Best 40 Museums & Historic Sites, Western NC


Biltmore Estate

Touring America’s Largest Home is easily the number one indoor attraction in Western North Carolina. Experience the beauty of Biltmore House and century-old gardens. Explore their 8,000-acre Blue Ridge Mountain backyard, taste award-winning wines, dine and shop. See our extensive guide with many photos and tips.

The Learning Center at PARI

This former NASA campus in Pisgah National Forest is now a fascinating space and science center open for camps, events and occasional tours. See exhibit galleries, a gem and meteorite collection, hands-on research and star gazing nights. Previously called Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute.

Thomas Wolfe Memorial

This is the novelist's boyhood home and setting for "Look Homeward, Angel." Tour the fascinating, rambling house located in downtown Asheville. 52 N. Market Street.

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

This fascinating National Park Service site honors the accomplishments of Carl Sandburg and wife Lilian. Tour their home with all original furnishings, visit the goat farm and hike trails at Connemara. Many programs. Located in Flat Rock, just south of Hendersonville.

Museum of the Cherokee

Discover the story of the Cherokee people in this impressive museum that sets the scene for the Cherokee Heritage Trails. The Cherokee community presents its perspective on its own history and culture.

Oconaluftee Indian Village

This living history outdoor village portrays eighteenth-century Cherokee life on the mountainside above the town. Interact with villagers as they hull canoes, make pottery and masks, weave baskets and beadwork, dance and participate in their daily activities. Open late April through early November.

Asheville Art Museum

Explore world-class special exhibitions and the museum's outstanding collection, showcasing the very best of 20th and 21st century American art in the heart of downtown Asheville.

Swain County Heritage Museum

Located on the second floor of the historic courthouse in Bryson City, see photos, exhibits and video about the early settlers in the Great Smoky Mountains, including a restored log cabin porch. Free admission.

Smith-McDowell House

Relive the romantic Victorian era in Asheville's oldest house (circa 1840). Explore opulent period rooms, history exhibits and grounds designed by the renowned Olmsted Brothers. 1.5 miles from downtown Asheville.

Vance Birthplace State Historic Site

This pioneer farmstead about 12 miles north of downtown Asheville features the birthplace of Zebulon Baird Vance. Tour the five-room log house and its outbuildings are furnished to evoke the period from 1795-1840.

History Museum of Burke County

A must-stop in downtown Morganton! Take a free one-hour guided tour through a maze of rooms on two floors, packed with many thousands of fascinating items. Each room has a theme (especially love the vintage beauty parlor and music rooms) that makes your journey through time lots of fun. Open Tues-Fri 10 AM-4 PM and Sat 10 AM-2 PM. 201 West Meeting Street.

Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum at Grovewood

If you are a car buff, this collection of 20 antique automobiles will delight. Located near downtown Asheville in Grovewood Village. Open April-December. Free.

Cradle of Forestry

Travel back in time with historic cabins, crafters, old logging equipment, guided tours, movies, food and shopping. Home of the first forestry school (opened in 1898) in America. In Pisgah National Forest. Open mid-April through October.

Wheels Through Time Museum

See hundreds of classic motorcycles and automobiles in Maggie Valley in one of best transportation museums in the country. This massive collection includes more than 300 of America's rarest and most historic classic motorcycles.

Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum

Named “Best Museum in the Nation” by the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), see a big variety of 70 vehicles representing decades of history. Located in Forest City and Rutherford County.

Western North Carolina Air Museum

See award-winning restored, antique replica and vintage airplanes at the Hendersonville Airport. Take a close-up look to airplanes and talk to people who love them.

American Museum of the House Cat

See a fascinating collection of 10,000+ cat-related curiosities, including many rare and fascinating antiques, collected by "CatMan2" for the past 20 years. One of the few museums in the country dedicated to felines. Near Dillsboro.

Shelton House, Waynesville

This grand, historic home built in 1875 is home to the Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts, with every room packed with craft, art and furnishings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Open May-October.

Mountain Farm Museum & Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, see historic farm buildings in an open-air museum and get plenty of great information from rangers.

Asheville Urban Trail

(1.7-mile loop, easy) This outdoors museum is a self-guided walking tour on the sidewalks of downtown Asheville, leading to 30 sculptures that depict local history.

Carson House Museum, Marion

Tour one of the most interesting house museums in the state, dating back to 1793, with a big collection covering 200+ years on three floors.

Grovewood Village

Explore this fantastic historic arts & crafts campus in Asheville with Grovewood Gallery, working artist studios, a sculpture garden, Golden Fleece restaurant, two museums and historic factory tours. 111 Grovewood Rd (adjacent to Grove Park Inn). Free parking.

Orchard at Altapass

This 101-year old apple orchard turned Appalachian Cultural Center celebrates the people, music, art and natural beauty of the Blue Ridge mountains. Shop for local mountain art, jams, jellies, sauces, sweets, gifts and more. Listen to music and pick up your apples!

Basilica of St. Lawrence

See one of Asheville's architectural treasures and spiritual anchors with the largest freestanding elliptical dome in the country.

All Souls Cathedral

Tour this beautiful church in Biltmore Village, built by Biltmore House owner George Vanderbilt in 1896. The sanctuary is open Monday-Friday, 9 AM-4 PM. From April-December, volunteer docents answer questions and provide historical information from 1-4 PM. Free, but donations appreciated.

Emerald Village & Mining Museum

A fascinating collection of gem, mining and historical exhibits, including an underground mine tour. Pan for gold and minerals. Located near Little Switzerland, a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Mingus Mill & Smokemont Church

See two historic structures within a few miles of each other in the Great Smoky Mountains, both located near the North Carolina entrance on Newfound Gap Road / US 441 near Cherokee.

Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center ​

Tucked away in small village near Fontana Lake and Nantahala River is an amazing gallery that showcases the work of 180+ area artists and hosts a great summer concert series. Many artist studios nearby.

Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians

Through exhibits and videos, learn about past fly fishing legends, the evolution of rods and reels, basic knots, fly-tying, types of gear, types of gamefish, regional fishing waters and the history of fly fishing in the Southeast. Open Mon-Sat, 9 AM-6 PM. Free admission. 210 Main Street (Chamber of Commerce) in Bryson City.

Bechtler House & Gold Mint Site

In 1832, Christopher Bechtler minted the America's first one-dollar gold coin in Rutherfordton, 17 years before the U.S. Mint. During the mid-1800s, the Bechtlers minted more than $2.24 million in one dollar gold coins. Two sites in town tell the story in Rutherford County.

Swannanoa Valley Museum

This local history museum is packed with interesting historical exhibits in downtown Black Mountain. Learn about the social, cultural and natural history of the Swannanoa Valley in Buncombe County with a rotating series of interesting exhibits. Or, take one of their guided hikes.

Henry River Village

Take a tour of this ghost town near Morganton that is coming back to life with tours, events, paranormal experiences and more. Film location for The Hunger Games, District 12.

Elk in Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains

Watch the elk in beautiful Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The best time is just before sunset. Take a picnic and tailgate. Also, tour historic buildings or hike.

Western NC Nature Center

Learn about the area's natural resources, see 60+ animals in their native habitats including red pandas and red wolves. Explore many exhibits on this 42-acre wildlife park in the city of Asheville. Open daily.

Veteran's History Museum of the Carolinas

Appreciate and honor the men and women who served so bravely in our Armed Forces during wars since World War I. Many personal stories connected to one-of-a kind artifacts, uniforms, weaponry, original newspapers, personal letters, and more. Open Wed-Sunday. Free admission. 21 East Main St, Brevard.

Museum of North Carolina Minerals

Located at Milepost 331 on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland, this free museum features treasures found around the state and the local Spruce Pine Mining District through interactive displays on a wide variety of minerals and gems.

Original Mast General Store

See the original location of the historic Mast General Store near Banner Elk in small picturesque community of Valle Crucis. Take a photo tour.

Mountain Gateway Museum

The westernmost branch of the NC Museum of History. Tour historic buildings and learn about the lifestyle and history of the earliest inhabitants of the mountains to the those of the twentieth century. Located in Old Fort.

Asheville Museum of Science

Explore the rich treasures of the earth at this "mini-Smithsonian of gems" in downtown Asheville. Exhibits cover volcanoes, earthquakes, plate tectonics and general geologic processes. 44 Patton Avenue.

Judaculla Rock

See petroglyphs created by Cherokee Indians 1,500 years ago on a boulder near Sylva and Western Carolina University. The small outdoor park is open every day.

Allison-Deaver House

Located in Brevard, this is the oldest frame house in western NC (dating back to 1815). Tour the home and beautiful grounds mid-May through mid-October on Saturdays 10 AM-4 PM and Sundays 1-4 PM. Operated by the Transylvania County Historical Society. 2753 Asheville Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC.

Billy Graham Museum at The Cove

Take a free one-hour guided tour at the Billy Graham Conference Center, The Cove, located in Asheville. Tour includes the Chapel and exhibit on Graham's life.

Riverside Cemetery

For a fascinating stroll through history, head to this sprawling cemetery near downtown Asheville, with 87 acres of rolling hills and flower gardens. The cemetery dates to 1885 and holds more than 13,000 burials and 9,000 monuments. It is the burial place of noted authors Thomas Wolfe and William Sidney Porter, better known as O. Henry.


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