Goldilocks Discovers Blowing Rock, NC
A town that's 'just right'
You never know what you’ll encounter when visiting a new destination. Will the food, entertainment and lodging match your preferences and meet your needs? Will people be friendly? Will a town be too big or too little? Or will it be just right?
Before my visit to Blowing Rock, I was unsure what to expect. I knew it was an easy five-hour drive from Richmond and close to the Blue Ridge Parkway in the North Carolina mountains. I knew that I would experience Savor, a weekend of food and drink events. So yes, I’d peeked in the windows, like Goldilocks before she entered the Bears’ home. Unlike Goldilocks, I wasn’t trespassing.
Blowing Rock’s town center has the charm of a cottage in the woods. The brick storefronts give off an easygoing, friendly Mayberry aura, so you might expect Sheriff Andy and Opie to be strolling around town. With four blocks along Main Street boasting retail, an art and history museum, restaurants, a park and town offices, the village is not too big, not too small – it’s just right.
SAMPLING THE PORRIDGE
At Savor, Blowing Rock’s annual springtime food event, Goldilocks would have easily found food to suit her preferences. Spanning four days, Savor features demonstrations, seminars, regional dining, tastings and more, accompanied by live music and visual arts.
My Savor itinerary included Taste, a showcase of food from area restaurants; Gospel, Grits and Gravy, with Southern fare and gospel music; Liquor in the Lot, sampling North Carolina spirits; and Vintner’s Village, a wine tasting along Main Street.
My “just right” was Savor’s Wine and Spice Seminar, pleasing both my palate and my thirst for knowledge. Johnson & Wales culinary school instructor Catherine Rabb presented a range of wines, from a Moscato to a Cabernet Sauvignon. She identified each wine’s sweetness, acidity and alcohol level then paired each one – not with foods but with the elements of food: lemon slices, Sriracha, blue cheese, peppercorns, cinnamon, smoked spice blends and more. “Classical pairing isn’t working for today’s food and wine,” she told us. “We need to pair with components of foods rather than the specific foods, with the structural elements.” (SavorBlowingRock.com)
Restaurant options in Blowing Rock vary as widely as Papa Bear’s and Baby Bear’s porridges. For craft beer and elevated pub grub with a Southern farm-to-table twist, find a seat at Blowing Rock Ale House (BlowingRockBrewing.com). For Southern-inflected American bistro fare, plant yourself in Bistro Roca and enjoy seasonal, local ingredients and a rustic setting (BistroRoca.com). For the best of the Appalachian food culture, head to The Speckled Trout, where Grandma’s best recipes meet modern chef sensibilities. Think pickled watermelon salad, deviled eggs with a touch of house-smoked trout, chicken ’n’ dumplings, and hoecakes with molasses butter, all paired with creative cocktails, wine, well-curated beers and nonalcoholic options like kombucha, craft ginger beer and cold brew coffee. (TheSpeckledTrout.com)
SETTLING IN TO THE LIVING ROOM
Big chairs, little chairs, hard chairs, soft chairs – Papa, Mama, Baby and Goldilocks can all settle in and enjoy Blowing Rock’s entertainment options.
Whether you’re soaking in the beauty or pumping the adrenaline, the Blue Ridge Mountains provide natural recreational opportunities.
Blowing Rock borders the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, a National Park Service property. Historic, stately Flat Top Manor, a 1901 Colonial Revival mansion, marks the park’s raison d’être and provides a muse-inspiring scenic view. Nearly 25 miles of carriage trails wind through the 3,500-acre estate, providing an ideal surface for hiking, running, cross-country skiing or horseback riding (no biking). Expect plenty of plants, birds and elevation change as well as spectacular scenery.
The town also borders 500,000-acre Pisgah National Forest and its hundreds of miles of trails and fire roads – great for gravel bicycles. While in town, stop by Rhoddie Bicycle Outfitters for guidance on riding routes, rental bicycles, gear and repairs. (RhoddieBicycleOutfitters.com)
Immerse yourself in other nearby outdoor opportunities at Grandfather Mountain State Park, The Blowing Rock overlook, Tweetsie Railroad, ziplines, roadside and trail-accessed waterfalls and nearby golf courses.
Shopping in Blowing Rock also reflects the Goldilocks principle: enough retail to the satisfy the itch but not enough to blow the budget. Shops sell home accessories (including country cabin themes), gifts, art, clothing, outdoor gear, antiques and more. Take a three-minute drive to Tanger outlets for some real deals and steals.
Music of many genres, live theater, art exhibits and special events keep entertainment fresh in Blowing Rock and in nearby Boone, home to Appalachian State University.
FINDING A PLACE TO LAY YOUR HEAD
If Goldilocks had wandered to Blowing Rock, she could’ve chosen from bed and breakfast lodging, cabins, resorts, campgrounds and inns.
My suite at Meadowbrook Inn, sister property of Richmond’s Linden Row Inn, would’ve surely pleased Goldilocks: roomy, comfortable, quiet and only one block from Main Street. The inn complements its mountain village location by practicing environmental sustainability, including a geothermal HVAC system, National Wildlife Federation-certified wildlife habitat and pond, a rooftop apiary that produces honey for hotel use and purchase, and an educational native plant garden. Meadowbrook Inn also raises the bar with a better-than-average complimentary breakfast. (Meadowbrook-Inn.com)
Of course, Papa Bear believes his salty porridge, hard chair and extra-firm mattress are just right; and Mama Bear enjoys her sweet porridge, cushy chair and soft mattress. But the “in-between” has a lot going for it, too!