Waynesville is a small town in Haywood County, North Carolina known for its picturesque setting in the Great Smoky Mountains and its close proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway. At just 30 miles southwest of Asheville, Waynesville makes for a great day trip from the city.
There are plenty of things to do in Waynesville for everyone! The town has a charming historic downtown area with many shops, bbq restaurants, and galleries to stroll into. Grab an ice cream in the summer and enjoy the views or rent some skis and go skiing at Cataloochee Ski Area in the winter. No matter the season, there’s something for everyone!
Best Things to do in Waynesville NC
Explore Downtown Waynesville
As the biggest town in western North Carolina, you can bet there’s plenty to see and do in downtown Waynesville. Exploring the vibrant downtown is the best way to get familiar with the town. It’s where you’ll find art galleries, great restaurants serving up local specialties, and little shops selling souvenirs and gifts.
As you walk around the area, you’ll also see historic buildings and beautiful street art. The evening is just as good of a time to walk around the town’s downtown district and it’s perfectly safe to do so!
2. Explore the Frog Level Historic District
As far as neighborhoods go in Waynesville, none are quite as noteworthy as the Frog Level District. As the oldest neighborhood in the town, you can expect to see a lot of historic buildings, some of which are a little run down but full of antique charm.
Some of the buildings are over 100 years old and feature unique Romanesque architecture. The neighborhood itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
3. Enjoy a Show at the Haywood Arts Regional Theater
- Address: 250 Pigeon St, Waynesville (GPS)
- Cost of Admission: Per event ticket prices, check here.
Waynesville may be a small town, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t big on art and culture! The award-winning Haywood Arts Regional Theater isn’t hard to find as its rural mountain-lodge-inspired exterior stands out among its surroundings.
Inside, you’ll find a comfortable auditorium where guests take their seats to enjoy a wide variety of performances throughout the year including plays, concerts and musicals.
Whether you’re in the mood for a night of comedy or want to step back in time with a classic, be sure to check out the calendar of events during your visit.
4. Learn About Local History at the Shelton House
- Address: 49 Shelton St, Waynesville (GPS)
- Hours: Thursday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, Sunday- Wednesday: Closed
- Cost of Admission: For ticket information, click here.
Once the home of Stephen Shelton, a teacher and high sheriff, the Shelton House is a great place to visit if you’re interested in learning about local history and what it was like to live in the area in years past.
The house was constructed in 1875 and today, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum is open seasonally from April to October and you can either tour it on your own or join one of the guided tours.
As you make your way through the home, you’ll see old family heirlooms, antique furnishings, artworks, pottery and Cherokee artifacts. On site, you’ll also be able to visit a historic farmer’s market, an old barn, a carriage house, a gift shop and the Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts which showcases artworks by renowned local and regional artists.
5. Visit the Animals at Winchester Creek Farm
- Address: 386 Walker Rd, Waynesville (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
- Cost of Admission: For ticket information, click here.
Have you ever wanted to get a hands-on look into life on a real, working farm? At family-owned Winchester Creek Farm, you can take a guided tour of their facilities and learn about the history of the 20-acre property and what goes into the day-to-day operations.
During this fascinating tour, you’ll also get to meet some of the animals including Highland cows, pigs, rabbits, sheep, donkeys, horses, cows and alpacas. Be sure to check out the on-site gift shop before you leave, you never know what treasures you might find!
6. Make your Base at Lake Junaluska
- Address: Haywood County, North Carolina (GPS)
Situated about three miles away from Waynesville, Lake Junaluska is more than just a beautiful lake; it’s a retreat and vacation area featuring both accommodation and incredible amenities that’ll make your stay in the area so much more enjoyable!
On site, you’ll find two hotels, several vacation rentals and a campground that features both tenting and RV sites. Some of the fantastic amenities that you’ll find there include several eateries, a walking trail, tennis courts, a fitness center, a playground, mini golf facilities, an outdoor pool and kayak and paddle board rentals.
7. Admire an Iconic Sculpture
- Address: 185 N. Main Street (GPS)
Among the public artworks that are displayed around Waynesville, the one known as the Old Time Music stands out from them all. Situated on North Main Street, this sculpture is made from recycled scrap steel and features a banjo player and another musician strumming a washtub bass. Both of these instruments are prominent in Appalachian folk music.
This work of art is so iconic that it caught the attention of the Smithsonian Institute. As you explore the streets of Waynesville, you’ll come across several other iconic pieces including the Gateway to the Smokies Arch, Wildflowers of the Smokies and the 1776 Militia Rifleman.
8. See Sunburst Falls
- Address: Canton, NC 28716 (GPS)
Sunburst Falls is only about 20 miles away from Waynesville, so it’s far enough to be removed from the noise and crowds of town but close enough to make a short side trip. This NC waterfall is situated on the West Fork Pigeon River and features a lovely mix of natural and architectural visual appeal.
It’s natural because of the waterfall itself, which is surrounded by giant boulders and forest and it’s architectural for the arched stone bridge, which was constructed in the 1930s, that frames it. A big pool at the bottom of the waterfall is said to be one of the state’s top natural swimming holes.
If swimming isn’t your thing, you can always just find a spot on the boulders and enjoy a picnic or just relax and take in the serene surroundings.
9. Check out the Museum of Haywood County History
- Address: 178 Morgan St, Clyde (GPS)
- Cost of Admission: Adult ticket prices $7 each
The old Shook-Smathers House that houses the Museum of Haywood County History was constructed in the early 1800s. It was once the home of Jacob Shook and his family. Inside the home are many exhibits showcasing artifacts and pictures related to the history of the county and town of Waynesville.
You can take a guided tour of the museum on certain days of the week, but it’s best to call and book at least three days before your visit.
10. Get Back to Nature at the Shining Rock Wilderness Area
- Address: Canton, NC (GPS)
- Hours: 6:00 am – 10:00 pm
If you want to get away from it all, one of the best places to do that just outside of Waynesville is in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area.
This 18,000-acre nature preserve in the Pisgah National Forest area of the Blue Ridge Mountains was first designated as a protected wilderness area in 1964 and today, it’s a popular place for nature lovers who want to go hiking, enjoy spectacular scenery and observe wildlife.
As you explore the area, you’ll find waterfalls, streams, remote camping areas and several wonderful North Carolina hiking trails, including Art Loeb Trail and Cold Mountain Trail.
We hope this guide helped you determine a few of the best things to do in Waynesville! For more travel in the region see more of our guides below.
- 20 Best Christmas Towns in North Carolina to Celebrate
- 22 Best Breweries in North Carolina for a Craft Beer
- 14 Unique Asheville Glamping Sites to Get Cozy in
- The Best Breweries in Asheville to Grab a Beer
- 20 Delicious Asheville Restaurants Worth Trying
Plan For Your Trip to the South!
- We like to use VRBO when searching for vacation apartment rentals and Booking.com when searching for hotels.
- See our favorite cooler for the road!
- Get Around: We suggest renting a car for traveling the Carolinas. Check Prices on RentalCars.com
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always Allbirds.
- Check out our favorite North Carolina Souvenir!
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards.