Small Mountain Towns
Mountain Main Streets
Outdoor activities are not the only reason to visit North Carolina’s mountains. Travel back in time to small town America with a visit to Main Street, North Carolina Mountain style.
A stop in Bryson City is a great way to begin. In downtown Bryson City, train enthusiasts should stop at Smoky Mountain Trains, a museum dedicated to model railroading. More than 7,000 Lionel locomotives and cars dating back to 1918 are on display.
There is more than a mile of track on three levels where six trains run simultaneously. Visit the freightyard with more than 400 cars, see the five-foot waterfall and 12 animated scenes. The museum recently added to their vast collection of model trains. Visit Smoky Mountain Trains for more information. If small trains aren’t enough for you, walk over to the Bryson City depot of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Full sized trains run from here to a number of destinations in our high country.
Charleston Station, at the corner of Main and River streets, offers an opportunity to shop for antiques and local pottery, baskets and other craft items. When you are finished shopping here, claim one of the front porch rockers and watch the world go by for a while. Then, drag yourself away from the rocker and walk over to the Main Street studio of Elizabeth Ellison. See the artist’s beautiful landscapes, as well as paintings of local flora and fauna. Ellison’s watercolors are traditional, yet clearly influenced by the art of the Orient.
Just down Front Street you can visit Tree House Pottery, home of master potters Travis Berning and Joe Frank McKee. At the opposite end of Front Street you can paint your own pottery at Claymates Pottery Studio, and a couple of doors down, you can visit Mountain Diva Boutique known for its handmade jewelry and scarves.
Hungry yet? Well, diet or no diet, no trip to Dillsboro would be complete with out a stop at the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory. You can watch employees make pralines, brittles, chocolates and fudge. Buy some treats for later because you won’t want to spoil your appetite. Dillsboro has many fine restaurants. Jarrett House, on the National Register of Historic Places, has been providing fine food and lodging to travelers since 1884. Don’t miss their delicious vinegar pie.
Head over to Dogwood Crafters, a cooperative run by local artisans. From stained glass and cornshuck dolls to tattered lace and quilts, you are sure to find a treasure to take home.
Waynesville’s old-fashioned Main Street is lined with galleries and cool stores.
North Carolina’s famous Mast General Store has a location on Waynesville’s Main Street. It is located in a 1930s building that once housed upscale clothier The Toggery. Mast General Store has outdoor wear and shoes, camping equipment and stone ground meal, as well as a wide variety of old time candies.
If you don’t have enough Christmas in your life, there’s a store dedicated to Saint Nick’s holiday on Main Street called Christmas Is Everyday. Inside the stone building is an assortment of dolls, Santa’s, holiday ornaments, chocolates, bells and Kennel Club collectible dogs. If you can’t find what you collect here, a trip to the Good Life Store is in order. Items range from collegiate collectibles to Anheuser-Busch beer steins. Need a guardian angel? This store has them.
Also on Waynesville’s Main Street is the Hardwood Gallery where woodcarving artist Dennis Ruane shows and sells his work. He carves human and wildlife figures, wall art and wooden masks.
These are just a few of the interesting places on our mountain Main Streets. The next time you need a dose of small town Americana, go uptown in North Carolina’s high country.
added: December 12, 2008
updated: August 23, 2011