More than mountains: An insider’s guide to Hendersonville, N.C.

Main Street in Hendersonville, North Carolina, is a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare lined with shops, restaurants and more. 
(Courtesy of Sam Dean)

Credit: Sam Dean

Credit: Sam Dean

Main Street in Hendersonville, North Carolina, is a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare lined with shops, restaurants and more. (Courtesy of Sam Dean)

Hendersonville has always been a tourist-friendly town. Even prior to Henderson County’s official designation in 1838, the area had long been known for its friendly people and climate, drawing cooler-temperature-seeking Floridians and coastal South Carolinians in the summer months.

Its location about 30 minutes south of Asheville and 45 minutes upcountry from Greenville, South Carolina, makes it a convenient stopover for a day trip or long weekend, rich in opportunities for entertainment, outdoor adventure and food and drink.

As early agricultural farms give way to Airbnbs, the thriving community (the county’s population is around 119,000) still holds onto its apple growing legacy, which started with plantings by settler William Mills’ family in the 18th century. An annual North Carolina Apple Festival Labor Day weekend pays tribute to the 20 or so apple growers in the region, many offering children’s activities, animals, farm stands, you-pick orchards and cideries or bakeries on-site.

Festivities include a Main Street fair, parade and events ranging from live music, running and cycling events and a Kiwanis pancake breakfast, all highlighting the versatile fruit. Don’t miss the hot apple cider doughnuts sold at the festival or at Sky Top Orchard in nearby Flat Rock.

Apple picking at Sky Top Orchard. 
(Courtesy of Sam Dean)

Credit: Sam Dean

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Credit: Sam Dean

Down on Main Street

Main Street has long been a center of commerce in Hendersonville. The street was purportedly designed 100 feet wide so that “a carriage and four horses could turn around without backing,” according to Flat Rock Judge Mitchell King, who donated the land to the town. But by the 1970s, regional malls began luring shoppers and merchants away, and city leaders made the decision to alter the street’s design.

The city implemented a traffic-calming serpentine design encouraging walkability and adding greenery to the space, which eliminated the drag racing and cruising the wide street had encouraged. The decision paid off. Tourists flock to the shopping area now, especially in the summer and fall. Most recently the town built a four-level parking deck a block from Main Street and installed over 400 parking meters in the business district. While some locals bristled at the move, most visitors are taking the change in stride.

An assortment of Main Street attractions include several museums. The coolest may be the Appalachian Pinball Museum in the former ballroom of the 1929-era Skyland Hotel, where for a flat fee of $13 you can play old-school pinball and arcade games like Galaga until closing time. There’s also a snack bar serving adult malt beverages, something no ‘80s arcade could boast.

Dining options range from Indian to sushi. Pizza lovers have the excellent West First Wood-Fired and Mezzaluna to choose from, and “date night” fine dining is covered with the highly rated Postero and Shine, featuring a rooftop bar in the summer offering great views of the historic courthouse and mountains. A favorite lunch spot is the reliable Three Chopt, where families munch on fresh popcorn while waiting on their sandwiches.

For shopping, Main Street’s Mast General Store offers something for everyone, from old-fashioned candy, shoes and cast-iron cookware. Sherman’s Army Store is where locals have been buying T-shirts, camp gear and work clothes for generations. Galleries include Woodland’s where you can find local artist Janet Jacobson’s stunning landscape paintings, as well as local pottery, handmade furniture and women’s clothing.

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in Flat Rock, N.C. 
(Courtesy of Tim Robison)

Credit: Tim Robison

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Credit: Tim Robison

Around town with a local

As a longtime resident of Hendersonville, I usually start my visitors’ tour with breakfast at Flat Rock Village Bakery for fresh croissants, scones, pastries and hot coffee. This humble spot in the rear of what was once Mr. Peace’s Grocery (now The Wrinkled Egg gift shop) is a neighborhood staple and especially busy when parents drop off or pick up their children from nearby summer camps. It’s always worth the wait, but if the line is too long Hubba Hubba Smokehouse and sister restaurant the excellent Campfire Grill are just steps away. All offer patio seating.

Carl Sandburg’s Home National Historic Site might be next, where visitors can learn about the “people’s poet” who moved to the historic property in 1945. Built in 1835 by C.G. Memminger, who served as secretary of treasury for the Confederacy, the storied property on a hill became a place of peace, creativity and goat-raising for Sandburg and his family. Daily tours of the property, now part of the National Park Service, bring the Lincoln biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet to life for new generations of readers.

If my visitor has already done the house tour, we’ll drive down to the “hiker’s” entrance, which is about a quarter mile past the main entrance on the left. From here we might take a walk to see the goats and/or hike up to Big Glassy / Little Glassy on the well-marked trails (3.5-5 miles, moderate difficulty) to admire the beautiful mountain views.

Heading into town, a stop at The Henderson County Curb Market on Church Street is a must. For 100 years this historic spot for mountain crafts, produce, local jams, jelly and baked goods has served up authentic culture.

From there we might stop at a literary landmark, the lovely stone angel carved by Asheville author Thomas Wolfe’s father W.O. Wolfe. Said to have inspired the title of his novel “Look Homeward Angel,” the statue is easily found in Oakdale Cemetery between downtown and Laurel Park.

Entering Laurel Park, the leafy canopies, steep ascent and tucked-away cottages offer an almost European charm. Like Flat Rock, this community was a longtime summer retreat. At one time, a small rail line brought visitors up the town’s Fifth Avenue to frequent its lakes, mountain views and a gambling casino. Now it’s residential. After winding up the mountain, visitors are rewarded with a view of four states — Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee — at scenic Jump Off Rock.

Cozy Flat Rock Village Bakery. 
(Courtesy of Tim Robison)

Credit: Tim Robison

icon to expand image

Credit: Tim Robison

Lunch at Tooley’s Café in Laurel Park Village is a likely next stop with classic luncheon fare. The curried turkey salad is highly recommended. Fueled up for shopping? The eternally tasteful Joseph Laughter Clothier is next door, offering high-end menswear, accessories and some ladies’ goods. If my guests are more bohemian in style, we might pull into nearby Honeysuckle Hollow, where gifts, clothing, home accessories and jewelry in a vintage-floral theme are curated throughout the charming shop.

Historic Seventh Avenue is next. As one of the city’s oldest business districts and railroad depots, it has been undergoing a streetscape development that will soon offer improved pedestrian access, storm drainage and lighting. Home to the addictive Underground Bakery, the area boasts freshly made ice cream at Celtic Creamery and longtime home cooking restaurant Daddy D’s Suber Soulfood. When evening beckons, the nearby Brandy Bar offers vintage cocktails (membership required for $1) in a fun historic space.

If there’s a show running at the Flat Rock Playhouse, the state theater of North Carolina, we’ll be there. Since its start as a ragtag group calling themselves the Vagabond Players in 1939, this performing troupe has grown into a showcase for regional and Broadway Equity performers. The theater operates nine months a year. Upcoming productions include “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Cabaret” and “Cats.”

Shoppers and historic buildings on Main Street in Hendersonville, NC. 
(Courtesy of: Tim Robison)

Credit: Tim Robison

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Credit: Tim Robison

Agritourism & outdoor activities

Like its big sister Asheville, the Henderson County region has welcomed wineries and breweries in recent years. Stone Ashe Vineyard, started by two former dentists, was voted Best New Winery in 2022 by USA Today readers. Other popular vineyards include Marked Tree Vineyard, Burntshirt Vineyards and Point Lookout Vineyard.

Local breweries also stay busy, with downtown’s Oklawaha Brewing Company offering live music most evenings. Trailside Brewing Company is a fairly recent addition in the Lennox Park neighborhood near the upcoming Ecusta Trail, a 19-mile rail-to-trail project connecting Brevard to Hendersonville for cycling, walking and running.

Harkening back to the county’s legacy of apple growing, hard cideries are another option for visitors. Bold Rock Hard Cider in nearby Mills River has an impressive business with two cideries and regional taprooms, and Jeter Mountain Farm offers cider made on a family-owned 400-acre property.

But the lure of the outdoors is what continues to draw generations to Hendersonville. Hiking, fishing, swimming and camping offer a chance for families to connect and enjoy the region’s forests. That’s what brought the summer camps here to begin with, and what brings former campers — now parents and grandparents — back, inspiring future generations of visitors.

“Most everything that has brought the camps to our area are the same things that visitors want to do,” says Michelle Owens, executive director of the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority. “It’s the mountains, of course. They attract families.”

If you go

Hendersonville, North Carolina, is 183 miles northeast of Atlanta on I-85.


Appalachian Pinball Museum. $13 for entry and games. 538 N. Main St., Hendersonville. 828-702-9277,

Carl Sandburg’s Home National Historic Site. 1800 Little River Road, Flat Rock. 828-693-4178,

Henderson County Curb Market. 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday. Winter hours January-March 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. 221 N. Church St., Hendersonville. 828-692-8012,

Flat Rock Playhouse. 2661 Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock. 828-693-0731,

N.C. Apple Festival. Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 30-Sept. 3. 318 N. Main St., Hendersonville. 828-697-4557.


Season’s at Highland Lake. Contemporary chef-driven cuisine. Entrees $35 and up. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, Breakfast and brunch on Sunday. 86 Lily Pad Lane, Flat Rock. 1-800-758-8130.

Haus Heidelberg. German restaurant specializing in European-style sausages featuring a deli. Sandwiches and entrees from $14.95. 630 Greenville Hwy., Hendersonville. 828-693-8227,


1898 Waverly Inn. Hendersonville’s oldest surviving inn is a short walk from Main Street and offers quaint charm in tastefully renovated rooms. $114 and up per night. 783 N. Main St., Hendersonville. 828-693-9193,

Brightwater Vacation Rentals. Cottages and cabins near popular DuPont State Forest and Pisgah National Forest. $108 and up per night. 202 Tioga Trail, Hendersonville. 828-513-0528,

Tourist Info

Hendersonville Welcome Center. 201 S. Main St., Hendersonville. 828-693-9708,