Down the Blue Ridge: Blowing Rock to Asheville

Part Two of ‘Down the Blue Ridge’

Labor Day 2021:

Located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone NC, Blowing Rock is a charming mountain village with sweeping views, great eateries, eclectic shops and outdoor fun.

Blowing Rock is one of my favorite spots to visit in NC. It’s quaint downtown is steeped in history and invites travelers to relax, slow down and take in the view. Downtown Blowing Rock includes everything from outdoor recreation apparel to jewelry, home decor and fun souvenirs.

The food is amazing and family friendly spots like the BRAUN art museum and town park (including an outdoor pool) are perfect for exploration.

“Our primary goal today is driving down the parkway towards Asheville,” my mom and I discussed as we drove the winding fifteen minute drive from Boone to Blowing Rock. “But I definitely want to spend a little time in Blowing Rock.”

Blowing Rock is one of our favorite haunts. I feel like it is my second home in the mountains.

Favorite spots in Blowing Rock include:

The old ‘Exxon’ – ‘The Blowing Rock Market’ is my go to for excellent picnic deli sandwiches. The market sells a variety of sundries – including delicious local jams and jellies, homemade salsas and the best cheese in the world ‘Ashe County Cheese.’

They also have a good selection of wine and craft beers

Six Pence My mom and I love this pub that has a British theme. They have yummy pub fries and comfort food menu (burgers, fish and chips, salmon…)

Speckled Trout – Good wine selection

Woodlands BBQ & Mexican – my two favorite food in one place

Our favorite place to get coffee is Camp Coffee right beside Footsloggers Outdoor.

I am a coffee lover and I love to discover new java finds on my adventures. Camp Coffee provides a variety of home roasts, and delicious drinks. My favorite camp coffee drink is their ‘Campfire Mocha’ – it tastes like smores in coffee. Rich roast, chocolate, marshmallow syrup and whipped cream. It isn’t to sweet – just perfect decadence.

My mom opted for the Chai Tea and I ordered the Campfire Mocha before we hit the road.

We headed south on the parkway enjoying the ambling views and roadside stops including:

Moses H Cone Memorial Park – The Cone estate is a beautiful estate now owned by the NPS. The Cone family were pioneers in the textile industry. They used their fortune to help invest in rural North Carolina.

  • As an artist I appreciate the Cone family’s support of artists like Matisse. Their Cone Collection in Baltimore Maryland Museum of Art is exquisite. To learn more about Cone Manor click here.

We passed the relaxing Julian Price Memorial Park – a recreational retreat. This haven includes 47 acres, with the focal point of Price Lake. Visitors can enjoy a picnic, walk and also kayak on the still waters

The Linn Cove Viaduct is arguably one of the most photographed spots on the parkway. It has been featured in magazines, print and television. This seven mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway an engineering and ecological feat. The project was delayed for twenty years as environmentalists, adjacent landowners, engineers and architects put their skills together on how to preserve the scenic and fragile environment on the slopes of Grandfather Mountain.

You can stop at the visitor center to learn more about the parkway and how the Viaduct is an example of conservation and engineering. The views are stunning.

From NPS

One of my favorite places to visit of the parkway is Grandfather Mountain. Located just south of the viaduct, this symbol of North Carolina is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the east coast. It is a living biosphere and akin to the unique habitats of The Great Smokies National Park. I’ll dedicate a future blog to Grandfather Mountain -but I definitely recommend a visit – you won’t regret it.

My mom and I continued our drive south on the parkway for roughly an hour – enjoying the glorious views of the endless Blue Ridge. One of my favorite aspects of The Blue Ridge Mountains is the way shadow and light plays against the sweeping landscape. From the deepest blue hues in the background, to deep lush forests in the foreground – contrasted by dark shadows against areas of light – the scene is every changing. The mountains are like a song – an symphony of movements – each with a different note, yet all telling a story of the mountains.

We stopped briefly at another favorite haunt the village and resort of Little Switzerland

Little Switzerland is one of the only hotel lodging accommodations directly off the parkway. This historic lodge provides great views of the mountains, a delicious restaurant and bar.

The lodge is rustic and truly feels like an old world ski-lodge. They have several shops on site. The village also includes a bookstore, BBQ restaurant and gem mine.

View from Little Switzerland

I definitely recommend taking a detour at this mountain escape – even to grab a coffee and take in the view.

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My mom suggested that we stop at the parkway museum, Museum of North Carolina Minerals at the Spruce Pine exit.

This interactive museum introduces visitors to North Carolina’s rich history of mining.

“The mountains near Spruce Pine, North Carolina are among the richest in minerals and gems in the United States. More than 300 varieties are showcased in the Museum of North Carolina Minerals.”

The site of the museum is also has significant Revolutionary War history. “The Museum is located at Gillespie Gap, an important stop for Revolutionary War fighters on their way to the Battle of Kings Mountain. Each September the Museum hosts an encampment of re-enactors who assume the role of the Overmountain Men, primarily Scots-Irish settlers from Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina who came “over the mountains” and ultimately defeated the left wing of Cornwallis’ army at Kings Mountain, South Carolina. Many historians mark this victory as the turning point in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War.”

Driving on the parkway you need to be ready to relax and take in the view. Don’t drive fast. Each mile is a stunning opportunity for to enjoy God’s natural scenery and reflect. Enjoy the drive – taking time to stop at scenic pullouts.

Driving from Blowing Rock to Asheville on the Parkway takes several hours – but it worth every minute. We didn’t have time to tour every stop – like Craggy Gardens, but we took our time.

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Mount Mitchell State Park is a must stop for parkway travelers. Located just off the parkway, thirty five miles north of Asheville, Mt. Mitchell is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi standing at 6600 feet.

The drive to the summit is inspiring (but winding). At the summit there is a great gift shop, museum and restaurant.

My mom and I drove to the summit – but couldn’t find a parking space this trip. The drive to the top of one of America’s tallest peaks was exciting and I never tire of the view.

We ended up in Asheville just before four p.m. and merged on I-40 east towards Raleigh.

The mountains are always hard to leave – until the next adventure.

Stay tuned to my blog for more ‘Blue Ridge Adventures’ – it is one of my favorite haunts.

Also stay tuned for my upcoming National Parks series.

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