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Rutherford County: Find Beauty in the Foothills of NC

Tucked away in the eastern foothills of North Carolina lies the hidden gem that is Rutherford County. Just an hour-drive away from Asheville, Charlotte, and Greenville, the county is filled with scenic roads that offer a glimpse of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, quaint towns boasting walkable main streets, and thriving artist communities. Discover the charms of Rutherfordton, Spindale, Forest City, Lake Lure, and Chimney Rock Village for yourself by following our Blue Ridge Craft Trails.

Blue Ridge Craft Trails Sites: Rutherfordton

Husband and wife duo Jordan and Rachel Jackson showcase their artistic spirit with their business Night Owl Iron Works. Jordan practices blacksmithing onsite, while Rachel pursues custom leatherwork. Visitors enjoy demonstrations and the chance to admire their pieces that range from home decor and handbags to hatchets and knives.

Richard Beard, Beard Instruments
Richard Beard, Beard Instruments

Beard Instruments can be found tucked away in the carriage house of a restored 1885 Victorian home, Musician and luthier Richard Beard can be found crafting dulcimers, guitars, mandolins, and octave mandolins by hand in his shop. Visitors are welcome to visit and view the progress of instruments and even try their hand at playing a dulcimer.

A chance course in pottery followed by practice and a couple of YouTube videos inspired Mandy Huffman and Freddie Phillips of Porch Potters to make handcrafted pottery their passion. Freddie uses a pottery wheel to turn vessels while Mandy sculpts and glazes pieces. Open by appointment, their pottery is showcased in an on-site gallery tucked away along their picturesque property.

The Rutherford County Visual Arts Guild makes downtown their home with the welcoming Rutherford Visual Arts Center. Comprised of artists, crafters, and volunteers passionate about art, the space welcomes all with classes, workshops, and a chance to browse their retail shop filled with locally made art.

Dragonfly Market Place
Dragonfly Market Place

A former manufacturing facility received a beautiful make-over when Dragonfly Market Place moved in and transformed the 21,000 square-foot space into a showcase for local artists. The building is filled with handmade pottery, wood carvings, metal work, and fiber art from local and regional artisans and crafters. The space also hosts youth and adult classes on a variety of art topics.

The bright blue awning in downtown Rutherfordton signals the home of Impulse Art Shop. This building has been an iconic part of N. Main Street since 1979, with Impulse assuming the space only a few years ago. The gallery is home to a robust collection of pieces from North American artists. Find handcrafted pottery, jewelry, woodworking, stained and blown glass, fiber arts, and more.

Pyrography is the art of “drawing with fire” and is typically used to add details and designs to wood and leather. Michele Parsons’s pyrography studio, Parsons Wood Artistry, is located at the Union Mills Learning Center. Visitors can view antique and modern pyrography equipment, watch a demonstration, and possibly take part in a hands-on experience. Artwork, equipment, and books are available.

Main Street Market
Main Street Market

Not to Miss in Rutherfordton

  • Maples on Main offers a cozy atmosphere and a fresh menu of flavorful and healthy breakfast and lunch favorites.
  • Main Street Market brings authentic NYC flavor to the mountains with New York-style subs, fresh salads, and seasonal homemade soups made with local ingredients.
  • Mi Pueblito Mexican Restaurant –translated into “my small town”–is known for their expansive menu of south-of-the-border favorites like classic tacos, burritos, enchiladas, taco salads, and more.

Blue Ridge Craft Trails Sites: Forest City

Bairs Den Pottery
Bairs Den Pottery

Founded by beader Kelly Dale, Off the Beaded Path showcases Kelly’s original and elaborate bead designs for necklaces, earrings, pendants, and more. The welcoming space also offers beading supplies and classes for visitors anxious to learn a new skill.

A passion for art and mental health lead Jim Weitzel of Weitzel Art to craft breath-taking sculptures that inspire. Influenced by the Dada movement and ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art, Jim frequently incorporates wings into his most significant pieces which can be viewed in his shop and home.

Just north of Forest City is Bairs Den Pottery. Potter Daniel Bair uses clay from his land to craft stoneware pottery adorned with his own glazes and slips. Daniel lives in a 90-year-old farmhouse, situated on five acres with his pottery studio behind the house. Visitors can view pottery in various stages and purchase completed pieces.


Not to Miss in Forest City and Spindale

Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria
Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria
  • Babbo Italian Kitchen brings the flavors of Italy to the foothills with their expansive menu that include authentic Old-World favorites.
  • The Hoot Nannie, located in downtown Forest City, is famous for their authentic barbecue and expansive selection of bourbon.
  • Copper Penny Grill is a local gem with locations in Rutherfordton and Forest City. Their menu features all-American favorites with a deliciously gourmet twist.
  • Twisted Pear Tap Room and Coffee House is a haven for craft beer enthusiasts with 24 beers on tap and weekly live entertainment and events.
  • Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria has grown to be one of the Southeast’s most popular taprooms. Located in what once was a historic drug store in Spindale, the space is famous for sourdough hand-tossed pizza, calzones, live music, and great beer.

Blue Ridge Craft Trails Sites: Chimney Rock Village

Doug Bowman Galleries
Doug Bowman Galleries

The enchanting village of Chimney Rock Park is home to Doug Bowman Galleries. Located on the village’s pedestrian-friendly Main Street, his studio is filled with carved sculptures and his signature style of lamps that are both utilitarian and beautiful.

Not to Miss in Chimney Rock Village

  • Burntshirt Vineyards Tasting Room and Bistro is a taste of Napa nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Named North Carolina’s Winery of the Year, the vineyard welcomes wine lovers at their upscale tasting room and Bistro in Chimney Rock.
  • Old Rock Cafe sits in the shadow of iconic Chimney Rock and is known for their Zagat-worthy burgers, hearty sandwiches featuring homemade bread, and salads made with organic ingredients.
  • Chimney Rock Smokehouse puts a modern twist on traditional barbecue. Classic low and slow cooking methods result in sweet and tender wings, ribs, brisket, pork, and chicken.

Convenient Lodging in Rutherford County

The Carrier Houses Bed and Breakfast is comprised of two grand Victorian houses in historic downtown Rutherfordton. Elegantly appointed rooms and a gourmet breakfast in the Victorian dining room ensure a memorable stay.

The Fire House Inn, located a block from historic downtown Rutherfordton, was once the town’s city hall and fire house. The renovated and restored building welcomes with European-style decor and four guest rooms.

1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa overlooks scenic Lake Lure and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The graciously styled historic inn offers modern amenities like an on-site spa and dining to create the perfect atmosphere for a relaxing vacation.

Broad River Inn in Chimney Rock Village is set along the banks of the Rocky Broad River and is within walking distance of shops and restaurants in Chimney Rock Village. The inn offers graciously appointed guest rooms, complimentary breakfast, and an on-site restaurant.

Local Attractions in Rutherford County

Known for its natural beauty, Rutherford County offers a variety of activities perfect for solo travelers, couples, and families. Hiking, camping, cycling, kayaking, and local Chimney Rock Park entice outdoor enthusiasts, while shopping, local museums, gem mining, and farm tours offer low-key fun for all ages.

Porch Potters

The Porch Potters name comes honestly. Mandy Huffman and Freddie Phillips do most of their...

Impulse Art Shop

Impulse Art Shop holds a prime spot on Main Street in Historic Downtown Rutherfordton. The...

Weitzel Art

Jim Weitzel attended the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio and graduated...

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The Regions of the Blue Ridge

In planning the best use of your NC mountains vacation days, know that the region can be divided into three sub-regions for ease of exploration:

Far West

  • Cherokee
  • The Nantahala Gorge
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park


  • Asheville
  • Hendersonville
  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • The waterfalls of Transylvania County
  • Many more highlights

High Country

  • Grandfather Mountain
  • Linville Falls
  • Boone
  • Blowing Rock
  • High northern mountains


  • Mt. Airy
  • Lenoir
  • Elkin