This area of the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountain Range is rich in natural and cultural history. Archeologists estimate that this region has been inhabited for nearly 2,000 years, and for many generations, it was home to both the Cherokee and Catawba peoples. Spanish explorers passed through in the 1500s, followed by European settlers in the mid-1700s.
Today visitors can get a glimpse of mountain life in the 18th and 19th centuries at historic farms and homes, and even try their hand at gold and gem mining.
Step back in time and learn about the people and places of the Blue Ridge Mountains at one of these informative — and fun! — historical attractions:
- Mountain Gateway Museum: Located in Old Fort, this museum illustrates what life was like for early area settlers. Learn about folk medicine and the history of moonshine, and peek inside a 19th-century log cabin.
- Orchard at Altapass: Situated on a 105-year-old apple orchard, this Blue Ridge Parkway destination (at milepost 328.3) celebrates the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains through music, art, history, and — of course — apples! Bring the whole family for live bluegrass music, hayrides, and ice cream cones.
- Museum of North Carolina Minerals: Another popular stop on the Parkway, this museum features interactive displays that tell the story of the gems and minerals that have been — and still are — mined in this region. Visit in September to see a reenactment of the story of the Overmountain Men, a militia who crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains on their way to the Revolutionary battle at Kings Mountain.
- Davidson's Fort Historic Park: Discover the “fort” in Old Fort when you visit this replica of a 1776 palisade fortification. Open on Saturday mornings and for special reenactment events throughout the year.
- Emerald Village & N.C. Mining Museum: There’s so much to see at Emerald Village near Little Switzerland. Learn about the history of mining in North Carolina and tour the old Bon Ami feldspar mine. Check out the Discovery Mill for a peek at antique musical instruments and farm equipment, and be sure to try your luck in the gem mine flumes — you could take home a shiny souvenir!
- Historic Carson House: Enjoy a guided tour of this picturesque and lovingly restored plantation home, built by the Carson family in the late 1700s.
- Swannanoa Valley Museum: Drive over the ridge to nearby Black Mountain to check out a rotating selection of exhibits on the inhabitants of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The museum is housed in a former firehouse, designed by Biltmore Estate architect Richard Sharp Smith.