The Blue Ridge Mountain town of Hendersonville, North Carolina, lies just south of busyAsheville. Long known for its abundant apple harvest, long-range mountain views and outdoor adventure, Hendersonville also boasts a vibrant downtown.
When the city was established in the 1840s, one of its founders decreed that Main Street should be wide enough to turn around a wagon pulled by four horses. Although the horse-and-buggy days have passed, that early planning continues to serve the city well. Today the wide, curvilinear Main Street is one of the most welcoming in Western North Carolina. Ample sidewalk space allows for public artwork and outdoor dining. Brick planters change with the seasons, bursting with tulips in the spring and twinkling with lights for the holidays.
Downtown is the centerpiece of Hendersonville’s annual Home for the Holidays celebration.
Beginning Nov. 1 and continuing until New Year’s Day, festive events encourage visitors to make the most of the season.
Holiday lights illuminate eight blocks along Main Street, and wreaths with red bows adorn lampposts. Merchants festoon their storefronts for a downtown decoration contest. Hendersonville’s eclectic small businesses provide a plethora of one-of-a-kind gifts. Art galleries stock original works by local and regional artists. Mast General Store, a North Carolina original, is a two-story treasure trove of nostalgia with squeaky floorboards and barrels of old-timey candy.
From Dec. 18-Jan. 1, the Visitor Center parking lot transforms into a winter wonderland. An iceless skating rink allows for skating in any weather. The smooth, synthetic surface is great for beginners and experienced skaters. While waiting to take the ice, visitors roast marshmallows over a fire pit, snap photos in holiday-themed cutouts and play games.
Several family-friendly attractions make downtown Hendersonville a year-round destination.
Sift through sand for quartz, rubies, sapphires and emeralds at Pisgah Forest’s indoor gem mine. The shop makes favorite finds into keepsake jewelry. Next door, Team ECCO Aquarium & Shark Lab transports visitors to the coast with more than 275 fish, invertebrates, reptiles and salamanders. Twice each afternoon, staff members conduct public feedings with sharks and stingrays in a 2,000-gallon study tank.
With 35 pinball machines and 25 video games, Appalachian Pinball Museum allows parents and grandparents to share the games of their youth with children and grandchildren. Unlimited daily play is only $10.
Bites and sips
Twenty-fire independent restaurants call downtown Hendersonville home. From mom-and-pop joints serving homestyle meals to classic delis, pizza parlors, friendly pubs and fine dining, this small town’s food offerings outpace its size.
Western North Carolina staples, such as pork barbecue and fresh trout, are plentiful. Several restaurants embrace the rich agricultural resources surrounding Hendersonville and take a farm-to-table approach. International influences are also strong, from authentic Italian restaurants making fresh pasta, to a funky tapas spot with creative tacos and a sushi standout that draws diners from miles around.
Hendersonville is an important player in the local craft beer movement with 10 breweries operating in the county. The breweries’ laid-back taprooms and friendly, knowledgeable staff create a welcoming atmosphere. The historic Seventh Avenue district, an up-and-coming area adjacent to downtown, has three breweries in operation and more on the way.
Several bed-and-breakfasts offer well-appointed accommodations within walking distance to shops and restaurants. The inns maintain their historical charm, while providing modern-day amenities, such as updated bathrooms, luxury linens, and coffee and snack stations. A gourmet breakfast makes for a proper start to a day of exploring.
To plan your visit to Hendersonville, go to www.VisitHendersonvilleNC.org or call (800) 828-4244 to request a free visitor guide.