North Carolina Arboretum
The NC Arboretum
Get Outside * Learn * Fun for Kids
The NC Arboretum is a 434 acre public garden located in South Asheville at the intersection of Brevard Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was established in 1986 as an affiliate to the University of North Carolina, but the idea for the Arboretum was originally created by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American Landscape Architecture, over a hundred years ago. Olmsted, who designed over five hundred landscape projects in America including Central Park, Yale University grounds, and the landscape around national monuments Yosemite and Niagara Falls, also landscaped George Vanderbilt’s 125,000 acre estate in Western North Carolina (much of Vanderbilt’s original estate was sold to the government by his widow Edith and is now Pisgah National Forest in which the Arboretum is located). It was during Olmsted’s tenure at this last project of his career that he was inspired by the lush biodiversity of the mountains and dreamt of building a arboretum where trees and plants could be grown for research and education.
Now, over a hundred years later, the NC Arboretum offers the public what Olmsted had dreamt about - a place for people to learn about plants. There are artwork exhibits, and educational programs, hiking and biking trails, and gardens. There is also a cafe and a visitors center where you can pick up a map of all the exhibits, gardens, and trails and visit the gift shop. The cultivated gardens include a National Azalea collection which features nearly every species native to the U.S., a Holly garden of native and non-native species, the Heritage Garden that celebrates Southern Appalachian culture, a quilt garden, a stream garden, and a world-renown Bonsai Exhibit Garden. There are also ten miles of hiking trails and a variety of biking trails.
The Arboretum also has multiple free activities for kids including providing kid-friendly GPS units for geocaching (there are 12 specially-permitted geocaches on the grounds of the Arboretum), loans of Discovery backpacks, TRACK trail guides, and iPads to help kids explore - they can even track their discoveries online and win prizes. These are all available at the visitor’s center which is open 9am-5pm daily. There is also an Ecolab with live animals, and many curated educational programs like the Wee Naturalist.
The Arboretum is the perfect place to get outside and get inspired by nature.
General Hours (See website for holidays and special events)
April – October 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. (entrance gate closes at 8 p.m.)
November – March8 a.m. – 7 p.m. (entrance gate closes at 6 p.m.)
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way
Asheville, N.C. 28806
(AVL Cheap: If you want to park at the Hard Times Trailhead and hike into the Arboretum you can avoid the parking fee. )