Western North Carolina is a region of small, vibrant downtowns. Each has its own personality and history, so take the time to get out of your car and meander, sit on a bench, and just enjoy your time in these unique places.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has an amazing array of mini-ecosystems within its borders — from peaks over 6,000 feet to low valleys, from moist densely forested coves to dry meadows. A walk from mountain base to peak compares with traveling 1,250 miles north to south. Several resident plants and animals live only in the Smokies.
Sitting on the porch of the Andrews Brewing Company, co-owner Eric Carlson looks out onto his property. With bluebird skies overhead, bumblebees joyously buzzing in the garden and the majestic peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance, he shakes his head in awe of where his lives and thrives.
What started as a job while in high school turned itself into a lifelong career and passion for Josh Monroe.
“It’s about using the best possible ingredients you can find and being able to let those ingredients shine in every dish,” he said.
Amid the numerous businesses in Dillsboro, its cultural and economic heart lies in the plentiful art galleries and studios. From decades old locations to brand new operations, the town is an ever-evolving community, one with the drive and commitment to bring a beloved art haven into the 21st century.
Just mere feet from a bustling South Main Street in Waynesville resides a cocoon of creativity. With a steady stream of vehicles rushing by, one enters Jenny Bucker’s studio as if to step into a portal of a calmer ambiance. Vibrant, intricate paintings hang from any available wall space, while the sounds of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” echo throughout the cozy abode.
Taking a left off U.S. 64 onto Settawig Road in rural Clay County, the busy commercial thoroughfare transforms into lush farmland. The mountain air gets sweeter, soothing late spring sunshine spilling into the open windows of your vehicle.
When asked why he loves Western North Carolina, Travis Smith had to pause for a moment. “Well, that’s a good question,” he chuckled. “It’s special to me because I’ve been here most of my life. I love the mountains, the people. You’re away from the cities, from all the traffic and noise.”