9 Hidden Attractions in the Foothills and Mountains of North Carolina

For tourists and locals alike, North Carolina is a beacon for beautiful travel locations. The Tarheel state stretches from the mountains to the shore and offers something for every interest, whether it’s hiking, shopping, or sailing. One of my favorite things about our state is the mountains. North Carolina is home to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains. In these areas, people can visit historical sites, amusement parks, colleges, and more. While there are popular tourist attractions, such as Grandfather Mountain and Tweetsie Railroad, the foothills and mountains also house unknown attractions off the beaten path which are just as much of a jewel as the well-known spots. Take a look at nine hidden attractions in our state’s foothills and mountain regions.  

Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee

Take a tour of a 1750s Cherokee Village at the Oconaluftee Indian Village. Visitors will learn about Cherokee Indian traditions and trade techniques. You can also tour the Village Square Grounds and Village Council House. In these areas, you will be able to take part in traditional songs and dance, and learn about the village’s systems, beliefs, government, family, and social structure.

Elijah Mountain Gem Mine in Hendersonville 

Animals, gems, and a T-Rex skull and fossils, what more could you want? At the Elijah Mountain Gem Mine, tourists can mine for gems, including rubies, sapphires, amethysts, opals, and more. You can also feed their pets, have a picnic, or see the mine’s full-size T-Rex skull and fossils on site. According to TripAdvisor, this attraction has been voted the number-one gem mine in the Carolinas.

Fields of the Wood in Murphy 

Located in the Great Smoky Mountains and Cherokee County, the Fields of the Wood in Murphy is a Bible-based theme park. From sunrise to sunset, you can tour exhibits of Prayer Mountain, the Ten Commandment Mountain, and the All-Nations Cross. A gift shop and café are also on site.

Southern Highland Art Guild – Folk Art Center in Asheville

You don’t have to be an artist to be interested in the crafts and pieces of artwork that are located at the Southern Highland Art Guild-Folk Art Center. First opened in 1930, the southern Highland Art Guild showcases traditional and contemporary pieces from Southern Appalachia. At the Folk Art Center, visitors can see pieces from different decades, as well as the first craft shop in the United States.

Henry River Mill Village in Hildebran 

About an hour’s drive outside of Asheville is the Henry River Mill Village in Hildebran. Movie fans may already be familiar with the site, as the Henry River Mill Village is where District 12 of The Hunger Games was filmed. Before the mill closed in 1973, it was a bustling industrial center. Now, it is the site of an abandoned town that people can explore.

The Land of Oz Theme Park in Beech Mountain 

Once shut down in 1980, but now back in business, the Land of Oz Theme Park is a must-visit for The Wizard of Oz movie and book fans. Open for only certain times throughout the year, don’t miss your chance to take a walk on the Yellow Brick Road and visit with Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Lion, Scarecrow, and the Wizard through the park’s different exhibits and experiences.

The House of Mugs in Collettsville 

Owners Avery and Doris Sisk share their love for coffee mugs by displaying about 20,000 mugs on the outside of their house. Also known as the Collettsville Cup House, the couple started the collection when they hung a set of 15 mugs as a decoration.

Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville 

Home to over 60 animals, the Western North Carolina Nature Center is on a mission to bring people, animals, and nature together. Visitors can see river otters, black bears, cougars, and more in their natural habitat, and learn about the region’s biodiversity and animals. Kids of all ages will enjoy a trip to this attraction.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Tours and Tastings in Mills River 

Another site located in the Asheville and Henderson County area, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Tours and Tastings actually originated in California in 1980. A few years later, owner Ken Grossman brought his beer to the Tarheel state and the rest is history. Fast forward to 2021, and tourists can enjoy craft beers, tastings, and tours. Perfect for an adult day trip.

There are many places in the foothills and mountains that are must-visits. Whether it’s a day trip or weeklong adventure, be sure to stop by these attractions on your next trip to the foothills and mountains of North Carolina.


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