Downtown Hendersonville, North Carolina has a high concentration of things I like; cozy cafes, bookstores, bars/restaurants with literary themes, coffee shops, boutiques filled with crystals and witchy stuff, farmers markets, Art Deco buildings, and museums, all within a handful of city blocks.
I have visited a couple times now and just keep finding more things to do.
Hendersonville is the seat of Henderson County, founded 1838. This county includes the towns of Fletcher, Mills River, and Laurel Park, plus over a dozen communities including Bat Cave, and claims some parts of Flat Rock and Saluda.
The “City of Four Seasons” has around 15,000 people in seven square miles. Second to Asheville, Hendersonville has the largest downtown in Western North Carolina. Main Street is over 100 feet wide with gardens and seating areas in the center.
Hendersonville has a diverse palette of cuisine and cocktails with an edge I have not found much of in other mountain towns.
The Poe House, obviously, is a tribute to Edgar Allen Poe. Inside you will find various photos, paintings, and quotes of his among ravens and other spooky decor.
Cocktails are superb and the staff has definitely mastered the classics.
Count on such a cool, niche bar being packed on weekends. We started getting a little restless with the wait time but it was well worth it for this decadent Anjou Pear & Warm Brie appetizer with a balsamic reduction and honey.
Madame Roque’s Meat Emporium, Pickled Curiosities, Tattoo, & Tarot is EVERYTHING. If they don’t have it here, you probably do not need it.
I dutifully tried as many things as I could get my hands on here from corn tortillas filled with Korean BBQ-style jackfruit, Barbacoa, Jerk Chicken, and Costillas, to the mango margarita with a tamarind straw, to each of the housemade condiments and pickled veggies.
Book your appointments for tattoo work and tarot readings ahead of time to secure your spot, then stuff your face while you wait.
I saw the Madame in person and she is just as vibrant as her mural.
HenDough Fried Chicken & Donuts is a popular breakfast and brunch spot. The daily special was an open-face fried chicken biscuit with bacon, cheese sauce, and a fried egg on top.
I wish I could have taken the rest of this delicacy home with me, but you have to let go of some things when you’re on the road.
But then I could not resist a Creme Brulee donut for later.
This is the perfect place for a cocktail, like this Ginger Ninja with Jameson, lime juice, ginger syrup, cranberry juice, and Fever Tree ginger beer.
Black Rose Pub is for quick bar food, appetizers, or a late night hangover prevention. It’s more of a family sports bar than the Irish pub I was hoping for, but still nice.
McFarlane Bakery has been a town hotspot since 1930. They typically have a line out the door, and for just reason.
Good luck maintaining your composure and your figure after gazing at case upon case of every pastry, pie, cake, brownie, truffle, bread, and others sweet imaginable.
Hendersonville’s Craft Booze scene is going strong with more than a dozen local breweries, cideries, and vineyards.
Triskelion Brewing has a fantastic imperial called the Goliath Whiskey Stout (right) with undertones of chocolate, rum, raisin, caramel, and vanilla. I am not a superfan of fruity beers but I also enjoyed their Apricot Wheat Ale (left).
We fell in love with this spicy pepper beer at Southern Appalachian Brewery.
I am kicking myself for not remembering the name of it, but it had a playful bite of either Reaper or Ghost pepper, and a slightly sweet aftertaste to soothe.
Oklawaha Brewing (formerly known as Sanctuary Brewing) was the coziest brewery, with a live band, warm lighting, and various nooks to converse in.
I was most excited that they brew many of my kind of beers- Kölsch, Märzen, Pils, Weisse, Fest, and lagers, plus a vast selection of darks, porters, stouts, and Dunkel.
IPA fans can rest easy though, they will have you covered too. Weirdos.
Next time I will be sure to check out Flat Rock Cider Works, Guidon Brewery, and Dryfalls Brewing.
If coffee, tea, and bookshops are more your style, stop by Independent Bean Roasters, Appalachian Coffee, and Black Bear Coffee.
The French Broad Book Bar & Kitchen reminds me of my beloved Battery Park Book Exchange in Asheville. They have been closed for a while due to COVID but you can get a sense of it by browsing their photos.
Joy of Books is an independent bookstore, locally-owned with global offerings and showing lots of love to Hendersonville’s art and literary community.
Hendersonville is also home of the Appalachian Pinball Museum, the Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County, and the Henderson County Heritage Museum.
The Appalachian Pinball Museum is less a museum as it is an arcade frozen in time.
Rows of pristine pinball machines are on display for pure admiration, or you can purchase a play pass for just twelve bucks. The dudes working there are also some of the most genuinely friendly people I have met in my travels.
A montage of 80s videos is continuously projected on the ceiling in one room, and I was giddy to have captured this shot of Lord Rick Astley looking down over us to make sure we were wearing our masks.
They even have this nostalgic concession stand complete with action figures, vintage style logos, toys, and other memorabilia.
Visit the Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County to see some of the geodes, crystals, and minerals discovered in the region. Dinosaur eggs and a T-Rex skull are a hit with the kids.
Natural history and Anthro exhibits are one of the surest ways to trap me, though I may have become irrationally stressed out by the lack proper identification on certain bones.
Henderson County Heritage Museum fills the city’s early-1900s courthouse and features a collection of Carolinian regional history.
You can see the courthouse from most points in the downtown district and it is the ideal starting point for exploring.
Vessel was the most impressive store we visited.
Everything inside is straight out of a dream; decor and furniture made of geodes, sink basins made of Himalayan pink salt and granite, jewelry made with the most gorgeous hand-polished stones, skulls and sculptures, driftwood and coral reef pieces, lighting fixtures made from conch shells, giant fossils, and…
I was mesmerized.
Tribal Trends and Gypsy Heart both sell crystals and jewelry, but neither come close to Vessel. However, you can pick up much more affordable gifts, incense, candles, clothing, and other pieces at the latter two stores.
One last mention is for the Curb Market, open since 1924, and now open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday only.
Think of a farmers market meets flea market meets craft fair. I bought some fresh picked apples, lotion, local honey, and embarrassingly enough, more tiny crystals.
Hendersonville’s super easy downtown grid system makes it a cinch to navigate. Main Street is the pulse, and the most concentrated areas are between First and Sixth Avenue.
The streets running parallel to Main Street on either side, Edwards Street and Church Street, also have a lot to offer. Downtown is basically six easy blocks long by three blocks wide.
Curbside parking is available by most storefronts, or in larger lots behind the Main Street buildings.
You might notice right away that there are dozens of painted bears, bear murals, bear sculptures and other imagery everywhere you look.
You may also notice some intricacies in everyday facets too; gates, doorways, arches, lamp posts, and mixed in among nature itself.
Iron gate and steel tree sculpture.
Businesses are very densely packed in, unlike some other cities where things are spread too far out or hard to reach. In Hendersonville you can make the best of your time without miles of walking or driving.
There is a lot of lush greenery and many shaded areas to relax and people watch, as if downtown Hendersonville is just one big city park.
Bullington Gardens, Stone Angel, Jump Off Rock, Western North Carolina Air Museum, Colburn Earth Science Museum, and Table Rock State Park are next on my list, so check back soon.
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