mine along the side of the trail. Catawba Falls near Old Fort is another family favorite — a 3-mile out-and-back trail leads to a 340-foot double waterfall! Or drive up to Linville Falls to see three tiers of waterfalls as they crash down into Linville Gorge.

3. Indoor Fun & Games

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Perfect for rainy days or a change of pace, check out the Feisty Goldfish in Marion, where the whole family can enjoy 30+ retro arcade games, giant chess and Jenga, foosball, darts and video games. Please note that this establishment is grown-ups-only (18+) after 9 p.m.

For more old-school fun, head over to Marion Hot Wheelz skating rink, or stop by the Historic Carson House to step back in time. It's a fun and educational way to spend a few hours.

4. Historic Orchard at Altapass

Take a step back in time when you visit this 100-year-old historic orchard, located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Enjoy live music, dancing and storytelling on Saturdays and Sundays in summer, plus lawn games and walking trails. Head over to the general store for a sweet treat — the favorite is hot apple pie with ice cream! U-pick apples are available in the fall.

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