Sylva: Into the Woods

In December 2018 / January 2019, Doby Lauren Kruchten

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Breathe in crisp mountain air as you breathe out all your cares during a winter getaway to Sylva, NC. A quaint town in Jackson County, located on the edge of the Nantahala National Forest and at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains, Sylva is just a 4.5-hour drive west of Raleigh.

Downtown Sylva features a charming Main Street with independently owned restaurants, stores, galleries, bookshops and breweries. Enjoy a day of eating, drinking and holiday shopping as you explore local landmarks, such as the Historic Jackson County Courthouse. Built in 1914, the courthouse sits atop a hill at one end of Main Street, and is accessible via 107 steps. Thought to be the most photographed courthouse in North Carolina, a visit offers views of snow capped mountains in the distance.

Lots of winter fun is to be had in the Great Smoky Mountains during the colder months, including snow day activities for visitors of all ages. Thrill seekers have their pick of skiing, snowboarding and tubing, while curious hikers will delight in capturing a glimpse of dozens of dazzling, frozen waterfalls.

For those who prefer to stay out of the cold, Sylva is home to cozy bed and breakfasts, cabins, spas and resorts that provide quiet solace amidst the surrounding wooded mountain beauty.

EAT

Lulu’s On Main

Southern Living Magazine chose it as its favorite restaurant in the region, and Lulu’s has been a beloved establishment in Sylva since 1989. With a new location on Main Street, Lulu’s is known for its edgy mountain spirit and eclectic fare, ranging from hominy salsa to paella to the “Chipwich,” an innovative sandwich with marinated tofu, sautéed peppers and onions, house-made kimchi and Szechuan sauce. Daily lunch and dinner specials highlight fresh, local ingredients and international cuisines. lulusonmain.com

Guadalupe Cafe

This cherished eatery is known for its farm-to-table, Caribbean-inspired fusion cuisine, emphasizing fresh, local and organic ingredients. Lunch and dinner menus feature curried goat, blackened plantains and adobo pork tostadas, while weekend brunch includes classic homemade biscuits, sweet potato hash and stone-ground grits. Enjoy your meal in a welcoming, vintage-decorated space with checkered floors, a soda fountain and antique bar stools. guadalupecafe.com

Baxley’s Chocolates

A sweets lover’s paradise, Baxley’s is home to handcrafted chocolates. Caramels, made from heavy cream, European-style butter and high quality chocolate, are the most popular items, available in dark or milk chocolate with a sprinkle of sea salt on top. Other offerings include malted milk balls, peanut butter meltaways, sugar plums and toffee, made with caramelized sugar and Jamaican rum. Opt for the Baxley’s Signature Assortment box to taste them all. baxleyschocolates.com

DRINK

Innovation Brewing

Innovation Brewing on Main Street is known for its experimental brews, which rotate on tap among 12 mainstay beers, as well as a ginger ale made with fresh, organic ginger. The beer selection ranges from stouts to IPAs, porters to saisons, and sours and ciders for those with a lighter palette. The open tap room and patio is perfect for enjoying the stunning scenery of the surrounding Tuckasegee River Valley. innovation-brewing.com

White Moon

With its plush couches, plant decor and cozy vibes, White Moon is perfect for nestling in with a warm cup of coffee on a cold winter morning. Brewed with Stumptown Coffee Roasters, White Moon’s offerings include lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, drip coffees, matcha, teas and a raw cacao hot chocolate. The menu also features smoothies and light breakfast and lunch options, including bagels, avocado toast, sandwiches and baked sweets. whitemoonsylva.com

Balsam Falls Brewing

Sylva’s second Main Street brewery is a fun place to have a beer with locals or other out-of-town visitors. On tap is a variety of hand crafted ales, IPAs, stouts and porters, as well as a unique spiced beer known as the “Chupacabra Cucurbita.” Balsam Falls uses a classic brewing style and local, seasonal ingredients. facebook.com/balsamfallsbrewing

DO

Festival of Lights and Luminaries

Each year on the first two weekends of December, the towns of Sylva and Dillsboro light up for a special holiday experience. More than 2,500 candles in white bags illuminate the towns’ streets, while visitors roam festively lit shops, galleries and studios. Shopkeepers stay open late and provide coffee, warm cider, hot chocolate and homemade goodies. The festival also features sing-alongs, horse-drawn wagon rides, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus and a live nativity. romanticasheville.com/dillsboro_festival_luminaries.htm

Sapphire Valley

About 45 minutes away from Sylva, Sapphire Valley offers snow activities for all. Enjoy skiing, snowboarding, a winter zip line and the 500-foot Frozen Falls Tube Park, with a vertical drop of 60 feet, as well as yoga classes, bingo, live music, root beer float socials and more. skisapphirevalley.com

Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail

Sylva’s fly fishing trail is the first of its kind in America, attracting fishermen from all over the world. The Tuckasegee River is home to various whitewater and trout species, including brook, brown and rainbow trout, earning Jackson County the title of North Carolina Trout Capital. Cooler temperatures attract more fish, making winter the best time for fly fishing. flyfishingtrail.com

STAY

Freeze House Bed & Breakfast

The Freeze House is nestled on a hill of trees in the Great Smoky Mountains. Constructed during World War I and modernized in 1995, the B&B features two cottages, the one-bedroom Ivy Cottage and two-bedroom Rhododendron Cottage, both with fully equipped kitchens and decks with spectacular views of the mountains. freezehousebnb.com

Jarrett House

This upscale inn just outside downtown Sylva features charming rooms and a newly renovated English Tea Room, as well as a bistro serving up Southern fare and hospitality. The historic hotel, one of North Carolina’s oldest, features 16 rooms, complete with Victorian furniture and front porches with rocking chairs to enjoy mountain views. jarretthouse.com

Chalet Suites Boutique Hotel

Located 15 minutes outside of Sylva, Chalet Suites is the closest adult-only boutique hotel to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s known for its rustic Alpine design and location in a 22-acre private forest. Chalet Suites features self-contained jacuzzi and fireplace suites, hiking trails right outside the door and a private breakfast delivered to your room. chaletsuites.com

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