An elk, a Girl Scout, two cougars and a bagpiper walk onto Grandfather Mountain… The punchline? It’s 2018 at the Linville, N.C., nature preserve and attraction. No joke.
With a mission to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain, the nonprofit park and its staff are readying for a fun and eventful year.
Last December’s arrival of three bull elk calves — Doc, Merle and Watson — will allow guests to see some of the mountain’s long lost residents, while two of its newer inhabitants, Western cougar rescues Logan and Trinity, are settling in comfortably to their recently renovated habitat.
On top of that, Grandfather has released its 2018 schedule of special events, featuring mountains of programs designed to educate and entertain.
“2018 is looking to be a busy year on Grandfather Mountain,” said Frank Ruggiero, director of marketing and communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the park. “Our calendar is packed with original events, bridging education with outdoor fun and allowing us to share the wonders of Grandfather Mountain with guests of all ages.”
With a few exceptions where noted, most special events are included with park admission.
Nature Photography Weekend
Friday-Sunday, June 1-3
Visit Grandfather Mountain to hear presentations from top nature photographers, while photographing spectacular scenery and native animals before and after regular business hours. Additional cost. Online registration begins April 2 at grandfather.com.
The Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble
Saturday, June 9
Meet Grandfather Mountain’s naturalists at the Nature Museum to obtain a map and information on where to find the most beautiful blooms. Special programming throughout the day will highlight this High Country jewel.
Animal Birthday Party
Wednesday, June 13
Grandfather Mountain celebrates the birthdays of all the animals in its environmental habitats with games, contests, crafts and surprises. Grandfather’s habitat staff has prepared a fun-filled day for guests, as well as programs to celebrate the park’s furry and feathered inhabitants.
62nd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games
Thursday-Sunday, July 12-15
Blaring bagpipes, astounding athletes, delicate dancers, rocking Celtic music and a spectacular highland setting make this colorful celebration of Scottish culture one of the most highly acclaimed games in the country. Additional cost. For more information, visit www.gmhg.org.
Animal Enrichment Day
Wednesday, Aug. 1
Enrichment is an integral part of how Grandfather Mountain cares for its habitat animals every day. An enrichment is a special treat, new toy or even an unfamiliar scent given to the animals to break up their routines and help keep them active and intellectually stimulated. Visitors can enjoy watching enrichment demonstrations, talk directly with keepers and participate in family-oriented games and crafts.
Grandfather Mountain Amateur & Professional Camera Clinic
Saturday & Sunday, Aug. 18-19
Top photographers gather at Grandfather Mountain to present on the nuts and bolts of making good photographs. This event is free to working members of the press, with an additional cost for non-press professionals and amateurs. Online registration begins July 18 at grandfather.com.
Junior Ranger Day
Saturday, Sept. 8
Grandfather Mountain’s inaugural Junior Ranger Day will celebrate the park’s Junior Ranger program and its esteemed participants. Geared for ages 5-12, the Junior Ranger program offers young explorers a unique, hands-on experience at Grandfather Mountain, including a scavenger hunt, trail exploration, plant and animal identification and more. On Junior Ranger Day, kids can complete a special set of assignments to earn a badge and free ice cream.
48th Annual Girl Scout Day
Saturday, Sept. 15
Calling all Girl Scouts! Grandfather Mountain’s annual Girl Scout Day returns for its 48th year, featuring scout activities, presentations and a closing ceremony. All Girl Scouts and troop leaders are admitted free with proof of membership, and family members will receive discounted admission.
International Hawk Migration Viewing
Guests are invited to join the mountain’s naturalists as they count and celebrate the annual spectacle of the fall raptor migration. Participants can meet daily at Linville Peak, across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, weather permitting.
Creatures of the Night & Bonfire Delight
Saturday, Sept. 29
As night falls on Grandfather Mountain, guests can enjoy rare after-dark tours, fireside tales and a chance to meet the park’s nocturnal residents. Additional cost. Limited to 48 participants. Registration opens Sept. 1 at grandfather.com.
The Fantastic Fall Color Ramble
Saturday, Oct. 13
Meet Grandfather Mountain’s naturalists at the Nature Museum to obtain a map and information on where to find the most beautiful fall colors! Special programming throughout the day will help families explore the great deciduous forest and learn about the science behind the annual phenomenon.
A Beary Scary Halloween
Saturday, Oct. 27
Grandfather Mountain gets spooky with its annual Halloween celebration. Guests can enjoy a day full of nature programs, focused on animals considered creepy and crawly. Activities also include making Halloween-themed enrichments for the animals, and kids will be able to trick-or-treat through the habitat overlooks. This event is included with admission, although children in costume are admitted at half price.
Grandfather Mountain will add additional events to its schedule throughout the year, including the Grandfather Presents summer evening lecture series, daily programs, special events, night walks and more. To learn more, visit www.grandfather.com, email [email protected], or call (828) 733-2013.
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, or visit www.grandfather.com to plan a trip.
011818_GFM_2018_animal_birthday: On June 13, Grandfather Mountain will celebrate the birthdays of all its furry and feathered residents, including Aspen the mountain lion, with a day full of games, contests, crafts, surprises and family fun. Photo courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
011818_GFM_2018_beary_scary_MC: One of Grandfather Mountain’s resident black bears enjoys a special Halloween enrichment during A Beary Scary Halloween, Grandfather’s annual Halloween celebration. Throughout the day, guests can attend special nature programs, craft Halloween-themed enrichments for the animals, trick-or-treat through the habitat overlooks and more. Plus, children in costume are admitted at half price. Photo by Monty Combs | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
011818_GFM_2018_GFM_bonfire_SS: On Sept. 29, guests can enjoy rare after-dark tours, fireside tales and a chance to meet the park’s nocturnal residents at Grandfather Mountain’s annual Creatures of the Night & Bonfire Delight. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
011818_GFM_2018_fall_color_SS: The diversity of flora on Grandfather Mountain makes it an idyllic location for fall color display. On Oct. 13, guests can meet with Grandfather’s naturalists to obtain a map on where to find the most fantastic of fall colors. Plus, special programming throughout the day will help families explore the great deciduous forest and learn about the science behind the annual phenomenon. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
011818_GFM_2018_girl_scout_day: Grandfather Mountain’s annual Girl Scout Day returns for its 48th year on Sept. 15, featuring scout activities, presentations and a closing ceremony. All Girl Scouts and troop leaders are admitted free with proof of membership, and family members will receive discounted admission. Photo courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
011818_GFM_2018_highland_games: Featuring Scottish traditions, music, dancing, athletics, food and more, the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games return to MacRae Meadows July 6-9. Photo courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
011818_GFM_2018_jr_ranger: Grandfather Mountain’s inaugural Junior Ranger Day takes place Sept. 8, promising a full day of activities and fun for children and their families. Photo courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
011818_GFM_2018_NPW_SS: Grandfather Mountain’s annual Nature Photography Weekend features presentations from top nature photographers, while offering the rare opportunity to photograph the mountain’s spectacular scenery and native animals before and after regular business hours. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation