While millions of visitors come to Asheville each year to experience the world-famous Biltmore House, especially for the Christmas celebration, most miss out on our smaller house museums nearby packed with interesting finds. Here are our favorite eight:
Thomas Wolfe Memorial
Even if you don't know anything about Thomas Wolfe, the sprawling 29-room Thomas Wolfe House (in pic above) and its history is very fascinating. His boyhood home in the heart of downtown Asheville was a boardinghouse and has become one of literature's most famous landmarks. Named "Old Kentucky Home", Wolfe immortalized the rambling Victorian structure as "Dixieland" in his epic autobiographical novel, Look Homeward, Angel. See period Victorian decorations during each December. Tickets are only $5/each for adults. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 AM-5 PM. Before your guided tour of the house, see a short film and read about Wolfe's life in the Visitors Center. For more info on visiting, see our Thomas Wolfe Memorial Guide.
Vance Birthplace State Historic Site
Explore this pioneer farmstead about 12 miles north of downtown Asheville. It is the birthplace of Zebulon Baird Vance, the 37th and 43rd Governor of North Carolina, and U.S. Senator in the mid 1800s. The five-room log house, reconstructed around original chimneys, and its outbuildings are furnished to evoke the period from 1795-1840. Experience an 1830s era Christmas in December. Free admission. Open Tuesday-Saturday 9 AM-5 PM. For more details on visiting, see our Vance Birthplace Guide.
Just a few miles from Biltmore Estate is the first mansion and oldest house in Asheville. The Smith-McDowell House now also serves as the local history museum with a variety of exhibits and period furnishings. Built by one of antebellum North Carolina’s most influential citizens, this National Register property was once the home of mayors, a Confederate Major, and friends of the Vanderbilts. In addition to restored period rooms spanning 1840 through 1900, the Museum also features special history exhibits in its Gallery Rooms. From mid November until early January, the mansion is authentically decorated with fresh trees, garlands, ornaments and toys of the Victorian Period. Open Wednesday-Saturday, 10 AM-4 PM and Sunday 12 Noon-4 PM. See our Smith-McDowell House Guide.
This 1875 plantation-style house is now home to the NC Museum of Handicrafts. Located in downtown Waynesville, it's open May-October. Your guided tour takes you through many rooms packed with creations by artists and designers from our state. See our Shelton House Guide.
One of the best house museums in the state is located in Marion. Built in 1793, it played an important role in many historic events - including the Civil War. The guided tour is a fascinating overview of local history that impacted a much larger area. It's open April-November. See our Carson House Guide.
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
In Flat Rock (30 miles south of Asheville) is the fascinating home of America's poet, Carl Sandburg named Connemara. It honors Carl Sandburg's collection of stories about the American people as told through his poetry, prose, journalism and biography. Taking a guided tour of the home for $5/person. Admission is free for the grounds and farm. Open daily 9 AM-5 PM except Christmas Day. Their Christmas at Connemara features local musician and storytellers. See our Carl Sandburg Home Guide.
This 1852 home in Cashiers survived intact for 150 years without electricity, indoor plumbing, or central heat. The local historical society saved the home and grounds. Inside the house is a unique collection of hand-crafted ‘plain-style’ furniture. It's open Memorial Day through Labor Day on Friday and Saturdays 11 AM-3 PM. Special tours can be arranged for other times. Call 828-743-7710. Read more about Cashiers.
Translyvania Heritage Museum
This history museum in downtown Brevard is inside a modest 1890s home. From late November through mid December, the home's first floor becomes the quirky Aluminum Tree Museum with dozens of vintage trees that will make you smile and recall many memories. The Transylvania Heritage Museum is 34 miles south of downtown Asheville. It's free to visit! See our Aluminum Christmas Tree Museum Guide.
See our full list of the Top 40 Museums in Western North Carolina.