WNC Nature Center- Western North Carolina Nature Center
The Western North Carolina Nature Center is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with animals native to the Appalachian area. We spent the afternoon here when Isla was 2 months old and Graham was just over 2 yrs old. The park is very hilly, being built on the side of a mountain. I highly recommend using a baby carrier, although lots of people had strollers and were just fine.
Graham (our son) loved the reptile room and the wolves! When we were there the bears were hibernating so we didn't really get to see them. We did visit the petting zoo area and enjoyed the various birds. They had a little play area with a slide that was great for 3+ kids, Graham was just a little small. That being said he loved wandering around the WNC Nature Center. The layout is great and you really feel like the animals are in their natural settings. While I don't support all zoos this Nature Center is a part of the Red Wolf Species Survival Program, which is a pretty cool program to help the red wolf species survive, currently all wild red wolves live in North Carolina.
I would say 2-3 hours there is perfect! We didn't eat there so I don't have much advice concerning dining, but there was a really nice park just outside so I would recommend bringing a lunch and eating at the playground.
Their mission statement: "to educate the public about the natural history, flora and fauna of the Southern Appalachians and to develop public responsibility for its conservation."