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A mountain retreat can heal the soul – and Sylva is the perfect spot to do that! Picturesque and quaint, Sylva NC is a great alternative to those wanting a mountain getaway without the crowds of Asheville. Surrounded by mountains and streams, Sylva makes a great destination or stopping point along your journey.
This paper mill town has a proud heritage that is visible in its downtown revival. Take your photo at the “Greetings from Sylva NC mural” and see the sights. Park your car
Things to Do in Sylva NC
Walkable Main Streets are one of my favorite things! Historic Downtown Sylva is bordered by Mill Street and West Main Street. With lots of parking available along both streets, and some parking lots nearby, Sylva beckons visitors to explore on foot. Park at one end and visit the shops and restaurants. Stop at the Visitors Office near the Historic Courthouse for suggestions on events happening and what to see.
Hike Pinnacle Park
4110 Fisher Creek Road
Fans of hiking the outdoors will love Sylva’s Pinnacle Park. The seven-mile round trip trek with 3,000 ft. ascent rewards hikers with panoramic views of Sylva. Along the way, views of streams, waterfalls, and the valley re-center you.
Sip Your Way Through the Jackson County Ale Trail
Sylva is home to two breweries and two taprooms. Together with the taproom in Dillsboro and brewery in Cashiers, the six breweries comprise the Jackson County Ale Trail. Get your map at one of the local Visitors Centers or any of the breweries. A fun way to explore the surrounding area!
Innovation Brewing Company | 414 West Main Street
With over 25 beers on tap, you’re sure to find something to love. Lots of outside seating and frequent food trucks make this a perfect place for a night out. Try the Soulvation Tropical IPA if you’re a fan of juicy IPAs!
Balsam Falls Brewing | 506 West Main Street
Focusing on local ingredients, Balsam Falls is the spot in town to watch football games and other sports. Visit them on the 2nd Wednesday of each month for adult coloring! Try Into the Mist Southern IPA for a less hoppy option.
Lazy Hiker Brewing (Taproom) | 617 West Main Street
Based in Franklin NC, the Lazy Hiker Brewing taproom shares space with Mad Batter Kitchen in downtown Sylva. After hiking the beautiful areas nearby, come “Get Lazy” while sipping one of their beers. Try the Slack Pack IPA.
Nantahala Brewing Company Sylva Outpost | 5 Grindstaff Cove Road
After visiting the original Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City, NC, this outpost offers the same great beers. Using water flowing from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, there’s a freshness to each brew. Try the Chocolate Covered Cherry Stout.
See the Most Photographed Courthouse in NC
310 Keener Street
Built in 1914, the Jackson County Historic Courthouse, majestically located at the end of Main Street, provides fantastic views of the downtown area and the surrounding mountain backdrop. The historic courthouse currently houses the local library. Climb the 107 steps.
Around Christmas, the historic courthouse comes to life with lights and Christmas trees on the lawn.
Visit the American Museum of the House Cat
5063 Hwy 441 South
This oddity started with one man’s love of the beloved household cat. His collection of all things related to cats — think clocks, advertisements using cats, glass cats — is the largest of its kind. The museum gladly accepts cat-related antiques and oddities you may have to contribute.
546 West Main Street
Chocoholics will find their sweet spot at Baxley’s Chocolates on Main Street. Three generations of chocolate makers refined the craft. Whether you prefer truffles or fudge, you’re sure to find the perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth here. They even carry authentic Wilbur Buds, which I discovered while visiting Lititz, PA.
Take a Selfie at the Sylva NC Mural
Located on Mill Street, across from White Moon Coffee, visitors will find the “Greetings from Sylva NC” mural. If you’re lucky enough, there won’t be cars parked in front of it for the perfect photo op! Instagram it or you weren’t here!
Or a Selfie at the License Plate Building
12 Caldwell Street
This operating car repair business covered its building with license plates from all over! While they’re sometimes blocked by tow trucks, tires, or cars undergoing repairs (imagine that!), this oddity of a building is a fun spot to take a photo. I recommend going after hours so as not to disrupt the busy business.
552 Judaculla Rock Road, Cullowhee
Just outside of town, this sandstone rock features petroglyphs that might be 2,000 to 3,000 years old. Unfortunately, erosion due to weather and prior visitors climbing and touching the rock is occurring, though there are efforts at preservation. This is a unique view of Cherokee culture.
Visit Movie Sets
Many scenes of the 2018 Oscar-nominated movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing” were filmed in downtown Sylva. Though the movie set signs are no longer there, fans of the movie will immediately spot the police department and the burning building as they stroll Main Street.
Portions of the 1993 movie starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, “The Fugitive” were also filmed nearby. You can find the spot where the train wrecks into the bus, though it has become somewhat overgrown.
Try Fly Fishing
The Trout Capital of the World, Jackson County offers some of the best spots for fly fishing. The Fly Fishing Trail, the only one in the United States, contains 15 perfect locations to catch brown, rainbow, and brook trout. With local waters stocked annually, there is no risk of off-days fishing in these waters!
Where to Eat in Sylva NC
646 West Main Street
Opening in July 2020, The Table offers a unique menu of all-day breakfast and lunch dishes with every item made from scratch. This restaurant is an excellent option for those looking for gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan meals. The Papa’s Monte Cristo was an absolute delight combining raspberries and ham, a much lighter version of the traditional Monte Cristo.
678 West Main Street
Winner of the Best of WNC several years in a row and described by Southern Living Magazine as “our favorite restaurant in the region,” Lulu’s should be included on your must-try list when visiting Sylva NC. Or enjoy the Martini Bar inside. The restaurant focuses efforts on recycling and going green. The fried green tomatoes are a favorite.
The Coffee Shop
385 West Main Street
Comfort food served with a friendly smile. If you’re looking for a home-cooked meal, this is the place. Don’t miss the homemade pies!
Where to Stay in Sylva NC
Most accommodations in Sylva NC are made through AirBnB (first-time bookings discount code!) or other cabin rentals. The Blue Ridge Inn is located near the historic Jackson County Courthouse and an easy walk for weary travelers.
Things to Do in Sylva NC Itinerary
Only have a day to explore Sylva NC and wish for an itinerary for the best things to do in Sylva NC? Here you go!
Start outside of town by visiting the Judaculla Rock. After learning about the Cherokee history, drive into town. Take your photo at the roadside attraction of the license plate building.
Park along Mill or West Main Streets. Start at one end of Mill Street, near Innovation Brewing. Pose in front of the Sylva NC mural. Walk until the end where you can pose in front of the historic courthouse. Climb the 107 steps for a gorgeous view of the historic downtown and capture great snapshots.
Stroll back on West Main Street, admiring the many businesses, artisan shops, and restaurants if you’re hungry and have timed your visit just right to enjoy breakfast or lunch.
Hike the Pinnacle Park Trail for magnificent views and to build up an appetite and come back into historic Sylva for dinner or a late lunch. Visit one of the four breweries and wrap up any shopping for yourself or those back home.
Sylva NC Getaway Thoughts
Sylva NC’s quaint historic downtown is the perfect starting point to your Western North Carolina visit. With its flavorful dining options, outdoor activities, and fun spots to hang out, a week in town is a great way to experience everything WNC has to offer!
Looking for more things to do in Western North Carolina? Check these posts:
- Mountain Fun: The Best Things to do in Bryson City
- Western NC Getaway: Cashiers
- NC’s 10 Best Wine Trails
- Veteran Owned Breweries in NC
Annick, The Common Traveler