Few downtowns in Western North Carolina can boast such a concentration of museums as Hendersonville. In fact, half the museums in the county are located within a few blocks’ stretch. And the materials on display range from hands-off dioramas to hands-on science experiments, and vintage pinball machines to vintage airplanes.
You already live like a local. Want to understand the area’s history like one, too? Here are nine museums in Henderson County where learning comes alive. Choose your favorite or visit them all—many are in walking distance to each other!
Appalachian Pinball Museum
No quarters are necessary to visit our first Hendersonville museum. Formerly a ballroom and a theater, this picturesque building is now home to dozens upon dozens of machines. For a flat fee, you can spend all day trying their collection of both vintage and contemporary pinball machines, as well as video games. Walking around the extensive game rooms, you’ll be captivated by all the lights, noises, and nostalgic characters. If you played pinball as a kid, you’ll soon remember how much you loved it—and realize how much you missed it. If it’s your first time, you’ll find yourself enamored with an increasingly rare experience in the modern, digital world.
538 N Main Street, Hendersonville | (828) 702-9277 | facebook.com/pinballplayers
Apple Valley Historic Railroad Depot & Museum
The Southern Railway first reached Hendersonville as a broad gauge line in June 1879. At its peak, six passenger trains stopped in Hendersonville each day, collecting and discharging passengers from as far away as Cincinnati and Charleston. While passenger service ended in 1968, thousands of tons of freight, particularly coal and wood chips, traveled through the Hendersonville station with as many as 6–7 trains a day until 2002. Today, the historic depot station houses the Apple Valley Model Railroad Club and its large HO Model train layout, an outdoor G Scale layout, and numerous railroad artifacts on the walls and in display cases. Free admission.
650 Maple Street, Hendersonville | avmrc.com/museum
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
One of Flat Rock’s biggest attractions is the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. Built in 1838, this 264-acre working farm is the former estate of poet and author Carl Sandburg and his wife, Lilian “Paula” Sandburg. Sandburg spent the last 22 years of his life on the estate, known as Connemara, and wrote more than a third of his works here. A collection of Sandburg’s 10,000 books, papers, and notes are on display, and five miles of hiking trails meander through the estate. Descendants of Paula’s prize-winning goats still live on the farm. Admission to the estate is free, but there is a fee to tour the home.
81 Carl Sandburg Lane, Flat Rock | (828) 693-4178 | nps.gov/carl
Hands On! Children’s Museum
Hands On! Museum: A Child’s Gallery is a site where learning comes to play. The interactive, STEAM-focused museum lets children aged 1–10 indulge their tactile curiosities. The goal is to get children involved in learning first hand to stimulate their imaginations and boost their skills in a fun, safe environment. In addition to exhibits, Hands On! hosts a variety of programs. Opportunities for field trips, special events, and birthday parties round out kids’ opportunities to experience new exhibits and grow their skills. Free admission for museum members.
318 N Main Street, Hendersonville | (828) 697-8333 | handsonwnc.org
Henderson County Heritage Museum
Embark on a journey to yesterday to visit with the area’s pioneers, learn of their contributions, and reflect on milestone events that helped shape Henderson County. This museum, located within the Henderson County Historic Courthouse (shown above), seeks to preserve history and a sense of place. Consisting of six rooms, the museum features colorful exhibits, dioramas, educational programs, research, and collections that reflect how local people responded to their cultural, educational, political, and natural environments. Virtual tours are also available. Free admission.
1 Historic Courthouse Square #4, Hendersonville | (828) 694-1619 | hendersoncountymuseum.com
Historic Flat Rock Cultural Center
Historic Flat Rock, Inc. has supported historic preservation in the Flat Rock community since their nonprofit was founded in 1968. A critical aspect of their mission is to collect materials of historic, literary, or artistic value and to provide for the preservation of such materials. The items they have collected over the last half century are on display at the Historic Flat Rock Cultural Center. The center is located within the “Old Flat Rock Post Office” built in 1847. The HFR Preserve and Bird Sanctuary also highlights white-flowering native plants in an educational garden setting.
118 Village Center Drive, Flat Rock | (828) 698-0030 | historicflatrockinc.com/cultural-center
Historic Johnson Farm
Henderson County Schools owns Historic Johnson Farm, a heritage education center, making it one of only three school systems in the United States to own a farm. The school system uses it to teach students about farm life on its 15 acres of farmland, forest, fields, and streams. The site offers school field trips, historic home tours, nature trails, picnic tables, animals, and ten historic structures. Visitors are welcome to walk the grounds, visit the animals, and take the audio tour on their own. Personalized tours of the 1876 farm house are offered on weekdays following the Henderson County school calendar. The farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a North Carolina Cultural Treasure.
3346 Haywood Road, Hendersonville | (828) 891-6585 | hendersoncountypublicschoolsnc.org/johnson-farm
Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County
Descend into this below-street-level museum to discover the beautiful world beneath your feet. The Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County was founded to be a primary resource for education and information on the earth sciences related to geology and paleontology. The museum currently features a mix of exhibits that range from specimens of raw minerals in their natural state to polished gemstones and other finished material. Popular highlights include the Hendersonville meteorite, the fluorescent mineral display, and a variety of fossils—highlighted by a casting of a tyrannosaurus rex skull, a mastodon tusk and teeth, and a wooly mammoth leg bone.
400 N Main Street, Hendersonville | (828) 698-1977 | mineralmuseum.org
Western North Carolina Air Museum
Bring your kids, your camera, and your leather jacket. And rediscover the excitement of early airflight at the Western North Carolina Air Museum. Located beside an active airport, the museum’s mission is to preserve the Carolinas’ rich flying heritage and promote general aviation. You can view the airplanes on display in about an hour. Or you can spend the afternoon hanger-flying with the museum’s friendly, informative staff—some of whom own the planes on display. Hangar doors are open rain and shine, and some days you can watch them take the planes for a spin. Donations encouraged.
1340 Gilbert Street, Hendersonville | westernnorthcarolinaairmuseum.com
Live Abundantly in Henderson County
Henderson County has a rich history. But locals also appreciate it for its diverse population of people of all ages and from all walks of life. Though located in North Carolina’s mountain region, Henderson County is characterized by an extensive plateau along the French Broad and Mills River valleys. Of the five incorporated towns and cities, only Hendersonville, the county seat, possesses the typical characteristics of a dense urban center with significant population. Henderson County is the perfect location for enjoying life.
Does that sound like the perfect lifestyle for you? Find your dream home in Henderson County now!