Story By Gina Malone | Photos by Joye Ardyn Durham
With the dog days of summer upon us, consider the appeal of a day trip to higher ground and cooler temperatures. Haywood County boasts the highest average elevation for any county east of the Rockies, with 13 peaks (including Black Balsam Knob) above 6,000 feet. Waynesville and Maggie Valley provide all the dining, shopping and sightseeing that can be squeezed into a day and Lake Junaluska is a place of serenity whether you’re walking its trails, picnicking by the dam or renting a canoe. BearWaters Brewing Company and Southern Porch, in the old Imperial Hotel building, are among the businesses breathing new life into historic downtown Canton.
“When you drive just 30 minutes out of the city and into Haywood County, the topography changes,” says Candra Smith, owner of Maggie Valley Wellness Center. “You are, all of a sudden, in the mountains.” The center offers a range of services, including day spa packages. “The tagline of my business,” Smith says, “is ‘where nature meets nurture’ because I feel that people are healed by both the treatments they receive and the connection to nature.”
Once there, stop at the Maggie Valley Visitor Center where welcoming staff members have a wealth of information and maps for county-wide attractions.
Maggie Valley Festival Grounds has ongoing events, including the Maggie Valley Labor Day Craft Show on September 2–3, and numerous car shows and motorcycle rallies. Wheels Through Time Museum boasts 38,000 square feet where more than 350 classic motorcycles, cars and memorabilia are displayed.
There are a number of antique stores and specialty shops—including Cabbage Rose, 10,000 square feet of space that, its owners say, contains nothing a shopper needs but lots that they may want including home décor, clothes and accessories, candles, soaps and a Christmas shop.
Restaurants include Frankie’s Italian Trattoria, Guayabito’s Mexican Restaurant and Smokey Shadows Lodge with farm-to-table dining in a rustic lodge setting (reservations required). While in the valley, don’t miss a stop at Elevated Mountain Distilling Company. Tours of the facility are available along with tastings of such spirits as Purchase Knob Corn Whiskey and Shining Rock Peach Pie Moonshine.
Just a few miles down the road, Waynesville offers a classic small town business district of tree-lined streets and historic buildings with art galleries, restaurants, unique shops and eclectic fine furniture stores.
Sunburst Market, a neighborhood grocery offering prepared foods to go, recently relocated to 180 North Main Street. If heading out for a hike and picnic, Katie Eason— owner, along with husband Wes—says, “Stop and grab a fresh-made sandwich or salad using lots of local produce, cheeses and other ingredients from our farm as well as others in the community. Also don’t forget to bring a cooler and load up on fresh trout and frozen pot pies and other take-and-bake entrees to go home with you after visiting downtown Waynesville.”
Other dining options include The Classic Wineseller, a wine, cigar and craft beers shop offering small plate fare and live music on weekends, and Church Street Depot, serving up burgers, hotdogs, fries and shakes.
Downtown boasts a number of art destinations including The Haywood County Arts Council (HCAC) Gallery & Gifts, Twigs & Leaves Gallery, Earthworks Gallery and TPennington Art Gallery. On the first Friday of each month, Art After Dark is held from 6–9 p.m. “Each Art After Dark is unique and festive,” says Jeannie Shuckstes, Waynesville Gallery Association vice-president, “with crowds coming together around the arts, restaurants bustling and musicians of all ages entertaining visitors.”
Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the HCAC is a haven for artists of the southern Appalachian region, says gallery coordinator Betina Morgan. There are monthly gallery exhibits of HCAC’s 54 members and retail space for their art.
The Shelton House (1875), just off Main Street, stands as an example of a Charleston-style farmhouse and contains the Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts, showcasing regional crafts, including Native American art.
Downtown’s Hazelwood district stores include Hazelwood Soap Co., a family-owned business featuring artisanal bath, beauty and home products, and Robin Blu, an eclectic mix of home décor, jewelry and gifts.
For day trip ease, consider one of the area tour companies. Leap Frog Tours offers package or custom tours for groups from two to twelve people. At Cataloochee Valley Tours, participants can join eco-tours for elk viewing, wildflower hikes or firefly night walks.
Much of Haywood County consists of preserved lands including Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pisgah National Forest, the Harmon Den Wildlife Refuge and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hiking, fishing and outdoor sporting opportunities abound.
Haywood County is also the place to be for the solar eclipse on August 21, with 95–99.95% darkness at places like Waterrock Knob and Devil’s Courthouse.
To learn more, go to visitncsmokies.com or stop in at the Maggie Valley Visitor Center at 1110 Soco Road in Maggie Valley. The center has information on all areas of Haywood County. More information may be found at maggievalleyhospitalityplus.com, maggievalley.org, waynesville-nc.com, haywoodarts.org and waynesvillegalleryassociation.com. For more about events and activities at Lake Junaluska, visit lakejunaluska.com.