Gianna Carson has degrees in marine biology and teaching, but as she moves around her Bryson City bakery, greeting customers and pulling cookies and pastries from the glass case, there’s
Gianna Carson has degrees in marine biology and teaching, but as she moves around her Bryson City bakery, greeting customers and pulling cookies and pastries from the glass case, there’s no question that she’s where she’s meant to be. She’d always wanted to own her own business, and after teaching eighth-grade science for 10 years, she finally took the leap. Simple, spacious, and comfortable, La Dolce Vita buzzes with activity as tourists coming off the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad stop by for nitro cold brews and huge salads. Regulars come in, too — some once a week, some twice a day — to fill up on coffee and homemade bagels. “When you put something out there, it’s like exposing yourself,” Carson says. “The fact that people even want to come once a week for something, it’s neat to watch that.” Carson and her staff have built a community at La Dolce Vita, a feeling that extends beyond the front doors to other merchants nearby. “It’s an eclectic mountain town where you can come and see life as usual,” Carson says. “You’re seeing not a resort community but a community for Southern Appalachian families.”
The High Test Deli & Sweet Shop. Locals still call this popular deli The Filling Station, its original name. “That’s how you know if you’re talking to somebody who’s from here or not,” Carson says. For a special treat, she and her kids order the ice cream sandwiches on homemade cookies, with creative flavor combinations like green apple ice cream between salted caramel cookies.
Mountain Perks. This coffee shop has been a Bryson City gathering place for more than 20 years. Since opening, it has expanded both in size and in menu options, which now include homemade soups, quiches, salads, bagels, a large selection of gluten-free and vegetarian options, and wraps, Carson’s favorite.
Anthony’s Restaurant. Carson and her family love to eat at this long-standing Italian restaurant, which opened in 1990. “They have really good pizza,” she says, plus traditional Italian pasta dishes and other fare made using family recipes. And for dessert? Cheesecakes from La Dolce Vita. “They wanted to offer something local, so I appreciate that about them,” Carson says.
Nate And Nick’s Pizza. For more than 15 years, this establishment has satisfied customers with the freshest ingredients. Enjoy a hand-tossed pizza loaded with whole-milk mozzarella cheese, savory meats, and fresh veggies with one of Nate and Nick’s selection of ice-cold craft beers, all from small local breweries.
Everett Street Diner. Friendly and warm, this Bryson City home base serves up tasty diner classics. Enjoy fluffy pancakes, biscuits and gravy, or one of many savory omelets for breakfast or a piled-high sandwich on rye bread for lunch. On Wednesdays, shrimp with grits and greens is a locally loved standing special.
Heavenly Fudge. Whether you’re seeking a sweet treat for now or a tasty souvenir for later, this fudge depot and chocolate lounge will have what you need. For more than 40 years, Heavenly Fudge has been Bryson’s go-to spot for handmade candies and fudges ranging from classic chocolate and vanilla to creative flavors like chocolate salted caramel and bourbon pecan.
Nantahala Brewing’s Taproom Burger + Bar. This rustic beer haven has award-winning brews on tap that can be enjoyed alongside good ’ole bar grub, handmade burgers, and barbecue. Inspired by the natural glory of the Great Smoky Mountains, fan favorites include the Noon Day IPA, Bryson City Brown Ale, Dirty Girl Blonde Ale, and App Trail Extra Pale Ale.
The Everett Hotel & Bistro. Stay in the heart of the historic district at The Everett Hotel & Bistro, located inside the 1905 Bryson City Bank building. Guests can enjoy an exclusive rooftop patio, and anyone can dine at the on-site restaurant — a rustic space that serves contemporary American dishes made using as many organic, local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients as possible.
Calhoun House Inn. Originally built as a hotel in 1920, this cozy inn located in the historic downtown district of Bryson City is steeped in history, but flush with all the necessary modern amenities. Choose from five suites fully furnished suites, just a short distance from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Bryson City attractions.
Mountain Layers Brewing Company. This brewery’s rooftop patio overlooks the Tuckasegee River and Everett Street and often has live music performances. Their beers are made with water from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and many other local ingredients. “We’ve roasted coriander and other things in our ovens for them to make beer with,” Carson says.
Unplugged Pub. For a $1 membership fee, visitors can partake in tasty cocktails, wine, craft beer, and enjoy board games like chess and backgammon. Thursday through Saturday nights, live music is center stage at this laid-back yet classy bar on Everett Street.
One Twenty Main. Owner Ashley Hackshaw is “the most talented painter I know, and I’m not saying that because she’s my friend,” Carson says. “Inside [Hackshaw’s store] she has books and other little things that you can get for gifts. She works on her art while she’s in there and has it posted for sale. It’s very authentically her.”
The Loose Moose. This colorful, eclectic store is the ultimate place to find Bryson City souvenirs. In the front of the shop, walls and shelves are covered with T-shirts — Bryson City souvenir shirts on the left; quirky, laugh-out-loud joke shirts on the right. In the back, find tons of home decor perfect for a mountain cabin.
Humanité. Carson’s good friend Erin Smith owns this modern (and affordable) clothing, home, and gift boutique. “I have zero sense of style, and she has all the sense of style,” Carson says. “So I’ll say, ‘Erin, find things for me and call me, and I’ll come and buy them.’” A portion of proceeds is donated to local charities, including The Giving Spoon, which provides free meals to help reduce hunger in Swain County.
Gallery Zella. Featuring the work of local artists, many of the pieces at Gallery Zella highlight Bryson City’s natural and historical beauty as the subject of its photographs, paintings, artisan jewelry, and sculptures.
Madison’s on Main. A boutique owned by a Bryson City native, Madison’s on Main carries trendy and colorful women’s clothing. Plus, shop their Sweet Grace line of fragrant home goods, including candles, body wash, and hand sanitizer.
Tuckaseegee Fly Shop. Owners Bobby Bennett and Dale Collins offer guided fly-fishing trips, plus flies, rods, waders, and all the gear needed to get out into the rivers and streams of Jackson, Haywood, and Swain counties. Bennett and Collins have a podcast, too [The Tuck Cast … With a Splash of Bourbon], which is funny, Carson says.
Bryson City Outdoors. This outfitter has everything from hiking boots, rain jackets, and T-shirts to camp stoves and water bottles. “If we’re going to go overnight backpacking, we don’t have to go all the way to Walmart now to get little packets of food,” Carson says. A small taproom with regional beers spills out onto the front patio, and there’s often a food truck parked out front.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Two routes take visitors on a train ride to the Nantahala Gorge or along the Tuckasegee River on trips ranging from a few hours to all day. “For adults, it’s a slower-paced, scenic ride, and they love it,” Carson says. “For little kids, they do themed excursions,” like Polar Express. “[My kids] really liked that.”
Swain Heritage Museum. Learn more about historic Swain County from inside the 1908 historic courthouse in downtown Bryson City. Through a series of visual exhibits, local history — including the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Fontana Dam — will come to life.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A trip to Bryson City would be incomplete without a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Explore the Deep Creek entrance to the park where adventurers can ride an inner tube down the mountain stream or take a short hike to the Indian Creek Falls, Tom Branch Falls, and Juney Whank Falls — all less than two miles from the Deep Creek trailhead.