A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Sure, downtown Blowing Rock’s walkable, movie scene-worthy Main Street is the perfect place to admire and explore the charming architecture, quaint shops, colorful awnings, and lush gardens that have helped

Madison County Championship Rodeo

Sure, downtown Blowing Rock’s walkable, movie scene-worthy Main Street is the perfect place to admire and explore the charming architecture, quaint shops, colorful awnings, and lush gardens that have helped

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Sure, downtown Blowing Rock’s walkable, movie scene-worthy Main Street is the perfect place to admire and explore the charming architecture, quaint shops, colorful awnings, and lush gardens that have helped

Sips & Strolls in Blowing Rock

Sure, downtown Blowing Rock’s walkable, movie scene-worthy Main Street is the perfect place to admire and explore the charming architecture, quaint shops, colorful awnings, and lush gardens that have helped the mountain town earn accolades as North Carolina’s Prettiest Small Town and one of the Best Small Towns in the South.

But after all that exploring, it’s time to elevate your relaxation. This summer, don’t let an amazing glass of wine and a stop at an art gallery be last minute plans. Instead, plan a vino visit with intention to see incredible public art, galleries, and arts events — and partake in the thriving wine and culinary scene. On your next weekend away, sip and stroll your way through downtown Blowing Rock.



BRAHM: Whether you’re curious about the history of Blowing Rock, fascinated by face jugs, or captivated by colorful photographs, BRAHM (the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum) is worth a visit.

The museum has been a staple of the local arts and culture scene since it opened in 2011 and is best known for the diversity of exhibits, according to executive director Lee Carol Giduz.

“We showcase everything from ceramics and photography to contemporary small metals,” she says. “The whole gamut of themes means that everyone finds something they’re excited about.”

BRAHM also maintains robust special events calendar that includes the 2021 Plein Air Festival and “Cork and Canvas” workshops that invite guests to sip wine and learn to paint iconic works by greats like Cezanne and Matisse.

The Blowing Rock Art & History Museum has been a staple of the local arts and culture scene since it opened in 2011 and is best known for its diversity of exhibits. photograph by Amanda Lugenbell

 

Sunset and Vine: you don’t need to know a Chardonnay from a Sauvignon blanc to find a wine you love at Sunset and Vine. In addition to selling bottles, the intimate wine shop also serves wines by the glass. Flights of four different kinds of wine are especially popular, according to owner Sharon Crisman.

“We can make personalized recommendations based on your preferences,” Crisman says. “We want you to have fun with wine, so we make it more laidback and approachable than most wine shops.”

 

The Restaurant at Gideon Ridge Inn: Ingredients from small, local farms and purveyors dominate the menu at the Restaurant at Gideon Ridge Inn.

Chef Hunter Womble changes the menu daily, featuring the freshest ingredients in dishes like pork tenderloin served with pimento cheese grit cakes; local kale, carrots, green beans and smoked bacon jus; and North Carolina duck served with sweet potato puree and local ramp chimichurri.

The restaurant is tucked inside a bed-and-breakfast, and in addition to sumptuous lodgings and elevated cuisine, the setting offers spectacular views of the Blue Ridge. Select one of the wines from the extensive wine list and raise a glass to a delicious meal.

The Restaurant at Gideon Ridge Inn uses the freshest ingredients from small, local farms and purveyors and changes the menu daily. photograph by Todd Bush Photography

 

Public Art: Downtown Blowing Rock serves as a canvas for an outdoor art gallery. Sculptures are nestled in public gardens and installed on street corners, and colorful murals cover downtown buildings. And it’s not just the works of art that are special — it’s the community of collectors who came together to ensure they would be enjoyed.

“Blowing Rock is a community that embraces the arts,” explains Amanda Lugenbell, assistant director of the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority. “Many of the sculptures are part of private collections that are on display.”

The Blowing Rock tourism website lists the locations of the public art installed throughout downtown. Be on the lookout for the works as you explore — and be sure to stop to pose for a cute photo with Jessie, a bronze sculpture of a little girl reading a book outside the public library. Lugenbell says it’s one of the most photographed pieces in town.

While the works of public art are impressive, they make up just a small part of the artwork on display downtown. Lugenbell suggests checking out the extensive collection of Bob Timberlake paintings at Chetola Resort. Crown Gallery, Martin House Gallery, Blowing Rock Frameworks & Gallery, and Bolick & Traditions Pottery also feature amazing local, national, and international artists.

Sculptures, like Jessie by Cantey T. Kelleher in front of the Blowing Rock Community Library, are nestled across downtown Blowing Rock. photograph by Amanda Lugenbell

 

Café Violette: The French port city of Marseille inspired the menu at Café Violette. Chef Kyle Martin uses North Carolina ingredients to create French Mediterranean cuisine with the flavors and spices of Spain, Italy, and north Africa.

Café co-owner Sunshine Martin points to scallop bourride and octopus a lá piperade as examples of the creative dishes served in the downtown dining room. The wine list is as eclectic as the fare, and includes an extensive by-the-glass selection that includes Domaine La Suffrene Bandol and a Seghesio Barolo.

Luckily, while the restaurant recommends wine pairings sure to impress the most serious oenophiles, wine knowledge is not a prerequisite for a great meal.

“Since we select every wine with our dishes in mind, we’ll suggest the perfect wine pairing based on your tastes,” Martin says. “We want the dining experience at Café Violette to be a relaxed and fun one, you don’t have to know anything about wine to enjoy your evening with us.” 

 

Art in the Park: In 1962, a group of local artists came together to showcase their work in a pop-up event in downtown Blowing Rock. Today, Art in the Park is an incredibly popular monthly event that attracts art lovers from Blowing Rock, of course, but also across the Southeast.

“A lot of people return over and over and even get to know the artists and collect their work,” says Director of Art in the Park Suzy Barker.

The event, held one Saturday per month from May to October, features the work of 90 artists working in media ranging from fiber, metal, and ceramics to sculpture, wood, and mixed media.

Art in the Park is an incredibly popular monthly event that attracts art lovers from not only Blowing Rock, but across the Southeast. photograph by Amanda Lugenbell

 

Artists in Residence at Edgewood Cottage: Renowned American artist Elliot Dangerfield built the cottage in 1890, using it as his private residence in studio. The Blowing Rock Historical Society meticulously restored the cottage and artist Brenda Council created a statue of Dangerfield that stands on the front lawn.

As a professor at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, Dangerfield was known for mentoring emerging artists. His legacy continues through Artists in Residence at Edgewood Cottage.

“The program encourages and supports High Country artists, providing them with exposure to wider audiences,” explains program chair Kadie Dean. “It’s so fun to see the creativity of High Country artists, [and] their work is often inspired by the beauty of the Blue Ridge.”

Artists in Residence, which launched in 2008, includes 30 artists whose work ranges from painting to leatherwork to photography; a new show is installed every Monday between May 29 and September 19.

 

Best Cellar: The menu at this restaurant can be described as “mountain casual,” and features classic dishes like pork chops, short ribs, and parmesan-crusted buttermilk chicken. Some of the entrées, including the tuna, duck, and lamb, have been staples since Best Cellar opened its doors in 1975.

While Best Cellar has always had an extensive wine list, Rob Dyer, who co-owns the restaurant with Lisa Stripling, took it to the next level when the restaurant moved to its current location at the Inn at Ragged Gardens in 2006.

“There was a wine cellar here and we’ve been building out our selection ever since,” Dyer says.

Expect to find vintages from Spain, Portugal, Argentina, France, California, and New Zealand. Order a glass — or a bottle — to be served in the dining room, or call ahead to request a table in the wine cellar. Dyer says the dim lighting and original rock foundation make it feel like an old-fashioned Italian winery.

“The ambiance is perfect for a special event,” he adds.

 

Hellbender Bed and Beverage: The newest addition to downtown, Hellbender Bed and Beverage is part restaurant, part bar, part hotel, and all about providing a unique experience.

Grab a table in the restaurant, where creative fare — hello, collard green melt! — is served alongside comfort foods like chicken wings, burgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches. The bar features a classic cocktail menu as well as a selection of beer and wine.

Overnight guests can select one of eight modern, well-appointed rooms located just steps from Main Street, perfect for sipping then strolling through charming downtown.

This story was published on May 26, 2021

Jodi Helmer

North Carolina-based journalist Jodi Helmer writes about food, farming, and the environment.