Rocky Mount, just an hour northeast of Raleigh, makes for the perfect escape for a day or two from the hustle and bustle of the city—its small town charm, coupled with its growing food and beer scene, is utterly delightful.
The recently developed Rocky Mount Mills lends a modern, live-work-play experience to 150 acres on the Tar River. Located less than a mile from Rocky Mount’s downtown—which is experiencing a vibrant cultural transformation of its own—Rocky Mount Mills houses the town’s first two breweries, venues for live music, restaurants and access to the Tar River Paddle Trail.
Though Rocky Mount is becoming popular as a sprawling destination spot, it’s rooted in a rich history of Native American settlement, industry and war. Settlers claimed the area near the Tar River falls around 1734, giving it the nickname “rocky mound,” due to its rocky terrain. The official name was coined in 1816 after the first post office was established at the falls of the Tar River, and it incorporated as a town in 1867.
Rocky Mount’s first industry, Battles Mill, joined the post office by the falls as a gristmill, but later became a cotton mill, the state’s second oldest. The mill earned Rocky Mount a stop on the region’s first railroad line, The Wilmington to Weldon, which contributed to growth and prosperity in the eastern part of the state. The turn of the century saw the construction of the Imperial Tobacco Company Facility, which remained active until the 1980s. The building has since been renovated and turned into the Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences, a cultural hub in downtown with galleries, a theater and more.
There’s no better time than now to take a trip to Rocky Mount, to celebrate the city’s 150th anniversary. Spend a day making the rounds of all the breweries, restaurants and cultural activities that the town has to offer. You might just find yourself going back for more.
Lou Reda’s An American Table
This modern American eatery serves up a variety of delicious staples, including ribeye, brisket burgers, mac and cheese and grilled salmon, as well as a weekly roundup of dishes exploring the cuisines of various regions across the country. Stop in at dinnertime for a scratch-made, comforting meal alongside a classic bourbon-infused cocktail. louredas.com
The Prime Smokehouse Barbecue and Beyond
Head to The Prime Smokehouse for ribs, brisket, barbecue-pulled pork, pork links and more, fresh off the smoker. The homey restaurant also provides exquisite meat-free dishes as well, all cooked to order in a friendly environment that delivers the utmost in Southern hospitality. Come in during the weekend for dinner and a show from local, regional and national touring musicians and entertainers. primesmokehouse.com
Don’t leave Rocky Mount without stopping in for a hot, fresh donut or pastry at Anne’s. Donuts are baked in-house daily. After 65 years in business, Anne’s old fashioned donuts will make your mouth water, with flavors like apple, strawberry-filled, Bavarian cream and classic chocolate glazed. Bring home some cookies, cupcakes, danishes or cinnamon rolls to satisfy your sweet tooth long after you’re gone. annesdonutsandbakery.com
HopFly Brewing Company
One of the many breweries located in Rocky Mount Mills, HopFly opens its tasting room Friday through Sunday. Visitors can enjoy some of HopFly’s signature brews, crafted with only the finest ingredients, from jalapenos to amarillo to biscuit malt. The large outdoor patio is ideal for enjoying a cold one with a friend to a soundtrack of live music from local artists. hopflybrewing.com
Koi Pond Brewing Company
“The Pond,” Rocky Mount’s first craft brewery, serves a rotating lineup of seasonal and specialty craft beers created with local produce in diverse and unique ways. Brews include the Strawberry Lotus, made with local strawberries and honey, and the Rising Sun Mocha Java Stout, brewed with locally roasted Cackalacky Nicaraguan Dark Roast Coffee. Enjoy with takeout from one of the brewery’s neighboring restaurants for a splendid adult picnic on the lawn. koipondbrewingcompany.com
Morning Addiction Coffee House
Locally owned and operated, the MACH lives up to its name as one of the only neighborhood coffee shops in Rocky Mount for both locals and tourists to get their caffeine fix. The brightly decorated shop offers freshly roasted Italian brews, along with all the classic espresso drinks—including flavored cappuccinos and frozen lattes—as well as fruit smoothies. Pair your morning pick-me-up with a baked goodie for an on-the-go breakfast you can easily enjoy while strolling through the town. facebook.com/morningaddictioncoffeehouse
Tar River Reservoir Bluegrass Festival
Ring in the first weekend of summer with a full day of local bluegrass bands at the Reservoir Country Store on Saturday, May 19. Featured bands include Highway 56, Rollin’ Coal, Black River Express and Flatbed. A $10 ticket gets you lawn seating for front and center enjoyment, along with access to the Reservoir’s famous bar and grill. tarriverbluegrass.com
Imperial Centre for Arts & Sciences
The Imperial Centre is the quintessential hub for all things culture in Rocky Mount. It houses an art museum with more than ten galleries, a children’s science museum, a planetarium and a 300-seat theater featuring both local and nationally known musical and theater performances. It’s the perfect destination for a day loaded with fun and educational activities. imperialcentre.org
The Tar River offers plenty of outdoor activities for a warm spring day, including a 4-mile biking and walking path, three parks and the Tar River falls. The waterway provides 10 canoe and kayak access locations to explore more than 20 miles of Rocky Mount through gentle waters. Pack your sunscreen and a picnic for a day of sightseeing and adventure. rockymountnc.gov/departments___services/parks___recreation/trails
With a 1920 Herschell-Spillman “County Fair” style carousel, miniature Model G-16 train, playground and spray park, Rocky Mount’s main park feels more like a fair than anything else. The 25-acre outdoor area features concession stands, recreational courts and fields, picnic shelters and a disc golf course.rockymountnc.gov/departments___services/parks___recreation/parks/sunset_park