The music traditions that led to bluegrass have rung out in the North Carolina mountains for hundreds of years. Today, music lovers have more reason than ever to experience this living legacy in cities, towns and tiny communities across our mountains.
1 Merry Go-Round
1 Merry Go-RoundMount AirySee on map
WPAQ AM’s Merry Go-Round has run longer than any other live radio show except the Grand Ole Opry. Visit this music-rich town for the pre-show jam and stay for the taping every Saturday morning.
2 AshevilleSee on map
At sundown on Saturdays during the summer, bluegrass pickers, string bands, dancers and other performers assemble in Pack Square Park downtown for Shindig on the Green. Also in Asheville, Jack of the Wood holds jams, the Asheville Event and Dance Centre stages the Blue Ridge Opry dinner show, and The Grey Eagle and other venues include bluegrass in the mix. Down the road in Fletcher, Feed & Seed offers lively performances every weekend.
3 Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center
3 Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts CenterRobinsvilleSee on map
In another era, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe and the Carter Family performed at Stecoah Union School. In its new life as the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center, the stone building presents the latest generation of greats in summer’s Appalachian Evening series. Dine in the Schoolhouse Cafe before the show.
4 Orchard at Altapass
4 Orchard at AltapassSpruce PineSee on map
The Orchard at Altapass tends to heirloom apples while nurturing mountain culture. Live bands perform bluegrass, ballads, country and other styles Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Hayrides, storytelling and nature walks are also part of the Altapass experience.
5 Sims Country Bar-B-Que
5 Sims Country Bar-B-QueGranite FallsSee on map
Enjoy two traditions in one at Sims Country Bar-B-Que, which sets out an all-you-can-eat buffet of pit-cooked pork, beef and chicken every Friday and Saturday night. Old-time and bluegrass are the musical specialty of the house, and there’s room on the dance floor for flatfooting or 2-stepping.
6 Alleghany Jubilee
6 Alleghany JubileeSpartaSee on map
The old-fashioned community dance lives on at the Alleghany Jubilee, presented every Monday, Tuesday and Saturday in a 1930s theater. Ernest Joines, who co-owns the Jubilee with wife Agnes, performs with some of the bands that make music for dancing.
7 Zuma Coffee & Provisions
7 Zuma Coffee & ProvisionsMarshallSee on map
Zuma Coffee’s Thursday night bluegrass jam has become the stuff of legend in this picturesque town on the French Broad River. Fiddler Bobby Hicks, a 10-time Grammy nominee, is the event’s host when his schedule permits. As accompaniments to the music, Zuma serves creative comfort food, organic fair trade coffee and homemade desserts.
8 MerlefestApril 27-30, 2023; WilkesboroSee on map
One of the premier music festivals in the country, MerleFest has been celebrating a unique combination of roots-oriented tunes of Appalachia, bluegrass, folk, Americana and classic rock since 1988. Jam to as many bands as you can across the four-day event, where 10+ stages gear you up for nonstop music. Pro tip: Parking is free, and shuttles are provided to transport you to and from the lots to the festival gates.