The historic town of Marshall in Madison County is nestled between rocky cliffs and the scenic French Broad River, just 20 miles north of Asheville. This "one street wide and a mile long" town of 889 residents celebrates its colorful past while passionately embracing the contemporary. Main Street, lined with original buildings including the 100-year-old courthouse, is home to artists’ studios, galleries, music and dance venues and eclectic shops.
Walk Main Street through downtown. Zuma (7 N Main) is a cool hang-out with organic fair trade coffees, homemade desserts and creative, healthy comfort food. They have live music many nights. Marshall Container Co. (10 South Main) is part neighborhood pub and part artist workshop. Visit with the locals while enjoying craft beer, games and spinning vinyl. Head to Mad Co. Brew House (45 N. Main) for bratwursts, small batch craft beers and deck overlooking the river.
Other top stops: Sweet Monkey Cafe & Bakery (133 S. Main), The Star Diner (115 N. Main), Flow Gallery (14 S. Main), Madison Natural Foods (101 N. Main St) and The French Broad Exchange (63 S. Main). For authentic mountain music and dancing, go to the historic depot (282 South Main) on Friday nights.
Stop by the 100-year-old department store Penland & Sons with a big variety of merchandise.
A quick walk or drive over the river takes you to Blannahassett Island, where you’ll find picnic areas, fishing, and Marshall High Studios, home to many artists. The grand, historic home above the Courthouse is Marshall House Inn.
See our Madison County Guide for more things to do nearby, including whitewater rafting trips down the French Broad. Just 16 miles away is Hot Springs, home to the Appalachian Trail and the mineral springs.
For many more options, go to the Madison County website for 100 things to do.
Madison County Scenic Drive
French Broad Overview: This scenic byway begins north of Asheville at the Weaverville exit for US 25/70 North from I-26. After a short distance, turn left on Monticello Road to reach the French Broad River. Turn right on Old Marshall Road / NC 215. Winding along the river, you may catch sight of whitewater rafters in the summer months. However, historically the land next to the river was the passage for migrating animals, American Indians and later drovers who took their stock to market. The sheer rocks on the right provide a beautiful contrast to the wide river on the left. The highway continues to Marshall. Continuing on Main Street will bring you back to US Highway 25/70 bypass where the route ends.
For many more ideas, click here to visit the Madison County Web site. See more of our 35 Coolest NC Mountain Small Towns.
Blue Heron Whitewater, Hot Springs
Enjoy rafting trips (or inflatable kayaks) and calm water float trips on the French Broad River with a fantastic combination of whitewater rapids, swimming holes, beautiful scenery, history and… read more
French Broad Adventures
Asheville’s closest adventure experience, offering whitewater rafting, ziplines, and canyoneering expeditions just 30 minutes from Downtown Asheville. Experience a fun-filled rafting adventure… read more
Marshall House Inn, Marshall
This newly renovated B&B features contemporary room inside a 1903 home listed on the national register of historic places. Perched on a hill above downtown and French Broad River, it's just… read more
Barns of Madison County
Drive the country roads of Madison County to see many historic barns preserved by the Appalachian Barn Alliance - five scenic routes take you by farms and mountain views.
NOC French Broad River Rafting
Take a guided whitewater rafting trip near Asheville on the scenic French Broad River with its splashy Class II and III rapids! Ideal for families and groups. The full-day trip finishes with Frank… read more
Laurel River Trail
(7 miles roundtrip, easy) This scenic creekside trail follows Big Laurel Creek as it flows to the French Broad River in Pisgah National Forest near Hot Springs.
Madison Potters Market
Meet 20+ of the finest potters from Madison County and beyond at Marshall High Studios. This historic high school turned artist studios is on a small island in the French Broad River in downtown… read more
Marshall Handmade Market, Marshall,
This arts festival & holiday market is held indoors at Marshall High Studios on Blannahassatt Island in the French Broad River, 25 minutes north of Asheville. Classrooms-turned-studios open… read more
Mermaid Parade & Festival, Marshall
The legend is that for one day each year, sea creatures and mermaids leave their ocean home and travel the French Broad River to Downtown Marshall. Parade at 5 PM with costumes and lots of water… read more
Art on the Island Fest in Marshall
A free fall fair of artisans, crafters, and music on Blannahassett Island near downtown Marshall. 10 AM-5PM