Last Updated on April 25, 2023
Located about halfway between West Asheville and Waynesville, just off Interstate 40, Canton is a modern snapshot of a classic mill town. The downtown district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And many of the unique and beautiful bungalows and buildings around town, once built for mill workers and managers, are still intact. But the growing town is also full of a number of culinary delights, attractions, and outdoor adventures.
Whether you’re vacationing or stay-cationing, Canton offers residents and visitors alike many opportunities to Live Abundantly in WNC. Here’s a quick itinerary for a charming weekend in historic Canton, NC.
Friday evening in Canton, NC
Check in to your mountain cabin
Enjoy an authentic Western North Carolina weekend excursion by staying in a riverside mountain cabin. There are many cabin rental options around Canton. Head south into the Nantahala National Forest for a number of cabins along the Pigeon River and near Lake Logan.
There are also a number of campgrounds south of town in hiking distance to famed Cold Mountain. If you’re looking to make friends, Riverside Campground is a family-friendly, 55+ RV/mobile home campground. The “extended family” in this community loves to enjoy pot luck dinners, group lunch trips to various restaurants, and game nights.
Build your own burger
We can personally vouch for the juiciness of J-RO’s Burgers’ (pronounced JAY-rows) signature sandwich. And so can all the locals who have enjoyed this Main Street staple since 2017—along with all the Waynesville locals who’ve loved the first location, Smoky Mountain Sub Shop, since 1993! Choose from the house-ground ribeye or local beef patty, made from responsibly raised beef from Rice Family Farms in Canton. Vegetarians can swap for a delicious and spicy black bean patty. Pick your toppings and sandwich between the pretzel bun for a soft, sweet twist (pun intended). Hot sauce lovers will love the selection of sweet and spicy sauces available, as well!
Saturday in Canton, NC
Grab a cup o’ joe
Wake up with a great cup of coffee and a side of history. Papertown Coffee is located in a building that, since 1910, has been the Canton Enterprise newspaper, a barber shop, a jeweler, a life insurance company, and the Red Cross. Today, the coffee shop brings a love of coffee and the ritual of its artful preparation to the space. Enjoy an extensive menu of hot and iced drinks made with house-made syrups. They also offer a rotating selection of sweet and savory food items from local restaurant, Down South To Go Cafe, as well as Four Sisters Bakery in Black Mountain and Waves of Grain Bakery in Asheville.
Head out to the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway bisects Haywood County and makes for an adventurous drive. High-elevation hiking abounds, as the county is home to 13 peaks above 6,000 feet—including the famous Cold Mountain, just minutes from downtown Canton. All of the county’s rivers and creeks originate within its boundaries, making it a great location for waterfalls and wildlife. View elk from nearby Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or zipline through the Pigeon River area.
Channel your inner child
Love comic books, figurines, anime collectibles, or retro video games? Main Street Canton has a few surprises up its sleeve. Not So Old Toys and Comics carries family-friendly and fun comics and toys from the 1970s through today. Just down the block, Home Computer Services houses a Video Game & Computer Museum, an extensive collection of vintage computer and video gaming systems. Step back in time to play your favorite game or program!
Support local businesses
If there’s any region that loves to support its local small businesses, it’s Western North Carolina! This is especially true in Canton, whose small business scene has been flourishing in recent years. Start at Blue Moon Books on Main Street and find your next favorite riverside read. From there, it’s just a short walk to Willow Street Soap Company. This family business creates small-batch, ethically-minded, natural skincare and candles. It’s the perfect treat for a friend—or yourself! Wrap up your shopping day at Pigeon River Mercantile. More than your standard mom and pop shop, Pigeon River Merc offers tons of local goods, including clothing, jewelry, pottery, soap, woodwork, and accessories.
Make dinner an experience to remember
The beautifully restored Imperial Hotel officially predates the town of Canton. Built in 1876, this Queen Anne building began its life as a private home, transformed into “one of the state’s best two-dollar hotels,” served as low-income apartments, and now operates as The Southern Porch restaurant. Enjoy quality service and diverse Southern fare, from fried green tomatoes to shrimp and grits. Much of the menu rotates each season depending on what ingredients are fresh and available from local farmers. In the main taproom, you can browse a large selection of local and regional craft beers, or you can simply sit and immerse yourself in the friendly space.
Sunday in Canton, NC
Grab lunch to go with your craft brew
Experience what happens when passion collides with creativity, a love for beer making, and the best ingredients. BearWaters Brewery is located a quick walk from the heart of downtown along the Pigeon River. Grab some grub to enjoy by the banks with your brew. We recommend the Appalachian flatbread with an apple butter base, caramelized onions, pork, feta, and a balsamic drizzle. Hang out on the patio overlooking the water, and stay for trivia, live music, or other events.
Acquaint yourself with Canton’s history
The Canton Area Historical Museum tells the tale of Canton from its roots as a “boom town” upon the opening of the Champion Paper and Fiber Company to today. Scholars, students, and visitors alike enjoy the museum as a community educational resource for preserving and interpreting the unique history of Canton and its surrounding communities. Among the artifacts in the collection are uniforms of local veterans of World War I and World War II and two cannonballs from the Civil War.
Fancy a stroll?
Wrap up your weekend (at whatever pace you prefer) by taking a walk around town. Historic murals dot the downtown landscape, offering interesting viewing on Main Street. Take the paved trails of Sorrells Park, which will also include a splash pad soon. Or stroll along the Pigeon River Scenic Walking Trail. Located along the Pigeon River and meandering through town, the 1.5-mile trail features benches to relax and enjoy the local scenery and wildlife. Don’t forget to bring bird food for the ducks and geese that live along the river.
Plan your next trip to Canton, NC
Canton has more treats than can be experienced in one weekend. Plan your next trip for Labor Day weekend when Canton residents come together for the Canton Labor Day Festival, the oldest festival of its kind in the Southeast! Stop back through during the holidays for the Canton Festival of Lights. You’ll be awed by the glow of thousands of holiday lights in celebration of the season!
Spend every weekend in Canton, NC
Canton is a snapshot of a classic mill town, with many of the unique bungalows and beautiful buildings once built for mill workers and managers still intact. Historic murals add an artistic touch to the downtown district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s easy to stroll down Main Street, enjoy a meal or shop at the street’s small businesses, and be received as a local. Quality of life truly is key in Canton.
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