On Saturday nights in Eden, around 5 p.m., folks start to gather at Jerry and Debbie Wilsons’ barn — “for the fellowship,” Debbie says. The real party starts a couple of hours later, when that night’s bluegrass, gospel, or country music band takes center stage.

Jerry built the venue on the back of their property 17 years ago to give Debbie’s band a family-friendly stage. Located along the Blue Ridge Music Trail, the barn doesn’t have a website. And yet dozens of music lovers from all over come for a night of clogging, two-stepping, and even waltzing. “They hear about it through word of mouth,” Debbie says. “We’ve had people here from Australia and Hawaii.”

This is quintessential Eden: comfortable, filled with friendly people, and surrounded by natural beauty. The Wilsons’ barn is the perfect place to end a day trip. But from sunrise to sunset, this collection of outdoor recreation and entertainment, restaurants, and shops will leave you eager for an Eden encore.  



Outdoor Fun:

Kayaking and Canoeing
“Lots of people are drawn to the town because they’re intrigued by our town’s name,” Mel Hall, owner of The Front Porch, says with a laugh. In Eden, visitors find paradise outdoors along the sparkling Dan and Smith rivers. For help arranging a kayak or canoe expedition, call Three Rivers Outfitters, which can shuttle you where you need to go and even provide camping equipment. Depending on your level of comfort and expertise, guides can accompany you on your trip or give you advice.

 

Matrimony Creek Nature Trail
Grab your camera and stroll one mile down a lush, wooded nature trail that ends with one of Eden’s most spectacular views: Matrimony Creek waterfall. Find your zen, then kick off your shoes and splash in the cool water that flows into the Dan River. You’ll find the trailhead on Washington Street next to Hampton Heights Baptist Church.

 

Grogan Park
In the heart of Eden, on the grounds of City Hall, Grogan Park is complete with huge wind chimes, public art, a quilt square, and a picturesque gazebo. Come to this five-acre park for a shady picnic, a peaceful spot to read, or to catch a noon concert.

 

Freedom Park
If Grogan Park is peaceful and sophisticated, Freedom Park is boisterous and silly. Take your kids here to get their wiggles out. Complete with a skate park, playground equipment, a splash pad, nature trails, miniature golf, a softball complex, and horseshoe and volleyball courts, this 58-acre park is a local favorite. If you’re visiting on a summer night, check out the online schedule for the amphitheater’s free concert series.    

 

Eden Drive-in
One of North Carolina’s last remaining drive-in movie theaters, this slice of Americana opened in 1949 and remains a great spot for date nights and family fun. Watch two movies for the price of one from the comfort of your car or snuggled up under the stars.

Enjoy an evening watching a movie under the stars at the Eden Drive-in. photograph by Explore Eden

 

RiverFest
Every September, the city of Eden hosts RiverFest, a two-day event celebrating Eden’s art, history, and river heritage. In historic downtown, revelers are treated to live music, food trucks, river excursions guided by Three Rivers Outfitters, and more than 100 vendors. 

 

Dining:

Sweet Revenge Bakery
This downtown mainstay is Edenites’ go-to bakery for wedding cakes, but you can say “I do” to a slice of your favorite flavor anytime. More than just a traditional bakery with cakes, cupcakes, and cookies, Sweet Revenge also sells French favorites like melt-in-your-mouth macarons. According to owner and baker Brenna Talley, the banana pudding cake and coconut cake are local favorites, but when she has a sweet tooth, she opts for their blackberry cobbler (and yes, they serve ice cream, too!).

At Sweet Revenge Bakery, pick out a colorful macaron or a slice of cake.  photograph by Sweet Revenge Bakery

 

Dick’s Drive-In
Order a hot dog — all the way — and you’ll see why this is “the place to be since ’63.” The founder’s sons, David and Terry, now run the restaurant that locals frequent for its consistently good food and friendly service. Come for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And if you’re in the mood for something sweet, ask for the coconut custard pie or chocolate chess pie, made from scratch by David’s wife, Kim.

 

Circle Drive-In
If you’re hungry for comfort food and you need it on the double, pull into this dive grill. The drive-in standards (think crinkle-cut fries and ice cream sundaes) are a sure bet, but don’t shy away from the specials list, which includes hearty entrées like hamburger steak with grilled onions.

 

That Little Pork Shop
Pork is the star on this menu, which features inventive sandwiches, tacos, flatbreads, and salads — plus bacon on just about everything, and 11 house-made sauces. Try the barbecue hush puppy balls and the Low Rider sandwich: pulled pork covered in Swiss cheese with sliced smoked ham, pickles, and mustard on a Cuban roll. Feeling really adventurous? Order the 2 Pigs and a Moo Moo, a bacon cheeseburger, pulled pork sandwich, and BLT — all piled together on the same sandwich. Just make sure you come hungry — this little joint has big flavor.

 

Shopping:

The Front Porch
“People describe us as quirky,” says Mel Hall, who owns this Washington Street gift shop with her mother, Gloria. Since 1982, they’ve sold a little bit of everything — women’s clothing, wine, specialty food items. Mel, who happens to be married to Eden’s mayor, Neville, was born and raised here and will happily dish on its hot spots. “Johnson’s Florist, right across the street, has some of the town’s most beautiful antiques,” she says. Stop in to The Front Porch for cool gifts and great conversation.

 

Pace-Stone
In Eden, they don’t roll out the red carpet … That honor is reserved for the world-renowned Karastan rug. At Pace-Stone — “the home of Karastan” — you’ll find the best selection of these high-quality, durable rugs. Ask a design expert to help you find the perfect match for your space.

 

Belladonna Antiques and Interiors
Co-owners Mark Stevens and Eddie Vernon have 25 years of experience scouring the world for sought-after antiques: an English inlaid chest; a 150-year-old round pine table complete with lazy Susan; a six-foot-tall tiger oak headboard; a Nepalese wedding chest with secret compartments. If you’re not one for digging, you’ve come to the right place. Eddie has a knack for arranging creative vignettes that give you an idea of what the pieces could look like in your home.

This story was published on

Robin Sutton Anders is a writer based in Greensboro.

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