Spend a fabulous day or two in Bryson City and the Great Smokies with waterfalls, hiking, rafting, food, and shopping. Since this jewel of small town America offers so much to do, it's one of our top "Cool Mountain Towns" in western North Carolina. Located about 70 miles southwest of Asheville via a freeway, this is a paradise for outdoor and nature lovers since much of the county is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's a whitewater rafting mecca, with the Nantahala River cascading through the Gorge and Nantahala National Forest. ABC’s Good Morning America’s “Vacationland” series named the Nantahala River the number one place to spend a wet and wild vacation in the U.S. In fact, the Smithsonian named Bryson City as one of the "20 Best Small Towns to Visit."
Bryson City is extra magical during the holiday season! Each November and December, 90,000 people climb aboard the Polar Express at the Depot and travel to the North Pole. (Click here for Polar Express details). Before or after your train ride, find many nearby shops and restaurants - see why it’s one of our Top Christmas Towns. And new for 2022, don't miss Bryson City's Christmas Spetacular Drive-Thru Light Show! The town is decked out with garland and holiday lights, with a 50 ft Christmas tree in the town square. At the Visitor Center (255 Main St) kids can enjoy cookies and hot cocoa while they write letters to Santa. Go to their website for more details.
Throughout the rest of the year, take a scenic train ride on the extremely popular Great Smoky Mountains Railroad along rivers and Fontana Lake (buying advance tickets is highly recommended). For much more info, go to our GSM Railroad Guide.
Your first stop should be the stately historic courthouse (12 Everett Street). Downstairs, get plenty of advice about things to do at the County Visitor Center and buy souvenirs at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Store. Upstairs, browse the interesting Swain County Heritage Museum for a quick overview of local mountain living. All free to visit and open every day, 9 AM-6 PM.
Downtown Bryson City is small town America with a variety of shops with friendly owners. Many shops showcase area artisans who create chocolate, handcrafted jewelry, hand-turned wood objects, and pottery. For a small town of only 1,500 residents, there is a surprising number of nice restaurants and two breweries. Take a selfie in front of the caboose! We give only a sampling of things to do... for much more, go to the Bryson City Great Smokies website.
Stand Up Paddleboard with dog Lager the Tuckasegee River in the middle of town with Bryson City Outdoors (169 Main St).
Bryson City 25 Things to Do
Top Events & Festivals
Explore shops, galleries and restaurants along the three-block stretch of Everett Street from the Depot to the Visitor's Center.
Mountain Layers Brewing Company (90 Everett St) is 7-barrel microbrewery with two bars including a rooftop outdoor deck.
Nantahala Brewing Company (61 Depot Street) has been around since 2009 and features many of their brews in their fun Tap Room, open every day. Brewery tours on Friday afternoons include tastings of eight beers.
More Bryson City Events
From free live music on many nights each week to big festivals, see the complete Bryson City Events Calendar.
For much more information, go to the Bryson City Great Smokies website.