Clutching a banjo and a washtub bass, two lively characters stand on the corner of Waynesville, NC. They are truly larger than life and represent the long tradition of Mountain Music in a town that has become a hot spot on the North Carolina side of the Smokies.
Waynesville, the county seat of Haywood County lies just a few miles off I-40 along the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway (US 74/23). Although not large in size (pop. 10,000) this city is large on life. The Downtown area has few vacant storefronts and on any given day you will find people shopping, dining, or just relaxing.
On one corner you might see a Pillsbury Dough Boy gazing out onto the street from one store window. Standing several feet tall, this American consumer icon joins other characters throughout town in welcoming folks to this corner of the Smokies.
Art shops, specialty shops and a Mast General Store line Main Street which runs along the top of a hill with the side streets sloping down from it. Each store gives you a sense that you are in a unique place as you realize just about everything is local.
Nick and Nate’s is another one of those places that gives you the same feeling. This pizza and burger joint isn’t pricey and the hometown feeling you get when you walk in makes you want to stay longer.
Waynesville serves as a gateway community to the Smoky Mountains in much the same way as Sevierville does on the Tennessee side. Just a few miles down US 19 you will find Maggie Valley. This small town is lined with hotels, restaurants and attractions most of which are locally owned and operated.
Across the mountain from Maggie Valley lies the Cherokee Indian Reservation, an area booming with activity in the wake of a more than half-billion dollar expansion of the Harrah’s Casino into a full-fledged resort. It is also a town rich in history and culture related to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.
Lake Junaluska is another community close to Waynesville. Owned by the United Methodist Church, this retreat caters mainly to church groups but anyone can visit or stay there. Two must see sites at Lake Junaluska are the Rose Walk along the lake and the lighted cross overlook.
Other places nearby include the Cataloochee and Big Creek sections of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both areas provide great ways to enjoy the park without fighting the crowds or the traffic.
U.S. 276 runs through the heart of town meandering from the Expressway to the south side of town. This winding mountain road will take you by the famed Cold Mountain, the community of Cruso along the East Fork of the Pigeon River and to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Waynesville is about 2-hours east of Knoxville just off I-40. It’s a great place for a Day Trip or at least worth a stop on the way to Asheville or other points in North Carolina.