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Angela Nicholas, Special to WNC Parent Published 5:00 a.m. ET Oct. 2, 2019

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There may be nothing more intriguing to a little one than the sound of an airplane soaring overhead, the whistle of a train or the roar of a hot rod. For kids into transportation, Western North Carolina offers some special places to not only intrigue but educate curious children of all ages — including mom and dad.

Corporate pilot Troy Tucker of Hendersonville said he was fascinated by flying early in life.

“I wanted to know how those huge planes got into the air, flew across the country at near the speed of sound and then gently set down back to earth,” he said.

Tucker wanted to understand the physics and engineering and his first flight helped him see how air travel had changed the world.

“The first time I flew solo was a kind of freedom I had never experienced before. I could see everything and go anywhere,” he said. “That lasted about 90 seconds then it hit me—I’ve got to calm down and get this thing back on the ground!”

Today, Tucker cannot imagine doing anything else for a living and one of his favorite places to share with his kids and others is the Western North Carolina Air Museum in Hendersonville.

WNC Air Museum

The WNC Air Museum, at 1340 Gilbert St. in Hendersonville, is dedicated to keeping the rich history of aviation alive for generations to come. The museum offers kids a glimpse into the past with an up-close-and-personal visit with vintage planes on display in the hangers and the informative museum staff. Visitors can watch restoration of historic planes and learn from the people doing the work. A visit is guaranteed to inspire lasting memories for the kid with an interest in flying.

The museum offers youth aviation education programs. Individual and family annual or lifetime fees help support the museum and its restoration projects. From January to October, monthly meetings are held at the Air Museum hanger starting at 5:30 p.m. and are open to the public. They include a hotdog dinner and presentations on various aviation topics for a $5 fee.

Visit westernnorthcarolinaairmuseum.com

Trains, tracks and depots

For children fascinated by trains, WNC offers several places where kids can learn about one of our nation’s most important means of transportation throughout history. Trains have been a popular form of transportation since the 19th century with the first steam train built in 1804.

Saluda Historic Depot & Museum

At the top of what was once a treacherous climb for trains bringing passengers and goods to the small town of Saluda sits its Historic Depot & Museum. For children fascinated by trains, this depot offers a diorama that allows visitors to envision what it was like for trains to climb the steep Saluda Grade.

The scale model accurately depicts the climb up Melrose Mountain to the crest at 2,097 feet, the steepest mainline, standard gauge railroad in the country built in 1878. Children can also stand on the actual train tracks that run in front of the city park and walk along the rails. The museum also offers Saluda Train Tales the third Friday of each month. The free programs are held inside the depot at 32 W. Main St. Visit saludahistoricdepot.com/

Historic Hendersonville Railroad Depot

Located at 650 Maple St. in Hendersonville, this railroad depot includes the Apple Valley Model RR Club displays. Inside the 1902 Hendersonville depot there is an area where kids can take control for themselves. A larger G Scale layout is featured outside the depot. Visit avmrc.com/

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Departing from Bryson City, the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad offers children a chance to take a ride on a real train ride. Passengers board at 45 Mitchell St. for a scenic rail excursion through the countryside. Special events for children include The Great Pumpkin Patch Express during October and the holiday-themed Polar Express Train Ride operating from Nov. 8-Dec. 31.

Visit gsmr.com.

Craggy Mountain Line

It is not exactly a railroad but you do ride the rails. The Craggy Mountain Line provides an old-fashioned ride on an open car trolley reminiscent of Asheville’s historic rail lines first traveled back in 1889. Open on Saturdays, April through September, families can enjoy a 7-mile round trip on the rails. Visit craggymountainline.com.

Other vehicles

Kids love anything they can ride in. From the time they are tiny tots, driving miniature cars and trucks brings out that big smile. When it comes to who is attracted by the appeal of a shiny automobile, there seems to be no age limit or gender.

People of all ages enjoy viewing, touching and riding in automobiles from the vintage to the most modern. Area automobile museums allow for a glimpse of the past compared to the present day style and kids enjoy checking out the classics and the newer high tech models as much as mom and dad.

Antique Car Museum at Grovewood Village

Located at 111 Grovewood Road in Asheville, this car museum features both running vehicles and rare vintage vehicles. Open April to December, this museum offers free admission to view the collection of Harry Bloomberg who shares his rare collection that includes a 1922 American LaFrance fire truck. Visit grovewood.com/antique-car-museum.

British & European Motoring Show

Among its calendar listings, the British & European Car Club lists an autumn car and motorcycle show (this year on Sept. 28) at Asheville Outlets, 800 Brevard Road. Now in its 20th year, the show features British and European cars and motorcycles from classic to modern.

Children accompanied by parents can enjoy viewing a variety of classes of vehicles. Additionally, the Asheville Outlets hosts a monthly cruise’in car show. Visit bccwnc.org

Spirit of the Smokies Car Show

On Oct. 12, the Sylva Rotary Club and Smoky Mountain Cruisers will host the 21st annual Spirit of the Smokies Car Show from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Front Street of Dillsboro. Last year’s show drew more than 100 participants from the area and surrounding states. Kids will get a chance to see classic cars, motorcycles, modified street machines, street rods and even farm equipment. Visit discoverjacksonnc.com/calendar-event/spirit-of-the-smokies-car-show/

Asheville’s Fun Depot

Asheville’s Fun Depot offers transportation of a different type — go-karts and bumper cars. This fun arena offers outdoor and indoor go-karts and indoor bumper cars, among other activities. Kids get a real taste of what driving is like. It’s at 7 Roberts Road, near Interstate 40 and Sweeten Creek Road. Call 828-277-2386 or visit ashevillesfundepot.com/

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