Bryson City NC Train Car

35+ Fun Things to do in Bryson City NC

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When it comes to charming mountain towns, no one does it better than Bryson City. This wonderful mid-sized town has enough beauty and heart to cause anyone who visits to fall in love with the area and the city itself. 

Not only do you get mountain access with the Great Smoky Mountains to the North and lake access with Lake Fontana to the West, but you also have a spectacular downtown with unique shops, restaurants, and museums. 

Before English settlers named Bryson City their home, the Cherokee Native Americans lived on this land for nearly 14,000 years. As time went on, the English founded Bryson City in 1887 to serve as the county seat of Swain County. The town remained very small, with only dirt roads for quite some time. 

Although it took decades, people started discovering the fascinating little mountain town for what it truly is: a place of nourishing beauty with fresh mountain air, breathtaking sights, and humble townsfolk. 

Things to do in Bryson City NC

If you are looking for a relaxing mountain village to take your next vacation, you definitely want to consider Bryson City. There is so much to see, so we thought we’d help you by creating this complete guide of Bryson City and the surrounding area. Enjoy! 

1) Explore Downtown

Downtown Bryson City is the heart of the town, where there are many fascinating shops, unique museums, and the friendliest folk around. Check out these places while you are strolling the downtown streets. 

2) Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Address: 45 Mitchell St, Bryson City, NC 28713

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is a heritage railroad with train rides all around western North Carolina. Passengers have the choice to take a trip on steam-powered or diesel-powered trains that have a history dating back to the 1940s. The inside of the cars has been renovated but still has old-fashioned style authenticity. 

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

There are 53 miles of tracks and two main trips, the Nantahala Gorge Excursion and the Tuckasegee River Excursion. Passengers can also take the Caroline Shine Moonshine Experience, sunset trips, and the significant fall foliage ride. There is no better way to see nature in the Great Smoky Mountains than on one of these beautiful trains. 

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is also home to the world-famous Polar Express Train Ride, which is one of the most fun Christmas events in all of North Carolina. More information on this is below (Holiday Season Activities section.)

3) Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Depot

Address: 18 Fry St, Bryson City, NC 28713

If you are looking to hop aboard any of the exciting train rides with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, then you’ll wait here at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Depot for the train to arrive and pick you up. 

Bryson City Train Depot

4) Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians

Address: 117 Island St, Bryson City, NC 28713

If you are big into fishing or fly fishing, then you’ll fall in love at the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians. The museum is a non-profit that explores the history of fly fishing through exhibits of fishing gear, clothing, photographs, video, and even a small aquarium with local fish. 

Appalachian Rivers Aquarium

At the Fly Fishing Museum, visitors can also find information on the best fishing spots in the area and what to catch in the current season.

Fly Fishing Museum

5) The Chocolate Shoppe

Address: 134 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

The Chocolate Shoppe is one of the tastiest shops in town! This cute candy shop is in downtown Bryson City and provides visitors with the sweetest homemade chocolates, fudge, caramel corn, candy apples, brittles, hand-dipped ice creams, and more. Many of the treats found in the shop are from family recipes dating back over 75 years. 

Chocolate Shoppe chocolates

6) La Dolce Vita Bakery

Address: 191 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

La Dolce Vita Bakery is a pleasant little morning coffee shop or afternoon lunch place. They have delicious house-roasted coffee, teas, brunch, and lots of pastries and desserts to top it all off. 

La Dolce Vita

7) High Test Deli

Address: 145 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

High Test Deli is a top-rated deli in Bryson City and definitely a place you’ll be wanting to visit on your trip to the town. They have a fun menu with delicious creative sandwiches, soups, salads, hot dogs, and desserts. You can even make your sandwich with anything they have available. 

Not only are they a top-rated deli, but they also have been voted the best place in North Carolina for ice cream sandwiches! These hot-pressed, handmade ice cream sandwiches are the talk of the town, and no trip to Bryson City is complete without trying one.

High Test Deli

8) Loose Moose

Address: 190 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

You can’t leave Bryson City without getting a cozy sweatshirt, t-shirt, or some fun Bryson City-themed trinkets. All of that and more can be found at Loose Moose in downtown Bryson City. 

Loose Moose

9) Honey Bear’s Cupcakery & More

Address: 138 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Honey Bear’s Cupcakery began in 2022 with the dream of serving unique and delicious cupcakes to the public, along with coffee drinks, pastries, donuts, and more. It is the sweetest place to start your day. 

HoneyBear's Cupcakery

10) Snak Shak

Address: 125 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Just down the street from the train depot is the Snak Shak, a restaurant that serves a little bit of everything. They are a family-owned and operated business that specializes in burgers, jumbo wings, house-made sauces, hot dogs, and so much more.

Snak Shak

11) The Rice Wagon

Address: 90 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Authentic Hawaiian food is not hard to find in Bryson City! All you have to do is visit The Rice Wagon food truck for the tastiest rice bowls, chicken katsu sandos, hurricane chicken, and lots more.

Rice Wagon

The Rice Wagon is parked at Mountain Layers every day from 12-8 p.m. You can also find them at Innovation Dillsboro every Tuesday from 5-8 pm. 

Rice Wagon Garlic Chicken

12) Everett Street Diner

Address: 126 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Everett Street Diner is a local favorite breakfast and lunch spot. They serve a spectacular authentic Southern breakfast, including their famous biscuits n’ gravy. The atmosphere has classic small-town diner vibes with wonderful Southern hospitality and mouth-watering meals. 

Everett Street Diner

13) Pasqualino’s Italian Restaurant

Address: 25 Everett St Rear, Bryson City, NC 28713

Pasqualino’s is one of Bryson City’s best Italian restaurants. The restaurant itself is small but gives an authentic, homey atmosphere as guests are served amazing home-cooked Italian meals.

Pasqualino's Italian Restaurant

14) Bryson Bakery & Market on the Square

Address: 164 Main St, Bryson City, NC 28713

In the heart of downtown Bryson City sits the famous Bryson Bakery & Market. This market specializes in almost anything, and guests are sure to leave happy and impressed.

Bryson City Bakery Bear Claw

They have some of the best coffee in town, along with freshly made pastries, bread (baked fresh daily) drinks, and a massive gift store with local art, trinkets, and more. 

Market on the Square

15) Iron Wok

Address: 33 Rector St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Iron Wok is an easygoing restaurant that serves a number of dishes from different parts of Asia, including China, The Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and more. They have excellent service, are fast, and have food that will keep you coming back for more. 

Iron Wok

16) Appalachian Tea Company

Address: 300 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

The Appalachian Tea Company is not only a place where you can find amazing teas but a place where you can relax and sit quietly while enjoying a plethora of tea drinks. They have over 35 different loose-leaf teas for sale, along with tea lattes, freshly squeezed lemonade, Southern sweet tea, gourmet popsicles, and baked goods to go. 

Appalachian Tea Co

17) Mountain Perks

Address: 9 Depot St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Mountain Perks is that cute, funky, family-run coffee shop of your dreams. They serve great coffee, including all your favorite espresso drinks, and simple but delicious breakfast/lunch foods like quiche, wraps, salads, and more. 


18) POP-N-JACKS Gourmet Popcorn

Address: 225-B, Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

A store dedicated to popcorn? Absolutely! POP-N-JACKS is the most fun popcorn store you’ll ever visit, with over 40 different types of flavored, gourmet popcorn. You’ll find things like chocolate-drizzled banana popcorn, key lime pie popcorn, birthday cake popcorn, and tons of savory flavors as well. Don’t expect to be in and out of this store; you may get stuck in here for hours! 

19) Bryson City Outdoors

Address: 225-B, Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Bryson City Outdoors is an outdoor outlet store with all the gear, clothing, and shoes you might need for your next outdoor adventure. They have everything from name-brand footwear to swimwear, camping gear, hats, t-shirts, you name it. 

Now, they have recently opened The Bryson City Outdoors Craft Ber Department as a taproom outside with ten craft beers and ciders on tap. They also have a large beer-to-go section with over 230 different types of beers and ciders to choose from. 

Bryson City Outdoors and Taproom

20) Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum

Address: 2 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum are located in the historic 1908 courthouse in downtown Bryson City. The museum not only has all visitor information about the town and the county but also shares the entire history of the county through fascinating exhibits, videos, and photographs. The museum is free, although donations are accepted. 

Swain County Visitor Center & Heritage Museum

21) Bryson City Island Park

Address: 213 Bryson St, Bryson City, NC 28713

The Bryson City Island Park is a 4.5-acre island located within the Tuckasegee River. There is a lovely walkway bridge that leads to the park, where guests are encouraged to take nature walks, enjoy picnics and play with their dogs. This is a pet-friendly park with dog waste stations, water fill-ups, and trash cans. Bryson City Island Park is also a popular place for canoeing and fishing. 

Island Park Bridge

22) Carolina Bound Adventures

Address: 35 Slope St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Carolina Bound Adventures is the ultimate adventure touring company with dozens of activities, group tours, multi-day adventures, and more. If you are interested in going on a waterfall hike, a kayak tour (or kayak rentals,) whitewater rafting, mountain biking, horseback riding, fly fishing, or so much more, then you’ll want to check Carolina Bound Adventures. 

Carolina Bound Adventures

23) Bryson City Fly Shop – Fly Fishing the Smokies

Address: 157 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Bryson City Fly Shop is the largest family-owned, local fly fishing outfitters and guide shop in the Smoky Mountains. There is everything fly fishing related at this store, like maps, gear, kids fly fishing items, and several guided tours, summer specials, and more. 

Fly Shop - Fly Fishing The Smokies

24) Darnell Farms

Address: 2300 Governors Island Rd, Bryson City, NC 28713

If you ask a local about one of the most fun Bryon City experiences, many will say Darnell Farms. Darnell Farms is truly a unique and wonderful experience for the whole family. Located on over 100 acres, they offer tons of freshly picked fruits, berries, and vegetables at their farm stand, as well as dairy, eggs, meats, specialty produce, and more. 

Darnell Farms

Guests are welcome to explore the farm or visit during one of their many popular events for even more fun, more food, and a great time. And no visit to Darnell Farms is complete without trying one of their dream whips or a dream slush, with tons of flavors and options to pick from.

Darnell Farms pineapple dream whip

25) Road to Nowhere Tunnel

Address: POB 509, Lakeview Dr, Bryson City, NC 28713

In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the famous Road to Nowhere Tunnel, a quarter-mile tunnel built for a scenic drive that was never completed. The tunnel is easily accessible, and from the tunnel, you have the option to keep going on the 3.2-mile loop trail through the woods and mountains. 

Road to Nowhere Tunnel

26) Nantahala Outdoor Center

Address: 13077 US 19, Bryson City, NC 28713

Nantahala Outdoor Center is one of the best outdoor gear and outfitter stores in the country! They also offer commercial guide services for kayaking, white water rafting, zip-lining, mountain biking, and tubing. This all-around adventure store is a one-stop shop for all your outdoor adventure needs. 

Rafting with Nantahala Outdoor Center

27) Wildwater Rafting and Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours

Address: 10345 US-19, Bryson City, NC 28713

Wildwater Rafting offers the best rafting and zip-lining tours around. They have whitewater rafting in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains available for ages four and up. Their thrilling canopy zip-lining tours are available across Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and North Carolina. They even have kidzips for the younger ones. 

Wildwater Sign

28) Tuckasegee Stables & Petting Zoo

Address: 2300 Governors Island Rd, Bryson City, NC 28713

Next to Darnell Farms is the popular Tuckasegee Stables and Petting Zoo. This is the perfect activity for little ones! At the petting zoo, they usually have baby goats, bunnies, mini ponies, horses, sheep, and more. Mini pony rides are available. 

Petting Zoo Barn

29) Endless River Adventures

Address: 14157 W Hwy 19, Bryson City, NC 28713

Endless River Adventures is one of North Carolina’s premier whitewater rafting and kayaking schools. They are a great source for everything you need to know about whitewater rafting, and they offer tours, classes for all ages, gear, and more. 

Endless River Adventures

Breweries and Wineries near Bryson City, NC

Here are some great local options to choose from.

✅ Mountain Layers Brewing Company

Address: 90 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Mountain Layers Brewing Company is an award-winning craft microbrewery and taproom. They always have a nice selection of brews, including lagers, IPAs, sours, and blonde ales that can be enjoyed on either of their two floors.

Mountain Layers Brewery Hazy IPA

Downstairs is their regular indoor taproom, and upstairs is a large outdoor patio that overlooks downtown Bryson City. 

Mountain Layers Brewery

✅ Deep Creek Winery

Address: 405 Johnathan Walk, Bryson City, NC 28713

Deep Creek Winery is a family-owned and operated winery that focuses on small-batch wines that provide excellent flavor. They have unique flavors of wine, such as Razzle Dazzle, Sweet Summer Bliss, Happy Hiker, and Fire Side Red, to name a few. 

Deep Creek Wine Indian Falls White Wine

They offer inexpensive wine tastings on their beautiful outdoor patio overlooking the forest. 

Deep Creek Winery Patio Views

✅ Bryson City Brewing

Address: 234 Deep Creek Rd, Bryson City, NC 28713

Bryson City Brewing is found along the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, and they are a fun, family, and pet-friendly place with lots of food, over 18 beers on tap, TVs, and a lush grassy lawn for kids and pets to play. 

Bryson City Brewing Patio
Burger at Bryson City Brewing

Things to do near Bryson City, NC

You can’t visit Bryson City without exploring the natural beauty all around the area! Here are some things you definitely don’t want to miss out on. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has some of the oldest mountains in the world and covers over 522,000 acres of land between North Carolina and Tennessee. It is the most visited national park in the United States and sees around 11 million people each year. 

The activities within the park are endless, as are the sights, the attractions, and the beauty. Guests can enjoy almost any outdoor activity, including the 800 miles of hiking trails, camping, fishing, kayaking, and more. Here are a few things you don’t want to miss in the huge national park. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

✅ Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The point stands at 6,643 feet, and you can simply drive all the way to the top. 

From the lookout, you can see some of the most awe-inspiring natural views and seven different states, including Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. 

Clingman's Dome

✅ Oconaluftee Visitors Center 

Oconaluftee Visitors Center is the park’s newest visitors center and is situated right outside of the Mountain Farm Museum in Cherokee, NC. The center has trail information, important notices, picnic areas, a gift shop, and a river trail behind the building.

Mountain Farm Museum

If you need to know anything about the park, from history to important updates, this is where you’ll want to go. It’s a great place to see the Elk as well.

Elk in Cataloochee Valley

✅ Juney Whank Falls

The entrance to Juney Whank Falls can be found right in Bryson City, NC. The falls drop 90 feet, and viewing points of the falls are divided into an upper and lower section, both of which can be viewed by a small bridge that crosses over the falls. 

Juney Whank Falls

The trail to the waterfall is short with incline (only about 0.8 miles roundtrip) and considered fairly easy, great for families. Pets are not allowed on this trail.

Juney Whank Falls

✅ Tom Branch Falls

Tom Branch Falls are another set of waterfalls that can be found in Bryson City. The trail to the falls is called “Deep Creek Trail” and is only about 0.6 miles roundtrip, although you can keep traveling on the trail if you wish to explore more of the area. The trail is a very easy and recommended trail for families looking to see waterfalls. 

Tom Branch Falls

Blue Ridge Parkway

Address: Virginia-North Carolina 

The glorious Blue Ridge Parkway is one of North Carolina’s claims to fame and one of the most unique and beautiful drives you may ever take! The parkway travels 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, with tons of points of interest along the way. 

There are scenic views unlike any other and areas from that parkway that will blow your mind. If you travel the entire drive, it will take about 12-13 hours without stops. The parkway actually begins relatively close to Bryson City. 

Linn Cove Viaduct along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Fontana Lake / Dam

Address: Fontana Dam, NC 28733

Fontana Lake Dam is the tallest dam east of the Rockies, standing at 480 feet, and is located on the Little Tennessee River. At the Fontana Dam Visitors Center, guests can climb the tower for incredible views of the great dam, take pictures and read historical plaques. 

Fontana Dam

Annual Events in Bryson City, NC

Here are some fantastic events to check out while in Bryson City

✅ Events with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Giving train rides year-round isn’t the only fun they have on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Throughout the year, there are themed events, such as holidays and summer events, that take over the train for a few days. 

The Bunny Hopper Express is an Easter-themed ride where for two days in April, the train is fully decorated in Easter attire and sets off on a thrilling four-hour excursion that includes Easter-themed games, activities, and an egg hunt. 

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad also holds events such as BBQ & Brews, Uncorked, Caroline Shine Moonshine Experience, and the Smoky Mountain Beer Run, which are all food and drink specials, all while experiencing the train ride. 

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

✅ Darnell Farms Events 

Darnell Farms is a very popular event site with some of the biggest annual events and festivals in town. All events generally include art vendors, live entertainment, bounce houses, water slides, Appalachian demonstrations and games, food trucks, and so much more. 

The Strawberry Jam, the Sunflower Hippie Festival, the Peach Jam, the Apple Fest, the Fall Hayrides and Corn Maze, the Bluegrass River Jam, and the Christmas Wonderland are just some of the most popular events that happen throughout the year. 

Darnell Farms Live Music

✅ Freedom Fest

Freedom Fest is Bryson Cities’ annual Fourth of July festival that has been happening in the city for over 30 years. Downtown Bryson City will be fully decorated and ready for the fun, which kicks off at 8 a.m. with a 5K race. 

At 10 a.m., the streets will be shut down for a full-on street fair with games, live music, food trucks, and vendors. Then, at 10 p.m. is the highly anticipated fireworks show, which can comfortably be seen from many places around downtown. 

✅ NOCtoberfest

Every October, the Nantahala Outdoor Center puts on a family-fun fall fest. There are always lots of kid’s activities, games, vendors with handmade items, food trucks, kids trick or treating, pumpkin painting, and more. 

A highlight of the event is the Great Pumpkin Pursuit, where they release 200 pumpkins down the Nantahala River, and visitors can bet on which pumpkin will make it first to the finish line. 

Holiday Season Activities

✅ Polar Express

We all know and love the story of the Polar Express and the mystical train to the North Pole. Well, The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad brings the story to life so you and the family can experience your own Polar Express train ride during the holiday season. 

The train ride is a little over an hour long and is complete with a major motion picture soundtrack, hot chocolate, Christmas stories, holiday treats, and your very own Polar Express punch ticket. This world-famous train ride is truly a magical holiday moment. 

✅ Christmas Parade (December 2, 2023)

The Christmas Parade is a 48-year annual tradition where the whole town comes together to celebrate the holidays with floats, homecoming queens, fire trucks, marching bands, antique cars, and the star of the show- Santa himself. 

✅ Christmas Wonderland at Darnell Farms 

Darnell Farms goes all out during the holiday season to get everyone happy and excited for Christmas. There will be hayrides offered through the farm that is covered in twinkling Christmas lights, fresh hot cocoa, treats, Santa, and tons of Christmas Trees to pick out and take home. 

​​Where To Stay in Bryson City, NC

📍The Lil’ Red Caboose on the Creek – The Lil’ Red Caboose on the Creek will be one of the most unique stays you’ll ever get to experience! This is a one-of-a-kind caboose built in the 1970s, and you get to stay in it for a low price. Guests will enjoy sleep arrangements for up to four guests, lots of open, private land, creek access, hammocks, grills, and a clean and comfortable stay. 

📍Calhoun House Inn & Suites – The Calhoun House Inn & Suites is the mountain luxury stay you’ve been looking for. The charming rustic rooms are decorated with a twist of modern, luxury style, and you will be relaxed and happy to be there. Amenities of the inn include continental breakfast, hiking trails on site, large apartment-style rooms, massage services, barbecue grills, and beautiful views of the mountains from their cozy front porch.  

📍Grumpy Bear RV Park and Campground – Grumpy Bear RV Park and Campground is one of the favored campgrounds in the area. The site rests on the Tuckasegee River, and guests have complete river access during their stay. Folks can park their RVs and have access to 20/30/50 amp electric, water, and sewer. Campers have the option to pitch their own tents or stay in one of the campsite’s beautiful authentic tipis (teepees). There are cabin rentals available as well. 

Grumpy Bear Campground

📍Smoky Mountain Campground– Smoky Mountain Campground is the perfect rustic, outdoorsy style camping, great for family weekend trips in the summer. They have tent and RV sites available with 20/30/50 amp electricity, fire rings, and picnic tables. Be sure to stop by the general store for all your camping needs and delicious homemade ice cream. 

Bryson City, NC: FAQs

📌 What cities are in Swain County?

Cities in Swain County include Cherokee, Birdtown, Ela, Wesser, Lauada, Nantahala, and of course, Bryson City.

📌 Is Bryson City, NC, worth visiting?

Bryson City, NC, is definitely worth visiting for those seeking outdoor adventures, natural beauty, and a charming small-town atmosphere. Nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, Bryson City offers a variety of activities and attractions that cater to different interests.

📌 What is Swain County known for?

Swain County is known for being located mostly within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

📌 Does Bryson City have a downtown?

Yes, Bryson City has a nice, walkable downtown full of shops, restaurants, and more. 

📌 What is the abandoned town near Bryson City?

Proctor is an abandoned town just 28 miles from Bryson City.

📌 How far is Bryson City from Asheville?

Bryson City is one hour and ten minutes from Asheville, or about 65 miles. 

📌 How far is Bryson City from the ocean?

Bryson City is a little over 300 miles to the nearest coast, roughly five and a half hours of driving. 

📌 Why are there cars in the river at Bryson City?

Cars were placed on the riverbank in the 1960s in an effort to prevent riverbank erosion. 

Cars on Riverbank

Final Thoughts

Bryson City is more than just another mountain town; it’s a town full of charm, adventure, and spirit. You can easily spend over a week exploring everything there is in and around the city that the whole family will love. 

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