Top 3 Asheville Hikes


With sweeping mountains and a vast number of waterfalls, the variety of views you can see while hiking around the Asheville area is astounding.  The diversity and number of hikes around Asheville truly makes it one of the best places to go hiking in the US.  Although the number of hikes (literally hundreds of different trails) in the Asheville area is overwhelming, no need to fret.  We have done the research for you and have compiled our ‘Top 3 Asheville Hikes’ list based on our personal experience hiking each.  Read on for our best Asheville hike recommendations. 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


Top 3 Asheville Hikes: #1 Wildcat Rock 

Our number 1 top hike in Asheville recommendation is the Wildcat Rock trail. Wildcat Rock is an awesome hike as you’ll not only get sweeping mountain views at the summit but also pass a unique waterfall on the way.  This hike is 3.5 miles round trip with 1,100 feet of elevation gain.  On this trail, you first hike up on a serene wooded trail and about ⅔ of the way up on, you’ll pass Little Bearwallow Falls.  Then, you’ll continue to hike up until you reach the Wildcat Rock summit with sweeping mountain views (first picture in article).  

Scrambling and Difficulty 

Please note, there are some rock scrambles involved in this hike.  However, the scramble really only involves stepping up rocks until the very end.  At the very end of the trail to get to the viewpoint, you do have to climb up a large rock and duck under a tree.  However, we found this very manageable even carrying the kids (on our back and front) so don’t let that deter you from hiking it.  If you are able to hike to the summit, you’ll be able to climb up this rock.  

Our perception of difficulty may be a bit skewed as we were carrying a toddler and a baby up the trail, but we would rate this hike as moderate to strenuous.  It’s pretty steady incline up most of the trail.  Budget 2-3 hours to complete this hike.  This is also a great trail to see wildflowers in the late spring/early summer.

Parking, Cost & Dogs

There is a small lot to park across the street from the trailhead. This parking area serves several trailheads.  We arrived on a Saturday around 10:30 AM, and there were about 5 spots left at that time.   There is no fee to hike this trail.  Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail.   Learn more details about this hike here.

Wildcat Rock Logistics Summary

  • Length/elevation: 3.5 Miles, Out & Back, 1,100 feet of elevation gain
  • Intensity: Moderate to Strenuous
  • Cost: Free
  • Dogs: Leashed allowed

Top 3 Asheville Hikes: #2 Lookout Mountain

Our number 2 top Asheville hike is the Lookout Mountain trail. This 1.4 mile round trip hike with 600 feet of elevation is steep and a bit rocky at the top but so worth the effort for the views.  This is a great bang-for-your-buck hike. You get some of the best sweeping mountain views relatively quickly.  

Scrambling and Difficulty 

The Lookout Mountain hike is a steady climb up through the woods. The trail consists of stairs or a dirt/rock path that requires no true scrambling until the very end. For less than 0.1 miles, you will have to scramble up some rocks and use your hands to brace yourself to get to the summit.  However, it is not overly technically challenging as we were able to do this safely while baby wearing our kids.  We rate this hike as moderate. Other than the rock scramble portion of the trail and summit area, the trail is almost completely shaded (huge bonus in our eyes).  The summit has stunning expansive mountain views and there are several large rocks to sit down on to take it all in.  

Parking, Cost & Dogs

We hiked this trail on a weekday around 10 AM and only saw two other small groups of people.  This hike was so peaceful and felt like a hidden gem. There are two small gravel lots to park near the trailhead, but there are only about 10 spots available total so you may have trouble parking if it is a busy weekend day.  This hike took us about an hour to complete, including taking a 15 minute break at the top to soak in the views, take some pictures and give the kids some snacks.  There is no cost to hike this trail but at the trailhead there is a QR code you can scan to donate to Montreat for the trail maintenance and we highly encourage you to donate if you hike it as the trail is very well maintained. Dogs are allowed on a leash. 

Lookout Mountain Logistics Summary

  • Length/elevation: 1.4 Miles, Out & Back, 600 feet of elevation gain (can make longer by combining with another trail)
  • Intensity: Moderate
  • Cost: Free, donate to Montreat using QR code at trailhead
  • Dogs: Leashed allowed

Top 3 Asheville Hikes: #3 High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls

DuPont State Park Hiking

Our number 3 top Asheville hike is the High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls hike in DuPont State Park.  This hike is about 4.5 miles round trip with 490 feet of elevation gain and you see 5 waterfalls along the trail.  Each waterfall on this route is unique. High Falls is the most impressive and has several viewing points including the base.  Triple Falls is unique as it is three waterfalls that run together.  Hooker Falls is the smallest of them all, but there is a calm area of water the kids (or adults) can play in at the base.

Natalie’s favorite waterfall was High Falls, Sam’s was Triple Falls, and the kids’ favorite was Hooker falls, (because they could play in the sand and calm water at the base).  We did not stay at Hooker falls overly long though because the kids started to eat sand like it was going out of style.  Reality!

Scrambling, Difficulty and Route

The path for this hike is well groomed and easy to hike. There is no scrambling other than some slippery rocks at the base of the waterfalls (not actually part of the trail). There are several options for how to hike to High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls. We recommend parking at the main visitor center for DuPont State Park and starting the hike from there. You start by hiking to High Falls, then Triple Falls, and finally Hooker Falls.  We then recommend retracing your steps to return to the visitor center. 

Add ons/Alternatives 

This park is also home to Bridal Falls, which is featured in the first Hunger Games film. You can alternatively, do a 7.5 mile round-trip hike to High Falls, Triple Falls, and Bridal Falls. Another alternative is to only hike to Hooker Falls from the Hooker Falls parking lot. This hike is 1 mile round-trip with 140 feet of elevation gain. If you plan to spend a lot of time playing in the sand and calm water at this waterfall, this may be your best option. You also could just hike to High Falls and/or Triple Falls. As you can gather, there are various hiking options to suite your level of fitness and what your family will enjoy most at DuPont State Park.

Parking, Cost & Dogs

When you arrive at the visitor center at DuPont State Park, the staff will be able to give you a map and show you a 3-D diagram of the park. We’ve never seen anything like the 3-D diagram here, created by a local model train club, and heading into the visitor center is worth the time just to see this.  The visitors center is also the best spot to park as there is a large parking lot there. Alternatively, if full, you could park near Hooker Falls.  Both parking lots have bathroom facilities.  Parking here late morning was no issue on a weekday, but arrive early if visiting on a weekend.  We were astounded by the number of people there on a weekday.  There is no cost to park or hike here.  Dogs are allowed on leashes.    

High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls Hike Logistics Summary

  • Length/elevation: 4.5 Miles, Out & Back, 490 feet of elevation gain
  • Intensity: Easy
  • Cost: Free
  • Dogs: Leashed allowed

Top 3 Asheville Hikes: Bonus Top Hike Shortoff Mountain 

Table Rock Linville Gorge Views, Shortoff Mountain

Our bonus top Asheville hike is the Shortoff Mountain hike. This hike is located about an hour outside of Asheville in Nebo, North Carolina. Hiking Shortoff Mountain was one of our favorite hikes in the Pisgah National Forest.  From the top of Shortoff Mountain, you are afforded stunning views of Linville Gorge and Lake James.  This hike is particularly pretty in fall when the foliage is contrasting colors.  

Scrambling, Difficulty and Route

This hike is fast paced.  You gain 1,312 feet of elevation over the course of this 4.5 mile round-trip hike but most of that elevation is within the first mile.  There is a rock scramble but nothing too logistically challenging, and it all can be hiked vertically (no need to go on all 4s).   The last mile or so of the Shortoff Mountain hike is quite level and open with plenty of spots to take panoramic pictures.  Our picture above is from Table Rock near the end of the Shortoff Mountain hike. We rate the hike as moderate to hard due to the strenuous initial climb. The trail is easy to follow. Finding the trail though is a different story.  

Finding Trailhead 

Finding the Shortoff Mountain trailhead/parking area can be very difficult.  Unknown to us when we were searching for it, most parking areas/trailheads are not well marked in Pisgah National Forest and Shortoff Mountain is no exception. To find this trailhead, type in “Wolf Pit Trailhead” to Google Maps.  Although it is the Shortoff Mountain Trailhead you are looking for, it is at the end of Wolf Pit Road, and this should bring you to the right spot. 

Wolf Pit Road is a dead-end and unpaved road that you drive on for 2.5 miles until you get to the end/trailhead.  When we first turned down this road, we thought we were going the wrong way but soon enough, we saw a homemade sign, pointing us to Shortoff Mountain and Wolf Pit (pictured above on the left).  You can park at the end of this road right by the trailhead, but make sure you are not on private property. 

Linville Gorge Views from Shortoff Mountain

Shortoff Mountain Hike Logistics Summary

  • Length/elevation: 4.5 Miles, Out & Back, 1,312 feet of elevation gain
  • Intensity: Moderate to Hard
  • Cost: Free
  • Dogs: Leashed allowed

Where to Stay While Hiking in Asheville

We highly recommend staying at the Dancing Bear Getaway when hiking in Asheville. It is centrally located to all the best Asheville hikes outlined above yet also a tucked away serene escape.  This home, located in Black Mountain 10 minutes outside of downtown Asheville, sits on a wooded lot on a dead end road away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Asheville. It has an extremely nice outdoor area with a fire pit, hot tub and several patios to relax on.  Beyond the location and outdoor space, the family friendly amenities and helpful hosts also add to it the Dancing Bear Getaway being the best place to stay near Asheville.   We loved this house rental!  See our Where to Stay Near Asheville North Carolina for a full breakdown of why we loved staying at this place. 


We hope this guide helps you plan your hiking in the Asheville area.  For more information and tips on visiting the Asheville area, please see our 4 Days in Asheville, Weekend in Black Mountain and Asheville with a Baby or Toddler posts.

Anything you’d add to our ‘Top 3 Asheville Hikes Guide?’ We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!

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Asheville with a Baby or Toddler


Asheville with a Baby or Toddler

Asheville, North Carolina is a great place to visit with your baby or toddler.  With so many great outdoor activities in the area that you can do on your own time schedule, Asheville is logistically an easy place for families with a baby and/or toddler to visit.  After recently visiting Asheville with our baby (9 months old) and toddler (2.5 years old), we learned a lot about spending time in Asheville with littles.  Further, to make the most of our time in this outdoor-centric city with our baby and toddler, we compiled insight about visiting Asheville with little kids from as many local parents and fellow traveling parents as possible.  We loved exploring Asheville with our kids and know our ‘Asheville with a Baby or Toddler’ guide below will help you enjoy your time here with your baby and/or toddler too.    

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!

We took this trip when our toddler was 2.5 years old and our baby was 9 months old.  For more information on exploring with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts. 


Asheville with a Baby or Toddler: What to Do?


Honestly, in Asheville, everywhere we went and everything we did, our kids felt welcomed.  The laid back and inclusive vibe of the city makes it such a great place to visit with your baby and/or toddler. Below are some of our favorite, extra kid friendly, Asheville activities. 

Drive Blue Ridge Parkway

Asheville with a Baby or Toddler

Our first Asheville with a baby and/or toddler recommendation is to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. The sweeping mountain views along this drive are majestic. Further, at most of the pull-offs along the parkway, there is space for your toddler to run and play and/or for your baby to crawl around while you take in the vast mountain vistas. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch/snacks to enjoy with your baby and/or toddler while taking in the pretty views. 

Note: The Blue Ridge Parkway runs both east and west from Asheville.  We recommend heading east to access some of the best trails.  To drive along the route we recommend, program your drive on your GPS to Graveyard Upper Falls Trail.  

Cost: Free

Hike on Blue Ridge Parkway

Our next Asheville with a baby or toddler recommendation is to stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike with your kids. Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the mountains in the Asheville area with your baby and/or toddler. Hiking allows you complete time independence so you can explore at the pace you need. Listed below are some of our favorite family friendly Blue Ridge Parkway hikes.

Asheville with a Baby or Toddler

Easy Waterfall Hikes Blue Ridge Parkway

  • Skinny Dip Falls (0.9 mile, out & back, 180 feet of elevation gain, pictured above)
  • Looking Glass Waterfalls (0.3 miles, out & back, 36 feet of elevation gain)
  • Moore Cove Falls (1.2 miles, out & back, 154 feet of elevation gain)
  • Sliding Rock (0.3 miles, out & back, 19 feet of elevation gain)

Moderate Waterfall Hike Blue Ridge Parkway

  • Graveyard Upper Falls (3 miles, out & back/loop, 320 feet of elevation gain, pictured above)

We hiked to several other spots while in Asheville with our baby and toddler as well. See our Top 3 Asheville Hikes for more information on these.  We would not say these hikes are necessarily baby or toddler friendly due to some extra scrambling but manageable to hike with a baby and/or toddler depending on your comfort/hiking experience. 

Cost: Free

Day Trip to DuPont State Park

Our next Asheville with a baby or toddler recommendation is to drive an hour Southeast of Asheville to visit DuPont State Park.  This park offers family friendly hiking to several different waterfalls.  It also offers a natural splash pad (a calm area of water at one of the waterfall bases), great for your baby and/or toddler to play.  

High Falls, Triple Falls & Hooker Falls Hike

At DuPont State Park, there are several hiking options.  We opted to hike to High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls trail. This route is about 4.5 miles round trip with 490 feet of elevation gain and you see 5 different waterfalls along the trail.  The path is well groomed and easy to hike. Each waterfall on this route is unique. High Falls is the most impressive and has several viewing points including at the base.  Triple Falls is three waterfalls that run together. Hooker Falls is the smallest of them all but there is a calm area of water at the base of the waterfall where the kids (or adults) can play in.  We did not stay at Hooker falls overly long though because our kids started to eat the sand like it was going out of style.  Reality! 

Route & Alternatives

Asheville with a Baby or Toddler

There are several options for hiking the route we did. We recommend parking at the main visitor center for DuPont State Park and starting the hike from there. First you’ll hike to High Falls, then Triple Falls and finally Hooker Falls.  We then recommend retracing your steps to return to the visitor center. 

Alternatively, you can hike to just Hooker Falls from the Hooker Falls parking lot.  This hike is 1 mile round-trip with 140 feet of elevation gain. If you plan to spend a lot of time playing in the sand and calm water at this waterfall, this may be your best option.  You also could just hike to High Falls and/or Triple Falls.   As you can gather, there are various hike options to suite your level of fitness and what your family will enjoy most at DuPont State Park.

Cost: Free

Outdoor Patios 

There are so many cool outdoor patios that are baby and toddler friendly in the greater Asheville area.  One of our favorite patios was at Foothills Grange.  This casual outdoor bar/eatery has a fun setting with string lights, industrial style porch coverings and a huge outdoor sand pit for the kids to play.  The outdoor sand pit was a real hit with our toddler and our baby thought it was fun too.  We’ve never seen such a large sand pit before and this unique offering earns it a spot in this guide.  

Cost: Varieties depending on what you eat/drink


Asheville with a Baby or Toddler: Where to Eat?


There are so many eateries in the greater Asheville area that are baby and toddler friendly.  Honestly, anywhere we ate, the staff was kind to our kids.  The laid back vibe of Asheville made them feel welcomed at any restaurant so we would recommend really eating anywhere your adult heart desires.  That being said, below are two of our favorite restaurants we visited with the kids that had some extra kid friendly touches. 

The Bush Farmhouse 

Asheville with a Baby or Toddler

The Bush Farmhouse has yummy upscale South African food yet the atmosphere is casual and the outdoor patio area is really neat. The main reason we recommend visiting this spot with your baby and/or toddler is because the patio area has tons of kid friendly features.  There is an enclosure where there are giant pigs, chickens and ducks, which our toddler loved. There are also some old school toys/rides for the kids to play on.  They had a retro airplane ride that our toddler wanted to ride on again and again.  

We were worried this place may be too upscale for our kids and that was not the case at all.  To our delight, it was one of the most kid friendly places we ate at while visiting Asheville.  The food was delicious here, the outdoor space was super cute and the kid-friendly touches all made eating at this restaurant a real highlight during our visit to the Asheville area.  

White Duck Taco

Another great place to eat in Asheville with your baby or toddler is White Duck Taco. This casual taco joint on the river checks all the boxes. The patio area overlooking the river has plenty of green space for your toddler to run and play. Our daughter could not get enough of ‘playing’ the corn hole game they have outside either. The variety and uniqueness of the tacos on the menu is also a huge selling point. There are various ethnic food inspired tacos from curry to Korean to classic. They had a chicken and cheese quesadilla on the menu that our kids enjoyed too. We liked this place so much that we considered coming back another time to try more tacos and enjoy the patio, even on our short trip.  

Note: You may have to wait in line for 15-20 minutes to order during peak time. After ordering though, the food comes fast. With tacos being pretty quick to eat, there is constant turnover in seating. We had no issue finding a place on the river to sit and enjoy our tacos.  Alternatively, have one person wait in line while the other grabs a spot by the river with the kids. 


Asheville with a Baby or Toddler: Where to Stay? 


We recommend staying at the Dancing Bear Getaway in nearby Black Mountain while visiting Asheville with your baby and/or toddler.  This 3 bed, 2.5 bath home has a plethora of toddler/baby friendly amenities that make the home perfect for you and your little ones.  There is a pack n play, booster chair and baby gate all to use during your stay at the home.   Further, the large closets in two of the bedrooms easily accommodate a pack n play so if you are looking for your little one to have their own quiet space without using an entire room, this is perfect.  Our friends staying with us and ourselves were able to do this with our babies and this made the home feel like it had 5 bedrooms instead of 3.  There is also laundry available which every parent knows is a huge help when traveling.  

Further, the outdoor space at this rental is on point.  There is an illuminated fire pit, hot tub and two different porches to utilize.  Our toddler loved the front porch and hot tub.  The hot tub was also a great spot for us to enjoy as adults after the kids went to bed.  The location of this house rental is prime as well.  It is only a 3 minute drive to downtown Black Mountain and a 10 minute drive to Asheville.  The hosts of this home, Carolyn and Brian, are also so helpful and kind.  We highly recommend staying here!  Check out the Dancing Bear Getaway website for the most up to date availability and read our full Dancing Bear Getaway review here


Asheville with a Baby or Toddler FAQS


Is Asheville Stroller Friendly? 

Other than the hiking trails, yes.  If possible, we recommend you bring a stroller and a baby carrier to Asheville with your baby and/or toddler.  The stroller will be handy exploring anywhere downtown and the carrier will be helpful on the trails.  

Stroller Recommendation

When choosing a stroller, opt for a narrow stroller that easily goes in doorways. We love the Graco Ready2Grow Double Stroller. It’s narrow, allows a carseat to be clicked into it, gives the option for our toddler to ride on the platform in the back and has a huge basket underneath. It’s our go to travel stroller.  And reasonably priced! 

When walking around the city with our kids in the stroller, we use the Tushbaby to carry our baby and/or toddler if they are not having the stroller.  This makes carrying both of the kids around SO much easier and was the perfect adjunct to our double stroller. Further, when we need one of our kids to sleep in the stroller, we recline them back and place the blackout CoziGo over them to give them a dark place to rest. 

Carrier Recommendations

We recommend using Ergobaby Omni 360 Cool Mesh Baby Carrier for a baby less than 12 months and this Structured Backpack Carrier once the baby is older than a year for hiking.  See our Hiking with a Baby guide for more on hiking with your little.   

Are Asheville Restaurants Kid Friendly?  

Yes!  Even restaurants we thought would not be kid friendly were accommodating to our kids.  

Is Asheville a Kid Friendly City?

Yes!  The laid back vibe of this outdoor centric city makes it a great place to visit with kids.  Everywhere we went with our kids in Asheville, people were so nice. We never felt like they were too loud or in anyone’s way.  Thank you Asheville for making us feel welcome!  


We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Asheville with your baby or toddler.  We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment! See our 4 Days in Asheville, Weekend in Black Mountain and Top 3 Asheville Hikes for more Asheville travel tips and ideas.

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Where to Stay Near Asheville, North Carolina


Where to Stay Near Asheville, North Carolina

When recently looking for where to stay near Asheville, North Carolina, we were so glad to have found the Dancing Bear Getaway in nearby Black Mountain. This 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath home was the perfect place for us to stay while exploring the greater Asheville area as a family.  The outdoor space, family friendly amenities, nearby scenic hikes, helpful hosts and proximity to downtown Black Mountain as well as Asheville, all make it the best place to stay near Asheville.  Read on for more on why we loved staying at this home. 

Outdoor Space

Where to Stay Near Asheville, North Carolina

The outdoor space at the Dancing Bear Getaway is awesome!  There is a firepit, hot tub and several patios to relax on here.  Our favorite outdoor spot was the fire pit area.  The firepit abuts a cozy wooded scene and is surrounded by large blue chairs as well as string lights that add to the fun atmosphere.  There is a place to hang a hammock here too for extra relaxation.  Another great outdoor spot at the Dancing Bear Getaway is the hot tub.  Our toddler loved hanging out here and would have stayed in it all day if we had let her.  The hot tub was also a great spot to relax after the kids went to sleep.  

Where to Stay Near Asheville, North Carolina

There is also a front patio, with a bench and two rocking chairs, that is rather serene.  It looks onto a wooded area on the dead end road the house is located on.  We loved hanging out here after hikes.  Further, there is a back patio with a grill and dining table/chairs that abuts the woods as well.   All these spots make this home a great place for enjoying the outdoors.  You honestly would not have to leave the Dancing Bear Getaway for the weekend with all these outdoor entertainment areas.  

Family Friendly Amenities

Beyond the awesome outdoor spaces, this home has so many family friendly amenities inside.  First, the size makes it perfect for a family.  Being 3 bed and 2.5 bath, everyone should have enough space.  Also, there is a game room that has a foosball table and a bunch of different games for the whole family to play.  This space makes for a fun rainy day or evening hangout spot.  Our toddler kept asking us to play ‘foos’ here.  

In addition to the size of the house and game room, there is a plethora of toddler/baby friendly amenities that make the home even more family friendly.  There is a pack n play, booster chair and baby gate all to use during your stay at the home.  Further, the large closets in two of the bedrooms easily accommodate a pack n play so if you are looking for your little one to have their own quiet space without using an entire room, this is perfect.  Our friends staying with us and ourselves were able to do this with our babies and this made the home feel like it had 5 bedrooms instead of 3.  There is also laundry available which every parent knows is a huge help when traveling with littles.   See our ​​Asheville with a Baby or Toddler for more baby friendly Asheville tips.

Nearby Great Hikes

The location of the Dancing Bear Getaway is prime for hiking.  You are 15 minutes from the Lookout Mountain trailhead, one of the best hidden gem hikes in the Asheville area at Montreat College (summit view pictured above).  There are also several other convenient and stunning hikes at Montreat College, including the Big Piney Ridge Trail.  Further, you are 30 minutes away from the Wildcat Rock hike.  This hike takes you to not only to a sweeping mountain overlook but also past a unique waterfall.  See our Top 3 Asheville Hikes for more information on each of these hikes.  

Close to Downtown Black Mountain

We loved downtown Black Mountain and staying at the Dancing Bear Getaway, you are only a short 3 minute drive, or less than 1 mile walk, into downtown Black Mountain.  Black Mountain has some of the best restaurants in the Asheville area.   Some of our favorites included The Bush Farmhouse, Cousins Cuban Cafe, The Hop, Black Mountain Pizza and Dripolator.  The downtown area is really cute and has tons of different sized hand painted rocking chairs. Our toddler could not get enough of these and wanted us to sit in each we encountered.  See our Weekend in Black Mountain guide for an itinerary for visiting all these spots.  

Close to Downtown Asheville 

Beyond being close to downtown Black Mountain, you are only 10-20 minutes away from most spots in downtown Asheville. This allows you to easily explore all of Asheville has to offer yet stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the serenity of this home tucked away in Black Mountain.  Some of our favorite restaurants in Asheville included Vortex Donuts, Sunny Point Cafe and White Duck Taco.  See our 4 Days in Asheville guide for more details on these. 

Pets Stay Free

At the Dancing Bear Getaway, pets stay free.  Most of the other home rentals we looked at staying at in the area charged $100 plus for a pet to join you on your stay.  We were not able to bring our dog on this trip, but our friends brought their dog and the space was comfortable for her.  They have a food and water dish to help your pup feel at home. 

Where to Stay Near Asheville, North Carolina

Responsive and Helpful Hosts

Carolyn and Brian, who own the Dancing Bear Getaway, are super helpful hosts.   Prior to your stay, they send you a PDF guide on the home/area to orient you.  They were extremely responsive with any communication and had some of the best Black Mountain recommendations (almost all highlighted on our Weekend in Black Mountain guide).  As small business owners who manage the property themselves, they will go the extra mile to make sure you have a great stay.  

We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to the Asheville area.  Visit the Dancing Bear Getaway website for the latest availability and to book your stay. 

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Weekend in Black Mountain


Weekend in Black Mountain

With one of the cutest downtown area, mouthwatering restaurants and nearby scenic hikes, Black Mountain, North Carolina is the perfect mountain town for a laid back or jam packed weekend getaway.  When we were recently looking to visit the Asheville area, we stumbled upon an amazing house rental in Black Mountain that shifted the focus of our trip to exploring Black Mountain, and we are so glad it did. Similar to Asheville, Black Mountain is surrounded by stunning mountains and oh so charming with its many local shops and restaurants.  Unlike Asheville, it’s still a hidden gem.  We loved Black Mountain and cannot wait to visit again soon. Read on for our full ‘Weekend in Black Mountain’ Itinerary. 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


Weekend in Black Mountain Overview

  • Day 1: Arrive, Explore Downtown Black Mountain, Check in, Pizza/Drinks
  • Day 2: Coffee, Hike Lookout Mountain, Cuban Food, House Rental Games/Outdoor Relaxation
  • Day 3: Relaxing Morning, Check out, Brunch at The Bush Farmhous

Day 1: Arrive, Explore Downtown Black Mountain, Check in, Pizza

Explore Downtown Black Mountain

Spend some time this afternoon exploring downtown Black Mountain. There are tons of cute local shops and restaurants in the charming downtown area.   You could spend hours shopping at the unique shops alone.  Be sure to check out some of the hand-painted rocking chairs (adult and child sized) on sidewalks all throughout downtown too.  Our toddler really liked having all of us sit on one of these every time we came upon them (and there are a lot of them so we did a lot of rocking).  

Weekend in Black Mountain

Further, consider getting ice cream at The Hop for an afternoon treat.  They have super tasty local homemade ice cream here. We tried 3 flavors (Aztec Chocolate, Salted Caramel and Cookie Party) and as our toddler said “all of them” were her favorite.  We are somewhat ice cream snobs (coming from the dairy state) and the ice cream here lived up to our high standards. 

Check-In to House Rental

Weekend in Black Mountain

After exploring downtown, make the short 3 minute drive to your house rental, the Dancing Bear Getaway, for the weekend to freshen up before dinner and check in.  This 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath home was the perfect place to stay while exploring the Black Mountain.  The outdoor space (simply stunning), family friendly amenities, indoor game room, nearby scenic hikes, helpful hosts and proximity to downtown Black Mountain all make it the best place to stay near Black Mountain.  See our full review of this place here.    

Pizza and Drinks in Black Mountain

This evening, head back into downtown Black Mountain to Black Mountain Pizza for some of the best Detroit style pizza in the area.  We ordered the 117 Cherry Street Detroit style pizza.  This pizza has an unusual assortment of toppings including pears, walnuts, mushrooms, cauliflower, cheese, garlic and cherry pesto.  Despite the unlikely pairing of toppings, this pizza was SO delicious.  Natalie was very skeptical but was pleasantly surprised with how good it tasted. 

Next, head over to the Foothills Grange for drinks (16 different drinks on tap).  This casual outdoor bar/eatery has a fun setting with string lights, industrial style porch coverings and a huge outdoor sand pit where the kids can play.  The outdoor sand pit was a huge hit with our toddler and unlike any sand play area we have ever seen before.  

Next, head back to the Dancing Bear Getaway, spend the evening sitting around the string lit illuminated bonfire, relaxing in the hot tub or playing some games in the game room.


Day 2: Dripolater, Hike Lookout Mountain, Cousin Cuban Cafe

Coffee and Breakfast at Dripolator 

The next morning, head to Dripolator to caffeinate and try one of their scrumptious baked goods. Or enjoy one of their fruit smoothies.  This coffee shop is super quant and cozy.  Sit outside on the small front patio for some distant morning mountain views.  

Hike Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain, Montreat

After having breakfast at Dripolator, head about 15 minutes north to the small college town of Montreat to hike to Lookout Mountain. This 1.4 mile round trip hike with 600 feet of elevation is steep and a bit rocky at the top but so worth the effort for the views.  This is a great bang-for-your-buck hike, because you get some of the best sweeping mountain views relatively quickly.  

Scrambling and Difficulty 

The hike is a steady climb up through the woods consisting of stairs or a dirt/rock path that requires no true scrambling until the very end.  For less than 0.1 miles near the end, you will have to scramble up some rocks and use your hands to brace yourself to get to the summit.  However, it is not overly technically challenging as we were able to do this safely while baby wearing our kids.  We rate the hike as moderate. Other than the rock scramble portion of the trail and summit area, the trail is almost completely shaded (huge bonus in our eyes).  The summit has stunning expansive mountain views and there are several large rocks at the summit to sit down on to take it all in.  

Parking, Cost & Dogs

We hiked this trail on a weekday around 10 AM and only saw two other small groups of people.  The hike was so peaceful and really felt like a hidden gem. There are two small gravel lots to park at the trailhead, but there are only about 10 spots available total so you may have trouble parking if it is a weekend.  The hike took us about an hour to complete, including taking a 15 minute break at the top to soak in the views, take some pictures and give the kids some snacks.  There is no cost to hike this trail but at the trailhead there is a QR code you can scan to donate to Montreat for the trail maintenance.  We highly encourage you to donate if you hike it as the trail is very well maintained. Dogs are allowed on a leash. 

More Hiking? 

If looking to hike longer or another trail, there are plenty of other hiking trails at Montreat. We also hiked the Lower Piney Trail and the Big Piney Ridge Trail to the lookout point for a 3.6 mile round trip hike with 1200 feet of elevation gain.  We only saw one group of two people on this hike, and it was so serene (yet a killer workout).  Download the trail map with the link above or stop in at the Montreat store for a hard copy map.  There are many other trails here, and you could spend a week hiking a different trail here each day.  

Cousin Cuban Cafe

After your short, yet challenging hike, stop at Cousins Cuban Cafe in Black Mountain for lunch.  This casual Cuban restaurant is unassuming on the outside yet so welcoming on the inside with some of the tastiest food in Black Mountain.  We really loved the atmosphere and food here.  It was very reasonably priced too!  

Note: Be sure to check current hours before visiting.  They were only open 9AM-3PM everyday (other than Wednesday when they were closed) during our visit. 

Then, head back to the Dancing Bear Getaway, spend the rest of the day/evening grilling out on the patio, sitting around the bonfire, relaxing in the hot tub or playing some games in the game room.  You truly could spend your whole weekend at the Dancing Bear Getaway and not be bored! 


Day 3: Relaxing Morning, Check out, Brunch at The Bush Farmhouse

This morning, take it slow.  Enjoy your morning coffee on the front porch rocking chairs at the Dancing Bear Getaway before checking out.   After checking out, head to The Bush Farmhouse.  This restaurant has yummy upscale South African food yet the atmosphere is casual.   Adjacent to the outdoor dining patio is a huge fire pit in front of a stage with live music for bar/restaurant guests to enjoy. 

The patio area had plenty of kid friendly features too.  There is an enclosure where there were giant pigs, chickens and ducks, which our toddler loved, as well as some old school toys/rides for the kids to play on.  They had a retro airplane ride that our toddler wanted to ride on again and again.  The food was delicious here, the outdoor space was very cute, and the kid-friendly touches all made this restaurant a real highlight during our visit to Black Mountain, and it is sure to be a highlight of your visit too. 

Have More Time?  

Consider spending some time hiking throughout the greater Asheville area and/or exploring more of Asheville.  See our 4 Days in Asheville, Asheville with a Baby or Toddler and Top 3 Asheville Hikes for more tips on visiting the area. 

We hope this guide helps you plan your weekend in Black Mountain.  Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!

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4 Days in Asheville Itinerary


4 Days Asheville

With some of the best hiking and restaurants in the country, Asheville is the perfect place to escape for an extended weekend getaway.  Four days in Asheville is the ideal amount of time to explore some of the hiking trails and try out some of the amazing restaurants in the area.  To make the most of your 4 day trip to Asheville, we’ve compiled all our favorite Asheville experiences, all recommended to us by locals and other travelers before we tried each for ourselves.  Read on for our full ‘4 Day Asheville Itinerary’.  

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


4 Day Asheville Itinerary Overview

  • Day 1: Brunch, Hike Wildcat Rock, Check-In, Grill or South African Food
  • Day 2: Handmade Donuts, Drive Blue Ridge Parkway, Hike to Waterfalls, Tacos
  • Day 3: Coffee/Pastries, DuPont State Park Waterfall Hike, Pizza
  • Day 4: Breakfast, Check-Out, Mountain Hike, Cuban Food, Black Mountain

4 Days Asheville Itinerary: Day 1


We loved Asheville. The laid back vibe, mountains in every direction and delicious food all make Asheville one of our favorite places we’ve ever visited. This 4 day Asheville Itinerary is sure to having you swooning over this area too.

Arrive in Asheville, Get Brunch

On your first day of your 4 day Asheville trip, arrive early either by car or plane.  Your first stop will be to get brunch at the Sunny Point Cafe.  The menu here is filled with super yummy comfort food.  The patio area is really nice to dine on (if the weather is nice), and there is a little garden you can walk around too.  We ate here while it was sprinkling so we ate inside but the indoor/outdoor vibe was on-point.  The large open patio window next to our table made it feel like we were outside.   The staff was super accommodating to our kids as well.  They even gave our toddler some extra fries after her baby brother knocked most of hers on the floor.   Also, they had a ‘spot’ for our toddlers stuffed animals to sit too. 

After your meal, head next door to the Rabbit Hole Bakery to get one of the scrumptious fresh baked goods.  The carrot cake moon pie, using the same batter as the carrot cake pancakes on the menu at the restaurant,  was delicious.  Be sure to bring your receipt from brunch to get a 10% discount.  

Hike Wildcat Rock

Wildcat Rock Asheville Hike

After fueling up with brunch and baked goods, head to the Wildcat Rock trail for an afternoon hike.  Wildcat Rock is an awesome trail to hike as you’ll not only get sweeping mountain views but also pass a unique waterfall.  This hike is 3.5 miles round trip with 1,100 feet of elevation gain.  On this trail, you first hike up on a serene wooded path and about ⅔ of the way up on, you’ll pass Little Bearwallow Falls.  Then, you’ll continue to hike up until you reach the Wildcat Rock summit with sweeping mountain views.  

Scrambling and Difficulty 

Please note, there are some rock scrambles involved in the Wildcat Rock hike, mainly just stepping up rocks until the very end though.  At the very end of the trail to get to the viewpoint, you do have to climb up a large rock and duck under a tree.  However, we found this very manageable even carrying the kids so don’t let that deter you from hiking it.  If you are able to hike to the summit, you’ll be able to climb up this rock.  

Our perception of difficulty may be a bit skewed as we were carrying a toddler and a baby up the trail, but we would rate this hike as moderate to strenuous.  It’s pretty steady incline up most of the trail.  Budget 2-3 hours to complete this hike.  This is also a great trail to see wildflowers in the late spring/early summer.

Parking, Cost & Dogs

There is a small lot to park across the street from the trailhead. This parking area serves several trailheads.  We arrived on a Saturday around 10:30 AM, and there were about 5 spots left at that time.  There is no fee to hike this trail. Leashed dogs are allowed.  

If in the mood for a beer after your hike, head to the nearby Whistle Hop Brewing Company.  This brewery has a nice covered deck and food truck on site as well. 

Check into House Rental

After hiking Wildcat Rock, head to the Dancing Bear Getaway in Black Mountain, 10 minutes outside of Asheville, to check in.  We loved this house rental!  It is tucked away in the woods on a dead end road away from the hustle and bustle of Asheville but only a short 3 minute drive into Black Mountain or a 10 minute drive to Asheville. It has an extremely nice outdoor area too with a fire pit, hot tub and several patios to relax on.   Beyond the location and outdoor space, the family friendly amenities, nearby scenic hikes and helpful hosts also add to it the Dancing Bear Getaway being the best place to stay near Asheville.   See our Where to Stay Near Asheville North Carolina for a full breakdown of why we loved staying at this place. 

Dinner: Grill Out at House Rental or The Bush Farmhouse

After checking into the Dancing Bear Getaway, spend the evening grilling out on the patio, sitting around the bonfire, relaxing in the hot tub or playing some games in the game room.

The Bush Farmhouse

Alternatively, if you want to head out to dinner, go to The Bush Farmhouse in Black Mountain.  This restaurant has yummy upscale South African food yet the atmosphere is casual.   Adjacent to the outdoor dining patio is a huge fire pit in front of a stage with live music for bar/restaurant guests to enjoy.  

The patio area had plenty of kid friendly features too.  There is an enclosure where there are giant pigs, chickens and ducks, which our toddler loved, as well as some old school toys/rides for the kids to play on.  They had a retro airplane ride with music that our toddler wanted to ride on again and again.  The food was delicious here, the outdoor space was super cute and the kid-friendly touches all made this restaurant a real highlight during our visit to the Asheville area. 

4 Day Asheville Itinerary Day 1 Driving


4 Days Asheville Itinerary: Day 2


Breakfast at Vortex Donuts

Vortex Donuts

On the morning of day 2 of your 4 day trip to Asheville, head to Vortex Donuts for breakfast. Vortex Donuts specializes in handmade donuts.  They serve a variety of specialty donuts that are really perfectly crafted and not over the top.  Our favorites were the Vortex Signature Doughnut (Cinnamon Sugar drizzled in Dulche de Leche glaze) and the Espresso Doughnut.  Buy a 6 pack so you can try a bunch of different flavors.  You won’t be mad if you have some leftovers for later! 

Drive Blue Ridge Parkway 

Blue Ridge Parkway

After getting breakfast at Vortex Donuts, drive Southwest from Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The sweeping mountain views are awesome along this drive.  There are so many overlooks on this drive and all have postcard worthy views.  Stop at several along the way to take in the views.  To drive along the correct route, program your drive on your GPS to Graveyard Upper Falls Trail.  

Note: Pack a picnic lunch/snacks today to eat while driving or hiking on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are no dining options on the parkway. 

Hike Trails on Blue Ridge Parkway

After driving along the Blue Ridge parkway, get out to stretch your legs and hike one of the many trails along the parkway.  We recommended hiking to 2 different waterfalls to mix up the views as you’ll get tons of great mountain views on your drive.  

Hike Graveyard Upper Falls

created by photogrid

First, hike to Graveyard Upper Falls.  This part loop and part out & back trail is 3 miles round trip with 320 feet of elevation gain.  You hike through the woods over roots and rocks to the pretty Upper Graveyard Waterfall.  This hike did not feel strenuous and only a bit technically challenging near the upper waterfall with slightly rocky and steep terrain.  However, we found it very manageable wearing our two kids.  This trail is rated as one of the most family friendly along the Blue Ridge Parkway as well.  Further, you typically can see some wildflowers here during the late springtime.  This hike tends to be busy on weekends, but we hiked in on an intermittently rainy Sunday and did not see too many other people.  Budget about 2-2.5 hours to hike this trail. 

Parking, Cost & Dogs

Park at the pull-off for the Graveyard Fields.  If you have trouble parking at the trailhead here, give it 10 minutes.  A lot of people only stop here to use the restrooms and/or to look at the Graveyard Fields viewpoint but do not actually hike so they are not here long at all.  There is no cost to hike this trail.  Leashed dogs are allowed. 

See Looking Glass Rock & Hike Skinny Dip Falls

4 days Asheville

Next, start heading back towards Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike Skinny Dip Falls.  The trailhead for this hike is at one of the best pull off spots on the Parkway.  Here, you’ll get sweeping mountain views and be able to see the unique Looking Glass Rock.  Looking Glass Rock is a Pluton or, in other words, a mass of molten rock that hardened under the earth’s surface and was exposed/shaped by centuries of erosion. Looking Glass Rock gets its name from reflecting sunlight when water collects on its granite face, turning into a gigantic mirror-like rock.  This rock is super unique, and we’ve never seen anything like it before. The hike to Skinny Dip Falls starts across the street at the trailhead.  

Skinny Dip FAlls

Skinny Dip Falls is a 0.9 mile round trip hike with 180 feet of elevation gain that is easy to follow and not technically challenging.  It affords you some really nice waterfall views rather quickly.   When you arrive at the falls, you can cross the river to get some close up views of the falls or to go swimming. However, be aware that we saw 2 people slip doing this (it had just rained and was extra slippery) and we opted not to cross the river.  There is no fee to hike this trail.  Dogs are allowed.  Budget 30 minutes to hike this trail. 

Alternative Trail Options

There are several mountain view hikes in the area too if you want to see more sweeping mountain views.  

  • Looking Glass Rock (6.1 miles, out & back, 1682 feet elevation gain)
  • Frying Pan Mountain Lookout Tower (1.5 miles, out & back, 357 feet of elevation gain)

If looking for another waterfall hike, consider checking out these below:

  • Looking Glass Waterfalls (0.3 miles, out & back, 36 feet of elevation gain)
  • Moore Cove Falls (1.2 miles, out & back, 154 feet of elevation gain)
  • Sliding Rock (0.3 miles, out & back, 19 feet of elevation gain)

Dinner at White Duck Taco

After your hike, head to White Duck Taco for dinner. This casual taco joint on the river checks all the boxes. The cute patio area with outdoor seating right along the river as well as the variety and uniqueness of the tacos on the menu are both huge selling points. 

White Duck Taco

There are various ethnic food inspired tacos on the menu and you can get anything from curry to Korean to classic tacos.  We recommend ordering a variety of tacos to try several of the specialty flavors.  Natalie’s favorite taco was the Bangkok shrimp, and Sam’s favorite taco was the crispy pork belly.  They had a chicken and cheese quesadilla on the menu that our kids enjoyed too. Our daughter could not get enough of ‘playing’ the corn hole game they have outside either.  We liked this place so much that we considered coming back another time to try more tacos and enjoy the patio, even on our short trip.  

Note: You may have to wait in line for 15-20 minutes to order during peak time. However, after ordering, the food comes fast. With tacos being pretty quick to eat, there is constant turnover in seating, and we had no issue finding a place on the river to sit and enjoy our tacos even at a peak time. 

Bonfire, Hot Tub or Game Room

Head back to the Dancing Bear Getaway to enjoy the hot tub, fire pit or the game room.  This rental really provides hours of entertainment right at your accommodations. 

4 Day Asheville Itinerary Day 2 Driving


4 Day Asheville Itinerary: Day 3


Coffee and Breakfast at Dripolator 

The next morning, head to Dripolator in Black Mountain to caffeinate and try one of their scrumptious baked goods.  Or enjoy one of their fruit smoothies.  This coffee shop is super cute and cozy.  Sit outside on the small front patio for some distant morning mountain views.  

DuPont State Park Hiking

4 Day Asheville Itinerary

After getting coffee/breakfast at Dripolater, drive about 50 minutes southwest to DuPont State Park.  Here, hike to one or several of the waterfalls located in this state park.  We opted to hike to High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls. This route is about 4.5 miles round trip with 490 feet of elevation gain and you see 5 waterfalls along the trail.  The path is well groomed and easy to hike. 

5 Different Waterfalls

Each waterfall on this route is unique. High Falls is the most impressive and has several viewing points including the base.  Triple Falls is three waterfalls that run together.  Hooker Falls is the smallest of them all but there is a calm area of water the kids (or adults) can play in at the base.  Natalie’s favorite waterfall was High Falls (because biggest), Sam’s was Triple Falls (because most unique), and the kids favorite was Hooker falls (because they could play in the sand and calm water at the base).  We did not stay at Hooker falls overly long though because the kids started to eat sand like it was going out of style.  Reality! 

Recommended Route & Other Trails

There are several options for how to hike this route. We recommend parking at the main visitor center for DuPont State Park and starting the hike from there. You start by hiking to High Falls, then Triple Falls, and finally Hooker Falls.  We then recommend retracing your steps to return to the visitor center. 

This park is also home to Bridal Falls, which is featured in the first Hunger Games film. You can alternatively do a 7.5 mile round-trip hike to High Falls, Triple Falls, and Bridal Falls. Another alternative is to only hike to Hooker Falls. This hike is 1 mile round-trip with 140 feet of elevation gain. If you plan to spend a lot of time playing in the sand and calm water at Hooker Falls, this may be your best option.  You also could just hike to High Falls and/or Triple Falls as well.   As you can see, there are various options to suite your level of fitness and what your family will enjoy most.

When you arrive at the visitor center, the staff will be able to give you a map and show you a 3-D diagram of the park. We’ve not seen anything like the 3-D diagram here, created by a local model train club.  Heading into the visitor center is worth the time just to see this diagram.

On this day, we would recommend packing a picnic lunch as there is nowhere to eat in the park. 

Pizza and Drinks in Black Mountain

This evening, head to Black Mountain Pizza for some of the best Detroit style pizza in the area.  We ordered the 117 Cherry Street Detroit style pizza.  This pizza has an unusual assortment of toppings including pears, walnuts, mushrooms, cauliflower, cheese, garlic and cherry pesto.  Despite the unlikely pairing of toppings, this pizza is SO delicious.  Natalie was very skeptical but was pleasantly surprised with how good it tasted. 

Next, head over to the Foothills Grange for drinks (16 different drinks on tap).  This casual outdoor bar/eatery has a fun setting with string lights, industrial style porch coverings and a huge outdoor sand pit for the kids to play.  The outdoor sand pit was a huge hit with our toddler.  

Pizza and Drinks in Asheville

Alternatively, head into downtown Asheville for some amazing pizza and brews (15 different beers on tap) at Asheville Brewing.  The covered patio here has all the right vibes and the pizza is on-point too.  The flavor profile of some of their pizzas is also very unique, but they also have classic flavor profiles for the less adventurous eaters. We ordered ½ a Moon Pie and ½  a Magic Dragon.  Check out the website linked above for all the latest brews they have on tap. 

We honestly really liked both pizza places and would recommend trying both at some point during your trip! 

4 Day Asheville Itinerary Day 3 Driving


4 Days in Asheville: Day 4


Hike Lookout Mountain

After making breakfast and checking out of your house rental in Black Mountain, head about 15 minutes north to the small college town of Montreat to hike to Lookout Mountain. This 1.4 mile round trip hike with 600 feet of elevation is steep and a bit rocky at the top but so worth the effort for the views.  This is a great bang-for-your-buck hike. You get some of the best sweeping mountain views relatively quickly.  

Scrambling and Difficulty 

The hike is a steady climb up through the woods consisting of stairs or a dirt/rock path that requires no true scrambling until the very end. For less than 0.1 miles, you will have to scramble up some rocks and use your hands to brace yourself to get to the summit.  However, it is not overly technically challenging as we were able to do this safely while baby wearing our kids.  We rate the hike as moderate.  Other than the rock scramble portion of the trail and summit area, the trail is almost completely shaded (huge bonus in our eyes).  The summit has stunning expansive mountain views and there are several large rocks to sit down on to take it all in.  

Parking, Cost & Dogs

We hiked this trail on a weekday around 10 AM and only saw two other small groups of people.  The hike was so peaceful and really felt like a hidden gem.  There are two small gravel lots to park at the trailhead but there are only about 10 spots available total so you may have trouble parking if it is a weekend so arrive early then.  The hike took us about an hour to complete, including taking a 15 minute break at the top to soak in the views, take some pictures and give the kids some snacks.  There is no cost to hike this trail but at the trailhead there is a QR code you can scan to donate to Montreat for the trail maintenance and we highly encourage you to donate if you hike it as the trail is very well maintained. Dogs are allowed on a leash. 

More Hiking? 

If looking to hike longer or another trail, there are plenty of other hiking trails at Montreat.  See the link here for the map.  We also hiked the Lower Piney Trail and the Big Piney Ridge Trail to the lookout point for a 3.6 mile round trip hike with 1200 feet of elevation gain. We only saw one group of two people on this hike and it was so serene (yet a killer workout).  Download the trail map with the link above or stop in at the Montreat store for a hard copy map.  There are many other trails here too. You could spend a week hiking a different trail here each day.  

Cousin Cuban Cafe

After your short, yet challenging hike, stop at Cousins Cuban Cafe in Black Mountain for lunch.  This casual Cuban restaurant is unassuming on the outside yet so welcoming on the inside with some of the tastiest food in Black Mountain.  We really loved the atmosphere and food here.  It was very reasonably priced too! 

Note: Be sure to check current hours before visiting.  They were only open 9AM-3PM everyday (other than Wednesday when they were closed) during our visit. 

Explore Downtown Black Mountain

Spend the rest of your time in the Asheville area exploring downtown Black Mountain. There are tons of cute shops and restaurants in this charming city just ten minutes east of Asheville. Consider getting ice cream at The Hop. They have super tasty local homemade ice cream here. We tried 3 flavors (Aztec Chocolate, Salted Caramel and Cookie Party) and as our toddler said “all of them” were her favorite.  Be sure to check out some of the hand-painted rocking chairs (adult and child sized) all throughout downtown too.  Our toddler really liked having all of us sit on one of these every time we came upon them.  There are tons of other restaurants and shops to check out as well. Some other places we liked stopping in included Berliner Kindl (German restaurant and bakery) and BLK Mountain Brewing (brewery with nice patio).

See our Weekend in Black Mountain guide for more tips on visiting Black Mountain.

4 Day Asheville Itinerary Day 4 Driving

We hope this guide helps you plan your 4 day trip to Asheville.  Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment! For more information on visiting the Asheville area, please see our Weekend in Black Mountain, ​​Asheville with a Baby or Toddler and Top 3 Asheville Hikes articles as well.

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And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!

5 Day Boston Itinerary


 5 Day Boston Itinerary

Boston, and the surrounding area, is full of pivotal historical sites, beautiful parks, delicious food and interesting museums.  Spending 5 days exploring Boston and the area around it will allow you enough time to try a bit of it all.  Here is our ‘5 Day Boston Itinerary’ perfect for seeing the best of Boston and the surrounding area. 

5 Day Boston Itinerary Overview

  • Day 1: Walk the Freedom Trail, Quincy Market
  • Day 2: Lexington/Concord, Tour Harvard 
  • Day 3: Day Trip to Portsmouth
  • Day 4: Boston Tea Party Museum, Boston Public Market, North End
  • Day 5: Explore Salem 

Note: This itinerary is best set-up for arriving the day before and leaving the day after (this is what we did).  Alternatively, you could fly-in very early on day 1 and fly-out very late on day 5.  If traveling with littles, we do not advise this though.  Set yourself up for success and arrive the day before and leave the day after if you time allows. 


Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you! 

We took this trip when our daughter was 2.5 years old and our son was 8 months old.  For more information on exploring with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts. 


Day 1: Walk the Freedom Trail, Quincy Market

On the first day of your 5 day Boston trip, walk the Freedom Trail.  This 2.5-mile trail takes you through the city to 16 different historical sites that were vital during the Revolutionary War and other historic events.  Walking this trail is a great way to see a lot of historical landmarks located in Boston in a relatively short time frame.  It’s also a great first day in Boston activity because it will help orient you to the downtown area.  On this trail you’ll see

  • Boston Common (Boston Public Garden Adjacent to this)
  • Massachusetts State House
  • Park Street Church
  • Granary Burying Ground
  • King’s Chapel Burying Ground
  • Benjamin Franklin statue and the former site of Boston Latin School
  • Old Corner Bookstore
  • Old South Meeting House
  • Old State House
  • Site of the Boston Massacre
  • Faneuil Hall (Quincy Market across from here)
  • Paul Revere House
  • Old North Church
  • Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
  • USS Constitution
  • Bunker Hill Monument

Be Your Own Guide

 5 Day Boston Itinerary

Download the Freedom Trail Brochure for more information on each spot on it.  We printed off this brochure and then took turns reading about the historical sites when we arrived at each while walking the trail.  You can alternatively take a guided tour of the Freedom Trail (offered by many different companies).  We opted for time independence, the ability to spend as little or much time at each spot as we wanted and the ability to deviate from the path as we desired.  We highly recommend this option as we spent a lot of time at Boston Common and then the adjacent Boston Public Garden (not part of the trail).  The Freedom Trail is easy to follow too.  Locate the brick path that marks the trail (2 bricks, sometimes painted) in the middle of the sidewalk (picture centered above of what the bricks look like) and simply follow it.  

 5 Day Boston Itinerary

We’d recommend budgeting at least 4 hours to walk this trail with breaks.  The most efficient way to walk it is to start on one end, walk to the other end and then Uber back to the beginning (if you need to get to your car).  We opted to start in the middle of the trail at Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market.  We first went southwest towards Boston Common, and then we retraced our steps back to Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market for lunch.  Then, we continued on the trail Northeast to the North End/Bunker Hill before retracing our steps back to Quincy Market.  It took us about 7 hours to walk the trail, but we walked it back and forth (started and ended at the same point) and took quite a bit of time to explore many spots just off but not on the Freedom Trail.  

Close to Freedom Trail Highlights

Some of our favorite stops while walking the Freedom Trail were not actually on the Freedom Trail but just off of it.  Hence why we think being your own tour guide of this trail, especially with how well the trail is marked, is your best option.  

Boston Common Park and Boston Public Garden

We spent a lot of time at Boston Common Park (part of trail) as well at the adjacent Boston Public Garden (not part of trail).  Boston Common Park is the oldest public park in the US.  It used to be a pasture for sheep and then a training ground during the Revolutionary War. Now it is a park where many famous people have spoken including Martin Luther Jr. and John Paul II.  It has a lot of open green space and paths.  There’s also a playground and a carousel at this park (not in operation during our visit though).  

 5 Day Boston Itinerary

Likewise, Boston Public Garden, across the street from Boston Common Park, was one our favorite places to explore in Boston.  This park is home to statues of the ducks from the Classic Robert McCloskey Make Way for Ducklings book.  Our daughter loved visiting these ducks SO much.  She ‘fed’ and hugged each.  She also had her stuffed cow ‘play’ with them.  The simple statues were such a hit.  At Boston Public Garden, there are also the iconic swan boats you can ride in the pond here (although not in operation during our spring weekday visit).  Further, if you are a fan of the show Cheers, you can hit up the Cheers Bar while here as it is right across the street from the park on the north side.  

Marlborough Street and Commonwealth Avenue

Some picturesque streets to explore, just east of the park, include Marlborough Street and Commonwealth Avenue.  These streets are lined with pretty townhouses and a tree-covered path even runs through the center of Commonwealth Avenue.  We actually visited these on another day (when we watched the Boston marathon) but easily could have added onto the Freedom trail.  These streets have all the northeast charm and are the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll.  If staying in the city center of Boston, we highly recommend being as close to these streets, Boston Common and Boston Public Garden as possible. 

Quincy Market 

About midway along the trail, the Quincy Market (not part of the trail), just adjacent to Faneuil Hall Marketplace (on the Freedom Trail), was another spot we enjoyed.  It is a good stop for a relatively quick and inexpensive bite to eat.  The market is filled with many different food vendors so everyone can get whatever type of food their heart desires.  We all opted for different specialty pizza slices from Regina Pizza, a Boston original pizzeria.  There was also an entertaining electric violinist in the main dining area and many other small specialty shops in the market.   As travelers who like people but not crowds, beware that this market is rather busy though. 

Greenway Carousel

Not far from Quincy Market is another one of our toddler’s favorite Boston spots, the Greenway Carousel.  This carousel is unique in that it is filled with animals native to the area.  It has whales, sea turtles, squirrels, rabbits, foxes and owls.  Our toddler got a real kick out of riding on both the fox and rabbit (and her stuffed cow got to ride too).  Each ride is only a couple dollars.   See our Boston with a Baby or Toddler post for more toddler and baby friendly Boston ideas.

Logistics Tip

If planning to drive into Boston and start/end your day at Quincy Market (like we did), you can park at the Boston Harbor Garage.  It is pricey ($44 a day) but very convenient and the price is on par with the other structures in the area.  If you arrive before 8:30 am though, parking will only cost you $25.  If you do not mind walking a little farther and are visiting on a weekend, park in this uncovered lot for only $5 (you will not find parking cheaper anywhere else in Boston, weekends only). 

Dinner at Paramount

If looking for a great dinner spot with super tasty food and tons of variety, head to Paramount in Beacon Hill. This restaurant has been open since 1937 and is well liked by locals and visitors.  As a party of 8, we each got something completely different but everyone liked it.  Even Natalie’s Dad, who may be the harshest critic, enjoyed it.  


Day 2 of 5 Day Boston Itinerary: Lexington/Concord, Tour Harvard 

On day 2 of your 5 day Boston itinerary, head to Lexington and Concord in the morning and then tour Harvard in the afternoon.  

Lexington

Lexington is the spot where the Revolutionary war started on April 19, 1775.  On this day, Paul Revere rode from Boston to Lexington to warn the town that the British were coming.  The Revolutionary War then started here when the Redcoats arrived.   

 5 Day Boston Itinerary

The main historic attraction in Lexington to visit is the Lexington Green where the first clash between Minutemen and Redcoats happened.  Before walking around the Lexington Green, stop in the Lexington visitors center for a map that explains the Lexington Green sites.  We were able to walk the green at our own pace this way. Including our visit to the Visitors Center (fun souvenirs and some historic displays), we spent about an hour here.  There is also the Buckman Tavern Museum (where Minutemen prepared for the Redcoats arrival) you can tour.  Although we have not toured it ourselves, the general consensus from everyone we talked to is that the museum is not worth the cost of admission.  

Tip: Check to see if reenactment occurs during your visit.  We were visiting Boston around Patriots Day (April 19th, commemorates the start of the Revolutionary War) and there were several reenactments in the area.  Sam and Natalie’s Dad attended one at the Lexington Green.  It was a unique, and likely once in a lifetime, experience that any history buff would enjoy.  

Concord

Concord is only 5 minutes away from Lexington.  Like Lexington, it is another hub of key historical sites.  Here you can walk across North Bridge, the site of the Shot heard around the world, and watch the 30 minute “The Road to Revolution” presentation at the Minute Man Visitor Center.  If only doing these activities, budget an hour here.  If looking to spend more time in Concord, you can also walk 5-Mile Battle Road Trail that connects Meriam’s Corner in Concord to Lexington, visit The Old Manse (house that Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne both called home) and visit the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (not “The Legends of Sleepy Hollow” Cemetery but where famous authors mentioned above are buried).  

Harvard

 5 Day Boston Itinerary

In the afternoon on day 2 of your 5 day Boston trip, after visiting Lexington and Concord, head to Harvard for a guided tour of the first college founded in the US in 1636.  It’s very interesting to learn about this historic and prestigious college.  The college campus itself is beautiful as well with many historic brick buildings.  Harvard offers free guided tours daily.  We took the 3 PM tour.  Sign up the Friday prior online with the link above to the tour you want to take.  The tours do not book up instantly but be sure to set an alarm early in the morning on the preceding Friday to book the tour time you want to take to ensure you get the time/date you want. 


Day 3 of 5 Day Boston Itinerary: Day Trip to Portsmouth

On day 3 of your 5 day Boston itinerary, take a day trip to Portsmouth, New Hamshiphere.  Portsmouth is a charming New England port city about an hour north of Boston.  It is actually the 3rd oldest town in the US and is filled with colonial architecture.  Portsmouth’s downtown area has many local boutiques and restaurants.  Market Square, the center of this picturesque downtown, is easy to locate with the tall white steeple North Church as the focal point.  Start your visit to Portsmouth at Market Square as it is a good stepping off point for exploring the rest of the downtown area by foot. We spent the morning walking on brick lined streets and checking out the different local shops. 

Portsmouth Activities

Beyond the downtown area and local shops, this town has many other highlights including the parks, museums and waterfront eateries.  We enjoyed lunch at the River House.  Here we were able to dine on the waterfront and have some really delicious seafood (the best of our trip).  We then headed to waterfront Prescott Park.  This simple park has some walk out piers and some nice green space.  

Right next to this park is the open air Strawberry Bank Museum.  Although closed during our visit (open May-October), we were able to see some of the preserved historic buildings on the outside of the grounds.  Right across the street from some of the buildings of this museum is a park of swings (the highlight of our visit to Portsmouth for our toddler).  To round out our visit to Portsmouth, we drove across Memorial Bridge into Maine (we were able to be in 3 states in one day with only an hour of driving).  

Stop at a Local Ice Cream Stand

On your way back to Boston (set GPS to avoid tolls), be sure to stop at Lagos Ice Cream, a homemade ice cream stand with the BEST ice cream.  If you know us in real life, you know we take our ice cream very seriously and this ice cream was SO good.  There were about 50 flavors to choose from here. We tried the Funky Panda which is a vanilla based ice cream with caramel, oreos and coconut.  It was delicious and seriously the best ice cream we have had in a long time.  Important note–only cash is accepted.


Day 4: Boston Tea Party Museum, Boston Public Market, North End

On the 4th day of your 5 day Boston trip, head back into downtown Boston in the morning.  Today your first stop will be the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.  At this museum, you’ll take a 75 minute tour of the Boston Tea Party ships and learn more about the history of the events leading up to and after the Boston Tea Party.  The actors that put on this tour really make it fun and engaging. You’ll even get to throw tea overboard into the harbor at one point.  This museum is open 7 days a week 10am-5pm (tours about every 30 mins) and costs $34/person.  You can make reservations in advance online but it seemed like there was plenty of availability on most tours to join as a same day/walk up add on. 

Parking Tip: If visiting on a weekend and driving into Boston, park in this uncovered lot for only $5 (you will not find parking cheaper anywhere else in Boston, weekends only). 

Boston Public Market for Lunch

After visiting the Boston Tea Party Museum, walk to the Boston Public Market for lunch.  This market is filled with local vendors and different food options.  Seafood, donuts, bagels, middle eastern food, etc.  This market was quieter and less bustling than Quincy Market, which was a welcomed change of pace. 

North End for Cannolis

After having lunch at the Boston Public Market, head to the North End for dessert.  The North End of Boston is the Italian district with all the best Italian restaurants and pastry shops.  Get a Cannoli from both Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry.  Many local Bostonians debate which shop has the better Cannoli.  Natalie votes Modern and Sam votes Mike’s.  Toddler votes both as “really good”.  You’ll have to try both to see which one you like better yourself! 


Day 5 of 5 Day Boston Itinerary: Explore Salem 

On the last day of this 5 day Boston Itinerary, head to Salem, the infamous site of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.  This city is steeped in history and New England Charm as well.

Spend a ½ day or full day exploring this spooky city.   Start your time in Salem by stopping into the Salem Visitors Center.  Here, the staff will be able to tune in to any local happenings that day and give you a map.  From here, head to the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, about a block away north of the visitors center.  This simple memorial has stone benches for each victim of the witch trials.  During these trials, 19 people (14 women and 5 men) were killed.  Reading how each person died (most hung, one pressed to death) really drove home what happened here in the 17th century.  

Essex Street and McIntire District

After visiting the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, head north a couple blocks to stroll down Essex street.  This street is filled with many local and spooky themed stores.  Halloween really is a year round season here.  On Essex street, you’ll also be able to stroll past the Elizabeth Montgomery Bewitched Statue and the House of Seven Gables.  This house was made famous in Nathaniel Hawthorn’s book.  You can go inside of it but the consensus is that it is not worth the admission cost. 

 5 Day Boston Itinerary

From the House of Seven Gables, continue west on Essex street.  You’ll walk past the medieval appearing First Church in Salem and the historic Ropes Garden and Mason.  From here, head south on Chambridge street to Chestnut street.  Chestnut Street is part of the McIntire District in Salem.  This district is filled with some of the finest pre-twentieth century homes in America.  Many of Salem’s most important citizens, including Nathaniel Hawthrone, lived in homes here. Each house has a sign on it indicating the year it was originally built and any historical figures who lived there.  Walking up and down this street was our favorite part of our visit to Salem.  You can also head north and explore Federal Street to see more of these picturesque homes.  

Local Ice Cream, Coffee & Parks

After walking around Salem, head back downtown to get coffee and/or ice cream at two local shops, Odd Meter Coffee Co. and Melt Homemade Ice Cream,  only one door apart from each other.  The homemade carrot cake ice cream at Melt was the perfect afternoon treat.  After this we headed to Salem Common Park where there was a nice playground for our toddler to play on.  If looking for a less bustling option to end your time in Salem, head to the lighthouse at Winter Island Park.  

We found Salem easy to navigate ourselves and appreciated being able to explore at our own pace.  If you’d prefer a guided tour, there are plenty of those too.  The visitors center will be able to tune you into any tours going on the day you visit.  


Where to Stay in Boston

On your 5 day Boston trip, we recommend staying in a central location a bit north of the city center.  A central location outside of the city will make day trips shorter and will be more cost effective than staying in downtown Boston.  We recommend staying at the High Rock Home in Lynn, about a 30 minute commute north of Boston. This condo’s central location, ample square footage, back patio, family friendly amenities and helpful host all made our stay great.  Read more on why we’d recommend this Airbnb in our Where to Stay in Boston as a Family post.   


We hope this guide helps you plan your 5 day Boston trip.  Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!

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Boston with a Baby or Toddler


Boston with a baby or Toddler

Filled with pivotal historical sites, beautiful parks and delicious food, Boston is a great city to visit with your baby or toddler.  After recently visiting Boston with our baby (8 months old) and toddler (2 years old), we learned a lot about spending time in Boston with littles.  Further, to make the most of our time in this historical city with our baby and toddler, we compiled insight about visiting Boston with little kids from as many local parents and fellow traveling parents as possible.  We loved exploring Boston with our kids and know our ‘Boston with a Baby or Toddler’ guide below will help you enjoy your time here with your baby and/or toddler too.    

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!

FYI This post is written based on a trip taken in mid April. We took this trip when our daughter was 2 years old and our son was 8 months old.  For more information on exploring with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts. 


Boston with a Baby or Toddler: Walk the Freedom Trail

Our first Boston with a baby or toddler recommendation is to walk the Freedom Trail.  This 2.5-mile trail takes you through the city to 16 different historical sites that were vital during the Revolutionary War and other historic events.  Walking this trail is a great way to see a lot of historical landmarks located in Boston relatively quickly.  It’s also a great first day in Boston activity because it will help orient you to the downtown area.  Further, it’s a great Boston with a baby or toddler activity because you will have complete time independence if you tour the trail on your own.  

Be Your Own Guide

Before your visit, download the Freedom Trail Brochure for more information on each spot on this trail.  We printed off this brochure and then took turns reading about each historical site when we got there while walking the trail.  Being your own guide also allows you to spend more or less time at each spot or deviate from the path as desired.  This time flexibility is vital for not getting frustrated when traveling with a baby and/or toddler (see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips). The Freedom Trail is easy to follow too.  Locate the brick path (sometimes painted on sidewalk) that marks the trail (2 bricks) in the middle of the sidewalk (picture centered above of what bricks look like) and simply follow it.  We had to curb hop maybe once or twice on the trail but otherwise it was extremely stroller friendly.  

We’d recommend budgeting at least 4-8 hours to walk this trail.  We started and ended the trail at the same point (walked the trail back and forth so 5 miles total).  With our littles and all the time we spent at the parks, getting lunch and deviating off the trail, it took us about 7 hours.   The most efficient way to walk the Freedom Trail is to start on one end, walk to the end and then Uber back to the beginning (if need to get back to your car).  We opted to start in the middle of the trail at Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market and walk it both ways as mentioned above.  We first went southwest towards Boston Common and then we retraced our steps back to Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market for lunch.  Then we continued on the trail northeast to the North End/Bunker Hill.

See our 5 Day Boston Itinerary for more information on walking the Freedom Trail including logistics and add on deviations from the trail we took.  


Boston Common and Boston Public Gardens

Visiting these two parks was really one of the main highlights of our time in Boston with a baby and toddler.  We had such a good time at each, we visited both twice. Once while on the Freedom trail and then once again after watching the Boston Marathon.  

Boston Common Park

Boston with a baby or toddler

Boston Common Park is the oldest public park in the US.  It used to be a pasture for sheep and then a training ground during the Revolutionary War.  Now it is a park where many famous people including Martin Luther Jr. and John Paul II have spoken.  It has a lot of open green space and paths.  There’s also a playground at this park and a carousel (not in operation during our visit though) that your littles are sure to enjoy.   

Boston Public Garden

Boston with a baby or toddler

Boston Public Garden (across the street from Boston Common Park) was one our favorite places to explore in Boston. This park is home to statues of the ducks from the Classic Robert McCloskey Make Way for Ducklings book.  Our toddler loved visiting these ducks SO much.  She ‘fed’ and hugged each.  She also had her stuffed cow ‘play’ with them.  The simple statues were such a hit.  If you have not already, be sure to read this book to your toddler prior to visiting Boston.  At Boston Public Garden, there are also the iconic swan boats you can ride in the pond here (although not in operation during our early spring visit).  Both parks are very stroller friendly. 


Marlborough Street and Commonwealth Avenue

Another great place to explore with your baby or toddler in Boston is Marlborough Street and Commonwealth Avenue.  These picturesque streets are located just east of the parks mentioned above (can easily visit on the same day).  They are lined with pretty townhouses and a tree-covered path even runs through the center of Commonwealth Avenue.   The Northeast charm is in full effect on these streets and they are perfect for a leisurely stroll with your baby or toddler.  This street is very stroller friendly. 


Boston with a Baby or Toddler: Greenway Carousel

Another one of our toddler’s favorite Boston spots was the Greenway Carousel.  This carousel is unique in that it is filled with animals native to the area.  It has whales, sea turtles, squirrels, rabbits, foxes and owls.  Our toddler got a real kick out of both the fox and rabbit (and her stuffed cow got to ride too).  Each ride is only a couple dollars.   This Carousel is not far from the Quincy Market on the freedom trail.  

Boston with a baby or toddler

Boston with a Baby or Toddler: Boston Tea Party Museum

Another fun activity in Boston with your baby or toddler is to visit the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.  At this museum, you’ll take a 75 minute tour of the Boston Tea Party ships and learn more about the history of the events leading up to and after the Boston Tea Party.  The actors that perform on this tour really make it fun and engaging.  You’ll even get to throw tea overboard into the harbor at one point–certainly a highlight for our toddler! 

In general, we are not big fans of timed tours because they do not allow for much flexibility, and typically we do not recommend taking tours like these with littles.  However, the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum has tours nearly every 30 minutes and a lot of same day tour availability, allowing you the flexibility to just hop on the next available tour that works for your family.  You’ll have to leave your stroller at the beginning of this tour and they have an attendant that watches over it while you are on the tour. 

Martin’s Park

Boston with a baby or toddler

After the tour, be sure to head over to the free park, Martin’s Park, only about a block away from the Boston Tea Party Museum across the Harbor Walk.  A lot of the equipment here is geared towards kids a bit older. However, the giant pirate ship was a HUGE hit with our toddler.  It is also very cool how this park is right in the hub of the skyscrapers. This park is right next to the Children’s Museum as well (great rainy day activity for your littles). 

Parking Tip: If visiting on a weekend and driving into Boston, park in this uncovered lot for only $5 (you will not find parking cheaper anywhere else in Boston, elsewhere $25-$45, weekends only). 


Boston with a Baby or Toddler: Day Trip to Portsmouth

Portsmouth with a baby

Taking a day trip to Portsmouth is also a great Boston with a baby or toddler activity. Portsmouth is a charming New England port city about an hour north of Boston in New Hamshiphere.  It is actually the 3rd oldest town in the US and is filled with colonial architecture.  Portsmouth’s downtown area has many local boutiques and restaurants.  Market Square, the center of this picturesque downtown, is easy to locate with the tall white steeple North Church as the focal point.  Start your visit to Portsmouth at Market Square as it is a good stepping off point for exploring the rest of the downtown area by foot. We spent the morning walking on brick lined streets and checking out the different local shops.  There is a really cute toy shop, Treehouse Toys, your kids are sure to love. 

Portsmouth Activities

Beyond the downtown area and local shops, this town has many other highlights including parks, museums and waterfront eateries.  We enjoyed lunch at the River House.  Here we were able to dine on the waterfront and have some really delicious seafood (the best of our trip).  They were able to set us up with two high chairs on the seasonally heated patio (a real treat for us traveling from the midwest winter).  

We then headed to waterfront Prescott Park.  This simple park has some walk out piers and some nice green space for your toddler to run around.  Right next to this park is the open air Strawberry Bank Museum.  Although closed during our visit (open May-October), we were able to see some of the preserved historic buildings on the outside of the grounds.  Right across the street from some of the buildings of this museum is a park of swings which was surely the highlight of our visit to Portsmouth for our toddler.  Here everyone including grandpa, grandma and her stuffed animals went for a swing ride.  To round out our visit to Portsmouth, we drove across Memorial Bridge into Maine (we were able to be in 3 states in one day with only an hour of driving).  Portsmouth streets are very stroller friendly. 

Stop at a Local Ice Cream Stand

On your way back to Boston from Portsmouth (right on the way if you set GPS to avoid tolls), be sure to stop at Lagos Ice Cream, a homemade ice cream stand with the BEST ice cream.  If you know us in real life, you know we take our ice cream very seriously and this ice cream was SO good.  There were about 50 homemade flavors to choose from here.  We tried the Funky Panda which was a vanilla based ice cream with caramel, oreos and coconut.  It was delicious and seriously the best ice cream we have had in a long time. And we eat ice cream pretty often so that is saying a lot! Our toddler and baby very much approved of this stop too! Important note–only cash is accepted.


Boston with a Baby or Toddler: Visit Salem

Another great place to visit with your Baby or Toddler when in Boston is Salem.  This city is where the infamous Salem Witch Trials took place in 1692. Salem is steeped in history and New England Charm as well. 

Spend at least a ½ day, if not a full day, exploring this spooky city with your baby and/or toddler.  We spent a full afternoon in Salem with our kids.  

Start your visit in Salem by stopping at the Salem Visitors Center first.  Here, the staff will be able to tune you into any local happenings that day and give you a map. We found Salem easy to navigate ourselves and appreciated being able to explore at our own pace, especially with our baby and toddler.  From the visitors center, head to the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, about a block away north of the visitors center.  This simple memorial has stone benches for each victim of the witch trials.  Reading how each person died (most hung, one pressed to death) really drove home what happened here in the 17th century.  

Essex Street and McIntire District

After visiting the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, head north a couple blocks to stroll down Essex street.  This street is filled with many local and spooky themed stores.  Halloween is really a year round season here.  A toddler is sure to love all the costumes and halloween trinkets at the stores here.   On Essex street you will also be able to stroll past the Elizabeth Montgomery Bewitched Statue and the House of Seven Gables.  This house was made famous in Nathaniel Hawthorn’s book.  You can go inside of this house too but the consensus is that it is not worth the admission cost. 

From the House of Seven Gables, continue west on Essex street.  You’ll walk past the medieval appearing First Church in Salem and the historic Ropes Garden and Mason.  From here, head south on Chambridge street to Chestnut street.  Chestnut street is part of the McIntire District in Salem.  This district is filled with some of the finest pre-twentieth century homes.  Many of Salem’s most important citizens lived in homes here including Nathaniel Hawthrone.  Each house says the year it was originally built and any historical figures who lived there.  Walking up and down this street was our favorite part of our visit to Salem.  You can also head north and explore Federal Street to see more of these picturesque homes.  

Local Ice Cream, Coffee & Parks

Salem with a toddler

After walking around Salem, head back downtown to get coffee and/or ice cream at two local shops, Odd Meter Coffee Co. and Melt Homemade Ice Cream, only one door apart from each other.  The homemade carrot cake ice cream at Melt was the perfect afternoon treat and the shop workers were so kind to our toddler.  After this, we headed to Salem Common Park where there was a nice playground for our toddler to play on and a swing for our baby.  If looking for a less bustling option to end your time in Salem, head to the lighthouse at Winter Island Park.  


Boston with a Baby or Toddler: Visit Lexington/Concord

Another fun short day trip with your baby or toddler when in Boston is to visit Lexington which is where the Revolutionary war started on April 19, 1775.  On this day, Paul Revere rode from Boston to Lexington to warn the town that the British were coming.  The Revolutionary War started here when the Redcoats arrived and clashed with the Minutemen.   

Boston with a baby or toddler

The main historic attraction in Lexington to tour is the Lexington Green.  The Lexington Green is in the center of town and where that first clash between Minutemen and Redcoats happened.  Before walking around the Lexington Green, be sure to stop in the Lexington Visitors Center for a map that explains the different Lexington Green sites.  We were able to walk the green at our own pace this way with our baby and toddler. It was perfect for our family to tour it this way.  Also, at the Lexington Visitors Center, they had some fun colonial hats and kid books on the revolutionary war. Including our visit to the Visitors Center, we spent about an hour here.  Walking the Lexington Green, other than walking up to the Belfry, is stroller friendly.  

Concord is only 5 minutes away from Lexington.  Like Lexington, it is another hub of key historical sites.  Here you can walk across North Bridge, the site of the Shot heard around the world, and watch the 30 minute “The Road to Revolution” presentation at the Minute Man Visitor Center.  If only doing these activities, budget an hour here.  Like visiting Lexington, all of this is on your own time which is perfect for visiting with a baby and toddler. 


Boston with a Baby or Toddler: Visit Harvard

Boston with a baby or toddler

Another great Boston with a baby or toddler activity is to head to Harvard for a free guided tour.  Harvard is the first college founded in the US in 1636.  It’s very interesting to learn about this historic and prestigious college.  The college campus is beautiful as well with many historic brick buildings.  Our toddler loved exploring and running around the campus. She told us she is going to school there one day.  We’ll see.   

Harvard offers free guided tours daily.  Sign up the Friday prior to the tour you want to take online with the link above.  The tours do not book up instantly but be sure to set an alarm to book the tour time you want to take early in the morning on the preceding Friday to ensure you get the time/date you want. 


Boston with a Baby or Toddler: Where to Eat

There are so many great places to get something to eat in Boston.  Below are some of our favorites that we enjoyed with our baby and toddler.  

Paramount

If looking for a great dinner spot with super tasty food and tons of variety, head to Paramount in Beacon Hill. This restaurant has been open since 1937 and is well liked by locals and visitors.  As a party of 8, we each got something completely different but everyone liked it.  Even Natalie’s Dad who may be the harshest critic. They were very accommodating to our two littles as well.  

Boston Public Market

The Boston Public Market is filled with local vendors and different food options.  Seafood, donuts, bagels, middle eastern food, etc.  This market’s quieter and less bustling atmosphere was a welcome change of pace from Quincy Market (more info below). The causal atmosphere was appreciated with the kids and the market was stroller friendly.  Note there are no high chairs here but we had the kids eat in the stroller/at the table. 

North End for Cannolis

The North End of Boston is the Italian district with all the best Italian restaurants and pastry shops.  Get a Cannoli from both Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry.  Many local Bostonians debate which shop makes a better Cannoli.  Natalie votes Modern and Sam votes Mike’s.  Toddler votes both as “really good”.  You’ll have to try Cannolis from both to decide which one you like better! 

Quincy Market

Quincy Market is a good stop for a relatively quick and inexpensive bite to eat. It’s also right off the Freedom Trail.  This market is filled with many different food vendors so everyone can get whatever type of food their heart desires.  We all opted for different specialty pizza slices from Regina Pizza, a Boston original pizzeria.  There was also an electric violinist in the main dining area and many other small specialty shops in the market.   As travelers who like people but not crowds, beware that this market is rather busy though.  Note there are no high chairs here, but we had the kids eat in the stroller/at the table. If you do bring a stroller, enter from the south end if you do not want to carry the stroller up stairs.

If looking for a concrete plan on how to visit all these spots with your baby and/or toddler, see our 5 Day Boston Itinerary


Boston with a Baby or Toddler: Where to Stay

Central Location

If looking to stay centrally to all the places we recommend visiting in Boston with a baby or toddler, we highly recommend staying at the High Rock Home in Lynn, about a 30 minute commute north of Boston.  Lynn is only 20 minutes south of Salem and 1 hour south of Portsmouth.  It is also only about 35 minutes from Lexington and Harvard.  The central location of this Airbnb made it so we were never driving too much on any one day, a big plus when traveling with a baby and toddler where it already feels like it takes 2 hours to just get out the door.  This upper unit of a duplex comfortably housed six adults and two littles for the week.  Also, it had baby gates, in-unit washer/dryer, high chair and a pack n play–all huge selling points when visiting Boston with a baby or toddler.  Read our full review on this place here

Boston Proper

If staying in the city center of Boston, we highly recommend being as close Commonwealth Ave/Marlborough Street, Boston Common and Boston Public Garden as possible.  These areas are so pretty to walk and perfect for easy afternoon strolls with your baby/toddler. 


Boston with a Baby or Toddler: General Tips

  • Most spots are stroller friendly.   Be prepared to curb hop at times but more often not.  Opt for a narrow stroller that easily goes in doorways.  We love the Graco Ready2Grow Double Stroller. Its narrow, allows a carseat to be clicked into it, gives the option for our toddler to ride on the platform in the back and has a huge basket underneath. It’s our go to travel stroller.  And reasonably priced! 
  • We did not baby wear in Boston/the surrounding area but instead used the Tushbaby to carry our baby and/or toddler if they were not having the stroller.  This made carrying both of the kids around the city SO much easier and was the perfect adjunct to our double stroller.  Use ALWAYSHAVEATRIPPLANNED at checkout for a discount.
  • When we needed one of our kids to sleep in the stroller, we would recline them back in the stroller and place the blackout CoziGo over them to give them a dark place to rest.  Use the link provided for a discount.

We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Boston with a Baby or Toddler.  Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!


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And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!

Where to Stay in Boston as a Family 


When recently looking for a place to stay near Boston while visiting the area with our extended family, we were so glad to find the High Rock Home in Lynn, just north of Boston.  This 4 bedroom, 2 bath condo was the perfect spot for us to stay as a large extended family while exploring Boston and the surrounding area.  Its central location, ample square footage, back patio, family friendly amenities and helpful host all made our stay great.  Read on for a full breakdown of why we found this condo to be the best place to stay in Boston as a family. 

Central Location

The central location of this condo is its biggest selling point.  The Airbnb is about a 30 minute drive south to Boston, 20 minute drive north to Salem, 1 hour drive north to Portsmouth and a 35 minute drive east to Lexington/Concord.  The centrality of this condo made exploring Boston and the surrounding area by car much easier.  We were easily able to access all the spots on this 5 Day Boston Itinerary without too much driving any one day.  Two street parking passes for the time of your stay are included with renting this condo as well.  

Plenty of Space for the Whole Family

This 4 bedroom and 2 bathroom condo has plenty of space for the whole family.  It comfortably accommodated the 6 adults and 2 littles in our party.  The spacious and updated kitchen/dining room is a huge plus too.  It made making and eating meals for a large group easy.   This was a huge money saver, and it was so nice not to have to go out to eat for a real meal.  

Back Patio

The back patio of this Airbnb was a great space to relax and enjoy some fresh air even with being on the second story in a city condo.  The patio is well enclosed, making it a safe space to enjoy with your littles.  Our toddler really liked playing out here with her stuffed animals.  Even with visiting in the early spring, we got several nice afternoons/evenings where we were able to sit out here. 

Family Friendly Space and Touches

Traveling with littles is always a bit challenging but the set-up and amenities of this Aribnb made it easier.  On the upper level, where the bedrooms are located, there is a small landing the kids can play on.  There is a provided baby gate you can set up to make this space safe for the littles.  Also, there is a high chair and large pack n play at the rental as well to utilize.  The large open dining and living room makes play time easier for your littles too.  And very importantly, this condo has an in-unit washer/dryer.  If you have ever traveled with a child, you know this is a huge help. For those with slightly older children, there is a nice array of games provided to keep everyone entertained.

Responsive Host

Rob, the host of High Rock Home, is so responsive and helpful.  Any issue that arose, he was right on it and quickly resolved it.  For example, the TV stopped working one evening during our visit and he had a new one delivered and installed right away the next morning.  He was also helpful in giving us tips on how to get into the city with a car versus without a car.  Any other Boston questions we had he was more than happy to answer as well.  

Bonus: This condo is located only 5 minutes from the local YMCA. If you have a YMCA membership at home, you’ll be able to use it here too. This Y is one of the nicest we’ve ever seen.

We hope this guide helps you plan where to stay in Boston as a family.  Visit the High Rock Home Airbnb listing to check availability and book your stay.  Rob, the host of this rental, is a great resource during your stay.


Planning a trip to Boston? See our 5 Day Boston Itinerary and Boston with a Baby or Toddler for more helpful information on visiting Boston.


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10 Best Things to do La Fortuna Costa Rica


Best Things to do La Fortuna Costa Rica

From hiking through the lush rainforest laced with the most stunning waterfalls to relaxing in natural hot springs to watching a sloth slowly crawl through the treetops, this guide covers all the best things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, including a number of hidden gems.  La Fortuna was our home base for 10 days to explore the Arenal Volcano and surrounding area in Costa Rica.  We’ve done the research for you and have compiled this guide of the best things to do in/around the La Fortuna area based on our personal experience.  We still dream about our time in La Fortuna, Costa Rica and cannot wait to visit again.  Read on for our full guide on the 10 best things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!

FYI: We took this trip when our daughter was 2 years old and our son was 6 months old.  For more information on exploring with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts.


# 1 Best Thing to do La Fortuna: Explore Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

Best Things to do La Fortuna Costa Rica

Our #1 best thing to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica recommendation is to visit Mistico Hanging Bridges Park. The hanging bridges at this park are so cool! They take you into and above the rainforest canopy.  The Self-Guided Hanging Bridges tour is about a 2 mile loop path with 400 feet of elevation gain.  On this tour, you’ll cross 15 bridges (6 of them being hanging bridges that go straight into the rainforest canopy). We really enjoyed our time immersed in the rainforest here. 

Although these bridges may look a bit scary, there are attendants at each bridge that only allow so many people on them at one time and we never felt unsafe on them.  These attendants will take some awesome pictures for you on the bridges too (if you ask)!  And even though it seemed busy when we arrived in the parking lot at the park, the trail here is one-way so it felt like there were only a handful of other people on the path during our visit.

Cost: $28/person, Open 6a-4:30p daily, 25 minutes from La Fortuna Area

Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

#2 Best Thing to do La Fortuna: Hike in Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

Another one of the best things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica is to hike around the Arenal Volcano (one of the country’s 5 active volcanoes that last erupted in 2010).  Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal offers some of the most picturesque spots to hike around the Arenal Volcano.  The lush rainforest hikes, wildlife viewing opportunities and views of the Arenal Volcano here will not disappoint you.  At the park, there are two entrances (right across the street from one another).  See map below for a visual of the different entrances and hiking trails.

Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal Map

Combine Las Heliconias, Las Coladas and El Ceibo Trails

The main entrance is right off the paved main road and leads to three ‘different’ hiking trails. However, you can easily combine all 3 of these trails for a 4.5 mile round trip hike (what we recommend doing).  To start this hike, park in the parking lot right after the main gate and start hiking on the Las Heliconias trail that takes you through a pretty bamboo forest. This short trail quickly joins the Las Coladas trail.  The Las Coladas trail will then take you to a stunning viewpoint of the Arenal Volcano. You also can walk onto the lava fields on some offshoots from the Las Coladas trail if you want to explore the volcanic rock.   

On your way back from this lookout point of the Arenal Volcano on the Las Coladas trail, be sure to head back on the El Ceibo trail. This trail leads you on an offshoot loop to a giant 400 year old Ceiba tree.  The path will then loop you back to the Las Coladas/Las Heliconias trail that you can hike all the way back to the first parking lot.  Our favorite part of this hike was the lush rainforest on the El Ceibo trail.  Beyond the highlight of the GIANT Ceiba tree, there were so many other unique and tall trees in the rainforest along this path.  We also saw a ton of different butterflies and small lizards while on this trail.  

Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

Bumpy Ride to access other Entrance of Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

The other entrance to the park is right across the street from the first off the main road.  However, it is a bumpy 2 km drive down a stone/dirt road.  This was the worst road we drove on in Costa Rica.  The trails at this entrance were well maintained and enjoyable.  However, it took us over 20 mins to drive 2 km in our rental SUV and if you are leary of driving on rough roads, avoid this entrance.  Also, if you’re short on time, stick to the trails at the main gate. 

This side of the park offers two trails that you can hike in a loop for an almost 2 mile round trip hike.  Los Miradores leads to the shores of Lake Arenal and affords you a stunning view of the volcano.  The other trail here, El Tororoi, is a loop offshoot from the main trail with some neat bridges and thick rainforest.  On these trails we saw a lot of Coatimundi (a cross between monkey and raccoon) which was the highlight of hiking on this side of the park for us.  

Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

We found the trails at both entrances to be very serene. We only saw a handful of people on all the trails we hiked here (even at the main gate).   

Cost: $15/adult, $5/child, good for both entrances, can buy tickets at entrance onsite 

Many Private Trails to View Arenal Volcano

Note: There are many private hiking trails around the Arenal Volcano as well that are not technically in the National Park and it can be a bit confusing.  Most have a relatively small admission fee that is comparable in price to entering the National Park.  Arenal 1968 Trail is one of the most popular private trails and starts right beside the entrance to the National Park.  We mainly stuck to the National Park (as US National Park geeks) for hiking around the Arenal Volcano but were told by locals that the experience on these private trails is comparable to the hikes in the National Park. 


#3 Hike to Waterfall/Rio Celeste in Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio

Rio Celeste in Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio

Our next top recommendation on what to do near La Fortuna, Costa Rica is to visit Rio Celeste in Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio. This is the iconic bright blue river and waterfall that has water unlike any other water we have ever seen (introduction picture on this post).  The Mysteries of Tenorio Trail here is about 3 miles round trip with 650 feet of elevation and is the only way to see this river and waterfall.  First, you will hike to just above the waterfall.  Then you will take an offshoot staircase trail down to the waterfall.  It is incredibly beautiful here! 

Once you’ve taken in all the beauty, head back up the stairs and continue on the trail to the end where you can see the transition from normal water to the bright blue water in Rio Celeste.  This bright blue is due to the increased acidity at this point in the river making aluminosilicate present into a larger particle size. This particle changes light reflection creating an optical illusion of the blue color (yay science!). If you prefer the more poetic reason for the blue colors, the indigenous peoples believed the river was blue due to God using the river to wash his paintbrush when he was painting the sky.

Magical Hike and Waterfall

The hike here through the rainforest to this waterfall is magical.  Despite pouring rain almost the entire time we hiked here, we had one of the most memorable and fun hikes we have completed as a family.  We saw a ton of unique birds and several snakes. Fun (maybe more important) fact–the smaller snakes are actually more dangerous because they don’t know how to control their venom and are usually more aggressive.  This park is about a 1.5 hour drive from the Arenal area through the countryside. 

Cost: $12/adult, IMPORTANT NOTE: You cannot buy tickets onsite (unlike Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal) and need to purchase a timed entrance prior to arrival (or upon arrival if you have wifi/service and there are still openings).  This timed entry system helps keep the trail from getting congested. We are glad this system was in place because the trail had other people on it but the number of people was not overwhelming. 

Stranger Shout Out

Note of Appreciation: HUGE Shoutout to the local who (out of the pure kindness of his heart) gave us nice adjustable rain ponchos to put on/over our kids on our hike here.  This man went to his car and got these ponchos for us (without us asking) after he heard we had forgotten our kids’ rain gear at our Airbnb (1.5 hours away so if we went back we would miss our timed entrance) and that the local shops did not have any ponchos for sale that would work for our kids.  This man was an angel and these ponchos kept our kids happy (by keeping their bodies dry) during this entire hike.  Without him, we may not have completed the hike and wouldn’t have our treasured memories from completing it.  We hope he reads this blog post and knows we will be sure to pass on his kindness!


# 4 Hike to Catarata del Toro Waterfall

Best Things to do La Fortuna Costa Rica

Catarata del Toro, one of the tallest waterfalls in Costa Rica, is located in the middle of Costa Rica on an ecological reserve on private property.  This ecological reserve is home to one of the most green, lush rainforests and several other waterfalls as well.  To view this waterfall, you’ll hike down approximately ¾ of a mile, into a volcanic crater, to the base of the 300 foot waterfall.  The cliffs around the waterfall are streaked with vibrant red and orange as well as surrounded by bright green ferns. It looks like something straight out of the show Lost.  This waterfall is 1.5 hours from La Fortuna.  The drive here is a bit windy but nothing out of the ordinary for Costa Rica roads and, unlike some other Costa Rican roads, the road is well-paved. 

Cost: Catarata Del Toro $14 (combine with Blue Falls entrance for $25/person)


#5 Best Thing to do La Fortuna: Hike to the Blue Falls 

Best Things to do La Fortuna Costa Rica

Although most people visit this area mainly to see Catarata del Toro waterfall, do not miss visiting the other Blue Falls just down the road as this was one of our favorite hikes and things we did in Costa Rica.  Coming from the La Fortuna area, less than a quarter mile down the road from the entrance to Catarata del Toro (where you pay for admission) is the trailhead to hike to the Blue Falls.  There are several waterfalls you can hike to from the Blue Falls trailhead (some closed during our visit though due to trail erosion).  We hiked to two of the waterfall areas, Tepezquintle (1 waterfall here) and Las Gemelas (2 waterfalls at this spot), and were completely blown away with their beauty. 

Fairytale Worthy Waterfalls

Hiking to these waterfalls was nothing short of magical.  With intermittent rain that day, there was a  mystical fog in the air that added to the allure of the lush moss covered rainforest and stunningly beautiful blue waterfalls here.  We were the only people at each waterfall area and actually had ‘hiking attendants’ help us access each. To reach both waterfall areas, you have to cross a river and the trail is not necessarily easy to follow from there. It was awesome to have someone help guide us through these areas that truly felt untouched.  We’ve never experienced another hike quite like this (despite all our hiking experiences all over the world) and loved it.  

Our favorite waterfall and associated hike at the Blue Falls area was Tepezquintle. Words cannot justly describe the beauty here (although we attempted above). The round-trip hike to both of these waterfalls/areas combined was about 3 miles. Both waterfalls are accessed from the main trail to the right of the initial trailhead. This trail also leads to Poza Azul, part of the Blue Falls area where you can swim. The water tends to be rather cold here though so if you’re planning on swimming here, be prepared for a chilly dip. 

Blue Falls

Logistics of Hiking Catarata del Toro and the Blue Falls

The hikes to the Blue Falls are a bit more tricky then Catarata del Toro hike as that is mainly on well maintained stairs whereas Blue Falls is more of a traditional hike with some rivers/rocks to cross. That being said though, since there were ‘hiking attendants’ at the Blue Falls, we had no issue accessing them. 

If it is a clear day, we would recommend hiking to the Blue Falls area first and then to Catarata del Toro. However, if the day is questionable on the ability to see Catarata del Toro due to fog or rain, be sure to hike there first if the area is clear. Sometimes it can get so foggy in the volcanic crater that you cannot see the Catarata del Toro waterfall very well. We visited on a rainy and foggy day but happened to hike down to Catarata del Toro when it was clear. However, by the time we got back to the top of the crater, it was too foggy to see Catarata del Toro again. mSo if you have clear skies, hike there first to ensure you can see Catarata del Toro.  

Cost:  Blue Falls $17/adult, Catarata Del Toro $14, Both $25


#6 Best Thing to do La Fortuna: Sloth Watching Tour 

Sloths in La Fortuna Costa Rica

Another top activity to do in the La Fortuna area is to go on a guided sloth tour.  Seeing a sloth in the wild was something on our Costa Rica bucket list.  However, seeing them on your own in the wild is almost impossible as they are masters at camouflage and also tend to curl up into a ball in the trees making them even harder to see.  We are sure there were sloths in the trees while we were hiking through other parts of the rainforest Costa Rica on our own but only with the help of the guide were we able to see them.  

We went on a hike with a guide from the small local family business of the Las Mariolas Trails.  On this tour, besides seeing five different sloths (including a mama and her baby), we saw many different birds, several snakes, several lizards and the elusive yet stunning red dart frog. The highlight of our time here was seeing a mama sloth climbing along a tree with her baby on her belly. The guides on our tour were very knowledgeable and so skilled at seeing different animals.  They also brought a telescope with them that allowed you to see a lot of the animals close up.  

 Las Mariolas Trails

At the end of this tour, we also got to make (and eat) traditional handmade tortillas and hand press/juice (and drink) sugar cane with the family.  This family treated our kids like family, and we would highly recommend this tour for some awesome wildlife viewing opportunities and welcoming company.  Las Mariolas offers public tours (up to 10 people) or private tours (great option with unpredictable littles, inquire with company on dates/times/cost).

Public tour cost: $32/adult, baby/toddler free 


#7 Take a Cooking Class 

Cooking Class La Fortuna

Another best thing to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica is to take a cooking class with a local family.  This was definitely one of our favorite things we did in Costa Rica!  The food was amazing (more delicious than words can describe) and we really enjoyed the company of the family. Most of the ingredients you use to cook your meal are right from the family’s farm and you actually go pick most of them fresh from the garden that evening. The couple items they do not grow/raise themselves, they get from the neighbors farm. We really felt like part of the family for an evening and got so much local insight from the two sons who taught the class. 

The day we took the cooking class, it was just our family, which was extremely nice given that we have two little unpredictable children. An added bonus is that before you leave, they’ll take you on a little tour of the garden area at night, and will show you lots of different, colorful frogs. This was super neat! We highly recommend this class! 

Cost: $80/adult, baby/toddler free


#8 Best Thing to do La Fortuna: Visit a Hot Springs

Our next best thing to do in La Fortuna recommendation is to visit a natural hot spring.  Natural hot springs are very prevalent throughout the La Fortuna area.  There are many large and extravagant resorts in the area that offer you an expensive yet luxurious hot springs experience. We would love to spend a day at one of these more fancy resorts if the littles were not with us.

Hot Springs La Fortuna

If opting for a more local, inexpensive and low-key hot spring experience like us (with our littles), go to Relax Termalitas Hot Springs. Here there are several nice pools and even a large slide leading into one of the hot spring pools (that our toddler LOVED watching us go on). This place also had a very local feel. We are quite certain we were the only non-locals there. Many people were cooking out and making the most of using the covered picnic areas surrounding the pools

Cost: $10/adult or child, baby/toddler free 


#9 Arenal Observatory Lodge 

Our next top thing to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica recommendation is to visit the Arenal Observatory Lodge. This is an off-the-beaten path rainforest area to explore that was recommended to us by a local as their favorite thing to do in the area.  Also, on a clear day, the lodge has stunning views of the volcano from the restaurant.  We really enjoyed the hiking here as it felt very serene.   There were several waterfalls we hiked to see. 

The most unique thing about this area was the colorful eucalyptus trees along the trails.  These colorful eucalyptus trees almost look fake with the streaks of different colors and glossy appearance of them.  They are also huge! Watching them sway in the wind was mesmerizing. There are about 6 miles worth of trails to hike at the Arenal Observatory Lodge.  We recommend hiking to the three waterfalls here and then getting lunch at the restaurant (if it is a clear day).

Cost: $16/adult, baby/toddler free


#10 Don Olivo Chocolate Tour

Don Olivo Chocolate Tour

This Chocolate Tour through a locals ‘backyard’ is fun way to learn more about local fruits and the chocolate making process.  Come hungry because you’ll get a lot of samples of fruit/juices, chocolate and coffee.  They have tours at 8a, 10a, 1p and 3p.  We recommend the 8a tour for the least amount of people on the tour and use it as a light breakfast.  We took a tour similar to this when we lived in Belize (where we met) and this experience had us reminiscing of our time living there. 

Cost: $25/adult, kids free


Bonus: Enjoy Local Restaurants 

There are all sorts of yummy restaurants in the La Fortuna area. Three of our favorites were Selva Rustica, Tierra Mia and Travesia. Each of them had very yummy food for a reasonable price.  The staff at each was very accommodating to our two young children as well.  Special shout out to the waitress at Tierra Mia who gave our daughter to coloring/sticker books that she clearly bought and brought herself. Her kindness to our daughter warmed our hearts! 


General La Fortuna Costa Rica Tips

Flying/Driving/Navigation

  • Fly into whichever international airport, Liberia or San Jose, that is less expensive. Both are about the same distance from the La Fortuna area. You will need to rent a car to then drive to the La Fortuna area. Beware, the drive from either spot is VERY windy and you may get motion sick.  See our How to Prevent Motion Sickness While Traveling and Flying post for more tips on combating this. 
  • We highly recommend driving to La Fortuna during the day, as it is rather scary to drive at night with the windiness of the road and steep drop offs. In general, only plan to drive any sort of distance during the day while in Costa Rica. 
  • For navigation, we were told the App Waze is much better than Google maps by many other travelers. However, we used Google maps the entire time we were in Costa Rica and did not have any issues. We used the offline Google maps and did not have a data plan in Costa Rica. 

Where to Stay Near La Fortuna

  • We stayed in Agua Azul, which is about 10 minutes outside of downtown La Fortuna.  We stayed on a farm where we had acres and acres of beautiful gardens and farmland to ourselves while staying in a private small home. We highly recommend scoping out Airbnb and looking at all the different unique stays offered in the general area. We also highly encourage you to stay outside of downtown La Fortuna, somewhere a bit more remote, for a more serene experience.  Downtown La Fortuna is actually rather touristy and built up.  The park in downtown La Fortuna is nice and downtown La Fortuna is where we got groceries, browsed local bookstores and had some yummy meals. Beyond that though, we do not recommend spending an extensive amount of time in downtown La Fortuna. 

Miscellaneous Tips

  • This is not an exact conversion, but the easiest way to get an approximation of how much something costs in Costa Rican colones in USD is to move the decimal point 3 spots and then double that amount. So if something cost 500 Costa Rican colones, it cost approximately $1 USD. Likewise, if something costs 8000 Costa Rican colones, it costs $16 USD. Note that conversion rates may change over time.
  • WhatsApp is an awesome way to communicate/inquire with a lot of different businesses in Costa Rica.

We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to La Fortuna, Costa Rica.  Anything you’d add to our best things to do La Fortuna post? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment! Please also see our 5 Best Activities in La Fortuna, Costa Rica with a Baby and/or Toddler & Top 5 Best Hikes La Fortuna, Costa Rica articles for more information on La Fortuna.

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Top 5 Best Hikes La Fortuna, Costa Rica


Best Hikes La Fortuna Costa Rica

The La Fortuna area offers countless lush rainforest hikes.  These hikes lead to stunning waterfalls and volcano views. They also offer many wildlife viewing opportunities.  While visiting La Fortuna, Costa Rica for 10 days, we hiked everyday and explored as many different trails here as possible.  After completing so many hikes in the La Fortuna area, we’ve complied a top 5 best hikes near La Fortuna, Costa Rica list. Read on for a full breakdown of our favorite hikes in the La Fortuna area.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


#1 Waterfall/Rio Celeste in Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio

Our #1 best hike recommendation near La Fortuna, Costa Rica is Rio Celeste (first picture of this post). This hike located in Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio is famous for its iconic bright blue river and waterfall that has water unlike any other water we have ever seen.  The Mysteries of Tenorio Trail here is about 3 miles round trip with 650 feet of elevation. Hiking the trail is the only way to see this river and waterfall.  First, you will hike to just above the waterfall.  Then you will take an offshoot staircase down to the base of the waterfall.  It is incredibly beautiful here! 

Once you’ve taken in all the beauty of the waterfall, head back up the stairs and continue on the trail to the end where you can see the transition from normal water to the bright blue water in Rio Celeste. This bright blue is due to the increased acidity at this point in the river making aluminosilicate present into a larger particle size. This particle changes light reflection creating an optical illusion of the blue color (yay science!). If you prefer the more poetic reason for the blue colors, the indigenous peoples believed the river was blue due to God using the river to wash his paintbrush when he was painting the sky.

Magical Rainforest and Waterfall Hike

The hike here through the rainforest to this waterfall is magical.  Despite pouring rain almost the entire time we hiked here, we had one of the most memorable and fun hikes we have completed as a family.  We saw a ton of unique birds and several snakes (fun (maybe more important) fact: the smaller snakes are actually more dangerous because they don’t know how to control their venom and are usually more aggressive).  This park is about a 1.5 hour drive from the Arenal area through the countryside. 

Cost: $12/adult, IMPORTANT NOTE: You cannot buy tickets onsite (unlike Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal) and need to purchase a timed entrance prior to arrival (or upon arrival if you have wifi/service and there are still openings).  This timed entry system helps keep the trail from getting congested. We are glad this system was in place because the trail had other people on it but the number of people was not overwhelming. 

Shout Out to a Stranger

Note of Appreciation: HUGE Shoutout to the local who (out of the pure kindness of his heart) gave us nice adjustable rain ponchos to put on/over our kids for our hike here.  This man went to his car and got these ponchos for us (without us asking) after he heard we had forgotten our kids’ rain gear at our Airbnb (1.5 hours away and would miss our timed entrance if we went back to get) and learned that the local shops did not have any ponchos for sale that would work for our kids.  These ponchos kept our kids happy (by keeping their bodies dry) during this entire hike.  Without this kind stranger, we may not have completed the hike and wouldn’t have our treasured memories from completing it.  We hope he reads this blog post and knows we will be sure to pass on his kindness!


#2 Best Hike near La Fortuna: Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

Best Hikes La Fortuna Costa Rica

Next on our list of best hikes near La Fortuna Costa Rica is Mistico Hanging Bridges.  The hanging bridges on the trail here are so cool as they take you into and above the rainforest canopy.  We really enjoyed our time immersed in the rainforest at this park.  The Self Guided Hanging Bridges tour is about a 2 mile loop path with 400 feet of elevation gain.  On this tour, you’ll cross 15 bridges (6 of them being hanging bridges that go straight into the rainforest canopy). We really enjoyed our time immersed in the rainforest here. 

Although the bridges may look a bit scary, we never felt unsafe or scared on them. There are attendants at each bridge that only allow so many people on the bridges at one time so they never get too wobbly.  These attendants will also take some awesome pictures for your family on the bridges (if you ask)! And even though it seemed busy when we arrived in the parking lot of this park, the trail here is one-way and it felt like there were only a handful of other people on the path during our visit. 

Cost: $28/person, Open 6a-4:30p daily, 25 minutes from La Fortuna Area


#3 Best Hike near La Fortuna: Catarata del Toro Waterfall

Best Hikes La Fortuna Costa Rica

Our next top hike recommendation near La Fortuna Costa Rica is Catarata del Toro.  This waterfall is one of the tallest waterfalls in Costa Rica and is located in the middle of Costa Rica on an ecological reserve that is on private property.  This ecological reserve is home to a green, lush rainforest and several other smaller waterfalls as well.  To view this waterfall, you’ll hike down approximately ¾ of a mile, into a volcanic crater, to the base of the 300 foot waterfall.  The cliffs around the waterfall are streaked with vibrant red and orange as well as surrounded by bright green ferns. It looks like something straight out of the show Lost.  This waterfall is 1.5 hours from La Fortuna.  The drive here is a bit windy but nothing out of the ordinary for Costa Rica roads and, unlike some other Costa Rican roads, the road is well-paved. 

Cost: Catarata Del Toro $14 (combine with Blue Falls entrance for $25/person)


Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 8+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


#4 Best Hike near La Fortuna: Blue Falls

Best Hikes La Fortuna Costa Rica

Our next best hike near La Fortuna Costa Rica is Blue Falls.  Although most people visit this area mainly to see the Catarata del Toro waterfall, do not miss visiting the other Blue Falls just down the road as this hike also makes our top hikes near La Fortuna Costa Rica list.  Coming from the La Fortuna area, less than a quarter mile down the road from the entrance to Catarata del Toro (where you pay for admission) is the trailhead to hike to the Blue Falls.  There are several waterfalls you can hike to from the Blue Falls trailhead (some were closed during our visit though due to trail erosion).  We hiked to two of the waterfall areas, Tepezquintle (1 waterfall here) and Las Gemelas (2 waterfalls at this spot), and were completely blown away with their beauty.  

Fairytale Worthy Waterfalls

Hiking to these waterfalls was nothing short of magical.  With intermittent rain that day, there was a  mystical fog in the air that added to the allure of the lush moss covered rainforest and stunningly beautiful blue waterfalls.  We were the only people at each waterfall area and actually had ‘hiking attendants’ help us access each. To reach both waterfall areas, you have to cross a river and the trail is not necessarily easy to follow from there. It was awesome to have someone help guide us through these areas that truly felt untouched.  We’ve never experienced another hike quite like this (despite all our hiking experiences all over the world) and loved it.  

Best Hikes La Fortuna Costa Rica

Our favorite waterfall and associated hike at the Blue Falls area was Tepezquintle. Words cannot justly describe the beauty here (although we attempted above). The round-trip hike to both of these waterfalls/areas combined was about 3 miles. Both waterfalls are accessed from the main trail to the right of the initial trailhead. This trail also leads to Poza Azul, part of the Blue Falls area where you can swim. The water tends to be rather cold here though so if you’re planning on swimming, be prepared for a chilly dip. 

Logistics of Hiking Catarata del Toro and the Blue Falls

The hikes to the Blue Falls are a bit more challenging than the Catarata del Toro hike.  The Catarata del Toro trail is mainly on well maintained stairs whereas Blue Falls is more of a traditional hike with some rivers/rocks to cross. That being said though, since there were ‘hiking attendants’ at the Blue Falls to assist if needed, we had no issue accessing them. 

If it is a clear day, we would recommend hiking to the Blue Falls area first and then to Catarata del Toro. However, if the day is questionable on the ability to see Catarata del Toro due to fog or rain, be sure to hike there first if the area is clear. Sometimes it can get so foggy in the volcanic crater that you cannot see the Catarata del Toro waterfall very well. We visited on a rainy and foggy day but happened to hike down to Catarata del Toro when it was clear. However, by the time we got back to the top of the crater, it was too foggy to see Catarata del Toro again. So if you have clear skies, hike there first to ensure you can see Catarata del Toro.  

Cost:  Blue Falls $17/adult, Catarata Del Toro $14, Both $25


#5 Best Hike near La Fortuna: Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

Our next best La Fortuna hike recommendation is to hike in Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal. This park offers some of the most picturesque spots to hike around the Arenal Volcano.  The lush rainforest hikes, wildlife viewing opportunities and views of the Arenal Volcano here will not disappoint you.  At the park, there are two entrances (right across the street from one another).  See map here for a visual of the different entrances and hiking trails. 

Combine Las Heliconias, Las Coladas and El Ceibo Trails

The main entrance is right off the paved main road and leads to three ‘different’ hiking trails.  However, you can easily combine all 3 of these trails for a 4.5 mile round trip hike (what we recommend doing).  To start this hike, park in the parking lot to the left after the main gate and start hiking on the Las Heliconias trail that takes you through a pretty bamboo forest. This short trail quickly joins the Las Coladas trail.  The Las Coladas trail will then take you to a stunning viewpoint of the Arenal Volcano. You also can walk onto the lava fields on some offshoots from the Las Coladas trail if you want to explore the volcanic rock.   

On your way back from this lookout point of the Arenal Volcano on the Las Coladas trail, be sure to head back on the El Ceibo trail. This trail leads you on an offshoot loop to a giant 400 year old Ceiba tree.  The path will then loop you back to the La Coladas/Las Heliconias trail that you can hike all the way back to the first parking lot.  Our favorite part of this hike was the lush rainforest on the El Ceibo trail.  Beyond the highlight of the GIANT Ceiba tree, there were so many other unique and tall trees in the rainforest along this path.  We also saw a ton of different butterflies and small lizards while on this trail.  

Bumpy Ride to access other Entrance of Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

The other entrance to the park is right across the street from the first off the main road.  However, it is a bumpy 2 km drive down a stone/dirt road.  This was the worst road we drove on in Costa Rica.  The trails at this entrance were well maintained and enjoyable.  However, it took us over 20 mins to drive 2 km in our rental SUV, and if you are leary of driving on rough roads, avoid this entrance.  Also, if you’re short on time, stick to the trails at the main gate. 

This side of the park offers two trails that you can hike in a loop for an almost 2 mile round trip hike.  Los Miradores leads to the shores of Lake Arenal and affords you a stunning view of the volcano.  The other trail here, El Tororoi, is a loop offshoot from the main trail with some neat bridges and thick rainforest trails.  On these trails we saw a lot of Coatimundi (a cross between monkey and raccoon) which was the highlight of hiking on this side of the park for us.  

We found the trails at both entrances to be very serene. We only saw a handful of people on all the trails we hiked here (even at the main gate).   

Cost: $15/adult, $5/child, good for both entrances, can buy tickets at entrance onsite 


Many Private Trails Create Confusion

Note: There are many private hiking trails around the Arenal Volcano as well that are not technically in the National Park. It can be a bit confusing to determine what trails to hike.  Most areas have a relatively small admission fee that is comparable in price to entering the National Park.  Arenal 1968 Trail is one of the most popular private trails and starts right beside the entrance to the National Park.  We mainly stuck to the National Park (as US National Park geeks) for hiking around the Arenal Volcano but were told by locals that the experience on these private trails is comparable to the hikes in the National Park. 


Bonus Best Hike near La Fortuna: Arenal Observatory 

Our next top hike near La Fortuna Costa Rica recommendation is to hike at the Arenal Observatory Lodge. This is an off-the-beaten path rainforest area to explore that was recommended to us by a local as their favorite thing to do in the area.  We really enjoyed the hiking here as it felt very serene.   There were several waterfalls we hiked to see but the most unique thing about this area was the colorful eucalyptus trees along the trails.  These colorful eucalyptus trees almost look fake with the streaks of different colors and glossy appearance.  They are also huge!  Watching them sway in the wind was mesmerizing. 

There are about 6 miles worth of trails to hike at the Arenal Observatory Lodge.  We recommend hiking to the three waterfalls and then getting lunch at the restaurant (if it is a clear day). Beyond hiking, on a clear day, the lodge here also has stunning views of the Arenal Volcano from the restaurant.  


We hope this guide helps you plan your hiking in/around La Fortuna.  Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment! Please also read our 5 Best Activities in La Fortuna, Costa Rica with a Baby and/or Toddler & 10 Best Things to do La Fortuna, Costa Rica articles for more La Fortuna information.

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