See & Do
Blue Ridge Distilling Co., Bostic
A former storage facility for sea diving equipment, oddly sited on a 100-acre family farm in the hills north of Bostic, is now a distillery making Defiant single malt whisky from brewer’s barley. Take a tour and watch the distillers control everything with iPads. If they offer a taste, say yes. 228 Redbud Lane, Bostic. 828-245-2041, defiantwhisky.com.
This 12-acre preserve was started by retired New York City police officer Bob Bullington, who with his wife, Sally, ran an ornamental nursery from 1979 until he died a decade later. The property includes a native woodland garden, a rain garden, a dahlia garden, a pollinator garden and a therapy garden. 95 Upper Red Oak Trail, Hendersonville. 828-698-6104, bullingtongardens.org.
Earl Scruggs Center, Shelby
The old courthouse in the heart of Shelby is now the Earl Scruggs Center, 6 miles from where Scruggs grew up in the Flint Hill community. See the instruments he and his family played, learn about the culture where he grew up, hear the evolution of Southern music, watch videos and listen to oral histories. 103 S. Lafayette St., Shelby. 704-487-6233, earlscruggscenter.org.
Flat Rock Playhouse,
The playhouse opened in 1952, and at first offered only a few weeks of plays in the summer. Now it’s open eight months a year and stages elaborate modern productions of dramas and musicals. 2661 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock. 828-693-0731, www.flatrockplayhouse.org.
Gorges State Park, Sapphire
At this, the farthest-west state park in North Carolina, car-camping doesn’t exist. Every site is walk-in only, and the shortest walk is three-quarters of a mile. The second thing to know is that if you camp next to Ray Fisher Pond, you’re going to spend the night with some seriously loud bullfrogs. With this knowledge, you’re equipped to see Rainbow Falls and dozens of others. 828-966-9099.
Highest Point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Waynesville
At 6,053 feet, the winding Blue Ridge Parkway hits its apex just south of Waynesville on the Jackson County line. Milepost 431 is worth a stop, if only to see the crowds of bikers gathered around the big wooden sign, count the number of out-of-state license plates or to hear foreign tourists say “highest point” in German.
House of Flags Museum, Columbus
The museum holds more than 300 flags that have represented colonies, states, religions, brigades, veterans, republics and the USA itself; each has a story, and together they tell the story of our country. Ask about the symbolism of snakes and trees, and of flags with one star (North Carolina once had one). 33 Gibson St., Columbus. 828-894-5640.
Judaculla Rock, Cullowhee
According to Cherokee legend, a giant named Judaculla lived in the Balsam Mountains off what is now Devil’s Courthouse, lording over sacred hunting grounds and controlling the weather. His footprint remains in the corner of a soapstone boulder in the valley below. The car-sized boulder is marked from top to bottom with petroglyphs that archaeologists now believe to be thousands of years old. To get there, follow N.C. 107 south of Sylva, turn left at Caney Fork Road and follow the signs.
Jump Off Rock,
This scenic overlook’s name comes from a legend about a Cherokee maiden who flung herself off the rock’s ledge when her great love was killed in battle. Whether this is true or not, this is a spectacular place to ponder the vastness of earth and sky, or to take one of several short hikes. Take Fifth Avenue West from Hendersonville. It becomes Laurel Park Highway, then the road dead ends at Jump Off Rock. A short walkway leads to the pinnacle.
North Mills River Campground and Recreation Area, Mills River
Situated at an elevation of 2,200 feet, this Pisgah National Forest campground has access to the forest’s cascading waterfalls and hiking trails through dense woodlands. With fewer than 20 sites and no hookups, it’s quiet and peaceful, but also includes two parking areas for day-trippers who pay $3 per car and bring their own inner tubes for playing in the water. 5289 N. Mills River Road, Mills River. 828-890-3284, nando.com/millsriver.
Tail of the Dragon,
In a short stretch of U.S. 129 that runs over the Tennessee border, a motorist will encounter 318 turns in 11 miles – hence the road’s menacing name. Note especially the Tree of Shame, which is covered with smashed-up parts left behind by passers-by, each one lovingly signed and dated by the driver who lost it. To get there from the North Carolina side, follow U.S. 129 to where it meets N.C. 28.
Thomas Wolfe’s Angel,
In Hendersonville’s Oakdale Cemetery, small signs will direct you toward the graveyard’s most notable resident, the marble angel that sat in the Asheville funeral monument shop window of W.O. Wolfe until 1906. Historians say this is the one Wolfe’s son, Thomas Wolfe, described in a short story and again in his career-launching 1929 novel, “Look Homeward, Angel.” At the intersection of U.S. 64 and Valley Street, Hendersonville.
Tsali Recreation Area,
Almost everyone you meet at Tsali, a part of Nanatahala National Forest, will be wearing Lycra shorts, a thick helmet and a coating of thick mud. These fast, single-track mountain bike trails draw the hardiest riders in the state, and their bloody scars are worn like medals. The trails ring the edge of Fontana Lake, offering stunning views of the Smokies on the rare occasions when they emerge from thick forest canopies. Open April through October. 828-479-6431.
Western N.C. Air Museum, Hendersonville
Founded in 1989 by three local fliers, the museum’s collection includes replicas of a Wright Brothers’ flyer and a 1917 Curtiss, along with more than a dozen preserved or restored craft such as the 1936 Piper Cub and a 1928 Heath Parasol. 1340 Gilbert St., Hendersonville. 828-698-2482, westernnorthcarolinaairmuseum.com.
Wilderness Taxidermy & Outfitters, Franklin
For more than 30 years, Bill and Linda Fuchs have handled trophies shipped from as far away as Africa, and their studio is hung from end to end with the heads of elephants, lions and zebras. The pair draws roughly 70 people a day to their business’s ever-changing wildlife museum, which also includes a moonshine still seized in a raid and half a human skull. 5040 Highlands Road, Franklin. 828-524-3677, www.wildernesstaxidermy.com.
World’s Largest Ten Commandments, Murphy
Every letter of the passages from Exodus is 5 feet tall, making the words from Scripture cover an entire mountainside. It’s the Bible Belt’s equivalent of the Hollywood sign. Part of the larger Fields of the Wood Bible Park, the attraction also includes a baptismal pool, available by appointment only. Get there on N.C. 294, about 18 miles west of downtown Murphy. 828-494-7855, www.fieldsofthewoodbiblepark.com.
Browse & Shop
Clay’s Corner, Brasstown
The courts and legislators in Raleigh have long squabbled over the annual Possum Drop on New Year’s Eve, but few have actually seen the spot where the critter gets lowered at midnight. Clay Logan’s business has stuffed opossum dolls for sale, an ice chest decorated with spray-painted opossums, a wooden opossum sculpture dangling upside-down and fresh sandwiches. 11005 Old Highway 64, Brasstown. 828-837-3797, www.clayscorner.com.
Eat & Drink
McFarlan Bakery, Hendersonville
Many of the cookies, pies, breads and cakes are made with recipes that date to the bakery’s earliest days, in the 1930s. McFarlan’s has no tables, so if you see people walking around town with white bakery boxes, you know that’s precious cargo they’re carrying. 309 N. Main St., Hendersonville. 828-693-4256, mcfarlanbakery.com.
Mountain Deli, Hendersonville
This downtown diner serves the flavors of a traditional Jewish deli, fitting since Jews were among the early arrivals in town around the turn of 20th century. There is hot-carved roast beef on Tuesdays and Fridays, roast turkey breast on Mondays and Thursdays and smoked ham on Saturdays and Wednesdays. 343 N. Main St., Hendersonville. 828-693-0093, mtndeli.com.
Hendersonville homeboy Jason Reasoner is executive chef of this restaurant that offers “new American cuisine” in a -circa-1922 bank building on Main Street. Menu items may range from chicken and waffles to shrimp and grits. 401 N. Main St., Hendersonville. 828-595-9676, postero-hvl.com.