The Blue Ridge Mountain town of Hendersonville, North Carolina, blends Southern hospitality with a vibrant downtown, thriving arts and culinary scene and an assortment of outdoor recreation opportunities to create one of the most welcoming destinations in the southeastern United States.
Located in western North Carolina, Hendersonville sits on the edge of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains. The surrounding peaks create beautiful vistas and hundreds of acres of old-growth forest provide a natural playground.
DuPont State Recreational Forest contains more than 10,000 acres and approximately 90 miles of trails. DuPont is best known for its awe-inspiring waterfalls. Film-makers fell for the forest’s natural beauty and brought it to the big screen in The Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games.
For more adventurous souls, The Gorge Zipline is the steepest, fastest zipline tour in the country. A total of 11 ziplines spanning 1.25 miles plunge into Green River Gorge with sweeping views of undisturbed mountains.
Lazy Otter Outfitters provides paddling trips on the gently flowing French Broad River, one of the oldest rivers in the world. Choose from canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and inflatable tubes for a day trip or a paddle-and-camp overnight option.
Must-see Main Street
Walk the wide sidewalks of Hendersonville’s tree-lined Main Street and window-shop. The thriving downtown business district features block after block of galleries and boutiques and restaurants and taprooms.
For a true western North Carolina experience, visit Mast General Store. The two-story retail space includes outdoor gear, gifts, home decor and barrels filled with assorted candy.
Appalachian Pinball Museum invites visitors to play all day for only $12. With 35 pinball machines and 25 video games, try to play as many as you can or play your favourite on repeat.
25 independent restaurants call downtown Hendersonville home. Enjoy a true taste of the southeastern US with smoked pork barbecue, pan-fried trout or shrimp and grits.
Admire the arts
Flat Rock Playhouse provides a top-notch theatre experience with plays, concerts and musicals. Known as the ‘little Broadway in the mountains’, the theatre recruits talent locally and internationally. What started as a travelling group of struggling performers in the 1930s has become a star stop of any Hendersonville itinerary.
Follow the Art Gallery Trail to a dozen art studios, galleries and marketplaces. Some are working studios where you can see resident artists in action while others present pieces by various artists in a museum-like setting.
For a sampling of Hendersonville’s craft spirits—including beer, wine, cider and mead—hop on the Cheers! Trail. The self-guided tasting tour maps out 16 craft-beverage producers within a 20-minute radius of downtown Hendersonville.
Sierra Nevada, one of the largest craft breweries in the US, offers free tours of its expansive brewhouse and a full kitchen serving creative tapas-style dishes. Hard cider is a popular Hendersonville beverage thanks to the area’s abundant apple orchards. Bold Rock Hard Cider works with local farmers to bring in fresh fruit that is then pressed, fermented and bottled.
How to get here
Hendersonville is only 20 minutes from Asheville Regional Airport, which is served by major carriers American, Delta and United. With service to Charlotte Douglas International and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Asheville airport makes western North Carolina easily accessible.
To plan your gap year trip to Hendersonville, go to www.VisitHendersonvilleNC.org or call (800) 828-4244.
Booking link: www.VisitHendersonvilleNC.org/business-categories/lodging
This article was in partnership with Visit Hendersonville
Feature image: Sam Dean