Please check with the artists and galleries in advance to make sure they are open. Some are open by appointment only. Click on the artist or gallery link in the itinerary for profiles and contact information. Depending on your pace, this itinerary could take up to a full day or more.
The Sparta area in the High Country of North Carolina features jaw-dropping vistas, fertile farmland, one of the oldest rivers in the world (the New River), and a rich confluence of culture, art, and tradition.
Head into Roaring Gap (allow 2 hours)
Traveling north on I-77 take Highway 21 into Alleghany County. Heading into Roaring Gap, so named for the wind that rushes across the ridge, you can find James Garrett’s studio (138 Green House Rd, Roaring Gap, NC). While working in high-end design, James learned about an ancient technique called Venetian plaster. He’s gone from applying it to walls to creating breathtaking paintings with up to 50 layers of applied color. Each one is burnished to a glass-like consistency and must actually be touched to be fully appreciated.
Continuing north on Highway 21, head up Andrews Ridge Rd. to Blue Ridge Woodcrafters and Woodcrafts by Hedrick (593 Andrews Ridge Rd., Sparta, NC). Don’t neglect the ridgetop view as you park and walk in. Once inside, find wood from wall-to-wall. Blue Ridge Woodcrafters has a knack for gadgets that make everyday tasks easier, and they have a penchant for building anything you can dream up. Woodcrafts by Hedrick makes heirloom quality toys and keepsakes. Wood sourcing is an in-house job. The wood is all from North Carolina, mostly from Alleghany County, and the Crafters cut and dry much of it themselves.
Take in Downtown Sparta (1/2 day)
Continue into downtown Sparta and park to enjoy the streetscape and a thriving downtown scene—including a variety of retail stores, eateries, and Laconia Ale Works. You’ll first come to Mangum-Cater on Main (24 S. Main St.). Two pottery families joined up to create this gallery and workspace. You’ll experience a welcoming environment that includes a muraled back porch with ample seating. Find beautiful pottery in the form of a one-of-a-kind sculpture or your new favorite coffee mug.
Just a few doors down is Alleghany Arts & Crafts (18 S. Main St.). This cooperative houses approximately 30 members and keeps an exciting display of a large variety of crafts year-round. The art gallery provides a central place for community members and tourists alike to stop in and appreciate local art and artists.
Turn down West Whitehead St. at the square and walk down to Three Crows Metalworks (28 W. Whitehead St.). This family enterprise features handmade jewelry in several distinct styles. Find pendants with vibrant stones, copper bracelets, and metal fabricated earrings and pendants. Three Crows Metalworks is not only inspired by nature, it’s connected to preserving it. Gemstones used are responsibly mined and metal used is recycled or reclaimed.
Head back up to the square and turn down N. Main St. to see Little River Gallery (33-A N. Main St.), a co-op of artists with wide-ranging styles and media. All work displayed is for sale and is juried to assure the highest quality. Seven local artists showcase their handmade, unique, and original work here.
A short walk takes you across downtown to Carolina Farm Table (64 Alleghany St.). The folks here build custom farmhouse tables to their clients’ cosmetic and living needs, and they’ve been doing so for decades. Guests can see recently completed pieces as well as those being hand-planed and crafted from scratch.
A little further up Main St. Pottery Place (555 N. Main St.) offers unique pottery, quilts, and much more in a historic home built by one of the owners’ ancestors. With a working pottery studio in the back and a quilting room upstairs, you can take home something special or make it there yourself.
On to Laurel Springs and the Blue Ridge Parkway (1 to 3 hours)
From Sparta, take a beautiful drive on Highway 221 or NC 18 to Hughes Glass Studio in Laurel Springs (2024 New Hope Church Rd., Laurel Springs). Ronnie Hughes has been crafting life-like wildflowers in glass for more than three decades. He uses flames that burn up to 3000 degrees to twist and turn his creations from colored glass. Watch him at work and enjoy a view of Peach Bottom Mountain, the highest peak in Alleghany County. While in the area, sample wine at the Thistle Meadow Winery.
Take NC 18 south out of Laurel Springs to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Head east to Milepost 238 to enjoy Doughton Park’s 360-degree views and hiking trails. You will also want to visit Brinegar cabin and the camp store. Continue east to rejoin I-77 or continue on the Parkway into Virginia and visit the Blue Ridge Music Center to learn more about the traditional music of the mountains and even catch a show or a jam session. Outdoor concerts take place from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and inside concerts take place year-round.
For more information on events and things to do in Sparta/Alleghany County, contact Alleghany Chamber of Commerce at alleghanychamber.com or call 336-372-5473.
Events Not to Miss
- Music on Main-June-October
- Backwoods Beat Music and Art Festival-June
- Blue Ridge Fiber Fest-first week in June
- Alleghany Quilters Guild Annual Quilt Show-July
- Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention-July
- Mountain Heritage Festival-3rd weekend of September
- Alleghany Studio Tour