Explore the Charms of
Hendersonville, North Carolina
Nestled on a gently rolling mountain plateau, Hendersonville is surrounded by the most productive apple growing region in the high country. With its charming, historic downtown and proximity to Asheville, it's little wonder that it has become one of the most popular choices in the region for retirees and vacation-home buyers
More recently, a younger, urban crowd has been discovering the downtown area, helping to create a trendy arts, restaurant and happenings culture that gives the town an interesting blend of old and new, hip and established.
The best way to explore Hendersonville's inviting downtown is to stroll along the five or six blocks of main street where the stately, turn-of-the-last-century brick buildings house an amazing array of fine boutiques, art-filled galleries and restaurants.
Here you'll find alluring shops like Wickwire and Silver Fox, which are chock-full of fine hand-crafted ceramics, dazzling art glass, paintings, sculpture. Here too is the colorful and slightly funky Narnia Flowers and Gifts, the way-too-good Black Bear Coffee Company, and numerous inviting restaurants including the blue-jean-chic Grove Street Inn, the alluringly French-Provincial Bistro 502 and the very cool, jazzy (and quite blue) Never Blue.
Hendersonville is home to several small but interesting attractions including the very well done Mineral and Lapidary Museum, which showcases an exceptional collection of gems and minerals with a focus on those found in North Carolina. Nearby on Church Street, the Curbside Market features a dozen or more vendors offering a range of home-grown vegetables and hand made local crafts. Located in the County Courthouse, the Historical Museum presents ever changing displays that relate aspects of the region's history from the rise of pre European cultures to modern times.
Just outside the downtown area are three more attractions. Aviation buffs will enjoy the WNC Aviation Museum, located in a large hanger at the Hendersonville airport. Here you'll find twenty or more beautifully restored historic aircraft including a 1936 Piper J2 and a 1945 Stearman N4S. Five miles west of town in Laurel Park, is Jumpoff Rock, a lovely scenic overlook situated a thousand or so feet above the broad, green Etowah Valley. In summer and fall you can occasionally glimpse hawks from this vantage point, as they soar along the mountain ridges. Also just west of town is Historic Johnson Farm, as living history museum that depicts rural life between 1880 and 1920.
A Drive Through Apple Country
Our favorite time of year to visit Hendersonville is in between mid-August and late October when the Apple Harvest is at its peak. The low lying hills around Hendersonville have an ideal climate for apple growers and Hendersonville has been "Apple Central" in the mountains for over a hundred years. The highlight of a drive through apple country is a stop at one of the bustling U-Pick orchards where you can stop and head into the orchards to pick apples. On a sunny fall day this is one of the mountains great unsung pleasures, and it doesn't take long to pick plenty of ripe, juicy apples to eat and take home with you.
Route 64 heads east out of Hendersonville and quickly enters Apple Country on its way to Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. A great first stop in apple country can be found at Mountain Orchards, a large roadside stand that has tasting samples of all of the many apples varieties they offer. Every morning they also bake the very best apple pies we have found anywhere in the mountains. Deep, fruit filled, not too sweet and nestled into a light, flakey melt-in-your-mouth crust, the pies are finished with a dusting of sugar and cinnamon. Taking one of these masterpieces home or back to your hotel is one of the best parts of a Hendersonville apple outing.
As short distance past Mountain Orchards is Granddad's, one of the oldest U-Pick operations. The orchards surrounding the facility offer so many varieties of apples that there are always ripe apples waiting to be plucked. Tell them you're ready to pick and they will give you a basket to strap around your waist and point you toward the variety you want. Kids (Ok, AND adults) will enjoy petting the llamas that eagerly suck-up to visitors in their attractive corral near the entrance. The huge barn shaped main building is full of fresh apples for sale as well as apple themed gifts of every size and shape. Ask them to demonstrate the slickest old-fashioned apple coring and peeling machine we've seen. It is so fascinating you'll be tempted to take one home with you even if you don't like apples.
Attractions Near Hendersonville
If you aren't visiting during apple season, no worries, Highway 64 is a scenic highway any time of the year. The road continues through rolling farm and orchard country, passing roadside fruit and vegetable stands along the way. After a few miles the road abruptly descends into the narrow chasm cut by the sparkling waters of Cane Creek River. There are some funky roadside tourist shops along this route, which leads to Bat Cave (yes, there is a bat-filled cave, but it is on conservancy land and closed to the public) before turning south and shortly comes to Chimney Rock State Park, and further along, enters Lake Lure.
Just south of Hendersonville on Hwy 25 is the charming crossroads village of Flat Rock. Here, the legendary Flat Rock Playhouse, offers a summer long schedule of high quality professionally produced theater. If you are in a shopping mood, you shouldn't pass up the quirky and colorful Rainbow Row of Shops, which includes the Wrinkled Egg, and the yummy Village Bakery cafe, both housed in an old general store. Flat Rock is also the site of the tranquil and lovely farm Connemara, where Nobel-Prize winning author and poet Carl Sandburg lived and wrote from 1945 until his death in 1967. The farm is now open to the public as the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, and is a wonderful place to hike, and explore.
Highway 64 West from Hendersonville leads to Brevard where if you continue straight across the Asheville Highway (Highway 280) you will be on Highway 276 which is a stunningly beautiful mountain road that leads in a few miles to Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock, the Cradle of Forestry Center and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Highway 176 is another scenic route that leads south from Hendersonville through the upscale but charm filled little hamlet of Flat Rock and on to the historic mountain villages of Saluda and Tryon.
You have to hunt a bit to find this place - it's in a small house on Davis Street which lies behind the shopping center just south of town on Main Street. But trust me, you will definitely know when you have found it! Mona! is an explosion of color and patterns that are like a big jar of jelly beans for the eyes. From the old convertible in the yard that is one brilliant mass of colors, to well, everything in the shop - color, color everywhere! Mona describes herself as a creator of wearable art and her shop is packed with hand-painted shoes, purses, dresses, hats, belts, and even non-wearables like martini glasses and furniture. This is one of those fun shops that delights in surprising the senses and creating the feeling that something unexpected is waiting just around the corner. Mona attends art shows around the country, but many of her customers are willing to drive hundreds of miles to visit the "Mona's mothership of dazzle".
The Silver Fox
This quietly elegant upscale gallery in Hendersonville is a delight. Color is a dominant theme with brilliantly hued ceramics by many fine regional and national artists. The glass art is equally eye catching particularly the richly hued works by Victor Chiarizia. The gallery walls are covered with fine paintings and intricate textile art and the rooms are warmly appointed with inviting hand-made furniture. Whether you are just looking for something lovely for the mantle, or furnishing a whole house this gallery should be on your must-visit list.
Wickwire is another gallery with a focus on fine American Art and Crafts. Ceramics, paintings, iron works and sculpture are all on display here. Although the artists are from all around the US, there are strong themes of nature, wildlife and mountain living in all the offerings. Practicality is another theme and there are plenty of everyday useful dishes, mugs, handcrafted cutting boards and other household items. And everywhere it is evident that the owners have a superb eye for both quality and beauty.
Narnia Owner Barbara Hughes whimsical creativity is evident everywhere in this curious store that is part flower shop, part fairy emporium and all around fascinating gift shop. Barbara overseas her shop from a seat beneath a galaxy of brilliantly colored glass ornaments that float just above her head, suspended from an artistically rendered forest tree. The walls of her shop are painted with summer sky blue and puffy white clouds and the shelves are filled with ceramic decorations, dried floral arrangements, cut crystal, and collectables all of which have a slightly ethereal or fantasy quality. In addition to running her otherworldly shop, Barbara is a tireless one-person cheerleading squad for downtown Hendersonville who counts among her many successes being the original organizer and sponsor of the town's celebrated annual sidewalk Art Festival, Chalk It Up!
Step inside Alan McCarter's gallery and it is immediately evident that this is an artist that loves nature and the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. McCarter is a prolific artist and the walls of his gallery are filled with original canvases and high quality prints that evoke the ethereal quality and dramatic lighting of the Hudson School of landscape painters of the late 1800's. Alan's canvases capture misty mountains, deep green valleys, and highland meadows filled with wildflowers. There is a calming effect to these works and a sense that they invite you to enter their world. Here a waterfall cascades into a rocky grotto illuminated by morning light, while over there, a black bear forages in meadow high above cloud filled valleys. In all, this gallery is a pleasant place to spend some quality time with the essence of the mountains, and perhaps find some of it to take home with you.
Village Green Antique Mall
This bustling shop is a cooperative of 12 dealers who have filled the 12000 square feet of space with a mind-boggling array of antique furniture, glassware, quilts, jewelry, tools and about anything you can imagine. This is the kind of shop that attracts wholesalers and dealers looking for bargains, as bargains abound. Low prices mean that the inventory moves quickly, so it's not unusual for the selection to change dramatically from month to month. Even if you are not knowledgeable about antiques, this is a fun place to come in and browse, but beware; antiquing is known to be addictive!
This charming bistro named for its location at #502 Main Street, offers delicious cafe fare using ultra fresh, mostly local ingredients. The menu is French country cuisine and no-one does comfort food like the French. Think Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon or Cassoulet - a hearty casserole of lamb or pork, beans, sausage and bacon under a layer of breadcrumbs. The restaurants interior is light and inviting, all cream colored walls and light oak wood, with a long bar and tables tucked into window spaces where you can watch Hendersonville pass by. The staff is friendly and the atmosphere is relaxing – making Bistro 502 a great place to enjoy a leisurely meal with friends.
The Grove Street Inn
This new-ish casual deli-bistro offers a classy menu that blends old favorites like New Zealand Lamb Shanks Slow-Braised in Porter Beer and Fresh Herbs, with trendy nouveau international dishes like Roasted Wild Shrimp and Chorizo Sausage in a Smoked Tomato Sauce over Parmesan Polenta - wow! They strive to use organic and/or local ingredients that are always, always fresh. If you happen to hit at lunchtime you should give serious consideration to the Laurie Burger, a large patty of free-range ground beef stuffed with exotic cheeses, shallots and garlic, topped with marinated tomatoes and fresh basil - wow again!
The first thing you need to know about this lively new Tapas Bar in downtown Hendersonville is that Never Blue is, well . . . really, really blue. About a dozen lovely shades of blue - inside and out. After some serious life challenges, owner and fine artist Jessie Roque decided to start over again in Hendersonville with the vow to love life every day, and never be blue again. Her customers agree that her fun is infectious and her culinary talent superb; this is a great place to eat. The Tapas dishes take some truly delicious turns with creations like Black Sea Bass marinated in lime, jalapenos, confetti peppers and red onion. Then there are the hugely popular Chings - chicken wings drenched in a Thai peanut-cashew potion served with a ginger lime dipping sauce. The martinis will soon be the stuff of legend. Hot Tip: Tuesday nights they do a sampler at $2 for a taste of wine and a plate of Tapas.
Black Bear Coffee Company
Black Bear is one of those wonderful, small-town coffee shops where you can get a hearty, hand crafted latte or espresso drink, a light flaky pastry and hang out enjoying them while watching the world walk by on Main Street. On summer weekends it can get a bit crowded, but not to worry, just take your brew out onto the street where the town has thoughtfully placed comfortable benches here and there along Main Street.
Mineral and Lapidary Museum
This exceptional small museum displays superb specimens of the minerals, gemstones and fossils from around the world, with a special emphasis on the minerals that can be found in the mountains of North Carolina. If you have science minded kids with you this museum is a must see. But anyone with a passing interest in earth sciences will enjoy the exhibits which include a toothy life size cast of a Tyrannosaurus Rex Skull, pieces of the famous Hendersonville Meteorite, and case after case of glittering and colorful specimens. The museum is located in the basement of a stately marble-fronted bank building at 400 Main Street.
Historic Johnson Farm
At the start of the twentieth century, the Johnson Farm was a mountain guest farm. Here visitors escaping from the heat of South Carolina and Florida would come for a week, a month or a season to enjoy the scenery and cool summer temperatures. They enjoyed a variety of activities including hay rides, hand-cranked ice cream socials and evening square dances. In addition to offering hospitality, this was also a successful tobacco farm. Today the lovely brick circa 1880 farmhouse, the nearby boardinghouse and the farm outbuildings have been preserved as they were around 1900. Docent led tours relive the days of simpler pleasures. The farm is located 3.5 miles north of Hendersonville on Hwy 191 across from Rugby School. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 10:30am to 1:30pm.
WNC Air Museum
Located just outside town at the Hendersonville Airport this small museum of flight is full of surprises. There are a couple of dozen historic and reproduction aircraft that will jog the memories of the boomer and older crowd and speed up the heart rate of true aficionados. Here are several early Piper Airplanes, a 1930 Aeronca and a 1930 Curtiss Robin similar to the one in which "Wrong Way Corrigan" made his legendary 1938 transatlantic flight. This is a great place for kids and anyone who loves airplanes, not only for the historic aircraft, but also to hear the stories of the experienced volunteers and to enjoy the ringside seat the hanger offers to watch as planes of all types take off and land at the airport.
Jump Off Rock
This is a great stop to make on your way to Brevard or Flat Rock. Access is from 5th Ave off Church in downtown Hendersonville to Laurel Park then follow this long winding road through as it winds slowly up to a mountaintop view point. While not the highest viewpoint in the mountains, it does offer a splendid panoramic vista of the valley around the country village of Etowah. It is a favorite spot for locals to take visitors to show them the beauty of the surrounding mountains and countryside.
Henderson Country Historical Museum
This small museum is carefully tended and features well-thought out displays that cover the counties' history from the earliest native cultures through the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and into the twenty first century. The exhibits change in theme and focus several times a year to relate different facets of the region's history. The books store offers one of the best collections of regional history books to be found anywhere.
Chimney Rock Park, A Visitor's Guide
An Insider's Guide to Chimney Rock Park near Hendersonville, North Carolina; where you'll enjoy one of the most captivating views in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Climbing Chimney Rock, Hiking, Trails, Hickory Nut Falls, Visitor Information.
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