Day Trips from Asheville
Distance from Asheville: 16 miles east, 20 minutes by car
Tourism Information: Black Mountain-Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce, 201 E. State Street, Black Mountain, 828-669-2300 or 800-669-2301, www.blackmountain.org
If you’re looking for a quaint, almost idyllic little mountain town, with a pleasant downtown, away from the hurly-burly but with a nice choice of restaurants and activities, you couldn’t do better than Black Mountain. It is short, easy drive from Asheville via I-40, but once you take Exit 64, you’re soon in the town’s small, easy-to-get-around downtown. The main street, West State Street, and side streets from and near it, Cherry Street, Church Street, Sutton Avenue, Broadway and others, are lined with boutiques, galleries and small dining spots. Town Hardware & General Store (103 West State St., 828-669-7723, www.townhardware.com) is a big, old-fashioned hardware store that has added gifts and other items. The Old Depot is a non-profit art and crafts shop in the Black Mountain train depot (207 Sutton Ave., 828-669-6583, www.olddepot.org). Tyson’s Furniture and Penland Furniture are locally popular places to shop for furniture at good prices.
Just west of Black Mountain is the final site of the experimental arts college open from 1933 to 1957, Black Mountain College. This is now a summer boys camp and the site of the twice-a-year music and arts festival, Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF). See the Arts and Festivals sections for more information. Also near Black Mountain is Montreat College (310 Gaither Circle, Montreat, 800-622-6968, www.montreat.edu), worth visiting for its wooded campus with many early 20th century buildings constructed of river rock.
For lunch, go directly to the Veranda Cafe (119 Cherry St., 828-669-8864, www.verandacafeandgifts.com), very popular for its fresh-made soups and sandwiches. Soups are $3 to $5, and most sandwiches around $8. Next door, down some steps to a brick rathskeller setting, is Black Mountain Ale House (117-C Cherry St., 828-669-9090, www.blackmountainalehouse.com), good for burgers, fish and chips and other bar food. A very good 8 oz. cheeseburger with fries and a local draft beer is around $12. For dinner, check out Que Sera (400 E. State St., 828-664-9472, www.queserarestaurant.com), nondescript on the outside but with appealing dishes like mountain trout almandine and coffee-rubbed filet mignon with spinach and shoestring potatoes (entrees around $13 to $30).
Staying overnight? Black Mountain has more than a half dozen B&Bs, the best of which are the Inn Around the Corner (109 Church St., 828-669-6005 or 800-393-6005, www.innaroundthecorner.com) and Arbor House (207 Rhododendron Ave., 866-669-9303, www.arborhousenc.com), both moderate with rooms in the $135 to $200 range. Inn Around the Corner, in a restored 1915 house, is close to downtown, while Arbor House, built recently but in the Arts and Crafts style, is a bit farther away, near Lake Tomahawk (more of a pond than a lake), with the 18-hole Black Mountain municipal golf course, tennis courts and half-mile, lighted walking path.
Distance from Asheville: 35 miles southwest, about 50 minutes by car
Brevard is a gateway to some of the best attractions in the Pisgah National Forest, including the Cradle of Forestry and Sliding Rock, to dozens of waterfalls – Brevard and Transylvania County are known as “The Land of Waterfalls” -- and to great hiking, fishing, mountain biking and camping in the DuPont State Forest and Pisgah National Forest.
The town itself, at about the same elevation as Asheville, has a Mayberry-type vibe, and indeed one of the best-known shops in Brevard, a toy store, is called O.P. Taylor’s (get it?). There are a number of art and crafts galleries, clothing boutiques and such.
Brevard Music Festival (349 Andante Lane, 828-862-2100, www.brevardmusic.org) is a nationally known classical music festival held at the Brevard Music Center from mid-June to early August. The Brevard Music Center Orchestra, made up of talented high school and college musicians, and guest musicians present about 80 symphony concerts, chamber music sessions, operas and other classical music events. Attendance at the various events totals around 30,000. Keith Lockhart is artistic director.
Princeton has its famous black squirrels, but Brevard is known for its white squirrels. These are not albinos but a variant of the Eastern gray squirrel. The story goes that in the 1950s a couple of white squirrels escaped after arriving in town in a circus truck, but who knows? About one-fourth of the squirrels in Brevard are white, and each spring around Memorial Day in late May the town holds a White Squirrel Festival (www.whitesquirrelfestival.com), with music and a soapbox derby. A good place to see them is the campus of Brevard College, a small liberal arts school near downtown.
Square Root Cafe (33 Times Arcade Alley, Brevard, 828-884- 6171, www.squarerootrestaurant.com) is a friendly, popular spot for lunch, hidden in an alley downtown, with wraps, salads, burgers and sandwiches, most around $10. Dinner is a good bit more expensive, with entrees including salmon, Cornish game hen and trout from $15 to $22. Bracken Mountain Bakery (42 S Broad St., Brevard, 828-883-4034, www.brackenmountainbakery.com) has excellent breads and other baked goods. Rocky’s Soda Shop & Grill (50 S. Broad St., Brevard, 828-862-4700, www.ddbullwinkels.com) has an old-fashioned soda fountain and good hot dogs. It adjoins D. D. Bullwinkel’s gift shop. Hokey, but your kids will probably like it.
Hob Knob (192 W. Main St., Brevard, 828-966-4662, www.hobknobrestaurant.com), Southern cuisine with a lot of seafood dishes, and Marco Trattoria (204 W. Main St., Brevard, 828-883-4841, www.marcotrattoria.com), mostly Northern Italian and wood oven pizzas, sit side-by-side on Main Street. Both are pleasant spots for lunch or dinner. Dinner entrees at Hob Knob are around $16 to $32, and at Marco Trattoria $12 to $17. Lunch is less expensive at both.
Should you want to stay overnight, there are several chain motels outside the downtown area, including Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Rodeway. For something more interesting, the Red House Inn (266 W. Probart St., 828-884-9349, www.brevardbedandbreakfast.com) is the best B&B in town. Built in 1912, with some elements from an earlier 1851 structure, the two-story stucco house with two-tiered porches has five bedrooms, plus there are three separate cottages offered by the B&B owners. Rates are around $135 to $300, depending on the date, including breakfast.
Distance from Asheville: 65 miles west, about 1¼ hours by car
Tourism Information: Bryson City-Swain County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, 210 Main St., Bryson City, 828-488-3681 or 800-867-9246, www.greatsmokies.com
Bryson City is one of the North Carolina gateways to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Deep Creek entrance to the park, only about 2 miles from Bryson City, is popular for river tubing and also has a nice picnic area and campground. There are three waterfalls just a short hike away from the Deep Creek entrance. Lakeview Drive, which was to have stretched some 30 miles along the north shore of Fontana Lake, was never finished. It is better known as the Road to Nowhere and takes you 6 miles from Bryson City into the Smokies, ending at a tunnel mouth. (See Great Smoky Mountains National Park section.)
The early 20th century Bryson City business district, mainly along Main and Everett streets, seems to have been mostly taken over by the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (226 Everett St., 828-586-8811, www.gsmr.com) and businesses trying to cash in on it. The tourist railroad makes Bryson City its headquarters and main depot, running sightseeing train trips along the Tuckasegee River to Dillsboro and through the Nantahala Gorge to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Schedules and fares vary seasonally, and on whether you ride in open-air cars or first class enclosed cars, but adults usually pay from $51 to $67 and children 2-12 pay $29 to $38. Meals, if you want to dine on the train, are extra. Tickets on the railroad include admission to Bryson City Model Railroad Museum, good for kids though a bit commercial. Bryson City Train Depot on Everett Street, a one-story frame building, was constructed in 1895 by Southern Railway, a successor to the Western North Carolina Railroad. In the early 20th century there were four passenger trains daily between Asheville and Murphy, stopping in Bryson City. The original depot now serves as part of the headquarters of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.
Horace Kephart, author of Our Southern Highlanders and who with Dr. Kelly Bennett of Bryson City helped lead the effort to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, lived in an apartment above the former Bennett’s Drugstore (32 Everett St.). The drugstore, which closed in 2010 after some 100 years in the same family, is now a used bookstore called Friends of the Marianna Black Library Book Store.
The former Swain County Courthouse (Main and Everett Sts.), designed by architects Frank Pierce Milburn and Richard Sharp Smith and completed in 1908, is a small but striking example of Neoclassical Revival architecture, with a gold-colored octagonal cupola. The columns at the front are Ionic. The courthouse building is now used as a senior center.
Kituwah (off U.S. Hwy. 19 between Bryson City and Cherokee, near the confluence of the Tuckasegee and Oconaluftee rivers) is considered one of the “mother towns” and a mythical birthplace of the Cherokee. Kituwah was probably occupied starting around 8000 BC. British soldiers burned the town during the Anglo-Cherokee War in 1761. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee repurchased the 309-acre Kituwah site, where today only an earthen mound remains, in 1996. In 2009, Duke Energy began building a large electrical substation overlooking Kituwah, but objections by the Cherokee forced Duke to move the site.
The former Bryson City Bank, a handsome brick building completed in 1908, houses a specialty coffee shop, wine bar and restaurant, Bryson City Cork & Bean (16 Everett St., 828-488-1934, www.brysoncitycorkandbean.com). The Cork & Bean offers excellent baked goods and crepes. Amazingly, this is one of three specialty coffee shops in little Bryson City. For lunch, don’t miss The Filling Station Deli Sub Shop (145 Everett St., 828-488-1919, www.thefillingstation.com), in an old gas station. This joint (counter service only, with a few seats outside on the sidewalk) does sandwiches as they should be done. The Cuban, called High Test, is muy bueno. Most sandwiches and subs are around $6 to $7.
Places to stay: Fryemont Inn (245 Fryemont St., 828-488-2159 or 800-845-4879, www.fryemontinn.com), a rustic inn on a hill above Bryson City, completed in 1923, has poplar bark shakes on the outside, and a large stone fireplace and chestnut paneling inside. The inn has 37 rooms in the main lodge. The original owners were Amos and Lillian Reginia Rowe Frye, both attorneys. Lillian Frye was the first woman to graduate from the University of North Carolina School of Law and the first woman to be admitted to the bar in North Carolina. Rates at the Fryemont Inn range from around $135 to $275, including breakfast and dinner. The main lodge is closed December-March, although cottages and cabins are open year-round.
Hemlock Inn (Galbraith Creek Rd., 828-488-2885, www.hemlockinn.com) won’t suit everybody, but it you want to be out in the country and you don’t mind no-frills rooms, with no TV, phones or Wi-Fi, and country cooking served family style, you may be among those who become repeat guests here. Rates are around $200 for a double room with breakfast and dinner. There’s something of a Christian atmosphere, and alcohol can be consumed only in rooms.
Distance from Asheville: Burnsville is 36 miles northeast of Asheville, about 45 minutes by car; Spruce Pine is about 50 miles northeast of Asheville, about an hour by car
Population: Burnsville 1,700, Spruce Pine 2,200
Tourism Information: Yancey County Chamber of Commerce, 106 West Main St., Burnsville, 828-682-7413, www.yanceychamber.com and Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce, Spruce Pine, 828-765-9483 or 800-227-3912, www.mitchell-county.com
We lump these two mountains towns together, because although Burnsville is in Yancey County, and Spruce Pine is in Mitchell County, they are only about 15 minutes apart. If you visit one, you’ll probably also visit the other.
Confusingly, Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain in the East, is in Yancey County, not Mitchell County.
One of the main reasons to visit the area is Penland School (67 Doras Trail, Penland, 828-765-2359, Gallery 828-765-6211, www.penland.org), a nationally known crafts school on a 460-acre campus, with many crafts studios in the area. Penland is about equidistant from Spruce Pine and Burnsville. Spruce Pine is a mineral and gem mining area, with several dig-it-yourself mines. (See the Asheville Outside section for more information.) Both Spruce Pine and Burnsville have small, quaint downtown areas with decidedly unquaint suburbs along U.S. Highway 19.
In Spruce Pine the Knife and Fork (61 Locust St., Spruce Pine, 828-765-1511, www.knifeandforknc.com) is doubtless the best restaurant in the area and worth a stop for dinner. It’s a small, 30-seat restaurant with a rigorous farm-to-table philosophy. The chef, Nate Allen, puts together some interesting taste combinations, such as the parsnips and kettle popcorn small plate as an appetizer. Hanger steak with crispy potatoes and arugula is $22 and local trout is $18. You’ll pay around $40 per person for dinner, including wine (no cocktails available).
Buck House Inn on Bald Mountain Creek (5860 Bald Mountain Rd., Burnsville, 828-536-4140 or 855-405-5005, www.northcarolina-mountain-vacation.com) is a restored 1904-vintage country house with Colonial Revival stylings. It has chestnut walls, ceilings and floors, and the property is on 8 acres in a beautiful rural setting. Rates in the B&B’s four rooms are around $129 to $169 double and include breakfast.
Distance from Asheville: 51 miles west of Asheville, about 1¼ hours by car; the route via the Blue Ridge Parkway takes about two hours
Population: population of town of Cherokee 2,000; population of Qualla Boundary Reservation 9,000; membership in Eastern Band of the Cherokee 14,000; population of Swain County 14,000
Tourism Information: Visit Cherokee, 498 Tsali Blvd. Cherokee, 800-438-1601, www.visitcherokeenc.com
Cherokee is a tourist-oriented town that is the main gateway to the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is on the Qualla Boundary Reservation, home to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.
For decades, Cherokee has been known for its tacky “faux Indian” motifs, “Indian chiefs” in Hollywood style dress standing in front of tourist gift shops, black bears in cages and mom ‘n pop motels and restaurants. We admit it: As kids we used to love to go to Cherokee on our way into the Smokies. We’d stop and buy a toy bow and arrow or spear.
But times change, at least in some ways. Unfortunately there are still some caged bears on display and plenty of tacky tourist gift shops. But there has been a resurgence of interest by local Cherokee in their own history, and the town of Cherokee now has several decidedly non-tacky sights including a museum, high-quality Cherokee crafts co-op and gallery, an updated outdoor drama and a replica 18th century Native American village.
Qualla Arts and Crafts (Tsali Manor Dr. Cherokee, 828-497-3103, www.quallaartsandcrafts.com) is the best place to buy high-quality Cherokee art and crafts, including baskets, dolls, masks, pottery and carvings. Probably the best-known Cherokee craft is basket making. The Cherokee used river cane, white oak and honeysuckle to weave baskets, either leaving them in their natural colors or colored with boiled black walnut or bloodroot to produce darker colors. Top contemporary examples of baskets sell for $50 to $1,000 or more, and historical museum-quality examples are virtually priceless. The store also has a museum gallery of Cherokee art and crafts, with displays that are not for sale.
Museum of the Cherokee Indian (589 Tsali Blvd., Cherokee, 828-497-3481, www.cherokeemuseum.org; daily 9-5 year-round with extended hours 9-7 Memorial Day to Labor Day, $10 adults, children 6-12 $6) has self-guided tours of permanent interactive exhibits on the Cherokee from the Paleo period through the Trail of Tears and modern times.
Oconaluftee Indian Village (NC 1361, Cherokee, 828-497-2111; www.visitcherokeenc.com, open daily 10-5 May-mid-Oct., adults 13+ $18.40, children 6-12, $10.40) is a replica of a Cherokee settlement of around 1760. Cherokee guides knowledgeable about local culture, history and crafts give you a tour.
Unto These Hills (Drama Rd. off U.S. Hwy. 441/Tsali Blvd., Cherokee, 828)-497-2111, www.visitcherokeenc.com; Jun.-mid-Aug, adults $18-$22, children 6-12 $8-$12) is an outdoor drama in the 2,800-seat Mountainside Theater. It traces the Cherokee people from their earliest days through the peak of their power to the heartbreak of the Trail of Tears, when in 1838 the U.S. government forcibly removed most of the Eastern Cherokee to Oklahoma, and ending in the present day. Some 6 million people have seen the play since it first opened in 1950.
But the biggest practical change in Cherokee in recent times has been the coming of the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel (777 Casino Dr., Cherokee, 828-497-7777, www.harrahscherokee.com), the only casino in North Carolina. The complex employs more than 2,500, making it one of the largest private employers in Western North Carolina. Dealers at the casino can make up to $60,000. One of the three hotel towers rises 22 stories, the highest building in North Carolina west of Charlotte. Following a recent $650 million expansion, the 150,000 square-feet casino has more than 5,000 video gaming slot machines. Live games including roulette, blackjack and craps were introduced in late 2012. The hotel has more than 1,100 rooms, making it the largest hotel in the state. Rooms – the ones in the new Creek Tower are the nicest -- are a good value at around $130 to $150 but many are comped to regular gamblers, and you pay a stiff daily fee for Wi-Fi. The complex’s 3,000-seat Events Center draws national entertainers. Caution: Smoking is allowed in most of the casino, though not in the restaurants, and the tobacco smoke can be overwhelming.
Harrah’s Cherokee has a golf course, Sequoyah National, and several restaurants including the 404-seat Paula Deen’s Kitchen, BRIO Tuscan Grill and a Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The casino and hotel complex is the only place on the Qualla reservation where liquor by the drink, wine and beer are available. The hotel complex also has a spa, fitness center and a new heated, glass-enclosed swimming pool, open year-round, added in 2014.
In addition to the huge casino hotel, Cherokee has a number of chain motels including Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn, Comfort Suites, Baymont and Holiday Inn Express along with some 1950s and 60s-vintage independent motels. Two Rivers Lodge (5280 Ela Rd., Cherokee, 828-488-2284, www.tworiverslodgenc.com) between Cherokee and Bryson City, is a well-run 16-room motel with low prices starting at $49 double off-season and $59 in-season. Dining in Cherokee is mostly limited to buffets and fast food due to the unavailability of alcohol outside the casino. One local dining institution is Peter’s Pancakes & Waffles (1384 Tsali Blvd., Cherokee, 828-497-5116 or 800-697-0752, www.peterspancakesnc.com), very popular for its breakfasts. It’s open from 6:30 am to 2 pm.
The Great Smokies main NC park entrance and the Oconaluftee visitor center are just 2 miles from Cherokee.
Distance from Asheville: 50 miles southwest, about an hour by car
Tourism Information: www.visitdillsboro.org
You can see most of Dillsboro in about 10 minutes. The whole downtown is about five square blocks. All that’s there are a few craft and gift shops and a Great Smoky Mountains Railroad depot.
The Jarrett House (100 Haywood Rd., Dillsboro, 828-586-0265 or 800-972-5623, www.jarretthouse.com), an inn since 1884, is where to eat and, perhaps to stay, in Dillsboro if you want a historic, three-story Victorian inn with not a whole lot of amenities and Southern country food that can vary from time to time from good to not so good. It’s open May to mid-December. Room rates are around $75 double including breakfast. The dining room offers country basics like fried chicken, country ham and trout for $14-$16 for lunch and dinner.
If you want a modern motel, your best bet is the Best Western Plus River Escapes Inn (248 WBI Dr., Dillsboro, 828-586-6060, www.bwriverescape.com) near town on the Tuckasegee River.
Distance from Asheville: 26 miles south, about 30 minutes by car
Population: 17,000 in Hendersonville and Flat Rock, 109,000 in Henderson County
Tourism Information: Visitors Information Center, Historic Hendersonville, 201 S. Main St., Hendersonville, 828-693-9708 or 800-828-4244, www.historichendersonville.org
If you include the suburbs just outside Hendersonville proper, this is the second-largest city in Western North Carolina, after Asheville. Henderson County also is the second-largest county in Western North Carolina.
Hendersonville and Flat Rock have attracted visitors from the South Carolina Lowcountry and elsewhere in the South for more than a century. More recently, Henderson County has become a retirement destination, and the mayor of Hendersonville proclaimed it “the Friendliest City for Retirees in America.” Population growth in Henderson County is the fastest in the four-county Asheville metro area, increasing by more than 18% between national censuses in 2000 and 2010, a rate of growth that’s about twice the national average. From 1970 to today, Henderson County’s population jumped from 52,000 to almost 109,000.
For visitors, Hendersonville has a well-preserved Main Street lined with shops, boutiques and restaurants. Parking is free along Main Street, though sometimes it’s difficult to find an empty space. In summer many of the shops have bear statues on the sidewalk, cleverly decorated by local artists to make a statement about the shops. (The Bearfootin’ bears are a fund-raiser for local non-profits.) Additional renovations and upgrades on Main Street were completed in the fall of 2013, adding more space for outdoor dining and a new fountain. There are historic neighborhoods near downtown, including the Fifth Avenue and Druid Hills neighborhoods. The commercial strips along U.S. Highway 25 and U.S. Highway 64 are more typical examples of suburban sprawl, with chain stores, strip malls and fast food restaurants galore.
Henderson County is known for its apples, with around 200 apple growers producing about two-thirds of the state’s apple crop. The North Carolina Apple Festival (www.ncapplefestival.org) celebrates Henderson County’s leading crop. Held Labor Day weekend in early September for more than 60 years, the Apple Festival occupies most of Main Street in downtown Hendersonville, with music, craft booths, freshly picked apples and cooked products like cider and apple pies. The festival has a parade that often attracts 50,000 people. President George H.W. Bush attended one year. The festival is free.
Carl Sandburg was already famous for his poetry when in 1945 he moved to Connemara, a 264-acre farm in Flat Rock near Hendersonville. There he lived with his wife Paula Steichen Sandburg, brother of the photographer Edward Steichen, until his death in 1967. The Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (81 Carl Sandburg Lane, Flat Rock, 828-693-4178, www.nps.gov/carl/index.htm) is the first national park site devoted to a poet. The house, a white one-and-a-half story on a raised basement with Greek Revival columns on the front porch, was built around 1839 as a summer cottage by a South Carolina railroad magnate. It sits on a knoll above a small lake. On the National Park Service guided tour, you’ll see the Sandburg house much as it was in the 1960s, as if the family had stepped out for a walk. At the barn and outbuildings you’ll see descendants of Paula Steichen Sandburg’s herd of dairy goats. The farm has some 5 miles of hiking trails. Admission to the farms and grounds is free; a guided tour of the house $5 adults, $3 seniors, children 15 and under free.
Hendersonville doesn’t have the quantity or quality of restaurants of Asheville, but it has several good dining choices. West First Wood-Fired (101B First Ave. West, Hendersonville, 828-693-1080, www.flatrockwoodfired.com) has some of the best pizza in the region. The main dining room is a large rectangle, anchored at the far end by the open wood-fired pizza oven blazing away. Dominating the left side of the room are two large, striking paintings, said to be portraits, more or less, of the owner's grandparents. The other long wall is brick. The ceiling is high, in the standard industrial restaurant style with ductwork showing. There is also a pleasant small dining area in a covered patio outside, and a second level loft. A personal pizza and beer at lunch will set you back about $12. At dinner there are additional entrees in the $11 to $22 range. The same owners operate Flat Rock Village Bakery. Mezzaluna (226 N. Main St., Hendersonville, 828-697-6575, www.mezzaluna-hendersonville.com) is another very popular wood-fired pizza spot downtown. Pizzas are around $14 to $24 with toppings, and Mezzaluna also serves other Italian dishes – entrees at dinner are $11 to $18. Lunch subs and sandwiches are $6 to $8.
Lime Leaf Thai Fusion (342 N. Main St., Hendersonville, 828-692-3300, www.lifeleaf101.com) does acceptable Thai, nicely presented, in a pleasant atmosphere, at slightly above-average prices. Most dinner entrees around $9 to $15, though some seafood dishes are over $20. Avoid the fried calamari. The Singha Thai beer is deliciously cold and served in a chilled glass. Hendersonville also has a well-run outpost of Papas and Beer (1821 Asheville Hwy., Hendersonville, 828-692-9915) for a Mexican food fix, and a Japanese restaurant, Umi (633 N Main St., Hendersonville, 864-698-8048) with good sushi.
If you’re staying overnight, the U.S. Highway 64 strip off I-26 has a number of chain motels, including Hampton Inn, Best Western, Red Roof, Comfort Inn and Ramada. Of these, the Hampton Inn is probably the best choice. Hendersonville has more than a dozen B&Bs. Among the best are the elegant Melange Bed and Breakfast (1230 Fifth Ave. West, Hendersonville, 828-697-5253, www.melangebb.com), the 1893 Elizabeth Leigh Inn (908 5th Ave. West, Hendersonville, 828-808-5305, www.elizabethleighinn.com), Inn on Church Street (201 Third Ave. West, Hendersonville, 828-696-2001, www.innonchurch.com), close to everything downtown, and 1898 Waverly Inn (783 N Main St., Hendersonville, 828-693-9193, www.waverlyinn.com), a comfortable 15-room inn at the end of Main Street.
Distance from Asheville: 37 miles northwest of Asheville, 50 minutes by car
Tourism Information: www.hotspringsnc.org
Hot Springs is another one of the small mountain villages that leaves us cold, but in the 19th century it was a leading mountain resort with a big resort hotel, Warms Springs Hotel. It was named 2012’s “Best Small Mountain Town” by Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine, so we guess we’re missing something. It does have 108-degree hot mineral springs (the hottest in North Carolina) and is at the junction of the Appalachian Trail and the French Broad River. We do like the nearby Max Patch Bald, a high-elevation heath bald on the Appalachian Trail with panoramic views of the mountains. Avoid the bald during thunderstorms – in 2010 a woman was killed by lightning just as her partner was about to propose marriage to her.
Mountain Magnolia inn (204 Lawson St., Hot Springs, 828-622-3543 or 800-914-9306, www.mountainmagnoliainn.com) is the best place in the area to stay and eat.
Distance from Asheville: 48 miles southwest of Asheville, about an hour by car
Tourism Information: Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, 773 W. Main St., Sylva, 828-586-2155, www.mountainlovers.com
Sylva is dear to our hearts because it was the birthplace of mountain writer John Parris, whose daily columns in the Asheville Citizen were collected in many books, beginning with Roaming the Mountains in 1955.
Other than that, it’s just a little mountain town of no particular note. The old Jackson County Courthouse in Sylva, set on hill, is worth a look. Sylva is the closest town to Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, so it draws a few students and others for shopping and eating. It does have a good microbrewery, Heinzelmannchen Brewery (545 Mill St., Sylva, 828-631-4466, www.yourgnometownbrewery.com), and a good independent bookstore, City Lights (3 East Jackson St., Sylva, 828-586-9499 or 888-853-6298, www.citylightsnc.com) with an adjoining café and coffeehouse. In fact, the entire little town is caffeinated, with three or four coffee houses.
Distance from Asheville: 31 miles west of Asheville, about 35 minutes by car
Tourism Information: Haywood County Tourism Development Authority, 44 N. Main St., Waynesville, 828-452-0152 or 800-334-9036, www.visitncsmokies.com
Waynesville is an engaging small town with a walkable downtown with brick sidewalks, many shops, galleries and eateries. It has drawn a sizeable number of retirees.
Probably the biggest event of the year in Waynesville is Folkmoot USA (www.folkmootusa.org), which brings dance and folk music groups from several countries to downtown Waynesville. It is held during the last two weeks of July.
Near the main downtown is Frog Level, which is trying to evolve into the town’s entertainment area. So far there’s not too much there beyond Frog Level Brewing Company (56 Commerce St., Waynesville, 828-254-5664, www.froglevelbrewing.com) and Panacea Coffee House Cafe (66 Commerce St., Waynesville, 828-452-6200, www.panaceacoffee.com).
The best places to eat in town are Chef’s Table (30 Church St., Waynesville, 828-452-6210, www.thechefstableofwaynesville.com), which leans toward fine dining with fresh-made pastas, appetizers like fried quail legs in a bourbon glaze and entrees from $17-$35 for dinner, with an extensive wine list. A local favorite is the much more casual and homey The Sweet Onion (39 Miller St., Waynesville, 828-456-5559, www.sweetonionrestaurant.com), focused on updated Southern dishes such as bacon-wrapped meatloaf and mac and cheese with blue crab. Sandwiches and salads at The Sweet Onion for lunch are around $6 to $12, while dinner entrees are mostly in the $13 to $20 range. Frogs Leap Public House (44 Church St., Waynesville, 828-456-1930, www.frogsleappublichouse.org) is getting good reviews for its farm-to-plate New Southern menu ($17 to $36 for dinner entrees. We ate there in June 2014 ($120 for two including tax and generous tip) and enjoyed the atmosphere. Food may lack a little nuance, but it's a nice change of pace.
For overnight stays, Waynesville has more than a dozen B&Bs and inns. Among the best are Andon-Reid Inn (92 Daisy Ave., Waynesville, 828-452-3089 or 800-452-3089, www.andonreidinn.com), a 1902 house with five bedrooms about a mile from downtown; Yellow House on Plott Creek (89 Oakview Dr., Waynesville, 828-452-0991 or 800-563-1236, www.theyellowhouse.com), a lovely old house with 10 rooms and suites with beautiful grounds, in a rural area just outside Waynesville (the Plott hound, a coonhound by trade, is the state dog of North Carolina); Herren House (94 E. Waynesville St., Waynesville, 828-452-7837, www.herrenhouse.com), a restored Victorian boarding house, is the closest B&B to the downtown area; Oak Hill on Love Lane (224 Love Lane, Waynesville, 828-456-7037, www.oakhillonlovelane.com), a 1900 home within strolling distance of downtown. You’ll generally pay around $120 to $200 a night at these little inns, breakfast included. The Swag Country Inn (2300 Swag Rd., Waynesville, 828-926-0430 or 800-789-7672, www.theswag.com) on 250 acres on a mountain top outside Waynesville adjoining the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, has won national acclaim for its beautiful grounds, good food and rustically appealing lodging, but it comes at a price -- $500 to $800 a night double, including meals. The inn is open late April through November.
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