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Blue Ridge Travelers Guide
Order this free, print guide for Marion, Little Switzerland, Linville Falls, Old Fort and Lake James areas of McDowell County - east of Asheville.
Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway
Drive one of America's most scenic roads. Enjoy a leisurely excursion filled with nature's beauty through dense forests and atop mountain ridges. You'll find breathtaking overlooks, numerous hiking trails and great spots for picnics. Drive north for panoramic views at Craggy Gardens and Mt. Mitchell. A drive south takes you through a dozen tunnels and the highest section of the Parkway. See our favorite 50 stops.
Compassionate Expressions Mountain Inn & Healing Sanctuary
A 40-acre private Certified Wildlife Retreat near Asheville where a world of magic, serenity, natural beauty, and unlimited healing possibilities await you. Renew your body and spirit with exceptional spa services: Energy Healing, Massage, Sound Healing, Cranio-sacral, Past Life Regression, hot tubs by the creek, and infrared sauna. Choose a "Day" or "Stay Over" spa experience.
Nantahala National Forest
The largest national forest in North Carolina (531,286 acres) covers much of the western tip of the state. Find a wealth of outdoor activities, including whitewater on the Nantahala River, waterfalls and plenty of scenic views.
DuPont State Forest Hidden Lakes
(4 miles, moderate) Discover some hidden lakes on the quieter side of DuPont State Recreational Forest, as well as an airstrip with a great mountain view. Fawn Lake and Lake Julia are great swimming holes, too.
Flat Rock Ciderworks
(305 North Main St, Hendersonville) Visit this tasting room in downtown to try their Wicked Peel and Blackberry Gold hard ciders made from local apples and blackberries from their nearby orchard. Open Wed-Sun afternoons.
Located on a family-owned farm in the foothills, their tasting room is open year-round and features a variety of estate-grown wines, such as the estate premium Epic, a Petit Manseng white wine, and Patriot Red, a Bordeaux Blend. Also, hike a two-mile section of the Overmountain Victory National Trail. 2012 Sandy Plains Rd, Tryon, NC. Reservations required.
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.
Experience an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration and street festival in Bryson City with a 5K, crafts, food, contests, live music, and the best fireworks show in the Smokies.
Located about 60 miles east of Asheville, Morganton's charming downtown centers around the stately historic courthouse. Shop, eat and taste local brews at three breweries. Just outside of town is Lake James, Catawba Valley wineries and Linville Gorge. In September, don't miss the big Morganton Festival.
Concerts on the Creek
Unwind on Fridays Memorial Day through Labor Day with live music outdoors in downtown Sylva. Shows are 7-9 PM at the Bridge Park. It's just two blocks from Main Street with shops, restaurants and breweries (come early!). Family friendly with a big variety of music. Bring a chair or blanket. Free.
Indian Lakes Scenic Byway
This 60-mile drive takes you by Fontana and Santeetlah Lakes in far western North Carolina, through the historic communities of Stecoah and Robbinsville, in rural Graham and Swain counties.
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.
Cherry Bounce Festival
Go to Forest City to celebrate a famous moonshiner with music, crafts, food trucks and cherry-inspired dishes and drinks. Kicks off Friday evening with a big, free outdoor concert.
New Morning Gallery
This 13,000-sq. ft. gallery represents 500 American artists with hand-crafted furniture, home accessories, pottery, glass, jewelry, garden sculpture and other imaginative gifts. Located in Biltmore Village at 7 Boston Way.
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.
South Creek Winery
Visit this boutique winery on a farm near Marion. Taste wines in an Italian Renaissance Farmhouse or on an outdoor deck: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and signature-blend Maestro. Located 4.4 miles off I-40 at exit 90. 2240 S Creek Rd, Nebo, NC (6 miles to Silver Fork, 4 miles to Belle Nicho, 9 miles to Lake James Cellars).
Fall Events & Festivals
Find our favorite autumn events and festivals during September and October in Asheville and the NC mountains.
WNC Fly Fishing Trail®️
Welcome to the first and only fly fishing trail in the United States with the best 15 spots for catching brook, brown, and rainbow trout. With 92,800 fish stocked in its waters annually, Jackson County was named NC Trout Capital ®️. See detailed maps and fishing reports.
Moore Cove Falls
(1.5 miles roundtrip, easy) Walk behind this 50-foot waterfall located near the popular Looking Glass Falls. Beautiful hike along the way. While the water flow is not impressive, it's a beautiful setting that is overlooked by many since there are no signs.
(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.
Home to an impressive arts community, with galleries and an arts center downtown. Also boasts a big equestrian community, with many horse-related events, including a Steeplechase each spring. The amazing Tryon International Equestrian Center attracts horse lovers and riders from all over the world. Near Saluda.
Blue Ridge Music Trails of NC
Listen and dance to Blue Ridge Mountain live music including bluegrass at many weekly jam sessions, festivals and concerts in Asheville and western NC small towns. Search the calendar of events.
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
French Broad River Tubing
Drift down the French Broad River through Asheville on a lazy summer day. Find rentals and shuttle just a few minutes from downtown, then begin your 4-mile river tube adventure in the River Arts District.
Upper Whitewater Falls
See the upper section of the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi, plunging 411 ft.! The best part is that you can get a great view with a short walk. The walkway begins at the end of the parking lot and is accessible to wheelchairs. A lower overlook is located at the bottom of 154 wooden steps.
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.
Soak in Mountain Views
Where are the best places for spectacular views to celebrate being alive? Hike to a remote mountaintop or see sweeping views from your car. Watch the sunset or picnic on top of the world.
Labor Day Weekend Events
Find Labor Day Weekend things to do and events in the NC mountains in and near Asheville for a great holiday getaway.
Wehrloom Honey Bee Farm
Visit this farm for all-natural raw honey products and watch bees at work in their observatory, located in Robbinsville, NC. Self-guided and guided tours available.
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.
Meet Artists in River Arts District
Our top pick for art lovers is exploring the River Arts District to watch artists at work, ask them about the process and buy art as a souvenir of your visit! More than 200 artists work in 25 buildings, including old warehouses and factories along the river near downtown and Biltmore.
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.
Only a 30-minute scenic drive from Asheville, experience the renewing power of this nature and spa retreat and certified wildlife habitat. Located in the still largely secluded mountains of... read more
Located in Biltmore Park in South Asheville, this cupcakery and creamery offer freshly baked gourmet cupcakes, along with housemade ice cream. The cupcakes come in a variety of sizes and you can add ice cream to create a “SmallCake Smash.” Enjoy 12 signature flavors with regular rotating specialty flavors. Order by the dozen or create a custom cake for special occasions.
The artsy village of Dillsboro welcomes 40 demonstrating artists along Front Street with their colorful creations. Browse many nearby galleries too. Free admission. 10 AM-5 PM.
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.
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.
(3 miles round-trip, strenuous) Mt. Pisgah can be seen from downtown Asheville on a clear day. Hike up to the top of the 5,721-ft. summit on this popular hiking trail. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 407.6.
Christmas Wonderland Lights @ Tryon
Drive through an extravangant, 2-mile Christmas light show, synchronized to music at the Tryon International Equestrian Center - open every night of the week.
This Backcountry Area of Nantahala National Forest is home to many waterfalls. In addition to the popular Schoolhouse Falls, find hikes to Greenland Creek Falls (pic), Wilderness Falls and Frolictown Falls.
Rutherford County B&Bs, Cabins & Hotels
Find plenty of unique inns, bed and breakfasts, local boutique hotels, cabins and campgrounds near all the things to do in Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, Rutherfordton and Forest City.
(5 miles loop, strenuous) Just a mile from the trailhead to Looking Glass Rock is a rewarding loop trail that takes you to the top of another rock face with panoramic views. From John Rock, you have a great view of Looking Glass Rock. And you'll find many fewer hikers here.
Tuckasegee River Rafting & Tubing
Ride down the family-friendly rapids of the "Tuck" in a raft, inflatable kayak or tube in Jackson County - near Dillsboro and Sylva. Outfitters offer a variety of guided and self-guided river trips.
This longtime mountain resort town has kept much of its local charm with vintage motels and plenty of gift shops with arts and crafts. Tour Wheels Through Time collection of classic cars and motorcycles. Ski at Cataloochee. Festivals include Hillbilly Jam and Elk Fest.
Pisgah Field School Hikes & Tours
Explore the natural and cultural wonders of Pisgah National Forest through guided hikes and small tours for waterfalls & wine, stargazing, sunsets and more in the Brevard area, presented by the nonprofit Cradle of Forestry in America Interpretive Association. Custom private tours also.
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
Since 1974, they have conserved over 70,000 acres of unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, farmland and scenic beauty of the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.
Labor Day Weekend Events & Things to Do
See our special list of top events, festivals and things to do during Labor Day Weekend in Asheville and the surrounding towns and mountains.
The Omni Grove Park Inn Golf
Discover the course that Golfweek magazine included in its “America’s Best” listings and Golf Digest named as “one of the ten best courses in the United States that is 100 years old or more.” Designed by the legendary Donald Ross, this is a shot-maker’s course, emphasizing accuracy over power in its 6,720 yard, par 70 layout. The ascent from the somewhat flat, yet undulating front nine to the gentle slopes and sometime steep inclines and descents of the back nine brings with it spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
North Carolina Ceramic Arts Festival
This one-day shopping and demonstration show features 40 ceramic artists with a diverse array of tilework, sculpture, jewelry and pottery. Watch raku demonstrations and enjoy live music. Food trucks too. Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville, 11 AM-5 PM. Free admission.
Pisgah Forest Pride Day
Join the fun and help with work projects in Pisgah National Forest in the Looking Glass area - including trail maintenance, repairs, plantings and more (sign up in advance), coordinated by The Pisgah Conservancy.
Benne on Eagle, Downtown Asheville
Located in downtown Asheville, this eatery serves modern soul food inspired by Appalachian ingredients. Open daily for breakfast & dinner. Brunch on Sundays.
Create romantic memories of your big day on a mountain peak, by a waterfall or even at a brewery. Elopement and small wedding packages suit your personal style with custom vows, a short video... read more
Unto These Hills Outdoor Drama
America's most popular outdoor drama is the tragic and triumphant story of the Cherokee Indians. Set against the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains in Cherokee, the drama is presented under the stars at the beautiful Mountainside Theater nightly from June through mid-August.
Best 40 Fall Festivals & Events
September & October: Enjoy the cooler days of autumn with a big variety of events and outdoor festivals in Asheville and western NC towns. See our fall color foliage forecast for the best places to see the changing leaves.
Bare Dark Sky Observatory, Burnsville
Located at the Mayland Earth to Sky Park in Yancey County, this nationally recognized observatory is open to the public for 360-degree views of the moon, planets, and stars through custom-built telescopes. Each 2-hour stargazing session offers a chance for visitors to learn more about the night sky. Adult tickets at $20.
Adelaide Spa & Salon
Facials, body treatments, and massages, including cupping therapy are offered in their tranquil and meditative environment. The spa is conveniently located near downtown with free parking. Spa guests have use of the fitness room, multiple pools, sauna and steam room on the day of their visit, plus access to free childcare during their service. A perfect spa retreat for individuals, couples, and groups.
AVL Cake Lady, West Asheville
This popular West Asheville bakery whips up unique cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and other sweet treats for Asheville locals. They take custom orders for wedding cakes, birthday cakes, holiday desserts, and have a big variety of pastries to cure the occasional sweet tooth. A must-try is the banana pudding cupcake!
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.
Little Switzerland Places to Stay
Find hotels, cabins and B&B inns in charming Little Switzerland, located along the Blue Ridge Parkway, including favorite mountain retreats that have been there for generations.
Top 50 Summer Events & Festivals
June, July, August: From street festivals to outdoor concerts, check out our top summer picks for Asheville and the surrounding NC mountain towns. Most are free.
Old-Time Plowing and Folkways
Take a time-warp at the Cradle of Forestry to the days of the Biltmore Forest School. Meet homesteaders and watch their draft horses plow the heritage garden. Then take a turn at it yourself. Living history guides bring traditional Blue Ridge culture to life. 9 AM-5 PM.
Hickory Nut Gap Farm
Take a tour of this working farm between Asheville and Chimney Rock with animals, store, deli, barn dances and butchery. It's a great picnic spot. Many events throughout the year.
Tryon International Equestrian Center
World-class complex for horse sport competitions has a variety of restaurants open to the public, including Roger's 50s Diner, Legends Grille above the arena, Blue Ginger Sushi, Campagna Italian and more! Visit Wed-Sun in April-November to watch horses. Top Sunday brunch spot. See our TIEC Guide.
Smoky Mountains Area Campgrounds
Find a big variety of campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina just outside the park with many amenities on VisitSmokies.org - members of Smoky Mountain Host.
Original Mast General Store
See the original location of the historic Mast General Store near Banner Elk in small picturesque community of Valle Crucis. Take a photo tour.
The Market Place
An ingredient-driven menu sources from local farms and artisan producers. Breakfast and lunch items will suit your palate, along with craft beer, wine and cocktails. A favorite is the wood-grilled burger with tomato jam, pickled red onions and smoked cheddar. On Sundays, their Motown Brunch has live music 10:30 AM-2:30 PM. In April-December, brunch is also served on Saturdays. Reservations recommended. 20 Wall Street.
(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.
Thermal City Gold & Gem Mine
Visit this authentic gold mine and travel back to the 1800s gold rush. Pan for gold and gems, talk to a real prospector and explore the "Old West" buildings with plenty of interesting things to see. Open mid March-October. South of Marion.
Asheville's public market features specialty shops, restaurants, and sidewalk vending with fresh food and crafts. This block-long historic building has an interior "mall" and shops around the entire exterior. A must stop!
Downtown on Battery Park and O. Henry Avenues.
Downtown on Battery Park and O. Henry Avenues.
This 90-ft. waterfall is privately-owned by a garden club and requires a small admission fee. Located between Saluda and Tryon, it's a must if you are driving on I-26 to/from South Carolina. Ten miles away is the roadside Shunkawauken Falls.
Wildcat Rock Trail
(6 miles roundtrip, strenuous) This gorgeous new trail in the Hickory Nut Gorge area climbs 1,800 feet in elevation by cliffs, 100-foot Little Bearwallow Falls cascade and panoramic views from Wildcat Rock. Many spring wildflowers. Just 18 miles from downtown Asheville.
Addison Farms Vineyard
This family-owned vineyard and winery is 17 miles northwest of Asheville. Sample wines from their six grape varieties at their Tasting Room with mountain views: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Petit Verdot and Petit Manseng. Open Friday-Sunday afternoon. Also open Thursdays May-Oct. 4005 New Leicester Hwy, Leicester.
This well-known downtown concert venue has state-of-the-art sound and lighting with a capacity of 1,100 standing. It's a great setting for enjoying the premier musicians who perform here. The dance floor is several hundred square feet of springy wooden slats, and the stage is in perfect view from any angle on the floor. 101 Biltmore Avenue.