North Carolina

24 Hours in Hendersonville

by Tracy Kaler  |  Published April 30, 2024

A vibrant main street and gorgeous mountain setting are well-founded reasons to love this North Carolina town. But those who dig a little deeper will discover that there’s much more to Hendersonville than first meets the eye. 

Pretty Main Street in Hendersonville, North Carolina (Photo by Tracy Kaler for TravelMag)

Cradled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina, Hendersonville could be deemed the quintessential American town. On the surface, it’s another pretty enclave enveloped by mountains, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover a town packed with a distinctive personality and appeal. Usually lumped into the Asheville Metropolitan area, Henderson is just a 30-minute drive south of Asheville. But while it assumes a small-town feel, the city of 15,000 holds its own in the food and drink category and boasts its share of cultural offerings, with plenty of natural beauty mere minutes from the town center.

Hendersonville’s Main Street is peppered with sidewalk seating. . (Photo by Tracy Kaler for TravelMag)

The county seat of Henderson County, this small city was incorporated in 1847 when Judge Mitchell King donated land from his summer estate, insisting that Main Street be wide enough to turn a four-horse carriage around without backing up. His wish was honored with the street’s width measuring 100 feet. Fast forward to more than a century later, a revamp transformed the thoroughfare in 1977 into an attractive boulevard with a serpentine design.

These days, leafy, pedestrian-friendly Main Street is home to a parade of restaurants, bars, shops and galleries, peppered with sidewalk seating. Still grasping its history with many historic buildings intact, the curvy street is studded with late 19th-century and early 20th-century architecture and has become the lifeblood of downtown.

The annual Bearfootin’ Art Walk is a can’t-miss attraction. (Photo by Tracy Kaler for TravelMag)

Things to do 

In the heart of the town, can’t-miss retailers include Mast General Store (527 N Main St), a two-story depository of food, home goods and wearables, and Woodlands Gallery (419 N Main St), an upscale art and apparel boutique. A handful of museums, such as Henderson County Heritage Museum (1 Historic Courthouse Square) in the Hendersonville Historic County Courthouse and art installations like the Bearfootin’ Art Walk – an annual exhibit and community fundraiser where artists create colorful-themed bears along main street – are can’t-miss attractions along the six-block stretch.

From May through October, Hendersonville Farmer’s Market takes place on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at downtown’s Historic Train Depot Plaza (650 Maple Street). This weekly event promises fun, food, and entertainment for all. Browse locally-crafted baked goods, honey, and other wares from more than 30 vendors and shop for seasonal produce, meat, eggs, and dairy from nearby farms. Grab a bite at one of the food trucks parked outside while live music sounds in the background.

Five miles from downtown in the Laurel Park neighborhood, Jump Off Rock (4501 Laurel Park Hwy) showcases some of Henderson County’s most dramatic views. On a clear day, the Blue Ridge and Pisgah mountain ranges are crystal clear from this 3,100-foot scenic overlook, where hikers can choose from three trails, depending on their skill level.

Jump Off Rock showcases some of Henderson County’s most dramatic views. (Photo by Tracy Kaler for TravelMag)

Beginning in mid-July and extending through late October, u-pick outings are ubiquitous in Hendersonville. If there’s one incredible farm to visit for the allure of the property, the fruit, and the activities, it’s Jeter Mountain Farm (1126 Jeter Mountain Rd). Planted across almost 400 acres, the family-owned apple orchard harvests sunflowers, elderberries, Concord grapes and more than a dozen apple varieties. After hopping aboard the wagon and heading to the fields for apple-picking, hit the coffee house for a cup of Joe, the taproom for a flight of hard cider, and the 1813 Smokehouse for a pulled pork sandwich, smoked for 20 hours on site.

Go apple picking at Jeter Mountain Farm. (Photo by Tracy Kaler for TravelMag)

Hendersonville’s outskirts have drawn vacationers and summer campers for more than a century, and it’s easy to see why considering the wide open spaces and gorgeous mountain setting. A short drive beyond the city leads to country roads dotted with apple, pear, and berry farms and vineyards growing Vidal Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot grapes.

Straddling the Eastern Continental Divide, Crest of the Blue Ridge is North Carolina’s newest AVA. Offering seven wineries and tasting rooms in high elevation, the appellation is distinguished by exciting wines paired with awe-inspiring views.

View of the vines at Burntshirt Vineyards. (Photo by Tracy Kaler for TravelMag)

Stone Ashe Vineyards (736 Green Mountain Rd) crafts wines reminiscent of France. Perched atop a 2,700 foot-high peak, the well-designed, adults-only tasting room sits among acres of vines cloned from Bordeaux. Owned and managed by the Little family, the winery features a Right Bank (Merlot-dominant) blend and a Left Bank (Cabernet-dominant) blend, as well as a classic dry Riesling and a Chablis-style Chardonnay that will transport you to Burgundy after one sip. Stone Ashe hosts live music on weekends; reservations are recommended.

The tasting room at Stone Ashe Vineyards, a producer crafting wines reminiscent of France. (Photo by Tracy Kaler for TravelMag)

The sweeping 30-mile views are reason enough to make the trip to this property on the southeast slope of Point Lookout Mountain, but the wines at Point Lookout Vineyards (408 Appleola Rd) lure visitors, too. Producing white, red, and rosé wines, this winery cultivates traditional varietals such as Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Serious wine drinkers will want to taste the Pavilion: a beautiful medley of the vineyards’ best lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, elevated with Petit Verdot.

Thirty acres of vines comprise Burntshirt Vineyards (2695 Sugarloaf Rd), a property soaring 3,400 feet above sea level. Expect dry blends, like the Meritage, emitting blackberry, boysenberry, currants and oak, and sweet wines–-popular in North Carolina––like “Lake Lure” aptly named after the nearby body of water. Burntshirt features a full food menu to accompany the wine. Fried green tomatoes, salads, burgers, and a cheese and charcuterie board round out the edibles.

At Marked Tree Vineyards (623 Deep Gap Rd), the Instagram-worthy vistas are also a draw. But an innovative approach and top-notch service make this winery a standout. Trail trees – trees marking trails and important places for Native Americans – spurred the name, “Marked Tree.” The moniker is intended to encourage others to find their path in life as the owners found in wine. Growing ten varieties, including Gruner Veltliner, Chardonel (a French-American hybrid), Vidal Blanc, and Cab Franc, Marked Tree offers tastings and vineyard tours.

Marked Tree Vineyard produces a variety of wines, such as Vidal Blanc and Cab Franc. (Photo by Tracy Kaler for TravelMag)

Like any wine region, Hendersonville is best experienced with a professional driver and guide like Van in Black. But owner and sommelier Ryan Watts and his fleet offer more than conscientious, safe driving. The team understands wine and has deep knowledge of the region’s grapes, ensuring an educational and enjoyable day of touring and tasting.

Where to Stay

Brightwaters Vacation Rentals (Various locations) provides guests with a collection of charming cottages and cabins as well as a Southern home mere minutes from downtown Hendersonville and within a stone’s throw of the area’s farms and wineries. Owner Elisabeth Perez infused her sense of style into each unique accommodation, promising a pleasant, personalized stay. Expect all the creature comforts one would find in a hotel as well as guidebooks, maps, and recommendations and itineraries upon request.

The Horse Shoe Farm (155 Horse Shoe Farm Drive) presents an upscale boutique resort experience. Situated along the French Broad River, this 850-acre cattle farm turned luxury inn is an idyllic rustic yet fashionable escape. Lodging options range from a chic one-bedroom loft to a sprawling five-bedroom house. Celebrating the bounty of Western North Carolina, the lauded Silo Cookhouse is the property’s on-site restaurant, and the Stable Spa is the inn’s wellness retreat. But beyond the luxury and amenities, the farm setting, complete with animals and bonfires, makes this property a destination.

Horse Shoe Farm provides an upscale boutique resort experience. (Photo courtesy of Horse Shoe Farm)

Where to Eat

Tucked inside The Henderson, a circa 1919 three-story Classic Revival hotel one block off Main Street, Harvey’s at The Henderson (201 3rd Ave W) is the town’s only year-round, indoor-outdoor restaurant. Co-owner and Chef Michael Gilligan cooks up dinner favorites like French onion soup, British fish and chips, and wild mushroom risotto, while his wife and co-owner Jeanne is on hand to suggest wine pairings and put her spin on craft cocktails. Brunch here is also a hit. Biscuits and sausage gravy, salmon Benedict, and buttermilk blueberry pancakes are frontrunners. In pleasant weather, book a table on the wide, deep front porch, a charming space always ready for al fresco dining.

Plating up “New-American” cuisine, Postero (401 N Main St) is a bi-level restaurant with an open kitchen and terrific southern hospitality. The little gem salad tossed in buttermilk dressing, melt-in-your-mouth pan-seared scallops, and a sliced bistro steak with fig demi-glace are some of the highlights at this bustling eatery housed in a former bank building. Postero’s international wine list is as impressive as the food, with more than 25 offerings by the glass and even more by the bottle.

Postero is a bustling bilevel restaurant with an open kitchen. (Photo by Tracy Kaler for TravelMag)

For casual yet memorable Italian fare, Mezzaluna Brick Oven and Tap House (226 N Main St) is the place to go. A sundry of dishes such as wood-fired pizzas, salads, Tuscan stew, blackened salmon and dozens more line the menu. Drinks are another reason to stop by Mezzaluna. Park yourself at the bar and order a specialty libation, glass of vino or one of the locally brewed hard ciders like Bold Rock Hard.

The Hendersonville Ice Cream Trail is a selection of 13 ice cream establishments churning out the appetizing, creamy dessert. Owned and helmed by the Hogan family, Celtic Creamery (227 7th Ave E) offers a friendly and fun in-town ice cream parlor experience. The family makes and scoops thick Irish-stye ice cream modeled after Joanna McCarthy’s decadent iteration in Ballybunion, Ireland, where the family discovered the Irish specialty.

Though McConnell Farms (177 Old Dana Rd) may not sound like a typical frozen dessert stop, this farm crafts extraordinary ice cream. Husband and wife team Danny and Kathryn McConnell started in 1999, whipping up their version of strawberry, but have since immersed themselves in the art of ice cream making after attending four ice cream schools. Nowadays, in addition to harvesting cherries, berries, peaches, figs, and more, they produce 14 different ice creams from their crops. The duo is renowned locally for their out-of-the-ordinary flavors, like blackberry chocolate chip, butternut squash, and fig mascarpone. Savor a heaping bowl of ice cream at the farm or order a double dip to go.

McConnell Farms Is known for out-of-the-ordinary ice cream flavors like butternut squash and fig mascarpone. (Photo by Tracy Kaler for TravelMag)