It’s not every day you discover such a harmonious intersection of the natural world and small-town charm. So when you do, it’s a gift. Located in southwest North Carolina, Brevard offers experiences that mix nostalgia, outdoor fun, incredible views and so, so many waterfalls. Consider these 10 iconic activities as the gateway to your very own epic North Carolina adventure, and see just how many you can cross off your vacation to-do list.
1 Rocky’s Grill and Soda Shop
1 Rocky’s Grill and Soda ShopSee on map
American as apple pie, you can’t beat a town square’s soda shop for nostalgic fun. Go for another American original, the ice cream sundae, here in the heart of downtown Brevard, where the options are as endless as the new memories you’re certain to make. Burgers, “dawgs” and a smattering of other savory favorites are plentiful, while shakes, malts and smoothies join the host of sundae creations on the sweeter side. Pro tip: Those banana splits are built for two, so make sure to ask for extra spoons. And napkins.
2 O.P. Taylor’s Toy Shop
2 O.P. Taylor’s Toy ShopSee on map
After your ice cream stop, head down the street to peruse more than 6,000 square feet of interactive fun in every child’s toy paradise. Be sure to say howdy to the shop’s quirky owner, John Taylor. You can’t miss him – he’s the grown man in a rainbow beanie who’s always up for a run on the slot car track with all who pose the challenge. You’ll find outposts of his shop in Asheville and Greenville, but the Brevard location is the original and prides itself on being “the coolest toy store on the planet!”
3 Sliding Rock
3 Sliding RockSee on map
Before there were water parks, there was Sliding Rock. It’s one of the most quintessential and unique highlights in the Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest. More than 11,000 gallons of water flow down 60 feet of smooth granite per minute, making it an all-natural water slide that’s fun for both participants and spectators alike. Lifeguards are even on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day, so hold your hands up, holler and slide the 20-second ride down into a 7-foot-deep pool of refreshing water on a warm North Carolina day. Admission is $3 per person.
4 Hike or Climb Looking Glass Rock
4 Hike or Climb Looking Glass RockSee on map
Rock climbers flock to western North Carolina because there are more climbs here than anywhere else in the East – and Looking Glass Rock is one of the pinnacles. Enlist the help of outfitters such as Fox Mountain Guides or Pura Vida Adventures if you’d like instruction or maybe just a point in the right direction. But if climbing grapples, craigs and eyebrows aren’t your vernacular, lace up your hiking boots because the sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the slick rock summit are well worth the 1,750-foot climb. This challenging 6.5-mile round-trip hike is not recommended for beginners, though. For novices, give the Moore Cove Falls Trail a try.
5 Looking Glass Falls
5 Looking Glass FallsSee on map
More than 250 waterfalls dot the landscape of Transylvania County (otherwise known as the “Land of Waterfalls”), and Looking Glass Falls just might be its most favored. One of the most prolifically photographed waterfalls in the country, this 60-foot cascade offers a chance to find inner peace while admiring its beauty atop the viewing space. But before you go chasing others in the area, walk down the steps to its base for a close-up perspective, or head down to Looking Glass Creek for a quick dip. Just be careful – those rocks you must climb on to get there might be slippery.
6 Brevard Music Center
6 Brevard Music CenterSee on map
Hailed as one of the country’s premier summer music training programs, the wooded 180-acre campus hosts 500 students of all ages every June through August. Under the direction of famed conductor Keith Lockhart, students typically join renowned musical guests such as Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Mary Chapin Carpenter for more than 80 performances each season. Venues include the open-air Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium and the new 400-seat Parker Concert Hall. Until BMC can welcome everyone back for one-of-a-kind shows under the stars, the center is offering drive-in concerts and live stream performances through its Facebook page.
7 Whitewater Falls
7 Whitewater FallsSee on map
Joining the likes of Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock, Whitewater Falls is part of the system of cascades well within just a few miles of one another where adventure seekers flock to yearly. With a 1,500-foot drop, these multitiered falls are the highest east of the Rocky Mountains, and because of the rugged terrain of this escarpment, flora and fauna abound. A paved, wheelchair-accessible walkway to the upper overlook offers exceptional views of the falls, or you can take the 154 steps down to the lower overlook for an equally breathtaking vantage point. Both are included with the nominal parking fee of $3.
8 White Squirrels
8 White SquirrelsSee on map
A huge array of creatures ranging from those with fur to feathers to fins live in Pisgah National Forest. But it’s the white squirrel that draws a crowd in Brevard, which even hosts its own festival each May named after the animal. Ever since the 1940s, the white squirrels have multiplied, taking up permanent residence in the area. One of your most convenient places to spot them in town is along the creek on the beautiful Brevard College campus. To learn more about them and other area wildlife, head to the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education on Hatchery Road.
9 Rainbow Falls
9 Rainbow FallsSee on map
Continue your waterfall quest with a short 1.5-mile hike from the Grassy Ridge parking area in Gorges State Park, where – if you’re lucky – you’ll see an arc of color at Rainbow Falls. The Horsepasture River swells after rainy weather, causing this already gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountain wonder to really show off its 150-foot waterfall. And in its dry season, there are plenty of rocks to picnic upon while soaking up the view. Take in Turtleback Falls from one of the surrounding boulders a quarter-mile upstream, while Hidden Falls’ swimming pool beckons your call less than a quarter-mile downstream.
10 Cycling Capital of the South
10 Cycling Capital of the SouthSee on map
Brevard is proudly home to a friendly culture for road cyclists and mountain bikers of all skill levels. With 300 miles of peerless single track, hundreds of fire roads and countless road cycling options, it’s no wonder why professionals revere Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Recreational Forest as the mother country of American cycling and biking. Regardless of skill level, map your feat with the RIDE Transylvania County Road Cycling Map, or pick up a copy of BIKE Transylvania at the Count On Me NC-certified Brevard Visitors Center or at most bike shops and local retailers.
This article was produced in partnership with, and all photos are courtesy of, Exlore Brevard. Please check its tourism office for the most up-to-date visitor information. Additionally, please visit Count On Me NC to see participating businesses that are making a concerted effort to help keep everyone healthy, and for tips on how to stay safe when visiting.