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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.
Enjoy brunch on Pack Square in the heart of downtown. You choose how you want to eat and drink. It might be “breakfast-ish” with a cup of locally roasted coffee and a brown sugar cruffin or an inventive brunch cocktail and duck confit hash topped with a poached egg. Want lunch? Go “all in” with a local craft beer and a Rhu Burger. Saturday & Sunday 10:30 AM-3 PM. 7 Pack Square.
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.
Marry or Renew Vows
What a beautiful and romantic setting to celebrate your love and commitment! Asheville is the hot spot for destination weddings and elopements. Our Wedding Guide has a long list of indoor and outdoor venues and resources to help plan the big day.
Stroll through this public garden in Hendersonville that includes an half-mile trail through the Native Woodland Garden, popular Fairy Garden, Dahlia Daze in September and much more. Free, but donations accepted. Near apple orchards & wineries. 95 Upper Red Oak Trail, Hendersonville
Appalachian Medley Scenic Byway
The 45-mile North Carolina Scenic Byway is named for the rich history of local music. It follows NC 209 from Lake Junaluska to Hot Springs, through farmland and Pisgah National Forest. Stop at the Trust General Store and the tiny St. Jude's Chapel of Hope.
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.
Maggie Valley Arts & Crafts Show
Meet 100 artisans and crafters from the Southeast on Labor Day Weekend 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.
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.
Picturesque Main Street has many local shops, restaurants, galleries, brewery, museums and favorite O.P. Taylor toy store. Big events include the White Squirrel Festival, 4th of July celebration, Brevard Music Festival and Halloweenfest. This is the Land of the Waterfalls with hiking, biking and famous Sliding Rock.
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.
Order the free, 48-page Hendersonville Visitor Guide for plenty of detailed information about things to do in Henderson County, just south of Asheville. Home of DuPont State Forest & Sierra Nevada Brewing.
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.
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.
Fishing in Cherokee
Find an abundantly trout-filled stream system in Cherokee with 30 miles of freestone streams that include secluded forest settings, suburban roadside areas, and even the Cherokee town center.
Top Places for Kid's Birthday Parties in Asheville
See our top picks in the Asheville area to have the best child's birthday party - with plenty of unique party ideas along with traditional places like skating rinks, trampoline parks, hands-on outdoor activities, animal habitats, and even kid ziplines.
Lake Lure & Rutherford County Welcome Center
Stop by for free travel guides, brochures and advice for fun in Lake Lure, Chimney Rock and Rutherford County. See a display of movies filmed here, including Dirty Dancing and Last of the Mohicans. The “Map Room” includes a wall-sized timeline of local heritage with folklore, local culture, and topography map of Hickory Nut Gorge. Open daily! 2932 Memorial Highway (US-64/74), Lake Lure
Packages & Specials for Asheville & Mountains
Pick a package or special perfect for your vacation, with discounts and travel deals for hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, country inns and cabin rentals in the North Carolina mountains.
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.
Welcome to the Land of the Waterfalls! There are so many waterfalls in nearby state and federal parks (with no admission fee) to discover. While many require a walk or hike to reach, several are roadside. Take one of our waterfall drives to enjoy several. See our favorite 60!
Christmas at Biltmore
See the final week of the elaborate holiday decorations inside Biltmore House. Open New Year's Day.
Banner Elk Restaurants
This small town high in the mountains has become a culinary hot spot. Whether you’re looking for an upscale meal for a special occasion, a hearty sandwich after a day outdoors or a casual steak dinner, check out their locally-owned and innovative restaurants.
Asheville Community Theatre
For 70 years, our Community Theatre has been presenting outstanding musicals, comedies and dramas in downtown. Watch the "Mainstage" shows in the 400-seat theatre or a big variety of more adventurous productions in their 50-seat black box theatre called 35below.
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.
Asheville is one of the top USA cities for vegan living. Outdoor festival features vegan food, beer, lifestyle vendors and educational speakers in Pack Square Park 11 AM-5 PM. Free admission.
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.
Have lunch at the soda fountain, see an amazing collection of vintage cars and catch a baseball game in small town American. Every winter, the Forest City’s Hometown Holidays celebration lights up Main Street with more than one million lights.
Bee-to-Honey Farm Tours
This unique hands-on tour of Killer Bees Honey Farm above Pisgah National Forest includes putting on a bee suit, pouring your own honey and a delicious honey tasting and pairing. Located near Lake Toxaway and Brevard. Small groups, advance reservations only.
Jackson County Places to Stay
Choose from historic B&Bs, mountaintop log cabins, Airbnb rentals, lakeside resorts and camping in the great outdoors in the Sylva, Dillsboro and Cashiers areas. Find a mountain getaway for any budget.
Ride the Rivers
Asheville is one of the best whitewater rafting towns in the U.S.! No experience is necessary. You just need a desire for thrills and getting a little wet. Ride down one of four rivers, including the Nantahala River. Or kayak, tube and paddleboard down the French Broad River through Biltmore Estate. Raft in the Great Smokies on the Pigeon River.
Carmel's Kitchen and Bar
With a prime corner location in the beautiful Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville, find superior local and organic produce and meats for a bounty of fresh flavors with contemporary style. Lunch features soups, salads, hand-tossed pizzas and burgers. Dinner offerings range from mussels and calamari to locally sourced steaks and pork, along with signature cocktails and local brews. Prime outdoor dining patio. 1 Page Avenue.
Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster
Take the exhilarating ride on the only Alpine coaster in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains, located in Banner Elk.
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.
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.
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.
Oskar Blues Brewery
(342 Mountain Industrial Drive, Brevard) Oskar Blues' east coast brewery opened in 2012. The Tasty Weasel taproom is open daily with free tours of the brewery. Sample specialty draft ales, enjoy live music and gather with friends.
This pristine, scenic mountain lake is surrounded by a community with many things to do - located near Brevard. Take a lake cruise at Greystone Inn, be a beekeeper for a day, stay at a wellness retreat and see Toxaway Falls.
Cafes & Bistros
See the best bistros in our “Paris of the South” - including traditional bistros with French and European cuisine and a big variety of small restaurants and cafes with many culinary styles.
WALK (West Asheville Lounge & Kitchen)
This causal local hang out serves everything from wings and burgers to salads, tacos and sandwiches, with regular vegan and vegetarian menu options available. Local craft beers on draft, cocktail specials and 2 billiard tables. Weekly specials include Taco Tuesday and Sunday Brunch. Open Mon-Thurs 11:30 AM-1 AM, Fri/Sat 11:30 AM-2 AM, Sunday 10:30 AM-12 AM. 401 Haywood Rd
Mandala Springs Eco Retreat, Blue Ridge Parkway
This 30-acre eco-retreat surrounded by national forest is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway with some of the best fall color views in the Blue Ridge Mountains! Enjoy camping, glamping, tiny home rentals, trout stream, hiking, and more! They also have onsite yoga classes and bodywork treatments.
Pizza Mind, Asheville
This family friendly pizza restaurant in West Asheville offers signature and build-you-own pizza pies, along with a great local beer selection and extensive wine list. Kids can enjoy the arcade! 285 Haywood Rd. Suite 10
Located in the heart of Downtown Asheville, Chestnut offers a unique take on hand-crafted food and cocktails. The palette is best described as Southern American with a variety of ethnic twists. The menu changes monthly and features a wide range of local and seasonal produce and proteins. Open 7 days a week for dinner only starting at 5 PM. To make a reservation, visit the website or call 828-575-2667. 48 Biltmore Avenue.
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. The bride is FREE with 6 or more bridesmaids for private groups!
Brunch & Breakfast
See our list of top places to begin your day of mountain adventures with a hearty breakfast or a leisurely weekend brunch.
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
Short Street Cakes
This family-owned, southern-style cake shop in West Asheville whips up scratch-made cakes, cupcakes, pies and pastries. Order a custom cake for an anniversary or birthday, or pick up some cupcakes to indulge in! 225 Haywood Rd
If you love to plunder for antiques and deals on collectibles, this is the place! This antique mall features furniture, architectural salvage, collectibles, and accessories from 75 independent antique dealers. It's part of the Biltmore Antiques District that includes 13 antique stores within a mile and a half of the Biltmore Estate.
Daniel Ridge Falls
Located near Moore Cove Falls and Looking Glass Falls, this 150-foot cascade in Pisgah National Forest is also known as Tom's Spring Branch Falls. Accessed by an easy one-mile roundtrip hike. Or hike a four-mile loop.
Hands On! Children's Museum, Hendersonville
This children's museum in historic Downtown Hendersonville has interactive exhibits with focus on science, nature, engineering, motor skills, and more. Exhibits include pet vet hospital, grocery store, lego raceway, puppet theatre, stage, and many more! (318 N Main St)
Waynesville Recreation Center Indoor Pool
This indoor pool and water park is open daily throughout the year, making it a great way for kids to be active on rainy day or snow day. They also do pool parties! A family day pass is $20, and good for up to 6 people. Other pool pass options available.
This chef-driven, locally owned restaurant elevates vegan dining in Asheville with their picture-worthy dishes of delicious, scratch-made vegan food. Enjoy foods like smoked portobello, curries, ravioli, and even “queso!” Enjoy the patio in warmer months. Dinner only. 165 Merrimon Ave
Green Sage Cafe
This certified green restaurant nurtures the well-being of its customers through its fair-trade organic coffee and tea, organic beer and wine, natural and organic local food for breakfast and lunch. Look for the solar panels on the roof! 5 Broadway Avenue.
Mountain Play Lodge, Asheville
This large indoor play space, ideal for kids 10 and younger, offers two age-appropriate play floors with a variety of soft play equipment including a miniature village, toddler slides, and a large jungle gym with slides. Find a variety of food and beverage options for purchase, including snacks, coffee, and even beer and wine! Admission: $8-14. Don't forget to wear socks!
Located at the corner of the 5 points intersection in the heart of the River Arts District this specialty coffee shop offers a full espresso bar, pastries, paninis, bagels, salads and more. Vegan and gluten-free options available. Enjoy Open Mon-Fri, 7 AM-5 PM. Sat/Sun, 8 AM-5 PM. 242 Clingman Ave
Fork Lore, Biltmore Park
Located inside the Hilton in Biltmore Park Town Square, they fuse southern comfort with modern sophistication, inspired by the chef’s grandmother’s kitchen. How about bananas foster French toast, eggs benedict many ways, and a variety of egg dishes from a nearby organic farm? Don't forget a mimosa or Bloody Mary. Serves breakfast 7:30-10 AM Monday-Friday and 7:30 AM-2 PM on Saturday/Sunday. 43 Town Square Blvd.
Tin Can Pizzeria
Beloved by locals, this pizzeria on wheels is parked at local Asheville breweries like Wedge, Highland and Pisgah Brewing. They serve a rotation of crispy, thin crust pies that pair well local craft beer. See their up-to-date weekly schedule on Facebook.
Kidventure Camp, Asheville Parks & Recreation
This four-day camp focuses on outdoor activities including hiking, geocaching, shelter and fire building, raft making, fishing, swimming, archery, climbing wall, and an inflatable kayak trip. July 2022. 9 AM-5 PM, ages 9-11. $105/session.
Summer Food Festivals
There's seldom a weekend in the summer without a great outdoor festival in Asheville and the surrounding small towns that includes plenty of food.
Mellow Mushroom, Asheville
Serving delicious stone baked pizza, this pizzeria is a popular place to enjoy a slice. In addition to pizza, they serve calzones, hoagies, salads and a great local beer selection. Vegan and gluten-free options available. Enjoy the large patio for downtown people watching! 50 Broadway St.
Baked Pie Company
This friendly dessert heaven knows how to cure a sweet tooth with their decadent, fresh made pies. They serve a variety of classic pies, signature pies and weekly specialties. Can’t decide? Try a pie flight with 3 slices of pie and a scoop of ice cream, perfect for sharing! Also find savory pies, scones, sticky buns, cookies and more. Vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free options available. 50 North Merrimon, St 103
Since 1999, they bake a wide variety of artisan tradition French breads daily. Choose from an array of house-made croissants, danishes, eclairs, cheddar-scallion biscuits, sticky buns, bagels and other pastries. And pair it up with locally-roasted organic coffee or espresso. Opens at 7 AM for early risers. Two locations in downtown Asheville: 60 Biltmore Avenue & 88 Charlotte Street.
(2.5 miles roundtrip, strenuous) Hike to Stairway Falls on the Horsepasture River from Gorges State Park via the trail to Rainbow Falls in Pisgah National Forest.
Girls Rock Asheville
This rocking camp is for youth who identify as female, trans and/or gender nonconforming. There’s no experience required as campers form bands, write original music, and perform with in a showcase at the end of the week! Instruments/gear are provided. Weekly sessions June-July, ages 8-16. $150/week (scholarships available)
Fine Arts Theatre
Downtown's only cinema is dedicated to first-run and independent films. See fine films not necessarily shown in the larger commercial theaters in the wonderfully-renovated, older movie house. Located in downtown Asheville at 36 Biltmore.
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.
RAD Skatepark, Asheville
This large, indoor skate park in the River Arts District offers a safe, supervised environment for skaters and riders of all ages. Kids may bring skateboards, bikes, or scooters to ride. Parents may drop off and pick up kids or stay and observe in the lounge. RAD also offers lessons and skate camps. Admission starts at $10.
Tupelo Honey Cafe
Longtime favorite for both locals and visitors! This is where Tupelo began in 2000 as a destination for scratch-made Southern food rooted in the Carolina Mountains. Breakfast, lunch and dinner served every day. Enjoy craft cocktails, specialty beers and famous honey dusted fried chicken at their new lounge, adjacent to original space. 12 College Street.
Sunny Point Cafe
A favorite local spot in West Asheville since 2003, discover innovative comfort food with made-from-scratch products and a farm-to-table approach. They even grow some of their ingredients in their adjacent garden. Favorites include the huevos rancheros, cornmeal hot cakes, French toast and their killer shrimp and grits. Open every day at 8 AM and breakfast menu served until 2:30 PM. 626 Haywood Road.
Barley's Taproom, Asheville
Enjoy fresh sourdough pizza, lasagna, and sandwiches at this long-time local's favorite with 40+ beers on tap. Their stage showcases live bluegrass, jazz, and Americana music with no cover charge. Upstairs is the Billiard Room with four regulation slate billiard tables and five regulation dart lanes. 42 Biltmore Avenue, downtown Asheville
Polanco is a relaxed, intimate restaurant serving an eclectic Mexican menu with vegetarian and vegan options. Enjoy authentic dishes such as mole and chiles en nogada. Polanco can also be booked as a private event space and comfortably seats at least 50 people, up to 75. 10 North Market St