Looking for an affordable family getaway where you can unwind and unplug? At this 100-year-old homestead-turned-family camp, all-inclusive pricing includes meals and many outdoorsy activities. Earthshine Discovery Center is located on man-made Lake Toxaway, North Carolina, near the Pisgah National Forest, and about a 90-minute drive from Asheville. Guests can stay in a hand-built cedar log lodge complete with rock fireplaces, patchwork quilts, log beds, and rocking chairs, or in a cottage that contains three family suites.
The area is quite remote. The main road is U.S. Highway 64, a typical mountain road, winding with tight turns. Lake Toxaway is the largest private lake in North Carolina. It is ringed by four mountains: Hawk Mountain, Panthertail Mountain, Cold Mountain, and Mount Toxaway. There are several wilderness areas in the immediate vicinity with over 10,000 acres. The area is popular for activities such as fishing, swimming, boating, skiing and sailing.
All-Inclusive Vacation Pricing
Earthshine offers all-inclusive pricing that covers accommodations, meals, and activities. For many families, this style of vacation is less stressful because there are no surprises about what you will spend. Rates at Earthshine Discovery Center include a guestroom in Earthshine Mountain Lodge with private bath, three meals a day, beverages, and activities. In the summer, guests can also opt for an American B&B package that includes only accommodations plus breakfast, with participation in activities on an a la carte basis.
Meals at Earthshine are served family-style in a dining hall. In the evenings, there is an hors d'oeuvre program before dinner.
Family Reunions and Gatherings
For large family getaways and reunions, it is possible to rent out the entire Earthshine Mountain Lodge. This can be a great, affordable option if your family is looking for a value-oriented venue in the Southeast with a built-in array of fun, outdoorsy activities. Together, the lodge and annex cottage can house up to 45 people. The lodge has 10 rooms, as well as a dining area, two stone fireplaces, a mountainside deck, a second-floor gathering space, and an outside rock patio. The cottage has three additional suites.
Activities at Earthshine
Earthshine Discovery Center is set on 83 acres and families will find a lot of fun on-site. Sample activities include:
- Pioneer morning: Travel back in time to the 1840s in the pioneer village, and try blacksmithing, candle dipping, cider-making, and more.
- Cherokee morning: Make pottery, throw tomahawks, and learn about surviving on the land as the Cherokees did.
- Adventure activities: Try a climbing wall, ziplines, or a high-ropes course. The five-stage zipline canopy tour was the first to be built in the U.S. Guests can also try to solve the challenges on a Family Adventure Course.
- Turtle tracking: Help track the movements of several wild box turtles that have been radio-tagged, to gather information about this endangered species.
- Archery: Take aim with bows and arrows to the archery range and shoot at targets.
- Low ropes and high ropes: Earthshine offers both a low-ropes course and a high-ropes course that ends with an exciting leap of faith.
- Creek hike and slide: Put on water shoes and hike right up the creek, then slide down a natural rock water slide. Kids can also mine for gems.
Easter at Earthshine means Easter crafts and a giant egg hunt. Kids can decorate eggs, make Easter baskets, and coat corncobs in peanut butter and birdseed to make treats for birds and squirrels. Then in May, Memorial Day weekend is sheep-shearing time.
Outdoor Education and Nature Programs
Earthshine Discovery Center hosts many field trips and offers outdoor education programs such as Destination 1840 (with half the students going back in time as Cherokee, and half as settlers). Earthshine also offers outreach programs and there's a nature center on-site as well.
A typical family of four would pay about $2,600 for a five-night stay, including lodging, meals, and activities.
- Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher