A beehive of exhibits, performances and workshops cooking with creativity
Woven into what was once the town’s courthouse and jail, the Black Mountain Center for the Arts pursues a mission of “bringing the arts to the people and people to the arts.” The center hosts a roundhouse of ceramic courses, taught in its stand-alone clay studio, including hand-building, wheel throwing, firing and glazing and a constant stream of workshops in other creative dimensions, from dance to poetry to travel journaling and on-the-fly sketching. The town’s Holly Jolly celebration on the first Friday evening of December marks the opening of the Center’s clay studio exhibit in the building’s upper gallery, a topflight show that stays up through December and January.
Since 2000, the Black Mountain Center for the Arts has been located in the beautifully renovated former Black Mountain town hall and jail. The Center offers public exhibits, concerts, theatre, festivals, special events, and myriad classes for all ages in music, dance, visual arts, writing, and more. The facility itself is nearly 100 years old, a wonderful site to visit as an historic landmark.
Learn firsthand the arts of spinning, weaving, knitting, rug-hooking
Heritage Weavers & Fiber Artists partnered with the Historic Johnson Farm to transform an original boarding house into a fiber arts center that encourages a knowledge and appreciation of fiber craft. As school children and the public tour the farm, they can see and experience hands-on learning in the fiber arts, including weaving, rug hooking, bobbin lace, spinning, and knitting. Hosting an annual Fiber Art Expo, the group invites visitors to meet the group’s instructors, watch demonstrations and sign up for classes.
During the first half of the 20th century, the Johnson family ran a working farm that also served as a summer tourist retreat. The handmade brick farmhouse was constructed in 1880,and a boarding house was added in 1923 to hold the overflow of guests. Visitors came to enjoy the healthy mountain hospitality and good food of Sallie Johnson, known as “Aunt Sallie” to friends and guests. Visitors helped with farm chores, but also enjoyed front porch rocking chairs, cool evenings, square dances and Sunday ice cream. In 1987, Aunt Sallie’s sons, Vernon and Leander Johnson, willed their farm and possessions to the Henderson County Board of Education as a lasting example of a mountain farm for the children of Henderson County.
Visitors to the Historic Johnson Farm today can walk the grounds, take a self-guided audio tour, visit with the farm animals, and enjoy the nature trails. Something that can be experienced anytime is the group’s dye garden. This lovely garden is full of native plants that spinners and weavers have used to dye fibrous materials.
See new artists create on banks of world’s oldest river
As a bustling artist enclave draped along the French Broad River, Asheville”s River Arts District (known locally as the “RAD”) pulses with an artistic energy born of diverse media, lively interchange and countless handmade projects in motion on any given day.
The River Arts District, though constantly evolving, currently occupies 22 former warehouse and industrial buildings festooned along the river for roughly a mile within an easy five minute drive (or bus ride) from downtown Asheville or Biltmore Village. Some 200 artists ply their craft in studios that include glassworks, kilns, painting ateliers, metal and fiber works, and all sorts of other creative spaces. You can easily sandwich in a brew or, as evening unfolds, treat yourself and friends to a full farm-to-table banquet in one of a growing number of restaurants dotting the RAD landscape.
Visiting hours for studios and galleries vary, though most businesses are open throughout the week. The River Arts District sponsors two studio strolls each year, including free trolley service along the river.
Tour a small town with big personalities and welcoming climate
Tryon quickly grew as a resort town, bringing tourists to the area to enjoy the mountain views and good climate. Many artists, writers and crafters chose to stay – at least for a while – including the stage actor William Gillette, most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This mix of locals, artists and retirees continues today, creating a vibrant, active community. Many of the historic buildings on Tryon’s Trade Street were in place by 1900, including a general store, pharmacy and post office. Buildings like these have contributed to Tryon receiving the designation of historic district by the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1915 Miss Eleanor Vance and Miss Charlotte Yale, co-founders of Biltmore Estate Industries, left Asheville and resettled in Tryon where they purchased a cottage and soon were training young boys and girls to handcraft finely-designed and beautifully-crafted toys. Vance and Yale’s little non-profit business, motivated by a desire to do good and to train young people in rewarding artist-work, eventually became the famous Tryon Toy Makers and Wood Carvers.
In 1928 two boys working for Tryon Toy Makers built a gigantic version of the popular little toy horse for a parade held in conjunction with the spring Tryon Horse Show, to advertise and celebrate Tryon Toy Makers. Their creation was so big that overhead wires along Trade Street had to be lifted out of the way in order for the Tryon Horse to participate in the procession. The toy makers also made miniature wheeled horse souvenirs to sell at the horse show. The giant horse was disassembled after the parade, stored in the basement at Hillcote, and brought out in subsequent years for the horse show parade. Eventually the Tryon Toy Makers donated it to the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club, eventually naming him “Morris” and creating a permanent position in the center of Tryon where he can be visited any time. See the photo on this page. Listen to this short Living Traditions Moments presentation about the Tryon Toy Makers.
Tryon Wine Country
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Tryon was well known for its table and wine grapes. Due to prohibition, family businesses related to wine dried up over time. Beginning in the early 1990s, this interesting part of Tryon’s history was revived–the planting of grapes for winemaking. About a dozen vineyards now lie about 10 miles to the east in the Tryon foothills. This area, with its gentle, rolling hills and clay-loam soils, has proven to be an excellent location for vinifera grapes. Five wineries welcome visitors for tasting, tours and beautiful mountain views.
Visitors stroll down Trade Street and enjoy the shops and restaurants. They may catch a movie at the tiny Tryon Theater or a performance at the Tryon Fine Arts Center. Scenic drives include a drive through the architecturally rich neighborhoods of Gillette Woods and Godshaw Hill; through the horse estates on Hunting Country Road; or along the Pacolet River Scenic Byway (Hwy 176). Or picnic at Harmon Field and peruse the nearby antique stores.
March: Super Saturday– Also known as the Children’s Theater Festival, this is a one-day festival of “lively arts” for children. Eight to ten different performances encompassing theater, music, storytelling, mime, dance, puppetry and more are brought to Tryon on a Saturday in late March
May:Block House Steeple Chase– Horses and races, tailgate picnics and crazy hat contests, friendly people and a whole lot of fun! Run by the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club.
Festival features competition cookers, two music stages, the Foothills Craft Fair and children’s rides. Admission includes parking. Held the second Friday and Saturday in June each year. Run by the Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce.
Summer – June through September
Summer Tracks at Rogers Park – Named for the RR tracks running through the park, enjoy this series of FREE Friday night summer concerts. Schedule available at the Tryon Visitors Center, Polk County Travel & Tourism Office, and online.
Typically held in early November, the Annual Tryon Beer Fest runs from noon until 6pm in the Tryon Depot Plaza. Tickets are sold in advance (online and at local retailers) and at the gate (cash only). Festival only (“Designated Driver”) tickets are also available at the gate (cash only).Admission includes unlimited beer and wine samples.
An array of craft beers are available, along with an oyster roast, authentic German food, non-alcoholic beverages and water. Live Bavarian music entertains during the day, followed by a live rock band later in the afternoon. This is a rain or shine event, under the sun or under a heated tent, depending on the weather.
December:Tryon Christmas Stroll
Tryon Downtown Development Association members serve refreshments at their businesses. Santa listens to children’s wish lists. Carolers make joyful noises. Friday night early in December – Small town Christmas at its charming best!
Elk Knob State Park is located in the Meat Camp area of Watauga County. Elk Knob, at 5520 feet, is an amphibolite mountain with grass-covered grounds beneath a hardwood canopy. There are amazing panoramic views at the top of the 1.9 mile summit trail.
Elk Knob contains an excellent example of a northern hardwood forest typically found above 4000 feet in elevation that consists primarily of American beech, maples (sugar, striped, and mountain), northern red oak, yellow birch, and yellow buckeye. The hardwood nature of the forest lends to spectacular fall color.
Rangers hold regularly scheduled events and interpretive programs throughout the year. Watch for notices of these programs on park displays and websites and through local media. To arrange a special exploration of Elk Knob State Park for your group or class, contact the park office.
The Appalachian Studies Department at Appalachian State University is working with park staff to provide programming rich in southern Appalachian history and culture. Traditional music, story-telling, and mountain crafts are demonstrated at the outdoor amphitheater.
The park is accessible in winter. Snow shoes are available for rent and cross country skiing is allowed. The one mile Maple Run trail (still under construction) is designed for cross country skiing and hiking.
Every September, the park hosts the Elk Knob Community Heritage Day. For generations local folk have gathered in the gap of Elk Knob to visit with one another. The Elk Knob Community Heritage Day is an annual celebration of this tradition. Participants share a covered dish meal while enjoying historical demonstrations, wagon rides, and local music. There is no charge for this event.
Backcountry, primitive camping is available one to two miles down the back country trail. Campfires are not allowed.
Hours of Operation
November-February: 7 am – 6 pm
March-May, September & October: 7 am – 8 pm
June-August: 7 am – 9 pm
The park office is open 8 am – 5 pm.
The park is closed on Christmas Day.
Hours of operation and fees are subject to change. Contact the park directly for most current information.
Backcountry camping is $10 per night. Group camp sites start at $13.
Before 1856, when no more than 10 families lived on what was then known as Pleasant Hill, education was important to the parents who founded an academy to educate their children.
The French Broad Baptist Institute, as it was known, eventually evolved into Mars Hill College. When the village of Mars Hill was incorporated in 1893, the corporate limits were set at 900 yards in all directions from the northwest corner of the first college building. The name Mars Hill is said to have been inspired by a Biblical passage, Acts 17:22, which says, “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill and said, ‘Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.’”
As the college grew, so did the town. A general store was built, a doctor’s office established, and boarding houses opened for college students. The year 1913 was a boom year for the growing community. Several new buildings were erected, including two stores, a bank building, general store, and a drug store. Many of the homes and the businesses built during this time can be seen in Mars Hill today.
Mars Hill University
Mars Hill University served the academic needs of a growing community and became one of the premiere two-year private colleges in the nation. In 1962, it reached four-year status, and in 2013, the institution changed its name to Mars Hill University to reflect the institution’s expansion, both in terms of enrollment and variety of offerings. The school identifies itself closely with the history and culture of this area and the wide Southern Appalachian area.
Music at Mars Hill
The college and the town itself are inextricably linked to the traditional music of Appalachia. Musician, folklorist, and festival organizer Bascom Lamar Lunsford, a Mars Hill native, dedicated his life to collecting and promoting the music of the Southern Appalachians. Through his work he became known as “Minstrel of the Appalachians.”
In 1927 Lunsford organized the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, which has been in existence ever since. He organized many other festivals, performed extensively, and composed songs, including the famous “Mountain Dew.”
The Rural Heritage Museum is on the campus of Mars Hill University. Its exhibits and programming focus on educating students and visitors to the lifeways of the Southern Appalachians. Open year-round, 11 am to 5 pm, except Mondays, and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days.
The Liston Ramsey Center for Regional Studies is in the Renfro Library on the campus. The extensive collection of photographs, manuscripts, sound recordings, and artifacts document aspects of mountain life and culture, including an exhibit of Cherokee artifacts, some of which date back to 10,000 BC. Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s instruments are on display along with an extensive scrapbook of his writings and manuscripts to rival the one in the Library of Congress.
Whether presenting Broadway musicals or world-premiere original works, SART offers the highest quality professional productions, with one play each season which has a special emphasis on the rich culture and heritage of the people of Appalachia.
Blackberry Festival—Held annually in August, celebrating some of the finest blackberries grown anywhere. Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival—Held the first Saturday in October, in conjunction with the Heritage Festival. Both festivals are on the campus of Mars Hill University, and both celebrate the traditional music, crafts, and cuisine of the region.
Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum houses around 70 vehicles manufactured from 1913 to 2013. The museum was started in 2007 by brothers Buddy & Joe Bennett, whose uncle owned a Ford dealership in Burnsville, NC, when they were growing up, instilling in them a lifelong love of cars.
They moved to Rutherford County in the late 1960s, where they both started successful businesses, and on the side started collecting cars. Over the years, their collection that was in storage grew, but it wasn’t until their retirement, when they started sorting through the collection, that they realized they had a whole building full of unrestored, low mileage automobiles. It was then the idea of the museum was born.
The museum won the National Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum Award in 2014, an honor based on the museum’s involvement in community, its presentation of the antique car hobby, the preservation of the automobiles, and the educational efforts of the museum.
The collection includes many types of automobiles, from Model Ts to Mack trucks, a Shelby Mustang, the retired Forest City American Lanfranc fire truck, and a 1963 Ford Mayberry sheriff’s car signed by Don Knotts (A.K.A Barney Fife of the Andy Griffith TV show).
Hours of Operation
Monday thru Friday 10am-5pm; Saturday 10am-3pm.
Adults $10 , Children (7-16) $5. Groups of 10 or more, call for Group Discount.
Located between Asheville and Charlotte off of Hwy 74.
Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley is a premier destination for motorcycle enthusiasts and others drawn to the romance of the open highway and freedom of the bike. This non-profit organization has shared its collection of over 350 historically important motorcycles and automobiles with visitors to the region.
Museum staff are knowledgeable not only about the machines beneath their roof, but also about the history of transportation and the role it played in the development of the country and in Western North Carolina.
Since the early years of the 20th century, the mountains of Western North Carolina have become a popular tourist destination due to easier access provided by motorized vehicles. Increasing tourism to this formerly remote region was the rationale for building the Blue Ridge Parkway, “America’s Favorite Drive.”
Today, millions of visitors travel the highways and byways of the western counties of North Carolina by car, RV, and motorcycle.
Hours of Operation
9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Monday, from March 1 through November 30.
The tallest dam east of the Rockies at 480 feet, Fontana Dam was was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority in response to an urgent need for electric power during World War II; construction began in 1942 and was finished in just 36 months.
Surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala National Forest, and deep river gorges, Fontana ranks among the most beautiful dams in the world. In addition to providing hydroelectric power and flood control for the region, the lake created behind the dam on the Little Tennessee River is a popular site for many kinds of outdoor recreation.
Boating and Fishing
Fontana Reservoir provides 238 miles of shoreline and 10,230 acres of water surface for recreational activities. Several marinas service the lake, including Fontana Marina, the nearest to the dam itself, which offers watercraft and equipment rentals including pontoon boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards. Lake excursions are available, with knowledgable guides relating the history of the region and the dam. Views from the water reveal the pristine nature of the surrounding lands.
Largemouth bass, whitefish, catfish, pike, and bluegills abound in the reservoir, and because of its deep water, fishermen often find such northern species as walleye, muskie, and smallmouth bass.
The Appalachian Trail crosses Fontana Dam, which stretches 2,365 feet across the Little Tennessee River. The hot showers available at the trail shelter, maintained by the TVA, have led hikers to dub it the Fontana Hilton.
The Fontana Dam Visitor Center is located off N.C. Highway 28 near the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from May through October except major holidays. Newly refurbished and staffed by TVA retirees, the visitor center has updated maps, videos, and displays about TVA and the construction of the dam.
Historic Fontana Village
With a history reaching back more than 100 years into the logging and mining industries that flourished in the area at the turn of the 19th century, Fontana Village today is a year-round vacation destination resort, with a lodge, cabins, campgrounds, marina, and programming that includes traditional music, car club and motorcycle gatherings, outdoor activities and special holiday events.
Perched on the crest of the Blue Ridge atop the Eastern Continental Divide, the Orchard at Altapass occupies a unique spot in both America’s landscape and history. The Orchard has been a vital travel route since the earliest settlers began exploring these mountains. Buffalo and elk traversed here, followed by the Cherokee and eventually European settlers.
Early settlers defied British attempts to make peace with the Indians by disallowing settlement to the west of the mountains. Their resentment of British rule culminated when they formed the Overmountain Men during the Revolutionary War, marching to King’s Mountain and handing the British a stinging defeat recognized as a turning point of the conflict.
America’s industrialization came to the area in the 1890s. The Orchard’s location on the lowest pass through the Blue Ridge in the surrounding 100 miles ensured that the nation’s railroad barons would find it.
In 1908 the Clinchfield Railroad opened, complete with an engineering marvel: the Clinchfield loops, consisting of 18 tunnels in 13 miles of track built beside and below the present-day Orchard.
The arrival of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930s was yet another key chapter in the Orchard’s history dictated by geography. Today the Orchard is one of the most popular stops along the Parkway.
In 1995, Bill Carson and his family purchased the Orchard and now operates it today as a non-profit dedicated to preserving local history and lore, heritage apple varieties, and traditional music, and storytelling.
To help preserve local culture the Orchard offers free live music Wednesday through Sunday in May through September, and weekends in October.
Take part in the ever-popular Storytelling Hayride, a 45-minute journey through time, which begins on the old path of the Revolutionary War soldiers called the Overmountain Men. The hayride continues through the orchard, past old and young trees, with spectacular scenery for the entire route. Hayrides are offered every Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to hayrides, the Orchard offers guided storytelling walks and guided nature walks on beautiful trails.
The store and music venue have been completely remodeled and there are now dedicated areas for: kids’ activities, history, butterflies, honey bees, and books. All proceeds from the store help to support the mission of the Altapass Foundation.
Location and Operating Hours
The Orchard is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 328.3, outside the town of Spruce Pine, NC. The Orchard is open 10 AM to 5 PM every day of the week except Tuesdays from May to October. The Orchard is open everyday of the week during the month of October.
‘Along About Sundown’ at the nation’s oldest folk festival
The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, founded by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in 1928, is the country’s longest running folk festival. Mountain fiddlers, banjo pickers, dulcimer sweepers, dancers, balladeers and others have come to enjoy themselves “along about sundown” the first weekend in August.
The festival formally showcases an amazing repertoire of mountain performers – old-timers as well as the newest generation of bluegrass and mountain string bands, ballad singers, big circle mountain dancers and cloggers – who share music and dance that echo centuries of Scottish, English, Irish, Cherokee and African heritage. The popular and long-standing house band the Stoney Creek Boys returns to perform each evening. And each night of the festival features both well-known musicians and new talent alike, representative of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and its continuing traditions.
In 2018, performers at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival will take to the stage for the 91st time at Mission Health/A-B Tech Conference Center, 340 Victoria Road, Asheville, NC on Thursday through Saturday, August 2, 3 & 4. The show begins at 6:30 pm nightly. Tickets available on-line here.
Established in 1789, the town of Rockford served as the county seat of Surry County until is was encompassed into present day Yadkin County. As an early seat of government Rockford developed as an earl seat of commercial activity in the area. Hotels, taverns, and retail stores along with craftsmen including a blacksmith and tinsmith as well as industry including a forge and tannery flourished in the town.
A notable resident of the town during the 19th century was Judge Richmond Pearson, who established a law school just across the Yadkin River (Richmond Hill Law School). Pearson served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1858 until his death in 1878.
After a period of decline Rockord saw success and a resurgence in the coming of the railroad in 1890 and through the early 1900’s. Rockford became the chief carrier of passengers, freight, and mail for Northwestern North Carolina Railroad and as a result resurfaced as a commercial center. During this time the village boasted three general stores and tobacco factory.
Modern Rockford still maintains much of its early character as several buildings of architectural significance still stand in town. These include, the Rockford Inn, the Rockford Methodist Church, the Mark York Tavern, the Rockford Post Office, the Dudley Glass Store – Davenport Galley, and the Rockford Masonic Lodge.
Also of interest is the Rockford General Store which dates back to 1890 and is included on the National Register of Historic Places! Creaky wooden floors, old fashioned candy jars, hoop cheese, glass bottle drinks including Nehi and Crush are just a few old timey items you will discover at the Rockford General Store.
In September the town hosts the Rockford Reunion, (this year’s event is on Sept. 8th) at the Masonic Lodge from 10 AM to 4 PM. The day’s activities will include traditional music, a BBQ lunch, sharing of family and local history, and dedication of the new Whitaker/York marker and hand rails donated by Bob and Betty Whittaker and several other Whitaker and York families. Registration fee for the day is $10.00 which includes lunch.
Each year the town hosts the annual Candlelight Christmas in Rockford event at the Rockford Methodist Church. Be sure to stop by the Dudley Glass Store and Davenport Gallery to do some Christmas shopping before the event!