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A Different Kind of Fall Color: Paint With a Bear Through October at Grandfather Mountain

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates the Grandfather Mountain nature park in Linville, N.C., is offering guests a new opportunity to get close to nature by painting with the park’s beloved black bears. Visitors are able to go behind the scenes of the black bear habitats and watch as one of the park’s resident black bears creates a one-of-a-kind painting for participants to take home with them. This unique experience not only offers guests a chance to create lasting memories on the mountain but also provides valuable enrichment time for the park’s bears. (Photo Courtesy of Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation)

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates the Grandfather Mountain nature park in Linville, N.C., is offering guests a new opportunity to get close to nature by painting with the park’s beloved black bears.

New this year, visitors are able to go behind the scenes of the black bear habitats and watch as one of the park’s resident black bears creates a one-of-a-kind painting for participants to take home with them. This unique experience not only offers guests a chance to create lasting memories on the mountain but also provides valuable enrichment time for the park’s bears.

“Painting is a fun way to build up a relationship with one of our animals and has been an effective way to train the bears over the years,” Assistant Habitats Curator Deborah Anderson said. “Since our animals have shown more interest in these painting sessions, we decided to offer them as an experience to our guests.”

During this experience, participants will be able to see firsthand how the habitat keepers interact with the mountain’s bears, as well as learn more about the individual animal. 

The guests will choose the paint colors for one of the artistic bears to work with. Guests then watch from a safe distance behind a fence as the keepers lay down the paint in the enclosure, and the bear proceeds to walk through the paint and place its paws over the canvas. Guests then choose which painting they would like to take home with them. The paint that the bears use is nontoxic and completely safe if they happen to ingest it. 

“The bear that enjoys the painting the most is Flower, but Smokey also really enjoys the painting sessions, as well,” Anderson said. “The bears get lots and lots of treats, anything from honey to grapes and even apples, syrup or jelly, whatever we think they may want in order to entice their artistic side.”

This unique experience is available on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and is offered through October. The cost is $50 per person in addition to park admission, including children (and $42 for Bridge Club members). There is a minimum of two people and maximum of four people for this 30-minute intimate experience. 

“We’re loving being able to share this experience with our guests,” Anderson said. “We love these animals and think it’s exciting to watch them paint, so we’re sure that guests will share in our excitement.”

Reservations for the Paint With a Bear experience can be made by calling the Grandfather Mountain Habitats Office at 828-733-8715 or by emailing them at [email protected]. While same-day tickets are available on occasion at the gift shop inside the new Wilson Center for Nature Discovery, it is recommended to reserve your spot at least 24 hours in advance.

Animal artwork is always on sale in the Wilson Center. Prints and bookmarks made by the mountain’s resident bears, cougars, otters, snakes and opossum make great gifts or mementos from Grandfather Mountain. 

For more information on Paint With a Bear, visit www.grandfather.com/paint-with-bear

For more information on other unique and exciting experiences at Grandfather Mountain, visit www.grandfather.com/experiences

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. For more information, visit www.grandfather.com.

Courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

Guests will choose the paint colors for one of the artistic bears to work with. Guests then watch from a safe distance behind a fence as the keepers lay down the paint in the enclosure, and the bear proceeds to walk through the paint and place its paws over the canvas. Participants then choose which painting they would like to take home with them. The paint that the bears use is nontoxic and completely safe if they happen to ingest it. (Photo Courtesy of Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation)