Blowing Rock, NC is a cozy mountain town in Western North Carolina just off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s full of fun shops and good eats, and surrounded by scenic drives, great hiking trails and spectacular views. The town was named after “North Carolina’s Oldest Travel Attraction” – The Blowing Rock.
Here’s a list of some of our other favorite places to eat and things to do when you visit Blowing Rock.
- The Inn at Ragged Gardens – An early 1900s mansion converted into a hotel. Walking distance to town, fresh baked cookies in the lobby, a delicious breakfast (the only place I’ve ever looked forward to eating grits), their own restaurant “The Best Cellar” and more.
- Meadowbrook Inn – A block down from Main Street they have an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, landscaped grounds and a complimentary hot breakfast that includes freshly baked apple pancakes.
- The Village Inn – Rustic decor, a duck pond and walking distance to Main Street. We’ve stayed here multiple times.
- Alpine Village Inn – Enjoy the comfort of (Grandma’s) home in quaint, cozy bedrooms, individually decorated with crafts, antiques and heirloom collectibles. Walking distance to Main Street.
- Blowing Rock Inn – This is a really cute Motor Lodge just a few steps from town. They’ve managed to modernize the amenities but keep the charm – we even have a screen door.
Hiking & Attractions
- The Blowing Rock – a rock formation with sweeping views of peaks, forests and the Johns River Gorge. (Admission $9/person). The rocky walls of the 3,000’ deep gorge create a funnel for the wind that causes in leaves, rain and snow to be blown back up the cliffside. We got to witness this phenomenon ourselves the first time we visited.
- Grandfather Mountain – ($24/adult, $10/child). Expensive but worth it. Tickets are now only available through online reservations and you must reserve your entry time.
- The Mile High Swinging Bridge, America’s highest suspension footbridge, is probably the best known feature of the park. It offers 360-degree views from Grandfather Mountain’s Linville Peak, elevation 5,305 feet. The Top Shop by the Bridge offers with snacks, restrooms, gifts as well as the latest park information and trail maps. An elevator inside the shop makes the Mile High Swinging Bridge wheelchair accessible.
- The Wilson Center for Nature Discovery is about halfway up the mountain. Over a dozen state of the art interactive exhibits to explain the natural history, flora, fauna, geology and weather of the mountain. Get lunch there at Mildred’s Grill and souvenirs, outdoor gear and art in the gift shop.
- Next to the Wilson Center are the Wildlife Habitats where you can see cougars (which no longer live in the wild on Grandfather Mountain), black bears, rescued bald eagles, river otters and elk. They also have an aquarium-like viewing area where you can watch the otters play and swim.
- There are a number of hikes on Grandfather Mountain rated from easy to difficult. Our favorite is a technical and strenuous hike called Grandfather Trail (4.8 miles total out and back, 1,800 elevation). It takes you across the crest of the park’s three peaks; MacRae, Attic Window and Calloway. Considered one of the most technical hikes in the East, it was designed for experienced hikers capable of using cables and climbing ladders. It’s a fun challenge that definitely rubs up against my fear of heights (and my fear of falling off the edge of a cliff). Last time we went we did a loop, going to MacRae Peak for the huge views and came back on the Underwood Trail. We’d have liked to continue but there was a large teenage scout group ahead of us on the trail and we wanted to be able to keep moving. This loop is about 2 miles round trip and includes some of the best sections. Grandfather Trailhead is opposite the Top Shop in the same parking lot. It can get very busy so you may wish to get there early.
- Rough Ridge Trail – Blue Ridge Parkway, milepost 302.8. (free) A 1/3 of a mile up there’s a boardwalk that protects delicate vegetation and there’s a cable (if you need it) near the summit (4,773 ft. elevation) to help you up to the incredible views. 1.6 total mile out and back, 480’ elevation.
- Green Knob Trail – (free) This trail is a little different than many others in the area. The trail changes dramatically along the way, taking you through dense rhododendron tunnels, open pastures, creek crossings, small waterfalls and offers impressive long range views of Grandfather Mountain. 2.3 mile loop, 538’ elevation.
- Glen Burney Falls – (free) Park in the town parking area by Annie Cannon Park and head out for a great hike. There are 3 pretty waterfalls with a narrow but beautiful view out the of the mountains and some great spots to sit and enjoy it. This hike can get quite steep in areas. 2.3 mile out (down) and back (up), 666’ elevation.
- Bass Lake Trail – (free). This is a perfect place to enjoy a peaceful after dinner walk. 0.9 mile loop, 19’ elevation.
- The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park – (free) is a 3,500 acre country estate with 25 miles of trails for hiking, horse carriages and horse riding. The mansion, built in 1901, is home to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, which features handmade crafts by regional artists and a small Blue Ridge gift shop. In the front of the house is an impressive view of lake and land below. We like to walk under the bridge to the other side of the road and see the cows.
- Six Pence Pub – A cozy pub on Main Street with a patio. They serve traditional American and British comfort foods for lunch, dinner, and late night and serve craft and seasonal beer on tap. Their English-style fish and chips is my go to and Chris said the Shepherds Pie is delicious.
- Storie Street Grille – This family run bistro keeps things fresh and local by sourcing as much as they can from friends, neighborhood farms, local purveyors, NC brewers, wineries & distillers. Chris says their pork chops are the best he’s ever eaten.
- Mellow Mushroom – I’ve found that Mellow Mushroom can be hit or miss depending on the location but the one in Blowing Rock has always been well prepared and delicious. Expect a line during popular times.
- Kilwins – The Kilwins in Blowing Rock has a magic all its own. The smell of delicious, fresh baked waffle cones, caramel and fudge drifts out their doors, wafts down Main Street and compels you to come into the store for a treat.
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