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’.
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.
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 500 ft (150 m) off of Main Street, and is easily accessible. Drivers should turn on to Laurel Lane, and then left after 500 ft 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 1½ 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.
- 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 Vagina Monologues. Their Appalachian Summer Festival brings to town acts such as Emmylou Harris, Jo Dee Messina, and Russian ballet companies.
- Merlefest celebrates the incredible guitar and banjo picking of Doc and Merle Watson.
- 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.
- The Scots 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.
- Cone Manor. Crafts, information, and easy trails. The 3 mile jaunt to the lookout tower doesn't take much time and is worth the walk. Signed as a "Craft Center."
Nature abounds in Blowing Rock and the surrounding area.
- Caving, climbing, hiking, fly-fishing, or waterfall hunting
- 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, your grandmother can reach the summit without breaking a sweat.
- Mile-high swinging bridge of Grandfather Mountain - you can drive into it.
- 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 brave, you can reach the top of McRae Peak trail via the wooden ladders, built across sheer faces of the solid rock!
- 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.
- At Fairy Hill, you can dig under the rocks in the streambed to pull up some genuine mountain crystals. Ask one of the locals to direct you.
- Westglow Spa: Travel & Leisure magazine named Westglow Spa in Blowing Rock one of its Top Ten Spa Destinations in the world.
- Tanger Outlets, 278 Shoppes on the Parkway Rd. M-Sa 9AM-9PM, Su 10AM-7PM. About 30 stores.
- Libba's, 1077 Main St, ☏ . Women's clothing, accessories, jeans, including Seven for All Mankind brand.
- Kilwin's, 1103 Main St, ☏ . M-Th 10AM-9PM; F Sa 10AM-10PM; Su 10AM-8PM. fudge.
- Footsloggers, 921 Main St, ☏ . Hiking gear.
- Blowing Rock Market, 990 Main St, ☏ . Su-Th 7AM-9PM, F Sa 7AM-10PM. Wine and deli sandwiches.
- Sunset Tees & Hattery, 1117 Main St. Large selection and variety of hats, ball caps, casual apparel, tee shirts, sweatshirts, moccasins, gifts and Blowing Rock souvenirs. Su 10AM-8PM, M-Th 9AM-8PM, F Sa 9AM-10PM.
- Monkee's, 1179 Main St. M-Th 10AM-5PM, F Sa 10AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. Funky accessories.
- Sister Act, 1127 Main St. M-F 10:30AM–5:30PM, Sa 10AM–6PM, Su noon-5PM. Women's clothing.
- G. Whillikers, 1098 Main St, ☏ . Gift shop.
- Neaco, 1053 Main Street, ☏ . Su 11AM-5PM, M 10AM-5:30PM, F Sa 10AM-6PM. Hip home decor.
- The Incredible Toy Company, 3411 US Highway 321 S, ☏ . May-Dec: M-Sa 10AM-6PM; Sa 1PM-5PM. Imaginative, creative, and fun products.
- 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 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.
- 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.
|Routes through Blowing Rock|
|Jct N S ← Boone ←||N S||→ Jct W E → Jct W E → Spartanburg|
|Johnson City ← Boone ←||N S||→ Hickory → Gastonia|