As much as we want to avoid it, autumn is growing ever closer, and that means school is starting soon too. Whether you’re ready for your kids to go back, or you’re hoping to savor those last few days of summer with them, chances are you’d like to fit one or two fun things in before the fall schedule sets in. If you’re visiting Asheville, or even if you live here, there are plenty of family-friendly things to do that won’t break the bank. While white water rafting and zip-lining are amazing, they’re not always best on the budget when you’re gearing up for all those back to school clothes and supplies. So here are three really fun, affordable things to do with the kids before school starts:

Apple Picking

It’s hard to believe that it’s already fall, but the apples are on! Local Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville just opened up their farm for U-Pick and other fall harvest activities on August 15, so get the kids in before school starts and you get too busy. Apples are one of the best fruits for kids to pick because the trees are short and easy to reach, and there are no thorns to watch out for like with raspberries and blackberries. Also, ripe apples are easy for kids to pick out, and it doesn’t take too long to fill up a bushel. While you’re at the farm, there are tons of other activities for the kids to participate in, including an apple cannon, a corn maze, a nature trail, and who could forget delicious apple cinnamon donuts? It’s a great early-fall outing to take while you’ve still got a bit of free time! And if you’re planning on squeezing this outing in as your last hurrah before school, then try to go on Labor Day weekend, as downtown Hendersonville is hosting the NC Apple Festival, where there’s sure to be fun and apple goodies for the whole family!

Asheville Pinball Museum

If you’re looking for a cheap way to beat the August heat with the kids, you can’t beat the Asheville Pinball Museum. Though they call themselves a museum, they’re really an arcade, and for a flat fee, you and the kids can get in and play to your heart’s content. The museum boasts more than 75 arcade games, and they’ve got a lot more than just pinball. It’s a good place to let the kids run around and play the games they like, without being out in the heat. The Asheville Pinball Museum is also a great idea because most locals forget it’s right downtown, so it’s not always super busy. We do caution you to go on a weekday if you can, just to avoid the Saturday tourist lines. Kids 12 and under get a discount on the flat rate too!

Western North Carolina Nature Center

The North Carolina Zoo is quite the long haul if you live in Asheville, which is why the WNC Nature Center is the perfect spot to take the kids this fall! Just a short drive from downtown Asheville, the Nature Center is home to more than 60 different species of animals, and it’s dedicated to providing a safe and educational experience for the kids. The animals at the Nature Center are well cared for, and your kids will love learning about them at different exhibits like Wolf Run, Black Bear Ridge, and Otter Falls. Best of all, the Nature Center also offers quite a range of hiking and nature trails to explore, and they provide picnic tables at various locations in case you’d like to bring one on your day out. If you’re an Asheville resident, know that you’ll get a discounted rate at entry—$7.95 for adults and $5.95 for kids. If you’re just visiting, the rates are still extremely reasonable at $10.95 for adults and $6.95 for youth.

We hope one of these locations fits the bill for your last big hurrah of the summer! There’s always something to do in downtown Asheville, and most activities are family friendly, so if you’re looking for more activities, be sure to check the Asheville event calendar. If Asheville seems like it might be the perfect place for your family to call home, be sure to check out the sustainable mountain community at Couch Mountain. A peaceful community just minutes from downtown, Couch Mountain offers both the tranquility of the mountains that you want and the accessibility to Asheville that you need. Visit our site for more information about the homes we have for sale now.