Last Updated on March 24, 2023
Marshall may be small, but as they say, it’s big on charm! For generations, this Madison County seat has made the most of riverside living on the banks of the French Broad. The area is rich with local history, and today is a haven for artists and outdoor lovers.
Whether you’re vacationing or stay-cationing, this mountain town offers residents and visitors alike many opportunities to Live Abundantly in WNC. Here’s a quick itinerary for a fun-filled weekend in charming Marshall, NC.
Friday evening in Marshall, NC
Book your stay for the weekend in Marshall, NC
Unlike in its previous incarnation, the Old Marshall Jail Hotel lets you choose your check-in and check-out times. And the accommodations are cozier, as well! The recently rehabbed jail building offers mountain views and artistic amenities from four deluxe suites and two efficient bunkrooms. In return, you get a charming and unique experience inside a building with 116 years of town stories—some of which are literally embedded in the walls. Check in to your space and head downstairs for one of the best meals in town.
Taste Madison County at Zadie’s Market
Experience a fantastic dinner and an unbeatable view of the river at Zadie’s Market, located on the ground floor of the Old Marshall Jail building. The kitchen offers a rotating and seasonal menu, serving everything from elevated bar snacks to Appalachian-inspired dishes. Enjoy your meal inside or on the expansive patio with a view of the French Broad River.
After dinner, check out Zadie’s market and bar. Zadie’s Market is a specialty grocery offering fresh, locally grown products from local farmers and community producers. They even deliver directly to your room! At the bar, belly up for a pour of your favorite beverage; they have local craft beers, natural wines, specialty sake, and non-alcoholic beverages.
Break out your dancing shoes at The Depot
It’s only open for a short window on Friday evenings. But every week for more than 40 years, locals and visitors flood The Depot to enjoy bluegrass, mountain music, country, and folk music. Originally, the building was the Southern Railroad Depot for the town. After passenger service was discontinued in the 1970s, the space was reimagined. Since 1980, The Depot has been “the” Friday night jam spot to get a taste of the local Madison County music scene. Bring the whole family, or make new friends while you’re there. But whatever you do, be prepared to dance!
Saturday in Marshall, NC
Start the day strong at Zuma Coffee
Zuma Coffee is more than Marshall’s unofficial meeting place; it’s one of the most charming and delicious small businesses in the area. Since 2002, Zuma has been serving fair-trade coffee, baked goods, and a welcoming atmosphere from their corner coffee shop. And while they do offer your choice of breakfast sandwiches, when we visit we usually go for the gold: Zuma Gold. These treats are made with farm-fresh eggs from a farmer just down the road, unbleached flour, and real butter, then studded with Georgia pecans and walnuts. The result is a sumptuous $1 cookie that’s well worth its weight in gold!
Walk Main Street
It’s easy to traverse downtown Marshall by foot—it’s less than half a mile from the wART radio station on the north end of Main Street to Marshall Depot, the music venue anchoring the south end of the street. Along the way, Main Street offers signs of the town’s unique blend of the old and the new. Locals frequent the town’s used bookstore, numerous galleries, antique shops, brewery, and innovative eateries. And the Madison County Arts Council presents regular exhibitions of both traditional and contemporary art, keeping the local art scene humming.
Hovering above it all is the historic, cupola-domed county courthouse. The building was completed in 1907 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with 40 other contributing buildings in the Marshall Main Street Historic District.
Discover island art on the river
Hunkered in the middle of the French Broad River, within clear view of downtown Marshall, is Blannahassett Island. The 10-acre island was once home to Marshall High School. Today, the old school building now houses Marshall High Studios, a collection of 26 artist studios representing numerous different media. The 28,000-square-foot facility has retained its original high ceilings, hardwood floors, large double-hung windows, and abundant natural light. Art events and workshops are held on the original auditorium and stage. There’s also an enormous deck overlooking the Blannahassett Island park. Stop in, see local artists in action, and walk along the island’s trails.
Rehydrate with a local brew
After walking the length of Main Street and the circumference of Blannahassett Island, you deserve a cold one. Mad Co. Brew House is Madison County’s first brewery. What started out as just a taproom in 2016 has quickly grown into a 3,000-square-foot brewhouse and pizza kitchen with a covered patio, tasting room, and back deck overlooking the river. They focus on small batch craft beers, from hop-forward IPAs to seasonal farmhouse ales. Their draft menu is supplemented by other local beers, ciders, and ginger beers. Kick your feet up and become part of this brewing tradition.
Load up on gear and BBQ
From downtown, head back to Highway 25 for a dinner that’s as surprising in quality as it is in location. High Ridge Adventures offers the outdoor gear and RV supplies you need to enjoy the mountains, along with a delicious menu to sustain you on your journey. And what meals could speak more to the spirit of the outdoors than wood smoked pit barbecue? High Ridge creates their own rubs, sauces, and recipes using only the freshest ingredients. Choose from a menu that features ribs, chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket, and smoked sausages.
Sunday in Marshall, NC
Fill up at brunch
Zadie’s Market whips up a delightful brunch each weekend. But for a taste of contemporary food in a nostalgic setting, we recommend Star Diner. This classic 1920s filling station has been converted into a five-star restaurant serving Continental cuisine. Chef Brian Sonoskus combines his experience overseeing Tupelo Honey, known for its Southern cuisine, with his travels through Europe. The result is a menu that gives nods to European favorites while adding classic Southern flair. For brunch, choose from decadent items like citrus fried oysters, almond-crusted mountain trout, and jumbo shrimp and grits.
Take in the great outdoors
Madison County is located deep in the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina, and much of the county’s terrain is rugged, heavily forested, and sparsely populated. In addition, the French Broad River flows north-northwest through the county, first past Marshall, then past the resort town of Hot Springs. And so, there are as many ways to enjoy the outdoors here as there are peaks and hollers to explore.
One of the most awe inspiring and adrenaline inducing outdoor activities in the area is ziplining, traveling down a cable wire over an open span as fast as gravity can propel you. French Broad Adventures’ tree-based zipline adventure course features 10 lines ranging in length from 75–1,000 feet—that’s more than one mile of cable! They also offer rafting and “canyoneering” adventures.
Explore some historic barns
Finish your weekend by viewing a few of the 10,000 historic barns in Madison County that each tell a story of the rural Appalachian lifestyle through their unique style. The Southern Appalachian barn is unlike those you may have seen in the Midwest or New England. And the Appalachian Barn Alliance is documenting the heritage of the area through the stories surrounding these structures. Take a guided tour with an area expert, or download a packet for a self-guided tour of barns in the South Marshall township, some of which date back to the nineteenth century.
Plan your next weekend trip to Marshall, NC
Marshall has more treasures than can be experienced in one weekend. Plan your next weekend trip for early spring, when the town holds its Marshall Gras parade and locals don their purple, green, and gold “for all types of crazy fun.” Or come back the first weekend of June for the Mermaid Parade, a community favorite since 2007. Young and old mermaids, mermen, sea creatures, and ordinary folk emerge from the river to enjoy live music, arts and crafts, a seafood cook off, and more.
Spend every weekend in Marshall, NC
Marshall (pop. 650), is the seat of Madison County, some 20 miles north of Asheville. The area is rich with local history, as it was a key way station on the Buncombe Turnpike, an early trading route that ran from Tennessee though WNC to South Carolina. Today, Marshall is an enclave of artists that’s in the midst of a renaissance. Marshall’s Main Street offers a unique blend of old and the new, including dozens of local galleries and studios.
Does that sound like the perfect lifestyle for you? Find your dream home in Marshall now!