Buildings, Beauty and Barbecue in Shelby

Day Trip

Buildings, Beauty and Barbecue in Shelby

The Earl Scruggs Center celebrates the legendary bluegrass musician and North Carolina native

The city of Shelby, about halfway between Charlotte and Asheville, has a thriving artist community, great history and architecture, a winery, and some of the best lip-smacking, real pit barbecue in western North Carolina, all within a few miles of uptown.

Historic District Walking Tour

Start your visit in uptown Shelby at the Cleveland County Chamber of Commerce office building and pick up brochures for the Historic District Walking Tour and Art District Guide to help guide you through the area. Shelby was a film location for The Hunger Games and the Chamber offers guided private tours of the filming location. Call in advance or schedule a tour while you’re at the office.

The first building you’ll pass on your walking tour is the former Cleveland County Courthouse. This building, constructed in 1907, is the crown jewel of uptown Shelby. It was designed by H.F. Newman and is a stunning example of Classical Revival architecture of that period.

The Courthouse recently was renovated and converted into the Earl Scruggs Center. This museum tells the story of Scruggs, whose unique three-finger playing style continues to influence music around the world. The Scruggs Center enlightens, educates and celebrates the people, traditions and values of Cleveland County and the region and honors its native son with exhibits and programming.

As you continue on your walking tour, you will be walking through a real-life museum of architecture styles, including Egyptian Revival (Masonic Temple, 1924), Colonial Revival (Post Office, 1916), Gothic Revival (Central United Methodist Church, 1924, and First Baptist Church, 1911) and Art Deco (Rogers Theatre, 1930s).

Art District and Shelby City Park Carrousel

However, you will also notice some “indoor” art on your walk, as uptown Shelby is also home to several thriving galleries and studios specializing in many art forms. Create your own art at one of the events or classes at the Cleveland County Arts Council Gallery, or browse art and handcrafts at Buffalo Creek Gallery, intricate quilts at Alley Quilts and beautiful pottery at Allen Griffin Pottery.

Now that you’ve had your fill of art and history, it’s time for the kind of art that puts the “fun” back in “functional,” the handcrafted carrousel at Shelby City Park. The carrousel was built circa 1919, and brought to Shelby in the 1950s. Twenty-nine original horses and three hand-carved replacements were recently restored, while an authentic working Carrousel Band Organ provides the stirring music. It’s one of the last year-round carrousels left in a traditional park location, so let your inner child take a ride.

Owl’s Eye Vineyard & Winery and Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge

Then, head north of downtown about three miles and stop at Owl’s Eye Vineyard & Winery. The tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday, and for a small fee you can sample several of the vineyard’s varietals. You’ll even get to keep your engraved wine glass. Owl’s Eye also has an in-house chef preparing locally grown foods, offering a real taste of Cleveland County.

As you conclude your busy day, be sure and make a stop at Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge on U.S. 74, part of the North Carolina Barbecue Trail. You’ll probably actually smell the restaurant before you see it, because the giant outdoor barbecue pit sends an alluring hickory-pork aroma wafting in all directions. Be sure to get the works: some ‘cue, slaw, hush puppies and the super-sweet but addictive tea. Top it off with Bridges’ homemade peach cobbler, and you’ll be headed home with a full belly and some very satisfied taste buds.

Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue.

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