Art Stops Along The Blue Ridge Parkway
North Carolina’s section of the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is dotted with museums, galleries, friendly artists and so many arts and cultural events that you’ll want to plan several visits! You might already know of some of these spots, but here are a few more ideas to help you enjoy the parkway.
Retrace the documented history of the Cherokees by visiting the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, open year-round. The museum provides an educational and interactive experience dating back to the beginnings of human existence in the storied mountains of western North Carolina. Hear the stories of the Cherokee Indians by attending the outdoor drama “Unto These Hills” open from June to August. Soak in the culture and history of Native Americans during the Cherokee Voices Festival in June featuring dancing and storytelling by the elders. Visit the Qualla Arts & Craft Cooperative, which sells handmade Cherokee crafts including baskets, pottery and jewelry. Open year round. (800) 438-1601
Listen to the sound coming out of the Brevard Music Center. Founded in 1936, the center has matured into one of this country's finest summer institutes and festivals. Brevard Music Center presents over 80 concerts throughout its 7-week festival, showcasing three orchestras and their impressive repertoire taken from great orchestral masterworks. In addition to their talented students and faculty, world class visiting artists have appeared here, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinists Joshua Bell and Midori, pianists André Watts and Emanuel Ax, soprano Renée Fleming and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade. (888) 384-8682
Put on your walking shoes and explore Asheville, voted one of the nation’s Top 25 Arts Destinations by AmericanStyle magazine in April 2009. Don’t miss the Asheville Art Museum, colorful boutiques, numerous art galleries, sidewalk cafés and performing arts venues in downtown Asheville. Entertainment ranges from the Montford Park Players performing free Shakespeare in the park to the traditional mountain music of Shindig on the Green. Stroll through the funky River Arts District and watch artists working in their studios, express yourself at Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts, sample farm-fresh flavors at 12 Bones Smokehouse (where President Obama ate during his visit to Asheville) and sip local craft beer at Wedge Brewery. In spring, Asheville welcomes poetry festival Wordfest and Craft Fair of Southern Highlands in July. (828) 258-6101
(Flat Rock is about 30 minutes from the Parkway)
Catch a drama at the Flat Rock Playhouse, located in the heart of the historic village of Flat Rock and across the street from the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Park. The Playhouse is recognized nationally for its professional performing company and theatre training programs. During the Playhouse season, April through December, enjoy top-quality entertainment that includes Broadway musicals, comedies, dramas and theatre for young audiences. (866) 732-8008
The home of the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning poet Carl Sandburg is located on 264 beautiful acres. In addition to tours of the Sandburg Home, visitors can enjoy five miles of trails, stroll through gardens and greet the descendents of his wife’s dairy goat herd. A typical visit lasts two hours. The park and the home are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, all year except Christmas. (828) 693-4178; (Find out more about our literary tradition in western N.C. by visiting: www.ncliterarytrails.org/.)
Calling all apple lovers to one of the High Country’s finest gems—a 101-year-old apple orchard turned cultural center. The Orchard at Altapass is more than a fruit farm selling about 40 varieties including Doc Watson’s favorite vintage dessert apple, Virginia Beauty. The orchard serves up traditional music five days a week, storytelling, collection of oral histories, fudge making and more. The Orchard is open May 1 through November. (888) 765-9531
(Penland is about 20 minutes from the Parkway)
Prepare to be amazed by all the fine work at The Penland Gallery featuring work by artists affiliated with Penland School of Crafts, a stop worth adding to your trip through western North Carolina. Splurge on yourself, choose a gift for someone special, or add to your craft collection. You can also visit the dozens of working studios in the area and the school’s resident artist studios. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can join a tour of the campus (reservations required). The gallery presents functional and sculptural work in books, clay, drawing, glass, iron, metals, painting, papermaking, photography, printmaking, textiles, and wood. In addition to the sales area, the gallery has an ongoing series of invitational shows. The gallery is open from early March through mid-December. (828)765-2359
(Burnsville is about 30 minutes from the Parkway)
Off the Blue Ridge Parkway between Asheville and Boone, visit the Toe River Valley Region of Yancey and Mitchell County. The small mountains towns of Burnsville, Little Switzerland, Spruce Pine and Bakersville, are home to over 600 artisans that are registered with the Toe River Arts Council. As you drive these lovely mountain roads, the artists’ studios are open, watch them work and purchase their wares. Several festivals each year showcase the arts and crafts of this region. This area also has a quilt block trail on barns, and a pioneering recycling project, the Energy Xchange, the studio space and home of six artists. The Xchange utilizes methane gas from the old landfill for artists’ studios. (828) 675-5541
Every September, Burnsville also host the down home Carolina Mountains Literary Festival.
Browse through the Weaving Room at the Crossnore School, where they preserve the ancient craft of weaving and provide an income for many mountain families. The Crossnore School campus houses a fine arts gallery, the Weaving Room, which sells handwoven items and crafts. Also located on the campus is the Blair Fraley Thrift Store, which sells treasures and practical items. Then relax and sip a cup of tea at the quaint tea room also on campus. Don’t forget to stop by the chapel to see a Benjamin Long, IV fresco depicting children from the school originally started by one of the first women doctors in the state to help impoverished mountain children. (828) 733-4305
Blowing Rock And Lenoir
Stop by the Traditions Pottery, owned by sixth generation potter Janet Calhoun and Bolick Pottery owned by her parents Lula and Glenn Bolick. The gallery features handmade pottery in traditional shapes such as face jugs, mugs, candlesticks, teapots and the Rebekah pitchers, known for its narrow neck, tall mouth and long handle. In the Bible, Rebekah could throw this pitcher over her shoulder. Two kiln openings are hosted each year in June and November. Don’t miss the Mountain Music jam sessions open to anyone with an instrument that runs the second Sunday of July through the last Sunday in September. Sundays only from 2 to 5 p.m. The gallery is in Blowing Rock but the pottery is made three and half miles south in Lenoir, also the location for jam sessions and kiln openings. (828) 295-5099
(Boone is about 10 minutes from the Parkway.)
Spend at least a summer afternoon in the vibrant city of Boone. The influence of Appalachian State University combined with the Appalachian Heritage that has been exceptionally preserved through outdoor dramas like "Horn in the West" makes Boone a cultural destination. Boone is filled with galleries, museums and concert venues. It’s a cool place to be in the hot months because the Appalachian State University’s Appalachian Summer Festival kicks into full swing. The festival is held June and July and brings famous artists in music, dance, and theater to the High Country Mountains.
(West Jefferson is about 20 minutes from the Parkway.)
Spend a day in this thriving arts community, where the streets are dotted with art galleries, specialty shops, stores with local charm, restaurants, fifteen downtown murals and the Ashe County Cheese Factory. The arts community is highlighted by second Friday night gallery crawls June through October sponsored by the Ashe County Arts Council as well as the Sidewalk Art Fest in the fall. The Christmas in July street festival is held in West Jefferson every year featuring local musicians, dance performers, vendors in a street fair atmosphere with a juried show of fine art and craft. The Backstreet Farmers Market is active in the spring and summer with locally grown produce and crafts and in the late fall and winter with holiday greenery and the holiday marketplace. Visitors will find a variety of artful pursuits in downtown West Jefferson throughout the year. (336) 846-ARTS
(Mount Airy is about 40 minutes from the Parkway.)
Stroll down the friendly city of Mount Airy, the hometown of actor Andy Griffith and his fictional Mayberry, made popular by his television series, “The Andy Griffith Show.” It’s the perfect place to spend a summer night especially during the first weekend in June. Every year during that time, the city hosts a fiddlers convention. This year marks the 38th Annual Blue Grass & Old Time Fiddlers Convention held the Veterans Memorial Park.
For detailed information about Literary Trails, Blue Ridge Music Trails or Cherokee Heritage Trails, be sure to visit www.ncarts.org.
Courtesy of the North Carolina Arts Council
Courtesy of the North Carolina Arts Council
added: June 10, 2009
updated: May 25, 2011