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Mount Airy

Before there was a state of North Carolina, indeed before there was a United States of America, as early as the 1750s settlers began to gather in the area now known as Mount Airy. A stopover point on a much-traveled road that ran from Salem, NC, into Virginia, the community grew into a small town by the 1830s.

A Frontier Town

The origin of the town’s name is uncertain, but widely accepted local tradition holds that the name was taken from the “Mount Airy” plantation which was established along the stage road in the early 1800s. The town originally served as a frontier commercial and trading center for the surrounding rural area and remained very small during the early part of the 1800s. During the mid-1800s the town’s frontier economy gradually grew into one based on agriculture and manufacturing, and by 1860 the small town had a population of 300.

The Railroad Brings Economic Revitalization

The economy of Mount Airy was severely damaged during the civil war and the period of reconstruction that followed. However, by the late 1870s and early 1880s, with tobacco as the area’s major industry, the economy again thrived. The construction of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad to Mount Airy in the late 1880s provided the catalyst that spurred the successful commercial exploitation of Mount Airy’s two greatest natural resources – granite and lumber.

“Granite City”

During the 1890s commercial development of the large granite quarry, located just east of downtown Mount Airy began. The area, known locally as “Flat Rock,” was developed into the largest open faced granite quarry in the world and provided Mount Airy with its popular nickname, “Granite City.” Although the town’s growth slowed considerably in the early 20th century, it remains today a vibrant and progressive community.

a.k.a. Mayberry

Mount Airy’s other famous pseudonym springs from it being the model for the small town of “Mayberry” on the popular Andy Griffith TV show in the mid-20th century. Mount Airy is the boyhood home of Andy Griffith, and his house is now owned by the Hampton Inn chain and is available for rental. Fans can also visit Andy’s favorite haunts on the show, including the Snappy Lunch, Floyd’s Barbershop, Opie’s Candy Store, Mayberry Soda Fountain and the Old City jail with Andy’s police car. Each year the community celebrates “Mayberry Days” with a four-day festival that includes a major golf tournament, concerts, a parade, and much more.

Parks & Museums

The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is housed in a former mercantile store on Main Streeet. Exhibits in this 35,000 square foot, four-story museum tell the story of the development of “the hollow”, as this region is known, and include the Native American story, the history of the largest open-faced granite quarry in the world, pioneer life, and the rich history of the Old Time music heritage that is unique to Surry County.

The Andy Griffith Museum contains a large collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia including hundreds of items from the life and career of Andy Griffith in movies, television and music.

The EARLE Theater, a project of the Surry Arts Council, is home to many music events, including year-round music performances, dances, and even live radio.

  • There’s a jam session every Thursday evening from 7 – 8:30.
  • On Saturdays, there’s another jam from 9 – 11 am, followed by the WPAQ Merry-Go-Round from 11 am -1:30 pm, the second longest running live radio broadcast in the nation, with different guests each week. ($5 ticket includes both the jam and the Merry Go Round.)
  • An Old Time dance with the Slate Mountain Ramblers is held the first Saturday night of every month except June. $5 for adults; children 12 & under free.
  • Surry County is home to a distinct style of Old Time music known as the “Round Peak” style, named for the rural area of Round Peak. The Old Time Music Heritage Hall features exhibits that tell the rich history of Surry County music.

Mount Airy Parks & Recreation maintains several parks in the community, including Riverside Park, which features picnic shelters, restrooms, a lighted soccer field, playground, canoe launch and greenway. Westwood Park is a wooded site with nature trails, two lighted ballfields, playground equipment, fitness stations, disc golf (9 holes), mountain bike trails, community fishing pond, shelter, restroom facilities and paved parking.

Local Attractions

Many of Mount Airy’s local attractions include those related to the Andy Griffith heritage of the town, including Squad Car Tours, Mayberry Mules and Wagon Rides, Andy Griffith Playhouse, Andy Griffith’s Homeplace, Floyd’s Barber Shop, Old City Jail, Opie’s Candy Store, Snappy Lunch and Wally’s Service Station.

Pilot Mount State Park is located nearby, as are numerous local wineries.

Festivals & Events

Farmers Tailgate Market

The Mount Airy Farmers Market is held at 218 Rockford Street, Mount Airy, on Tuesdays from 4 – 6 pm, April thru October. 336-401-8025.

For more information

Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Center
P.O. Box 913 • 200 North Main Street
Mount Airy, North Carolina 27030-0913
800-948-0949 or 336-786-6116

Valdese

On May 29, 1893 Southern Railway’s “Number 11” deposited a travel-weary band of 29 souls from Northern Italy who were to break ground for a settlement. They were called the Waldensians, and that settlement became the Town of Valdese.

Who Were the Waldensians?

The Waldensians were both a people and a church. Joining the Reformation in 1532, they predate John Wycliffe, John Huss, Martin Luther and others Reformers.

Known as a “people of the book”, they held the Bible to be sacred and the final authority in every aspect of life. They believed the Bible to be an “open” book – open to interpretation by each Christian as guided by the Holy Spirit. This belief exposed them to relentless persecution during the 12th century.

When crowded living conditions forced the Waldenses to leave their beautiful valleys, they brought with them across the ocean a rich heritage of faith and culture. Today, through artifacts, attractions and special events, Valdese honors its French-Italian heritage and shares the story of the Waldenses’ heritage and their journey to prosperity

Waldensian Presbyterian Church

The history of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church is so intertwined with the history of the town of Valdese that it is impossible to study one without embracing the other. In education and industry, as well as in the religious life of the community, the Church has been and continues to be the center of Waldensian life in Valdese.

Waldensian Heritage Museum

In the early 1970s, Valdese’s growing collection of Waldensian historic exhibits, coupled with increasing numbers of annual visitors, created the need to build the Waldensian Heritage Museum.  Like their Italian ancestors, the descendants wasted little time and built this beautiful structure on the corner of Rodoret Street and St. Germain Avenue.

The Trail of Faith

The Trail of Faith is a collection of 15 scaled buildings and monuments that preserve the history of the Waldensian people. Here you can see Barbi College where young men were trained and sent out as missionaries in an age when this was punishable by death. Explore a cave where the Waldensians worshipped while in hiding. Step inside the world’s oldest Protestant Church, the children’s school and original 1893 homesteads.

From This Day Forward

Valdese is home to the 4th longest running outdoor drama in North Carolina. From This Day Forward, which portrays the story of the Waldenses’ journey to create a better life for themselves and their descendants, has been performed every summer since 1967 at the Outdoor Amphitheatre in Valdese.

Waldensian Wine

The Waldensians learned the craft of creating great wines in their Italian homeland and brought this skill with them to the foothills of North Carolina. In fact, the site of Historic Valdese was chosen by the settlers because the terrain, climate and soil composition was similar to their homes in Italy. Today, visitors can view processes that reflect a combined 250 years experience in wine making at the Waldensian Heritage Winery, which opened in 1930.

Piedmont & Western Model Railroad Club

The Piedmont & Western Model Railroad Club, located in the Old Rock School in Valdese, was established by local railroad enthusiasts to create a fictitious rail line serving Western North Carolina. The HO scale railroad runs from Marion, NC to Leadvale, TN, carrying loads across the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. Total trackage covers over 1,000 feet.

McGalliard Falls

Approximately 40 feet high, McGalliard Falls was a favorite hangout for the Waldensian settlers and is enjoyed by Valdese citizens and visitors today as a park. This outdoor recreation facility has four lighted tennis courts, a volleyball court, playground swings, picnic facilities and restrooms in addition to the natural attraction of the falls.

Special Events

  • The Waldensian Festival, held on the second Saturday in August, celebrates the “Glorious Return” of Waldenses from exile in Switzerland to their native valleys in the Cottian Alps of Italy in 1689. This celebration is mirrored around the world by other Waldensian communities.
  • Family Friday Nights, which begin in May, provide free entertainment for the community, with music and an antique/classic cruise in.

Tailgate & Farmers Market

The Burke County Farmers Market is located in Valdese and operates Wednesday from 8 am – noon and on Fridays from 2 pm – 5. All products are locally grown in Burke County.

Location

Valdese is located 20 minutes west of Hickory, NC, and 45 minutes east of Asheville, just off Interstate 40, exit 111 or 112.

For More Information

Valdese Department of Tourism
Old Rock School
PO Box 339
Valdese, NC 28690

Brevard

The historic small town of Brevard is the county seat of Transylvania County, also known as “the land of the waterfalls.” The community is surrounded by nature and the Pisgah National Forest.

Diverse Populations Weave a Unique Tapestry

The earliest inhabitants were Native Americans, but after the Revolutionary War, the area was opened to immigrant settlement. Pioneers came down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and Virginia or moved westward from the Carolina coast. They came to the wild western frontier to claim new lands, to purchase land for speculation, for adventure, or to escape the fever of the low country. Each of the diverse populations that came here contributed to the identity of the county, becoming a part of the Tapestry that is Transylvania.

Family Enterprise Built Early Economy

Before Transylvania became a county, manufacturing was a family enterprise. The Gillespie family operated a gunworks on East Fork; Jimmy Neill made fur hats at Oak Grove, and Fleming Whitmire built wagons in Middle Fork.

During the Civil War, the Davidson River Iron Works, operated by George Shuford, became an important source of military supply for the Confederate Army. Ore for the mill was mined on nearby Boylston Creek.

Post Civil War

After the Civil War, speculators bought land for as little as one dollar an acre from the war-impoverished native landholders who were not aware of its true value. Families who needed money to pay delinquent taxes and re-stock the farm sold thousands of acres which was used for timber harvesting and mining. Logging and tanning companies became the largest employers of the county until the 1930s, when the timber ran out.

Brevard and Transylvania County Today

Transylvania County has come full circle since its beginnings in 1861, with the land providing commerce and trade once again. The county’s blended heritage continues to grow with new arrivals. Each year the community welcomes the return of summer residents, tourists, and retirees. Students are educated at Brevard College, summer camps, and Brevard Music Center.

The arts uplift the spirit and the National Forests soothe the soul. Sporting activities abound, whether the interest is in hiking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, fishing, or just plain nature observation. People continue to contribute and enrich the community with their collective knowledge and experience. The fabric of the tapestry grows stronger with each new thread.

The White Squirrel

Not everyone who contributes to the tapestry of Transylvania is human. A white squirrel arrived in Brevard as a refugee from an overturned carnival truck and its descendents have made Transylvania home. A true rarity, the squirrels are not albinos and have dark eyes. This unique animal is protected by law.

Museums

The Transylvania HeritageMuseum, located in Brevard, features permanent and changing displays of heirlooms, artifacts, genealogical exhibits, vintage photographs, and other exhibits reflective of the history and heritage of Transylvania County. The Museum offers a variety of interactive programs and events throughout the year, including the annual Founders Day Fair on Saturday of Labor Day weekend.

Local Attractions

The Cradle of Forestry is so-called because it literally is the birthplace of forest conservation in the United States.  Exhibits, a movie, and nature paths make this an excellent educational and entertaining destination for families.

Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education offers unique indoor and outdoor exhibits and programs on the state’s wildlife and mountain habitats.

Brevard is also in close promixity to the only North Carolina State Park west of Asheville, Gorges State Park. Here visitors can enjoy the rugged mountain terrain with camping, hiking, fishing, boating and many more activities.

The Brevard Music Center is one of the oldest and finest summer music institutions in the country. Every summer, hundreds of young musicians from all over the world come to study and play side by side with professional musicians in the presentation of public concerts, staged operas, and musicals. The Center offers instruction in chamber music, piano, instrumental studies, composition, and voice.

Festivals & Events

White Squirrel Festival and Squirrel Box Derby Day, held Saturday & Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. Nutty family fun celebrating the peaceful coexistence of our wildlife inhabitants, great outdoors, and rich mountain heritage. This music festival showcases original compositions written by musicians who have claimed an attachment to Transylvania County. The Squirrel Box Derby demonstrates the passage of great engineering with mountain daring to our younger generations.

Fourth of July Celebration. Catch the hometown spirit in the Heart of Brevard! Brevard h as a long-standing tradition of celebrating our national Independence Day as a community. An all-star pet show, classic car show, traditional mountain crafts, bicycle parade, reading of the Declaration of Independence are followed by an evening fireworks extravaganza.

Halloweenfest.  Last Saturday in October.  Where better to celebrate Halloween than in Tran-syl-va-nia County? Costume parade, downtown trick-or-treat, Count Dracula’s blood drive, great pumpkin roll keep kids of all ages in the Halloween spirit. The Old Time Music Competition draws musicians from several states to compete in individual categories (banjo, fiddle, dulcimer), as well as combining their talents to compete in the old time string band category.

Twilight Tour.  First Saturday in December. Downtown takes a turn back in time celebrating Christmas mountain traditions. Horse-drawn carriages pass luminary-lighted sidewalks and strolling carolers accompany those touring downtown shops. The courthouse sparkles with lights and angelic voices entertain from the gazebo.

Location

Brevard is southwest of Asheville and easily accessed via US Hwy. 64.

For more information

Brevard/Transylvania Chamber of Commerce
175 E. Main St.
Brevard, NC 28712
(828) 883-3700

Highlands

The town of Highlands was supposed to become a hub of commerce in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, had its founders had their way. In 1875, two developers in Kansas drew two lines–one between New York and New Orleans, the other from Chicago to Savannah. Where the lines crossed, they believed would become a crossroads of trade.

They failed to take into account the rugged mountain terrain where “X” marked the spot that would make such a commercial hub difficult to create, and it never came to pass. However, their concept was sound enough, since the commercial metropolis of Atlanta grew up just 120 miles to the south.

A Resort Community Instead

At more than 4,000 feet on the highest crest of the Western North Carolina plateau in the Southern Appalachian mountains, the town of Highlands evolved into a thriving resort community instead. Attracting a blend of Southerners and Northerners, tradesmen and laborers, planters and professionals, the town has served as a cultural center for well-known artists, musicians, actors, authors, photographers, scholars, and scientists who have thrived in its natural setting.

Surrounded by Nature

Highlands is rich in natural scenic beauty, and opportunities for outdoor recreation abound on the Cullasaja River and the nearby Lake Sequoyah. Visitors and residents alike enjoy the waterfalls, hiking, fishing, National Forest walks, and Greenway trails, as well as the four excellent golf courses in the area.

The Highlands Nature Center is a program of the Highlands Biological Station, an inter-institutional center of the University of North Carolina. HBS also includes the Biological Laboratory, whose major focus is graduate education and research, and a Botanical Garden. The Nature Center features a variety of exhibits for children of all ages, including live animals and interactive displays. During the summer, it offers special events, daily programs, and a series of nature day camps. The Botanical Garden features numerous interpretive nature trails. Admission to the nature center is free; and programs are generally free or at minimal cost.

Steeped in Culture

For theater lovers, there is professional summer stock theater at the Highlands Playhouse from June through October, and Highlands/Cashiers Players presents productions year-round at the Martin-Lipscomb Performing Art Center.

The Bascom Center for the Visual Arts offers classes and exhibitions on a six-building, six-acre campus. A wooden covered bridge greets visitors; a rebuilt barn serves as the pottery studio; and a new central building, which houses the galleries and a gift shop, is a brilliant architectural blend of old and new, with wood from older buildings used to create a new one.

The Highlands Historical Society has preserved the Highlands Historic Village which comprises the House-Boynton-Trapier-Wright Home, also known as “the Prince House”, which is the oldest existing house in Highlands; the Highlands Historical Museum and Archives, and Bug Hill Cottage, once part of a tuberculosis treatment center.

The Highlands Heritage Trail offers a suggested itinerary for visiting the many heritage sites in the Highlands area.

Festivals & Events

The Annual Chili Cook Off in March puts some heat into the fading days of winter. In summer, the community celebrates Independence Day with traditional Fireworks. The Highlands Motoring Festival is also held in July.

The Highlands Cashiers Chamber Music Festival has long been a highlight of summer, with performances throughout July and August.

The Annual Highlands Culinary Weekend in November is a popular early winter festival, with food, wine tastings, cooking classes and demonstrations–everything for the discerning food lover!

The town’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, with its annual Christmas Parade the first Saturday in December..

Location

Highlands is located between Franklin and Cashiers on US Highway 64.

For More Information

Highlands Chamber of Commerce
866-526-5841

Highlands Historical Society

Elkin

The confluence of the Yadkin River and Big Elkin Creek in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountains has drawn people to the site of what is today’s city of Elkin since the coming of the Paleo-Indians 10,000 years ago. Records show that the Sioux Indians settled along the Yadkin River as early as 500 B.C.

Early Settlement Brings Cotton Mills

Around 1840, Richard Gwyn left Jonesville to settle on the north side of the Yadkin River, recognizing the value of the forested hills and water power of the Big Elkin Creek. Within a decade, he and several family members established Elkin Manufacturing Company, a cotton mill which continued to operate during the Civil War, producing fabric for Confederate uniforms. Most early Southern textile mills were damaged or destroyed during the war, but Elkin’s mill survived intact and remained fully operational.

Further up Big Elkin Creek, Alexander Chatham and Thomas Lenoir Gwyn opened a woolen mill in 1877 that grew and became Elkin’s largest industry. The Northwestern North Carolina Railroad arrived in 1890, and Elkin was poised to take the opportunities the railroad brought for commercial and industrial expansion. Elkin’s history includes the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, the Second Industrial Revolution, and the Elkin and Alleghany Railroad.

Elkin Today

Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, Elkin has embraced its history and added a touch of sophistication. Visitors can hike the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, shop in one-of-a-kind specialty stores, experience fine dining, paddle the Yadkin River, and enjoy an exhibit at the Foothills Arts Council.

Elkin is located within twenty minutes of twenty wine tasting rooms, all within North Carolina’s first federally recognized American Viticulture Area – the Yadkin Valley AVA, including the Brushy Mountain Winery in Historic Downtown Elkin.

The Arts, Galleries and a Museum

The Foothills Arts Council is home for the visual and performing arts in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Yadkin Valley Craft Guild represents fine and heritage crafts and craft education in the Greater Yadkin Valley Region.

The John Furches Gallery is located at 123 West Main Street in Historic Downtown Elkin.

The Richard Gwyn Museum – Elkin’s founder, Richard Gwyn, built Gwyn School-Elkin Chapel around 1850. The building is the oldest in Surry County to have been used as either a church or school. The Jonathan Hunt Chapter of the D.A.R. converted it to a local history museum and items on display include farm tools, domestic artifacts, textiles, a weaving loom, photographs, and documents.

Parks, Trails and Outdoor Activities

Elkin Municipal Park is a 25-acre Park with three ball fields, eight lighted tennis courts, a mile long scenic walking track, a playground, two picnic shelters and a band shell, as well as an outdoor swimming pool that is open to the public during the summer months.

Crater Park has a ball field, multipurpose field and Yakin River Access with a public boat ramp.

Chatham Park has a picnic shelter, along with baseball, softball and soccer fields.

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail – Elkin is the eastern trailhead for the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, one of only 15 such trails in the nation. This trail commemorates the journey of the “Overmountain Men” who traveled from Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina, and fought and defeated the British at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The Wilkes/Surry Patriot Militia mustered in present day Municipal Park on September 7, 1780. The Patriots, along with their Tory prisoners, traveled back through Elkin after the victory at Kings Mountain. Elkin is the only location the Patriots gathered and came back through after the victorious battle.

Yadkin River Trail – Paddling, fishing and bird watching can all be enjoyed on this section of the 165 mile river trail, rich in natural beauty and American history. Access the river at the boat ramp at Crater Park.

Leaf-to-Vine Scenic Byway – 65 miles of farmland, foothills and mountains with interpretive sites tell the story of how the local communities have been impacted by agriculture, how tobacco farms have become wineries, and the region’s connection to NASCAR. This North Carolina Scenic Byway begins and ends at the intersection of North Bridge Street and Market Street in Historic Downtown Elkin.

Friendship Speedway is a 4/10 mile dirt track that runs on Saturdays from mid-March through Halloween.

Festivals & Events

The Yadkin Valley Wine Festival, held annually in May, showcases the region’s growing collection of prize-winning vineyards and wineries.

The Pumpkin Festival, held in Historic Downtown Elkin on the third Saturday of October, highlights local crafts, arts, music and dance, and of course, who’s grown the largest pumpkin!

Several local organizations host events throughout the year, including a Fourth of July Children’s Parade and a Christmas Parade. For more information on events sponsored by Downtown Elkin, Inc.

Farmers Tailgate Market

The Elkin Farmers Market is held every Saturday in the Elkin Town Hall parking lot located at 226 North Bridge Street from mid-April through mid-October. Hours are 9:00 a.m. – noon.

Location

Elkin is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains – just one mile from Interstate 77, 9 miles from US 421 and 18 miles from Interstate 40. It is 25 minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway, 30 minutes from Virginia and 45 minutes from Winston-Salem.

For more information

Town of Elkin
226 N. Bridge Street
Elkin, North Carolina 28621
336-835-9857

Additional information may be found at:
https://www.yadkinvalleync.com
http://visittheyadkinvalley.com
http://ncwine.com

Rutherfordton

As the county seat of one of Western North Carolina’s oldest counties and the seat of the oldest continuous government in the region, Rutherfordton, established in 1787, has a rich history.

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail

During the American Revolution the corps of Patriots known as the “Overmountain Men” marched through present-day Rutherfordton on their way to the Battle of Kings Mountain. The Patriots defeated British troops under the command of Maj. Patrick Ferguson on October 7, 1780, and in the opinion of Thomas Jefferson, “turned the tide of the war.” Today, the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail runs through the town.

A Community of “Firsts”

Rutherfordton was also the location of the first U.S. Post Office in western North Carolina, established in 1798. The town was home to the first school chartered by the state legislature for Western North Carolina, the Rutherfordton Academy, which opened in 1806, and also the site of the first newspaper published in the western portion of the state, The North Carolina Spectator and Western Advertiser, founded in 1831.

Rutherfordton Today

But Rutherfordton offers contemporary riches, too. Explore one of North Carolina best children’s museums, a variety of independent restaurants, one of the premier women’s clothing outlets in Western North Carolina, and opportunities for golf in Western North Carolina, in addition to other activities and attractions.

In Rutherfordton, many visitors enjoy seeing the town’s history as reflected in its architecture on one of the North Carolina walking tours. A walking map of Historic Downtown Rutherfordton includes a cluster of antebellum homes and historic churches that represent fine historical architectural examples.

Tiffany Stained Glass

St. Francis Episcopal Church downtown has a collection of Tiffany stained glass windows in one of the North Carolina historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places. Walking tour maps can be found inside the Town Hall building on Main Street. For more information, visitors can also call the Downtown Rutherfordton Revitalization Project at 828-287-2071.

Located in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, Rutherfordton enjoys the benefit of being in a “thermal belt”, providing a moderate climate in all seasons.

Parks

The Town of Rutherfordton maintains four municipal parks to accommodate a broad spectrum of recreational activities from Little League baseball games to a family picnic under a canopy of shade trees next to a creek. The Rutherfordton Golf Club provides another alternative to relax and enjoy the beauty of the area. Area parks include Crestview Park, Kiwanis Park, 2nd Street Park, and Main Street Park.

Festivals & Events

Rutherfordton’s annual festivals draw enthusiastic crowds. MayFest in May offers art, live entertainment and children’s activities.

The Hilltop Fall Festival in October features a 5k run. The Tour de Pumpkin, the same weekend as the Hilltop festival, highlights cycling in North Carolina. The tour, sponsored by the Rutherford Outdoor Coalition, includes 100k and 50k rides and is among the most popular Western North Carolina biking events.

Farmers Tailgate Market

The Rutherfordton Farmers Market is located at 146 North Main Street. Crafts, fruits, vegetables, local specialties and organic food. May-September, Saturday 9 am – 12 pm. 828-287-2071.

Location

Rutherfordton is located 40 miles east of Asheville, NC on Highway 74/I-26 and is easily accessed from North Carolina Highways 74 and 64, and Interstates 85, 26 and 40.

Some Nearby History

Listen to the stories of the North Carolina Gold Rush, the Overmountain Victory Historic Trail, and the theory that Abraham Lincoln was born in North Carolina on these Living Traditions Moments audio vignettes.

North Carolina Gold

Overmountain Victory Historic Trail

Abraham Lincoln

For more information

Rutherford County Tourism
117 West Court Street
Rutherfordton, NC 28139
Phone: 828-287-6113; Toll Free: 800-849-5998

Hot Springs

People have been visiting Hot Springs, a tiny village in the Blue Ridge Mountains, as a spa destination for more than 200 years. The Native Americans were the first to discover and use the warm mineral waters, followed by early traders and settlers in the latter years of the 18th century.

The Buncombe Turnpike brought more people through what was then known as Warm Springs, drovers herding thousands of cattle, hogs, horses, even turkeys, to Southern markets.  What a treat it must have been to stop in Hot Springs to “take the waters” on that long, dusty hike.

Warm Springs Becomes Hot Springs

Asheville entrepreneur James Patton bought the springs in 1831 and built the grand 350-room Warm Springs Hotel in 1837. The next owner, James Rumbough, a stage coach operator, purchased the springs in 1862 and enlarged the hotel upon the arrival of the railroad in 1882. Unfortunately, it burned two years later, and the springs and most of the town were sold to a northern syndicate, the “Southern” Improvement Company.

A few years later, a spring with even higher temperatures was discovered, and the company changed the town’s name to Hot Springs. They built the Mountain Park Hotel in 1886, one of the most elegant resorts in the entire country at the time, and established the first organized golf club in the Southeastern US.

World War I Internment Camp

During World War I, with a decline in tourism, the Mountain Park Hotel was leased to the federal government and served as an internment camp for hundreds of German merchant sailors captured in U.S. harbors when war was declared. The hotel never regained its former glory, and it burned in 1920. Hot Springs as well declined in popularity, being nearly forgotten as a tourist destination.

Today, it is again attracting visitors not only to the springs and lovely secluded spa tubs, but also to the Appalachian Trail, which runs right down Main Street, and to nearby river activities and camping.

Festivals & Events

The Bluff Mountain Festival, held every June, is free to the public and features some of the region’s best Traditional Old-Time and Bluegrass Music, ballad singing and clogging followed by an evening Square Dance until dark. Proceeds benefit the Madison County Arts Council.

The annual Hot Doggett 100 Bicycle Rides 100 mile course covers some of the most scenic and lightly traveled roads anywhere in Western North Carolina. Those seeking a challenge will find it in the 9,600 feet of ascension on that course.

Location

Hot Springs can be reached from both North Carolina and Tennessee via US 25 and US 70.

For more information

Welcome to Hot Springs

Wilkesboro

Nestled in the rolling foothills of northwestern North Carolina, the quaint town of Wilkesboro has been the county seat of Wilkes County since 1778.

The town was officially laid out by General William Lenoir in 1801 and incorporated in 1847. Notable distinguished early settlers and leaders to visit include Daniel Boone, Christopher Gist, Colonel Benjamin Cleveland, General William Lenoir and Thomas Fields.

Today, antique and retail shops plus an array of American and ethnic restaurants please every appetite of visitors to Wilkesboro. Nearby, the vineyards of the Yadkin Valley produce award-winning wines and offer tastings, delicious dining, and special events.

Museums & Galleries

The arts and history go hand-in-hand in Wilkesboro. Two frescoes by world-renowned artist Benjamin Long IV can be viewed in the commons area in St. Paul’s Epicopal Church, (ca. 1849.) The Cultural Arts Council of Wilkes exhibits the work of local and regional artists in Town Hall Wilkesboro. Nearby, Royall’s gallery and frame shop exhibits the work of local artist and owner, Kelly Royall, and other area artists.

The Wilkes Heritage Museum Historic Properties allow visitors to step back in time as they tour the Wilkes Heritage Museum, (old Wilkes County Courthouse, ca. 1902), Old Wilkes Jail, (ca. 1859) and the Captain Robert Cleveland Log Home, (ca. 1779). The Wilkesboro Historic Walking Tour takes visitors on a leisurely walk to view early architecture in the town.

Parks &Outdoor Activities

The Yadkin River Greenway, located in the heart of the downtown area, is an excellent place for strolling or riding bicycles. Cub Creek Park offers an abundance of family activities, including fun for the family pet in the adjacent Hidden Oaks Dog Park. A treasure trove of fresh vegetables can be found at the nearby Community Garden.

Just west of Wilkesboro is the W. Kerr Scott Dam & Reservoir, which is enjoyed by boaters, fishermen, and outdoor lovers in general. A recent addition is the Environmental Education Center which offers programs for children and teachers, educating through hands-on activities and exhibits about the environment of the region.

Festivals & Events

Themed special events take place on the third Friday each month from 4 – 9 pm featuring live music, food and childrens’ activities. Local businesses, produce and craft vendors offer a wide variety of items for sale, and non-profit organizations share their mission stories with participants.

Merlefest, a diverse roots music festival, is dedicated to the memory of musician Merle Watson, son of Americana music’s icon, Doc Watson. Known worldwide, this annual event takes place the last weekend in April on the campus of Wilkes Community College.

Farmers Tailgate Markets

The Wilkesboro Open Air Market is held May through October beneath the canopy of Pin Oaks on Main Street in the Town Parking Lot every Friday from 4 – 8 pm.

Location

Wilkesboro is located off US 421.

For more information

Wilkes County Tourism Development Authority

Blowing Rock

Blowing Rock is a quintessential mountain village with beautiful churches, a downtown with great shops and restaurants, and a quaint Main Street. Varied accommodations, restaurants, galleries and shopping round out its appeal.  But its history reaches back to the days before immigrant settlement.

Early History

Before 1752, when the Scotch-Irish began to settle the area, the windy cliffs surrounding Blowing Rock were home to the Cherokee and Catawba tribes. The Native legend of the Blowing Rock still survives today, giving supernatural mystery to the local winds and bearing witness to the influence of those first inhabitants.

Immigrant Settlement

The Greenes were the first immigrant family to settle in Blowing Rock. They established the site that became the Green Park Hotel property. During the Civil War, many husbands sent their wives and children to the safest place they knew–the mountains–while they fought in the war. After the war many men joined the families sheltered in Blowing Rock and made their permanent homes in the village.

A Growing Village

On March 11, 1889, Blowing Rock was chartered and incorporated with a population of 300. As the village grew, word of Blowing Rock’s beauty and amenities spread, visitors became more common, and the economy became tourist-oriented. Hotels, inns and boarding houses prospered. Several of the grand hotels and homes still remain as anchors in the town’s landscape.

Blowing Rock Today

The Martin House, once a boarding house, is now home to a variety of shops on Main Street. Chetola Resort, no longer a private estate, is one of the most popular lodging establishments in the area. The Green Park Inn has been recently restored and now welcomes folks once more at the southern edge of town. The hotel is now part of the Green Park Historical District in Blowing Rock, encompassing other historic homes and properties. The Moses Cone Manor still stands overlooking the town.

A major preservation effort has been in place for the past decade to protect the proud historic heritage of the village and maintain the community character that so enhances this little town.

Hear the Story

Below, Listen to the legend of the Blowing Rock as recorded on one of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area’s  Living Traditions Moments radio vignettes.

Parks & Museums

Adjacent to Blowing Rock is the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, offering 26 miles of carriage trails for hiking and horseback riding. Trout Lake and Bass Lake provide fishing opportunities.

The Blowing Rock Art and History Museum houses exhibits, educational space and more on the corner of Main and Chestnut streets.

Local Attractions

  • The Blowing Rock is a natural formation overlooking the Pisgah Forest. A short scenic walk includes views of Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock, and Hawksbill.
  • The Hayes Performing Arts Center is back for a new season of live music and captivating productions. The state-of-the-art facility is located in Blowing Rock on Valley Blvd.
  • A Wild-West family theme park, Tweetsie Railroad features a three-mile steam-powered train ride through the North Carolina mountains.  The #12 “Tweetsie” is the last surviving narrow-gauge steam locomotive of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (ET&WNC) nicknamed “Tweetsie”, which ran train service from Johnson City TN to Boone NC from 1919 to 1940. The engine is listed on the National Register.
  • The Parkway Craft Center features the finest quality Appalachian Mountain hand-made crafts by members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, as well as demonstrations. Located inside the Moses Cone Manor at milepost 294 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Festivals & Events

Blowing Rock is home to many events throughout the year, including summer concert series and stage productions. Annual family festivals like the Fourth of July Festival and Christmas in the Park offer great fun for everyone. Some of the community’s longest-running and most well-known annual events include:

  • Art in the Park, a series of outdoor juried art shows, showcases the arts & crafts of 90 regional artisans. One show each month on a selected Saturday, May-Oct.
  • The Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show is the oldest continuous outdoor horse show in America. Three division shows each summer in June, July & August.
  • Blowing Rock Winterfest presents a variety of indoor and outdoor events to celebrate winter—plus the Polar Plunge! Always held near the end of January.
  • An evening under the stars with pop and orchestral music, Symphony by the Lake at Chetola is a centerpiece of the summer season.

Farmers Tailgate Markets

The Blowing Rock Farmers Market is held each Thursday afternoon on Wallingford Street from mid-May to mid-October, with special Holiday Markets near Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hours are 4-6pm in May, June, September and October, and 4-7pm in July and August.

Location

Blowing Rock is located along the Eastern Continental Divide at the southern border of Watauga County. At the intersection of Hwy 321 and Hwy 221 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

For more information

Blowing Rock Visitor Center
1-877-750-4636 or 828-295-4636

 

Black Mountain

Black Mountain, originally called “Grey Eagle,” was a tiny agrarian village in the Blue Ridge Mountains until the coming of the railroad in 1879, an event that changed the face of the community forever.

The Railroad Brought Many Changes

Trains brought visitors from hotter climes to the cool mountain air of the Blue Ridge, and Black Mountain quickly became a popular tourist destination.  Inns and boarding houses sprang up to serve the new visitors, many of whom, when they discovered the haunting beauty of Black Mountain and the surrounding valleys and coves, decided to buy land and relocate to the Swannanoa Valley.

Among those investors were people who developed the many religious retreats and conference centers, such as Montreat, YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, and Ridgecrest.  Today the Swannanoa Valley is home to seven such major conference centers.

Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College, a progressive arts and educational institution, was located in Black Mountain between 1933 and 1956.  Black Mountain College was experimental in nature and committed to an interdisciplinary approach to education, with the study of art seen to be central to a true liberal arts education. The school, founded by John Rice, attracted a faculty that included people who became many of America’s leading visual artists, composers, poets, and designers.

A Child’s Recollection – Mini documentary about growing up on the campus of Black Mountain College. Credit: Kevin Boggs, Duncan White, and Drew Glover. Photo Credit: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

A Distinguished Architect

Raphael Guastavino, distinguished Spanish architect who came to the area to work on the Biltmore Estate and who designed and built the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, had an estate of his own in Black Mountain called “Rhododendron.”  It is now the campus of Christmount Conference Center.

Black Mountain Today

Visiting Historic Downtown Black Mountain is like taking a step back in time to a simpler era.  A disastrous fire in 1912 burned many of the original wooden buildings which were replaced by the sturdy brick structures seen in town today that house quaint shops and restaurants, favorite destinations for today’s visitors.

Parks, Museums & Art Centers

Lake Tomahawk Park is the “jewel” of Black Mountain’s Parks & Recreation Department.  Here families bring kids to the playground, weddings and family reunions take place in the gazebo and beneath the pavilion, runners and walkers follow the path around the lake, and the “Black Mountain Yacht Club” holds regattas of remote control sailboats.  In summer, it is the site of “Park Rhythms,” a free concert held every Thursday between June and August.

The Swannanoa Valley Museum is Buncombe County’s primary museum of general local history, with collections and exhibits that tell the story of the development of the Valley and Western North Carolina.

Nearby, the Presbyterian Heritage Center preserves the history of Montreat and tells the story of Presbyterian outreach throughout the world.

Black Mountain Center for the Arts provides lessons, gallery exhibits, concerts, special programs and a pottery studio. It also hosts the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program in Buncombe County.

Festivals & Events

Park Rhythms Concert Series–Every Thursday evening from late June through mid-August, Lake Tomahawk.

Sourwood Festival–Second weekend in August.  Includes “Black Mountain Idol” talent contest, vendors, food, and music throughout the weekend.  Free.

Holly Jolly Night and the Black Mountain Christmas Parade, first weekend in December.  Friday night walkabout in local stores creates a festive kickoff to the holiday season and encourages participants to buy local.  Saturday afternoon’s parade is small town fun for everyone, those who choose to join the parade and those who line the streets to watch.

Lake Eden Arts Festival, held bi-annually in May and October at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain, draws an international audience.

Tailgate Farmers Market

The Black Mountain Tailgate Market operates mid-May to late October, Saturday mornings, 9 am to noon, on the grounds of the First Baptist Church on Montreat Road.

Location

Black Mountain is located at Exit 64 of I-40, fifteen miles east of Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

For more information

Black Mountain/Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce
Visitor Center at 201 E. State St.
Black Mountain, NC 28711
828-669-2300; toll free: 828-669-2301
info@blackmountain.org

 

Marshall

The community of Marshall hugs the banks of the French Broad River, a short distance north of Asheville, and is the county seat for Madison County.

Named for U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall, the community has an iconic building in the impressive Madison County Courthouse, designed and built by the famed architect Richard Sharp Smith in 1906.

From Drovers’ Road to Railroad

Once Marshall was a thriving mountain town–it was on the “drovers’ road” used by farmers moving livestock to southern markets. Later the railroad brought industry and prosperity to this small mountain community. But when newer highways by-passed Marshall, the town went into economic decline.

A Hub of Creativity

Marshall has always been a hub of creativity, especially of traditional arts and mountain music, and today, Marshall’s economy is supported by a resurgence of these traditions which have flourished and grown.

Every Thursday night, locals and visitors alike enjoy the music jam at the local coffee shop, Zuma’s, and dancing at the Depot on Friday nights. The old Marshall High School, built on an island in the midst of the French Broad River, was going to be torn down because it flooded so often. But artist and entrepreneur Rob Pulleyn bought it, saved it, and turned it into the Marshall High School Studios, now home to many working artists.

The Madison County Arts Council, headquartered in Marshall, sponsors many musical and arts events throughout the year.

River rafting, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and hiking appeal to the outdoor visitors, while shopping in specialty galleries and watching artists at work are fun for those who appreciate excellent art in the making.

Festivals & Events

French Broad Fridays–Second Fridays of summer months, special musical performances on the island.

Farmers Tailgate Market

Sunday afternoons on the island, April through October.

For more information:

Madison County Tourism Development Authority

Madison County Chamber of Commerce
(828) 680-9031; Toll Free: 1-877-2-Madison

Saluda

First a mere crossroads for traders and drovers after the Civil War, then a thriving railroad town and refuge for summer visitors wishing to escape the heat of hotter climes, Saluda has evolved into today’s modern community that includes more than a dozen resident artists and galleries.

Like A Step Back In Time

But part of its charm is that this small Blue Ridge mountain town hasn’t changed…that much…since it was founded in 1881. Although the train no longer runs through Saluda, people still come here from many places seeking a quieter lifestyle, one reminiscent of the town’s past. Coming into town, you’ll discover it has one main street, with shops, galleries, restaurants, and many historical buildings blended with newer additions that give Saluda a quaint, rustic feel but with a modern flair.

Saluda is a town not only with a rich history, but also one that offers a sense of place and community to visitors and residents alike. The Historic Saluda Committee has produced a video, Home, Hearth and History: Stories of Old Saluda, which captures the oral histories of a number of the community’s elders. It has also created a website that includes excerpts from the film, as well as history of the town, the railroad, historic homes and inns, historic post cards and photos and more.

Parks

One of the most beautiful waterfalls and botanical areas in the region, Pearson’s Falls, is located nearby.

Festivals & Events

Saluda has two family friendly fun festivals each year. The annual Saluda Arts Festival in May attracts more than 45 juried artists from all over western North Carolina and South Carolina.

Coon Dog Day in July. What began as a chicken supper fundraiser for the local Coon Club has grown into an event that attracts over 10,000 people each year.

Farmers Tailgate Market

The Saluda Tailgate Market runs from May through October, every Friday 4:30 to 6:30 pm. Located in Saluda’s public parking lot on West Main Street.

For more information

Polk County Tourism Authority
1-800-440-7848
828-894-2324