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North Carolina Travel Guide

Sylva, North CarolinaHere's an interesting daytrip from Asheville, about a 50-minute drive through the Smokies. Sylva, a town of 2,500, is a pleasant blend of small-town mountain charm - as distinguished from your flatland, Mayberry charm, in that while up here folks are no less disposed to engage you, they're less chatty, more direct - and college-town/thrift-shop funkiness. (Technically, Sylva isn't a college town: Western Carolina University is seven miles down the road in Cullowhee, but once you've visited the "town" of Cullowhee you'll understand that Sylva earns said designation by default.)

Sylva has a Main Street of the traditional variety. It's called Main Street, and it's presided over at one end by the Jackson County Courthouse, up there on the top of a very steep hill, right smack in the middle of town - a courthouse the locals will tell you is the most photographed courthouse in the country. (That is to say, point a camera at that courthouse and you can bet that someone will stop their car or amble on over to tell you that that courthouse there is the most photographed courthouse in the country.) And it just well may be - though I've not the slightest idea of who keeps tabs on such things. At any rate, it's a darned fine courthouse, and for a night in jail you could do a whole lot worse.

NC MountainsThere are, however, alternate choices for accommodations (and, truth be told, the courthouse is no longer functioning as such; plans are to turn it into a museum) - there are, for example, a couple bed & breakfasts: the
Freeze House up on Freeze Hill and the River Lodge beside the Tuckasegee River in Cullowhee - but this is a daytrip, right, and if you're not staying in [Asheville] you're probably sleeping beneath the stars, which is exactly what you should be doing on such a fine evening as this, regardless of the season. For first-rate whitewater rafting, the Nantahala River is less than an hour away. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just up the road. And you crossed right under the Blue Ridge Parkway on your way in from Asheville on U.S. 23, just this side of Waynesville, at Balsam Gap.

But back to Sylva. There's plenty of outdoor activity here as well. The town boasts of a "state-of-the-art playground designed by our children and built by the community," though I haven't yet personally experienced it. There are a number of hiking trails in the immediate vicinity and some very lovely vistas.

There are also several fine little spots in which to have a bite to eat, right on Main Street.
Nick & Nate's is nice - a family kind of place with a good selection of hand-crafted beers on pour, and, if you have kids, you just can't beat a combination such as that. I haven't tried their pizza, but they make a couple of varieties of very tasty chicken sandwiches.

Jazz Night at Guadalupe's Cafe, Sylva, NCOne block above Main Street (once you're there, which direction "above" is will be evident) is City Lights Books , named, presumably, in homage to City Light's in San Francisco, and, if so, to which it does honor. This is not a bookstore you'd expect to find stuck way up in the mountains in a little town such as Sylva - an impressive selection of new and used books, a very knowledgeable staff and readings/signings by local and touring writers on a regular basis. City Lights is also a good place to stop in for just about any piece of information relating to the local area you may require - from some tidbit of mountain lore to where to get a tire plugged. And in the very immediate vicinity is Lulu's, for a more upscale dining experience than you would expect to find in a town as far away from cosmopolitan (by comparison) Asheville. And Guadalupe's Café as well, which serves tropical-fusion food, farm-to-table eatery, which means they strive to use locally-grown and organic ingredients whenever possible. Their menu offers customizable burritos, nachos and quesadillas, as well as a specialty menu of tapas and entrées, and daily specials. The café also serves host to live musical performances(photo) featuring different bands of all genres, originating from both the local area and throughout the country. The cafe walls are a gallery for exhibits from Sylva and Cullowhee artists.

Soul Infusion TeahouseOn down the road a bit toward Cullowhee is the Soul Infusion Teahouse with a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere in a quaint renovated 1930's farmhouse and yard.  Live music can be heard on most weekends from local bands and traveling home grown musicians. Owned and operated by Haley Milner and Tori Walters, they also serve food and seasonal and rotating draft beers, LOCAL brews, and a broad selection of wine.

Speaking of beer (weren't we?), there's a new microbrewery, Heinzelmannchen Brewery, at 545 Mill Street, a block off Main on Mill Street, with a tasting room and growlers to go. German-born brewermaster Dieter Kuhn & his wife Sheryl Rudd are creating light, refreshing German beer made with fresh hops, wholesome grains, & no preservatives. They do not sell food, but you may bring your own from one of the local eateries and enjoy it in here with a flight of samples or a pint.

Jarrett HouseAnd I certainly must mention the Jarrett House B&B and Restaurant, which though actually located in Dillsboro, is just a mile down the road, just off US 441, and as good as in Sylva proper. The Jarrett House is one of western North Carolina's oldest operating inns and has been serving up a home-style dining experience since 1884 - and by home-style, I mean home-style, as in "pass the potatoes, please." Chicken, biscuits, gravy, vinegar pies - gooood Southern eatin' - as Andy Taylor would say, "some kinda extry good" - heavy on the hospitality, but closed through the winter. Dillsboro is a village of 200 residents, known for fine artists and craftsmen.  The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad makes Dillsboro its home base, and carries hundreds of thousands of excursion passengers out of the Dillsboro depot each year.

Click Here for hotels in Dillsboro/Sylva

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