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Top 10 Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains Park NC
From world-renowned hiking trails like the AT to lesser-known gems, see our favorite 10 hikes from the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, nearest the Asheville area.
(1 to 12 miles, easy to strenuous) More than 12 miles of hiking trails range in difficulty from easy nature walks to strenuous backcountry challenges. Our favorite is taking the Grandfather Trail from the Swinging Bridge area and returning along Underwood Trail. The popular Profile Trail is a 7-mile roundtrip, strenuous trek up to the highest peak.
Pisgah Inn Restaurant
Open April-October, Pisgah Inn is the only restaurant on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC. Located at 5,000 feet elevation, enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days per week. Windows frame a panoramic mountain view. Also pick up a picnic-to-go. 24 miles from downtown Asheville. Milepost 408.
Max Patch Picnics
You may want to run across the meadow and sing the "Sound of Music" atop this grassy summit along the Appalachian Trail. Find plenty of spaces to spread the blanket for a picnic with 360-degree mountain views. The summit is a short uphill walk from the parking area. Roan Mountain and Black Balsam Knob are two more great bald mountains for picnics.
Nantahala River Rafting Guide
The most popular river for whitewater rafting and kayaking is about 12 miles west of Bryson City in the beautiful Nantahala River Gorge. The site of the Freestyle Kayaking World Championships, find class II and III rapids, along with calm sections perfect for a dip. Fun for ages 7 and up, with no experience necessary. Choose from nine outfitters, all offering a variety of options.
Serving authentic Thai food, along with Vietnamese pho, this friendly eatery is a hidden gem for many locals looking for a causal, go-to Thai restaurant. Popular dishes include Drunken Noodles, Green Curry and Pineapple Fried Rice. Try the Thai iced coffee and enjoy weekday lunch specials. 18 Sardis Rd
WNC Nature Center
Children can share their birthday with wolves, cougars, otters, and other native animals at the Nature Center. Party includes a 2 hour room rental, 20 guests, table/chairs, fridge/freezer use, self guided tour of the Nature Center. Parties are $225.
(66 Broadway Ave, downtown Asheville) Asheville’s retail store just for beer lovers with 600 Belgians, Belgian-style, high-gravity, craft brews, microbrews, and the best from around the globe.
This 150-ft. waterfall cascades down a mountainside beside the road, so you enjoy it from your car as you drive by! It's located near Columbus, about 10 miles from Pearson's Falls.
Friends of DuPont Forest
Volunteer service organization working to enhance the public use and enjoyment of the DuPont State Recreational Forest while protecting its natural resources. Funds help with trail building and maintenance, along with building projects.
Fall Leaf Color Show
The Asheville area has one of longest lasting fall color shows in the country. Fall foliage begins to change in the highest elevations in early October and finishes in the lowest valleys in early November. See our week-by-week color prediction and plenty of photos.
Zaniac Summer Camps, Asheville
Kids learn to code, build robots, design & print in 3D, fly drones, compose music, go to space in Minecraft & More! Beginner and Advanced Weekly Camps available. Full and half-day camps available. June-Aug, Grades K-8. $279-$449/week
The Grey Eagle
This listening room-style concert venue is a longtime local's favorite just outside of downtown Asheville features a big variety national and regional groups. Capacity is 550 standing. Great beer selection and a Taqueria Latin cuisine. 185 Clingman Avenue.
Great Smokies Bryson City Travel Guide
Order a free 96-page vacation travel guide (or download a digital version) for the Bryson City area with things to do, dining and lodging for the Great Smoky Mountains. Includes the "All Aboard" official publication for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
Nantahala Gorge Picnics
Picnic by the Nantahala River while watching whitewater rafters and kayakers negotiate the rapids. At NOC, Big Wesser cafe has street tacos and riverside outdoor tables. A few miles down the road is the Ferebee Memorial on the Mountain Waters National Scenic Byway with a picnic area featuring tables, charcoal grills, flush toilets, and river access.
Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre
SART is a professional theatre company in residence at the historic Owen Theatre at Mars Hill University, just 18 miles north of Asheville. Presents 4-5 shows a year, including plays, musicals and original works about Southern Appalachia.
Aquarium & Shark Lab, Hendersonville
This inland aquarium is home to 275 fish, invertebrates, reptiles, and salamanders with 2 dozen exhibits, including a shark study tank. With focuses on education, enrichment and exploration, there are many programs for students of all ages to learn about aquatic life. Kids can observe reptile, shark, and stingray feedings and even see pufferfish training! Admission is $4-5, children 2 and under are free. (511 N Main St)
Burke County & Morganton
Home to Linville Falls, Linville Gorge, Lake James and South Mountains State Park, find limitless outdoor adventures including hiking, biking, fishing, boating and more.
Chai Pani literally means “tea and water.” It's slang in India for going out for a cup of tea, a tasty bite, a snack, or “a little something.” In Downtown Asheville it means innovative, fun, affordable and delicious Indian cuisine from four time James Beard nominated chef Meherwan Irani. 22 Battery Park Avenue
Find your happy place at this authentic tearoom serving over 100 varieties of fresh loose leaf tea and herbs. Vegan and vegetarian menu includes robust salads, soups, gluten-free desserts and more. They have two locations: 78 N Lexington Ave in downtown Asheville and 707 Haywood Rd in West Asheville.
Adventure Center of Asheville, Birthday Parties
Five minutes from downtown, this adventure park has 4 birthday party packages (ages 4 +) and open year-round. Kids can climb the Asheville Treetops Adventure Park or zip our Kid Zip Park for an epic birthday party adventure. Choose from four different packages based on age and adventure preference. All parties include 10 participants, equipment, ground school, and a picnic area for your group. Outside food and drink are welcome.
Wake Foot Sanctuary
Located in the heart of Asheville’s shopping district, this unique communal space allows you to take a break from exploring the city, cozy up in a plush chair and enjoy a custom foot soak made from essential oils, dried herbs and botanicals. Sip on hot tea with treats while you soak. Add on massage by a licensed massage therapist and soak up the bliss!
Bricks 4 Kidz, Asheville
These half-day enrichment camps give campers motorized building challenges each day, along with crafts, games and time for creative building. June-Aug, 9 AM-12 PM and 1-4 PM, Ages 5+
Pack's Tavern, Asheville
Established as a go-to spot in downtown for good beer, delicious food and a great view overlooking Pack Square Park in a beautifully restored 1900s building. Offering multiple dining spaces: expansive North Bar with 32 taps and big TVs, South Bar with TVs and free live music every weekend, and a romantic outdoor patio. 20 South Spruce Street.
All About Aerospace, Asheville Parks & Recreation
Campers will learn about the forces of flight, how rockets blast off, and the design of aircrafts through hands-on STEM activities. July. 8:30 AM-5:30 PM, ages 8-12. $50/session
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.
Still Point Wellness Massage and Float Spa
Experience deep relaxation with Salt Water Floatation (sensory deprivation) and stress relief with Esalen Massage. Detoxify and destress with a Far Infrared sauna session, or explore how thoughts manifest in the body with Somatic Psychology. Personalized packages for couples and individuals.
Grand Bohemian Hotel Spa
Stay at this Biltmore Village luxury hotel and nourish your mind and body at their Poseidon Spa. Whether enjoying a hot and cool stone massage or a luxurious pedicure, the stylish atmosphere and unparalleled service will pamper you.
River Arts District Restaurants
Tucked away from the downtown Asheville and across the river, the River Arts District is known for its graffiti-clad warehouse buildings full of artist studios and galleries. See our top picks in its flourishing restaurant scene.
Wilderness Cove Tubing
Tubing the Green River in Saluda is an exciting float that includes class I & II rapids. Enjoy the splashing water, great swimming holes and relaxation, with tube rentals and shuttles available for 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-hour floats. Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends.
The Magnetic Theatre
Asheville's only professional theatre company dedicated to original works, performed at Magnetic 375 in the River Arts District. 375 Depot Street.
Brevard Places to Stay
Find cabins of all sizes, hotels, B&Bs and luxury inns in the Brevard area from their official visitor center. It's the Land of Waterfalls. Includes Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Forest.
Sunny Truth Farm, Mars Hill
This camp allows kids to learn and play in an outdoor setting where they interact with nature through games, art, science, and farm animals. It’s held on 150 acres of land comprised of meadows, forest, springs, and trails to explore. Themed weekly sessions run June-August, 2022. 8:30 AM-3 PM, ages 5-10. $100/week
Adventure Camp, Asheville Parks & Recreation
This five day camp includes activities like hiking, swimming, rafting, tubing, games, environmental education, and camping. Camp sessions will break into two groups for age-based activities. June-July 2022. 9 AM-5 PM. Ages 8-12, $105/week
Tamarind Thai Cuisine
Owned and operated by Bangkok native, Gai Wilson, this South Asheville restaurant offers a classic menu of fresh ingredients and authentic Thai cuisine. Traditional dishes include the Red Curry, Crispy Basil Duck, and Tom Yum. Try the steamed dumplings! 330 Rockwood Rd #112
Wine & Cocktails
Unwind after a busy day of sightseeing at one of the many wine and cocktail bars in downtown Asheville. Our favorite is the Battery Park Champagne Bar in Grove Arcade (pic). Social Lounge has a great rooftop!
Deep Creek Tubing
Rent a tube and float down Deep Creek on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City. Float by one waterfall and hike to two others.
This authentic tearoom serves from over 100 varieties of fresh loose leaf tea and herbs, along with a vegan and vegetarian menu. They host classes, tea tastings, and also have locally made pottery for sale. They have two locations: 78 N Lexington Ave in downtown Asheville and 707 Haywood Rd in West Asheville.
Cataloochee Valley Hiking
There are many hiking trails in beautiful Cataloochee Valley, home to the elk. A quick favorite is the one-mile Rough Fork Trail along the cascading stream.
Asheville Brewing Company
(77 Coxe Avenue, Asheville, South Slope) In addition to their longtime favorites, their brewer series pushes the paradigm with amazing creations. Ask for a tour! In addition to great pizza, their downtown spot has a huge covered patio. Their original "mothership" location at 675 Merrimon Avenue has a movie theater.
Their small downtown area is filled with restaurants, galleries and interesting local shops. And it's only 10 minutes from both downtown Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Twice a year, they host the big Weaverville Art Safari with dozens of artists opening their studios to visitors. Nearby is Vance Birthplace State Historic Site.
Newfound Road Picnics, Great Smoky Mountains
Along Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) through the middle of the Park, there are two large picnic areas in addition to overlooks. The Chimneys picnic area is on the Tennessee side (near the Chimney Tops hike). The Collins Creek picnic area is on the North Carolina side, about six miles from Cherokee. They both have tables, grills, restrooms and a nature trail.
Southern fusion, farm to table plates like their pork belly banh mi, fried chicken, burgers with side like truckmade tater tots, hand cut fries, seasonal salads and brussels. They offer vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free option. You can find them at New Belgium on Mondays. See their Facebook page for updated weekly schedule.
Sunset Terrace at The Omni Grove Park Inn
The Omni Grove Park Inn’s Sunset Terrace restaurant scores big on romance! The outdoor veranda sets the mood with a perfect view of the sunset over Asheville. Indulge in the finest prime beef and seafood, along with cocktails and wine. 290 Macon Ave.
Off the Wagon Dueling Piano Bar
Their musicians impress with their repertoire of thousands of popular songs from the last 50 years. It's an all request show. Rock-and-roll and sing-along while you enjoy cocktails, wine or a craft beer in their beautifully restored historic building on one of the last brick-paved streets in downtown Asheville. 22 North Market Street.
Cultivated Cocktails Distillery, Asheville
Located in downtown Asheville at the iconic Grove Arcade, this tasting bar offers samples of craft distilled spirits, along with a signature cocktail menu. While you sample, learn more on their process of distilling- from “Grain to Garnish.” Shop retail space for cocktail supplies, bar accessories, gifts and more. Open Tues/Wed 1-8 PM, Thurs-Sat 1-9 PM.
This locally loved food truck offers a variety of Korean & Mexican street food. They serve up rice and noodle bowls, tacos, tortas, burgers, dumplings and more. Their Kimchi Dog, Tacos, and Bibimbap are popular. They also sell jars of their homemade kimchi to take home! They are parked at New Belgium on Fridays and Wedge at Foundation on Saturdays. See their full weekly schedule on Facebook.
Mountain Farm Museum, Oconaluftee Visitor Center & Mingus Mill
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. Nearby you can explore Mingus Mill, a historic grist mill dating from 1886.
These homemade ice cream sandwiches will take you back to childhood, along with other “afterschool favorites” like SUNNY tarts, donut holes, biscuit rolls, whoopie pies, unicorn cakes, and more. Pair coffee or espresso with a fresh baked cookie or go all in with a scoop of icecream and a cookie flight. Vegan options available. 99 S Lexington Ave
Up Country Brewing Co
(1042 Haywood Rd, Asheville) They specialize in making beers that perfectly accompany any outdoor activity. Open Wed-Sun. Live music many nights. West Asheville.
Indoor Activities for Kids
Find a variety of indoor activities for kids including indoor playgrounds, swimming, STEM centers, hands-on learning and children museums.
A longtime French bistro with comfort food using local ingredients. A romantic, intimate and charming setting. Enjoy fresh mussels prepared multiple ways, Escargot, Burgundy’s signature stew Boeuf Bourguignon and their famous fries. Dine al fresco along bricked walkways. Pair hand-selected French wines. 62 Lexington Avenue.
Hands On! Children's Museum
This children's museum in historic Downtown Hendersonville has interactive exhibits with focuses on science, identification, classification, fine and gross motor skills, technology, engineering, math and more. Party package includes admission for 24 total guests (adults + children), table/chairs for 12 kids, and a gift for birthday child. Packages start at $140.
See the best places for an Italian feast paired with good wine. Enjoy favorite dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, chicken parmesan, at these authentic Italian restaurants offering Old World cuisine.
Julian Price Park
(2.7 miles and 2.3 miles, easy) Hike around a beautiful lake or to the top of Green Knob. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 297.
ABYSA Soccer Camps
This summer soccer camp offers three camp options for varying skill sets, from beginner to experienced players. Campers will learn foundational skills like dribbling, passing, receiving, shielding, and shooting. Full day campers will have afternoon pool time. Weekly sessions run June-Aug with full and half-day options, age 7-14. $135-$235/week
Black Mountain Ciderworks
(100 Eastside Drive, Black Mountain) Their Tasting Room has four ciders on tap, made from Henderson County apples.
(1 mile roundtrip, moderate) Near Chimney Rock, hike to the summit of this bald mountain with wonderful views. It's an easy drive from downtown Asheville!
Alexander's Ford Overmountain Trail
(1.5 miles, easy) Hike a section of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail that was used for by local militia heading to an important battle in the Revolutionary War.
Cove Creek Falls
Located near Daniel Ridge Falls is a waterfall on a beautiful two-mile hike that includes a second, smaller cascade. It's also located near the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.
The Little Gym
This indoor gym for kids offers a variety of 1.5 hour party packages includes up to 16 guests, two hosts, set-up/clean-up, juice boxes, t-shirt and water bottle for birthday child. Add-ons include themes, paper products, invitations and more. Packages start at $240.
Looking Glass Rock
If you are a looking for a nice reward after a challenging hike, head to this well-known rock face summit in Pisgah National Forest. You will ascend about 1,700 feet in just over three miles. The views from the top are well worth the effort. There is plenty of space to relax on the rock face with your picnic! Then it's downhill all the way back to the car.
Creekside Taphouse, Asheville
Located in the Haw Creek neighborhood of East Asheville, this taphouse specializes in burgers, wings and features over 20 craft brews. Great for watching the big game with 9 TVs- 7 inside, 2 outside. Enjoy their large outdoor space with patio, volleyball court, playground and flowing creek. 8 Beverly Road.
This favorite downtown Italian restaurant is filled with the aromas of house baked artisan bread and mouth watering cuisine. Focuses on fresh ingredients, biodynamic and organically-produced wine selections. Offers traditional recipes from Italy, featuring hand-tossed pizzas, savory pastas, housemade desserts, gluten-free and vegetarian options. 27 Broadway.
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
(2 miles loop, easy) See an old growth cove hardwood forest with 400-year old towering poplar trees. Near Lake Santeetlah in the Nantahala National Forest, it is about 100 miles west of Asheville.
Bricks 4 Kids
Ideal for kids 6 and up, this hands-on program uses Legos to help kids develop problem solving and critical thinking skills as they build machines and other constructions, utilizing engineering, architecture and physics. The party comes to you at your preferred location, whether it’s at your home, a park pavillion, church, etc. Parties include a host, 90 mins of structured party activities, along with free play. Party packages start at $185.
All Day Darling
Located in Asheville’s historic Montford neighborhood, this cozy bistro offers fresh coffee and baked goods, smoothies, salads, dinner specials, cocktails and more. Enjoy beer or wine on the patio in the warmer months! Open daily 7 AM- 9 PM. 102 Montford Ave.
The Social Lounge
This cozy rooftop patio has been a longtime local favorite with a front row view of the bustling city below. It's owned by Chef Anthony Cerrato, who also owns Strada Italian next door.Enjoy an array of cocktails blended from fine liquors and house-made elixirs, international wines and local beers on tap. Their small plates are designed to share. 29 Broadway Street
High Five Coffee Bar
Formerly called the Dripolator, this local's favorite is on the other side of I-240 with their own parking area. Their barista's are Counter Culture Coffee-trained to craft only the finest beverages. 190 Broadway Street.
A popular taco spot in West Asheville, Taco Billy serves tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Build your own taco or choose from their creative menu with fun ingredients like plantain tortillas, chili-stewed pork and potatoes, goat cheese, pecan and black bean hummus and more. Many gluten-free and vegan options available. 201 Haywood Rd
Fahrenheit Pizza & Brewhouse
This family owned South Asheville neighborhood pizzeria serves up delicious, crispy New York Style pizza out of their top of the line stone brick oven. Enjoy a great selection of local brews from self serve, pay by the ounce beer taps. Also try the smoked wings! 17 Lee St. South