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Experience 190 steep, climbing curves in just 12 miles, climbing 1,900 feet in elevation. Take N.C. Highway 226A from U.S. 221 north of Marion to Little Switzerland at the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Diamondback is loaded with switchbacks looping almost 360-degrees, making it extra fun for motorcyclists.
Jerusalem Garden Cafe
Enjoy authentic made-from-scratch Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes in downtown Asheville, transporting your senses to faraway lands. Weekend international brunch has a Southern twist with baharat biscuits and gravy, egg and lamb gyros, French toast and crepes stuffed with seasonal ingredients. Pair with a mango mimosa or hand-brewed Turkish coffee. 10 AM-3 PM on Saturday and Sunday. See pics & video. 78 Patton Ave.
Hear and feel the beat at the weekly drum circle every Friday night in downtown in Pritchard Park. And dance the night away!
There's a lot happening in this lake town! In addition to a beach to keep cool on hot summer's day, there's a wonderful Town Center Walkway that connects the beach to the beautiful Flowering Bridge. Take a boat tour of the lake or bring your mountain bike for their new trail system at Buffalo Creek Park.
The Swag Dining
Enjoy an elegant dinner or Sunday brunch at this secluded mountaintop, luxury lodge at 5,000 feet elevation in the Great Smoky Mountains. Sunday brunch buffet has two carving stations and home-made desserts. Lunch picnics too! Reservations required. Open late April through early November. 2300 Swag Road, Waynesville
This popular summer swimming hole in Banner Elk includes a white sandy beach, swimming pier and fishing dock. The adjacent Tufts Memorial Park has a bath house and picnic tables. Owned by the Grandfather Home for Children. No admission fee, but they appreciate donations.
Toe River Arts Gallery, Burnsville
The TRAC (Toe River Arts Council) Gallery in downtown Burnsville showcases local artists with changing exhibits and a great gallery shop. See work from over 150 artists and craftspeople in a variety of media: clay, glass, jewelry, painting, photography, fiber, wood, sculpture, mixed media, and more. 102 West Main Street, Burnsville
Cataloochee Ski Area, Maggie Valley
Located at 5,400 ft. in the Great Smoky Mountains, their 18 slopes have 100% snowmaking with 5 lifts on 50 acres. Ski and snowboard rentals, packages, kids & adult school and nearby tubing park. Gentle slopes for novices while seasoned experts take on Upper Omigosh. Located 40 miles west of Asheville in scenic Maggie Valley.
Lake Lure Cruises
Take a scenic lake cruise from Rumbling Bald on Lake Lure. Choose from their daily scenic cruise, lunch stop cruise or late afternoon wine cruise. All tours depart from their North Shore Beach Cabana. Before or after, walk the beach or dine in one of their restaurants.
Great Smoky Mountains Top 20 Attractions
See our favorite attractions and things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains in the western North Carolina - inside the national park and just outside.
The Market Place
A world-class favorite located on charming Wall Street. Chef William Dissen's inventive menu features seasonal and organic ingredients from area farms, plus an extensive wine list. Recommended by The Food Network, USA Today, The New York Times, Southern Living and more. Live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the bar and lounge. Reservations recommended. 20 Wall Street.
Lazy Otter Outfitters
Located a little south of Asheville is one of the prettiest stretches of the French Broad River, away from the crowds and highways. Take a self-guided tubing, kayaking or canoeing trip ranging from two hours to all day, including the fun Sierra Nevada Express trip that makes a post-paddle visit to the brewery easy.
Yellow Creek Falls
Hike just a third of a mile to reach this 50-ft. waterfall in the Nantahala National Forest near Robbinsville and Lake Santeetlah. It's a great summer swimming hole, too!
Jack of the Wood
Since opening in 1996, this has been one of Asheville’s favorite places to relax, listen to music and enjoy fresh, locally sourced pub fare. The original home of Green Man Brewing, the pub specializes in hand-crafted English ales and weekly traditional jam sessions in a charming old world atmosphere. Open until 1 AM weekdays, 2 AM weekends. 95 Patton Avenue.
Bryson City Lodging: Cabins, B&Bs & Hotels
Find a wide variety of lodging accommodations in Bryson City and the Great Smoky Mountains, including log cabin rentals, boutique hotels, bed and breakfast inns and campgrounds.
Waterfalls & Wine Tour
Find six waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, with short, guided hikes "off the beaten path" with the Pisgah Field School, and end with a wine tasting. Mostly Thursdays & Fridays, May-October. Small groups, book in advance.
Noble Cider Taproom
(356 New Leicester Highway, Asheville) Watch raw apples arriving for pressing, fresh apple juice being pumped into tanks ready for fermentation or the finished product being put into kegs or bottles. Their 20 taps feature their lineup of crisp and creative hard ciders. Open Wednesday-Sunday.c
Wayah Bald Fire Tower
From Wayah Bald at 5,342 ft. in the Nantahala National Forest near Franklin, see panoramic views to the Great Smoky Mountains. A short walk from the summit parking area takes you to the 1937 stone fire tower.
Cashiers Valley Leaf Festival
Held on the Village Green in the middle of Cashiers at peak color time, see the works of 100+ artists while enjoying live music and great food. The free festival is open 10 AM-5 PM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
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.
National Get Outdoors Day
The Cradle of Forestry celebrates with free admission and plenty of outdoor activities in Pisgah National Forest near Sliding Rock, including hikes, demos, historic buildings, and kid's educational fun. 10 AM-4 PM.
Since 1982, Asheville's largest high-energy dance club is renowned throughout as the epicenter for creativity, diversity and entertainment. Don't miss their midnight show, premiering the best drag anywhere. Dance the night away with state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems.
STORM Rhum Bar & Bistro
Find a warm, cozy atmosphere where the food and service will delight your senses. Enjoy handcrafted cocktails, ample wine offerings, a selection of local draft beer, an extensive rhum list, and of course, delicious food prepared by Chef Owen McGlynn. Free parking in their private lot downtown. 125 South Lexington Avenue.
(1.5 miles round-trip, moderate) See panoramic views of Pisgah National Forest from atop the historic fire tower near Mt Pisgah. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 409.6.
Waterfall Byway: US Highway 64
Drive 98 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains, through charming towns and by plenty of beautiful waterfalls. Begin in Chimney Rock and travel west on U.S. Highway 64 by Lake Toxaway and through Cashiers and Highlands. Stop at roadside waterfalls Dry Falls and Bridal Veil as you enter the Cullasaja River Gorge. The last section is also called Mountain Waters Scenic Byway.
High Shoals Falls
This beauty in the South Mountains State Park near Morganton is a spectacular hike with numerous cascades and wildflowers. The 2.7-mile loop hike also takes you above the falls and back to a picnic area, mountain bike trails, camping and more hikes.
Great Smoky Mountains Small Towns in NC
Visit and vacation in these great small towns in the Great Smoky Mountains on the North Carolina side - basecamps for attractions and outdoor adventures.
Mark Bettis Studio & Gallery
Located in the heart of the River Arts District in Asheville, meet five professional artists at this working studio featuring contemporary art including abstract paintings, glass sculptures, wildlife paintings and more. Mark Bettis works with oils and cold wax, building up multiple thick layers on wood to create fields of texture. Workshops also! 123 Roberts Street
Skinny Dip Falls
Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway via a 3/4-mile hiking trail, Skinny Dip has beautiful waterfalls, a jumping off rock and several areas to soak and wade in very cool mountain waters.
Picnics by The Rhu
Take in the sights and mountain views with a picnic basket from The Rhu in downtown. Picnics include house-baked breads and pastries, local cheese and meats, and salads made from fresh, local produce. Many choices! Order in advance for quick pick-up. 10 South Lexington.
The French Broad Overview
This 17-mile N.C. Scenic Byway just north of Asheville starts at I-26, Exit 19. Take U.S. 25/70 toward Marshall and turn left at the first stoplight onto Monticello Road. Go three miles to N.C. Highway 251. Turn right and drive along the French Broad River to Marshall. Stop at Ledges Whitewater River County Park and watch the kayakers while you picnic.
Maggie Valley Summer Arts and Crafts Show
Meet 100 artisans and crafters from the Southeast with a big variety of art, outdoors at the Festival Grounds (3374 Soco Road) in Maggie Valley. 9 AM-4 PM each day. Free admission and parking.
Get married in an adorable tiny church in Maggie Valley, surrounded by the Smoky Mountains. Package includes a ceremony, recorded music and photographs. Extras include flowers or... read more
Bridal Veil Falls, DuPont State Forest
(4.4 miles roundtrip hike, moderate) This beautiful 120-foot waterfall is near High Falls and other DuPont Forest falls and lakes. Hike or bike to it. Many hike combinations due to a network of trails.
Craggy Gardens Trail
(1 mile, easy) Walk across a mile-high bald filled with rhododendron, wildflowers and mountain views. Access the trail from the Craggy Picnic Grounds or Visitor Center (Milepost 364.4) on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Wesser Bald Lookout Tower
Hike to this 30-foot tall tower atop Wesser Bald on the Appalachian Trail for 360-degree mountain views of the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains. Located near the Nantahala River rafting area.
Lake Lure & Rutherford County Guide
Order a free copy of the award-winning travel guide to the Rutherford County foothills that includes Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, Rutherfordton, Forest City and much more!
Sensibilities Spa at the Hilton
Located in the Hilton Asheville at Biltmore Park, enjoy a full range of luxurious treatments including massages, facials, body wraps, manicures and pedicures performed in a beautiful and distinctive environment. Their Eminence organic treatments are customized according to your specific needs.
Upper French Broad Riverfest
Celebrate the headwaters with outdoor fun for all ages, 10 AM-3:30 PM including canoe relay, outdoor gear flea market, hands-on activities, free tubing, music, food trucks and more. Champion River Park and Rosman Town Hall (6 Main Street, Rosman)
(2 miles roundtrip, moderate) A scenic hike takes you to this waterfall in the Highlands area, deep in the Nantahala National Forest. You'll see two separate cascades, so you get two waterfalls for one hike.
Stroll this picturesque historic "town" in the city of Asheville near the entrance to Biltmore Estate. Find tree lined streets with trendy, mostly local boutiques, galleries, breweries and restaurants in buildings and cottages built by the Vanderbilts.
Holmes Educational State Forest
(.5-3.5 miles, easy to strenuous) Hike a variety of trails and learn about the forest in this largely unknown gem near busy DuPont State Forest. Open mid March-mid November, find a tranquil and diverse forest along with picnic tables and exhibits. 10 miles from downtown Hendersonville.
Henry River Village
Take a tour of this ghost town near Morganton that is coming back to life with tours, events, paranormal experiences and more. Film location for The Hunger Games, District 12.
Table Rock Mountain
(2.2 miles round-trip, moderate) Hike to the top of one of the most recognized peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This trailhead is just five miles from Hawksbill, so you can double your fun.
NC State Bluegrass Festival
This big outdoor concert weekend in Marion is on the grounds of Tom Johnson's Camping Center - complete with camping options, pavilion and dozens of performers. Single day and weekend tickets.
Long known for being a dog-friendly city, Asheville has plenty of dog-friendly places to eat. Many downtown restaurants welcome dogs on their outdoor patio - offering water bowls, dog biscuits and even a dog menu.
Apple Hill Alpaca Farm
Take a guided walking tour of this farm near Banner Elk with the alpacas, llamas, angora goats, guardian donkeys, dogs and other animals. Fiber from the angora goats is made into mohair and sold in the farm store, along with alpaca socks. Open year-round.
NC Arboretum Hikes
(Many options, easy to moderate) Located just 10 miles south of downtown, the Arboretum has 10 miles of easy to moderate walking and biking trails. Our pick is the Natural Garden Trail, a one-mile loop starting from the Plants of Promise Garden to the Core Area Gardens.
Namaste in Nature Yoga Hikes
A unique Asheville experience that combines yoga, hiking & meditation with the best mountains, waterfalls, sunsets, full moons, and the vortex in Western North Carolina. Open to beginners, women, men, couples, families and small groups for 2 or 3-hour yoga hikes during weekdays and weekends, year-round. Mats & pictures included. Private groups and private yoga classes are also available.
Spruce Pine Gem Mining District
Find gems in what is touted as the “most important mining district in the world”. Find fun options for gem panning, rock hounding and mine tours. Also home to the NC Mineral & Gem Festival. See their "Mining For Treasure" guide.
Land Rover Experience Driving School
Explore back roads and forests on Biltmore Estate while learning to drive the latest Range Rover loaded with technology. Develop off-road skills on extreme terrain with your guide, departing from Antler Hill Village.
Banner Elk Things to Do
See the latest on seasonal things to do and events in this High Country town with Grandfather Mountain, ski resorts, restaurants, Wildcat Lake, hiking, wineries, places to stay and 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.
Smoky Mountain Elk Fest
Go to Maggie Valley to celebrate the elk and our great outdoors with a big festival on Saturday and other special tours and events.
Rotary Arts & Crafts Fair, Cashiers
See works from 90 of the finest artisans from the Southeast on the Village Green in Cashiers, 10 AM-5 PM. Find ironwork, woodcraft, textiles, cakes, jams, pottery and more. Free admission, but donations accepted.
Lake Junaluska Walking Trail
(2.3 or 3.8 miles, easy) Our top accessible, paved hiking trail near Asheville, with a walk around a beautiful lake at the Conference and Retreat Center, surrounded by mountains and historic buildings. They are open to the public and welcome everyone to walk the 2.3-mile loop with many natural sights along the way.
Best of the Blue Ridge Scenic Loop Drive
See the best mountain views, waterfalls and gardens, along with shopping and sampling of local beers, with this 60-mile loop drive that starts and ends in Asheville. Includes Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Art on the Greene
Buy art and support the restoration of the historic school in Banner Elk. Find a big variety of artists working with metal, glass, pottery, wood, jewelry, and more. Many other things to do nearby. 10 AM-5 PM. Free admission.
Find Festivals Galore
Free festivals, art shows and quirky events abound in downtown Asheville and our great mountain small towns. See our favorites for each season.
5 Scenic Drives, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Blue Ridge Parkway is not the only scenic drive in the Smokies! Drive these top scenic roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina side, including Newfound Gap Road, for the best views and places to stop along the way.
Tumblestone Waterfall Tours
Get picked up at your accommodation in the Asheville area for a guided, half-day waterfall excursion that will take you to three impressive waterfalls in two protected forests. Plus, ride on a very scenic portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Licensed & Insured.
Road to Nowhere Hike
(3.2 miles, moderate) This loop hike in the Smokies includes a 1,200-ft. tunnel at the end of Bryson City's Lakeview Drive, known locally as the "Road to Nowhere." Lakeshore Trail starts here too, a 35-mile long trek to Fontana Lake Dam.
Fall Events & Festivals
Find our favorite autumn events and festivals during September and October in Asheville and the NC mountains.
The Nantahala Byway
This North Carolina Scenic Byway travels 45 miles along U.S. Highway 19/74 from Bryson City to Marble, taking you through the beautiful Nantahala Gorge with whitewater rafting, zip line canopy tours and a beautiful riverside drive. Stop at Nantahala Outdoor Center to watch the river fun or enjoy a riverside lunch.
Get Pampered at a Spa
Be it a simple weekend of relaxation, a romantic couple’s getaway in the mountains or a chance to improve your health, Asheville is the ultimate destination for those seeking spas and wellness. Take some time for yourself for relaxation and rejuvenation. See our Top 15 spots.
The Big Crafty
Local's favorite art & craft show with 150 hand-selected local artists. Local food & beer too. Inside the Harrahs Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville (87 Haywood St). Sunday 12-7 PM.