Little Switzerland is one of those very tiny North Carolina mountain towns that packs a big personality. Named for its likeness to the Swiss Alps, the Switzerland Inn is a century-old resort catering to this concept. Its historic and Swiss-style architecture adds to its charm.
With the smallest population of all, the town consists of just a few quaint shops, but there are still some fun things to do in Little Switzerland whether it’s just a quick stop or you plan to stay a few days!
Best Things to Do in Little Switzerland
1. Go for a Scenic Drive Along the Diamondback 226
It stretches for only 38 miles but in that fairly short distance, there’s much to see along the Diamondback scenic driving route! This road is popular for motorcycle and sports car drivers due to sharp turns, steep climbs and looping switchbacks.
There are a few noteworthy attractions on this route but most people come for the scenery which includes stunning views of mountains, cliffs, valleys and lush forest. In autumn, this road is known to be one of the best places in the region to view the changing leaves.
2. Check Out the Switzerland General Store
- Address: 9432 NC-226A, Marion (GPS)
- Hours: Daily: 10:00 am – 5: 00 pm
If you’re looking for a place to buy some souvenirs from your visit to Little Switzerland, the best place to head to is the Switzerland General Store. This is where you’ll find various items referencing the town and its most popular attractions including t-shirts, trinkets and locally-made crafts.
You’ll also find beer, wine, baked goods and an assortment of candy for sale.
3. Pick Some Apples and get a Taste of Local Hospitality at the Orchard at Altapass
- Address: 1025 Orchard Rd, Spruce Pine (GPS)
- Hours: Temporarily closed
The Orchard at Altapass is more than just a plain ol’ apple orchard where visitors can pick their own apples. It’s a place where you can enjoy spectacular scenery, get some fresh air out in the openness of a rural farm area, learn about local history and even get a taste of some local entertainment.
The orchard is more than a century old and is a laid-back place to spend an afternoon. Visit the shop and pick yourself up an ice cream cone, homemade jam, jelly, baked sweets, or local souvenirs. Plan your trip on the weekend when live music is featured.
4. Check Out the Emerald Village Discovery Mill
- Address: 331 McKinney Mine Rd, Spruce Pine (GPS)
- Admission cost: Special group pricing (25+) is $12 for students and $16 for adults, plus tax.
As far back as 2,000 years, mica has been excavated in the Little Switzerland area first by the native Americans and later by settlers and this long and fascinating history is highlighted at the Emerald Village Discovery Mill.
Today the site is home to eight levels of exhibits featuring many mining operation artifacts such as antique mining tools, a model railroad and an assortment of gems. While you’re there, you can take a guided tour and even try gold panning for yourself. You never know what you might find!
5. Find the Perfect Gift at Trillium Gallery
- Address: 101 High Ridge Rd, Little Switzerland (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Another great place to find souvenirs of your visit to Little Switzerland is the Trillium Gallery. This place is full of one-of-a-kind items, most of which are handmade by local artists and craftspeople.
Whether you’re seeking pottery, glassware, a new piece of jewelry, or a pretty ornament to add to your home, you’ll find something to take back with you that you’ll cherish for years to come!
6. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
The famous Blue Ridge Parkway is a long road. It’s 469 miles long to be exact and it passes right through Little Switzerland! Any visit to the area is not complete until at least a small section of this epic roadway is explored and fortunately, the section in this area has many things to see and do.
The parkway is known for its scenery, which can be enjoyed from many overlooks including Beacon Heights, Grandfather Mountain, View Table Rock, Black Mountains, Mount Mitchell and Craggy Gardens, which all happen to be nearby.
Hiking is another popular activity along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Some more popular trails include Rough Ridge Trail, Craggy Pinnacle Trail, Erwins View Trail and Flat Rock Trail. Be sure to check out some of the beautiful North Carolina waterfalls that are in the area such as Linville Falls and Roaring Fork Falls.
7. Visit the Penland School of Craft
Situated about 15 minutes away in the town of Spruce Pine, The Penland School of Craft was started almost a century ago with the intention of teaching area women how to do various crafts that would help them be more self-efficient and make money.
Over the decades, the school grew to be one of the most culturally influential institutes in North Carolina. Today, you can explore this expansive campus which is now on the National Register of Historic Places and see what work is done there.
8. Tour the Museum of North Carolina Minerals
- Address: 214 Parkway Maintenance Rd, Spruce Pine (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm -5:00 pm
Admission to the Museum of North Carolina Minerals is free but that’s not the only reason why you should visit if you happen to be in nearby Spruce Pine. Visiting this fascinating museum is a great way to learn about the area’s rich mining history but unlike the Emerald Village Discovery Mill, the exhibits here focus more on the science behind the mining.
The exhibits feature more than 300 types of minerals that are found in the nearby mountains and there’s even one display that explains how a monumental event many millions of years ago created the mountains and deposits where these minerals and gems are found.
As you explore the museum, you’ll hear how the industry shaped the region and the generations of people who’ve lived here over the years. On-site, you’ll also find a gift shop that sells souvenirs and other local items.
9. Watch the Night Sky at the Mayland Earth to Sky Park
- Address: 66 Energy Exchange Dr, Burnsville (GPS)
- Cost of Admission: Observatory-Adult Tickets: $20.00, Child Ticket: $5.00 (12 and under).
If stargazing is on your list of things to do while touring North Carolina, there aren’t too many places better to gaze at the night sky than at the Maryland Earth to Sky Park and Bare Dark Sky Observatory.
From an area above 2,000 feet, you’ll have views of the distant mountain peaks while you gaze at celestial delights through a state-of-the-art telescope.
10. Take a Hike to Crabtree Falls
The hike to Crabtree Falls is not overly long at 2.5 miles, but it’s a challenging one! You’ll hike downhill to reach the falls but the views you’ll get of one of the region’s most beautiful waterfalls make it all worthwhile.
At 70 feet tall, the waterfalls are quite a sight to behold. You’ll get the best views from the bridge, but you can walk right to the base of the falls as well. Be prepared for a strenuous hike uphill to get back to where you started.
11. Have a Meal With a View
Located in the Switzerland Inn you can have breakfast, lunch, or dinner in a beautiful setting. Have a meal inside at the Chalet Restaurant, one of the best restaurants in Little Switzerland, or sit on the terrace for a delicious lunch with fantastic mountain views.
Enjoy the homemade Swiss onion soup, or go big and get the house prime rib – a specialty on the menu. Having a nice romantic meal out in North Carolina? Take a look at the Switzerland Inn’s extensive wine list and pair with a beautiful meal.
TRAVEL AROUND THE NC MOUNTAINS