Museums in Asheville and Nearby
There are around 100 museums in Asheville and Western North Carolina. Here are some of the most interesting, noteworthy and unusual ones in Asheville and nearby.
Most museums have free or reduced admission for members, and most are free for young children (ages vary). Thanks to the Republican-dominated NC state legislature, all museums now must charge sales tax on admission tickets. Small museums run by volunteers from the local historical society often offer free admission, but donations are welcomed and sometimes actively requested. Remember, hours for some of these museums, especially small ones, are subject to change. Most museums are closed on major holidays. It is best to call ahead to confirm open days and times. Notable museums are listed in RED.
ASHEVILLE & ENVIRONS
Antique Automobile Museum at Grovewood Village (828-253-7651 or 877-622-7238, www.grovewoodgallery.com; Mon.-Sat. 10-5:30, Sun. 11-5, closed Jan.-Mar., free but donations requested), a part of the Grovewood Gallery adjacent to the Omni Grove Park Inn, has on display 18 old cars, from a 1913 Model T Ford to a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham to a 1959 Edsel, along with a 1922 American La France fire truck. This is a small, low-key museum, but it’s fun to wander around and admire the fine old vehicles.
Asheville Art Museum (2 S. Pack Square, 828-253-3227, www.ashevilleart.org; daily 11-6 except closed Tues. and open until 9 pm Thurs., $15 adult, $13 seniors, $10 students, members free)
The Asheville Art Museum reopened in November 2019 after a more than two-year expansion and renovation. The changes are so great that this is essentially a new museum.
And a spectacular one it is. The Asheville Art Museum now encompasses 54,000 square feet on four levels, with 70% more space for exhibitions than before. The all new glass-walled West Wing and entrance works quite well with part of the original 1926 Italian Renaissance facade of the North Wing, which was the old Pack Library, and the renovation and new construction on the East Wing includes two large new exhibition halls. The fourth floor has a rooftop café, Perspectives, with views of Downtown.
The architects, Ennead, based in New York but with work all over the world, and the locally based building general contractor, Beverly-Hanks, did a wonderful job in bringing together the old and new.
Most of the interior, however, with its high ceilings and excellent lighting, strikes you as being entirely new. The floors are mostly polished concrete, with some light ash. The exhibit halls and storage areas are great spaces for displaying the museum's collections, which number nearly 10,000 items, including hundreds of pieces related to Black Mountain College, and now the museum is large enough to put on many traveling exhibitions.
The "new" Asheville Art Museum is a tremendous asset to the city and a must-see for any visitor to the area. It's also of course a great resource for those of us who live here.
P.S. We were disappointed in one thing: The museum gift shop sells ceramic mugs made in China, although Asheville is known nationally as a crafts center. Surely the Asheville Art Museum can find local sources of clay work to sell in the gift shop!
Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS) 43 Patton Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-254-7162, www.ashevillescience.org, Mon.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 1-5 adults $8, children, seniors and students $7. The Asheville Museum of Science is a work in progress. It currently incorporates exhibits from the Colburn Mineral Museum, formerly at Pack Place, along with several interactive and educational exhibits.
Asheville Pinball Museum (1 Battle Square, Downtown Asheville, www.ashevillepinball.com, 828-776-5671, closed Tues., Mon. 1-6 pm, Wed.-Fri. 2-9 pm, Sat. noon-9, Sun. 1-6) You can visit the Asheville Pinball Museum for free, or pay a fixed priced for unlimited play some 80 vintage machines and games, and we found the staff there friendly and willing to share lots of information. You can wander around and look at and read about the various machines from the 1930s on. There's a lot of fascinating history here, especially about the "pinball bans" that were in effect in many cities not so long ago. There's also a bar, if you get thirsty. The main room of the Pinball Museum is devoted to pinball machines, while the back rooms have classic video arcade machines and some "shooting" games from the 1940s and later. Note the restrooms -- labeled Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man. If you want to play the classic pinball and video machines, it's $15 (adults), $12 (10 and under) for unlimited play. Some machines are on display only. While Asheville is not unique in having this kind of place -- Seattle, Las Vegas and a few other cities have similar kinds of pinball museums, and one is planned for Atlanta -- we are lucky to have this fascinating museum here. And if you enjoy playing authentic pinball machines and classic arcade games, you'll love this place.
Big Ivy Historical Park (540 Dillingham Rd., Barnardsville, 828-626-2522; hours vary, free) has a restored 19th century log cabin and a replica of one-room school house. On the second Saturday in October, a syrup mill on the site makes molasses.
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (120 College St., Downtown Asheville, 828-350-8484, www.blackmountaincollege.org, open Mon. and Wed.-Sat. 11-5, closed Sun. and Tues., admission fees vary depending on event, exhibition or conference, no charge for some exhibits), in a new two-level space on College Street, focuses on preserving the legacy of educational and artistic innovation of Black Mountain College, the radical experimental college near Asheville that from 1933 to 1957 attracted leading artists, writers and thinkers including Buckminster Fuller, Robert Motherwell, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, M.C. Richards, Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, James Leo Hirlihy and Arthur Penn. The Downtown museum does a great job with exhibits and programs about the college. Since it founding in 1993, the museum says it has put on 51 exhibitions and more than 1,000 events.
Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 384, approx. 2 miles south of US Hwy. 70 Parkway entrance in East Asheville, 828-298-5330, www.nps.gov/blri; daily 9-5, free), opened in 2009, is the main parkway visitor information center. It has high-tech exhibits on the parkway and its history, including the I-Wall, a 22-foot long interactive map of the parkway, and a 24-minute film. The center is as green as it can be, with a 10,000 square-foot “living” roof covered in drought-resistant local plants.
Center for Craft (67 Broadway St., Downtown Asheville, 828-785-1357, www.centerforcraft.org, gallery with exhibits open daily 10-6, free) is reopening in November 2019 after a year's renovation of the Center's 1912 building. Besides exhibiting regional crafts, the Center for Craft acts as a National Craft Innovation Hub serving craft makers, researchers and others. There is also co-working space for rent. The first exhibit after the reopening will be "Craft Futures 2099," focusing on how craft might look 80 years from now.
Folk Art Center (Milepost 382, Blue Ridge Parkway, 828-298-7928, www.southernhighlandguild.org; Jan.-Mar. 9-5 daily; Apr.-Dec. 9-6 daily, free), headquarters of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, is a terrific place to see historical and contemporary mountain crafts. There are three crafts galleries, a library and a craft shop, which sells quality local and regional craft items. From March to December, there are craft demonstrations daily in the lobby.
Moog Music Factory (160 Broadway St., Five Points, North Asheville, 828-251-0090, www.moogmusic.com, store open Mon.-Fri. 10-6, Sat. 12-5, factory tours Mon.-Fri. at 10: and 3:30) is a shop, factory and memorial to the late Robert Moog, a pioneer in electronic music. Here you can play Moog instruments and take a free factory tour – for tour reservations call 828-239-0123 in advance.
North Carolina Arboretum (100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way off Brevard Rd./Hwy. 191 and the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393, 828-665-2492, www.ncarboretum.org; 8 am – 9 pm Apr.-Oct., 8-7 Nov.-Mar., slighty different hours during Winter Lights mid-Nov.-Dec., gates close an hour before closing time, free admission but $14 per car parking fee, $7 first Tues. of month, no parking fee for members) is a 434-acre nature park with 65 acres of cultivated gardens and 10 miles of hiking and biking trails. It is affiliated with the University of North Carolina system and is located in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest on Pisgah National Forest land. Highlights include a quilt garden (flowering plants arranged in a quilt pattern), local heritage garden, holly garden, native azalea garden, permanent and rotating exhibits in the Baker Exhibit and Education Center buildings, one of the best bonsai exhibits in the U.S., and a wonderful trail system. A ¾-mile mulched trail connects the Baker building and the Education Center, with trailheads easily reached from either building. Interpretive signs along the trail explain plant, animal, ecologic and environmental topics. There is a café and gift shop in the Education Center and an art and crafts gallery in the Baker Exhibit Center. The Arboretum conducts many classes and holds a number of plant and flower shows, including ones on bamboo, orchids, roses, dahlias and mums. A garden-scale model train operates April to October. You can easily spend an entire day visiting the Arboretum. Picnics on the grounds and dogs on leash are permitted.
North Carolina Homespun Museum (Grovewood Village, 111 Grovewood Rd., 828-253-7651 or 877-622-7238, www.grovewood.com, Apr.-Dec. Mon.-Sat. 10-5:30, Sun. 11-5, closed Jan.-Mar., free but donations requested), a part of the Grovewood Gallery adjacent to the Omni Grove Park Inn, focuses on the history of Biltmore Industries and its wool cloth. Biltmore Industries originally was a weaving and woodworking education program started by Edith Vanderbilt of the Biltmore Estate.
Smith-McDowell House Museum (283 Victoria Rd., South Asheville, www.wnchistory.org, 828-253-9231, Wed.-Sat. 10-4, adults $9, youth 8-18, $5) is the oldest brick house in Asheville. It’s a two-story Federal style house, with Greek Revival interiors, although the early 20th century renovation by Richard Sharp Smith added Neoclassical elements. Frederick Law Olmsted’s firm did the landscaping around 1900. The house was restored in the late 20th century under the direction of Asheville architect Henry I. Gaines and is now operated as a museum by the WNC Historical Society. It is especially known for its Christmas decorations, when the house sports Victorian holiday finery.
Southern Appalachian Radio Museum (Room 315, Elm Building, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, 340 Victoria Rd.,South Asheville, www.avlradiomuseum.org, open Fri. 1-3 except late Nov.-Jan.,other times by appointment, free) is a tiny museum with displays on amateur radio. Radio geeks can see vintage radios from the 1920s to the 1960s including those by Philco, Radiola and Atwater-Kent.
Western North Carolina Nature Center (75 Gashes Creek Rd., East Asheville, 828-259-8080, www.wildwnc.org, daily 10-5, adults $10.95, seniors $9.95, youth 3-15 $6.95, with discounts up to $3 for Asheville Buncombe County residents) is a 42-acre zoological and nature park focused on the fauna of the Southern Appalachians. Displays include ones on red and gray wolves, bobcats and coyotes, black bears and snakes of the region, plus a farm with donkeys, goats, rabbits, chickens and sheep. The Nature Center plans an expansion and a name change in 2020.
Thomas Wolfe Memorial (52 N. Market St., Downtown Asheville, 828-253-8304, www.wolfememorial.com, open Tue.-Sat. 9-5, $5 adults, $2 youth 7-17, guided tour of the house included) is a North Carolina State Historic Site. The rambling 29-room boarding house, operated by Wolfe’s mother Julia Wolfe, is where famed writer Thomas Wolfe grew up. The “Old Kentucky Home,” called “Dixie” in Wolfe’s novel, Look Homeward, Angel, is directly behind the visitor center at 48 Spruce Street. The Wolfe home was extensively damaged in a 1998 fire (the arsonist was never caught), but it was meticulously restored as it might have looked in the early 20th century when Wolfe lived there before heading off to college at UNC-Chapel Hill. The house, a Queen Anne style structure built in 1883 with later additions, is painted a bright canary yellow. The visitor center exhibits artifacts and personal effects of the author, including some of his clothes, his Remington typewriter and his diploma from Harvard. There’s also a 22-minute film on the author’s life and work.
Vance Birthplace (911 Reems Creek, Weaverville, 828-645-6706, www.nchistoricsites.org, Tue.-Sat. 9-5, free, donations invited) is the birthplace of 19th century North Carolina three-time governor Zebulon B. Vance (1830-1894). A reconstructed log cabin (the chimney and fireplaces are original), furnishings (some original) and outbuildings evoke a prosperous mountain farm in the early 1800s. This is also a good place for a picnic. Don’t confuse with the Vance Monument on Pack Square in Downtown Asheville. Zebulon Vance has become a controversial figure due to his support for slavery.
YMI Cultural Center (39 S. Market St., Downtown Asheville,www.ymiculturalcenter.org, 828-257-4540, exhibit area open Tue.-Fri. 12-4, $5) was funded by George Vanderbilt as a community center for Asheville’s African-American community, many of whom worked building the Biltmore House. The 1893 building, designed by noted architect Richard Sharp Smith, is located in the heart of what was Asheville’s black business district. Over the years it housed a public library, drugstore, funeral parlor and doctor's office. After serving for a time as a YMCA branch, it sat idle until becoming the home in 1988 of the YMI Cultural Center. Exhibits include African masks, drawings by African-American artist Charles W. White and photographs that tell the history of the YMI.
Allison-Deaver House Museum (200 Old Hendersonville Hwy. /Hwy. 280, Brevard, 828-884-5137, www.tchistoricalsociety.com; Sat. 10-4, Sun. 1-4 May-Oct., $5 adults or donation), operated by the Transylvania County Historical Society, is one of the oldest standing frame houses in Western North Carolina. It was built in 1815, with significant additions in the 1830s and 1850s, and restored in the 1980s and 1990s by the Historical Society.
Avery County Historical Museum (1829 Shultz Circle, Newland, 828-733-7111, www.averymuseum.com; Fri.-Sat. 11-3, Sun. 1-3, free) has exhibits on the history of Avery County and the Toe River area. The museum is located in the 1912 Avery County Jail. Behind the museum is the 1917 Linville Depot building, once a stop on the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. It was moved here from its original location on Grape Street in Linville. The Depot is being restored, complete with a bark exterior.
Banner House Museum (7990 Hickory Nut Gap Rd., Banner Elk, 828-898-3634, www.bannerhousemuseum.org; Tue.-Sat. 11-4 mid-June-mid-Oct., guided tours adults $5, children 6-12 $1) is in the 1860s-vintage home of Samuel Henry Banner, one of Banner Elk’s original settlers. The museum is furnished in the style of the 1870s and 1880s.
Bennett Classics – Antique Auto Museum (241 Vance St., Forest City, 828-247-1767, www.bennettclassics.com; Mon.-Fri. 10-5, Sat. 10-3, $10 adults, $8 seniors, children $4) has more than 50 antique cars and trucks on display. It also offers antique cars for sale – recently a restored 1955 Pontiac Chieftain was offered for $15,500.
Blowing Rock Pictorial History Museum (1094 Main St., Blowing Rock, 828-295-6114; Mon. and Sat. 1-4 May-Dec., free), in an 1894 building once part of the now-closed Watauga Inn, displays antiques, photographs and memorabilia from the town of Blowing Rock.
Bostic Lincoln Center (112 Depot St., 828-245-9800, www.bosticlincolncenter.com; Thu. 1-4, Fri. and Sat. 10-1, free, donations accepted) is an eccentric little museum dedicated to the idea that Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president, was not born in Kentucky but in a log cabin on Puzzle Creek near Bostic in Rutherford County. Some local residents and a few historians believe that Abe was born out of wedlock to Nancy Hanks of Puzzle Creek, who lived in Western North Carolina until the future president was about six years old.
John C. Campbell Folk School (1 Folk School Rd., Brasstown, 828-837-2775 or 800-365-5724, www.folkschool.org; campus open daily during daylight hours, Craft Shop and History Center open Mon.-Sat. 8-5, Sun. 1-5, free) is one of the leading folk and crafts schools in the country. It dates to 1925. The school, in the far western part of the state near Murphy about two hours from Asheville, offers hundreds of weekend and weeklong classes for adults in everything from blacksmithing and basketry to cooking, quilting and woodworking.
Students can live in school housing and take meals at the school. The Craft Shop has items from some 300 local and regional juried craft artists, and the History Center is a small museum of mountain crafts with infor-mation on the school’s history.
The work of school co-founder Olive Dame Campbell is celebrated in the 2000 film Songcatcher. The campus is a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors are welcome to explore the 300-acre campus on a free self-guided tour during daylight hours.
Canton Area Historical Museum (36 Park St., Canton, 828-646-3412, www.cantonnc.com; Mon.-Fri. 8-5, free) has collections of late 19th and early 20th century local artifacts and a large collection of photographs and memorabilia of the town and its long-time main industry, the Champion Paper Mill. The museum also serves as a visitor center.
Cherokee Historical Museum (87 Peachtree St., Murphy, 828-837-6792, www.visitcherokeecountync.com; Mon.-Sat. 9-5, adults $3, children $1) has on display 800 dolls dating from 1865, along with 2,000 artifacts of the Cherokee Indians and a collection of local minerals.
Clay County Historical and Arts Council Museum (21 Davis Loop, Hayesville, 828-389-6814, www.clayhistoryarts.org; hours vary – check locally) has interesting displays on local history, including a collection of feed sacks, spinning wheels, farm equipment, Cherokee Indian masks and gems and minerals of Clay County. In the museum is a replica of the office and medical equipment of a local physician, Dr. Paul Killian. The museum is located in the Old County Jail, built 1912. The council currently is raising funds to help restore the building.
Cradle of Forestry in America (11250 Pisgah Hwy. /Hwy. 276, Pis-gah Forest, near Brevard, 828-877-3130, www.cradleofforestry.com; daily 9-5, early Apr.-mid-Nov., $6 adults, youth 4-16 $3, half-price for America the Beautiful and Lifetime passholders) is a 6,500-acre site within the Pisgah National Forest devoted to the history of America’s first school of forestry. The school was established by George Vanderbilt who, upon the recommendation of his landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, hired Gifford Pinchot as forest manager of the 125,000-acre Biltmore Estate. Pinchot later would become the first head of the USDA Forest Service and governor of Pennsylvania.
In 1895, Vanderbilt hired German forester Dr. Carl A. Schenk to succeed Pinchot. Together, Pinchot and Schenk created the modern concept of forestry management and conservation. In the visitor center are 15 hands-on exhibits on forestry, including a simulated ride in a firefighting helicopter. A 1-mile trail winds through the original forestry campus, where you can explore a general store, one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, cabins and a vegetable garden. Another trail, 1.3 miles long, has a sawmill and 1915 steam locomotive used in logging.
Crossnore Weavers & Gallery (Crossnore, 828-733-4660; www.crossnore.org; open Mon.-Fri. 9-5, Sat. 10-5, free) near Linville, on the Avery County campus of Crossnore School & Children’s Home, is a “working museum” of weaving. It is an outgrowth of a boarding school for impoverished children established in 1913. Today, local women still weave blankets, scarves, napkins and other items. The Crossnore Gallery, located in what formerly was the Weaving Room, sells regional art and crafts to support the school. Also on the landscaped grounds are a church, café and thrift shop.
Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum (62 Vintage Lane, Maggie Valley, 828-926-6266, www.wheelsthroughtime.com; Thu.-Mon. 9-5 Apr.-Nov., adults $15, seniors $12, children 6-14 $7) displays more than 300 classic and antique motorcycles. Also on exhibit are antique automobiles and thousands of pieces of art and junque relating to cars and bikes. It also offers a collection of videos on the museum and on old motorcycles and cars.
Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum (25 Phillips St., Franklin, 828-369-7831, www.fgmm.org; May-Oct. Mon.-Sat. noon-4, Nov.-Apr. Sat.only noon-4, free, donations invited) has displays of local minerals and gems from the Cowee Valley, as well as from other areas. There is a gift shop. The museum is located in the Old Macon County Jail.
Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum (2050 Blowing Rock Hwy. /US Hwy. 221, Linville, off Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 305, www.grandfather.com; spring 9-6, summer 8-7, fall 9-6, winter 9-5; adults $20, seniors $18, children 4-12 $9—fees include admission to all parts of the park including the swinging bridge and zoo), part of the Grandfather Mountain complex, has exhibits on the history of Grandfather Mountain, local gems and minerals and birds and wildflowers found in the area. This is separate from Grandfather Mountain State Park.
Granite Falls History & Transportation Museum (107 Falls Ave., Granite Falls, 828-396-2792, www.granitefallshistorymuseum.org; Sat. & Sun. 2-4, free) is located in the renovated 1790s Andrew Blaire House, the second oldest house in Caldwell County. The museum has exhibits on Caldwell County history.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Mountain Farm Museum (Oconaluftee Visitor Center, US Hwy. 441/Newfound Gap Rd. about 2 miles north of Cherokee, 865-436-1200, www.nps.gov/grsm; daily 8-4:30 Jan.-Feb. and Dec., daily 8-5 Mar. and Nov., daily 8-6 Apr.-May and Sep.-Oct., daily 8-7 June-Aug., free) is a mountain farmstead with nine historic buildings re-assembled and recreated from original buildings in the Smokies.
It is the best example of a late 19th/early 20th century mountain farm in the region. Among the buildings are a chestnut log house, apple house, corn-crib, springhouse and a large barn with some 16,000 hand-split roof shingles. You can do a self-guided tour (tour booklet and map $1 at adjacent visitor center), and rangers are available to put on demonstrations and answer questions. (For more information, see also the section on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.)
Hands On! A Child’s Gallery (318 N. Main St., Hendersonville, 828-697-8333, www.handsonwnc.org; Mon.-Sat. 10-6; $8 for adults and children) is an activity center for children ages 1-10. Among the interactive displays are a grocery store, music room, costume theatre and a Lego ramp.
Henderson County Heritage Museum (1 Historic Courthouse Square, Hendersonville, 828-694-5007, www.hendersoncountymuseum.org; Wed.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 1-5, free) in the former Henderson County Courtyhouse, has exhibits on Henderson County history, including exhibits on local residents who fought in the Civil War and in World War I and a recreation of a local one-room schoolhouse.
Hickory Ridge Living History Museum (591 Horn in the West Drive, Boone, 828-264-2120, www.hickoryridgemuseum.com; spring and fall, Sat. 9-1, summer Tue.-Sun. 5-8 and Sat. 9-1, closed for winter starting mid-Oct.; $3 suggested donation), located on the grounds of the Horn in the West outdoor drama facility, tells the story of Daniel Boone and early settlers in the region. Interpreters in 18th century clothing give visitors a glimpse of the daily lives of these hardy mountaineers.
Highlands Historic Village (524 N. 4th St., Highlands, 828-787-1050, www.highlandshistory.org; late May-Oct. Wed..-Sat. 11-3, free), home to the Highlands Historical Society, consists of the 1877 Boynton-Trapier-Wright Home, the oldest existing house in Highlands and the Highlands Historical Museum and Archives in a building that dates from 1915.It also includes Bug Hill Cottage, a recreation of an early 20th century tuberculosis sanitarium outdoor cubicle where patients took the mountain airs. There are exhibits about Highlands history including historic homes in the area, moonshining, golfer Bobby Jones and a collection of photographs of Highlands by George Masa, best known for his photographs of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Historic Burke Foundation Heritage Museum (Old Burke Country Courthouse, on the Square bounded by Green, Union, Meeting and Sterling streets, Morganton, 828-437-4104, www.historicburke.org; open by appointment, free), located in the mid-1830s vintage county courthouse, has a permanent exhibit on the local court system and displays on Morganton and Burke County history.
Historic Johnson Farm (3346 Haywood Rd./NC Hwy. 191, Hendersonville, 828-891-6585, www.hendersoncountypublicschoolsnc.org; open Mon.-Fri. 8-4, guided tours of the house are held, usually at 10:30 am, on days the farm is open, admission $5 for adults and $3 for students K-12) is a late 19th century farmstead once owned by a wealthy tobacco farmer and now operated as a museum and activity center by the Henderson County Board of Education. The property, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, consists of 15 acres and a dozen buildings, including a large two-story 1880 house built of bricks fired on site from mud from the French Broad River. It has bee hives, and the Henderson County Bee Club frequently offers beekeeping demonstrations on Saturdays.
History Museum of Burke County (Old City Hall, 201 W. Meeting St., Morganton, 828-437-1777, www.thehistorymuseumofburke.org; railroad depot Sat. 2-4, free, museum Tue.-Fri. 10-4, Sat. 10-2,
free), established in 2003, is dedicated to the preservation of Burke County’s memorabilia and artifacts.
House of Flags Museum (33 Gibson St., Columbus, 828-894-5640, www.houseofflags.org; Sat. 10-4 in summer, hours other times vary, free) has a collection of more than 300 flags.
KidSenses Children’s Museum (172 N. Main St., Rutherfordton, 828-286-2120, www.kidsenses.com; Tues.-Sat. 9-5, adults and children $8, seniors $6) is an interactive museum and activity center for children ages 1-11. The museum is raising funds for a new facility, called The Factory, for with tools and technologies such as 3-D printer and laser cutters, will be for youth 12 and up.
Macon County Historical Society and Museum (36 W. Main St., Macon, 828-524-9758, www.maconnchistorical.org; daily 10-4 except closed Sun. and Wed., off-season hours reduced, suggested donation $5 per person, $10 per family) is in the Pendergrass Building, a dry goods and grocery store dating to the early 20th century. Many of the items in the museum are from this old store, now in the National Register of Historic Places. Other exhibits are on Cherokee Indian artifacts, old medical instruments and period clothing from the early 20th century.
Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County (400 N. Main St., Hendersonville, 828-698-1977, www.mineralmuseum.org; Mar.-Dec. Mon.-Fri. 11-5, Sat. 10-5, closed or reduced hours Jan.-Feb., free, donations requested) has collections of North Carolina and world gems and minerals, including many geodes, along with Cherokee Indian artifacts.
Mountain Gateway Museum (24 Water St., Old Fort, 828-668-9259, www.mgmnc.org; Tue.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. 2-5, free, donations welcomed) has permanent exhibits on mountain folk medicine, moonshining and spinning and weaving. There are two reconstructed 19th century cabins on the grounds of the museum, which is located in a 1930s Works Project Administration (WPA) stone building.
Mountain Heritage Museum at Western Carolina University (Hunter Library, 176 Central Drive #240, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, 828-227-7129, www.wcu.edu; Mon.- Fri. 10-4, closed at times when the university is out of session, free) focuses on the cultural and natural history of the Southern Appalachians. The museum has permanent and travelings exhibit on the history of the Scots-Irish who settled the mountains, on Horace Kephart and the camping equipment he used in the Great Smokies, mountain quilts and other crafts.
Museum of Ashe County History (301 E. Main St., Jefferson, 336-846-1904, www.ashehistory.org; Mon.-Sat. 10-4, free) is dedicated to restoring and using the old Ashe County Courthouse, built in 1904 in the Beaux Art style, as a museum devoted to the county’s history.
Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts (49 Shelton St. at US Hwy. 276, Waynesville, 828-452-1551, www.sheltonhouse.org; open Apr.-Oct. Tues.-Sat. 10-4, admission $6, students $5) is located in Shelton House, a two-story white Charleston-style farmhouse built in 1875 and now on the National Register of Historic Places. The house alone is worth a visit, but there is also a Pennsylvania Dutch-style barn, carriage house with gift shop and four acres of grounds and gardens. The museum has exhibits of regional folk art, pottery, baskets, quilts, weaving and other crafts.
Museum of North Carolina Minerals (Milepost 331 Blue Ridge Parkway at NC Hwy. 226, Spruce Pine, 828-765-9483, daily year-round, 9-5, free) showcases some 300 gems and minerals found in the Spruce Pine area and elsewhere in North Carolina. If you’re on the Parkway in the Spruce Pine area, this little museum is well worth a stop.
Museum of Rutherford Hospital (288 S. Ridgecrest Ave., Ruther-fordton, 828-286-5000, www.myrutherfordregional.com; Mon.-Fri. 8-5, free) is a small museum on the history of Rutherford Hospital, established in 1906. Located in what is now Rutherford Regional Medical Center, it has medical equipment and furniture used at the hospital in the past. There’s also a 45-foot mural by artist Clive Haynes depicting the history of the hospital.
Museum of the Cherokee Indian (589 Tsali Blvd./U.S. Hwy. 441, Cherokee, 828-497-3481, www.cherokeemuseum.org; daily 9-5 with extended summer hours 9-7 Mon.-Sat. Memorial Day to Labor Day, adults $12) is a world away from the tacky plastic gift stores of Cherokee. This serious and professional museum has permanent exhibits on Cherokee history from 12,000 years ago through today and on the Trail of Tears. It also sponsors cultural and literary events and publishes books and other research on the Cherokee.
North Carolina School for the Deaf Museum (517 W. Fleming Dr., Morganton, 828-433-2971; call for appointment, free), on the grounds of the NC School for the Deaf covers the history of the school in Morganton, which was established in 1894.
Old Depot Gallery and Association (207 Sutton Ave., Black Moun-ain, 828-669-6583, www.olddepot.org; Mon.-Sat. 10-4, free) is primarily a crafts gallery in the early 20th century Black Mountain train depot, with a small museum in a Norfolk & Western Railroad caboose.
Penland School of Crafts (67 Doras Trail, Penland, 828-765-2359, Gallery 828-765-6211, www.penland.org; campus open daily March-early Dec., Gallery and Visitors Center open March-early Dec., Tues.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. noon-5, free; free guided tours of the campus offered March-early Dec. most Wednesdays at 1:30 pm, reservations necessary – call 828-765-6211 or email email@example.com; Penland Coffeehouse open to public March-early Dec. the same hours as the Gallery).
Penland arguably is the best crafts school in the country. On 460 acres in a beautiful rural area near Spruce Pine about an hour northeast of Asheville, Penland offers a variety of classes, including one- and two-week adult work-shops in the summer and eight-week classes in spring and fall, in books, pa-per, clay, drawing, glass, iron, metals, photography, printmaking, letterpress, textiles and wood. The school also has artists’ residencies. Students live on campus in simple, rustic dormitory facilities. Around 1,400 students take classes at Penland each year. Visitors are welcome on the Penland campus, although teaching studios are closed to the public during classes. Penland School Gallery and Visitors Center, which exhibits and sells the work of present and former students and faculty, most of it of very high quality and some of it extraordinary, is open to visitors from March to early December. Visitors are welcome to walk through the grounds, but not to visit studios when teaching sessions are going on. Note especially Craft House, one of the largest log structures in North Carolina. You can also visit The Barns, which houses the studios of the Penland's resident artists, fulltime craftspeople who live and work at the school. There also is a café, Penland Coffeehouse, and a gift shop. If you’re visiting Penland, you may want to stop at some of the nearby craft studios. The area around Penland is home to about 100 craft artists. Watch for signs of open studios and galleries.
Piedmont & Western Railroad Club and Old Rock School Railway Museum (400 W. Main St., Valdese, 828-879-2129, www.pwrr.org; usually open during business hours at Old Rock School, or by appointment, free) is an HO-scale model of the fictitious Piedmont & Western Railroad, built by the Valdese model railroad club. The model railroad layout covers an area from Marion through Asheville to East Tennessee. The museum has many photos of real North Carolina railroads and train de-pots, along with railroad artifacts.
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (1 PARI Drive, Rosman, 828-862-5554, www.pari.edu call for current hours, $10 admission, $8 for seniors and students) an astronomical research and education facility that has displays on space and holds a variety of events related to stargazing and space. PARI has several optical and radio telescopes, including two large 26-meter radio telescopes. Some are available for rent by students and researchers. The facility also has a planetarium. It offers summer camps for youth, and during camp season PARI is closed to visitors.
PARI is an offshoot of the Rosman Satellite Tracking Station, which was established in 1962 and used until the 1980s by NASA as part of an international network of stations tracking manned and unmanned space flights. Lat-er it was run by spooks at the Defense Department for intelligence gathering. The tracking station closed in 1995 and was turned over to the U.S. Forestry Service. In 1999 it was purchased for use as an astronomical research and education facility. PARI has about 30 buildings on its campus located in a beautiful remote setting on 200 acres in the Pisgah National Forest.
Presbyterian Heritage Center at Montreat (318 Georgia Terrace, Montreat, 828-669-6556, www.phcmontreat.org summer hours, Fri. 10-4, Sat. 1-4, Sun. 1:30-4, other hours may vary, free) is a small museum covering the history of the Presbyterian Church and of Montreat.
Rural Life Museum at Mars Hill University (Montague Building, Mars Hill University, Mars Hill, www.mch.edu, 11-5 Thur.-Sun., guided tours available by calling 828-689-1650) has artifacts and displays from lo-cal farms. It also stages special exhibitions annually.
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (81 Carl Sandburg Lane, for GPS use 1800 Little River Rd., Flat Rock, 828-693-4178, www.nps.gov/carl/index.htm; guided tour fee $5 adults, $3 seniors cash or check only, children 15 and under free, admission to grounds and barn free, daily 9-5 year-round, tours of house every half hour starting at 9:30, last tour 4:30). Operated by the National Park Service, this is the first national park to honor a poet. You enter the grounds via a short walk up a winding driveway lined with white pines. The house, a white one-and-a-half story on a raised basement, with Greek Revival columns on the front porch, built around 1839 as a summer cottage by a South Carolina railroad owner, sits on a knoll above a lake. On the 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. There are magazines on the floor, a guitar leaning against the piano and shelves of books. Sandburg’s book-filled study has his typewriter. There’s a bookstore with a good selection of books by and about Sandburg on the basement level of the house. Don’t miss a visit to the barn and outbuildings, where you’ll see descendants of Paula Steichen Sandburg’s herd of dairy goats. The farm has some 5 miles of hiking trails.
Scottish Tartans Museum and Heritage Center (86 E. Main St., Franklin, 828-524-7472, www.scottishtartans.org; Mon.-Sat. 10-5, adults $4, youth $2, children 6 and under free) focuses on the traditional dress of the Scottish Highlands. The museum displays kilts, some over 200 years old, and more than 500 traditional Scottish tartans. The museum states that it is located in North Carolina because there are more Celts here than in any other state, and more people of Scots heritage than even in Scotland.
Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr. Library and Museum (Phifer Learning Resources Center Library, Western Piedmont Community College, 1001 Burkemont Ave., Morganton, 828-448-6198, www.samervinlibrary.org; Mon.-Fri. 8-5, free) contains some 10,000 items from the career of the U.S. Senator (Democrat, 1954-1974) and constitutional expert from Morganton who headed the Watergate hearings. Although a graduate of Harvard Law School, Ervin called himself a “simple country lawyer.” Once a political conservative and defender of racial segregation, Ervin became a civil liberties champion and helped bring down both Senator Joseph McCarthy and President Richard Nixon. The museum has an exact replica of Senator Ervin’s home library.
Shook House Museum (178 Morgan St., Clyde,; for a tour call Hay-wood County Historical and Geneological Society at 828-564-1044) is thought to be the oldest frame house still standing in the region, believed to have been constructed as a three-story cabin around 1795, with a later addi-tion in the 1890s. It is now known as the Shook-Smathers House.
Smoky Mountains Trains Museum (100 Greenlee St., Bryson City, 800-872-4681, ext. 215, www.gsmr.com/smoky-mountain-trains-museum; hours vary seasonally, $10 adults, $5 children, free with Great Smoky Mountains Railroad ticket purchase) is a commercial museum with 7,000 Lionel model train cars and engines on display.
Swain County Heritage Museum (112 Everett St., Bryson City, 828- 488-9273, www.swaincountync.gov/museum/museum-home.html ; daily 10-5, free), located in on the second level of 1908 former Swain County Court-house in downtown Bryson City, the delightful little museum tells the story of the county and its people. There’s a restored log cabin porch, an 1887 church organ and a reconstruction of a one-room schoolhouse. The Bryson City/Swain County visitor center is on the first floor, and there’s an elevator to the museum. Free parking is at the back of the museum.
Swannanoa Valley Museum (223 W. State St., Black Mountain, 828-669-9566, www.swannanoavalleymuseum.org; Tue.-Sat. 10-5 mid-Apr.-early Nov., $5 donation requested) focuses on the history of the Swannanoa Valley of Buncombe County. It is housed in the old Black Mountain firehouse, designed by architect Richard Sharp Smith and built in 1921.
Transylvania County Heritage Museum (189 W. Main St., Brevard, 828-884-2347, www.transylvaniaheritage.org; Wed.-Fri. 10-5, Sat. 11-3, free, donations requested) covers the history and culture of Transylvania County. It is located in an 1890s house. The museum also manages the 33-room Silvermont Mansion museum at 364 E. Main St. in Brevard, open Fri-days from 1 to 4 March to October (free, donations requested).
Turchin Center for the Visual Arts (423 W. King St., Boone, 828-262-3017, www.tcva.appstate.edu; Tue.-Thu. and Sat. 10-6, Fri. noon-8, free, donations accepted), part of Appalachian State University, has art galleries and sculpture garden areas. The center has a permanent collection of more than 1,600 regional, national and international works.
Waldensian Heritage Museum (208 Rodoret St. South, Valdese, 828-874-1111, www.waldesianheritagemuseum.org; hours vary seasonally, call for information on tours, $2 adults, $1 youth) celebrates the heritage of the Waldenses, a European Calvinist religious group dating to the Middle Ages. Members of the group settled Valdese beginning in 1893. Eleven families left Europe for the U.S. and bought a tract of land in Valdese. Later these settlers were joined by other families. The museum is located at the Waldensian Presbyterian Church.
WCU Fine Art Museum at the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center at Western Carolina University (199 Centennial Drive, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, 828-227-3591, www.wcu.edu/museum; Tue., Wed. and Fri. 10-4, Thu. 10-7, free) gets our vote for the clumsiest name for a museum in the region. The permanent collection of the museum has around 1,200 works from artists from around the country and the world, with no particular area of specialization, along with various traveling exhibitions. The WCU Fine Art Museum is open at least one hour prior to any Bardo Arts Center ticketed performance.
Western North Carolina Air Museum (1340 E. Gilbert St., Hendersonville, 828-698-2482, www.wncairmuseum.com; Wed. and Sun. noon-5 and Sat. 10-5, Apr.-Oct., Wed., Sat.- Sun. noon-5 Nov.-Mar., free) has a collection of about 15 vintage aircraft from 1930 to the 1970s. The airplanes are on display in a hangar adjoining the Hendersonville Airport.
World Methodist Council Museum (545 N. Lakeshore Dr., Lake Junaluska, 828-456-7242, www.methodistmuseum.org; Tue.-Sat. 9-4 year round, free) has the world’s largest collection of materials on early Methodism. It is on the grounds of the Lake Junaluska Assembly.
Rush Wray Museum of Yancey County History (11 Academy St., Burnsville, 828-682-3671, www.yanceyhistoryassociation.org; Wed.-Sat. 10-4, Apr.-Nov., tours $3) is devoted to the history of Yancey County. The museum is located in the McElroy House, built in the 1840s. The Yancey History Association also has restored other old buildings in Burnsville.
Zachary-Tolbert House Museum (1940 Hwy. 107 South, Cashiers, 828-743-7710, www.cashiershitoricalsociety.org; guided tours of house Fri.-Sat. 11- 3 late May-late Oct., $5, grounds open daily, free) is in an eight-room Greek Revival house completed around 1852. It is operated by the Cashiers Historical Society. The house has been left in its original state, with unpainted interior walls and no running water, central heat or electricity. In the house is a large collection of Southern plain-style furniture, wood furni-ture handmade in Western North Carolina during the 1800s and early 1900s.
All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.
We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.