Grandfather Mountain will open its gates to High Country residents, employees and their guests for only $3 each throughout April, as the park’s “Dollar Days” promotion returns in time for spring.
Discounted admission aside, April offers mountains of activities on Grandfather, including the return of animal encounters, the seasonal reopening of the Fudge Shop, discounts on behind-the-scenes habitat tours and more naturalist programs.
“We’re always excited for Dollar Days, as the mountain seems to spring to life with warm weather, friendly faces and new activities,” said Frank Ruggiero, director of marketing and communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the Linville, N.C., nature park.
The Dollar Days 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.
Students attending a local college or university are also eligible for the discount.
To take advantage of the reduced rate, visitors 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.
Grandfather Mountain offers extended spring hours starting Saturday, March 23. The park will be open daily, weather permitting, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with ticket sales ending at 5 p.m.
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.
Starting April 1, the park’s educational staff will begin habitat animal interpretive talks, also known as animal encounters, 11 times daily.
During these 10-minute sessions, guests can talk with staff members 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.
Visit www.grandfather.com/plan-your-visit/events/daily-events/ or check the schedule while in the park to view daily encounter times.
Behind-the-Scenes Habitat Tours
Fans of Grandfather’s animals can also enjoy Behind-the-Scenes Habitat Tours for only $20 (plus tax) in April, a discount from the usual $25 rate. These 90-minute tours allow the public to see where the animals sleep, learn why they’re here and what it takes to care for them, and observe a training session.
Tours take place from 12:30 to 2 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday, with extra opportunities during holiday weekends.
New this year, Grandfather is offering a Meet the Cougars tour, wherein guests can visit with the park’s three Western cougars. Participants will be able to see them up close, hear them purr and explore the behind-the-scenes section of their habitat. Meet the Cougars tours cost $20 regularly or $15 for Bridge Club seasonal pass-holders.
The mountain also offers the more intensive Keeper for a Day program, which allows visitors 12 and older a chance to shadow the habitat keepers as they perform their daily work. Participants will learn how to interact with the animals, clean their habitats, prepare food and provide enrichments, all while observing the habitats’ inner workings.
Keeper for a Day sessions will be offered from 8 to 11 a.m. every Tuesday, April through October. Cost is $75 for regular admission or $60 for Bridge Club members.
For more information or to reserve a spot in a Behind-the-Scenes Tour, Meet the Cougars tour or Keeper for a Day, call (828) 733-8715 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Any remaining Behind-the-Scenes or Meet the Cougars spaces may be reserved the day of the tour at the Nature Museum Gift Shop.
Grandfather Mountain guests can enrich their visit in yet another way starting April 1, with a variety of naturalist-led nature programs, including Junior Ranger sessions for the kids.
Junior Ranger sessions will take place at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 1 through May 26, and daily May 27 through Aug. 18, before returning to the weekend schedule Aug. 19 through Sept. 30.
All programs are included in the price of admission and do not require registration. For more information, visit www.grandfather.com/plan-your-visit/events/daily-events/.
Grandfather Mountain’s summer hours run May 25 to Sept. 3, during which the park will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., with ticket sales ending at 6 p.m.
The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call 800-468-7325.