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In many ways, Western North Carolina destinations — like Asheville, Highlands, Hot Springs, and Waynesville, to name just a few — are quite similar. There’s typically a genuine appreciation of art, music, food, and craft beer, and life tends to revolve around the great outdoors. And why shouldn’t it? The Appalachian Mountains have created a lush, green paradise in this region, complete with stunning views, amazing hikes, and plenty of fresh air. That said, each city, town, and unincorporated community brings a unique personality and perspective to Western North Carolina culture, and Brevard is no exception.
The small town (with just 7,755 residents) is located in Transylvania County, otherwise known as the “Land of Waterfalls.” Travelers from around the world make their way to this area to experience the 250-plus waterfalls — all within a few miles of each other. Brevard is also home to Brevard College, the renowned Brevard Music Center, and a population of unusually colored squirrels. Ursula Wynn, chef and owner of Papa L.E.W. in downtown Brevard, says that visitors may “be surprised to see that we have white squirrels. Maybe even more than we have brown or gray ones.” Yes, the famous white squirrels are one of Brevard’s most memorable characteristics.
Parker Platt, a lifelong resident of Brevard and owner of Platt Architecture, Platt Construction, and Platt Home, shared with Travel + Leisure a few other attributes — in addition to the waterfalls and wildlife — that make his hometown “an incredibly rich cultural and recreational destination.” He notes the city’s “great local music and art scene, endless hiking and mountain bike trails, [and] miles of trout stream” set Brevard apart from other places in Western North Carolina.
Interested in planning a trip to Brevard? Read on to discover where to stay and what to do, eat, and see, according to local experts.
Related: 25 Best Places to Visit in North Carolina — Including a Scenic Parkway, Buzzy Cities, and the Most-visited National Park
Best Places to Stay in Brevard
True to its small-town feel, Brevard doesn’t have many hotels or resorts, but there are glampsites, cabins, vintage motels, and home rentals to choose from.
Travelers who prefer an entire home should consider Pilot Cove’s cabins. Each of the treehouse-like properties features a full kitchen and bathroom as well as a washer and dryer. It’s the best of both worlds: You may be in the Pisgah National Forest, but you still have all of the modern amenities that ensure a comfortable stay.
Glamping is quickly becoming a popular lodging option in mountain towns, Brevard included. At DuPont Yurts, travelers stay in one of the four expertly outfitted structures, which can house parties of up to four or six people (depending on the yurt).
Best Things to Do in Brevard
Attend a show at Brevard Music Center.
For Platt, “[experiencing] a cool summer evening show at the open-air Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium at Brevard Music Center” tops the list of things to do in Brevard. Jason Posnock, the center’s president and CEO, echoes this sentiment, adding that “music under the stars on [the] picturesque mountain campus is pure magic.” View upcoming shows and concerts on the center’s website.
Head out on the French Broad River.
“Of course, I highly recommend everyone explore the French Broad River, the third oldest river in the world,” says Headwaters Outfitters’ Jessica Whitmire. She suggests partaking in activities like tubing, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and even snorkeling. “Oxbow River Snorkeling are some great friends of ours here at Headwaters Outfitters, and they offer a really unique way to explore under the water’s surface.”
Go hiking and waterfall spotting.
Wynn suggests visitors leave time in their schedules for “a day trip through Pisgah National Forest.” Here, she says you’ll “see why we’re named the ‘Land of Waterfalls’.” Looking Glass Falls, Cove Creek Falls, Moore Cove Falls, and Sliding Rock (which doubles as a natural waterslide) are some of the most popular.
Visit Brevard’s museums.
When the weather doesn’t agree with outdoor adventures, Whitmire recommends checking out two of the city’s museums. “The Transylvania Heritage Museum and The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas, both within walking distance of each other in downtown Brevard, offer ways to learn and explore important parts of our history,” she says.
Best Shopping in Brevard
The Hub and Pisgah Tavern
Known for three things — bikes, outdoor gear, and beer — The Hub and Pisgah Tavern is a bike shop that wears many hats. Swing by for bike rentals, bike repairs, and outdoor essentials (like sleeping bags, hammocks, and hiking boots), and then stay for a cold beer or two on the patio.
The Underground Salvage Co.
Hours slip by when browsing the collection of antiques, reclaimed wood, and unexpected finds at The Underground Salvage Co. Whether you’re redecorating your home, working on an art project, or looking for the right thing to speak to you, there’s a good chance you’ll find success at this store, warehouse, and lumber yard.
Fourth Friday Gallery Walks
As the name implies, the fourth Friday of every month signals it’s time for an art stroll through Brevard’s galleries and studios with food, wine, and live music. Meet the artists themselves as you pick out the next addition to your gallery wall. See the full schedule here.
Related: 8 Best Places to Live in North Carolina — From Big Cities to Small Towns
Best Restaurants in Brevard
Bracken Mountain Bakery
To start your morning, “have a scone (or a croissant) and a cup of coffee at Bracken Mountain Bakery,” says Posnock. Everything is made from scratch in-house, and it’s all, in Posnock’s words, “simply delicious.”
“For special occasions, we love to grab a table at Vescovo on King Street,” says Whitmire, who adds that the restaurant has “the best scallops and mixed drinks around.” The menu features salads, pastas, steaks, seafood, and more.
185 King Street
When it comes to more casual options, Platt says “The small bar menu at 185 King Street paired with great beers and seltzers from attached Noblebräu Brewing is hard to beat.” Plus, it’s also a music venue: “The seriously talented local music offerings combine with the food and drink to make for a pretty fine evening,” he says.
In March 2021, Wynn’s Papa L.E.W. became the first Black-owned business on Brevard’s Main Street. Two years later, her team is still whipping up wings, burgers (try the Cowboy or the Mac Attack), and not-to-be-missed chef’s specials.
The Square Root
House in a restored building in downtown Brevard, The Square Root has been feeding locals and visitors for years. Enjoy North Carolina mountain trout, fried green tomatoes, and pork pot stickers in an atmosphere defined by colorful paintings, exposed brick, and an art deco bar.
Best Time To Visit Brevard
“For me, the best time to visit Brevard is in the fall. That’s when you can see the beauty of the seasons changing,” says Wynn. If you’re interested in music, however, book your trip over the summer. The Brevard Music Center Summer Festival takes place from June to mid-August every year, and the line-up features a wide range of performances — from opera and bluegrass to jazz and chamber music. Mountain Song Festival also brings in a variety of talented musicians in September.
How to Get There
Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) is the closest airport to Brevard; the 18-mile drive takes around 25 to 30 minutes. No matter how you’re arriving or which direction you’re coming from, you’re pretty much guaranteed a picturesque route. “You can get here on beautiful backroads anywhere from Atlanta and Greenville to Knoxville, Charleston, and Charlotte. You can also take the Blue Ridge Parkway down Highway 215 or 276. Of course, there’s the straight shot in from Asheville via the interstate onto Highway 280, but the drives into Brevard are all beautiful,” says Whitmire.
How to Get Around
You’ll need a car to get to Brevard and explore the surrounding area. Downtown Brevard, however, is extremely walkable; most stores and restaurants are located within just a few blocks.