A June 2005 trip
to Blowing Rock by chadk78
Quote: Located directly on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Eastern Continental Divide, Blowing Rock has been a popular mountain getaway for over a century. At an elevation of 4,000 feet above sea level, this quaint village serves as a perfect hub to explore the surrounding mountains.
A wide variety of shops, restaurants, and accomodations are situated on Main Street or streets that intersect it, such as Morris St. and Sunset Dr. The town is centered by Broyhill Park, which features a playground, tennis courts, and many park benches (often occupied by families enjoying ice cream cones from Kilwin's Ice Cream Shop across the street).
Fans of author Jan Karon may be interested to know that this is her hometown and the model for her fictional town of Mitford. The town itself is nice for a short stroll or just to browse throught the shops. The outdoor lover, however, will be drawn to the mountainous areas surrounding the town. The natural attractions, which are quite plentiful, include the Blowing Rock(town's namesake), Grandfather Mountain, Moses Cone Park, Julian Price Park, Linville Falls, and Linville Caverns.
A family with children may enjoy the sights and sounds of Tweetsie Railroad. This wild west theme park is centered around an actual vintage steam engine that once traversed these mountains. Locals gave it the name "Tweetsie" because of the sound its whistle made. This is one of the country's oldest theme parks, and its mock train robberies and gunfights have thrilled many visitors over the years. The faux western railroad town has a general store, jail, blacksmith shop, and mining camp, among other features. It also has a petting zoo and a variety of rides.
The nearby town of Boone also offers interesting attractions such as the Appalachian Cultural Center and "Horn in the West", an outdoor drama about the adventures of frontiersman Daniel Boone.
I also found the following books to be helpful:
"Scenic Driving: North Carolina" by Laurence Parent
"Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads" by Carolyn Sakowski
For this stay, we booked the Honeymoon/Anniversary package, since it was our third anniversary. This included two nights' accommodations, a gift certificate to the Blowing Rock Cafe, two tickets to Grandfather Mountain, and fresh flowers in our room. All of this came out to only $199 - a steal in my book.
The room was well-decorated with antique furnishings and floral wall prints. A refrigerator, microwave, and a wealth of information about the area were provided as well. The king-sized featherbed with feather pillows was very comfortable.
The grounds are well-landscaped with many flowers and fountains. A gazebo sits in the center of the courtyard. This inn is very convenient to shops and restaurants, as it is only one block from Main Street. The front office has a directory with menus for every restaurant in town - quite handy.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 26, 2005
Blowing Rock, North Carolina 28605
The dimly lit interior was filled with several booths and individual tables. Near the front door was an autographed picture of Paul Newman (who I assumed has dined here before). Behind the register was a fully stocked wine rack.
We were seated immediately upon arrival and given menus. The waitress was very helpful and gave us exceptional service. There was a wide selection of delicious dishes on the menu (steaks, chicken, seafood, pasta, even Mexican). My wife ordered the chicken marsala, and I had the chicken parmagiana. Both were exceptional, as were the large, fresh salads that preceded them.
Unfortunately, we were unable to fit in any dessert. For the atmosphere and quality of food that we got, I thought $32 for both of us was not a bad deal (of course, we did have a gift certificate from the hotel). This restaurant is perfect for a special occasion or romantic evening out.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 27, 2005
Blowing Rock Cafe
349 Sunset Drive
Blowing Rock, North Carolina 28605
The focal point of the park is the 1899 Flat Top Manor (a.k.a. Moses Cone Manor), which today houses the Southern Highlands Craft Guild's Parkway Craft Center. The craft center offers a wide variety of items for purchase, ranging from baskets to pottery to books about the region. Artisans often perform their craft here at the site. The day we were there, they had a guy making wooden chairs and a lady weaving wool sweaters, hats, and scarves.
We were very impressed by the architecture of the house itself. The white columns and gables give it a very elegant look, much unlike anything you'd expect to have seen in the early 20th-century Appalachian highlands. The front porch has several rocking chairs and provides a breathtaking view of a pristine lake in the valley below.
We asked one of the employees about the chandelier just inside the front entrance. She said that it was actually a gasolier, powered by gas, since the house was built before electricity. I found this to be quite innovative. We were also impressed by the Tiffany stained-glass windows.
Other historic sites in the park include a family cemetery, carriage barn, and apple barn. Interpretive talks, craft demonstrations, and house tours are given on weekends during the summer.
The Craft Center is open daily from 9am to 5pm. For more information about it, visit www.southernhighlandguild.org. The park itself is open from daylight to dark. You may get more information on Moses Cone Park at www.nps.gov/conepric.htm.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 26, 2005
Moses Cone Memorial Park
U.S. Hwy. 221
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
According to Native Americans, this phenomena was the work of the Great Spirit, in answer to the prayers of a young maiden. It seems this young maiden had fallen in love with a brave from another tribe. They would often meet secretly at this rock. When war came between the two respective tribes, the brave was torn by his love for the maiden and duty to his tribe. He became so distraught that he leapt from the rock into the valley far below. The maiden then prayed to the Great Spirit for his return, until the day that he was blown back onto the rock by a large gust of wind. This strong current has continued ever since - a much more colorful and romantic theory than the scientific explanation.
This park is entered from a small gift shop, where you purchase your tickets, then proceed around a 1.5-mile paved trail. You first come to a gazebo with a nice panoramic view of the gorge. Next, you get a good look at the rock itself as the trail passes under it and around to the top of it. I wasn't sure if you could actually climb up on the rock, but we saw other people doing it and there were no signs saying not to or barriers to keep you back. I climbed to the top and got some spectacular views and a few good pictures.
Near the rock, there is a snack shop with a patio where you can enjoy lunch with a picturesque background. The large observation tower is the best place to actually experience the air current firsthand. I tossed a penny out over the edge and, just as I had been told, it blew right back up onto the overlook.
The Blowing Rock is open daily from 8am to 8pm during summer months and 9am to 5pm the rest of the year. Admission is $6/adult. For more information, visit www.theblowingrock.com.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 26, 2005
The Blowing Rock
U.S. Hwy. 321
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Attraction | "Mast General Store"
You will find many of the same items here today that would have been sold here 100 years ago. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the old store once advertised that they sold everything from "cradles to caskets".
We parked in a gravel parking lot around back and entered from the rear porch, which had several rocking chairs and antiques metal signs.
The first room we entered was filled with rare and antique items, many not for sale(just there to add to the atmosphere). The old post office still operates in this room. Near the post office, you may see individuals playing bottlecap checkers by a pot-bellied stove.
The next room is sure to catch the attention of all kids, as it has barrels upon barrels of old-fashioned candy and a collection of vintage toys. You will find everything from coonskin caps to paper dolls here. Another room has a variety of outdoor gear, such as hiking boots and tents.
The old Esso gas pump out front reminds you that you have been transported to a time long gone, but not forgotten - at least not in Valle Crucis, NC.
Just down the road, the Mast Store Annex is housed in a 1909 building that was once home to the Mast's chief competitor, the Valle Crucis General Store. It has much of the same type of merchandise.
Mast General Store and Annex
Valle Crucis, North Carolina 28691
French botanist Andre Michaux climbed it in 1794. He was so stirred by the view from the top that he exclaimed, "Long live America and the French Republic! Long live liberty!". Michaux discovered several rare plant species on the mountain that are found no other place on Earth. In fact, there are 42 endangered plant and animal species living on the mountain.
For many years now, this mountain has been a popular nature park and the "can't-miss" tourist attraction in this area. It is the only privately-owned park to be designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve.
The main attractions on the mountain are the Half-Moon Overlook, Split and Sphinx Rocks, the Animal Habitats, the Nature Museum, and the Mile-High Swinging Bridge.
The Half-Moon Overlook gives a great view of the Grandfather itself. It also provides nice scenery of the rhododendrons and flame azaleas, which were in full bloom in mid-June.
The Split Rock was formed as a result of being located directly over a fault line. A narrow crevice through its middle can be traversed by a thin person(this excluded me). The Sphinx Rock, as a result of erosion, resembles the Great Egyptian Sphinx. The rock, however, is older than its namesake.
The animal habitat area is home to seven species native to Grandfather Mountain: black bears, panthers (aka cougars), white-tailed deer, otters, and bald and golden eagles.
The Nature Museum has some very nice exhibits about various natural aspects of the mountain. A weather station on top of this building is used by the National Weather Service. A small restaurant and gift shop also operate here. Just inside the front entrance are statues of Mildred the Bear and her cubs. For 34 years, Mildred was the mascot of Grandfather Mountain and one of its main attractions. She is thought to have lived longer than any other bear in captivity.
Unfortunately, due to extremely high winds, the road to the top of the mountain and the Mile High Swinging Bridge was closed that day. The bridge, constructed in 1952, is the highest suspension bridge in America. At one mile above sea level and 80 feet above the gorge below, it provides an unparalleled view(probably similar to what Michaux saw). Since we were unable to ascend to the top, we settled for a picnic in a nice wooded area (where our lunch would be less likely to blow away).
I highly recommend Grandfather Mountain to young and old alike. There is something here for everyone - even those afraid of heights will enjoy the animal habitats and the nature museum. Allow yourself at least 3 hours to visit this park. Admission is $12/person (they do give AAA discounts). It is $6 for children ages 4-12. The second weekend of July is the annual Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans. This is held in MacRae Meadows at the foot of the mountain. For more information, please visit www.grandfather.com.
Blacksburg, South Carolina