Planning Your Trip

Things To Do In Waynesville, NC and the Smoky Mountains

Explore. Discover. Experience. Adventure awaits in the Smoky Mountains!

Looking for something to do?  Bored with your weekend routine?  Hop in the car and experience some of the amazing things to do in Waynesville, NC.

Did you know that the Red Leaf River Inn is less than ten minutes from Downtown Waynesville, dining, shopping, grocery stores, US-74, and the Blue Ridge Parkway?  We may feel like we are in the middle of nowhere, but visitors to the Inn are less than:

With hundreds of annual events and festivals in the area as well as activities and day trips, you will never run short on things to do in Waynesville, NC.

Woman hiker hiking in sunrise tropical rainforest

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Smoky Mountains


There is a never ending variety of national parkswaterfalls, and trails to find in the WNC mountains from beginner to advanced.  Dupont State Forest in Brevard, NC is one of our favorites.  Pisgah National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are also just as beautiful.  Don’t feel like doing all the work?  Take a drive on the historic Blue Ridge Parkway.  Hop on just a few miles down the road from the Inn and visit the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway or just take one of the most scenic afternoon drives you’ll ever experience.

Things To Do In Waynesville, NC

Known as the ‘Gateway to the Smokies,’ Waynesville exudes small town charm.  Stroll down Main Street and visit Mast General Store or enjoy a refreshing ice cream treat at the Strand at 38 Main.  Grab a beer and check out the live music at the Gem.  Pick up a sandwich for your hike at the Smoky Mountain Sub Shop. Sit down more your thing? Check out one of a dozen other restaurants in town. And don’t forget to visit Hazelwood, with two great restaurantsa bakery, a coffee shopbookstoresoap shop and more packed into one easily walked block.

Visitors in July can experience Folkmoot USA, Waynesville’s celebration of international folk music and dance.  December travelers can take a trip back in time with the small town ‘A Night Before Christmas’ event just before Christmas.  Summer and fall visitors can experience ‘Art After Dark’ on the first Friday of every month from May to December.  During these events, art galleries on Main Street stay open until 9pm and feature special demonstrations and music.  Throughout the summer, there are many things to do in Waynesville NC such as street dances and craft fairs.  October visitors can’t miss the annual apple festival, voted one of the best in the country.  The HART Theater is also just minutes from the Inn and offers a variety of live performances throughout the year.

Visiting Asheville, NC

Looking for something different? Once you’ve exhausted your options for things to do in Waynesville NC, head over to nearby Asheville.  From the historic and opulent Biltmore Estate, former home of the Vanderbilt family, to the funky River Arts District with dozens of artists in all mediums gathered together, there is something for everyone in Asheville.  The Orange Peel is Asheville’s premier music venue.  Or just walk around downtown Asheville – you will be as likely as not to find a drum circle or impromptu concert going on.  There are also hundreds of truly exceptional restaurants in and around Asheville – from five star formal dining to down home cooking and everything in between.

The NC Arboretum boasts 434 acres of public gardens while the WNC Nature Center has over 60 different native Appalachian animals to see including black bears, deer, wolves, and goats for petting.   For the more adventurous, both Navitat and Asheville Tree Top Adventures offer an array of ziplining and other “tree-top” excitement via guided tours.  Time to wind down?  Take a relaxing trip down the French Broad with Zen Tubing.


Area Breweries and Vineyards

We may love beer just a little.  WNC has more breweries than any other part of North Carolina and North Carolina has more breweries than any other southern state.  There are 23 just in WNC and you can sample many local beers at the breweries and taverns in town including Boojum’s Taproom and Frog Level Brewing Company. Still thirsty? Visit one of dozens of breweries in Asheville from local favorite Highland Brewing to the massive Sierra Nevada taproom in Mills River.  If you like a little entertainment with your beer, Asheville Brewing Company is well known for it’s ‘Brew and View,’ where you can enjoy a late release movie for just $3 and have an entire meal (and your beer, of course) delivered to your seat.

Don’t forget the wine!  Just because we love beer doesn’t mean we can’t love wine, too.  With thirty nine vineyards in the area, you could spend days trying to visit them all.

Maggie Valley and Lake Junaluska

Just a short trip away, both Maggie Valley and Lake Junaluska offer their own attractions.  Lake Junaluska is in fact a conference and retreat center, not a town.  Most of the area is open to the public, though, including the central lake.  Things to do include boating, swimming, and walking the lake trail. Lake Junaluska offers one of the largest fireworks displays in the area for Fourth of July as well as a golf course and periodic concerts.

Maggie Valley is another small town haven with an array of shops.  Visit the Wheels Through Time museum, the world’s premier collection of rare and vintage American motorcycles.  The museum is also part of American Restoration on the History Channel.  Or, take part in outdoor activities such as white water rafting, horseback riding, and hiking.  Winter visitors can also visit the Cataloochee ski area, voted number one in WNC for three years in a row.  Cataloochee features slopes for beginners to advanced as well as a terrain park with an obstacle course, a tubing hill, equipment rental, and more.

lake junaluska
Lake Junaluska

Sylva, Dillsboro, and Cherokee

About twenty minutes down US-74, Sylva has one of the most photographed buildings in the State.  The town has also served as the set to several movies – no surprise once you’ve walked down Sylva’s picturesque Main Street.  The county seat of Jackson County, Sylva is also home to the beautiful Pinnacle park, restaurants, breweries, and shops.

Just three miles away from Sylva is the historic town of Dillsboro.  The small town is home to several art galleries including Oaks Gallery and Tunnel Mountain Crafts, which feature over 150 different artists between the two.  Or, take a river rafting or tubing trip down the Tuckasegee river which feature both family friendly spots and level I and II rapids.

A little further on will take you to Cherokee, NC. Famed for their trout fishing and elk, most travel to Cherokee to visit the casino. There are many other attractions in the area including the Oconaluftee Village, the Musuem of Indian Heritage and the visitor’s center at the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

jackson county courthouse
Jackson County Courthouse

Cashiers, Highland and Bryson City

A scenic drive toward the GA/SC borders will bring you to a series of small towns including CashiersHighlandsFranklin, and Bryson City. Each town has it’s own charm with a plethora of natural attractions including Fontana Lake, Nantahala Forest, and Lake Glenville. Take an old fashioned steam train in Bryson City or rent a tube for a day and float down Deep Creek.

Drive under Bridal Veils falls on the way to Highland and then stop at Dry Falls – named because you can walk behind it and stay (mostly) dry. Each town also has it’s share of pottery, gem, and other craft shows to discover.

Dry Falls, Highland NC

Relax & Enjoy your holidays
with Red Leaf River Inn