Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on February 29, 2024.
Hendersonville sits in the heart of Western North Carolina, just a short day trip away from Asheville and Brevard. Among the fun things to do in Hendersonville, we love exploring its downtown and neighboring towns in Henderson County.
Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a Hendersonville local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the area and are wondering, “What are the best things to do near me?” we think this guide will help you out!
And because there’s a lot to cover about Hendersonville and Henderson County, North Carolina, this travel guide has been organized into the following sections:
- Where is Hendersonville?
- History of Hendersonville and Henderson County
- What is Hendersonville Known for Today?
- Where to Stay in Hendersonville
- Annual Events (NC Apple Festival, NC Mountain State Fair, and More!)
- Apple Picking in Hendersonville
- Things to Do in Hendersonville NC This Weekend (and All Year)
- Bold Rock Cider
- Outdoor Things to Do Near Hendersonville NC
- Bearwallow Mountain
- Chimney Rock
- DuPont State Recreational Forest
- The Best Things to Do in Hendersonville (NC Tripping’s Top 5)
- More Hendersonville NC Travel Guides
You can scroll ahead to any specific section or keep reading about Hendersonville’s location and what it’s known for.
Read More: Small Towns in North Carolina
Where is Hendersonville?
Before we dig into our favorite things to do in Hendersonville, let’s share a few Hendersonville Facts with you, starting with its location.
Hendersonville and its Henderson County surroundings sit in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. The county borders one county in South Carolina (Greenville) and six NC counties, including the following:
- Buncombe County (north)
- Rutherford County (northeast)
- Polk County (east)
- Transylvania County (west)
- Haywood County (northwest)
You can visually plan your Hendersonville NC trip with the following maps:
History of Hendersonville and Henderson County
Before it was a thriving county in Western NC, the area primarily served as a Native American hunting ground. Cherokee people were the last known inhabitants until Revolutionary War soldier William Mills received a land grant.
Mills and his family settled here, and each year, he planted hundreds of fruit trees. His neighbors followed along, leading to Henderson County’s thriving apple orchards that we all know today.
Multiple other crops thrived here, and agriculture remains a dominant part of the Henderson County economy and landscape.
Henderson County was eventually formed in 1838 from land previously at the southern end of Buncombe County. Both the county and city of Hendersonville are named for North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Leonard Henderson.
Hendersonville was incorporated in 1841 and has remained the center of Henderson County activity ever since.
Henderson County, particularly Flat Rock, has long served as a popular second home location for southerners. That Hendersonville neighbor was long referred to as “Little Charleston,” thanks to the planters and Low Country residents who ventured this way for milder summer retreats.
What is Hendersonville NC Known For Today?
Hendersonville is known for its wonderful downtown, excellent wineries, craft beer, apple orchards, and outdoor recreation. And as you’ll see in this article, there are plenty of fun things to do in Hendersonville within each category!
Speaking of the areas outside of downtown Hendersonville, Henderson County is dotted with thriving towns and communities. Here are the most prominent names within the county lines:
- Laurel Park
- Mills River
- Flat Rock
- Saluda (shared with Polk County)
We’ll mention more about these places in our “Things to Do near Hendersonville NC” section. But, for now, let’s move on to the area’s best events.
Where to Stay in Hendersonville
We were invited to stay with Brightwaters Vacation Rentals just outside of downtown Hendersonville. Our accommodations were in their historic Southern home, but they also offer 2 and 3 charming bedroom cabins!
The home at Brightwaters was a wonderful place to relax in the mornings and, after long days enjoying the area.
If you are looking for a unique stay experience, check out the tiny home community of Acony Bell in Mills River. We’ve stayed in one of the tiny homes here and think it’s a great base for hiking in DuPont and the amazing waterfalls near Brevard.
It’s also perfect for exploring the fun things to do in Hendersonville’s neighbor Mills River.
Annual Events in Hendersonville
Here is a list of annual events in Hendersonville and the months they occur. Check event listings and dates first with the wonderful people at Visit Hendersonville via their website.
- April: Cider, Wine & Dine Weekend puts the area’s wineries and cideries on full display in April. These businesses partner for a fun weekend of cider, wine and food!
- May: Held each Memorial Day Weekend, Garden Jubilee brings together apple orchards, farms, nurseries, and other related businesses for a green thumb-friendly event.
- September: Two of the most popular things to do in Hendersonville (and Henderson County) take place each September, though the first one sometimes starts at the end of August, too. The North Carolina Apple Festival is a Labor Day tradition and takes over downtown Hendersonville with plenty of apple-related fun, food, and festivities! Not long afterward, the NC Mountain State Fair kicks off in Fletcher to celebrate the area’s people, art, agriculture, and traditions.
- October: The last major single-day event in Hendersonville is Farm City Day, held at Jackson Park. This fun and educational event combines hands-on activities with displays that help inform visitors about where their food comes from.
- Winter: There are two great snow tubing parks in Hendersonville—Black Bear Snow Tubing and Moonshine Mountain. During winter, these are two of the most popular Hendersonville NC attractions.
Apple Picking in Hendersonville (Late-Summer and Fall)
Did you know that North Carolina is the US’s 7th largest producer of apples?
Just make sure to check each farm’s social media on U-Pick varieties.
Our favorite place for U-Pick apples is Sky Top Orchard. Panoramic views from the orchard are an excellent start, but at Sky Top, there is so much more!
Children can enjoy a barnyard area with lots of friendly animals as well as some of the best apple cider donuts in North Carolina!
Read More: Fall in North Carolina
Things to Do in Hendersonville NC This Weekend (and All Year!)
The amazing events keep people coming back at specific times, but these are the best things to do in Hendersonville. All of them are mostly indoors, so these make great rainy-day activities.
We love starting our visits to the area by stopping and parking downtown. We will mention a couple of things to do in Hendersonville in more detail shortly.
However, we just wanted to spotlight the local businesses that form the heart of downtown, along with its top attractions. So here are a few that we loved!
Dancing Bear Toys is a great one for the kids and for you to buy them something new. So do yourself a favor and walk around Main, Church, King, and each side street.
We know you’ll find a place to keep coming back for!
Appalachian Pinball Museum
Address: 538 N. Main St, Hendersonville, NC
The best way to spend a rainy day or any day during a weekend in Hendersonville is to visit the Appalachian Pinball Museum. They serve North Carolina beer to accompany the more than 80 classic pinball machines to play.
For $12, you can play for as long as you want. Thanks to the signs above each one, you can learn about the games and when they were made.
Team ECCO Aquarium and Shark Lab
Address: 511 N. Main St, Hendersonville, NC
Team ECCO Aquarium and Shark Lab is an educational resource and public attraction, and also, it’s one of the family-friendliest things to do in Hendersonville! As the first inland aquarium in North Carolina, Team ECCO has over 275 fish, invertebrates, reptiles, and salamanders.
Check out the shark and ray as they swim in a 2,000-gallon tank while interns monitor these fascinating creatures’ life cycle and behavior.
Admission to Team ECCO is really affordable, especially since there are so many interactive learning experiences. In addition, kids under 2 get in free, which is a bonus!
Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County
Address: 400 N. Main St, Hendersonville, NC
Did you know that Henderson County has one of the most diverse mineral deposits in the nation? So while you can find something to take home at a local gem mine (see below), you can peruse some spectacular gems at the Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County.
Admission to the museum is free, and it offers a wide variety of exhibits of gemstones, a meteorite, and a really cool display of fossils!
Elijah Mountain Gem Mine
Address: 2120 Brevard Rd, Hendersonville, NC
Gem mining is one of the most popular things to do in Hendersonville, and we’re hooked after visiting Elijah Mountain Gem Mine! Sift and pan and find rubies, sapphires, emeralds, amethysts, and more in their outdoor or indoor water flumes.
Make sure you stop and say hello to the goats and other animals around the property!
Eat at These Restaurants in Hendersonville
- There are a lot of great options for dining out in Hendersonville. If you want an upscale dining experience, check out Shine (202 N Main St) and Mezzaluna (226 N Main St).
- For great casual bites, check out Mike’s on Main (303 N Main St), and don’t forget about the small-town dessert fixture we all know and love—Kilwins (506 N Main St)!
- Pizza and Barbecue: Further down the road is the Flat Rock Wood Room (1501 Greenville Hwy) with delicious wood-fired pizza and barbecue.
Craft Beer at these Hendersonville NC Breweries
Some of NC’s best breweries reside in Hendersonville. They range from smaller local operations to one of the biggest names in the state’s craft beer scene.
- D9 (425 N Main St), also in Charlotte and Cornelius near Lake Norman
- Dry Falls Brewing Co (425 Kanuga Rd)
- Guidon Brewing Co (415 8th Ave E)
- Oklawaha Brewing (147 1st Ave E)
- Southern Appalachian Brewery (822 Locust St)
Enjoying craft beer is great but we believe visiting one of these wineries is among the best Hendersonville NC things to do.
- Burntshirt Vineyards (2695 Sugarloaf Rd)
- Point Lookout Vineyards (408 Appleola Rd)
- Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards (588 Chestnut Gap Rd)
- Sawyer Springs Vineyard & Winery (124 Sandy Hill Ln)
- Stone Ashe Vineyards (736 Green Mountain Rd)
Bold Rock Cider
Address: 72 School House Rd, Mills River, NC
Bold Rock Cider has a large production facility and taproom in Mills River.
You can even watch the production line from the mezzanine.
Outdoor Things to Do near Hendersonville NC (Hikes and More!)
During the warmer months and especially during fall, hiking is one of the best things to do in Hendersonville. Some of North Carolina’s best hiking trails are in the area.
Of course, we’ll share a few of our favorites with you, starting with a mountain bald where cows roam.
Before we do, we want to remind you always to respect the trails and leave no trace. That way, the next person can enjoy them just as you did!
The top of Bearwallow Mountain feels like a movie scene. However, this mountain bald is reachable after a 1-mile moderate climb and is 100 percent worth the 537-foot change in elevation.
It’s primarily an operational, protected farm, but we’re grateful to its owners for allowing us to visit. Conserving Carolina is another organization to thank, as they manage and maintain the trail.
From your perch at 4,232 feet above sea level, you’ll enjoy a grassy meadow and 360-degree views of mountain peaks like Mount Mitchell and Mount Pisgah.
Carl Sandburg Home
1800 Little River Rd, Flat Rock, NC
When open to the public, You can tour the Sandburg home. In addition, you can enjoy the property’s 5 miles of hiking trails throughout the year.
Don’t forget to visit the barn where Carl’s wife, Lilian, raised her champion dairy goats.
Chimney Rock State Park
Here are a few hiking trails you can enjoy at Chimney Rock State Park:
- Hike the Outcropping Trail (0.4-mile loop) to reach the top of Chimney Rock itself. Of course, an elevator will get you there, too.
- The Exclamation Point Trail (0.6-mile loop) is one of the park’s hardest hikes, but it leads to epic views from the edge of Exclamation Point at 2,480 feet.
- The Skyline Trail (1.1 miles) starts at Exclamation Point and will take you even higher to Peregrine Point at 2,640 feet.
Use Chimney Rock Village as your base for exploring this awesome park and its surroundings.
DuPont State Recreational Forest
DuPont State Recreational Forest offers 86 miles of trails for hikers, some available to mountain bikers and horseback riders.
- Seeing three waterfalls in one hike on the Triple Falls hike loop tops most people’s outdoor activities in Hendersonville. That hike starts from the Hooker Falls or High Falls (Visitor Center) parking lots.
- You can also reach Bridal Veil Falls from the High Falls Parking Lot. The path to it is one of our favorite mountain biking trails in North Carolina! The 2.2-mile trail (4.4 miles round trip) ends at a 120-foot waterfall that has also been featured in several movies filmed in North Carolina.
- The same road (Conservation Road) leading to Bridal Veil Falls also passes Lake Julia (1.7 miles). The 99-acre lake is peaceful, and the trail is most gorgeous during fall.
- From the Guion Parking Area, the Wintergreen Falls Trail is a 3-mile roundtrip hike that leads to a beautiful 20-foot waterfall.
Jump Off Rock
Jump Off Rock is only 5 miles from downtown Hendersonville, in Laurel Park. It’s best known as a scenic overlook, thanks to the sweeping mountain views that await.
Three marked hiking trails, too, start at the parking lot and are fairly short. The shortest trail is 480 feet (Blue, Easy), followed by the moderate Yellow (1,221 feet) and Red (1,239 feet) trails.
Read More: 25+ of the Coolest Airbnbs in North Carolina
Things to Do Near Hendersonville NC (Day Trips)
Hendersonville is surrounded by some of our favorite Western NC attractions, all within an easy day trip.
Henderson County Neighbors
We’ve mentioned things to do near Hendersonville in Henderson County, but we thought some deserved more spotlight here.
- Flat Rock: Along with the Carl Sandburg Home, Flat Rock is known for the Flat Rock Playhouse, a community fixture since the 1930s. Spend more time in town and enjoy the quaint shops and restaurants. Hubba Hubba Smokehouse is also incredible!
- Mills River is home to several breweries and one cidery we already mentioned. They include the nationally recognized Sierra Nevada and Bold Rock Cider and local favorites like Mills River Brewing and Burning Blush.
Some of our favorite things to do include:
- Walks around Biltmore Estate (especially during Christmas)
- Amazing meals at the city’s restaurants and breweries
- Visits to outdoor spots like the WNC Nature Center and the North Carolina Arboretum
Brevard is also a quick day trip from Hendersonville and full of fun things to do!
- We love downtown and the area around Brevard College, where you can search for white squirrels!
- Waterfalls: We also love the many waterfalls in Transylvania County, some of which are easy to access. Here are a few of our favorites in the area:
Read More: 25 of the Best Waterfalls in North Carolina
The Best Things to Do in Hendersonville (NC Tripping’s Top 5)
We made some tough decisions when picking the best Hendersonville attractions. Nevertheless, here’s what we think are the best of the best, in alphabetical order:
- Appalachian Pinball Museum
- Apple Picking
- Elijah Mountain Gem Mine
- Jump Off Rock
We included Jump Off Rock but not DuPont State Forest and Chimney Rock. Those two aren’t associated with Hendersonville and largely reside in a neighboring county.
More Hendersonville NC Things to Do (Additional Guides)
Western North Carolina is packed with fun places to visit. However, we’re hooked on Henderson County, thanks to all the great things to do in Hendersonville and its surroundings.
If you’re familiar with this area, we’d love to know what you think and your favorite ways to enjoy it.
We hope you use this guide to explore all of the wonderful things to do in Hendersonville! If you did, share your experience with us here or in our Facebook Group!
Also, don’t forget to check out our collection of NC travel guides that cover these Hendersonville NC adventures and more! Here are a few of them.