Blowing Rock is a tiny town of around 1,000 people, sprawled across the two western counties of Watauga and Caldwell on North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway. Named for an unusual rock formation that juts 3,000 feet over the Johns River gorge, what Blowing Rock lacks in size it more than makes up for with its quaint charm and natural beauty. Sprawling mountain views, windy cliffs and a storybook village make the town a family destination as well as a nature lover’s paradise, perfect for exploring as well as relaxing.
Before Moravians and Scots-Irish pioneers settled Blowing Rock in the mid-eighteenth century, the town was home to Cherokee and Catawba Native American tribes. A site of guerrilla warfare between the Confederate and Union armies during the Civil War, many veterans settled with their families in the area after the war and travelers from the eastern part of the state began to visit Blowing Rock during the summer months, seeking respite from the heat. The town is now one of the nation’s premier tourist destinations.
Legend has it that before the town was settled, a Cherokee man was called to battle while meeting his lover from a rival Chickasaw tribe. Distraught, the man threw himself off of the namesake blowing rock, down into the gorge. The Chickasaw maiden prayed to the Great Spirit to return her lover to her and the Great Spirit obliged, blowing him up out of the gorge and back onto the rock to be with her. Could the story possibly be true? Visit the blowing rock and decide for yourself.
Known as “one of the best stays in the Blue Ridge,” accommodations include Chetola Lodge, condominiums ranging from one to four bedrooms and the historic Bob Timberlake Inn. chetola.com
Blowing Rock Ale House & Inn
One block off of Main Street, The Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn features Blowing Rock’s first micro-brewery and a lovely five-room inn. Each guest room has a beer-themed name—Wheat, Stout, Hops, Pint and Amber.
Only one block from Blowing Rock’s main street this boutique hotel offers cozy yet spacious rooms with great amentities including a complimentary hot breakfast. meadowbrook-inn.com
Southern American bistro food in the fully renovated, legendary Antler’s Bar, offering lunch, dinner and brunch. The menu includes lobster mac & cheese, wood-fired pizzas and favorites like the grilled hanger steak, low country boil and wood-fired mountain trout. bistroroca.com
Canyons of the Blue Ridge
Dine on great food while enjoying breathtaking views of the beautiful Johns River gorge. Lunch and dinner include southwestern dishes such as beef enchiladas, chimichangas and soft tacos but also chef specials, including the chicken Maui or salmon platter. canyonsbr.com
Blowing Rock Market
Often called “the nicest gas station in America,” the gourmet market/gas station opened in the 1940s as an Esso service stop. Today it offers gourmet cheeses, meats, coffee and more than 800 wines. blowingrockmarkets.com
The sports bar and restaurant on Main Street is open every day for lunch, dinner and later. The tavern offers cocktails and local craft beers with their “world famous wings” and NC barbecue. towntavernbr.com
Blowing Rock Ale House
This state-of-the-art boutique brewery produces nearly 30 different craft beers that you can enjoy by the pint, growler or keg. blowingrockbrewing.com
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
Cone Park, as the locals call it, is a preserved country estate that belongs to a conservationist, with 25 miles of hiking trails. The home houses the Parkway Craft Center which features handmade crafts from hundreds of regional artists. blueridgeheritage.com/attractions-destinations/moses-cone-manor
Appalachian Ski Mountain
Appalachian Ski Mountain was the first ski area to open in North Carolina’s High Country in 1962. It is open from November to March with 10 slopes including two terrain parks for day and night skiing plus outdoor ice skating. They offer ski and snowboard rentals, and it is home to the Southeast’s ski school offering classes and private lessons. appskimtn.com
Hawksnest Snowtubing & Zipline
This park is one of the largest for snow tubing with more than 30 lanes spread over four different areas. The park makes its own snow, while two carpet lifts bring you back to the top of the hill. It also offers one of the nation’s largest ziplines with more than 4 miles and 20 cables where you’ll travel over trees, creeks and a lake. hawksnesttubing.com
Blowing Rock WinterFest
Enjoy the best part of winter January 25-28 with the icy Polar Plunge in Chetola Lake, WinterPaws Dog Show, WinterFashion Show, ice carving, Appalachian State University’s Snowflake parade and, of course, the Winter Beer Garden. blowingrockwinterfest.com