Jackson County Greenway

29 Best Things to Do in Sylva NC & Nearby

Looking for Things to Do in Sylva NC & Dillsboro NC

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Sylva and Dillsboro are quaint hidden gems in Western North Carolina. Located less than an hour from Asheville, these little towns offer a great taste of what mountain life is like and just how beautiful this part of North Carolina truly is. With some of the best fishing in the state, some of the greatest hiking trails, and a fun variety of shops and breweries, these two places make for such a delightful trip.

Sylva is the county seat of Jackson County and was founded in the 1880s after the construction of the Carolina Railroad. Dillsboro was also founded in the 1880s after the Murphy Branch Railroad came to the area.

Jackson County Courthouse

Both towns remained rather small, off-the-map places for some time until the community college was built in Sylva in 1964. Today, Sylva and Dillsboro have grown in popularity thanks to people’s recognition of the beautiful landscapes and the history the towns have to offer.

If you’d like to explore simple mountain life and true natural beauty, Sylva and Dillsboro make for the perfect, relaxing vacation. Not only is there lots of history to explore, but also many shops, restaurants, and some of the best outdoor adventures to be had in the area.

Things to Do in Sylva NC & Dillsboro

Thinking about taking a trip to Sylva and Dillsboro, NC? You should definitely put these underrated towns on your radar. Here are all the fabulous places to see, outdoor activities to enjoy, where you can stay, and more.

1. Explore Downtown Sylva 

Address: Sylva, NC 28779

Downtown Sylva is a vibrant downtown tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains. In downtown Sylva, there are iconic historic buildings, cute shops, and great restaurants that line these quaint, humble streets. There aren’t a lot of downtowns that are cuter than this. Fodors Street was named one of the country’s Top 25 Cutest Main Streets

We love so many shops in downtown Sylva but can’t list them all. Here are a few of our favorites, along with some other fun things to do.

  • Tuckaseegee Fly Shop – Sylva is known for being the fishing capital of North Carolina, so of course, this is a top-of-the-line fishing and gear shop in the heart of downtown Sylva. For all fishing equipment, permits, information, and more, this is where you’ll want to visit. 
Tuckaseegee Fly Shop in Downtown Sylva NC
  • Jackson Arts Market (JAM Flock) – The Jackson Arts Market is a year-round arts and produce market open every Saturday from 1 pm – to 5 pm. Every Saturday, there are tons of vendors with locally crafted goods, live music, live demonstrations, arts and crafts, food, and more. Every third Saturday of the month, visitors can join in the live drum circle and feed the chicken flock (the JAM flock). 
  • Sylva Heritage Walk – The Sylva Heritage Walk takes guests on a throw-back tour of Sylva’s heritage through brochures and plaques along the main street. Guests can walk themselves or join in a guided tour through the Jackson County Historical Association at the Jackson County Public Library. 
  • City Lights Bookstore – City Lights Bookstore has been a staple of Sylva since 1985. The bookstore has a wonderful variety of books of all kinds, including many books from around the region and by local authors.
  • Fantastic local restaurants – Sylva has so many wonderful restaurants that we can’t list all here, but visit this link to read about all of them in more detail! 

2. American Museum of the House Cat 

Address: 5063 US-441, Sylva, NC 28779

The American Museum of the House Cat is a curious museum for anyone interested in cats, art, and anything a little out of the ordinary.

The American Museum of the House Cat

The museum features antiques, relics, and artifacts that educate and trace the history of cats. There is also lots of art, pottery, and other valuables. This is a one-of-a-kind experience you’ll never forget!

American Museum of the House Cat

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children, and all proceeds are donated to a nearby no-kill animal shelter. 

Cat Mummy at the American Museum of the House Cat

3. Jackson County Public Library 

Address: 310 Keener St, Sylva, NC 28779

Jackson County Public Library can be found right in downtown Sylva and makes for a great community library. The library has a great interactive children’s area and a vast selection of books, movies, music, and public computers. 

Jackson County Public Library

4. Pinnacle Park & Trail 

Address: Google Map

Pinnacle Park is on the outskirts of Sylva and is a great place to enjoy quiet nature walks and trails. The main trail is part of the West Fork Trail and takes hikers up to the summit of The Pinnacle. The walk is about 3.5 miles long and includes lots of steep elevation gain.

5. Rockhound Ridge Gem Mine

Address: 8430 US-441, Sylva, NC 28779

The Rockhound Ridge Gem Mine is a family-run business that specializes in everything rock and mineral related. Visitors can purchase different sizes of buckets containing local gems and gems from around the world. The shop also has gem mining kits, tools, and even more single rocks for sale. 

Rockhound Ridge Gem Mine in Sylva NC

6. Poteet Park 

Address: 29 Central St, Sylva, NC 28779

Poteet Park is a throw-back children’s park with classic wooden play structures and playground equipment. The park also has large grassy areas and benches, perfect for family picnics. Visitors will also be able to catch live mountain music at the park most Friday nights in the summer. 

Poteet Park in Downtown Sylva NC

7. Monteith Farmstead and Community Park

Address: 316 1381 Hometown Pl, Sylva, NC 28779

The Monteith Farmstead is an old farmhouse that once belonged to a pair of sisters who spent their entire lives living there and taking care of the land.

The 100-year-old house is now open to the public and filled with quilts, canned goods, furniture, and other snippets of what life was like in the early 20th century. The surrounding property also has walking trails, fishing areas, picnic areas, and a greenway.

Monteith Farmstead Park

8. Jackson County Ale Trail

Jackson County’s Ale Trail takes visitors on a craft beer experience that encompasses six breweries in Sylva, Dillsboro, Cashiers, Cherokee, and Cullowhee. The Ale Trail starts in Dillsboro and then takes trailgoers to Sylva and beyond. Guests can enjoy over 100 locally crafted brews. 

More Nearby: Outdoor Breweries in Asheville, NC

Balsam Falls Brewing Co in Downtown Sylva NC

9. Fusions Spa

Address: 714 W Main St, Sylva, NC 28779

Fusions Spa is the premier relaxation center in Sylva. This full-service spa offers massages, facials, spa body therapy, skincare, and more. They also have an on-site gym so members can get a workout in before relaxing. 

10. Dillsboro River Company: Tubing and Rafting the Tuckasegee River

Address: 18 Macktown Rd, Sylva, NC 28779

If you’ve ever wanted to try some whitewater rafting, this is your perfect opportunity. The Dillsboro River Company takes guests out on the Tuckasegee River, an excellent river for first-time whitewater rafters, families, and those looking for a more relaxing river ride. Guests have the choice to take a guided tour, go out on their own, or enjoy some tubing fun. 

Dillsboro River Co

11. Galaxy Lanes and Games 

Address: 347 Jackson Plaza, Sylva, NC 28779

Galaxy Lanes is the perfect place to bring the family or head out on a weekend date. Galaxy Lanes is a 22-lane bowling alley with arcade games, a snack bar, pool tables, and beer. 

12. Jackson County Greenway

Address: 342 Old Cullowhee Rd, Sylva, NC 28779

Jackson County Greenway is a lovely 2.3-mile out-and-back walking path along the Tuckasegee River.

Jackson County Greenway

The course takes about an hour to complete and is a perfect family-friendly walking area. Along the trail are benches, workout equipment areas, and bridges. 

Jackson County Greenway

13. Jackson County Farmers Market

Address: 110 Railroad Ave, Sylva, NC 28779

The Jackson County Farmers Market is a year-round outdoor farmers market with dozens of vendors selling their locally grown produce, herbal products, handmade crafts, and more. This market happens every Saturday from 9:00 until noon from April through October, then every Saturday from 10:00 until 1:00 from November to March.

Jackson County Farmers Market

14. Wayehutta OHV Riding Area

Address: State Rd 1731, Sylva, NC 28779

Wayehutta OHV Riding Area is a national forest land that opened in 1981. The riding area consists of 28 miles of loop trails and camping areas that are only open from April through mid-December. Seasonal passes or day passes must be purchased before riding. 

15. Golfing at Balsam Mountain Preserve

Address: 81 Preserve Rd, Sylva, NC 28779

The Balsam Mountain Preserve is over 4,000 acres of pure mountain beauty and some lovely outdoor activities. The Preserve is most known for its full-service club with a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, fitness center, and equestrian riding center.

The Preserve is also known for the 6,000-yard Arnold Palmer golf course. Not only is the course set in one of the most gorgeous areas, the golfing is supreme. 

16. Explore Downtown Dillsboro, NC 

Address: Dillsboro, NC 28725

Downtown Dillsboro isn’t the largest downtown area, but the five blocks are filled with history, quaint shops, amazing restaurants, and lots of entertainment. Here are a few places to explore the next time you visit.

  • Dogwood Crafters Co-Op – An artistic co-op with over 80 local members. Crafts for sale include pottery, metalwork, quilts, paintings, wood items, jewelry, and more. 
  • Front Porch General Store – An old-timey general store with a variety of casual goods, vintage items, furnishings, canned goods, and more. 
  • The Corn Crib – A gift shop specializing in locally made jewelry, crafts, and home decor.
  • Nancy Tuts Christmas Shop – A festive year-round Christmas shop that has been in business for over 50 years. There is a fabulous selection of handmade items, local Christmas fares, and more.
Nancy Tut's Christmas Shop in Dillsboro NC
  • Lazy Bear General Store & Ice Cream – A fun community shop that has almost everything you could be looking for. The shop has everything from general items and information to handmade crafts, delicious homemade fudge, locally made foods, and freshly made ice cream.
  • Dillsboro Chocolate Factory – A favorite local chocolate shop that has been serving the community freshly made chocolates, fudge, and sweet treats since 1999. 
Dillsboro Chocolate Factory in Downtown Dillsboro, NC
  • Restaurants – There are so many great restaurants to enjoy while out in Dillsboro. From great smokehouses and barbecues to seafood, small-town diners, taverns, and steakhouses, Dillsboro has it all. 

17. Jackson County Green Energy Park 

Address: 100 Green Energy Park Rd., Dillsboro, NC 28725

Jackson County Green Energy Park is a renewable energy art studio that allows the public to learn about and experience renewable energy. There are people demonstrating and teaching classes about blacksmithing, metalsmithing, pottery, and so much more.

Art made by the artists is also for sale, and there are always studios available to rent. This is a great place to bring the kids to give them a unique experience. 

Green Energy Park

18. Appalachian Women’s Museum

Address: 100 W Hometown Pl, Dillsboro, NC 28725

The Appalachian Women’s Museum is located in a three-story home that was built in 1908 and owned by the Monteith family. The museum is all volunteer-run and showcases the importance of women and women’s history in the Appalachian mountains.

Visitors will find artifacts and relics from women in the Cherokee Nation, arts and crafts made by women, books, photographs, and more.

Appalachian Women's Museum

Things to do near Sylva NC & Dillsboro

There are some great places right near Sylva and Dillsboro that you should check out while in the area. Here are some of our must-sees.

✅ Museum of the Cherokee Indian
Address: 589 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee, NC 28719

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is a non-profit that opened in 1948. It provides educational information and a look at rare artifacts and relics from the Cherokee Native Americans who once roamed this land. 

✅ Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Address: 45 Mitchell St, Bryson City, NC 28713

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is a historic train depot where you can see heritage freight trains and take unique rides through the North Carolina mountains. They have great family trips and the best Polar Express-themed ride during the holiday season.

Read More: Things to Do in Bryson City, NC

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

✅ Oconaluftee Visitor Center & The Great Smoky National Park
Address: 1194 Newfound Gap Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719

The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is in Cherokee, NC, just 29 minutes from Sylva. This visitor center marks the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The museum has great exhibits on mountain life, including a farm museum/shop, log structures, and a gift store. 

The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is also a great place to spot elk herds in the spring, summer, and fall. They like to hang out in the fields behind the center in the early mornings and late afternoons.

29 Best Things to Do in Sylva NC & Nearby

✅ Mingo Falls
Address: Eastern Cherokee Reservation, Cherokee, NC 28719

Mingo Falls is a 200-foot waterfall located just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a must-see in the area, and the path to reach the base of the falls is an easy 0.3-mile path. 

✅ Blue Ridge Parkway 
Address: 20 US-19, Cherokee, NC 28719

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile stretch of road that travels from Virginia through North Carolina and is one of the most famous roads in the country. The southern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway ends in the town of Cherokee, NC. You can find some incredible waterfalls along the BRP as well.

Blue Ridge Parkway View

✅ Judaculla Rock Petroglyphs
Address: 552 Judaculla Rock Rd, Cullowhee, NC 28723

In Cullowhee, NC, sits a famous outcrop of sandstone with carvings and petroglyphs from the Cherokee Indians. The rock is on a small section of privately owned land that is open for visitors to come and see the rock, take pictures, and explore the area. 

Judaculla Rock petroglyph

✅ Mountain Heritage Center
Address: 176 Central Dr, Cullowhee, NC 28723

The Mountain Heritage Center is a small local heritage and cultural visitor center. This is a place where visitors can explore the history of the Appalachian people and learn about their surroundings through artifacts, photographs, relics, and more.

Annual Events in Sylva NC & Dillsboro

Here are some of Sylva and Dillsboro’s best annual events that you don’t want to miss.

✅ Greening Up the Mountains Festival (April 27, 2024) – Greening Up the Mountains Festival is a large annual event that takes over downtown Sylva for one day in the early spring. The event includes over 175 local vendors, arts & crafts, food vendors, breweries, a 5K run, and live music. The festival was created to help teach locals and those who attend about sustainability and working towards a greener planet. 

✅ Harvest Festival (October 20 & 21, 2023) – Friday night’s festivities are free, which include Cherokee Stories and a campfire. Saturday will include music, arts & crafts, food trucks, dancing, quilt show, and more! Adults are $5.

2023 Harvest Festival in Downtown Sylva NC

✅ WNC Pottery Festival (November 4, 2023) – The WNC Pottery Festival is a lovely fall festival that takes place at Sylva Bridge Park. The festival has over 40 local pottery vendors just in time to find that perfect holiday gift. There is a $5 admittance fee, and children under 12 are free.

✅ Concerts on the Creek (every Friday evening from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend) – Concerts on the Creek is a live Friday night event that goes all summer long at Sylva Bridge Park. This is a free event where everyone is invited to watch live music from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

✅ Sylva Christmas Parade (December 3, 2023) – The annual Christmas parade takes place in downtown Sylva every year at the beginning of Christmas to get everyone in the holiday spirit. The parade starts at 3 pm and lasts about an hour long. There are large Christmas floats, bands, costumes, and so many festivities. 

​​Where To Stay in Sylva NC & Dillsboro

📍Best Western Plus River Escape Inn & Suites – This Best Western is located right on the banks of the beautiful Tuckasegee River and is only minutes from historical landmarks in Dillsboro. The hotel is both friendly and comfortable and perfect for a family getaway or romantic vacation. Accommodations at this Best Western include an indoor swimming pool and hot tub, a fitness center, river access and views, continental breakfast, a garden, and balcony rooms. 

📍Roamer’s Respite – Close to Town with Sunset Views – Roamer’s Respite is a beautiful, modern, rustic mountain home with spectacular views of the Great Smoky Mountains and only minutes away from downtown Dillsboro. The holiday home is such a fantastic option for a family gathering retreat and offers the best atmosphere for a mountain getaway. Guests can enjoy three bedrooms, a full kitchen, an outdoor fire pit, a balcony, a pool table, and mountain views. Pets are allowed here as well.

📍Idyllic Cottage in Downtown SylvaThis Idyllic mountain cottage is located right in downtown Sylva and is a fabulous option for a small family stay. The house sleeps up to four guests and is decorated in a quaint mountain style. There are great views, hiking trails nearby, and easy access to some of Sylva’s best town parks and attractions. Guests are allowed to bring pets. 

Sylva & Dillsboro, NC: FAQs

📌 What is Sylva, NC, known for?
Sylva is most known for its extensive hiking trails and for being the trout and flying fishing capital of North Carolina.

📌 Is Sylva, NC, worth visiting?
Whether you are an outdoorsy person or just someone looking to explore a cute mountain town in North Carolina, Sylva is definitely worth checking out.

📌 What’s the closest airport to Sylva & Dillsboro, NC?
The closest major airport to Sylva and Dillsboro is the Asheville (AVL) Airport.

📌 How far is Sylva from Asheville, NC?
Sylva is 47.2 miles or about a 50-minute drive from Asheville.

📌 What movie was filmed in Sylva and Dillsboro?
The Fugitive, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Deliverance are just a few of the many movies filmed in Sylva. 

Final Thoughts

North Carolina is full of humble mountain towns, and Sylva and Dillsboro are prime examples of that small-town mountain living. These places aren’t the most popular places in the state, but that doesn’t mean they are still full of beauty, wonder, and fun restaurants and shops. Hopefully, now, Sylva and Dillsboro are on your travel list!

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