Along the action-packed Highway 441 corridor that winds its way through the North Georgia Mountains into North Carolina and ultimately into The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, exists a tiny respite from tourist pursuits, although tourism is its very lifeblood. But, its compact size notwithstanding, Dillsboro, North Carolina – nestled deep in the mountains where Georgia, Tennessee and Western North Carolina converge – has managed to maintain its laid-back, tucked-away vibe while welcoming thousands of folks who flock to this intimate mountain village to ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railway or dine at The Jarrett House. Here, travelers can take a break from the hectic, the been-there-done-that and the mundane. Because, Dillsboro is anything but ordinary.
As hidden away as it feels, Dillsboro is actually at the epicenter of one of Western North Carolina’s most vibrant tourist thoroughfares. Only a scant few mlies from Bryson City, Cherokee, and Asheville, Dillsboro offers the convenience of a hub-and-spoke location from which to sample the surrounding region. And, offering visitors comfortable lodging and dining since 1884 is the village’s crown jewel, The Jarrett House.
Owned and operated since 1975 by the Hartbarger family – Jim, Jean, sons Scott and Buzz and their wives, Mary and Sharon, The Jarrett House is not unlike a “home away from home.” Its wide, welcoming street-level verandah is the perfect perch for visitors who wait to be seated for lunch and dinner each day. Operating on an annual schedule that sees the inn opening Good Friday and operating weekends until the first of May and then closing for the season after the second weekend in December, this staple of Dillsboro hospitality is not to be missed.
We checked into The Jarrett House and checked out our charming quarters, beautifully furnished with antiques and offering easy access to the second-story verandah, where oversized rocking chairs invited us to relax and drink in the crisp, clear mountain air. This also proved an unexpectedly perfect place to meet and converse with fellow travelers, one of whom was breaking up a long drive from Ohio to Florida.
Easily “stroll-able” (the entire town is comprised of just a few blocks), and delightfully secluded, Dillsboro evokes the feel of a smaller Mayberry. Townfolks porch-sit on a breezy summer afternoon, watching the tourists meander in and out of the abundance of shops that dot the two main streets running through town. Everything from gorgeous housewares to mountain crafts to gourmet goodies and then some abound!
Just across the way is the station for the Great Smoky Mountain Railway, which offers outings to nearby Bryson City as well as other excursions depending on the season.
Although Dillsboro seems, in many ways, a village far removed from the modern-day rat race, don’t be deceived because not five minutes down the road rests the county seat and big town of Sylva, complete with all the more contemporary (nee’ “chain”) shopping and dining amenities, including the requisite Super Wally-World (Walmart) for any forgotten necessities. A sidenote about Sylva is that their downtown Main Street is somewhat akin to stepping into a time-warp and beiing transported back to the day when small-town downtowns reigned supreme. It was exciting to see a robust mix of locally-owned, mom-and-pop retail in abundance and seemingly thriving.
As we strolled back to the Jarrett House, we were surprised (but shouldn’t have been) to see a long line formed from the front door, down the porch steps and onto the sidewalk. This crowd was waiting for the dining room to open for dinner. Renowned for their country ham and a dessert concoction whose name is wince-inducing, but heavenly tasting called Vinegar Pie, the Jarrett House packs in the crowds for lunch and dinner. A delicious array of home-cooking is on the menu, so plan on putting a Jarrett House meal on your “must-do” list. The entrees are hearty and accompanied by a smorgasbord of side dishes reminiscent of Sunday dinner at grandma’s and served up family-style. For overnight guests, breakfast is also included and is simpler fare, but adequate.
Just eighteen miles from Bryson City, NC, 15 miles from Cherokee, NC and an easy drive to Helen, GA and the Smoky Mountain towns of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, TN, Dillsboro is a GREAT stop-over or even better headquarters for hub-and-spoke touring!