Distance from Charlotte: 121 miles
Nestled in a county that's more than 50 percent public forest land and has more waterfalls than any other in America, Brevard comes by its outdoorsy rep honestly. But with eclectic restaurants, highend galleries, craft shops, and annual festivals for bike and bluegrass lovers, Brevard has plenty of downtown charm to balance its Great Outdoors.
When you first drive into town on Route 64, find street parking (generally easy on nonfestival weekends) on Broad Street. You'll want to fuel up for any hike you go on with a cup of coffee and a croissant or scone from the famous family-owned Bracken mountain Bakery (42 S. Broad St., 828-883-4034), where the pastries are baked fresh every morning.
Now, time for some waterfall hunting. The trail with the highest number of impressive waterfall views in one walkable stretch is in Dupont State Forest. To get to the best access point, head south on Route 276 for about twenty minutes, hang a left on Cascade Lake Road, and then veer left on Staton Road. On your right, you'll find the Buck Forest Parking area. From there, hop onto the High Falls Trail. Follow the signs past the crashing, tropical High Falls, then the three-tiered Triple Falls (you can dip your toes into this one), and then Hooker Falls, located near a former grist mill.
Since the way back up the trail from the falls is a brutal uphill battle, you'll probably be ready for some more grub when you get back to town. Find a wicker chair on the patio at Hobnob (192 W. main St., 828-966-4662), where the menu includes elegant bistro dishes like a seafood lasagna and cornmeal-encrusted oysters. Wash down, of course, with a North Carolina brew from Pisgah or Foothills. Local art and craft shops abound in Brevard, but don't skip town without taking home something for the kids from O.P. Taylor's (2 S. Broad St., 828-883-2309) — a two-story, twenty-year-old toy shop with shelves of board games, vintage Barbies, and model railroad materials. If you catch owner John Taylor while you're there (he'll be wearing the propeller beanie), ask to try your hand at one of the remote-powered helicopters.
Before you leave town for the night, see what's playing at Co-ed Cinema (101 W. main St., 828-883-220), the nearly eight-year-old one-screen movie house on the corner of West Main Street where you can catch current films in an old-fashioned setting.