This quaint village nestled high in the North Carolina Mountains is pretty any time of the year, but the winter, when the town is blanketed in white fluffy snow is the perfect time to visit. Named “One of America’s Prettiest Winter Towns” by Travel and Leisure, the town embraces winter activities with skiing nearby, outdoor adventures, shopping and their annual Winterfest event.
Everyone needs to visit the Blowing Rock. After all, it’s the city’s namesake and was North Carolina’s first tourist attraction, opening in 1933. At 4,000 feet, it also offers the best mountain views in the state. Legend has it that a Cherokee warrior who was conflicted between his love for a Chickasaw maiden and his duty, leapt from the Blowing Rock. The maiden was grief-stricken and prayed to the Great Spirit for his return until one day a gust of wind brought her lover back. From that day on, a perpetual wind has blown up to the Blowing Rock from the valley below. The current of air flowing upward from The Rock prompted the Ripley’s “Believe-It-Or-Not” cartoon about “the only place in the world where snow falls upside down.”
The city of Blowing Rock is very walkable and full of artist galleries and local boutiques, so if your idea of a winter sport is walking from shop to shop, Blowing Rock can supply a workout. Pick up a hand-made Dulcimer at the Dulcimer Shop or a hand-dipped candle at High Country Candles. A boarding house in the 1870’s, the Martin House is now a collection of specialty shops or if outlet stores are more your thing, the Shops at the Parkway Outlet Stores has over thirty national brand stores including Banana Republic and J. Crew.
Outdoor enthusiasts have plenty to do too. Skiing, snowboarding, sledding and ice skating at nearby Beech Mountain Resort are great fun for the whole family. This ski resort offers the highest skiing at 5506 feet in Eastern North America. They’re also the only ski resort in North Carolina with a high-speed quad lift, which means you can get a lot more runs in one day here than at any of the other three ski resorts in the area.
Hikers can take the Glen Burney Trail that begins just off Main Street and descends 800 feet into John’s River Gorge following
along the New Year’s Creek and passing by three waterfalls. The nearby Blue Ridge Parkway also offers additional hiking trails and amazing views.
Also, if the roads are clear enough, consider a visit to Grandfather Mountain in nearby Linville. Getting its name from the ridgeline that resembles an old man looking into the sky, the highlight here is the billion year old landscape and the mile-high swinging bridge. It’s also home to over seventy three rare and endangered species (bears, deer, cougars), including the Peregrine Falcon.
Then there is Winterfest. For the past fifteen years, Blowing Rock’s Winterfest has grown and it’s now one of the largest winter events in the North Carolina Mountain High
Country. This year it will be held January 24th through the 27th. There’s a Chili cook-off and the highlight of the weekend, the polar plunge into Chetola Lake. Over 100 brave people will compete for the coveted Golden Plunger Award. New this year is Winter Fashions, which includes a soup-and-sandwich lunch at Timberlake’s Restaurant at Chetola Resort and a showing of winter wear and new spring arrivals from Blowing Rock’s finest apparel retailers. Local retailers get into the festivities by offering discounts during the festival and restaurants will have winter craft beer tastings, a pancake breakfast and wine tasting and auctions.
There will be evening bonfires, live music and even a Winter Paws dog show. Many local inns have put together vacation packages. For more information call the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce toll free at 877.295.7801 or the Visitor Center at 877.750.4636.
This article was also published on DeepSouthMag.com