This under-the-radar mountain town is beginning to attract more and more tourists — and for good reason.

By Brandi Fuller

As y'all know, we love a charming small town — and Bryson City, North Carolina, is the underrated Smoky Mountain destination you need to add to your bucket list now. 

Located 65 miles from Asheville, North Carolina, the friendly mountain town only has a population of about 1,700 but has been gaining more and more tourists, especially as the pandemic has left travelers searching for more outdoor activities. Although Bryson City's main square has the antiquated allure we love, it also boasts a blend of modern upgrades like aesthetically-pleasing store fronts and a rooftop brewery. From visiting the unique shops in town to white water rafting, you'll want to make sure to book a long weekend to try everything this best-kept-secret has to offer.

Where To Stay

Of course, no trip to the mountains is complete without a stay in a cabin, and the Watershed Resort has an option for everyone. They offer both "mountain modern" cabins and traditional log cabins, and you can choose a small romantic option or a multi-level getaway for families.

The 45-acre property is about a 10 minute drive from the heart of Bryson City, and features scenic landscapes, private hot tubs, a hiking trail that leads to a waterfall, a playground for kids, and an outdoor movie theatre complete with a fire pit for roasting marshmallows. "The Yard" is also a popular attraction for guests to congregate and overlook the rolling scenery from a swinging daybed. And as a bonus, you may see the property manager's rescue dog, Bluebell, happily enjoying the grounds, too.

Single bed cabins start at $118 per night, and if you're celebrating an anniversary or birthday, include that bit of information in the note when you're booking — the resort will make sure your stay is even more memorable.

Bryson City, NC Airbnb
Watershed Bryson City, NC
Left: Credit: Courtesy of Brandi Fuller
Right: Credit: Courtesy of Brandi Fuller

What To Do

Whether you want relaxation or adventure, Bryson City has options for both. For a more serene approach, take advantage of your private hot tub or schedule a massage therapist to come right to your cabin. After you're feeling rejuvenated, book a first-class ticket on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and enjoy a boxed lunch from the train as you casually tour the area's most magnificent views.

For a more adventurous approach, explore the streams and waterfalls of Deep Creek or hike The Appalachian Trail. During warmer months, bring your swimsuit — there are water activities galore. Though the town is well-known for its white-water rafting, you can go tubing, kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, and fishing too.

smoky mountains bryson city
Credit: Courtesy of Brandi Fuller

Where To Eat

After you've worked up an appetite from rafting and hiking, head into town to enjoy their finest eateries. For a casual meal, build your own pizza or order a pasta dish from Nate and Nick's Pizza. Or if you want to try something a bit more adventurous, order the Hawaiian Hot Wings or Vegan Thai Curry from Big Laurel Foods, which can often be found parked outside Bryson City Outdoors Taproom. While you're waiting on your meal, grab a beer or frozen wine and browse their outdoor retail section. To satisfy your sweet teeth, walk on over to The Chocolate Shoppe for some ice cream or "choctails," which are chocolate truffles intended to be paired with specific cocktails.

chocolate choctail
Left: Credit: Courtesy of Brandi Fuller
Right: Credit: Courtesy of Brandi Fuller

For a romantic date night, make reservations at The Bistro at the Everett Hotel. Start the meal off with cocktails and Brussels Sprouts while deciding which delectable entree to order (pro tip — ask about the nightly specials). And don't even think about leaving the restaurant without ordering the White Chocolate Bread Pudding with a dessert liqueur or cup of coffee.

everett bistro
everett bistro bread pudding
Left: Credit: Courtesy of Brandi Fuller
Right: Credit: Courtesy of Brandi Fuller

Be sure to book your stay for the spring or summer soon — the word is getting out about the affordable mountainous oasis, and we have a feeling it may not be a small town for much longer.