Communities Recreation

Things to do in Jackson County

Jackson County Courthouse. Photo by Mark Haskett

Day Tripper: Sylva and Dillsboro

By Gina Malone

When the time comes to emerge from hibernation and take a day trip to experience someplace else in all its springtime glory, consider nearby Jackson County where the towns of Sylva and Dillsboro nestle in the mountains only a mile apart.

On Earth Day— Saturday, April 22— Sylva will hold its 20th Annual Greening Up the Mountains festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event features arts, crafts, food, regional music and children’s activities.

“The community works together,” says event planner Amy Ammons, “to provide a fun place to be, welcoming spring as green leaves climb the mountains encircling the town.”

Many area shops offer other ways to be earth-friendly—from stores selling used or consigned merchandise to arts destinations that offer locally made items. Sylva boasts three bookstores—two that sell only used books and City Lights Bookstore, selling both new and used. City Lights Café, downstairs, offers organic, local and vegetarian options.

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“Sylva is a North Carolina secret with more antiques shops than any other town in the area,” says John Wermuth, who, with Mark Bryant, opened End of Main Antiques – Home Decór last year. The store offers eclectic finds arranged invitingly throughout. “We wanted a funky vibe with both the feel and look of the store,” Wermuth says.

If it’s relaxation and pampering you’re seeking on your excursion, Fusions Spa and Wellness is conveniently located downtown and offers a long list of luxurious treatments. (See story, page 21).

Several fly shops in Sylva attest to the Tuckasegee River’s reputation as the state’s premier trout fishing destination. “Fly fishing here is tremendous as is fishing in general,” says Shannon Messer,manager and guide at Blackrock Outdoors Orvis Fly Shop. A first-ever trout celebration—the Hook, Line and Drinker Festival—will be held Saturday, May 20, from noon to 4 p.m. to recognize Jackson County’s being named North Carolina Trout Capital by the state in 2015.

Hiking, rafting and kayaking are just some of the other outdoor activities for nature-lovers. Community gardens and farmers’ markets operate in various locations seasonally, with the Jackson County Farmers’ Market open year-round.

For 60 years, Riverwood Shops in Dillsboro has been a destination. Susan and Bob Leveille own Oaks Gallery in a historic home featuring studios, a gallery and the Well House Deli. When Susan’s father, a physician and craftsman himself, opened Riverwood Shops in 1957, it was with the intent of fostering regional arts and crafts. His aunt (and Susan’s great-aunt) was Lucy Morgan, who founded Penland School of Crafts. Susan carries on the family tradition today with her weaving.

© Jackson County Tourism Development Authority –

“Dillsboro has become the center of a thriving pottery community,” says Karen Barnes, who, with husband Brant and daughter Zan, owns Riverwood Pottery.

The “greater Dillsboro pottery family,” as Barnes calls it, joins together to support Community Table, a charitable kitchen and food pantry, in particular its Empty Bowl fundraiser—held this year on April 21—for which potters contribute handmade bowls. “We consider it an excellent way to give back to the community that has always supported us.”

Unique shops line Dillsboro’s Front Street, among them Monkey Toes, which sells practical, but “out of the ordinary” accessories and gifts. “Dillsboro has long been a popular tourist destination for regional handmade arts and crafts, pottery studios, restaurants and for its unique array of Momand- Pop shopping,” says owner David Marker.

Connie Hogan opened Tunnel Mountain Crafts as a place for local artisans to display and sell unique wares about three-and-a-half years ago. Dillsboro’s historic feel, she says, with “rustic old shops, galleries and restaurants,” makes it an appealing getaway.

Downtown is the place to be on Saturday, April 15, for the 29th  Annual Easter Hat Parade sponsored by Dogwood Crafters at 2 p.m., with festivities beginning at 10 a.m.

The Bardo Arts Center, in nearby Cullowhee, is home to the Western Carolina University Fine Arts Museum and WCU Presents, a series that brings music, drama, dance and literature to the center’s Performance Hall. Tours, talks, workshops and other events are free and open to the public.

For information about planning your trip to Jackson County, see and

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