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’.
Hope you like driving!
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 .1 mile off of Main Street, and is easily accessible. Drivers should turn on to Laurel Lane, and then left after .1 mile 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 1 1/2 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.
If you think that a town so far removed from the metro way of life would be lackluster in the culture department, you would be one hundred percent wrong. 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 upcoming “The Vagina Monologues,” which features performances by the original cast. Their Appalachian Summer Festival brings to town acts such as Emmylou Harris , Jo Dee Messina, and Russian ballet companies. For the music nerd, the area offers festivals aplenty. The widely known and acclaimed Merlefest celebrates the incredible guitar and banjo picking of Doc and Merle Watson, while 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. Big fan of the Scots? They 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.
Perhaps you read about the High Country in a magazine – Travel & Leisure named Westglow Spa in Blowing Rock one of its Top Ten Spa Destinations in the world. 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.
And the food… ah, the food. Never was there such a small town with such scrumptious grub. Take out a loan if you have to. Some of the best meals around are right downtown.
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.
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.