While we focus much of our blog on the town of Waynesville and the Inn, many of our guests use the Andon-Reid as a central home base to do some serious exploring of all the wonders of Western North Carolina. Undoubtedly, as guests begin planning their excursions, one of the most commonly asked questions is – what are the other cool towns to visit in WNC besides Waynesville? While we are, of course, partial to Waynesville, all the towns surrounding us are unique, charming and full of character. Many excursions in our area will take you to or through these towns and they are all full of great local businesses and attractions, just like Waynesville. Western North Carolina is a great area for history, culture and hospitality, which makes this such a great place to live, work and play. All of the below towns are within an hour’s drive of the Inn.
Haywood County – Maggie Valley and Canton
The closest towns to Waynesville are Maggie Valley and Canton. Each are only about 15-20 minutes away and really add to the character and uniqueness of the region.
Maggie Valley is an eclectic tourist town and has thrived over the years as a winter ski resort and a summer outdoor recreation haven. Maggie Valley hosts many great local festivals, motorcycle rallies and holiday celebrations. Check out our post about festivals to learn more about a few of them. We are particularly excited for this year’s Ice Fest in January, as the county is building some real momentum in improving tourism during the winter months. Some notable places in Maggie Valley include Soco Falls, Cataloochee Ski Area, the Wheels through Time Museum (motorcycles!) and interesting restaurants like HomeCraft at the Meadowlark Motel, Twisted Spoke, J. Arthurs, Frankie’s and Butts on the Creek. This fun town is also chock full of interesting crafts, antiques and stores with quality goods from local vendors, artisans and makers.
For years, Canton has been the industrial center of Haywood County as the paper mill in downtown Canton had been the anchor of the community. Unfortunately, in 2023, the paper mill closed permanently but the town has been resilient in rallying around the town’s charming and historic Main Street, the community’s strong culture and leadership, and the spectacular natural beauty of the hills and rivers. Downtown in Canton, Sorrell’s Park is a wonderful greenspace along the Pigeon River and hosts music and events consistently throughout the warmer months. Bearwaters Brewing is also an anchor of the downtown restaurant scene along with Southern Porch (both highly recommended!).
While the loss of the paper mill was a monumental event for the town and the county, Canton is a vast town, area-wise, and boasts amazing potential as a destination for natural beauty driven by the Pigeon River and expansion of attractions like Chestnut Mountain Nature Park (an excellent and recommended hike!). Across Western North Carolina, relaxing tubing on our rivers and streams is a popular warm-weather activity and Pigeon River Outfitters is the closest place to go in Canton to enjoy this unique outdoor activity. Additionally, Canton is home to one of the best golf courses in the area at Springdale and has unique farm and agritourism establishments like Ten Acre Garden. And of course, many of the most popular Blue Ridge Parkway hikes like Graveyard Fields are in or closer to Canton.
Jackson and Swain County – Cherokee, Bryson City, Dillsboro, Sylva
To the west of Waynesville along the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway are some of our favorite towns to visit when we are not at the Inn. For guests heading towards the Smokies, you will undoubtedly drive through or to these towns on excursions. All also have great options for food and entertainment.
The Cherokee area is only about 30-35 minutes from the Inn and is the home of the Harrah’s Casino, one of the more popular entertainment venues in the region. The Casino and Resort hosts performers from all over the world and of course, has plentiful restaurant and gaming options. As the home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, the area is also home to the excellent Museum of the Cherokee Indian. During the summer, the Cherokee Unto These Hills outdoor drama is also popular. Cherokee is also closest to the Oconoluftee Visitor Center and River Trail, which is one of the best areas in the region for Elk-watching.
Bryson City is home to one of our guest (and innkeeper!) favorite activities: the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. The railroad takes riders on a nostalgic journey along the rivers and gorges of Western North Carolina and is a splendid way to spend the day. Bryson City also has a fun downtown with unique shopping, good restaurants and excellent breweries. Bryson City is also close to one of our favorite hiking areas in the Smokies: The Deep Creek Three Waterfalls Trail. Check out our blog post on waterfalls for more on the Deep Creek area.
Slightly closer to Waynesville, are two more towns brimming with character and boasting great dining options. Dillsboro is a small town between Waynesville and Sylva that has an excellent and fully walkable downtown area filled with cute shops and great restaurants, like the original Dillsboro Chocolate Factory and Haywood Smokehouse (both also have locations in Waynesville and are highly recommended!). One of the routes on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad takes riders to Dillsboro along the Tuckaseegee River and past part of the train crash scene from the movie the Fugitive which lies just beyond the outskirts of the downtown Dillsboro area!
Sylva (about 25 minutes from the Inn) is the county seat of Jackson County and is worth the visit if just to see the spectacular facade of the courthouse that sits just on the edge of Main street. Sylva is also one of the only towns in the region with an active social district (meaning you can stroll the streets with an adult beverage) during specific times of the week, which really helps highlight the great breweries in the town like Balsam Falls, Lazy Hiker, Innovation Brewing and Nantahala Brewing. Similar to Waynesville, there also appears to be something the water in Sylva as evidenced by such a great craft beer scene. Also, if you get a chance to try out Ilda, you won’t be disappointed as it’s one of the best restaurants in the region (Waynesville locals frequently make the trip to Sylva just to go to Ilda).
Of course, the biggest city in the area is Asheville, with its abundance of world-class restaurants, thriving brewery scene, and eclectic, energetic feel. While there is a ton of information out there about things to do in Asheville, we would be remiss if we didn’t recommend a trip to the Biltmore Estate (our guests get an exclusive discount code in their confirmation email!). We also recommend the North Carolina Arboretum, which is an excellent place for easy to moderate hiking in the direct vicinity of Asheville.
Two other notable towns closer to Asheville include Hendersonville and Flat Rock (about 20 minutes south of Asheville). Hendersonville and the surrounding area are known as one of the best apple growing regions in the country and have abundant options for visiting orchards. If you are looking for wineries in our area, Hendersonville is the place to be as the winery-scene in the area is thriving and growing with businesses like Point Lookout, Burntshirt and St. Paul Mountain Farms. Flat Rock also has two great options for day trips from the Inn, as the Flat Rock Playhouse is fun and unique, and the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site is a relaxing and peaceful place to spend the afternoon.
Land of Waterfalls
A bit further from the Inn, the towns in the Land of Waterfalls (Highlands, Cashiers & Brevard) will most certainly be in your itinerary if you are on a hunt for waterfalls. The area around these three towns boast some of the best waterfall viewing in the region and the state. All three have great dining options and charming main streets for shopping on your day trips from the Inn. Our favorite waterfall in the area is Dry Falls, which is close to Highlands. Also, if you happen to be near Highlands and are looking for a great steak after a day of hiking and exploring, we recommend the Oak Steakhouse at the Skyline Lodge; great atmosphere and great food. It’s a bit remote, but worth the drive.
We hope this blog post gives you confidence that wherever you venture in our area, there are plentiful options for shopping, dining, & entertainment plus an abundance of charm, character, history and fun in the towns that surround Waynesville. We are central to so many great experiences and we are proud to be a homebase for amazing and memorable Western North Carolina adventures.
Hope to see you at the Inn soon!
Brenda and Peter