Fun Things to Do in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids
Attractions,  Family Friendly

15 Fun Things to Do in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids

Asheville strives to be an inclusive community, and each year, new organizations make the “welcome to all” slogan a tangible reality, creating spaces for those with additional needs because of a medical, emotional, or learning difference. 

From gyms offering safe sensory experiences for all to special needs farm days, Halloween and holiday events, accessible trails, and supporting shops hiring disabled folks, there are many fun things to do with neurodivergent and disabled kids in Asheville.

Differences add so much richness to human diversity. It’s comforting to know that we all have something unique to share with the world, and nobody else has it. Differences bring so much wisdom and love to the community. 

While I use the generic terms “disabled” and “neurodivergent” and a person-first approach to language, there are other terms people will use to describe themselves. Hence, it’s always best to ask when possible.

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15 Fun Things to Do in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids

1. Enjoy Sensory-Safe Play at We Rock the Spectrum

Fun Things to Do in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids: We Rock the Spectrum Asheville
Image courtesy of We Rock the Spectrum Asheville 

Motivated by their daughter’s diagnosis as a child with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder, the Albanos, owners of We Rock the Spectrum Asheville, made their dream of creating a safe, fun, and clean gym for all kids come true.

The gym offers 12 specialized pieces of sensory equipment, including a zip line, zip box, crash pits, a trampoline, a tunnel, a climbing structure, and fun swings. While the space was designed with neurodivergent kids in mind, all kids have equal fun while exercising and stimulating their senses. 

Rock the Spectrum Asheville hosts story times, classes for kids, character parties, and parents’ nights out. Follow them on Instagram to get updates about their upcoming events, including their inclusive holiday events. 

Location: 63 Turtle Creek Dr, Asheville. 


2. Hunt Treasures at Madame Clutterbucket’s

Best Things to Do in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids: Madame Clutterbucket
Image courtesy of Madame Clutterbucket’s

One of the reasons I love shopping at Madame Clutterbucket’s Neurodiverse Universe is that I never know what I will find. They have all kinds of fun stuff, and I tend to leave the store super happy and in possession of the most random items, plus a shopping list of 200 things for my next visit. 

The best part? They employ adults with disabilities to run the shop, which promotes inclusivity and diversity in the workplace and increases visibility. 

From eclectic vintage toys and extravagant games (“Porno or Pacino” or “Rude Hand Gestures Around the World,” anyone?) to disability advocacy clothing, cool dog accessories, oracle decks, and pride items, I can guarantee you’ll have a memorable time exploring the shelves.

They also have a collection of neurodivergent arts and crafts, sensory fidgets and toys, and a fun collection of T-shirts with “Keep Asheville Weird” in every color. 

Location: 21 Battery Park Ave, Ste 101, Asheville. 


3. Get a Treat from Annie B’s Homemade Ice Cream

Fun Things to do in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids: Annie B's Homemade Ice cream
Image courtesy of Annie B’s Homemade Ice Cream

Annie B’s Homemade Ice Cream in Arden is another local business creating jobs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. By supporting it, you’ll empower your neighbors, increase diversity in the workplace, and have one of the most delicious ice creams in town. 

You can visit the shop, where they have soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch. You’ll love the ice cream pies, flights, and sundaes, but the highlight will be the super-friendly service.

Another option is to call them to see the closest place to buy their goodies. Madame Clutterbuckets’ Neurodiverse Universe (the store I mentioned above) carries cookies and ice cream sandwiches, and that’s how I found out about this excellent shop. 

Location: 64 Long Shoals Rd, Arden.


4. Join Special Needs Farm Day at Olive Branch 

Fun Things to do in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids: Olive Branch
Image courtesy of Olive Branch

Olive Branch Cattle Company is a family-run farm in the foothills of Western North Carolina, offering hands-on experiences for all, from school trips to birthday parties and private tours. Still, the most popular event is Special Needs Farm Day.

Inspired by Olive, one of their daughters, the owners partnered with other local businesses to host Special Needs Farm Day, which is packed with calming therapeutic experiences, including petting adorable farm animals! The fee is extremely affordable, and caregivers can enter for free.

As the owners say: “This is an event full of smiles, sign language, mobility devices, and a lot of fun!” They are also working on becoming 100 percent handicap accessible and fostering the all-ability mindset. 

Location: 3259 Goose Creek Rd, Marion. 


5. Enjoy the Views from Mount Mitchell

Activities in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids: Mount Mitchell State Park

At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell State Park is the highest point east of the Mississippi. The 35-mile route from Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway offers one of the most scenic drives in Western North Carolina. There are many overlooks where you can park, picnic, catch the sunset, and enjoy the beautiful views. 

The state park is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. While the views from the parking lot are incredible, a 0.5-mile paved ADA-accessible trail leads to the observation deck at the top, offering epic 360-degree vistas. There is a gift shop, a restaurant, and a small museum with educational activities for kids. Plus, the entrance is free!

Explore more accessible Blue Ridge Parkway trails for disabled and differently-abled visitors.


6. See Waterfalls from the Road

Hiking Near Asheville with Kids: Looking Glass Falls

Western North Carolina is home to thousands of waterfalls, and many of the most impressive ones are within a short drive from Asheville. Waterfalls are beautiful year-round, and exploring them is one of the must-do things in Asheville. Here are three that can be seen from the road.

Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest is one of the most famous waterfalls in the area and one of the most photographed spots in Western North Carolina. The reasons will be evident once you get to the parking lot. You don’t even need to hike to enjoy this 60-foot waterfall.

The spectacular 75-foot Dry Falls‘ name comes from the short trail that allows folks to walk behind the waterfall and remain dry. The walkway is paved and accessible, and the falls are also visible from the viewing deck.

Beautiful Glassmine Falls can be seen from a distance and only during periods of rain, which makes them magical and mysterious. There is no public access to the waterfall, but the Glassmine Falls Overlook offers an impressive view.


7. Explore the French Broad River Greenway 

Asheville has an awesome system of greenways that interconnects parks and public spaces around the city. The French Broad River Greenway West is accessible and allows visitors to explore the Hominy Creek River Park, Carrier Park, and the French Broad River Park, which also has a fun dog park.

You’ll love the stroll alongside the iconic French Broad River – one of the oldest in the world – and the many opportunities to picnic, people watch, and be close to nature.

Carrier Park has been voted Asheville’s best playground many times by Mountain Xpress readers, and with 50 acres, it’s one of the biggest urban parks in town. It has many cool features, too, including communication boards for non-verbal and semi-verbal kids with autism.

The board was designed and installed by a local high school student after surveying local parents of kids with autism. Children can point at a picture on the board to express their thoughts and feelings.


8. See Animals at the WNC Nature Center

Best Things to Do in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids: WNC Nature Center

The Western North Carolina Nature Center offers fun educational opportunities to see native animals, and all of its trails, except for one, are paved and accessible. Plus, they offer free-to-borrow sensory bags with noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, and verbal cue cards. In addition, they have designated Quiet Zones and Headphone Zones. 

The WNC Nature Center is home to 60 species of wildlife living in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Most animals have either been permanently injured, can’t survive in the wild, or are endangered. You’ll have a blast watching them and learning about them! 

Location: 75 Gashes Creek Rd, Asheville.


9. Visit Asheville’s New Inclusive Playground 

The Murphy-Oakley Community Center is home to APR’s Therapeutic Recreation programs, offering recreational activities, adaptive sports, fitness programs, art classes, and many other engaging activities designed for disabled kids, teens, and adults. 

The former playground has been remodeled as a modern, all-abilities, all-ages inclusive playground that will be the perfect spot for neurodivergent and disabled kids in Asheville and families wanting to experience a diverse recreational environment. 

Location: 749 Fairview Rd, Asheville.


10. See Flowers at the NC Arboretum

Fun Things to Do in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids: Arboretum

The North Carolina Arboretum is one of the best urban gardens in Asheville, and entrance is free! There is a small parking fee per car, but you can ask for a ZOOM pass at a local library to avoid it.

The gardens feature miles of tidy and well-kept trails, including wheelchair-accessible trails in the main area, the Education Center, and the Baker Exhibit Center. Your family will love the flowers, the fall foliage, the bonsai garden, the G-scale train, and the special exhibitions.

Caregivers can request a special complimentary pass to assist a disabled person. This includes admission to the Winter Lights holiday light display, which is one of the most popular Christmas festivities in Asheville. 

Location: 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville.


11. Sign Up for Camp Tikvah 

The Asheville Jewish Community Center offers Camp Tikvah, the only autism inclusion/integration summer day camp in Western North Carolina for kids 6-12. The coolest part is that this program is intertwined with Camp Ruach, their signature summer camp, so Tikvah campers can join peer activities if pertinent.

Camp Tikvah has specially trained counselors providing a 1:1 staff-to-child ratio. The JCC features one of the best swimming pools in Asheville, and thanks to this summer camp, everyone can enjoy it!


12. Join This Sensory-Friendly Halloween Event

Cool Things to do on Halloween in Asheville: The Haunted Trail

The Haunted Trail at The Adventure Center of Asheville is one of the best Halloween events for families with young kids (3-12ish). This is a sweet outdoor show designed for little ones to have all the fun without the gore and the scare.

Your kids will love the friendly pirates and mermaids and the quiet area with a playhouse and story time. There is also a tent with games, snacks, pizza from Mellow Mushroom, ice cream, hot chocolate, face painting, and other fun activities. 

The Adventure Center donates $1 to Manna Food Bank per ticket sold. In the last two years, they have raised money for 38,400 meals! In addition, you can add a visit to the Aerial Glow Trail, which has thousands of multi-colored lights (you’ll need a separate ticket). 

The Haunted Trail offers a popular Sensory-Friendly Night, a joint effort with Camp Lakey Gap Autism Programs, featuring the same Halloween show plus additional services. More good news? They organize the annual fundraising Zipping for Autism to support efforts to get early diagnosis and treatment. 


13. Go to Venardos Circus’ Sensory-Friendly Show

Fun Things to Do in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids: Venardos Circus
Image courtesy of Venardos Circus

Attending a Venardos Circus performance has become one of the most popular things to do in Asheville in November. They set up the tent near the Asheville Outlets at the beginning of the month and offer an exciting, intimate, animal-free show for about two weeks each year.

They succeed at creating an experience that “transports you back to the golden days of the traveling circus.” The great news is they offer a sensory-friendly show with the same magical fun but less lighting and sound stimulation.


14. Take Christmas Photos with Appalachian Santa 

Best Things to Do in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids: Appalachian Santa

Appalachian Santa is the best! He’s at the Asheville Outlets yearly, ready to pose for photos with kids, adults, and beloved furry family members. He’s known in the community for embodying Santa’s spirit of compassion, love, and joy.

The regular schedule at the outlets includes a portion dedicated to families with children with autism and other special needs to enjoy this classic Christmas tradition in a calmer environment. Plus, you’ll get a free 4×6 photo and digital download.


15. Support the Open Heart Arts Center 

Activities in Asheville with Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids: Open Heart Arts Center

While the nonprofit Open Heart Arts Center only provides workshops and classes to neurodivergent and disabled adults in Asheville, it’s an awesome place to visit and shop for local art. All the sales are split 50/50 between the artist and the center to cover the costs of the materials. You’ll adore these diverse art pieces! 

Location: 217 Coxe Ave #4006, Asheville.

There you have it! The best things to do in Asheville with neurodivergent and disabled kids. Do you have anything to add to this list? Please let us know in the comments!


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Born in Argentina, Laura is a journalist who's lived in Asheville for 10 years. She loves all things Asheville, from the vast business scene to the beautiful nonprofits, magical people, and marvelous nature. She loves being involved in projects that are the change she wants to see in the world.

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