Just 30 minutes from Asheville, N.C., lies Waynesville, a charming mountain town that’s a great base for exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It’s perfectly situated near the park, putting you 20 minutes from the famed Cataloochee Valley, known for its extraordinary wildlife like elk that roam its grassy meadows, and its historic buildings. Plus, downtown Waynesville is an attraction in itself.

“The downtown scene is great,” says Ashley Rice, marketing manager of Visit NC Smokies. “Our brick-lined Main Street is full of quaint shops, galleries and restaurants.”

Downtown Waynesville, North Carolina

Downtown Waynesville

It’s home to a vibrant farm-to-table scene that you can experience at restaurants like Birchwood, Chef’s Table and Frogs Leap Public House. You can also drink all-natural sodas made with local fruits and vegetables at Waynesville Soda Jerks downtown. Try the strawberry rhubarb, the blueberry basil or the raspberry cream soda.

Mast General Store is a must-see, as well. Selling outdoor gear, gifts, food, toys and more, it’s a classic on North Main Street. Order a burger or sandwich in the taproom at BooJum Brewing Co., that features 16 rotating Boojum beers on tap. At Frog Level Brewing Co., the town’s first brewery, you’ll find outdoor seating next to the river, plus indoor seating in a modern, industrial setting. Enjoy a cajun chicken sandwich with one of the 16 beers offered on the menu.

A shady place to sit in downtown Waynesville, North Carolina

These whimsical "Music Men" rank as the most-photographed landmark in Waynesville and are part of the public art trail

Then head out to tour some of the local farms that are supplying the food you’ve enjoyed. With three generations of family members working here, Sunburst Trout Farm offers tours of their rainbow trout farm that doesn’t use antibiotics or growth hormones. Ten Acre Garden is an organic farm that offers u-pick berries, as well as farm dinners. Barbers Orchard Fruitstands sells apples, as well as apple doughnuts, fritters, cider, jams and more.

But don’t miss driving along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, a stunning road that stretches 46 miles through Hayward County. Afterwards, spend the night in a number of rental cabins available or opt for a resort stay at Waynesville Inn Gold Resort & Spa, which has 111 guest rooms, 27 holes of golf and on-site dining. Oak Park Inn is downtown with some rooms offering kitchenettes.There’s also Best Western Smoky Mountain Inn.

“Staying in Waynesville gives you easy access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest,” Rice says. “There are a lot of great trails, waterfalls and wildlife to see on the North Carolina side of the Smokies.”

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