Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Waynesville, North Carolina, is a picturesque town embodying the southern Appalachians’ quintessential charm. As the largest town in Haywood County, Waynesville is a hub of cultural richness and natural beauty. The town’s history, dating back to the early 19th century, is evident in its well-preserved architecture and warm, welcoming community. Surrounded by towering mountains, lush forests, and rolling hills, Waynesville offers a serene escape into nature while retaining a vibrant small-town atmosphere.
Haywood County, home to Waynesville and several other quaint communities, is a tapestry of scenic landscapes and rich Appalachian heritage. The county boasts diverse natural attractions, from the Pigeon River’s serene waters to the Smoky Mountains’ majestic peaks. It’s where outdoor enthusiasts can indulge in hiking, skiing, fishing, and exploring the wilderness. Culturally, Haywood County is a haven for artists and artisans, with numerous galleries, studios, and festivals celebrating the region’s artistic traditions. The fusion of natural splendor and cultural vibrancy makes Haywood County an enchanting destination for visitors and a beloved home for residents.
9 Best Things to Do in Waynesville, NC & Haywood County
1) Explore Downtown Waynesville
As you wander through its historic main street, lined with early 20th-century buildings, you’ll discover a treasure trove of unique shops offering everything from artisanal crafts to bespoke clothing. The area is also a paradise for art lovers, boasting numerous galleries celebrating traditional Appalachian crafts and contemporary art. Completing the downtown experience are a variety of local eateries, ranging from cozy cafes to upscale restaurants, each highlighting the region’s rich culinary traditions and farm-to-table ethos. This picturesque downtown is not just a place to visit but an immersive experience that captures the essence of Waynesville’s unique charm and cultural richness.
2) Folkmoot Friendship Center & Festival
The Folkmoot Friendship Center & Festival in Waynesville, NC, celebrates global cultures, showcasing vibrant folk dance and music. As the centerpiece of the annual Folkmoot Festival, the center is alive with color, rhythm, and international flair, attracting performers and audiences worldwide. Beyond the festival, it remains a hub for cultural events and workshops, offering visitors year-round opportunities to engage with diverse traditions. A visit to this center is essential for experiencing Waynesville’s rich cultural tapestry and community spirit.
3) Cataloochee Ski Area
The Cataloochee Ski Area, located high up in the picturesque mountains of Maggie Valley, NC, is a premier destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Boasting a variety of ski slopes that cater to all skill levels, from gentle beginner runs to more challenging terrain for the experienced, it provides an exhilarating experience for everyone. The ski area has modern facilities, including ski lifts and a cozy lodge, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable skiing adventure. Beyond the winter season, Cataloochee transforms into a hub for outdoor activities, offering hiking, wildlife viewing, and picturesque scenery, making it a year-round destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
4) Fishing and Water Sports on the Pigeon River
The Pigeon River near Waynesville, NC, is a haven for fishing and water sports enthusiasts. Renowned for its abundant fishing spots, the river teems with various fish species, including trout, smallmouth bass, and walleye, making it a favorite destination for anglers. The river’s diverse sections, from tranquil waters ideal for fly fishing to more active currents, cater to different fishing styles. For adventure lovers, the Pigeon River offers exhilarating water sports opportunities, particularly kayaking and rafting. The river’s varying rapids, from gentle flows suitable for beginners to challenging white-water sections, provide an unforgettable experience for rafters and kayakers of all skill levels. Whether it’s the serene joy of fishing or the adrenaline rush of water sports, the Pigeon River is a perfect spot to enjoy the natural beauty and outdoor activities in and around Waynesville.
5) Visit the Shelton House Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts
The Shelton House Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts, located in Waynesville, is a cultural gem that celebrates the rich craft heritage of North Carolina. Housed in a historic 19th-century farmhouse, the museum preserves and showcases the diverse array of traditional handicrafts unique to the region. Visitors can explore a remarkable collection that includes intricate quilts, delicate pottery, basketry, and woodworking, all crafted by skilled local artisans. Each exhibit tells a story of the state’s cultural and artistic history, reflecting the craftsmanship and creativity passed down through generations. The Shelton House not only offers a glimpse into the past but also honors the ongoing tradition of handcrafting in North Carolina, making it a must-visit for those interested in the history and artistry of the region.
6) Take the family to Winchester Creek Farm
Winchester Creek Farm, located in the serene landscapes of Waynesville, NC, offers a delightful family-friendly experience. This charming farm is a perfect destination for those seeking a touch of rural life and nature’s tranquility. Visitors can enjoy interactive activities like feeding and petting various farm animals, which is particularly enchanting for children. The farm also provides educational insights into sustainable farming practices and animal care. The picturesque setting of Winchester Creek Farm, with its rolling hills and lush greenery, makes it an ideal spot for family picnics and nature walks. Whether for a fun day out with the kids or a peaceful escape into the countryside, Winchester Creek Farm promises a memorable experience for all ages.
7) Explore the Shining Rock Wilderness Area
The Shining Rock Wilderness Area in the Pisgah National Forest near Waynesville, NC, is a pristine natural haven for outdoor enthusiasts. This rugged and scenic landscape spans over 18,000 acres, featuring some of the highest mountains in the Eastern United States. It’s renowned for its namesake, the Shining Rock, a massive, exposed, and glistening white quartzite rock that stands out dramatically against the lush greenery. The area offers challenging hiking trails, including the famous Art Loeb Trail, leading adventurers through diverse ecosystems, past crystal-clear streams, and stunning panoramic views. With its dense forests, cascading waterfalls, and abundant wildlife, the Shining Rock Wilderness Area is a perfect destination for hikers, backpackers, and nature lovers seeking an immersive experience in one of the most beautiful and undisturbed parts of the Appalachian Mountains.
8) Take in a show at the Haywood Arts Regional Theater (HART)
The Haywood Arts Regional Theater, commonly known as HART, stands as a cultural beacon in Waynesville, NC, offering a rich theatrical experience to residents and visitors alike. Renowned for its high-quality productions, HART showcases various performances ranging from classic plays and musicals to contemporary works and local playwrights’ creations. The theater’s intimate setting ensures an engaging and personal experience for the audience, allowing them to immerse themselves in the storytelling fully. HART is not just a venue for entertainment; it’s a community hub where local talent is nurtured and celebrated. With its year-round schedule of shows, educational programs, and special events, HART is a must-visit for those looking to enjoy the arts and connect with the vibrant cultural life of Waynesville.
9) Attend a Local Festival in Waynesville, NC & Haywood County
Waynesville and Haywood County are celebrated for their vibrant festival scene, featuring a wide range of events throughout the year that honor the region’s rich culture, music, and community spirit.
- Folkmoot USA: This international dance and music festival brings together performers from across the globe, showcasing a mesmerizing blend of cultural traditions.
- Apple Harvest Festival: Celebrate the autumn season with apple-themed foods, live music, and local crafts, highlighting the area’s agricultural heritage. https://www.haywoodchamber.com/events-calendar/signature-events/apple-harvest-festival/
- WNC Jeep Fest in Maggie Valley: The WNC Jeep Fest in Maggie Valley is an exciting event for Jeep enthusiasts, featuring off-road trails, vendor exhibits, and a community of Jeep lovers celebrating their passion for adventure and the great outdoors. https://wncjeepfest.com/
- Thunder in the Smokies: Also known as Maggie Valley Summer Rally, Thunder in the Smokies, held in Maggie Valley, is a popular motorcycle rally known for its scenic rides through the Smoky Mountains, live music, and vibrant gathering of bike enthusiasts. https://handlebarcorral.com/
- Cold Mountain Music Festival: Set against the backdrop of the picturesque Lake Logan, this festival features a lineup of folk and bluegrass musicians, camping, and outdoor activities. https://coldmountainmusic.org/
- NC Smokies Ice Festival: The NC Smokies Ice Fest Weekend is a winter celebration in Haywood County, featuring ice carving demonstrations, winter-themed activities, and family-friendly entertainment in the scenic backdrop of the Smoky Mountains. https://visitncsmokies.com/things-to-do/nc-smokies-ice-fest-weekend/
These festivals offer a window into the heart of Waynesville and Haywood County, with each event providing a unique blend of activities, music, and cultural experiences. From the lively beats of folk music to the rich traditions of local crafts, attending these festivals is a perfect way to experience the community’s warmth and hospitality.
+1 BONUS! We can’t leave you without including a drive on The Blue Ridge Parkway Scenic Drive:
The Blue Ridge Parkway Scenic Drive, winding through the Appalachian highlands, offers some of the most breathtaking vistas in the Eastern United States. In Waynesville and Haywood County, you can access this picturesque route at several points, such as near Balsam at milepost 443, offering a seamless journey into the heart of the Parkway. As you drive along this iconic road, you’ll encounter numerous overlooks and spots perfect for photography, like the Waterrock Knob Overlook at milepost 451.2, known for its stunning panoramic views and sunsets. For picnicking, the Graveyard Fields at milepost 418.8 provides picturesque spots and hiking trails leading to waterfalls. The Parkway is a photographer’s paradise throughout the year, with each season painting a unique and vivid picture of the surrounding landscape. Whether it’s the lush greenery of summer, the rich hues of fall, the snowy scenes of winter, or the blooming flowers of spring, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a must-experience journey for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts alike.
Waynesville and Haywood County are true gems waiting to be explored. From the historic charm of Downtown Waynesville to the natural splendor of its surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, this region offers a perfect blend of culture, adventure, and tranquility. Whether you’re drawn to the vibrant arts scene, the exhilarating outdoor activities, or the rich heritage evident in festivals and local traditions, Waynesville and Haywood County promise an unforgettable experience for every visitor.
We invite you to check out the beauty and diversity of Waynesville and Haywood County. Please share your own experiences and discoveries or suggest other hidden gems in the area to help fellow travelers make the most of their visit.
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