There are emerald mines, the NC Mineral Museum, Penland School of
Crafts is not too far away, waterfalls, the Blue Ridge Parkway
(lovely drive through the mountains), lots of individual craft artist
studios. If you go to any mines (which is lots of fun) be prepared
to get very dirty, and ask whether the buckets are “salted”, and
whether they contain native stones. Many of the mines these days
salt their buckets with stones from South America - so everyone finds
something, and the buyers are happy. When I first started rock
hunting over 30 years ago we found wonderful local stuff. Now it
seems that so much is salted, and when you don’t do the salted you
don’t find much (although my dd loved actually digging her own dirt
from the mountainside at one near Franklin, NC!). They are finding
lots of emeralds in NC lately though - native ones!
The workshops I’ve been to at Wildacres only had one free afternoon,
and sometimes the instructor opened the studio then also (which I
took advantage of). There are also a couple of wholesale gem shops
in the area.
Good luck and have fun!
Beth in SC