Asheville Top 40 Museums & Historic Sites

Best 40 Museums & Historic Sites, Western NC

Fascinating history can be found at a variety of museums and historic sites in Asheville and the many small towns of the western North Carolina mountains. Learn about our Appalachian natural and cultural history, including the history of the Cherokee Indians. Discover why our area is so rich in art and music.

Best Museums & Historic Sites near Asheville

Biltmore House Asheville
Biltmore Estate
Touring America’s Largest Home is easily the number one indoor attraction in Western North Carolina. Experience the beauty of Biltmore House and century-old gardens. Explore their 8,000-acre Blue Ridge Mountain backyard, taste award-winning wines, dine and shop. See our extensive guide with many photos and tips.
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI)
PARI: Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
This former NASA campus in Pisgah National Forest is now a fascinating space and science center open for tours. It boasts exhibit galleries, a gem and meteorite collection, as well as hands-on research and star gazing nights with astronomers (away from light pollution of cities).
Thomas Wolfe Memorial
Thomas Wolfe Memorial
This is the novelist's boyhood home and setting for "Look Homeward, Angel." Tour the fascinating, rambling house located in downtown Asheville. 52 N. Market Street.
Museum of the Cherokee
Museum of the Cherokee
Discover the story of the Cherokee people in this impressive museum that sets the scene for the Cherokee Heritage Trails. The Cherokee community presents its perspective on its own history and culture.
Oconaluftee Indian Village Cherokee
Oconaluftee Indian Village
This living history outdoor village portrays eighteenth-century Cherokee life on the mountainside above the town. Interact with villagers as they hull canoes, make pottery and masks, weave baskets and beadwork, dance and participate in their daily activities.
Grovewood Gallery
Grovewood Village
Explore this fantastic historic arts & crafts campus in Asheville with Grovewood Gallery, working artist studios, a sculpture garden, Golden Fleece restaurant, two museums and historic factory tours. 111 Grovewood Rd (adjacent to Grove Park Inn). Free parking.
Swain County Museum
Swain County Heritage Museum
Located on the second floor of the historic courthouse in Bryson City, see photos, exhibits and video about the early settlers in the Great Smoky Mountains, including a restored log cabin porch. Free admission.
Smith-McDowell House Museum
Smith-McDowell House
Relive the romantic Victorian era in Asheville's oldest house (circa 1840). Explore opulent period rooms, history exhibits and grounds designed by the renowned Olmsted Brothers. 1.5 miles from downtown Asheville.
Vance Birthplace State Historic Site
Vance Birthplace State Historic Site
This pioneer farmstead about 12 miles north of downtown Asheville features the birthplace of Zebulon Baird Vance. Tour the five-room log house and its outbuildings are furnished to evoke the period from 1795-1840.
History Museum of Burke County
History Museum of Burke County
A must-stop in downtown Morganton! Take a free one-hour guided tour through a maze of rooms on two floors, packed with many thousands of fascinating items. Each room has a theme (especially love the vintage beauty parlor and music rooms) that makes your journey through time lots of fun. Open Tues-Fri 10 AM-4 PM and Sat 10 AM-2 PM. 201 West Meeting Street.
Asheville Car Museum
Antique Car Museum at Grovewood
If you are a car buff, this collection of 20 antique automobiles will delight. Located near downtown Asheville in Grovewood Village. Open April-December. Free.
Cradle of Forestry
Cradle of Forestry
Travel back in time with historic cabins, crafters, old logging equipment, guided tours, movies, food and shopping. Home of the first forestry school (opened in 1898) in America. In Pisgah National Forest. Open mid-April through October.
Wheels Through Time Museum
Wheels Through Time Museum
See hundreds of classic motorcycles and automobiles in Maggie Valley in one of best transportation museums in the country. This massive collection includes more than 300 of America's rarest and most historic classic motorcycles.
Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum
Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum
Named “Best Museum in the Nation” by the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), see a big variety of 70 vehicles representing decades of history. Located in Forest City and Rutherford County.
Western North Carolina Air Museum
Western North Carolina Air Museum
See award-winning restored, antique replica and vintage airplanes at the Hendersonville Airport. Take a close-up look to airplanes and talk to people who love them.
Cat Museum
American Museum of the House Cat
New in 2017! See a fascinating collection of 10,000+ cat-related curiosities, including many rare and fascinating antiques, collected by "CatMan2" for the past 20 years. One of the few museums in the country dedicated to felines. Near Dillsboro.
aSHEville Museum
aSHEville Museum
See the first women's cultural museum in the southeast, which contains 3,000 sq. ft. of gallery space. Rotating exhibits range from historic to contemporary, local to national to global. The gift shop carries a variety of art, crafts and fair-trade items. The Museum Café has locally-made treats. Open 7 days a week. Downtown at 35 Wall Street.
Shelton House Museum NC Handicrafts
Shelton House, Waynesville
This grand, historic home built in 1875 is home to the Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts, with every room packed with craft, art and furnishings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Open May-October.
Mountain Farm Museum
Mountain Farm Museum & Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, see historic farm buildings in an open-air museum and get plenty of great information from rangers.
Asheville Urban Trail
Asheville Urban Trail
(1.7-mile loop, easy) This outdoors museum is a self-guided walking tour on the sidewalks of downtown Asheville, leading to 30 sculptures that depict local history.
Carson House Museum, Marion
Carson House Museum, Marion
Tour one of the most interesting house museums in the state, dating back to 1793, with a big collection covering 200+ years on three floors. 
Folk Art Center
Folk Art Center
See crafts by artists from Southern Appalachia with three fine art galleries and daily craft demonstrators. Shop in their store. No admission fee. Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near U.S. 70 intersection.
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
This National Park Service site honors the accomplishments of Carl Sandburg. Explore the historic home, and visit the farm and trails at Connemara. Located in Flat Rock, just south of Hendersonville.
Orchard at Altapass
Orchard at Altapass
This 101-year old apple orchard turned Appalachian Cultural Center celebrates the people, music, art and natural beauty of the Blue Ridge mountains. Shop for local mountain art, jams, jellies, sauces, sweets, gifts and more. Listen to music and pick up your apples!
Basilica of St. Lawrence
Basilica of St. Lawrence
See one of Asheville's architectural treasures and spiritual anchors with the largest freestanding elliptical dome in the country.
All Souls Cathedral
All Souls Cathedral
Tour this beautiful church in Biltmore Village, built by Biltmore House owner George Vanderbilt in 1896. The sanctuary is open Monday-Friday, 9 AM-4 PM. From April-December, volunteer docents answer questions and provide historical information from 1-4 PM. Free, but donations appreciated.
Emerald Village NC Mining Museum
Emerald Village & Mining Museum
A fascinating collection of gem, mining and historical exhibits, including an underground mine tour. Pan for gold and minerals. Located near Little Switzerland, a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. 
Mingus Mill
Mingus Mill & Smokemont Church
See two historic structures within a few miles of each other in the Great Smoky Mountains, both located near the North Carolina entrance on Newfound Gap Road / US 441 near Cherokee.
Stecoah Valley Art Center
Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center ​
Tucked away in small village near Fontana Lake and Nantahala River is an amazing gallery that showcases the work of 180+ area artists and hosts a great summer concert series. Many artist studios nearby.
Fly Fishing Museum
Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians
Through exhibits and videos, learn about past fly fishing legends, the evolution of rods and reels, basic knots, fly-tying, types of gear, types of gamefish, regional fishing waters and the history of fly fishing in the Southeast. Open Mon-Sat, 9 AM-6 PM. Free admission. 210 Main Street (Chamber of Commerce) in Bryson City.  
Bechtler House
Bechtler House & Gold Mint Site
In 1832, Christopher Bechtler minted the America's first one-dollar gold coin in Rutherfordton, 17 years before the U.S. Mint. During the mid-1800s, the Bechtlers minted more than $2.24 million in one dollar gold coins. Two sites in town tell the story in Rutherford County.
Swannanoa Museum
Swannanoa Valley Museum
This local history museum is packed with interesting historical exhibits in downtown Black Mountain. Learn about the social, cultural and natural history of the Swannanoa Valley in Buncombe County with a rotating series of interesting exhibits. Or, take one of their guided hikes.
Elk in Great Smoky Mountains
Elk in Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains
Watch the elk in beautiful Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The best time is just before sunset. Take a picnic and tailgate. Also, tour historic buildings or hike.
WNC Nature Center
Western NC Nature Center
Learn about the area's natural resources, see animals in their native habitats and view various exhibits on this 40-acre site. Open daily.
Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center
Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center
Learn all about the Parkway with an I-Wall, a 22-ft. interactive map of the entire Parkway which provides multi-media information on places to visit on and near the Parkway. The Center’s exhibits highlight the natural and cultural diversity, and includes a 70-seat theater that shows a beautiful movie of the Parkway. Free.
Museum of Minerals
Museum of North Carolina Minerals
Located at Milepost 331 on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland, this free museum features treasures found around the state and the local Spruce Pine Mining District through interactive displays on a wide variety of minerals and gems.
Mountain Gateway Museum
Mountain Gateway Museum
The westernmost branch of the NC Museum of History. Tour historic buildings and learn about the lifestyle and history of the earliest inhabitants of the mountains to the those of the twentieth century. Located in Old Fort.
Colburn Gem and Mineral Museum
Asheville Museum of Science
Explore the rich treasures of the earth at this museum called "a mini-Smithsonian of gems" in downtown Asheville. 44 Patton Avenue. 
Black Mountain College Museum
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
See art exhibits at this downtown Asheville gallery and learn about the fascinating history of Black Mountain College. 
Judaculla Rock
Judaculla Rock
See petroglyphs created by Cherokee Indians 1,500 years ago on a boulder near Sylva and Western Carolina University. The small outdoor park is open every day.
Allison-Deaver House
Allison-Deaver House
Located in Brevard, this is the oldest frame house in western NC (dating back to 1815). Tour the home and beautiful grounds mid-May through mid-October on Saturdays 10 AM-4 PM and Sundays 1-4 PM. Operated by the Transylvania County Historical Society. 2753 Asheville Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC. 

Blue Ridge Heritage Trail
A fun way to explore is with a new interpretive trail by Blue Ridge National Heritage Area that traverses 27 counties in Western North Carolina with 69 signs that highlight important and fascinating cultural and natural heritage sites and attractions. Also, find interactive kiosks in five NC Welcome Centers at interstate entrances to the region. Pick up a large map brochure and hit the road!

“The trail is a collection of special places throughout the North Carolina mountains and foothills that embody the remarkable history and culture of our region,” said Angie Chandler, Executive Director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. “These sites define the national significance of our region and are the cornerstone of why Western North Carolina was designated a National Heritage Area.”

Historic SIgn

The Blue Ridge Heritage Trail not only covers well-known sites, but you'll find some hidden jewels, too. Since it covers such a large area, you can pick and choose to create your own experience. QR codes on each sign help you locate other nearby sites. The signs are located along main walkways at historic, natural and scenic sites, attractions, towns and cities, in some state parks, along the Blue Ridge Parkway and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Words and photographs tell an illuminating story about each site and illustrate many aspects of the region's natural and cultural heritage including that of the Cherokee, traditional music, agriculture and craft. Pick up a free map at visitor centers throughout the mountains.

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