13 Top-Rated Things to Do in Hendersonville, NC
Small enough to make sightseeing easy but dynamic enough to offer a long list of things to do, Hendersonville makes you want to linger. Wander through the eclectic mix of shops in the pedestrian-friendly downtown or enjoy a leisurely lunch on a sunny patio, and you'll know why this mountain town has become such a popular place to visit.
Many of the attractions focus on the area's mining roots, fruit growing, and beautiful natural areas. In summer, head outdoors to paddle or tube down a river, stop by u-pick apple orchards to enjoy some fun on the farm, or head to DuPont State Forest for some hiking. Other year-round activities include panning for gems; watching a play; or visiting the local museums, historic sites, and aquarium, many of which can be found on Main Street in downtown.
If you're looking for a romantic weekend escape, a family getaway, or a place to relax, Hendersonville makes a perfect destination. For more ideas on how to spend your time here, see our list of the top things to do in Hendersonville.
1. Stroll through Historic Downtown Hendersonville
Highlights: Historical buildings, museums, and restaurants with sunny patios
If you have time for only one stop in Hendersonville, head to the historic downtown, where interesting shops, restaurants, museums, and galleries line the sidewalks of Main Street. Many of these are housed in lovely old restored buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In summer, this area comes to life, and diners can enjoy a selection of restaurants offering outdoor seating.
Several of Hendersonville's best tourist attractions are within easy walking distance of each other along Main Street, including the Appalachian Pinball Museum, the Mineral and Lapidary Museum, the Hands On! Museum, the Team Ecco Aquarium & Shark Lab, and the Pisgah Forest Gem Mine. You can find a full day of things to do right here on Main Street.
2. Visit a Gem Store & Pan for Gems
Highlights: Fun family activity near town complete with a petting zoo full of friendly goats and other animals
To experience firsthand some of the area's mining operations, stop by one of the area's gem mines to try your hand at panning for gemstones. The Elijah Mountain Gem Mine, about five minutes from Hendersonville, is one of the most popular gem mine stores in the area, and families looking for fun things to do in Hendersonville will find this place is a hit.
This roadside stop offers indoor and outdoor panning areas, depending on the season, along with a petting zoo and a large shop selling gems and jewelry.
If you don't want to make the trek out here, the Pisgah Forest Gem Mine is located right on Main Street in Hendersonville. This is more of a retail destination, but it does allow visitors an opportunity to purchase a bucket and pan for minerals in the store. It's an interesting stop if you are strolling the downtown area.
3. Tour Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
Highlights: A perfectly preserved early 19th-century home set on beautiful grounds
Poets and writers will find inspiration from a visit to Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, and everyone can appreciate the beauty of the home and gardens of this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Sandburg was awarded two Pulitzer Prizes during his career: one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln, and another for his work titled Completed Poems.
Set at a high point on the 267-acre property, the country home remains much as it was when Carl Sandburg, along with his wife and three daughters, lived here. The modest furnishings reflect the man who was known as the "Poet of the People." Perhaps most striking is his extensive collection of books, which line the walls in every room.
Mrs. Sandburg raised goats here and ran a dairy operation known for high-quality milk. You can tour the barn separately on your own. The house must be visited on a guided tour. The walk from the parking area takes about five to 10 minutes and is uphill along a paved path. Visitors with mobility issues can request assistance.
Address: 1800 Little River Road, Flat Rock, North Carolina
4. Have Fun on the Farm at Grandad's Apples N' Such
Highlights: A corn maze in the fall, a petting zoo, apple picking, and sweet treats
Grandad's Apples N' Such offers the opportunity to enjoy a fun-filled summer or fall day on the farm. A maze carved out of five acres of corn fields is one of the major attractions, but you'll find a full range of activities, from games you've probably never heard of to feeding farm animals. Pick apples or just purchase pre-picked apples and other produce, and in the fall, pick a pumpkin. Also, be sure to check out the bakery, chock-full of all kinds of sweet treats.
Address: 2951 Chimney Rock Road, Hendersonville, North Carolina
5. Hike in DuPont State Recreation Forest
Highlights: Over 10,000 acres of untouched wilderness with hiking trails, waterfalls, and covered bridges
This area gained notoriety when it was used as one of the film locations for the first Hunger Games, but you don't need to be a fan of the movie to appreciate the setting here. Just 30 minutes southwest of Hendersonville, DuPont State Recreational Forest covers more than 10,000 acres of lakes, rivers, wilderness, and dramatic waterfalls. Hiking trails meander through the tall trees and rhododendrons, and picnic shelters offer places to relax.
One of the more popular hikes, with a high reward-to-effort ratio, is High Falls Loop Trail. This 2.2-mile trail leads past High Falls and Triple Falls and was used in the filming of the Hunger Games. Short spurs lead to other interesting sites, including a covered bridge above High Falls and access to the river's edge. The rhododendrons lining the trail bloom in April or May.
6. Watch a Play at Flat Rock Playhouse
Highlights: Hendersonville's cultural hot spot with an interesting roster of performances
The Flat Rock Playhouse holds the unique title of State Theatre of North Carolina. Created by the Vagabond Players, whose roots go back to 1937, the Flat Rock Playhouse was built here in the 1950s, making it a long-standing institution in the community. The theater hosts a full lineup of shows, from drama and Broadway musicals to concerts. They also focus on education, offering apprentice programs and other offerings.
The Flat Rock Playhouse is located in the town of Flat Rock, just a few minutes from downtown Hendersonville. Nearby is the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site.
Address: 2661 Greenville Hwy, Flat Rock, North Carolina
7. See the View from Jump Off Rock
Highlights: A pleasant drive up to a viewpoint offering exceptional views and short walks
Looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains from an elevation of 3,100 feet, the view from Jump Off Rock is one of the best in the area. A winding road just outside of Hendersonville offers easy access to this scenic area.
Short trails, all of which take less than 30 minutes to walk, run along the hillside below or around the lookout. On a sunny day, this is a beautiful area to sit and appreciate the views or go for a quick stroll. Informational plaques provide insight into the history and legends surrounding the rock.
8. Paddle or Tube on the French Broad River
Highlights: A fun and easy way to get out on the water as a family
The French Broad River meanders through the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, creating a natural playground for outdoor sports. Canoeing, kayaking, and tubing are some of the popular summer activities on the river.
To arrange an outing on the river during your stay in Hendersonville, you may want to begin with a stop at Lazy Otter Outfitters just 10 minutes from downtown. They can arrange a variety of trips, ranging from a couple of hours to a half day on the river. No experience is necessary, only a willingness to have fun!
9. Go Climbing or Mountain Biking at the Riveter
Highlights: Wall climbing and mountain biking with expert instruction
One of Hendersonville's newest attractions, the Riveter is a unique combination of indoor and outdoor climbing, mountain biking, a yoga studio, a gym, and a meeting venue. There's something for everyone here, and it's a great place to visit to try a sport you've always been interested in. Expert instruction and classes are available for all ages.
This is a particularly fun thing for families to do in Hendersonville. Special climbing areas are set aside for children, including two special geometrix climbing routes, a boulder area, and an incredible slide. In the bike park, special trails are set aside for kids with humps, bumps, and jumps that are sure to thrill.
In addition to the covered bike trails, the Riveter has a great assortment of flowy trails winding their way through the 10-acre property. Don't have any gear? Don't worry, rentals of both bikes and climbing gear are available at a reasonable cost.
Address: 701 Old Fanning Bridge Road, Mills River, North Carolina
10. Test Your Skills at the Appalachian Pinball Museum
Highlights: Unlimited play on over 50 pinball and video games for a reasonable flat fee
Relive the games of your youth at the Appalachian Pinball Museum on Main Street. If you were ever a fan of these machines, you won't be disappointed. A very reasonable flat fee allows you access to 35 pinball machines and 25 video games.
Playing the games, with the familiar flashing light and sounds, can make an hour feel like two minutes, so plan your visit accordingly and set aside a decent amount of time. This is a great way to spend an evening, a rainy afternoon, or a cool day.
Address: 538 North Main Street, Hendersonville, North Carolina
11. Watch Shark Feeding at the Team Ecco Aquarium and Shark Lab
Highlights: Hand-feeding of sharks, tortoises, turtles, and lizards
More than just a typical aquarium, the Ecco Aquarium and Shark Lab on Main Street offers a unique perspective on aquatic life and is primarily a teaching facility, which opens its doors to the public. Most interesting for visitors, bamboo sharks, rays, crabs, and other residents are hand-fed by a diver in a 2,000-gallon tank, interacting with the fish.
Talk to volunteers, many of whom are students and interns, to learn about how the fish recognize individual people, and find out what's really going on in each of the smaller tanks. Other popular residents include tortoises, turtles, and lizards, including a large Savannah monitor lizard.
Address: 511 N. Main Street, Hendersonville, North Carolina
12. Take the Kids to the Hands On! Museum
Highlights: Fun and interactive experiences for small children
Colorful and engaging displays provide opportunities for fun and learning at the Hands On! Museum. Exhibits range from art and nature to experiences of everyday life, like the Post Office, Pet Hospital, and Grocery Store. Children are also invited to get creative and express themselves with exhibits like the Play Stage and the Art and Sensory Studio.
Conveniently located on Main Street, this museum makes a perfect addition to a family visit to Hendersonville. If you have older kids with you, they may want to check out the Pinball Museum down the street.
Address: 318 North Main Street Hendersonville, North Carolina
13. Learn about Minerals and Fossils at the Mineral & Lapidary Museum
Highlights: Fascinating rocks, crystals, and fossils including a T Rex skull
One of the free attractions in Hendersonville, the Mineral and Lapidary Museum is an interesting place to pop in for a visit. One of the most eye-catching displays here is a dark room with various minerals that glow in different colors under different types of lighting.
You can also see fossils and fossil replicas, including a T-Rex skull. The staff here are very engaging and happy to point out some of the most unique items in the collection and give a quick overview of what you're seeing.
Address: 400 N Main Street, Hendersonville, North Carolina
Map of Things to Do in Hendersonville, NC
Best Time to Visit Hendersonville
The best time to visit Hendersonville is in the summer months of June, July, and August. At this time, the weather is warm to hot, the city is abuzz with visitors, the patios are packed, and all the attractions are open and in full operation. It's also an ideal time to go rafting on the French Broad River and hiking in Dupont State Forest.
The second best time to visit is in the fall, primarily September and October when harvest is in full swing. The weather is still warm and pleasant, corn mazes pop up, and apple picking and fun family events draw visitors from around the state. Spring, generally April and May, is a colorful time, with the rhododendrons and other spring flowers at their peak.
Winter is cool, grey, and a bit snowy, but nearby ski hills provide lots of downhill fun.
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North Carolina Mountains: You can find a world of outdoor fun in this area of the state. The streams and rivers offer ample opportunity for fishing. Find out where to go with our article on the Top Rivers for Trout Fishing in North Carolina. In winter, hit the slopes at North Carolina's best ski resorts. This is also an area you may want to escape to for one of our recommended Romantic Getaways in North Carolina.