A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

W.H. Carper was a man with a vision. As Burlington’s city manager in the late 1940s, Carper believed the carousel that the city purchased in Ohio and moved to City

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

W.H. Carper was a man with a vision. As Burlington’s city manager in the late 1940s, Carper believed the carousel that the city purchased in Ohio and moved to City

W.H. Carper was a man with a vision. As Burlington’s city manager in the late 1940s, Carper believed the carousel that the city purchased in Ohio and moved to City Park on the western end of town would bring great joy to citizens. In the first 10 days after opening in 1948, more than 12,000 people showed up to take a ride on one of the carousel’s 46 animals. Little boys and girls likely jumped enthusiastically onto the backs of brown horses and gray rabbits and a golden lion, having paid five cents for their ride. Today, 75 years later, children are still riding that carousel, although in a slightly different environment: After a three-year renovation, the ride was moved across the park into a glass rotunda last year.

Mayor Jim Butler, who grew up riding the carousel during summers in Burlington, watched with pride as folks packed the rotunda and spilled out into City Park to jump on the new carousel when it reopened. He even bumped into someone who traveled all the way from Pennsylvania to take a ride on opening day. “I think the vision that was established in the ’40s is being realized in 2023, without a doubt,” Butler says.

Burlington’s Dentzel Carousel is one of 25 Dentzel carousels that are still in operation in the country. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Local Landmarks

Burlington Arboretum at Willowbrook Park

A paved walking path meanders through this 17-acre park that’s filled with native plants; hostas, hydrangeas, and other flowers; a creek; treehouse; veterans’ overlook; and more. Birdwatchers can take a stroll along the Charles Hawks Memorial Bluebird Trail, which has 18 bluebird boxes for feathered friends to sit back and enjoy nature, too.

315 West Willowbrook Drive
(336) 222-5030

Burlington City Park

The hand-carved Dentzel Carousel is the centerpiece of Burlington City Park. It’s one of 25 Dentzel carousels that are still in operation in the country. Now, after undergoing a recent renovation, the ride has a ramp and ADA-compliant seating, and its colors are softer, which is more accurate to how the carousel would’ve looked when it was manufactured around 1910. The park features four other attractions, including a miniature train, private rental space, playground, splash pad, and more.

1388 South Main Street
(336) 222-5030

The Glencoe Mill Village Historic District preserves buildings that once supported the local cotton mill, which closed in 1954. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Textile Heritage Museum

In 1882, Glencoe Mills began operating alongside the Haw River. It was one of the earliest mills built in Alamance County, and it became known for manufacturing plaid fabrics that were shipped across the country and the world. Today, the county’s textile history is preserved in a museum that’s located in the former Glencoe Company Store and administrative offices. Large looms, knitting and sewing machines, and original mill documents are just some of the artifacts preserved there.

2406 Glencoe Street
(336) 270-6374

The Glencoe Mill Village Historic District

Situated three miles north of downtown Burlington off of NC Highway 62, Glencoe Mill Village includes 41 residential homes, a barber shop, a workman’s lodge, the Glencoe Baptist Church, and 10 industrial-related structures that were built between 1880 and 1882. Some of the homes are still maintained by private residents.

Glencoe Street

At Sockville Stadium, home of the Sock Puppets, young fans cheer with foam versions of the Sock Puppet mascots. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel


Burlington Sock Puppets
Local: Anderson Rathbun

General Manager Anderson Rathbun’s dog, Threaddie, also makes appearances. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

When Burlington’s summer collegiate baseball team rebranded in early 2021, General Manager Anderson Rathbun was against the proposed team name: Sock Puppets. He thought, This is too ridiculous. Anderson had interned with the team in 2015, when it was known as the Burlington Royals, a rookie-level Appalachian League team affiliated with the Kansas City Royals. Despite his reservations, the front office staff hosted a name-the-team contest to let fans make the final call. About 1,200 voters weighed in, and Sock Puppets won. The name is an homage to Burlington’s rich textile history: By the turn of the 20th century, 30 textile mills were in operation in Alamance County, and by the 1950s, the city earned the title of Hosiery Center of the South. Once Rathbun saw a mock-up for the team’s new logo — which illustrates the past and present of baseball: two sock puppets, one an old-fashioned baseball stirrup sock and the other sporting sunglasses — he was sold.

Don’t be late: All home games start with an opening sock throw. Find the team’s schedule at gosockpuppets.com.

1450 Graham Street
(336) 222-0223

At Owl & Rabbit Gallery, you’ll find whimsical works of art like a two-foot-tall sunflower and a purple peacock made by gallery owners Emily and Casey Lewis, and crocheted bees made by their daughter, Claire. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel


Owl & Rabbit Gallery
Locals: Emily and Casey Lewis

Emily and Casey Lewis own Owl & Rabbit Gallery. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

An eight-foot-tall metal flower is hard to miss. In fact, the sight of one in a yard is what motivated a landscaper to stop and talk with artist Casey Lewis, who was using his talent as a metal sculptor to give his backyard an Alice in Wonderland theme for his daughters, Ellie and Claire. That conversation became the start of Beechwood Metalworks, a custom fabrication shop that initially handled industrial projects. Now, Casey and co-owner, Emily Lewis, make large-scale ladybugs, flowers, bees, rabbits, and just about anything else an imagination can dream up. “Everything is curated to be whimsical, colorful, and nature-inspired,” Emily says. Beechwood sculptures have primarily been installed at children’s hospitals in North Carolina and across the country to bring a bit of fun and positivity to families as they face some of the hardest moments of their lives. In 2018, Emily and Casey opened Owl & Rabbit Gallery in downtown Burlington to showcase some of their Beechwood work — albeit on a small scale — and promote local makers. More than 100 artists working in a variety of media, from pottery and needle felting to paint and wood, are represented.

Save the date: Avid collectors of Beechwood Metalworks’s garden stakes can see newly released designs in time for Mother’s Day and Christmas.

410 South Spring Street
(336) 524-6429


Burlington Beer Works
Local: Tracy Schmidt

Burlington Beer Works manager Tracy Schmidt. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

The two-story brick and stone building downtown made history when it opened in 2019: Burlington Beer Works became North Carolina’s first cooperative brewery and restaurant, and the 10th in the United States. Today, the business has more than 2,200 owners. “It’s really exciting that we’re about four years in and surviving through Covid because of our loyal customer base of owners,” General Manager Tracy Schmidt says. “We had owners ordering from us three days a week and taking beer to-go so we could make it.” Schmidt, who also owns Tanner’s Wine Bar across the street, has cultivated relationships with local businesses like Braeburn Farm, Smith Farms, Hillsborough Cheese Company, Haw River Mushrooms, and San Giuseppe Salami Co. to make the food shine as much as the beer. “We’re a family-friendly place. We’ve held 4-year-olds’ birthday parties,” Schmidt says. “We’ve held wedding receptions and 80th birthday parties.”

Star of the menu: The Glencoe Smashburger — topped with bacon jam, Cheddar cheese, caramelized beer onions, and garlic aioli — is their most popular item.

103 East Front Street
(336) 525-6383

At Smitty’s Homemade Ice Cream, some favorite flavors include (from left to right) amaretto cherry chip, Oreo, and brown sugar oatmeal. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Food & Drink

Danny’s Café

This family-owned restaurant specializes in familiar breakfast and lunch dishes, including omelets, burgers, salads, and sandwiches.

110 West Front Street
(336) 226-4422

Smitty’s Homemade Ice Cream

All the ice cream at Smitty’s is homemade with local ingredients when possible.

107 East Front Street
(336) 524-6998

Valerio’s Italian Restaurant

Fettuccine Alfredo, chicken Parmesan, and pasta pomodoro — classic Italian dishes are what this cozy restaurant is known for.

120 East Front Street
(336) 585-3090

Zack’s Hot Dogs

Ordering a hot dog topped with Zack’s famous chili is a must at this Burlington staple, founded in 1928.

201 West Davis Street
(336) 226-4746

Grab a new or pre-loved book and head to Persnickety’s top floor to curl up and read. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel


Persnickety Books
Local: Ian Baltutis

Owner Ian Baltutis relocated the shop to a bigger space in 2019 to expand the store’s offerings. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

With three floors of new and used titles, exposed brick walls, and natural lighting that shines through nearly every alcove, it’s easy to lose yourself in a good novel at Persnickety Books. “When customers emerge from their experience in the store, they say, ‘This is such an incredible place. I’ve never seen anywhere like it,’” owner Ian Baltutis says. Customers may not realize how true that statement is.

Baltutis, a native Minnesotan and Elon University alum, laid down roots in Burlington and purchased Persnickety from its former owners a week before they had to move cross-country in 2019. “It was the last Hail Mary to keep [the store] alive downtown,” he says. To prioritize the store’s staying power, Baltutis looked at additional ways the bookstore could serve the community. He began a partnership with Sustainable Alamance, a nonprofit organization that works with formerly incarcerated individuals, to pack and move large loads of books. The store also sells body care and wellness products made by formerly incarcerated women who work at Benevolence Farm in Graham. And Saxapahaw Prison Books volunteers ship donated books to incarcerated individuals. “We pride ourselves as a bookstore in finding as many homes for books as possible,” Baltutis says.

Keep an eye out: Every few months, Persnickety Books lets folks purchase a basket of regular-priced books for $25.

347 South Main Street
(336) 934-4300

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This story was published on Jun 27, 2023

Chloe Klingstedt

Chloe Klingstedt is an assistant editor at Our State magazine, a Texan by birth, and a North Carolinian at heart.