Grandfather Mountain will open its gates to High Country residents, employees and their guests for only $5 each during the month of April 2023, as the park’s “Dollar Days” promotion returns in time for spring.
The promotion allows anyone who lives or works in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga or Wilkes counties — along with their guests traveling in the same vehicle — to visit at the discounted rate (per person). Students attending a local college or university are also eligible for the discount.
Dollar Days guests must book their visit online here. To take advantage of the reduced rate, guests should choose the Dollar Days admission calendar and rate when reserving their tickets.
Upon arrival at Grandfather’s Entrance Gate, Dollar Days ticketholders must present a valid driver’s license, college ID or local utility bill as proof of High Country residency. An employee identification badge or pay stub can be used to demonstrate employment at a High Country business.
Being that the special rate applies to all guests traveling in the same vehicle, only one Dollar Days ticketholder needs to present verification of local residence or employment. If the ticketholder does not display proof of local residency or employment, they and their party will be charged the full rate of admission.
The Dollar Days rate cannot be combined with other discounts or offers. Only a limited number of Dollar Days passes will be available each day, in addition to general admission tickets, meaning folks should book their visit in advance here.
Some portions of the mountain have been undergoing renovations and special projects that started earlier in March. Areas like the Mile High Swinging Bridge and Mildred’s Grill could be temporarily closed in the month of April as this work finishes up. Guests are encouraged to call ahead or check the park’s website for any closure information and updates.
“We’re excited to bring Dollar Days back for 2023,” said Jesse Pope, president and executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the Linville, N.C., nature park. “This is always an incredible time of year, as the mountain springs to life with warm weather, friendly faces and new things to do. This will be our first April Dollar Days with the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery open, and we encourage our local communities and friends to take advantage of the discounted pricing and see this interactive new space.”
Wilson Center for Nature Discovery
The new facility, opened at the end of June 2022, nearly doubles the size of Grandfather Mountain’s former Nature Museum with 10,000 square feet of education space, including state-of-the-art museum exhibits, three classrooms, an ADA-accessible theater and expanded capacity for hosting conferences and community events.
New exhibits include a 3D interactive map of the mountain that showcases Grandfather’s ecology and history; flora and fauna walls; and other exhibits focusing on the mountain’s natural history, weather and geology. The new building, which officially broke ground in the fall of 2019, was thoughtfully designed to make the most of Grandfather’s natural surroundings, using moveable walls and large banks of windows to bring the great outdoors inside. It is located about halfway up the mountain, adjacent to the wildlife habitats, and includes a new botanical garden planted along the side of the structure.
The Wilson Center is part of a larger planned “Conservation Campus.” Coming soon, guests will also get to enjoy new learning spaces outside the center, including an amphitheater with terraced seating and a pavilion. To learn more, visit www.grandfather.com/wilson-center.
Grandparents’ Day – April 23
Also brand-new this year is a Grandparents’ Day event on April 23, a day of fun and interactive programs meant to be attended by the whole family. Bring your grandchildren – or grandparents – and explore nature together! Included in admission. Learn more at www.grandfather.com/event/grandparents-day.
April is an ideal time to visit Grandfather Mountain, as the park’s flora and fauna become energized with the initial signs of warmer weather — and Grandfather Mountain’s talented team of educators is on hand to showcase these natural wonders, all included with the price of admission.
Starting April 1, Grandfather will begin offering daily programming, including Keeper Talks, during which guests can talk with park educators about the habitat animals — black bears, cougars, river otters, bald eagles and elk — and watch them receive an enrichment. Enrichments are special treats, new toys or unfamiliar scents designed to break up the animals’ routines and help keep them active and intellectually stimulated. Keeper Talks run between 10 and 15 minutes and are held daily, every half hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., April through October, in the environmental wildlife habitats area.
The Community Science Weather program spotlights Grandfather Mountain’s weather — known as some of the most extreme weather in the Southeast. Through this program, guests can help staff record data that is then passed on to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
This 10-minute program is held daily at 11 a.m. at Grandfather’s Pollinator Garden, behind the Wilson Center.
During Grandfather’s Junior Naturalist program, park educators help younger guests (ages 5 to 10) use scientific tools to make observations about natural phenomena. These 30-minute programs take place at the Pollinator Garden and are held at 11:30 a.m. on weekends April 1 to May 28, daily May 29 to Aug. 20 and weekends Aug. 26 to Oct. 29.
Animal Encounters invite guests to come face-to-face with some of the mountain’s off-display educational animal ambassadors, such as opossums and snakes, while a park educator answers questions about that particular animal. Encounters last about 30 minutes and are held weekends at 2 p.m. near the main entrance of the Wilson Center.
To learn more about these Grandfather Mountain daily programs and others, visit www.grandfather.com/daily-programs.
Also in April, Grandfather Mountain is bringing back special experiences, like “Meet the Bears” and Behind-the-Scenes Tours, available at an additional cost. “Paint With an Otter” is new in 2023, while “Keeper for a Day” returns after a hiatus during the pandemic.
Meet-the-Bears Tours take participants behind the scenes to meet some of Grandfather Mountain’s resident black bears and learn all about them, including their names, daily routines, care, histories and more. Meet-the-Bears Tours are offered on weekends, April through October. Tours last approximately 30 minutes and are offered at 11 a.m. Reservations are required.
Behind-the-Scenes Habitat Tours allow guests to see where the cougars, otters and elk sleep overnight, meet black bears that are not commonly on display, learn the ins and outs of what it takes to care for the animals year-round, observe a training session and find out why the animals call Grandfather Mountain home. Behind-the-Scenes Habitat Tours are offered on weekends, April through October. Tours last one hour and are offered at 12:30 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. Reservations are required.
“Paint With an Otter,” a new experience in 2023, allows participants to meet an otter, choose nontoxic paint colors for the artwork and watch as a habitat keeper guides the animal through the painting enrichment. Participants are able to select the painting they like the best to take home. The experience lasts for 30 minutes and is offered on weekends, April through October, at 11:30 a.m.
“Keeper for a Day” returns after a three-year hiatus and offers participants the unique experience of learning how to care for Grandfather’s resident animals, clean their habitats and prepare their food. “Keeper for a Day” also includes a painting session with one of the habitat animals. This three-hour “work shift” is offered on Tuesday mornings, April through October.
To learn more about Grandfather Mountain experiences, visit www.grandfather.com/experiences.
During the month of April, Grandfather Mountain is offering extended spring hours, meaning the park is open daily, weather permitting, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with ticket sales ending at 4:30 p.m. and trails closing at 5 p.m.
The nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain.