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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Early Girl Eatery
A local's favorite in Asheville since 2001, featuring area farmers from day one. Southern dishes are served in a friendly diner vibe. Breakfast all day. Meat & two dishes with plenty of veggies. Made from scratch cakes & pies too! 8 Wall Street downtown (They have 2 other locations in West Asheville and Arden)
Asheville Parks & Greenway
Just a couple miles from downtown and Biltmore, find two parks along the river connected by the French Broad River Greenway: Carrier Park and French Broad River Park. Picnic, bike, hike and play.
Rumbling Bald Golf
Stay and play two championship golf courses at a waterfront resort on Lake Lure. Bald Mountain Golf Course has gorgeous mountain views and towering rock faced cliffs. It has four sets of tees and measures 6,283 yards with a course rating of 70.9 and a slope rating of 128. Apple Valley Golf Course is a 72 par, 18-hole course, designed by Dan Maples. It measures 6,756 yards from the tees, has a slope rating of 140 and a 73.2 USGA rating.
Great Smoky Mountains Cabin Rentals in NC
Find vacation cabin rentals on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - ranging from rustic log cabins to luxury mountain top homes.
Located near Highlands, this 50-ft. waterfall cascades into an idyllic pool perfect for wading and swimming. It's a short hike in Nantahala National Forest.
Spruce Pine Potters Market
Longtime gathering with 30+ potters and clay artists selling their handmade pottery, figurative sculpture, stoneware, earthenware and more. Free admission. 10 AM-5 PM both days. 31 Cross Street, Spruce Pine. Near Penland School.
Biltmore Industries Tour
Take a guided tour of historic Biltmore Industries at Grovewood Village and time-warp back to closing day in 1981 as you see untouched rooms with looms loaded with wool. April-November. Also, visit their Homespun Museum and Car Museum.
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.
Mt. Mitchell Crafts Fair
The streets around Burnsville’s town square are filled with 200 juried crafters displaying nearly every kind of handmade craft imaginable. Located 35 miles northeast of Asheville.
Wild Food Foraging Tours
Take a "forage to table" tour with No Taste Like Home and play with your food. Our area is a Garden of Eden with over 300 wild edibles. During a guided tour, gather wild mushrooms, plants, and other “extreme cuisine.” Then a chef transforms your finds into a delicious meal.
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.
Milton's Cuisine & Cocktails, Black Mountain
Features contemporary southern cuisine utilizing fresh, local ingredients to create inspired comfort food with bold flavors. These handcrafted meals are served Wed - Sat for dinner and Sunday for brunch. Enjoy both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a cocktail at the bar.
St Claire Art
At this must-stop studio in River Arts District (344 Depot Street, #104), watch Stephen create brilliant paintings that come to life with intense color and contrast. His fascinating “Dialuminism” process allows light to pass through layers of paint, reflecting off metal. Open Mon-Sat 10 AM-5 PM, Sun 11 AM-3 PM.
Perhaps the most famous motorcycle drive in the East, drive 318 curves in 11 miles. Located about 90 miles from Asheville, the Tail of the Dragon crosses Deals Gap at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line on U.S. 129.
Asheville Rooftop Bar Tours
See the city’s scenic beauty and historic landmarks atop some of Asheville’s highly acclaimed rooftop bars! This fun guided tour in the heart of the city offers fascinating stories and photos from the city’s past while you sample cocktails (or mocktails) at three rooftop bars. Rooftop sunset tours, too. Tours are rain or shine, with covered and heated areas including fire pits for year-round enjoyment. Van chauffeured transportation!
Overmountain Victory Celebration
Explore a living history 1780s militia encampment at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals on Blue Ridge Parkway, telling the story of the Overmountain Men battling British forces. 10 AM-2 PM.
7-Mile Waterfalls Hike, DuPont State Forest
(7 miles roundtrip, strenuous) See three waterfalls on this hike in DuPont State Forest: High Falls, Triple Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Or you can mountain bike most of it on old logging roads. Extend the hike about 1.5 miles to see Hooker Falls, too!
Beech Mountain Hikes
(1 to 20 miles, easy to strenuous) The Town of Beech Mountain, the highest town in eastern America, has 20 miles of maintained trails atop their mountain. A great place to keep cool since their summer temperatures seldom go above 75 degrees!
A Mountain Christmas Trail of Lights
Enjoy 15 miles of twinkling lights and displays through the small towns of Spruce Pine and Bakersville, with many holiday happenings throughout the month. While you’re there, choose and cut your christmas tree at a local farm with fun activities like hayrides, hot cocoa, s’mores and pictures with Santa!
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.
Waynesville & Maggie Valley Visitors Guide
Order the 56-page free "Visit NC Smokies" guide to Haywood County, home to small towns of Maggie Valley, Waynesville, Lake Junaluska, Canton and Clyde - in the Great Smokies, Pisgah National Forest and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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.
Escape to the Great Smokies
The Great Smoky Mountains is one of America's most visited national parks. This International Biosphere Reserve is home to rugged mountains (many peaks in excess of 6,000 ft.), historic homesteads and 100,000 different types of plants and animals. Four entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are within 50 miles of downtown Asheville. Free admission!
Big Butt Trail
(4.5 miles round-trip, strenuous) This lofty hike keeps you above 5,000 ft. elevation as you hike to Point Misery and Little Butt, so it's perfect for a hot summer's day. On the Blue Ridge Parkway MP 358.9 near Mt. Mitchell.
Mountain Heritage Day
Held on the campus of Western Carolina University, this long-running outdoor celebration features the sights, sounds, crafts, and flavors of yesteryear. Get a taste of southern Appalachian culture, art, and music. 10 AM-5 PM. Free.
Visit 20 farms in the Asheville area that are not normally open to the public and see what happens behind the scenes. Presented by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), farms are located in many counties. 12-5 PM. Passes $35/car in advance, $45/car day of.
Beech Mountain Lodging
Stay in the highest town in eastern America atop Beech Mountain. Ski, bike and hike from your luxury mountainside home, condo, inn or vacation rental. Seasonal packages provide great values.
Rotary Arts & Crafts Fair, Cashiers
See works of 90 fine 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.
Bryson City Great Smoky Campgrounds
Find campgrounds for tents, camper and RVs near several entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Cherokee, Fontana Lake and Bryson City areas.
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!
Wolf Ridge Ski Resort
The closest ski resort to downtown Asheville with 15 runs, a terrain park, and 4 lifts. Opening Day is December 10, 2021. Located in Madison County just 5 miles from I-26, 30 minutes north of Asheville.
This rare twin waterfall is located roadside near Maggie Valley and Cherokee. You can easily miss it since there are few signs! The observation deck is a short walk from a small parking area. You can also hike down to the base of both falls.
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
Earl Scruggs Music Festival
Held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, enjoy 20+ artists on three stages, including Old Crow Medicine Show, Jerry Douglas, Jim Lauderdale, Alison Brown, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Earls of Leicester. Book early for camping spots, lodging, and after-hours festivities.
Harvest Festival, Stecoah Valley
Experience quintessential traditional mountain life with Appalachian dance, music, food, arts and crafts in the beautiful Nantahala National Forest at Stecoah Valley, near Fontana Lake and Robbinsville.
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.
Bryson City Outdoors
This well-equipped outdoor store in downtown Bryson City has everything for your adventure. Services include kayak, paddleboard and gear rentals, a hiker shuttle, and guided tours! Their craft beer taproom & bottle shop has 10 rotating brews on tap with an additional 200+ bottles and cans to go.
(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.
Hot Nights, Cool Rides Auto Show
One of the largest car shows in the South lines Main Street in Forest City, with a big variety of 400 vehicles including hot rods, motorcycles, model T's and classic Mustangs. Food and live music. Free admission. Cruise-in Friday night starting at 6 PM. Show is Saturday 9 AM-8 PM.
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.
Morganton Town & Trail Guide
Order a free guide to Morganton and Burke County, located east of Asheville and home to Linville Falls, Lake James & South Mountain State Parks, small towns, scenic drives and hikes to Table Rock and the Linville Gorge.
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.
This modest waterfall is dwarfed by the towering cliffs above, creating a majestic setting. And it's an easy walk with other waterfalls nearby (French Broad Falls & Mill Shoals).
French Broad Ziplines
Explore the great outdoors from the treetops near Hot Springs, just 30 minutes from downtown Asheville. The 10-line, 2-rappel zip line canopy tour traverses a mile of cable, with stunning, long-range mountain views. Create memories of a lifetime, led by expert guides with state-of-the-art gear.
Hendersonville Wine Country
Visit six award-winning wineries on a 10-mile scenic drive just east of Hendersonville in apple country. Each has both indoor and outdoor spaces with beautiful views, live music, and more.
Cleghorn Golf and Sports Club at Tryon Resort
Located near the Tryon International Equestrian Center, this 18-hole championship course tips out at 6762 yards with a course rating of 73.3 and slope of 136. The George Cobb design offers pristine conditions, named as one of the best courses in NC by the PGA. Also go to their Cleghorn Gun Club for a sporting clay course with 15 stations for every shooter level. 183 Golf Circle, Rutherfordton
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.
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
Hot Works Asheville Fine Art Show
See juried art and buy directly from the artist in Pack Square Park in the middle of downtown Asheville. Find paintings, sculptures, clay, glass, fiber, jewelry, wood, and more. 10 AM-5 PM each day. Free admission
Pigeon River Adventure Center
Zip over the Pigeon River and through the woods of the Great Smoky Mountains! This Canopy Tour takes you into the Smoky Mountain Creek Gorge exposing a lush forest of ferns, wildflowers, towering trees, rock cliffs, waterfalls and moss-covered boulder gardens. It includes 12 zip line sections between elevated platforms, treetops, decks and four sky bridges. The Express Zip Tour has seven zips including two zips across the Pigeon River. Combine your zip rides with whitewater rafting or Jeep tours!
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.
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.
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.
Upper Creek Falls
This beautiful waterfall setting has multiple cascades and a swimming hole with a rope swing for diving! Located in Pisgah National Forest along NC Highway 181, about 13.5 miles north of Morganton. It's about a half mile hike from the parking area.
Elk in Cherokee
Watch majestic elk graze and interact in meadows at the Great Smoky Mountains Oconaluftee Visitor Center and other areas around Cherokee.
Apple Harvest Festival
Find all things apple in downtown Waynesville, including cider, fried pies and other apple delicacies. Also find live mountain music, dance, craft and demo booths along scenic Main Street for the iconic small town fall festival.
Great Smoky Mountains Hotels & Resorts
Book a vacation in one of these top hotels and resorts by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina side.
Concerts on the Creek, Sylva
Kick off Memorial Day Weekend with free outside live music in downtown Sylva 7-9 PM at the Bridge Park, two blocks from Main Street with shops, restaurants and breweries. Family-friendly, bring a chair or blanket.
Lake Lure Cabin Rentals
Find a big variety of cabins, condos and other vacation rentals at Lake Lure - as presented by Rutherford County Tourism.
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.
(3 miles roundtrip, easy) This waterfall in the Pisgah National Forest is just three miles from I-40 in Old Fort. Hike by the river to the lower falls, a 100-foot cascade. Experienced hikers and rock climbers can continue on to a challenging hike to the stunning Upper Catawba Falls.
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.
(3.2-mile loop, moderate) Hike from downtown Hot Springs via the Appalachian Trail. You will climb to a rock outcropping for beautiful views of the river and town. It's a romantic spot, but don't leap!
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.
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.
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.