Gateway to the Smokies
Waynesville once touted itself as “The Gateway to the Smokies.”
There is so much to do in Waynesville and the surrounding area during the fall and winter that one could spend every weekend at some kind of festival.
As the leaves change color and then drop, and as the chill creeps in, there are craft fairs, festivals and special merchant festivities nearly every weekend. Waynesville is host to an Apple Festival (Oct. 17) and the huge Church Street Arts and Craft Show (Oct. 10), which then leads to several special events in November and December. These culminate in the two “Night Before Christmas” events where thousands flock to Main Street to shop for gifts and enjoy special festivities.
Waynesville’s downtown is simply a great place to spend time during this time of year. Main Street is beautiful with brick sidewalks, decorative lamps and plenty of benches. The view from either end looks up toward the gorgeous mountains that give Haywood County the highest average elevation of any county east of the Rockies (it boasts 18 mountains with elevations above 6,000 feet).
And then there’s the shopping. Waynesville has been attracting tourists for nearly 200 years, and many of those early travelers came for health reasons as the fresh mountain air was recommended by many doctors. Now, though many come for the outdoor fun, others flock to the region to buy art or other special gifts.
An anchor for the downtown area is Mast General Store (see accompanying story), which has everything from outdoor wares and camping gear to the latest in fashions. It also boasts a separate store that sells just candy and toys, The Candy Barrel.
Among Waynesville’s unique downtown establishments is the Home Tech, operated by Bob and Kathy Lang. If you think you have everything for the person in the family who loves to spend time in the kitchen, think again. One stroll through this store and you’ll discover just how much you don’t have and how much you still need.
Home Tech is a great example of Main Street’s one-of-a-kind retailers and galleries. The Blue Owl, Ridge Runner Naturals, Earthworks, T. Pennington’s Art Gallery, and the Classic Wineseller are all bunched near the corner of Church and Main streets, and just across the road is Whitman’s Bakery, a favorite of both locals and visitors.
Galleries and gift shops line the streets, as do unique furniture stores. Two great local bookstores—Osondu Bookseller and Blue Ridge Books and News—anchor different ends of Main Street.
Two blocks down from Main Street is Frog Level, a section of town that is rebounding after decades of neglect. It has a couple of great art galleries and a great coffee and sandwich shop (Panacea) housed in an old warehouse with outside seating by Richland Creek.
Food, drinks and coffee are plentiful in Waynesville. Church Street features four restaurants (the Patio Bistro, the Chef’s Table, Lomo Grill and a private dinner club, the Gateway.), and downstairs in the Classic Winseller is Vin, a wine bar with a great selection of wine, food and cigars. On Main Street are a couple of good pubs, a pizza place, and half a block away is the gourmet American restaurant the Sweet Onion and a sub shop.
Things to do in Waynesville
Great Smoky Mountains National Park — Once known as Gateway to the Smokies, Waynesville is a perfect place to serve as a base for exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Park celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and several special events are being held. From Waynesville, it is a pleasant a day trip to pack a picnic and go see the elk herd that was reintroduced to the Park in historic Cataloochee Valley.
Blue Ridge Parkway — Travel the Parkway to its terminus in Cherokee and visit the Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill for a child-friendly adventure. Or head east toward Asheville and Southern Highlands Craft Guild Folk Art Center of the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center. Either way you go, the trip is beautiful and one of the best ways to see the region’s fall leaf color. Along the Parkway be sure to go see Cold Mountain, the mountain that Charles Frazier used to name his acclaimed novel, and the title of the subsequent movie. The Cold Mountain overlook is near the U.S. 276-Parkway intersection.
Get A Gift With Local Flavor — Head to both of Waynesville’s coffee roasteries, Panacea in Frog Level and Smoky Mountain Coffee Roasters in Hazelwood, to sample the custom blends. The pours range from free trade/organic roasts with mysterious names to your well-balanced bean with a charmingly local moniker, and purchase a few pounds to take home. Around Waynesville you’ll find other locally crafted treats such as Sunburst Farms Smoked Trout Dip, Steeplechase Olde English Toffee and Barber’s Orchard Apple Cake. If you’re counting calories, downtown shopping offers much by way of art, clothing, outdoor gear, kitchen equipment, toys, holiday decorations and bits of whimsy.
Take In The Arts — Waynesville has a surprisingly strong arts community that offers a wealth of opportunities for culture. Haywood Arts Regional Theater is a volunteer-based community theatre and one of the most active theatres in the Southeast, producing a year-round schedule of plays and musicals from its home, The Performing Arts Center at the Shelton House. The Arts Council’s Gallery 86 is one of several galleries located on Main Street and is an excellent place to visit and learn about upcoming council events. Throughout the year downtown is host to a number of festivals and special events including Mountain Street Dances, the Haywood Book Mania book fair, downtown Block Parties, the Church Street Art and Craft Show, the Apple Harvest Festival, Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival, Folkmoot’s International Festival Day.