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Western North Carolina's Top 10 Must See Attractions

Fall  mountain view

Western North Carolina is home to a number of attractions, sure to please everyone from the nature-lover to the amateur historian. If you’re vacationing in western North Carolina or even just stopping for a couple hours on your way through, you can’t miss the opportunity to see one or all of these attractions.

Nantahala Gorge

With a wide variety of activities to be found, the Nantahala Gorge is one attraction you don’t want to miss. Searching for adventure? Try one of the many white-water rafting trips offered. Want something a little more peaceful? Try ruby mining. Just want to explore? Go horseback riding and take in the beautiful views in the area. There’s something for everyone and every taste.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Fun for all ages, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad takes you on a journey to some spectacular views of western North Carolina. Kids are sure to love their special train rides featuring Thomas the Tank Engine and the Polar Express. Movie buffs may recognize the train from such movies as The Fugitive, My Fellow Americans, and Forces of Nature.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

Featuring 400 year old poplars that are more than 20 feet in circumference and stand over 100 feet in height, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is a must-see attraction for anyone with an interest in nature. A 2 mile figure-eight loop nature trail meanders through the forest offering views of these magnificent trees, as well as wildflowers and ferns.

Cherokee artisan at work


This small town nestled in western North Carolina offers several attractions. Visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian to learn the history of the Cherokee Nation. Stop by the Oconaluftee Indian Village to tour a reconstructed 1750s Cherokee village. If you have time, make sure to see the outdoor drama “Unto These Hills,” which tells the story of the Cherokee people. Last, but certainly not least, visit the Qualla Arts & Craft Mutual to purchase authentic craft items, including ceremonial mask and pottery, all made by Cherokee artisans.

Maggie Valley

Maggie Valley is another small town with a lot to offer. During the winter, stop in at Cataloochee Ski Area for some skiing, tubing or snowboarding. Western enthusiasts will enjoy Ghost Town in the Sky, a family fun theme park designed around an authentic recreation of a ghost town. For the motorcycle-lovers, Wheels Through Time offers a look of motorcycles from the past to the present.


Next door to Maggie Valley, you find Waynesville. People from all over the country converge on Waynesville in the summer for Folkmoot, an international folk festival offering dance, music and international cultures. If you get hungry, be sure to check out some of the award-winning restaurants in town which include Lomo Grill and The Chef’s Table.

Biltmore Estate

Built in the late 1800s as a summer home for George Vanderbilt, the Biltmore Estate in the mountains of western North Carolina has delighted generations for years. The house was designed by Richard Morris Hunt. Frederick Law Olmstead designed the beautiful gardens. Movie-goers may recognize the house and grounds from popular movies such as National Treasure, Hannibal, Forrest Gump and Last of the Mohicans. Make sure to stop at the Biltmore Winery for a sample of their award-winning wine.

Bridge on the Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Built as a part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles from Waynesboro, VA to Cherokee, NC and offers some of the most spectacular views in the country. Aside from the awe-inspiring views, there are a number of other attractions along the parkway. Hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous, as well as several waterfalls, can be accessed from the parkway.

Falls near Brevarad

Transylvania County

Home to 250 waterfalls, it is no wonder Transylvania County is known as the Land of Waterfalls. With some of the most beautiful waterfalls in western North Carolina, including Looking Glass Falls and Courthouse Falls, this area is waterfall lover’s dream. Make sure you take your swimsuit along when you visit Sliding Rock, where eleven thousand gallons of water per minute propel you into a six foot deep pool below.

Linville Caverns

Located just north of Marion, NC is Linville Caverns. Discovered nearly 200 years ago, these limestone caverns were opened to the public in 1939. Offering an ever-changing view of stalagmites and stalactites, this is one western North Carolina attraction you won’t want to miss.

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