With the motto: Have a big vacation in a small town, Bryson City is a peaceful mountain town bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with unique shops, galleries, lodging and restaurants. Bryson City was named on of the "20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2016" by the Smithsonian.
Bryson City feels like a place in a pleasant state of perpetual motion. The town is the hub of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which offers a range of regular runs on the rails, along with the stellar Smoky Mountain Trains Museum. It’s also a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and home to the nearby Nantahala Outdoor Center, a world-renowned base for white-water rafting, kayaking, and mountain biking.
And then there’s the eminently walkable downtown, which is replete with options for day and nighttime fun on foot. In a couple hours of strolling, you can take in the Swain County Heritage Museum (a treasure trove of mountain history), the town’s Island Park (a shaded retreat tucked, like Bryson City itself, on the shores of the Tuckasegee River), and dozens of shops, bakeries, cafés, and art galleries. After dark, don’t miss the string of restaurants and bars along Depot Street, from Nantahala Brewing’s tap room, featuring local beer and live music, to the swank cocktail bar Derailed, and more.
If all that moving makes you hungry, Bryson City’s many eateries are ready to satisfy. For on-the-go fare, the Filling Station Deli & Sub Shop makes sandwiches that would cause even a big city resident’s stomach to growl. For finer dining, Cork & Bean Bistro is among the ready options, and the owners recently opened The Everett Hotel in the same former bank building that houses the restaurant, featuring boutique-style lodging and a primo rooftop deck on which to wind down.