Blowing Rock: Mountain Paradise
By R. Gregg, Raleigh Chronicle Editor In Chief
Monday, June 4, 2006
BLOWING ROCK, NC - As it gets hotter and hotter here in the "flatlands", many North Carolinians do what they have done for decades and head to one of the oldest tourist destinations in North Carolina, the historic town of Blowing Rock.
The beautiful town is nestled in the mountains and is just close enough to Raleigh to make a trek to the village a great day trip. Blowing Rock is around three and a half hours from Raleigh down Interstate 40 and then north on Highway 321.
However, the town is also far enough into the mountains where visitors are welcomed with amazing views, cooler breezes, and plenty of things to do.
Views From Blowing Rock
Just outside of town is the actual "blowing" rock that the town is named after and many travelling through the area have stopped here for the breathtaking views since 1933.
After paying a $6 fee, visitors to the privately owned natural area can walk around the many trails on the site or look out across the mountains from some of the rocky escarpments.
Guests can step out onto the rocks as far as one dares or you can also look across the valley 3,000 feet below by taking in the view from off one of the man-made observation decks. Either way, it is an amazing sight and one that visitors to the Blowing Rock area should not pass up.
The name Blowing Rock comes from the howling wind that often blows up the side of the mountain. Legend has it that after leaping from the cliff, an Indian brave was blown back up into the arms of his lover by the strong winds. Visitors have also seen snow blowing upwards in the winter. During our visit, we could feel the gusts coming up from the valley below.
Historic Places To Stay
Those visiting town will notice that many of the beautiful stone buildings and homes date back to the 1920's and 1930's. Blowing Rock has been a popular tourist destination for those trying to escape the summer heat for generations. Many celebrities from years past visited the town to enjoy its amenities and even now in the 21st century, its charm is still as elegant as ever.
Stately hotels such as the Green Park Inn (not to be confused with the Grove Park Inn in Asheville) have been host to guests since the 19th century.
The Victorian style hotel (at right with white paint and green shutters) is among the oldest, having been built in 1882. The beautiful interior hearkens back to an earlier time (also, at right) with antique furnishings and period furniture. The resort is known for its golf course but also is host to many weddings and conventions.
In addition to the Greek Park Inn, there are plenty of bed and breakfast inns and other great lodgings such as the Inn at Ragged Gardens (at right with ivy) that are further into town. All of them are within walking distance of the downtown district where there are plenty of shops, galleries, stores, restaurants, and more.
The entire town seems to hold an elegance not found elsewhere, right down to the smallest of nuances. For those on a budget, even the small motels offer charming details such as stonework and relaxing fountains.
Town of Natural Beauty
The town of Blowing Rock is probably one of the most beautiful towns in the state. With its natural splendor and many trees, it's not hard to see why visitors love to stop by year round.
In the spring and summer, flowers can be seen everywhere and even on sidewalks, flowers hang from baskets on the street lights. Almost every yard has beautifully landscaped flowers and trees surrounded by seemingly manicured lawns.
The park areas welcome visitors to the town and are great places for a picnic or to enjoy quiet moments of solitude. The Broyhill Park in the center of town features a lake, waterfalls, a garden area, and more to enjoy.
In addition to the flora and fauna, the town's beauty is enhanced by the fact that many of the houses and other buildings were constructed of stone. The locally mined stone seems to be everywhere and it unifies the town's architectural tones, at least among the older structures. Even one of the gas stations was constructed using rock and stonework. The stone construction gives the town a very unique appeal and those buildings, with their natural look, blend very well with the many trees and other natural areas throughout town.
Art, Music, and Food
The town is well-known for its art and music festivals, which are frequently held in the park areas downtown. In addition, there are several art galleries and other stores that feature local artists and hand-made crafts from around the area. Even well-known North Carolina artist Bob Timberlake has a store just off of the main shopping area in town complete with furniture.
Walking along the sidewalk, one is immersed in the arts and music scene with outdoor displays of art, street music (at right), and plenty of events happening throughout the town. There always seems to be an event or two happening on weekends that visitors can enjoy.
To really appreciate the town, all you have to do is park your car and literally just walk down the street. To your left and right on both sides of the street are plenty of shops that appeal to almost everyone.
If shopping is not your thing, then there is plenty to choose from in terms of food. From old fashioned hard candy to fine dining to homestyle food in a traditional diner, there are plenty of choices throughout town. The Civitans were even selling barbecue when we were there.
No matter what you eat for lunch or dinner, if you visit in the summertime, no visit would be complete without trying some of the homemade ice cream at Kilwin's. There is sometimes a line out the door, but it's definitely worth the wait.
Also, in addition to enjoying the food, music, and art, be sure to visit Blowing Rock's public library, which has some interesting information on the town's unique history. It's interesting to learn about the town's past and some of its beautiful buildings.
Things To Know
If you're going to try and stay in town during your visit, you should definitely make a reservation in advance since the hotels can fill up fairly quickly, especially when there is an art show or other event in town.
Also, parking in such a small town is a problem, so you might want to park in one spot if you can and just walk around. Some places offer parking for $5 and really, you can visit almost everything in the area without having to use your car for the entire day. Parking is not as much an issue in the wintertime as it is in the summertime.
To get to Blowing Rock, just head up Interstate 40 to Hickory and then take Highway 321 north. During the stretch of 321 that runs between Lenoir and Blowing Rock, the road is very twisty as it winds around the mountain, so make sure your car is ready to make the haul up the hill since there aren't many places to pull over.
For more information on Blowing Rock, visit the town's chamber of commerce website. To learn more about the Blowing Rock natural area, check out their website online as well. :::
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Chronicle in July 2006.