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North Carolina Arboretum, located just outside of Asheville and within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest of the Pisgah National Forest, is conveniently located on Hwy. 191 and at a Blue Ridge Parkway entrance. The Arboretum's most recent addition is the Bonsai Exhibit. Also, many new trails and various upgrades have been added to this 400+ acre public garden and educational facility, owned and operated by the University of North Carolina. This place is a true inspiration, especially for those who want their green thumb to grow greener. And it is truly one of the most beautiful natural garden settings in Western North Carolina, if not the world. It is an ideal setting, in any season, to stroll, jog or pedal your bike amidst the glory of this botanically diverse and ever-changing gem within the Southern Appalachian Mountains. More.
Soco Gardens Zoo, located on Soco Road in the heart of Maggie Valley, is not closing its doors forever. It is only reorganizing. It will have to get out of the zoo business given economic pressures; however, in its place will be a botanical garden. And the gift shop will remain open. The website will be updated soon to explain the changes that will be taking place at this three-acre Haywood County landmark. More.
WNC Nature Center, located in Asheville, is a great place to stretch your legs and learn something about the wildlife in the mountains. It well serves the conservation community. And there's always some event going on for the kids. More.
If you intend to do a little traveling outside Western North Carolina, click on the following nature centers and zoos:
Knoxville Zoo: Located in Knoxville, TN.
North Carolina Zoo: Located in Asheboro, NC, almost in the geographical center of the state. It is a huge zoo with massive outdoor expanses for the pleasure of animal and audience alike. A must-see for animal lovers.