The Blue Ridge Mountain town of Hendersonville, North Carolina, combines Southern hospitality, a vibrant downtown, thriving arts scene and outdoor recreation to create one of the most welcoming destinations in the Southeastern United States.
Hendersonville has a unique location on a mountain plateau surrounded by Blue Ridge Mountains, with the Great Smoky Mountains off in the distances. The surrounding peaks create beautiful vistas, while hundreds of acres of old-growth forest provide a natural playground.
Must-do Things in Hendersonville
Visitors love the downtown area. Main Street’s extra wide sidewalks, brick planters, lush landscaping and sitting benches give it a park-like feel. There are blocks of shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and pubs. Downtown is home to an aquarium, history museum, children’s science museum, a gem mine and the Appalachian Pinball Museum, where visitors pay an admission fee and play vintage pinball machines and arcade games for hours.
Jump Off Rock, only 15 minutes from downtown Hendersonville, is one of the most easily accessible overlooks in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The peak rises to 3,100 feet in elevation and allows visitors to peer into four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.
A few minutes south of town is the historic village of Flat Rock that was first settled in the 1800s as a cool summer escape for wealthy residents of the Southern flatlands. Many came from Charleston, South Carolina, and the homes they established are beautiful. One of those homes, Connemara, was bought in the 1900s by America’s “poet of the people” Carl Sandburg. Sandburg wrote a third of his life’s work while living at Connemara and when he died in the 1960s, his wife donated it to the National Park Service. It is open seven days week for tours.
Right across the street from the Carl Sandburg Home is the Flat Rock Playhouse, the Official State Theatre of North Carolina. Often called “Little Broadway in the Mountains,” the playhouse offers well-known musical plays, as well as concerts, 10 months out of the year.
This beautiful region is home to DuPont State Recreational Forest, a state-maintained recreation area of more than 10,000 acres and approximately 90 miles of trails. There are three famous waterfalls in DuPont Forest and all three can be accessed from the same trail. There are also places for hiking, mountain biking, trout fishing, horseback riding and picnics. People love to cool off with a swim in the natural pool just below Hooker Falls.
Closer in to Hendersonville is Holmes Educational State Forest, a learning forest that focuses on educating people about forestry and trees. One of the most popular activities at Holmes Forest is the Talking Trees Trail, an easy trail to walk that has “talking” trees. Push a button, and the tree will tell you all about that particular kind of species.
For more adventurous souls, The Gorge Zipline is one of the steepest, fastest zipline tours in America. A total of 11 ziplines spanning 1.25 miles plunge into the Green River Gorge with sweeping views of undisturbed mountains on all sides.
Follow the Hendersonville Cheers! Trail
The Cheers! Trail takes visitors to 15 producers of craft beverages in and around Hendersonville. There are nine breweries, three wineries, two cideries and one meadery.
The most visited place on the Cheers! Trail is Sierra Nevada Brewery. The California-based brewery opened a second location in Henderson County a few years ago, sparing little expense to build an impressive showplace complete with daily tours, tasting bars, indoor and outdoor dining and an amphitheater.
America’s largest craft cider producer, Bold Rock, is located on the trail and is probably the second-most visited stop on the trail, while Appalachian Ridge Artisan Ciders focuses on the European style of making ciders, complete with apples trees imported from Normandy, France.
Three wineries showcase the beautiful countryside and each is a popular place to spend an afternoon. Point Lookout Vineyards is also home to World’s Edge Meadery, which makes mead, a type of wine derived from honey that was popular during Colonial times.
Events in Hendersonville
There always seems to be a fun event happening in Hendersonville. On Memorial Day weekend, May 25-26, Main Street is closed to vehicles and converted into an eight-block garden showcase known as Garden Jubilee. This event draws people from all over and has been named one of the Southeast’s Top 20 events in May.
Outdoor music in the downtown area is available Friday nights via the Music on Main concert series. These concerts feature regional bands in a variety of genres and are free to attend every Friday from June 7 through Aug. 23. Rhythm & Brews is another outdoor concert series that takes place on Main Street the third Thursday of the month from May through September.
Hendersonville’s status as the leading producer of apples in North Carolina is celebrated with the North Carolina Apple Festival on Labor Day weekend, Aug. 30-Sept. 2. The downtown area is closed off as hundreds of thousands of people attend this celebration of the apple. Vendors sell all types of apple products, as well as other foods and traditional arts and crafts from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Activities include carnival rides, concerts, visits to the orchards and the King Apple Parade on Monday.
Where to Stay
The downtown area offers a wonderful collection of well-appointed bed-and-breakfast inns. Rental cabins, vacation homes and downtown lofts are popular spots to spend a night or two, while several new name-brand hotels have opened in the last two years.