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Things To Do In Highlands, North Carolina, For An Amazing Time - Updated 2020

things to do in highlands north carolina

Perched on a plateau in the southern Appalachian Mountains is picturesque Highlands, North Carolina. Possessing an average elevation of 4,118 feet (1,255 meters), Highlands offers a magical setting in an abundantly green and wooded area tucked away in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, a province within the Appalachian Mountains. Towering mountain peaks covered in verdant forests is the true essence of this small village community. You’ll definitely experience a mix of small-town charm and nature-loving bliss when you visit. Ready to discover Highlands beauty and excitement first hand? Then read on to see the best things to do in the lovely town of Highlands, North Carolina!

1. Enjoy a two-mile loop hike on the Whiteside Mountain Trail

Visitors can drink in the beauty of Highlands’ natural landscape with a hike on the Whiteside Mountain National Recreation Trail. This wonderful loop trail is heavily trafficked so arrive early to beat the crowd. This trail is moderately difficult and great for peaceful nature walks, serious hiking, and fun bird watching. This loop trail takes you to the top of high cliffs that reach 750 feet (228.6 meters)! Hikers are welcome to bring their canine friends but they must be on a leash.

Whiteside Mountain Trail

Address: Whiteside Mountain Road, 28741 Highlands, United States / 35°04'50.1"N 83°08'38.3"W

Website: Whiteside Mountain Trail

Opening hours: 24/7

Price: 2 USD (per vehicle)

2. Catch a show at Highlands Playhouse

Highlands Playhouse is a delight. This singular artistic venue offers entertaining live Broadway-style productions during the summer months and top-notch first-run films all year round. A long-running theater with an intimate setting, Highlands Playhouse provides a wonderful place to watch a blockbuster movie on a rainy summer afternoon or an exciting musical play on a chilly fall night.

Highlands Playhouse

Address: 362 Oak St, Highlands, NC 28741

Website: Highlands Playhouse

Opening hours: 1pm - 10pm (daily)

Price: 10-40 USD

3. Prepare your baits for a day of fly fishing at the Chattooga River

Nestled in the shadow of the outstanding Whiteside Mountains, the Chattooga River is a magnificent spot to cast your fishing line. The Chattooga River is one of the United States longest and most dramatic whitewater rivers and considered a true gem when it comes to fly fishing and other water recreation. For the avid fly fisherman, it’s the go-to place for reeling in some lively rainbow and brown trout.

Chattooga River

Address: 12.5 miles (20.1 kilometers) south of Highlands via NC Highway 28 S and GA State Route 28 S

Website: Chattooga River

Opening hours: 24/7

Price: Free

4. Discover Highlands's historic spots on the Heritage Trail

Because of its unparalleled natural beauty and agreeable climate, Highlands was intended as a health and recreational resort by its founders. Visitors can learn more about this interesting piece of history and much more on the self-guided Highlands Heritage Walking Trail in Highlands’ historic downtown area. This walking tour offers two choices: an easy three-block walk or a lengthy 20-block walk, about 3.5 miles (5.63 kilometers). The collection of 51 interesting historic spots along the way includes Highlands’ first school constructed with a millennial clock tower that’s still in use!

Heritage Trail

Address: 269 Oak St, Highlands, NC 28741, USA

Website: Heritage Trail

Opening hours: 24/7

Price: Free

5. Sample the fresh produce of the Many Hands Peace Farm for your next meal

Located in a lush setting, Many Hands Peace Farm is a mountain retreat and learning center committed to providing environmental and agricultural education to the public through fun events and workshops If you’re unable to visit, browse, buy, or sample Many Hands Peace Farm’s fresh produce at Highlands’ farmers market. Anything you buy is sure to be bursting with flavor to enhance any upcoming family meal.

Many Hands Peace Farm

Address: 3872 Dillard Road, Highlands, NC 28741

Website: Many Hands Peace Farm

Opening hours: 24/7

Price: 30-60 USD

6. Check out local art pieces at The Bascom: Center for the Visual Arts

A covered bridge leads visitors to The Bascom: Center for the Visual Arts. Situated on 6 acres (2.42 hectares) of the Highlands-Cashiers plateau, The Bascom: Center for the Visual Arts is a top spot to spend an afternoon. Boasting a tranquil stream and pretty wildflowers, this center offers a one-of-a-kind art experience in a pastoral setting. The gallery that has rotating and permanent exhibits. This center is also comprised of fun art workshops, a pottery shed, a huge green terrace, a nature trail, and an inviting cafe.

The Bascom: Center for the Visual Arts

Address: 323 Franklin Rd, Highlands, NC 28741

Website: The Bascom: Center for the Visual Arts

Opening hours: Sun: 12pm - 5pm; Mon - Sat: 10am - 5pm

Price: Free

7. Have a fun-filled time ice skating at Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park

Ice skating is an idyllic winter activity and you can enjoy a wonderful time gliding on the ice at Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park. Considered the heart of downtown Highlands, Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park provides a great gathering spot for locals and visitors. In wintertime, the outdoor ice skating rink provides a magical experience. Participants of all skill levels are welcome. As an added bonus coffee and hot chocolate are available to skaters!

Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park

Address: 411 Pine St, Highlands, NC 28741

Website: Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park

Opening hours: (Seasonal; Nov - Mar) / Sun: 1pm - 5pm; Mon - Tue: 6pm - 8pm (Group bookings & parties only); Thu: 1pm - 8pm; Fri - Sat: 1pm - 10pm (closed on Wed)

Price: 5 USD

8. Rejuvenate your body and mind at The Old Edwards Inn Spa

Treat yourself to a memorable spa experience at The Old Edwards Inn Spa. Awash in divine old-world European style that’s nestled in a luxury resort, The Old Edwards Inn Spa offers pampered excellence. This spa is a cut above, using fresh botanicals and herbs not only from around the world but also from The Old Edwards Inn Spa’s own lush gardens and greenhouses. Relish healing massages and revitalizing skin treatments in a serene setting.

The Old Edwards Inn Spa

Address: 445 Main St Highlands, NC 28741

Website: The Old Edwards Inn Spa

Opening hours: 9am - 6pm (daily)

Price: 95-295 USD

9. Hunt for gems at Jackson Hole Trading Post & Gem Mine

A delightful roadside establishment, Jackson Hole Trading Post & Gem Mine provides unique family-friendly entertainment with its fun gem hunting activity. Whatever gems you discover, from rubies to aquamarines, you get to keep! The mines are covered, so rain or shine you can hunt for colorful amethyst or rich garnets. There’s also a shop with a nice collection of locally crafted wares.

Jackson Hole Trading Post & Gem Mine

Address: 9770 Highlands Rd, Highlands, NC 28741

Website: Jackson Hole Trading Post & Gem Mine

Opening hours: 10am - 4pm (daily)

Price: 10-100 USD

10. Appreciate the fresh blooms at the Highlands Botanical Gardens

Equipped with a picture-perfect waterfall and a fabulous wetlands boardwalk, Highlands Botanical Gardens is the ideal place to enjoy a sunny afternoon. Highlands Botanical Gardens is located on 12 acres (4.85 hectares) and offers scenic spots that include a cove forest, shimmering wetlands, and lush upland woods. In addition, there’s an enchanting butterfly garden and a colorful native azalea garden that’ll place nature lovers in paradise.

Highlands Botanical Gardens

Address: 265 North Sixth Street, Highlands, NC 28741

Website: Highlands Botanical Gardens

Opening hours: Sunrise to sunset

Price: Free

11. Take a stroll downtown for some invigorating boutique shopping

Come see us at our new location! Right next door to the Toy Store.

Posted by Bags on Main on Thursday, 30 May 2013

If you’re in need of some serious retail therapy you can’t beat a stroll down Highlands’ Main Street. Browse all the charming shops and boutiques Highlands has to offer from essential home appliances to cute jewelry. Bags on Main offers a great collection of designer fashion handbags, colorful ladies’ wraps, roomy travel bags, and pretty accessories.

Bags on Main

Address: 364 Main St, Highlands, NC 28741

Website: Bags on Main

Opening hours: Sun: 12pm - 5pm; Mon - Sat: 10am - 5pm

12. Enjoy a meal with a view at On the Verandah

The grand restaurant On the Verandah gives you everything you could want from an unforgettable dining experience: romantic setting, lakefront views, scrumptious food, and attentive service. Overlooking peaceful Lake Sequoyah, On the Verandah offers a sophisticated menu that blends Asian, European, and American cuisine cooked with fresh ingredients and locally grown produce. Complete your meal with a delicious homemade dessert prepared daily on the premises.

On the Verandah

Address: 1536 Franklin Rd, Highlands, NC 28741

Website: On the Verandah

Opening hours: Sun: 11am - 2pm, 5:30pm - 9pm; Mon - Sat: 5:30pm - 9pm

Price: 31-60 USD

13. Grab a drink and a simple bite at The High Dive

Source: Pexels

Equipped with TVs, billiards tables, and dart boards, The High Dive is a place for locals and visitors to relax and socialize at a leisurely pace. The High Dive oozes an after-hours ambiance and cold beer and tasty cocktails fill the mugs and glasses of patrons. Tuesdays offer a wild karaoke night and occasionally Fridays and Saturdays provide live music. The menu is basic stuff like fresh sandwiches, chips, popcorn, and other simple snacks.

The High Dive

Address: 476 Carolina Way, Highlands, NC 28741

Website: The High Dive

Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 4pm - 2:30am (closed on Mon)

14. Jump off a boulder and go swimming in the river at the Bust Your Butt Falls

Bust Your Butt Falls

A very popular swimming hole boasting a naturally made slide, Bust Your Butt Falls not only offers a quirky name but lots of water-filled fun. Found on the Cullasaja River, Bust Your Butt Falls has the added thrill of a nicely positioned jumping-off boulder that affords an exciting dive into the quite icy waters. Be aware the surrounding rocks are extremely slippery. The huge rocks surrounding the immediate area make great spots for picnicking and sunbathing.

Bust Your Butt Falls

Address: 6.5 miles (10.46 kilometers) west of Highlands via US Highway 64

Website: Bust Your Butt Falls

Opening hours: 24/7

Price: Free

15. Camping at Van Hook Glade Campground

Source: Pexels

If you’re eager to sleep under the starry night sky and enjoy cooking over a roaring campfire then head to Van Hook Glade Campground. Scenic as it is remote, Van Hook Glade Campground provides a superb area to pitch a tent and intimately explore nature. The grounds are very wooded and situated on fantastic green rolling hills. Splendid hiking trails, picturesque views, refreshing waterfalls, and a shimmering lake are nearby.

Van Hook Glade Campground

Address: 14014 Highlands Rd, Highlands, NC 28741

Website: Van Hook Glade Campground

Opening hours: Seasonal (April - October)

Price: 20-40 USD (nightly)

16. Sign up for an art class with Easely an Artist

Easely an Artist can be entertainment for the entire family or a fun date-night setting. Led by an expert art instructor, Easely an Artist allows you to unlock artistic abilities you never even knew you possessed. Guided through the art process, participants can turn a blank canvas into their own personal masterpiece. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a complete novice, Easely an Artist welcomes you to have a great time.

Easely an Artist

Address: 221 N 4th St, Highlands, NC 28741

Website: Easely an Artist

Opening hours: Tue - Sat: 10am - 2pm, 6pm - 8pm (closed on Sun & Mon)

Price: 25-30 USD

Hello Highlands

Highlands provides a stupendous outdoor adventure along with fine cuisine, great shopping, pleasant art venues, and lively bars. Don’t miss the chance to explore a part of North Carolina brimming with as much fun possibilities as natural beauty. A woodsy paradise, Highlands is waiting to be discovered by you!

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As a child, Catherine's family took a trip to the World's Fair New Orleans and her mom asked what she wanted to see. She exclaimed, "Everything!" She's been working on that endeavor ever since.

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