Museums in Asheville and Nearby

 

There are around 100 museums in Asheville and Western North Carolina. Here are the most interesting, noteworthy and unusual ones in Asheville and nearby.

 

Most museums have free or reduced admission for members, and most are free for young children (ages vary). Thanks to the Republican-dominated state legislature, beginning in 2014 all museums must charge sales tax on admission tickets. Small museums run by volunteers from the local historical society often offer free admission, but donations are welcomed and sometimes actively requested. Remember, hours for some of these museums, especially small ones, are subject to change. Most museums are closed on major holidays. It is best to call ahead to confirm open days and times. Notable museums are listed in RED.

 

ASHEVILLE & ENVIRONS

Asheville Art Museum (2 S. Pack Square, 828-253-3227, www.ashevilleart.org; Tue.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 1-5, $8 adults, $7 students and seniors), established in 1948, focuses on 20th and 21st century art, especially the work of Southeastern artists. The museum has a permanent collection of about 3,500 works, plus an additional 5,000 architectural drawings. Of particular note are about 500 works on Black Mountain College by artists associated with the experimental school. The museum has 12 galleries and about 54,000 square feet of space in a 1926 Renaissance Revival building, formerly Pack Memorial Library and now a part of the Pack Place complex.

 

 

aSHEville Museum (35 Wall St., Downtown Asheville, 828-785-5722, www.ashevillemuseum.com, Sun..-Thur. 11-6, Fri.-Sat. 11-8, admission by required donation of $5 to $15) New in mid-2014, the aSHEville Museum is billed as a woman's cultural museum, claiming to be the first museum of its type in the Southeast. Among the first exhibits in 10 galleries in the smallish space is a collection of antique vibrators and a display of "100+ Years of Sexism in Advertising" that traces the image of American women in print ads over the past century. Good gift shop.

 

 

Asheville Pinball Museum (1 Battle Square, Downtown Asheville, www.ashevillepinball.com,  828-776-5671, closed Mon.-Tues., Wed.-Fri. 2-9 pm, Sat. noon-9, Sun. 1-6) Asheville Pinball Museum's new space, just down the street from its original spot across from the north end of the Grove Arcade, gives it twice as much room.  You can visit for free, and we found the staff there friendly and willing to share lots of information. You can wander around and look at and read about the various machines from the 1930s on. There's a lot of fascinating history here, especially about the "pinball bans" that were in effect in many cities not so long ago.

 

The main room of the Pinball Museum is devoted to pinball machines, while the back rooms have classic video arcade machines and some "shooting" games from the 1940s and later. Note the restrooms -- labeled Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man.

 

If you want to play the classic pinball and video machines, it's $12 (adults), $10 (10 and under) for unlimited play. Some machines are on display only.  While Asheville is not unique in having this kind of place -- Seattle, Las Vegas and a few other cities have similar kinds of pinball museums -- we are lucky to have this fascinating museum here. And if you enjoy playing authentic pinball machines and classic arcade games, you'll love this place.

 

 

Big Ivy Historical Park (540 Dillingham Rd., Barnardsville, 828-626-2522; hours vary, free) has a restored 19th century log cabin. On the first Saturday in October, a syrup mill on the site makes molasses.

 

 

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (56 Broadway St., with an additional space across Broadway, Downtown Asheville, 828-350-8484, www.blackmountaincollege.org; open Mon.-Sat. 11-5, admission fees vary depending on event, exhibition or conference, no charge for some exhibits) focuses on preserving the legacy of educational and artistic innovation of Black Mountain College, the radical experimental college near Asheville that from 1933 to 1957 attracted leading artists, writers and thinkers including Buckminster Fuller, Robert Motherwell, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, M.C. Richards, Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, James Leo Hirlihy and Arthur Penn. The Downtown museum does a great job with exhibits and programs about the college.

 

 

Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 384, approx. 2 miles south of US Hwy. 70 Parkway entrance in East Asheville, 828-298-5330, www.nps.gov/blri; daily 9-5, free), opened in 2009, is the main parkway visitor information center. It has high-tech exhibits on the parkway and its history, including the I-Wall, a 22-foot long interactive map of the parkway, and a 24-minute film. The center is as green as it can be, with a 10,000 square-foot “living” roof covered in drought-resistant local plants.

 

 

Colburn Earth Science Museum (2 S. Pack Square, 828-254-7162, http://colburnmuseum.wordpress.com; Tue.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 1-5, adults $6, students, military and seniors $5, children 5 and under free), part of the Pack Place complex, has displays on gems from North Carolina and elsewhere, including more than 350 minerals found in the state. It also has exhibits on the geology of the region and the history of mining in North Carolina. An exhibit on fossils is being developed.

 

 

Estes-Winn Antique Automobile Museum (828-253-7651 or 877-622-7238, www.grovewoodgallery.com; Mon.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 11-5, closed Jan.-Mar., free), a part of the Grovewood Gallery adjacent to the Grove Park Inn, has on display 18 old cars, from a 1913 Model T Ford to a 1959 Edsel, along with a 1925 Asheville La Salle fire truck. This is a small, low-key museum, but it’s fun to wander around and admire the fine old vehicles.

 

 

Folk Art Center  (Milepost 382, Blue Ridge Parkway, 828-298-7928, www.southernhighlandguild.org; Jan.-Mar. 9-5 daily; Apr.-Dec. 9-6 daily, free), headquarters of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, is a terrific place to see historical and contemporary mountain crafts. There are three crafts galleries, craft demonstrations and an Allanstand Craft Shop, which sells quality local and regional craft items.

 

 

North Carolina Arboretum (100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way off Brevard Rd./Hwy. 191 and the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393, 828-665-2492, www.ncarboretum.org; 8 am – 9 pm Apr.-Oct., 8-7 Nov.-Mar., gates close an hour before closing time, free admission but $12 per car parking fee, free for members) is a 434-acre nature park with 65 acres of cultivated gardens and 10 miles of hiking and biking trails. It is affiliated with the University of North Carolina system and is located in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest on Pisgah National Forest land. Highlights include a quilt garden (flowering plants arranged in a quilt pattern), local heritage garden, holly garden, native azalea garden, permanent and rotating exhibits in the Baker Exhibit and Education Center buildings, one of the best bonsai exhibits in the U.S., and a wonderful trail system. A ¾-mile mulched trail connects the Baker building and the Education Center, with trailheads easily reached from either building. Interpretive signs along the trail explain plant, animal, ecologic and environmental topics. There is a café and gift shop in the Education Center and an art and crafts gallery in the Baker Exhibit Center. The Arboretum conducts many classes and holds a number of plant and flower shows annually, including ones on bamboo, orchids, roses, dahlias and mums. You can easily spend an entire day visiting the Arboretum. Picnics on the grounds and dogs on leash are permitted.

 

 

North Carolina Homespun Museum (111 Grovewood Rd., 828-253-7651 or 877-622-7238, www.grovewood.com, Apr.-Dec. Mon.-Sat. 10-6, Sun. 11-5, closed Jan.-Mar., free), a part of the Grovewood Gallery adjacent to the Grove Park Inn, focuses on the history of Biltmore Industries and its wool cloth. Biltmore Industries originally was a weaving and woodworking education program started by Edith Vanderbilt of the Biltmore Estate.

 

 

Smith-McDowell House (283 Victoria Rd., South Asheville  www.nchistory.org, 828-253-9231; Wed.-Sat. 10-4, Sun. noon-4; $8 adults, $10 during Christmas season) is believed to be the oldest surviving house in Asheville and the oldest brick house in Buncombe County. It’s a two-story Federal style house, with Greek Revival interiors, although the early 20th century renovation by Richard Sharp Smith added Neoclassical elements. Frederick Law Olmsted’s firm did the landscaping around 1900. The house was restored in the late 20th century under the direction of Asheville architect Henry I. Gaines and is now operated as a museum by the WNC Historical Society. It is especially known for its Christmas decorations.

 

 

Southern Appalachian Radio Museum (Room 315, Elm Building, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Victoria Rd.,South Asheville, www.saradiomuseum.org; open Fri. 1-3 except Dec. and early Jan., free, other times by appointment, $5) is a tiny museum with displays on amateur radio.

 

 

Joshua P. Warren’s Asheville Mystery Museum (basement of Masonic Temple Building, 80 Broadway St., 828-335-6764, www.ashevillemystery.com; by appointment, included with Haunted Asheville tour, $20 adults, $15 children 9-14) is a collection of “artifacts” on ghosts and mysterious goings on in Asheville, put together by local ghostwriter and TV personality Joshua P. Warren.

 

 

Western North Carolina Nature Center (75 Gashes Creek Rd., 828-259-8080, www.wncnaturecenter.org; daily 10-5, adults $8, seniors $7, with $2 discount for Asheville City residents, children 3-15 $4) in East Asheville is a 42-acre zoological and nature park focused on the fauna of the Southern Appalachians. Displays include ones on red and gray wolves, bobcats and coyotes, black bears and snakes of the region, plus a farm with donkeys, goats, rabbits, chickens and sheep.

 

 

Thomas Wolfe Memorial (52 N. Market St. and 48 Spruce St., 828-253-8304, www.wolfememorial.com; visitor center open Tue.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. 1-5; $5 adults, $2 children, guided tour of the house included) is a North Carolina State Historic Site. The rambling 29-room boarding house, operated by Wolfe’s mother Julia Wolfe, is where Thomas Wolfe grew up. The “Old Kentucky Home,” called “Dixie” in Wolfe’s novel, Look Homeward, Angel, is directly behind the visitor center at 48 Spruce Street. The Wolfe home was extensively damaged in a 1998 fire (the arsonist was never caught), but it was meticulously restored as it might have looked in the early 20th century when Wolfe lived there before heading off to college at Chapel Hill. The house, a Queen Anne style structure built in 1883 with later additions, is painted a bright canary yellow. The visitor center exhibits artifacts and personal effects of the author, including some of his clothes, his Remington typewriter and his diploma from Harvard. There’s also a 22-minute film on the author’s life and work.

 

 

Vance Birthplace  (911 Reems Creek, Weaverville, 828-645-6706, www.nchistoricsites.org; Tue.-Sat. 9-5, free) is the birthplace of 19th century North Carolina three-time governor Zebulon B. Vance (1830-1894). A reconstructed log cabin (the chimney and fireplaces are original), furnishings (some original) and outbuildings evoke a prosperous mountain farm in the early 1800s. This is also a good place for a picnic. Don’t confuse with the Vance Monument on Pack Square in Downtown Asheville.

 

 

YMI Cultural Center (39 S. Market St., corner of Eagle and Market Sts., www.packplace.org, 828-257-4500; exhibit area open Tue.-Fri. 10-5, $5) was funded by George Vanderbilt as a community center for Asheville’s African-American community, many of whom worked building the Biltmore House. The 1893 building, designed by noted architect Richard Sharp Smith, is located in the heart of what was Asheville’s black business district. Over the years it housed a public library, drugstore, funeral parlor and doctor's office. After serving for a time as a YMCA branch, it sat idle until becoming the home in 1988 of the YMI Cultural Center, now a part of the Pack Place complex. Exhibits include African masks, drawings by African-American artist Charles W. White and photographs that tell the history of the YMI.

 

 

NEARBY

Allison-Deaver House Museum (200 Old Hendersonville Hwy. /Hwy. 280, Brevard, 828-884-5137, www.tchistoricalsociety.com; Sat. 10-4, Sun. 1-4 May-Oct., $5 adults or donation), operated by the Transylvania County Historical Society, is one of the oldest standing frame houses in Western North Carolina. It was built in 1815, with significant additions in the 1830s and 1850s, and restored in the 1980s and 1990s by the Historical Society.

 

Avery County Historical Museum (1829 Shultz Circle, Newland, 828-733-7111, www.averymuseum.com; Fri.-Sat. 11-3, Sun. 1-3, free) has exhibits on the history of Avery County and the Toe River area. The museum is located in the 1912 Avery County Jail.  Behind the museum is the 1917 Linville Depot building, once a stop on the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. It was moved here from its original location on Grape Street in Linville. The Depot is being restored, complete with a bark exterior.

 

Banner House Museum (7990 Hickory Nut Gap Rd., Banner Elk, 828-898-3634, www.bannerhousemuseum.org; Tue.-Sat. 11-4 mid-June-mid-Oct., guided tours adults $5, children 6-12 $1) is in the 1860s-vintage home of Samuel Henry Banner, one of Banner Elk’s original settlers. The museum is furnished in the style of the 1870s and 1880s.

 

Bennett Classics – Antique Auto Museum (241 Vance St., Forest City, 828-247-1767, www.bennettclassics.com; Mon.-Fri. 10-5, Sat. 10-3, $10 adults, $8 seniors, children $4) has more than 50 antique cars and trucks on display. It also offers antique cars for sale – recently a restored 1955 Pontiac Chieftain was offered for $15,500.

 

Blowing Rock Pictorial History Museum (1094 Main St., Blowing Rock, 828-295-6114; Mon. and Sat. 1-4 May-Dec., free), in an 1894 building once part of the now-closed Watauga Inn, displays antiques, photographs and memorabilia from the town of Blowing Rock.

 

Bostic Lincoln Center (112 Depot St., Bostic, 828-245-9800, www.bosticlincolncenter.com; Thu. 10-4, Fri. and Sat. 1-4, free) is an eccentric little museum dedicated to the idea that Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president, was not born in Kentucky but in a log cabin on Puzzle Creek near Bostic in Rutherford County, North Carolina. Some local residents and a few historians believe that Abe was born out of wedlock to Nancy Hanks of Puzzle Creek, who lived in Western North Carolina until the future president was about six years old.

 

John C. Campbell Folk School (1 Folk School Rd., Brasstown, 828-837-2775 or 800-365-5724, www.folkschool.org; campus open daily during daylight hours, Craft Shop and History Center open Mon.-Sat. 8-5, Sun. 1-5, free) is one of the leading folk and crafts schools in the country. It dates to 1925. The school, in the far western part of the state near Murphy about two hours from Asheville, annually offers more than 800 weekend and weeklong classes for adults in everything from blacksmithing and basketry to cooking, quilting and woodworking. Students can live in school housing and take meals at the school. The Craft Shop has items from some 300 local and regional craft artists, and the History Center is a small museum of mountain crafts with information on the school’s history. The work of school co-founder Olive Dame Campbell is celebrated in the 2000 film Songcatcher. The campus is a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors are welcome to explore the 300-acre campus on a self-guided tour during daylight hours.

 

Canton Area Historical Museum (36 Park St., Canton, 828-646-3412, www.cantonnc.com; Mon.-Fri. 8-5, free) has collections of late 19th and early 20th century local artifacts and a large collection of photographs and memorabilia of the town and its long-time main industry, the Champion Paper Mill (now much downsized and called Evergreen Packaging). The museum also serves as a visitor center.

 

Cherokee County Historical Museum (87 Peachtree St., Murphy, 828-837-6792, www.cherokeecounty-nc.gov; Mon.-Fri. 9-5, adults $3, children $1) has on display 800 dolls dating from 1865, along with 2,000 artifacts of the Cherokee Indians and a collection of local minerals. Note:  This museum is in Murphy in Cherokee County in the far west of the state, not on the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

 

Clay County Historical and Arts Council Museum (21 Davis Loop, Hayesville, 828-389-6814, www.clayhistoryarts.org; Tue.-Sat. 10-4 Memorial Day to Labor Day, Fri. and Sat. 10-4 Sep.-Oct., free) has interesting displays on local history, including a collection of feed sacks, spinning wheels, farm equipment, Cherokee Indian masks and gems and minerals of Clay County. In the museum is a replica of the office and medical equipment of a local physician, Dr. Paul Killian. The museum is located in the Old County Jail, built 1912.

 

Cradle of Forestry (11250 Pisgah Hwy. /Hwy. 276, Pisgah Forest, near Brevard, 828-877-3130, www.cradleofforestry.com; daily 9-5, mid-Apr.-early Nov., $5 adults, children under 16 free, free for everyone on Tues., free at all times for National Park Senior Pass holders) is a 6,500-acre site within the Pisgah National Forest devoted to the history of America’s first school of forestry. The school was established by George Vanderbilt who, upon the recommendation of his landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, hired Gifford Pinchot as forest manager of the then 125,000-acre Biltmore Estate. Pinchot later would become the first head of the USDA Forest Service and governor of Pennsylvania. In 1895, Vanderbilt hired German forester Dr. Carl A. Schenck to succeed Pinchot. Together, Pinchot and Schenck created the modern concept of forestry management and conservation. In the visitor center are 15 hands-on exhibits on forestry, including a simulated ride in a firefighting helicopter. A 1-mile trail winds through the original forestry campus, where you can explore a general store, one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, cabins and a vegetable garden. Another trail, 1.3 miles long, has a sawmill and 1915 steam locomotive used in logging.

 

Crossnore Weavers (Crossnore, 828-733-4660, www.crossnoreweavers.org; open Mon.-Sat. 9-5, free) near Linville is a “working museum” of weaving. It is an outgrowth of a boarding school for impoverished children established in 1913. Today, local women still weave blankets, scarves, napkins and other items. The Crossnore Fine Arts Gallery, located in what formerly was the Weaving Room, sells regional art and crafts to support what is now a day school.

 

Dry Ridge Historical Museum (41 N. Main St., Weaverville, 828-250-6482; Sat. 10-2, mid-Mar.-mid-Dec., free) is a small museum on the history of what the Cherokee called the Dry Ridge, the Reems Creek and Flat Creek areas of northern Buncombe County.

 

The Fine Art Museum at the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center at Western Carolina University (199 Centennial Drive, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, 828-227-3591, www.wcu.edu/museum; Mon.-Wed. and Fri. 10-4, Thu. 10-7; free) gets our vote for the clumsiest name for a museum in the region. The permanent collection of the museum has around 1,200 works from artists from around the country and the world, with no particular area of specialization.

 

Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum (25 Phillips St., Franklin, 828-369-7831, www.fgmm.org; Mon.-Sat. noon-4 May-Oct., Sat. noon-4, Nov.-Apr., free) has displays of local minerals and gems from the Cowee Valley, as well as from other areas. The museum is located in the Old Macon County Jail.

 

Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum (2050 Blowing Rock Hwy. /US Hwy. 221, Linville, off Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 305, www.grandfather.com; spring 8-6, summer 8-7, fall 8-6:30, winter 9-5; adults $18, seniors $15, children 4-12 $8—fees include admission to all parts of the park including the swinging bridge and zoo), part of the Grandfather Mountain commercial complex, has exhibits on the history of Grandfather Mountain, local gems and minerals and birds and wildflowers found in the area.

 

Granite Falls History and Transportation Museum (107 Falls Ave., Granite Falls, 828-396-2792, www.granitefallshistorymuseum.org; Sat. noon-4, Sun. 2-4, free) is located in a renovated 1790s house, the second oldest house in Caldwell County. The museum has exhibits on Caldwell County history.

 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Mountain Farm Museum (Oconaluftee Visitor Center, US Hwy. 441/Newfound Gap Rd. about 2 miles north of Cherokee, 865-436-1200, www.nps.gov/grsm; daily 8-4:30 Jan.-Feb. and Dec., daily 8-5 Mar. and Nov., daily 8-6 Apr.-May and Sep.-Oct., daily 8-7 June-Aug., free) is a mountain farmstead with nine historic buildings re-assembled and recreated from original buildings in the Smokies. It is the best example of a late 19th/early 20th century mountain farm in the region. Among the buildings are a chestnut log house, apple house, corncrib, springhouse and a large barn with some 16,000 hand-split roof shingles. You can do a self-guided tour (tour booklet and map $1 at adjacent visitor center), and rangers are available to put on demonstrations and answer questions.

 

Hands On! A Child’s Gallery (318 N. Main St., Hendersonville, 828-697-8333, www.handsonwnc.org; Tue.-Sat. 10-5; $5 for adults and children) is an activity center for children ages 1-10. Among the interactive displays are a grocery store, music room, costume theatre and a Lego ramp.

 

Henderson County Heritage Museum (1 Historic Courthouse Square, Hendersonville, 828-694-5007, www.hendersoncountymuseum.org; Wed.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 1-5, free) has exhibits on Henderson County history, including exhibits on local residents who fought in the Civil War and in World War I and a recreation of a local one-room schoolhouse.

 

Hickory Ridge Living History Museum (591 Horn in the West Drive, Boone, 828-264-2120, www.hickoryridgemuseum.com; spring and fall, Sat. 9-1, summer Tue.-Sun. 5-8 and Sat. 9-1, closed for winter starting mid-Oct.; $3 suggested donation), located on the grounds of the Horn in the West outdoor drama facility, tells the story of Daniel Boone and early settlers in the region. Interpreters in 18th century clothing give visitors a glimpse of the daily lives of these hardy mountaineers.

 

Highlands Historic Village (524 N. 4th St., Highlands, 828-787-1050, www.highlandshistory.org; late May-Oct. Fri.-Sat. 10-4, Sun. 1-4, free) consists of the 1877 Boynton-Trapier-Wright Home, the oldest existing house in Highlands; the Highlands Historical Museum and Archives in a building that dates from 1915; and Bug Hill Cottage, a recreation of an early 20th century tuberculosis sanitarium outdoor cubicle where patients took the mountain airs. There are exhibits about Highlands history including historic homes in the area, moonshining, golfer Bobby Jones and a collection of photographs of Highlands by George Masa, best known for his photographs of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

 

Historic Burke Foundation Heritage Museum (Old Burke Country Courthouse, on the Square bounded by Green, Union, Meeting and Sterling streets, Morganton, 828-437-4104, www.historicburke.org; Mon.-Fri. 10-4, free), located in the mid-1830s vintage county courthouse, has a permanent exhibit on the local court system and displays on Morganton and Burke County history.

 

Historic Johnson Farm (3346 Haywood Rd./NC Hwy. 191, Hendersonville, 828-891-6585, www.historichendersonville.org; open Tue.-Fri. 8-2:30 Sep.-May, Mon.-Thu. 8-2:30 June-Aug., visits to grounds free, guided tours, usually at 10:30 am on days the farm is open, are $5 for adults and $3 for students K-12) is a late 19th century farmstead once owned by a wealthy tobacco farmer and now operated as a museum and activity center by the Henderson County Board of Education. The property, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, consists of 15 acres and a dozen buildings, including a large two-story 1880 house built of bricks fired on site from mud from the French Broad River. It has beehives, and the Henderson County Bee Club frequently offers beekeeping demonstrations on Saturdays.

 

History Museum of Burke County (Old City Hall, 201 W. Meeting St., Morganton, 828-437-1777, www.thehistorymuseumofburke.org; railroad depot Sat. 2-4, free, museum Tue.-Fri. 10-4, Sat. 10-2, free) includes the Morganton Railroad Depot, built in 1886 and restored to its appearance in 1916, and a museum in the Old Morganton City Hall. The museum is dedicated to the preservation of Burke County’s memorabilia and artifacts.

 

House of Flags Museum (33 Gibson St., Columbus, 828-894-5640, www.houseofflags.org; Tue. and Thu. 10-1, Sat. 10-4, free) has a collection of 300 flags.

 

KidSenses Children’s Museum (172 N. Main St., Rutherfordton, 828-286-2120, www.kidsenses.com; Tue.-Thu. and Sat. 9-5, Fri. 9-8, adults and children $5, seniors $3) is an interactive museum and activity center for children ages 1-12.

 

Macon County Historical Society and Museum (36 W. Main St., Macon, 828-524-9758, www.maconchistorical.org; Mon.-Fri. 10-4, free) is in the Pendergrass Building, a dry goods and grocery store dating to the early 20th century. Many of the items in the museum are from this old store, now in the National Register of Historic Places. Other exhibits are on Cherokee Indian artifacts, old medical instruments and period clothing from the early 20th century.

 

Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County (400 N. Main St., Hendersonville, 828-698-1977, www.mineralmuseum.org; Mar.-Dec. Mon.-Fri. 1-5, Sat. 10-5, Jan.-Feb. Tue.-Fri. 1-5, Sat. 10-5, free) has collections of North Carolina and world gems and minerals, including many geodes, along with Cherokee Indian artifacts.

 

Mountain Farm and Home Museum (101 Brookside Camp Rd., Hendersonville, 828-697-8846, www.mfhmuseum.com; call for times when open, free) has a fascinating small collection of old farm tractors and antique farm equipment.

 

Mountain Gateway Museum (102 Water St., Old Fort, 828-668-9259, www.mountaingatewaymuseum.org; Tue.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. 2-5, Mon. noon-5, free) has permanent exhibits on mountain folk medicine, moonshining and spinning and weaving. There are two reconstructed 19th century cabins on the grounds of the museum. The 1890 Old Fort train station depot and museum, renovated and reopened in 2005, and associated with the Mountain Gateway Museum, is nearby at 25 East Main Street. The museum complex is part of the North Carolina Museum of History system in the state Department of Culture.

 

Mountain Heritage Museum at Western Carolina University (150 H. F. Robinson Administration Building, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, 828-227-7129, www.wcu.edu; Mon.-Wed. and Fri. 8-5, Thu. 8-7, open selected Sat. in summer and fall, free) focuses on the cultural and natural history of the Southern Appalachians. The museum has an excellent permanent exhibit on the history of the Scots-Irish who settled the mountains, plus two traveling and temporary exhibit halls. A recent temporary exhibit was on Horace Kephart and the camping equipment he used in the Great Smokies. The museum’s entrance area is paneled in wormy chestnut.

 

Museum of Ashe County History (301 E. Main St., Jefferson, 336-846-1904, www.ashehistory.org; Mon.-Sat. 10-4, free) is dedicated to restoring and using the old Ashe County Courthouse, built in 1904 in the Beaux Art style, as a museum devoted to the county’s history.

 

Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts (49 Shelton St. at US Hwy. 276, Waynesville, 828-452-1551, www.sheltonhouse.org; open May-Oct. Tues.-Sat. 10-4, admission $5, seniors $4, children $3) is located in Shelton House, a two-story white Charleston-style farmhouse built in 1875 and now on the National Register of Historic Places. The house alone is worth a visit. The museum has exhibits of regional folk art, pottery, baskets, quilts, weaving and other crafts.

 

Museum of North Carolina Minerals (Milepost 331 Blue Ridge Parkway at NC Hwy. 226, Spruce Pine, 828-765-9483, daily 9-5, free) showcases some 300 gems and minerals found in the Spruce Pine area and elsewhere in North Carolina. If you’re on the Parkway in the Spruce Pine area, this little museum is worth a stop.

 

Museum of Rutherford Hospital (288 S. Ridgecrest Ave., Rutherfordton, 828-286-5000, www.rutherfordhosp.org; Mon.-Fri. 8-5, free) is a small museum on the history of Rutherford Hospital. It has medical equipment and furniture used at the hospital in the past. There’s also a 45-foot mural by artist Clive Haynes depicting the history of the hospital.

 

Museum of the Cherokee Indian (589 Tsali Blvd./U.S. Hwy. 441, Cherokee, 828-497-3481, www.cherokeemuseum.org; daily 9-5 with extended summer hours 9-7 Mon.-Sat. Memorial Day to Labor Day, adults $10, children 6-12 $6) is a world away from the tacky plastic gift stores of Cherokee. This serious and professional museum has permanent exhibits on Cherokee history from 12,000 years ago through today and on the Trail of Tears. It also sponsors cultural and literary events and publishes books and other research on the Cherokee.

 

Mystery Hill (129 Mystery Hill Lane, Blowing Rock, 828-263-0507, www.mysteryhill-nc.com; daily 9 am-8 pm June-Aug., 9-5 Sep.-May, $9 adults. $8 seniors, children 5-12 $7, children 4 and under free) is a group of commercial, for-profit museums, including the Appalachian Culture Museum (formerly associated with Appalachian State University) with antiques and what the website calls “househole” furnishings, a Native Artifacts Museum with a claimed 50,000 Native American artifacts and a “Mystery House” that purports to defy the laws of physics.

 

North Carolina School for the Deaf Museum (517 W. Fleming Dr., Morganton, 828-433-2971, www.ncsdmuseum.net; call for hours, free) covers the history of the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton, which was established in 1894.

 

Old Depot Gallery and Caboose Museum (207 Sutton Ave., Black Mountain, 828-669-6583, www.olddepot.org; Tue.-Sat. 10-5 Apr.-Dec., free) is primarily a crafts gallery in the early 20th century Black Mountain train depot, with a small museum in a Norfolk & Western Railroad caboose.

 

Orchard at Altapass (1025 Orchard Rd., Spruce Pine, off Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 328.3, 828-765-9531, www.altapassorchard.com; Mon.-Sat. 10:30-5:30, Sun. noon-5:30, closed Tue. some weeks May-Oct., free) is a century-old, 80-acre apple orchard. The orchard, organized as a non-profit, offers hayrides and holds Bluegrass and mountain music concerts some days. There’s a gift shop and in season you can buy apples or pick your own.

 

Penland School of Crafts (67 Doras Trail, Penland, 828-765-2359, Gallery 828-765-6211, www.penland.org; campus open daily March-early Dec., Gallery open March-early Dec., Tues.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. noon-5, free; free guided tours of the campus offered March-early Dec. Tues. at 10:30 and Thurs. at 1:30, reservations necessary – call 828-765-6211) is arguably the best crafts school in the country. Penland, on 460 acres in a beautiful rural area near Spruce Pine about an hour northeast of Asheville, offers one- and two-week adult workshops in the summer and eight-week classes in spring and fall, in clay, books & paper, metals, glass, photography, printmaking, textiles and wood. Students live on campus in simple, rustic dormitory facilities. Around 1,400 students take classes at Penland each year. Visitors are welcome on the Penland campus, although teaching studios usually are closed to the public during classes. Penland pottery instructor Cynthia Bringle was named a “North Carolina Living Treasure” by the Museum of World Cultures at UNC-Wilmington, and the school itself received special recognition from the Museum in 2011 as a national center for craft education dedicated to helping people live creative lives. The Penland School Gallery, which exhibits and sells the work of present and former students and faculty, most of it of very high quality and some of it extraordinary, is open to visitors from March to early December. Visitors are welcome to walk through the grounds. Note especially Craft House, one of the largest log structures in North Carolina. You can also visit The Barns, which houses the studios of the Penland's resident artists, fulltime craftspeople who live and work at the school. There also is a café and gift shop. If you’re visiting Penland, you may want to stop at some of the nearby craft studios. The area around Penland is home to about 100 craft artists. Watch for signs of open studios and galleries.

 

Piedmont & Western Railroad Club and Old Rock School Railway Museum (400 W. Main St., Valdese, 828-879-2129, www.pwrr.org; usually 8-5 Mon.-Fri., or by appointment, free) is an HO-scale model of the fictitious Piedmont & Western Railroad, built by the Valdese model railroad club. The model railroad layout covers an area from Marion through Asheville to East Tennessee. The museum has many photos of real North Carolina railroads and train depots, along with railroad artifacts.

 

Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (1 PARI Drive, Rosman, 828-862-5554, www.pari.edu; Mon.-Fri. 9-4 for self-guided tours, free, public tours Wed. at 2 pm, $5 for those 10 and over) an astronomical research and education facility that has displays on space and holds a variety of events related to stargazing and space. PARI has several optical and radio telescopes, including two large 26-meter radio telescopes. Some are available for rent by students and researchers. The facility also has a planetarium. PARI is an offshoot of the Rosman Satellite Tracking Station, which was established in 1962 and used until the 1980s by NASA as part of an international network of stations tracking manned and unmanned space flights. Later it was run by spooks at the Defense Department for intelligence gathering. The tracking station closed in 1995 and was turned over to the U.S. Forestry Service. In 1999 it was purchased for use as an astronomical research and education facility. PARI has about 30 buildings on its campus located in a beautiful remote setting on 200 acres in the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard.

 

Presbyterian Heritage Center at Montreat (318 Georgia Terrace, Montreat, 828-669-6556, www.phcmontreat.org; Fri. 10-4, Sat. 1-4, Sun. 1:30-4, free) is a small museum covering the history of the Presbyterian Church and of Montreat.

 

Rural Life Museum at Mars Hill University (Montague Building, Mars Hill University, Mars Hill, 828-689-1262, www.mhc.edu/ramsey-center/rural-life-museum; open 1-5 Tue.-Sun.), has artifacts and displays on local farms, folkways and music.

 

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site  (81 Carl Sandburg Lane, for GPS use 1800 Little River Rd., Flat Rock, 828-693-4178, www.nps.gov/carl/index.htm; guided tour fee $5 adults, $3 seniors, children 15 and under free, admission to grounds and barn free, daily 9-5 year-round, tours of house every half hour starting at 9:30, last tour 4:30) is operated by the National Park Service. It’s the first national park to honor a poet. You enter the grounds via a short walk up a winding driveway lined with white pines. The house, a white one-and-a-half story on a raised basement, with Greek Revival columns on the front porch, built around 1839 as a summer cottage by a South Carolina railroad owner, sits on a knoll above a lake. On the guided tour, you’ll see the Sandburg house much as it was in the 1960s, as if the family had stepped out for a walk. There are magazines on the floor, a guitar leaning against the piano and shelves of books. Sandburg’s book-filled study has his typewriter. There’s a bookstore with a good selection of books by and about Sandburg on the basement level of the house. Don’t miss a visit to the barn and outbuildings, where you’ll see descendants of Paula Steichen Sandburg’s herd of dairy goats. The farm has some 5 miles of hiking trails.

 

Scottish Tartans Museum (86 E. Main St., Franklin, 828-524-7472, www.scottishtartans.org; Mon.-Sat. 10-5, adults $2) focuses on the traditional dress of the Scottish Highlands. The museum displays kilts, some over 200 years old, and more than 500 traditional Scottish tartans. It is an extension of the Scottish Tartans Society in Edinburgh, Scotland.

 

Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr. Library and Museum (Phifer Learning Resources Center Library, Western Piedmont Community College, 1001 Burkemont Ave., Morganton, 828-448-6198; Mon.-Fri. 8-5, free) contains some 10,000 items from the career of the U.S. Senator (Democrat, 1954-1974) and constitutional expert from Morganton who headed the Watergate hearings. Although a graduate of Harvard Law School, Ervin called himself a “simple country lawyer.” Once a political conservative and defender of racial segregation, Ervin became a civil liberties champion and helped bring down both Senator Joseph McCarthy and President Richard Nixon. The museum has an exact replica of Senator Ervin’s home library.

 

Shook House Museum (178 Morgan St., Clyde, www.shookmuseum.org; Tue., Fri. and Sat. 1-5, tour $5) is probably the oldest frame house in the region, believed to have been constructed around 1810 and possibly earlier, with a later addition in the 1890s.

 

Smoky Mountains Trains Museum (100 Greenlee St., Bryson City, 828-488-5200, www.smokymountaintrains.com; 9-5 daily with reduced hours and days seasonally, $9 adults, $5 children, free with Great Smoky Mountains Railroad ticket purchase) is a commercial museum with 7,000 Lionel model train cars and engines on display.

 

Swannanoa Valley Museum (223 W. State St., Black Mountain, 828-669-9566, www.swannanoavalleymuseum.org; Tue.-Sat. 10-5 Apr.-Oct, adults $2, students free) focuses on the history of the Swannanoa Valley and of Buncombe County. It is housed in the old Black Mountain firehouse, designed by architect Richard Sharp Smith and built in 1921.

 

Transylvania County Heritage Museum (189 W. Main St., Brevard, 828-884-2347, www.transylvaniaheritage.org; Wed.-Sat. 10-5, Mar.-mid-Dec., free) covers the history and culture of Transylvania County. It is located in an 1890s house.

 

Turchin Center for the Visual Arts (423 W. King St., Boone, 828-262-3017, www.tcva.org; Tue.-Thu. and Sat. 10-6, Fri. noon-8, free), part of Appalachian State University, has six art galleries and two small sculpture gardens. The center has a permanent collection of more than 1,600 regional, national and international works.

 

Waldensian Heritage Museum (208 Rodoret St. South, Valdese, 828-874-1111, www.waldesianheritagemuseum.org; tours Tue.-Fri. at 11 and 2, with additional tours at 4 Fri.-Sat. July-Aug., free) celebrates the heritage of the Waldenses, a European Calvinist religious group dating to the Middle Ages, members of which settled Valdese beginning in 1893. Eleven families left Europe for the U.S. and bought a tract of land in Valdese. Later these settlers were joined by other families. The museum is located at the Waldensian Presbyterian Church.

 

Western North Carolina Air Museum (1340 E. Gilbert St., Hendersonville, 828-698-2482, www.wncairmuseum.com; Wed. and Sun. noon-5 and Sat. 10-5, Apr.-Oct., Wed., Sat. and Sun. noon-5 Nov.-Mar., free) has a collection of about 15 vintage aircraft from 1930 to the 1970s. The airplanes are on display in a hangar adjoining the Hendersonville Airport.

 

Wheels Through Time Museum (62 Vintage Lane, Maggie Valley, 828-926-6266, www.wheelsthroughtime.com; Thu.-Mon. 9-5 late Mar.-Nov., adults $12, seniors $10, children $6) displays more than 300 classic and antique motorcycles. Also on exhibit are antique automobiles and 25,000 pieces of art and junque relating to cars and bikes.

 

World Methodist Council Museum (545 N. Lakeshore Dr., Lake Junaluska, 828-456-9432, ext. 4, www.lakejunaluska.com; Tue.-Fri. 9-4:30, Sat. 10-3 Mar.-Oct., Mon.-Fri. 9-4:30 Nov.-Feb., free) has the world’s largest collection of materials on early Methodism. Also on the grounds of the Lake Junaluska Assembly is the related SEJ Heritage Center, with exhibits on the Southeast Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church and also on Lake Junaluska.

 

Rush Wray Museum of Yancey County History (11 Academy St., Burnsville, 828-682-3671, Wed.-Sat. 10-4, free) is devoted to the history of Yancey County. The museum is located in the McElroy House, built around 1840.

 

Zachary-Tolbert House Museum  (1940 Hwy. 107 South, Cashiers, 828-743-7710, www.cashiershitoricalsociety.org; guided tours Fri.-Sat. 11-3 May-Oct., $5 donation requested) is in an eight-room Greek Revival house completed around 1852. The house has been left in its original state, with unpainted interior walls and no running water, central heat or electricity. In the house is a large collection of Southern plain-style furniture, wood furniture handmade in Western North Carolina during the 1800s and early 1900s.

 

All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.

We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.