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23 Fun Things to Do in Saluda and Nearby

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on May 8, 2024.

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If you’re looking for fun things to do in Saluda, North Carolina, this guide is for you!

Preserved story-filled historic buildings, beautiful outdoor spaces, and a true small-town vibe are why we love Saluda. This NC travel guide to Saluda and its surroundings in Southwestern North Carolina offers even more to enjoy.

Whether you live in the Asheville and Charlotte areas (or elsewhere) and need a getaway, we think Saluda is the perfect vacation spot in Western NC. Keep reading and you’ll see why in this comprehensive guide to Saluda’s best things to do.

Here is how we have organized this guide:

  • Where is Saluda NC?
  • History of Saluda
  • Where to Stay
  • Annual Events
  • Things to Do in Saluda This Weekend
    • Downtown
    • Outdoors
  • The Best Restaurants
  • Things to Do Near Saluda

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a local, our NC travel guide leaves no detail behind. If you live in the Saluda area and are wondering, “What are the best things to do near me?” we know this guide will help you! 

Read More: Fun Day Trips from Asheville (Within a 2-Hour Drive)

Where is Saluda, NC?

NCMap doton Saluda Image Credit Seth Ilys at English Wikipedia CC BY SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit: Seth Ilys at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Saluda is a North Carolina mountain town in both Polk and Henderson counties. The Historic Downtown is only 40 minutes from downtown Asheville, making it an easy day trip. Saluda is within a two-hour drive from Charlotte and near major cities in South Carolina and Georgia.

Saluda is also within a short drive from these lovely places in Western NC:

You can travel visually to Saluda and its neighbors using the following maps we’ve created using Google Maps:

A Quick History of Saluda NC

Saluda Grade sign

Before we dig into the best things to do in Saluda, it’s essential to understand the town’s history.

  • The history of Saluda NC is largely intertwined with the railroad, when the first passenger train first arrived on July 4, 1878.
  • Before then, today’s Saluda was known as Pace’s Gap or Pace’s Ridge, a trading crossroads named for the prominent Pace family who inhabited the area.
  • The Paces and other “original” families arrived in the area in the 1790s, settling on land that was once part of Cherokee territory.
  • The name “Saluda” comes from nearby Saluda Mountain. The origin of “Saluda” is disputed, with one source claiming it sounds similar to the Cherokee word for “green corn place” (Tsaludiyi). Another writes that the Saluda River was named for an Indian Chief, similar to the Cherokee word for “corn river.”
  • Before it was Saluda, Pace’s Gap remained a quiet settlement until the first passenger train arrived in 1878 via the famed Saluda Grade—the steepest gauge railroad.
  • The railroad transformed Pace’s Gap into the Township of Saluda by 1881.
  • Saluda grew into a thriving resort town, with rail travel bringing steady streams of visitors and wealthy families to build lavish homes.
  • Things changed in the late 1960s when railroad travel gave way to highways. Thanks to preservation efforts, many of the town’s historic buildings remain intact and await visitors like you and us.

Read More: Fun and Interesting Facts About Asheville (History + More!)

Visiting Saluda Today

Today, Saluda is a historic town with brick buildings and vintage stores that harken back to a simpler time. It is also a well-known hub for outdoor adventure. 

The Saluda Grade remains and runs parallel to the downtown district, home to shops, museums, restaurants, and more!

Where to Stay in Saluda

There are various vacation rentals in Saluda, and more are constantly popping up. Since we usually travel with our kids, we prefer vacation rentals.

However, if you prefer B&Bs, The Orchard Inn & Spa (100 Orchard Inn Ln #9706, Saluda, NC) is highly recommended.

Annual Events in Saluda

Saluda Mural
  • Coon Dog Day (July): Coon Dog Day is Saluda’s largest annual event! The street festival honors the Coon Dog with food, live music, a parade, and dog competitions! This July event is free and family-friendly!
  • Saluda Arts Festival (May): Downtown Saluda brings local artists and artisans together every May for the annual Saluda Arts Festival. Enjoy crafts from regional artists with live music and artist demonstrations. 

Read More: The NC Tripping Events Calendar

Fun Things to Do in Saluda NC This Weekend

Shopping in Saluda

Saluda is definitely a gem of a small town with only 700 residents. The one-street downtown was founded in 1878, and many of the brick buildings you’ll see are on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Downtown Saluda NC Attractions

Downtown Saluda is known for its history, but there are also some great locally-owned shops to peruse and explore, including:

Do you have any shops in Saluda that you’d like to share with us? In the meantime, here are some more things to do in downtown Saluda:

M.A. Pace General Store

Address: 60 E Main St, Saluda, NC
Facebook Page

Pace General Store Saluda NC

Pace’s General Store, founded in 1899, is one of the must-see things to do in Saluda. The country store features jellies, hardware, clothing from yesteryear, and treasures around every corner. 

Any time we’re in Saluda, this is our first stop.

Thompson’s Store

Address: 24 E Main St, Saluda, NC
Facebook Page

Things to do in Saluda NC

A few steps down the street from Pace’s is Thompson’s Store, the oldest grocer in North Carolina. Open since 1892, this extraordinary store offers fresh produce, a deli, and glass soda bottles that set off our nostalgia radar.

The Saluda Historic Depot

Address: 32 W Main St, Saluda, NC
Website

Saluda Depot Museum

The Saluda Historic Depot is open to visitors and provides a comprehensive history of the area and its importance to the construction of the railroad.

Inside, you’ll find stories and pictures of the men who hammered the railroad alongside Melrose Mountain. Admission to the Historic Depot is free, but donations are encouraged!

Read More: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City (Everything You Need to Know to Have a Great Time!)

Outdoor Things to Do in Saluda NC and Nearby

Beyond Downtown Saluda, there are even more things to do, including these awesome places:

  • Little Bradley Falls
  • Pearson’s Falls 
  • Gorge Zipline 
  • Tubing

Little Bradley Falls

If you are looking for a longer waterfall hike with some creek crossings, Little Bradley Falls near Saluda is excellent. The 50-foot multi-tiered waterfall is a 1.9-mile round-trip excursion in the Green River Gamelands

Several creek crossings can reach your calves, so we do not recommend this hike in the winter months. However, there is a peaceful and large pool at the base of the falls that is perfect for swimming. 

Read more: Great Hikes Near Asheville (Within a 2-Hour Drive)

Pearson’s Falls 

Pearsons Falls in the Summer

Pearson’s Falls is one of our favorite things to do in Saluda with kids! This natural waterfall, which attracts more than 20,000 visitors each year, is located on a botanical preserve owned by The Tryon Garden Club. 

Hiking to the falls is an easy 1/4 mile trail. Stop to take in the more than 200 species of rare wildflowers and plants protected by the non-profit organization. 

Access to this waterfall does require a fee, but the proceeds go toward maintaining and protecting the land. 

Read More: Beautiful Waterfalls Near Asheville (Within 2 Hours)

Gorge Zipline 

Swing into action with The Gorge Zipline! As one of the best outdoor activities in Saluda, The Gorge is America’s steepest and fastest zipline canopy.

During the tour, you’ll drop 1,100 feet in elevation via 11 ziplines, a skybridge, and 3 rappels! 

Read More: Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City (10 Essential Things to Do)

Tubing in Saluda

Whitewater tubing is an excellent way to cool off in the mountains! With Wilderness Cove, tubing the Green River is fun and exciting. Take a tube, mini-cat, or kayak and float through the rapids class I & II rapids. 

There are several options ranging from 1.5 miles to 6 miles. Depending on your expedition choice, Wilderness Cove will drop you off or pick you up.

Children must be 42” or taller to tube.

Read More: Wonderful Waterfalls near Bryson City (Within 2 Hours)

The Best Restaurants in Saluda

After experiencing the best of Saluda and its surroundings, it’s time to eat. These amazing restaurants will fill you up on good food and great memories!

  • Ward’s Grill (24 E Main St, Saluda, NC): Located inside Thompson’s Store is Ward’s Grill, one of the best places to get lunch in Saluda. The 1950s-style diner features breakfast plates, burgers, milkshakes, and a popular Reuben sandwich! 
Purple Onion Saluda
  • Purple Onion (16 E Main St, Saluda, NC): Purple Onion is a popular restaurant in Saluda serving Mediterranean dishes with a dreamy outdoor patio. The Saluda restaurant works with local purveyors to make the freshest dishes! Enjoy live music paired with dishes like local Sunburst Trout and Joyce Farms roasted chicken. 
  • Green River BBQ (131 US-176, Saluda, NC): Family-owned and smoking meat since 1984, Green River BBQ is an excellent restaurant in Saluda. Offering pork, brisket, chicken, turkey, trout, and baby back ribs; every dish will knock your socks off! Perfect for when you hop off the river or on a day of hiking, enjoy flavorful baked beans, tomato pie, and crispy hushpuppies! 

Things to Do Near Saluda NC

We mentioned Saluda being near Asheville and even within a reasonable drive from Charlotte. Including the former, here are a few places full of fun things to do near Saluda:

  • Tryon (20 Minutes Away from Saluda)
  • Tryon Equestrian Center (20 Minutes Away)
  • Wineries and Vineyards near Saluda
  • Hendersonville (20 Minutes Away)
  • DuPont State Recreational Forest (35 Minutes Away)
  • Chimney Rock State Park (40 Minutes Away)
  • Chimney Rock Village (40 Minutes Away)
  • Lake Lure (45 Minutes Away)
  • Asheville (1 Hour Away)
Downtown Tryon North Carolina
  • Tryon: Tryon is dubbed “The Friendliest Town in the South”, and they really weren’t kidding! For years, we’ve enjoyed walking around the town and chatting with locals and visitors alike. Slightly larger than Saluda, you’ll find unique shops, plenty of local restaurants, and the nearby Tryon Equestrian Center. 
Tryon Equestrian Center Lights
  • Tryon Equestrian Center (25 International Blvd, Mill Spring, NC): Tryon International Equestrian Center is one of the premier centers in the world. Welcoming competitors and spectators, enjoy a meal, watch a competition, or check out some of their special events including the annual Christmas Lights display
  • Wineries and Vineyards near Saluda: These three wineries and vineyards may be closer to Tryon but they are perfect for a day trip from Saluda:

Read More: Wonderful Wineries Near Asheville (Vineyards Within 2 Hours)

Things to Do in Asheville Day Trip to Hendersonville NC
  • Hendersonville: Hendersonville is one of our favorite places near Saluda, especially during apple season. Side Note: The town’s orchards produce 85 percent of the state’s apple supply. Hiking and eating at many of the town’s restaurants are two of our favorite things to do, too.
High Falls DuPont State Recreational Forest NC near Bridal Veil Falls
High Falls.
  • DuPont State Recreational Forest : As if you needed more opportunities for hiking in Saluda’s surroundings, enter DuPont State Forest. In our opinion, this is one of the most breathtaking places in NC. Parts of the first Hunger Games film and The Last of the Mohicans were filmed here, and you’ll see why. This park’s waterfalls (including High Falls, Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls) are epic enough, though Lake Dense and Lake Julia (part of the Three Lakes Trail), and Wintergreen Falls are worth exploring, too!

Read More: Unique Things to Do In North Carolina (Your NC Bucket List)

Chimney Rock
  • Chimney Rock State Park: The famed Chimney Rock is a popular spot for photographers and nature lovers of all types! Offering beautiful views and a waterfall hike to Hickory Nut Falls, the State Park does require an entrance fee, but is worth every penny!
Chimney Rock Village shops

Read more: Our Favorite Breweries in North Carolina

Lake Lure near Chimney Rock
  • Lake Lure: Lake Lure is a beautiful lakeside mountain town in NC. We love coming here to relax on the sand, go boating, and walk across the Flowering Bridge, a beautiful blooming garden that spans the Rocky Broad River.
Downtown Asheville streets

Read More: Asheville River Arts District and Nearby (20+ Essential Things to Do!)

Ready to Experience The Best Things to Do in Saluda NC and Nearby?

Whether you’re seeking things to do in Saluda NC this weekend or the town’s annual events, we know you’re going to love this place! At least that’s been our experience each time we’ve visited over the years.

If you’re familiar with Saluda and its surroundings, we’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite things to do?

Let us know in the comments and remember to share your adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

Looking for More Things to Do in Saluda and Nearby? (NC Travel Guides)

We’ve featured the best things to do in Saluda and nearby in many of our NC Travel Guides. Here are a few of them.

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