Last Updated on October 16, 2021
Last Updated on October 16, 2021
If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.
Hendersonville sits in the heart of Henderson County, just a day trip away from Asheville and Brevard. Among the fun things to do in Hendersonville, we love exploring its downtown and the towns that fill out the rest of the county.
Our guide will share all of that with you and more, whether you’re traveling alone, as a couple, or with your family.
And because there’s a lot to cover about Hendersonville and Henderson County, this travel guide has been organized into the following sections:
- Where is Hendersonville?
- History of Hendersonville and Henderson County
- What is it Known For Today? (Top Attractions)
- Annual Events (NC Apple Festival, NC Mountain State Fair, and More!)
- Apple Picking in Hendersonville
- Year-Round Things to Do in Hendersonville
- Outdoor Things to Do in Hendersonville’s Surroundings (Hiking and More!)
- Hendersonville Food and Drink Options
- Where to Stay in Hendersonville
- Nearby Things to Do (and Related Articles)
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)
Read More: Places to Visit in Western North Carolina
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 solider 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 Known For Today?
Hendersonville is known for its wonderful downtown, excellent wineries, craft beer, apple orchards, and outdoor recreation in its surroundings. And as you’ll see in this article, there are plenty of fun things to do in Hendersonville within each of those categories!
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 in Hendersonville’s Surroundings” section. But, for now, let’s move on to the area’s best events.
Annual Events in Hendersonville
Here is a list of annual events in Hendersonville and the months they occur. Make sure to check event listings and dates first with the wonderful people at Visit Hendersonville via their website.
- April: In April, Cider, Wine & Dine Weekend puts the area’s wineries and cideries on full display. 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 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.
Apple Picking in Hendersonville (Late-Summer and Fall)
Did you know that North Carolina is the US’s 7th largest producer of apples?
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
Year-Round Things to Do in Hendersonville
The amazing events keep people coming back at specific times, but the best things to do in Hendersonville throughout the year are here. 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. In fact, 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
538 N. Main St, Hendersonville
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
511 N. Main St, Hendersonville
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
400 N. Main St, Hendersonville
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
2120 Brevard Rd, Hendersonville
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!
Outdoor Things to Do in Hendersonville’s Surroundings (Hikes and More!)
During the warmer months and especially during fall, hiking is one of the best things to do in Hendersonville’s surroundings. Some of North Carolina’s best hiking trails are in the area, and we’ve covered them in more detail here.
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 primarily serves as an operational, protected farm, but we’re grateful to the farm’s 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
When open to the public, You can tour the Sandburg home. In addition, however, 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.
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 list of outdoor things to do in Hendersonville. That hike starts either 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 actually 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.
Jump Off Rock
Jump Off Rock is only 5 miles from downtown Hendersonville, in the town of Laurel Park. It’s best known as a scenic overlook, thanks to the sweeping mountain views that await.
Three marked hiking trails start at the parking lot, too, 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: Hikes near Asheville
Hendersonville Food and Drink Options
Restaurants in Hendersonville
After visiting the Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock, spend more time in town and enjoy the quaint shops and restaurants. Hubba Hubba Smokehouse is incredible, and further down the road is the Flat Rock Wood Room with delicious wood-fired pizza and barbecue.
Read More: Great Hendersonville Restaurants
Where to Find Craft Beverages in Hendersonville (Breweries, Wineries, and Cideries!)
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 absolutely charming bedroom cabins!
The home at Brightwaters was a wonderful place to relax in the mornings and, after long days out 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.
Ready for These Great Things to Do in Hendersonville?
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!
Things to Do Nearby
Henderson County Surroundings
We’ve mentioned things to do in Hendersonville’s surroundings in the county, but we thought some deserved a bit more spotlight here.
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.
Another thing we mentioned is that Hendersonville is the perfect day trip from Asheville! Flip it around, and you can use Hendersonville as a great base to explore Asheville.
Some of our favorite things to do include walks around Biltmore Estate, amazing meals at the city’s restaurants, and visits to outdoor spots like the WNC Nature Center and the North Carolina Arboretum.
We also love the many waterfalls in Transylvania County, of which some are easy to access. Here are a few of our favorites in the area: