Waynesville NC Travel Guide – Top Things To Do

Waynesville NC is located about 25 miles west of Asheville, off Interstate 40 and is the largest town in Western North Carolina.  Waynesville has been a popular destination and retreat since the early 1800s.

Waynesville, North Carolina offers tons of outdoor adventure, being in very close proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Often being called he Gateway to the Smokies), minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and just a short drive to Pisgah National Forest.  

Waynesville is most well known for it's quaint, almost Norman Rockwell painting style Downtown.   Downtown Waynesville NC is the perfect place to explore gift shops, art stores, boutiques, one of kind shops, and some fantastic food and local craft beer.  

Waynesville's proximity to all the great outdoor things to do and see in Western North Carolina, combined with its wonderfully charming downtown and surrounding mountains will have you coming back for more, and maybe not wanting to return home.

Here at Blue Ridge Mountain Life, Waynesville and Maggie Valley NC are the towns we call home, as our home and business are here, directly between the two.  Welcome to our hometown!

Updated: 7/8/2022

Where is Waynesville NC?

Waynesville North Carolina is located in Haywood County, just off I-40 in Western NC, about 25 miles west of Asheville NC, and not too far from the Tennessee border.  Waynesville is centered between Pisgah National Forest, The Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parkway.

Nearby is Maggie Valley NC, a small tourism town offering additional things to do and see, and the home of the now closed Ghost Town in the Key.

History of Waynesville NC

Historic Waynesville NC

Waynesville NC was founded in 1810, by Colonel Robert Love.  Love was a soldier from the revolutionary war, who donated land for the public square, jailhouse, and courthouse.   The town was named after Love's former commander, General Anthony Wayne.  Waynesville was officially incorporated as a town in 1871. 

Waynesville was also the location of a Civil War battle, and perhaps one of the most unusual in the American Civil War.   On May 6, 1865, the Union army was attacked at White Sulphur Springs (located East of Waynesville), by the Confederate Army, who was summoned by locals.

"The Last Shot" of the Civil War was fired by the Confederates, and their attack caused the Union army to retreat into Waynesville where they were surrounded by the confederates.   The next day, a surrender was negotiated due to the Civil War ending, and any further fighting would prove pointless.

Visit ExploreWaynesville.com

Interested in learning more about Waynesville NC?   Please visit our sister website, Explore Waynesville!

Waynesville NC Videos

Here are some of our videos featuring Waynesville NC

Visit Waynesville's Annual Church Street Arts & Crafts show

Attend Waynesville's "A Night Before Christmas" event.  This Holiday favorite is fun for the whole family.

Waynesville NC is well known for its small town  Christmas Parade, and for good reason.  

Things to do in Waynesville NC

Waynesville NC is full of things to do when visiting, including shopping, great restaurants, festivals, and adventures into the outdoors.

Visit Historic Downtown Waynesville

Downtown Waynesville NC at Christmas

Historic Downtown Waynesville North Carolina includes brick sidewalks and restored historic buildings.  When visiting, you'll feel as if you've literally stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting.  There is even a restored old theater, named The Strand, that has unique food items, and shows current movies. 

Access to downtown is free, and there is plenty of free parking all around Main Street.

As you browse through the shops and storefronts of downtown, you'll be surrounded by small town sounds and people, with tremendous views of the surrounding mountains.  You'll find unique art, antiques, furniture, food, gifts, craft beer, and even a bakery for dogs!

Places you'll want to be sure to visit include:

  • Mast General Store
  • Boojum Brewing
  • The Sweet Onion Restaurant
  • Cedar Hill Studio and Art Gallery
  • High Country Furniture

Visit Frog Level

Waynesville NC Frog Level

This historic area of Waynesville, located next to Richland Creek and just a hop (sorry we couldn't resist) from downtown Waynesville, was named Frog Level, due to it being low level compared to Downtown Waynesville, and due to it commonly flooding.   Frog Level is the location that the railroad passes through, and once had passenger and freight stations.  Frog Level was a key area of Waynesville for passenger service, tourism and supplies coming from the Railroad.  The railroad still runs through the area today.

Today, Frog Level still has active train tracks, but the amount of rail service has slowed down significantly.  The old train station is now gone as well.  Instead, you'll find an award winning brewery, Frog Level Brewing, one of the best coffee shops in Western NC, Panacea Coffee House, stores, and more.

Enjoy Local Craft Beer

Frog Level Brewing Waynesville NC

Waynesville has become a top spot for craft breweries in Western NC, with multiple highly successful breweries here, including:

These breweries not only offer excellent and award winning craft beers, but great places to hang out and enjoy not only their craft beer, but live music, creek views, and great food.

Frog Level Brewing is found in Frog Level, as you would expect.  Boojum can be found on Main street in downtown, and Bearwaters is in Maggie Valley and nearby Canton NC.

Attend Folkmoot

Folkmoot Waynesville NC

Waynesville is known for many things, but one festival/event in particular stands out above the rest, and that is Folkmoot.  Since 1984, Musicians and dancers from all around the world, and from many different cultures, have visited Waynesville North Carolina, for the Folkmoot International Dance and Music Festival.  

Folkmoot is one of the largest and most popular events in Western North Carolina, and occurs each year in July.  Folkmoot is a 10-day international festival that brings "many cultures into one community".  Events and activities include:

  • Art
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Workshops and Classes
  • and more!

Folkmoot Center is located in the historic Hazelwood School, and has transitioned to a year-round cultural center, with a focus on programs and events that celebrate diversity, encourage cultural inclusion, and honor worldwide cultural heritages, especially using dance and music as a tool to achieve world peace.

Outdoor Things to Do Near Waynesville NC

Swimming Holes

Waynesville NC is often referred to as the gateway to the Smokies, due to being very close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Waynesville North Carolina is also just minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest.

As a result, hundreds of outdoor hiking trails, waterfalls, scenic drives, and historic and scenic areas are just minutes away when visiting Waynesville. 

Popular outdoor activities include:

20+ Best Hikes Near Waynesville NC

See the Elk in Cataloochee Valley

Extinct for hundreds of years, Elk were reintroduced into Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in 2001.  Since then, they have flourished, and have become one of the top area attractions.

The rustic mountain drive into Cataloochee Valley, will take you back in time, to a settlement that existed before the Park.  There you will find a beautiful valley, full of historic structures, and Elk.   You'll also find a very nice campground, hiking trails, creeks, streams and waterfalls. 

You definitely won't want to miss visiting Cataloochee Valley and seeing the majestic and beautiful Elk.

Visit the Fall Apple Festival

Waynesville NC Apple Festival

Waynesville NC is also well know for its annual Fall Apple Harvest Festival.   The Apple festival has been a tradition for more than 34 years.   The event is fun and family-friendly!

The Apple Harvest Festival occurs in downtown Waynesville NC, and the streets are filled with more than 200 arts and craft booths, food, music, clogging, and much more.   

Local apple growers set-up on the street as well, and sell delicious mountain grown apples, and lots of apple goods a well, such as cider, pies, fritters, and more.   The Apple Harvest Festival is one you will not want to miss!

Other things to do in Waynesville NC

There are tons of great things to see and do in Waynesville.  Here are just a few of our favorites, and places we would highly recommend:

Where to stay in Waynesville NC

Waynesville NC and surrounding areas offers numerous options for where you can stay when visiting, including: 

  • Cabin Rentals/AirBnBs
  • Hotels
  • Camping

Regardless of which option is right for you, you're sure to find something that will meet your needs AND budget.  Whether you want a luxury cabin with incredible long range mountain views, a simple/inexpensive hotel close to Downtown Waynesville, or maybe that romantic hideaway for two, you'll find what you're looking for in Waynesville's accommodation options.

Cabins near Waynesville NC

Cabins are a very popular choice for those visiting the popular Western North Carolina town of Waynesville.  Cabin rentals provide safe and clean accommodations with numerous amenities, very reasonable prices, and in various sizes to meet your family's needs.  

Here are our top picks for Cabins near Waynesville NC:

Hotels in Waynesville NC

Hotels in Waynesville NC provide many nice amenities at reasonable prices.  Below are our top picks for Hotels in Waynesville.  For additional lodging options, check out the hotels in nearby Maggie Valley as well.

Camping in Waynesville NC

Whether you're looking for luxury RV hookups, simple tent camping site, or just the perfect spot to relax in the hammock and chill, Waynesville NC area campgrounds provide what you're looking for.   Waynesville provides a number of quiet and relaxing campgrounds where you can go to sleep with the crackling sound of a fire and wake up to hot coffee and the sounds of nature all around you.  

Best Restaurants in Waynesville NC

As locals, one of our favorite aspects of living in Waynesville NC is the great selection of top-notch restaurants.  Waynesville really has an impressive list of best restaurants, that continuous seems to be growing.  The variety offers lots of options for both visitors and locals to enjoy.

We enjoy eating out out supporting our local friends and business owners by dining at locally owned restaurants and food trucks.   We've been in Waynesville for many years, and have tried nearly all the local Waynesville restaurants a number of times.

We've taken all of this dining experience, and have picked our favorites of the 12 Best Waynesville NC Restaurants!   

See our 12 Best Waynesville NC Restaurants and Food Trucks

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.

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