Move Over Norman Rockwell, Meet the N.C. Smokies

downtown waynesville

Authentic is our middle name here in the N.C. Smokies of Haywood County.

We all hanker for simpler times, for an escape from the hectic schedules and demanding regimens that define our lives week in and week out. It’s time to leave the hustle-and-bustle behind and immerse yourself in a small-town get-away to the mountains.

Our quaint downtowns serve up real-life scenes from a Norman Rockwell picture just waiting to be experienced. Linger on a bench and watch the world go by. Say hello to strangers. Enjoy a hand-dipped ice cream cone while strolling brick sidewalks lined with iron lamp posts.

Sound nostalgic? Pack your bags and rediscover small-town Americana for yourself. It’s alive and well here in the N.C. Smokies of Haywood County.


Downtown Waynesville’s quaint brick sidewalks lined with shops, galleries, cafes and breweries are made for strolling. Loiter on shady benches, explore public art sculptures, marvel at the iconic 1930s courthouse or take a self-guided historic walking tour.

Downtown Waynesville is alive with activity throughout the year, from signature festivals to small town parades. Don’t miss the Art After Dark gallery stroll the first Friday of the month, or the popular summer street dances where cloggers kick up their heels to mountain tunes.

Downtown Waynesville has racked up more best-of accolades than we can list here, from top downtown by N.C. Main Street Communities to Great Places in North Carolina from the American Planning Association.

The century-old streetscape, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is ringed by a backdrop of mountain ridges. It’s a perfect setting to wile away an afternoon or an entire weekend soaking up this vibrant refuge of small-town Americana.


A working man’s town, Canton’s roots as a mill village on the banks of the Pigeon River go back 110 years.

Towns like Canton were once a backbone of America, but have largely faded from our landscape. Canton is a lasting gem of those bygone days.

While downtown Canton has become an authentic destination for visitors, it hasn’t forgotten its blue-collar roots — the mill whistle still rings out over town four times a day. Experience the good old days when you step into shops like Polly’s Florist, Cold Mountain Hardware and Riverview Farm & Garden, or browse specialty boutiques like Verbena Soap Company with artisan soaps and lotions or The Lamp Factory.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, downtown Canton is home to a historical museum that bring the town’s storied origins to life. When strolling downtown, look for the murals depicting the town’s history, sample its Southern diners,  or relax in a park along the river banks.


A postage-stamp sized town, downtown Clyde transports visitors to a simpler time and era.

Clyde’s origins date back to a knot on the train depot door. Town fathers chose the knot as a guidepost for the center of town in 1889 and drew a radius around it, resulting in perfectly round town.

Prowl through the authentic army gear of Old Grouch’s Military Surplus and grab a famous slice of pie from the Pioneer Restaurant. While you’re here, visit the historical Shook-Smathers House Museum and let the kids climb on the anti-air craft gun on the town square, known by locals as “The Big Gun.”

Maggie Valley

Nestled against the Smoky Mountains, Maggie Valley has been a fabled destination for visitors for over a century in 1904. The town was named for the post master’s daughter, and Miss Maggie can still be seen today, strolling the sidewalks in her poke bonnet and yellow apron, greeting passersby with a smile and a wave.

Maggie Valley is made for exploring. Sample mountain fudge, dress-up for old time photos, browse arts and crafts shops and eat to your heart’s content with a huge selection of restaurants, from BBQ and Italian to Southern diners and biker bars.

The vintage vibe of the roadside town is a nostalgic throw-back to the classic American vacations that the Cleavers and Bradys would have taken in days gone by.

Lake Junaluska

A lake ringed with mountains defines the historic setting of this tranquil mountain retreat dating back to the early 1900s. For decades,
Lake Junaluska served as a summer haven for Southerners. It grew into a year-round community, but its aura lives on as a carefree sanctuary for those seeking solace from their hurried lives back home.

Enjoy coffee and ice cream overlooking the water, stroll the walking path that circles the lake and explore the many gardens and sculptures along the two-mile path. During summer months, take a dip in the pool, play mini-golf for free or take a boat ride on the lake.

The welcome mat is always out at Lake Junaluska, whose motto is “A place of Christian hospitality where lives are transformed through renewal of soul, mind and body.”

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Dinner Ideas
4 years ago

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Stephen E. Morrison
4 years ago

We’ve visited the NC Smoky Mountains several times in the last few years, and our daughters live in Asheville. We are considering NC as one of the places we want to retire early in the next year or so. It’s always a lovely vacation for us, and we love renting mountain cabins for our visits. Are there any towns that are attracting retiree’s to make them their home?

Anne M. Langs
Anne M. Langs
4 years ago

Played 18 holes at the beautiful Maggie Valley Golf Course. Spent weekend in a gorgeous villa overlooking a golf green! What a wonderful memory!

David Copeland
David Copeland
4 years ago

I love Waynesville, my wife and i go for the month of October every year.

4 years ago

I’d like to see more about these places

Crystal White
Crystal White
3 years ago

Based off the picture of Lake Junaluska it look like Paradise ! I’ll love to see it in person

3 years ago

I live in Sevierville and we visit this area often. Truer words were never written…especially about Maggie Valley. And Lake Junaluska. If you love homemade ice cream and creamy fudge and just all around great food and beautiful,beautiful country…these are the places for you. You cant lose.

Bobby Valentich
3 years ago

Looks like another great place to spend time at. O’boy,,,,wife is going to see emails from y’all, now our vacations will be 2 weeks plus longer,,we also vacation in the Gatlinburg area every year.

3 years ago

Stop showing articles and pictures like this! NC is heaven on earth but with these advertisements to visit soon it won’t get “small town” quaint anymore!?

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