For Children

Highlands Nature Center

The Highlands Nature Center is a great place for children and adults alike to learn about the natural history of our mountains. The building itself is constructed of local granite and chestnut timbers from our surrounding Nantahala National Forest. Inside, a variety of permanent exhibits include live reptiles and amphibians, and a polished cross section of an ancient hemlock, dating back to 1489 by its growth rings. It also serves as the starting point for several trails and access to the Highlands Botanical Gardens. In addition, the center has an impressive lineup of programs that offer opportunities to learn about and experience first hand our local wildlife. From Salamander Meanders that take place at night to tours of the gardens and trails to lectures by renowned Conservation leader Bob Zahner. Many of the summer classes are geared specifically towards children. Here is a small sample of what you youngster can enjoy. Junior Ecologist - They can discover what field biologists do from studying pond life, assessing forest habitats, collecting insects, to taking inventory of small mammals. Mountain Explorer - Travel off the beaten path and go on hiking adventures to off-site locations in the Nantahala National Forest. They learn to read maps and use a compass while developing teamwork skills. WOW! (World of Wonder) - The natural world is an amazing place, your child will have fun and learn as they play nature games, hike through the woods, search for critters and explore ponds and streams. Amazing Animals - How do birds fly? What is a mammal? Can a turtle come out of its shell? Are spiders insects? Nature Works- What are the different parts of a forest? What do predators do and eat? What are the basic needs of wildlife? Your child will learn the inner workings of “mother nature” through various interactive games and activities. Space is limited for all the classes, so be sure to book in advance.
Phone: 828052602623

Children`s Art Classes

Young artists get special attention at The Bascom when it comes to expanding and using their artistic skills. Throughout the school years, art classes give children a chance to be creative, but the fun doesn’t end there. When summer comes, the art classes are expanded to entertain and educate students from preschool to teenagers. Artventure Summer Camp is designed to inspire joy, confidence and pride for children in kindergarten and first grade. Projects use paint, paper, scissors, glue, crayons, pastels, papier-mache, fabric and clay. Work is inspired by personal experiences, observation and imagination. Art Odyssey Summer Camp is geared to children in grades two through five. It encourages children to develop a personal expression of art and explores a more in-depth use of materials and artistic techniques. Projects include papier-mache, clay, sculpture, painting and printmaking. Art Attack Summer Camp is designed for students in grades six through nine. Students works in mixed media including painting, jewelry, graphics, cartooning, clay, 3-D design and textile. There is emphasis on the purpose of art in society, on the different forms of art and how visual art affects people. Artrageous is a young adult independent summer study for high functioning disabled adults. Students come with a pictures or enthusiasm for a project and work in the medium of their choice. The Bascom welcomes participants no matter what level of expertise or high functioning disability.
Phone: 828-526-4949

Drama Classes

Theatre isn`t just for adults in Highlands and Cashiers, children get ot have fun on the stage as well. From full length performances to acting classes, the local theater groups strive to inspire young thespians. The Highlands Playhouse children`s theater program is usually in July of every summer and includes instruction by theater educators for youngsters between the ages of 6 and 16. The program finishes with a community perfomance. In addition, both the Highlands Playhouse and the Highlands Cashiers Players productions include roles for younger actors. Auditions are held several months before each performance and those interested in these roles may contact the Highlands Playhouse at 828-526-2695 or the Highlands Cashier Players at 828-526-8084.
Phone: 828-526-2695 or 526-8084

Cliffside Lake and Van Hook Glade

These are only about four miles from Main Street Highlands on Highway 64 West (the Franklin Road). A great place to take the kids for a picnic and a walk in the woods. Cliffside Lake: Amenities include two covered picnic shelters that must be reserved, a bathhouse with cold showers, a lake for fishing and swimming, a gazebo and six short hiking trails. Van Hook Glade: Amenities include twenty camp sites in this Forest Service campground with parking spurs, fireplaces, tables and tent pads. Water hydrants and drinking water is available within walking distance of each site. There are flush toilets but no showers.
Location: Highway 64 West about 4 miles from town

Gem Mining

Jackson Hole Trading Post: Located 9 miles from Highlands on Highway 64 West (the Franklin Road). Kids love to pan for gemstones. There is also a large gift shop and snacks. The covered pavilion where the “mining” takes place is perfect for all weather fun and it is handicap accessible. They will also cut gemstones and create jewelry
Location: Highway 64 West about 9 miles from town

Horseback Riding

Carpe Diem Farms: Nestled on 44 acres Carpe Diem Farms provides a tranquil, natural environment for solitude and holistic programs to enrich the lives of those seeking personal growth. We have served over 1,200 visitors in our after school and summer camp programs for children, as well as weekend workshops for adults. The centerpiece of the program is their herd of seven horses, their equine staff and colleagues. Give them a call to tour the farm, meet the horses, walk the labyrinth, and experience all that Carpe Diem offers. Directions: From Highlands take Highway 64 (the road to Cashiers) less than 3 miles from downtown and turn left on Buck Creek Road. Travel 4.9 miles and make a right turn onto Western Rhodes Drive which dead-ends at Carpe Diem Farms.
Phone: 828-526-2854

Whitewater Rafting

Nantahala Outdoor Center: Since 1972, NOC has shared the outdoors with millions of guests on white water river rafting trips, with all varieties of kayak and canoe instruction, on mountain bikes and around the world with our adventure travel trips. Located in western North Carolina near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NOC is within easy driving distance of Atlanta, Charlotte and Knoxville. Our world-class staff leads whitewater (some say white water!) rafting trips on nine of the East`s best rivers, including the Chattooga River, Cheoah River, French Broad River, Nantahala River, Nolichucky River, Ocoee River, Gauley River, New River and Pigeon River. Learn to whitewater paddle from the pros in our renowned canoe and kayak Paddling School. We also offer group programs, ropes courses, flat water kayaking, flyfishing and hiking.

Adventure Depot

Adventure Depot`s exclusive trips are limited to small groups and offer a cross section of exciting and inviting activities to make your trip to the mountains of North Carolina an event to remember. Adventure Depot offers fun, and reasonably priced activities, including: whitewater rafting, hiking tours, rappelling, whitewater kayaking, canoe tours, llama trekking, driving tours, fly fishing guides, horseback riding, golf packages, and biking tours. Adventure Depot also offers rentals on all of the outdoor supplies like bikes, canoes, and kayaks that you need to create your own adventures. We also sale adventure gear and fishing supplies like: rods, reels, and flies.
Phone: 828-743-2052


The Highlands Rec Park also offers swimming through Labor Day weekend, including swimming lessons for kids of all ages. The summer is also camp time and the Recreation Park has a program beginning in June and ending just before the start of the school year.
Phone: 828-526-3556