Blowing Rock: My Second Home

25 02 2011

 

 

 

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Nestled off the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside the college town of Boone sits its quiet, unassuming neighbor, Blowing Rock.  This town holds a very special place in my heart – my family spent virtually every Thanksgiving of my youth in Blowing Rock, always settling into a rented mountain cabin to escape from our hectic lives and enjoy the extraordinary natural surroundings.  Each visit, my parents would peruse the real estate listings in the hopes of finding their dream vacation home.  Just as I left for college, they began construction on our beautiful new cabin, custom designed by my father, a residential architect in Chapel Hill.

Since then, I have found time to drive to Blowing Rock several times a year, often bringing friends along.  My sophomore summer, a group of nine of us took over the cabin for a few days, retreating into the mountains to escape the sweltering Durham heat.  The group hailed from hometowns as widespread as Seattle, New York, Miami, and Houston, so having the opportunity to introduce them to this remarkable little town was so rewarding – and everyone is dying to go back.

The name Blowing Rock comes from its legendary tourist attraction – the Blowing Rock.  Just outside town, a strong wind blows along the gorge, traveling up the slope and creating a vertical wind that can float small objects.  According to legend, a distraught Cherokee brave jumped off the rock, only to be carried back up by the wind and returned to his lover.  While the Blowing Rock itself doesn’t necessarily merit a visit, the story certainly adds some interesting color.

The inflated real estate market of Blowing Rock hinges on two criteria that buyers most desire: panoramic gorge views and the shortest possible distance to the quaint town center.  Similarly, on any weekend visit, you should try to balance the incredible outdoors with time spent on Main Street.  The charming town features a public park, small shops and boutiques, and a number of restaurants.  My personal favorite food is the famous chili at Knight’s on Main Restaurant, followed by delectable fudge or ice cream at Kilwin’s.  For window shopping, I’m partial to Celeste’s, a quirky boutique chosen as one of Southern Living’s favorites, or Sunset Tees & Hattery, which features the largest and most diverse hat collection imaginable (you could spend an entire afternoon just trying them on).  Venturing out of downtown, an unbeatable spot for dinner and live music is Canyons – since its construction in 1936, the building has housed a speakeasy, brothel, dancehall, grocery, casino, tavern, and currently, a restaurant and bar.  Canyons boasts one of the most extraordinary views in the entire Blue Ridge Mountains, so make sure to get there before the sun goes down.

To get your fill of the outdoors, I’d recommend hiking along one of the nearby waterfall trails.  Most of the waterfalls lie not too far from the road, so you can make your hike as strenuous or relaxing as you choose.  Once the weather gets a bit warmer, pack some snacks or a picnic and spend the afternoon sprawled out on one of the huge rocks amidst the cascades.  If it’s still a bit too cold for hiking the waterfalls, enjoy some easy-going skiing (keep in mind, this is North Carolina) at Appalachian Ski Mountain, which is open until late March and located immediately outside the town.

Even after  over 20 years of visits, this town never gets old.

 

The wrap-up:

  • Distance from Duke: 2.5 hours
  • Recommended trip duration: weekend
  • Recommended season: Spring/summer
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25 02 2011
The Blue Ridge Parkway – “America’s Favorite Drive” « tobacco roads less traveled

[…] within the North Carolina portion (likely to be addressed in future posts) include Asheville, Blowing Rock/Boone, and Grandfather Mountain.  Particularly if making the drive during warmer months, make […]

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