Locals are not impressed by Prada or Kate Spade bags. That’s not to say they’re judging, and most of them can hang with the high-falutin’ style, but it is just not necessary for a walk down Main Street or a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. To assimilate yourself, be approachable and friendly – sit down next to the man at the bar with calloused hands. He probably knows the best place to go and walk your dog. Speak to the woman in line in front of you at the grocery store; she might know the best place in town to get a chocolate-infused filet mignon.
With a population that jumps from 1,500 year-round to 8,000 in the summertime, people are used to making new friends. The beauty of Blowing Rock is the dichotomy between the elegant and the down-home. The affluent traveler may find pleasure in the abundance of fine dining and shopping the area has to offer, but walk just fifteen steps and they’ll find the opposite end of the spectrum – quintessential, good, honest, down home, small town charm. They can find it everywhere - from the wait staff and diners at the fifteen table “everything” restaurant on Main Street, to the hikers en route the trail to Little Lost Cove.
If you’re looking for a seedy underbelly, you’re going to have to look pretty hard. Downtown Blowing Rock is about as “Norman Rockwell quaint” as it gets. Children are free to roam in a safe and clean park, while their mothers can shop for antiques and designer clothes, and their fathers can sneak off to Kilwin’s Ice Cream Parlor for a free sample of fudge. A military band plays after the downtown Fourth of July parade every year. Winterfest in January brings ice-carvers and dog-sledders. Mitford Days in September celebrates Blowing Rock’s inspiration for Jan Karon’s book series. Year-round, a bubble machine from the Martin House pours soapy goodness into the air, surrounding you as you stroll. Knight’s on Main has fried oysters every Friday (just try and fight the locals for a table). Canyons Restaurant even heats their building with recycled fryer oil, for crying out loud! This is clean livin’.
Hope you like driving!
While there are many opportunities for hiking in the surrounding mountains, one of the best is local: the Glen Burney Trail. This trail is about .1 mile off of Main Street, and is easily accessible. Drivers should turn on to Laurel Lane, and then left after .1 mile into a parking lot on the left, labeled the Annie L. Cannon Memorial Gardens. The trail begins at the end of the parking lot.
The trail goes about 1 1/2 miles down into a gorge, complete with views of several waterfalls.
It's common to assume that this is an easy trail because it's so accessible. This is a moderately strenuous trail, and hikers should be wary of dangers. Hikers should stay on the trail. Even on the trail, large sections are often slippery from wet leaves (especially during the fall of the year, if there's been plenty of rain) or dry leaves, which can be tricky, especially because hikers don't expect it. Attempting to cross waterfalls is potentially life-threatening, and should never be attempted. Hikers should also realize that cell phone service (in event of emergency) is spotty in the gorge.
But despite these warnings, this is a good trail, enjoyable, and do-able for most healthy adults.
Natural beauty and tireless planning for small town elegance.
Nature abounds in Blowing Rock and the surrounding area. Interested in caving, climbing, hiking, fly-fishing, or waterfall hunting? You’ve come to the right place. And sure, you can drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop off at all of the places with signs, but can you find the Hebron Rock Colony? This virtual staircase of huge boulders with fresh mountain water streaming down will earn your Uncle Frank bragging rights for his “rugged, mountain adventure.” But don’t worry – while he spends time snapping photos, your grandmother can reach the summit without breaking a sweat. And speaking of grandparents, you can drive up to the mile-high swinging bridge of Grandfather Mountain, but do you know where to enter the Profile Trail? It will save you some money, get you in shape, and turn your idea of typical mountain climate inside out. For the price of a hiking permit, you can hike up Grandfather from the very bottom, hitting crazy rainstorms and beautiful warm mossy nooks. If you’re a brave soul, you can reach the top of McRae Peak trail via the wooden ladders, built across sheer faces of the solid rock! Feeling risky? Go jump off of a waterfall’s edge at either Trashcan Falls, or the Snake Pit (aptly named). To find easier access waterfalls, stay on the safe side and hike the Glen Burney trail, or walk the (mostly) paved lane to the crashing Linville Falls. You want something even easier? Take a short jaunt around picturesque Bass Lake to enjoy the scenery and meet some of Blowing Rock’s finest folks getting their daily exercise. And if you really want to dig down deep to find the good stuff, ask one of the locals to direct you to Fairy Hill. Dig under the rocks in the streambed to pull up some genuine, mountain crystals.
If you think that a town so far removed from the metro way of life would be lackluster in the culture department, you would be one hundred percent wrong. The Mariam & Robert Hayes Performing Arts Center provides all sorts of live stage productions, from bluegrass shows to symphonies and to professional productions of plays and musicals. Farthing Auditorium, at nearby Appalachian State University in Boone, hosts a wide variety of events, like the upcoming “The Vagina Monologues,” which features performances by the original cast. Their Appalachian Summer Festival brings to town acts such as Emmylou Harris , Jo Dee Messina, and Russian ballet companies. For the music nerd, the area offers festivals aplenty. The widely known and acclaimed Merlefest celebrates the incredible guitar and banjo picking of Doc and Merle Watson, while the Appalachian Roots Revival features all sorts of Americana, bluegrass, and “newgrass” bands. Want to join an informal jam session? Well, “git your gitar” and head on over to the Todd General Store, where the local musicians and townsfolk gather for good music, flat footin’ and food. Big fan of the Scots? They keep their traditions alive each July by hosting The Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain. With live Celtic music, little girls dancing, and big men throwing logs, it’s all kinds of fun - and a true learning experience, too.
Perhaps you read about the High Country in a magazine – Travel & Leisure named Westglow Spa in Blowing Rock one of its Top Ten Spa Destinations in the world. While perusing Southern Living Magazine, you’ve probably seen some of the estates in the affluent Mayview neighborhood. The neighboring college, Appalachian State University, has been listed consistently among the top 15 "Southern Regional Universities" since the magazine first published in 1986.
- a new bag at the Coach Outlet
- a pair of Seven for all Mankind jeans at Libba's
- a box of fudge at Kilwin's
- some hiking gear at Footsloggers
- a great bottle of wine (and a darn good deli sandwich) at the Blowing Rock Market
- a pair of Rainbow sandals at Sunset Tees & Hattery
- a bag full of candy at the Mast General Candy Barrel
- a book to read in a quiet spot at Tucker's on Main
- stationary to write home on at Pleasant Papers
- some funky accessories at Monkee's
- a super-stylish pair of heels at Sister Act
- a marionette at G. Whilliker's
- a shower curtain that your friends will envy at Neaco
- something to pamper your pooch at The Barking Rock
- a playmobil set for your nephew at The Incredible Toy Company
- a fresh peach and some homemade jam at Mother Nature's Produce
- the list goes on...
And the food… ah, the food. Never was there such a small town with such scrumptious grub. Take out a loan if you have to. Some of the best meals around are right downtown.
- The famous Best Cellar has a rock room in the cellar where you can enjoy a private party.
- or you can go nosh on the prosciutto-wrapped, honey-drizzled figs (yes, FIGS) at Bistro Roca.
- Good luck hunting for the strategically placed hideaway called the Village Café – some call it the best brunch in the world, but it's nearly impossible to get a reservation.
And ask around about the chocolate-infused filet mignon.
You don’t have to go for broke to get a good eating experience, either. Main Street in the morning smells delicious. Seriously – just follow the aroma of freshly-brewed java and steaming croissants to find the best coffee shops in town.
- Want to visit a Blowing Rock legend? Look for the cluster of men sittin’ outside and shootin’ the breeze, and there you’ll find Sonny’s Restaurant; this “smaller than your mama’s kitchen” place puts out the best tasting sweet potato pancakes you’ll ever eat. (Closed -- March 2009)
- Storie Street Grille (at the corner of Storie Street and Main). A favorite for outstanding food, gracious service and casual, yet sophisticated surroundings.
- Woodlands. Has barbecue and foot-stompin’ bluegrass every night of the week.
- Pssghetti’s. Offers white tablecloths and REAL Italian food, but they’ll give your kids crayons, too.
- Canyons Restaurant. Offers an eclectic menu, fun atmosphere, and trans fat free food all overlooking soaring views of the John's River Gorge. They are also the premier live music venue of the High Country. Check out their website at www.canyonsbr.com to enjoy the webcam view from their eating deck or to rock out to a live webcast of one of many fantastic bands, including local favorites like The Everybodyfields and national acts like Leon Russell.
- Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers, 155 Sunset Dr, ☎ .
You don’t have to hunt long to find a great cocktail or a fine glass of wine. Blowing Rock isn’t full of goody-two shoeses (sic), it’s just packaged that way. The fabulous Chamber of Commerce brings great wine every spring during the Blue Ridge Wine Festival. And it's a challenge to find a night when one of the bars in Blowing Rock is not packed with locals and tourists, inhibitionless and dancing to a great (or not so great) band. Stone masons chatting with attorneys. Old ladies with their glass of white zin hitting on the boys from the ski patrol. It is quite a sight. Walk into the lounge at Twigs any Saturday night to join the fun and meet some real characters. If you’re feeling really froggy, hit Tijuana Fats and party with the college kids from Appalachian State. No guarantee where you’ll wake up, though.
- Jenkins Rentals, toll-free: . Sunset Drive, is a family owned and operated business with a friendly and knowledgeable staff serving Blowing Rock since 1976, that specializes in both vacation rentals and sales of chalets, log cabins, condominiums, and mountain homes within a short distance to the Blowing Rock area and all of the local shopping, dining, and attractions.
- Chetola Resort, toll-free: . North Main Street. Imagine an 87 acre private resort within walking distance of a quaint mountain village, neighboring a 3600 acre National Park and surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. Guests will find first class accommodations in Chetola's Lodge, Luxury Condominiums or the Bob Timberlake Inn at Chetola Resort.
- Holiday Inn Express, 8412 Valley Blvd, toll-free: . On the US 321 bypass around Blowing Rock (i.e., the main road between Boone and Lenoir). Three stories, some first-floor rooms are built into hillside. Lobby with fireplace. Complimentary breakfast with hot and cold items. Wifi.