Bryson City – A Real, Small Town

Bordering the southern side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City is a laid-back, non-touristy town of 1,300 with more stop signs than stoplights. It's an easily stroll-able town with local bookstores, arts and crafts galleries with working artisans, bike shops, a fly fishing shop, a historical museum, a fly fishing museum, a scenic train, a brewery, and a surprising variety of restaurants. Map of downtown shops, eateries, attractions

Sit a spell on a bench and look up at a clear blue sky and green mountainsides. People watch, enjoy a sweet treat, visit some shops, enjoy some music, drop a fishing line in the Tuckasegee River as it flows through town or explore it by kayak or paddleboard. Take a literary tour of the Bryson City Cemetery, the Bryson City Tales / Larrimore tour, or a historical stroll through town.

Venture just a few minutes from this quiet downtown and you’ll find a vast outdoor playground for water sports, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, zip lines, scenic drives, waterfalls and more.

You will love Bryson City, where you can have a big vacation in a small town!

Smithsonian Names Bryson City One of 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2016

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the Smithsonian has named Bryson City as one of the "20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2016." The top picks this year are all towns under 20,000 population that are close to National Parks. Eighteen states and the Virgin Islands are represented in this year's list.

"It is always gratifying when a prestigious publication like the Smithsonian confirms what we have known all along – that Bryson City is the quintessential small town vacation destination, " said Karen Wilmot, Executive Director, Swain County Chamber of Commerce. "Our strong relationship with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is mutually beneficial. Together we deliver the complete vacation experience with the combination of natural beauty and small town hospitality."

Highlights of the Bryson City feature include the "Road to Nowhere," the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours, the Nantahala National Forest, whitewater rafting, tubing, hiking, horseback riding, beautiful waterfalls, the Fryemont Inn, and the Heritage Museum.

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Is this Thomas Wolfe's 'Look Homeward Angel"? Many think so.
  • Is this Thomas Wolfe's 'Look Homeward Angel"? Many think so.
  • Free Saturday evening concerts at the train depot, June thru October.
  • Everett Street with holiday lights
  • Hanging gardens on the Everett Street bridge.
  • Spend an afternoon strolling downtown shops and restaurants.
  • A very walkable downtown
  • The Bryson City Cork & Bean is in a historic bank building.
  • The Visitor Center in Swain County's historic courthouse is open every day.
  • The Swain County Heritage Museum in the old courthouse is open every day.
  • Artist and photographer Charles Heath's studio gallery.
  • Bryson City's historic train depot is on the Swain County Quilt Trail
  • Basket-maker Debbie Mills in her Everett Street studio-gallery, The Wild Fern.
  • Artist and papermaker Elizabeth Ellison in her Main Street studio-gallery.
  • Humanite is one of several on-trend clothing and accessory boutiques downtown.
  • Leisurely shopping for unique home furnishings and gifts.
  • Buy local produce and crafts at the Swain County Farmers Market, Friday mornings, May through October.
  • Float fishing on the Tuckasegee River that runs through downtown Bryson City.
  • Standup paddleboarding downtown on the Tuckasegee River
  • Island Park, a quiet spot for a walk with your dog or a picnic.
  • Our Fourth of July fireworks have been called the best in the mountains.
  • The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has many themed events throughout the year. Kids of all ages do love trains.
  • 'Old Clampitt's' is Bryson City's oldest continuously operated store.
  • Galleries like The Cottage Craftsman feature handmade items created by regional artisans.
  • A surprising variety of eateries including Pasqualino's Italian Restaurant.
  • A number of restaurants have sidewalk seating, including The Filling Station.
  • Enjoy a local brew at the Nantahala Brewing Company on Depot Street.
  • Dining at the historic Fryemont Inn.
  • Soda Pop's an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, one of several places with sweet treats.
  • The Presbyterian Church, founded in 1880.

"Check out vibrant, little downtown Bryson City for dining spots and shops busy with small town commerce."

— The Charlotte Observer

"Vacationers seeking small-town atmosphere blended with the beauty of the wilderness will find refuge in Bryson City, NC, a gorgeous mountain town tucked away in the Smoky Mountains. The town features plenty of dining and shopping opportunities, lovely inns, and outdoor activities to choose from."


"Explore Bryson City's fun mix of old and new. Without question, the natural playground of forests, rivers, and trails surrounding Bryson City, and even the Tuckasegee River that cuts through the center of town, maintain a strong pull, but the town holds its own charm — all two square miles of it.

— WNC magazine

'For kids, the small mountain town is a picturesque playground with plenty of places to have fun and burn off some energy."

"Here’s the thing about Bryson City. It’s a true getaway. You don’t have to worry about what to wear, how to fix your hair, putting on makeup, checking boxes on your touristy list or having concrete plans. You just go and do whatever and stare at the mountains and breathe easier."

Dana Miller, Housetweaking

"But, most of all, skip the nearby over-developed region that is Gatlinburg and visit Bryson City on the North Carolina side of the park.  It is a beautiful small American town with great road-side inns, shops and family entertainment that takes you back to the America of the past, something you can not get much of these days."