Blowing Rock, NC

Blowing Rock may be the first tourist town in the Smokies.  After people got word of the beautiful area, this became a vacation spot with people camping, just to spend time in the mountains.  Now, Blowing Rock is the one of the premier resort cities on the North Carolina side of the Smokies.  Shopping, art galleries, culture, great food and skiing give you more than enough reasons to make Blowing Rock a stop on your mountain vacation.

 

The Cherokee called this area home until the European settlers came to this area.  The Scottish and the Irish felt home in this are at the top of the mountain, in the shadows of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.  During the late 19th century, Blowing Rock adopted tourism as their main industry.  Hotels began to be built as people touted the healthy atmosphere of the town.

In modern times, with the development of better roads and the introduction of mass produced automobiles, Blowing Rock thrived.  People love the history and the legends surrounding the area.  The resorts that are around the area bring in thousands of people and the people love to come back year after year.

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Tweetsie Railroad

You know, Dollywood isn’t the only theme park in the Smoky Mountains. A quick drive east in the charming mountain town of Blowing Rock, NC, you’ll find Tweetsie Railroad – one of the most original Wild West attractions in the nation. Since the 1950s, Tweetsie’s famous steam engine, No. 12, has taken park-goers on the ride of a lifetime through the old west. One of the best theme park train rides in the southeast, Tweetsie Railroad also offers plenty of other attractions to entertain its guests during their park visit.

Obviously, people come to the park to ride the train first and foremost. You’ll be taken back to a time when guns and horses were the things men relied on to settle the open plains of the West. Only this time, you’ll take a train through the Great Smoky Mountains. Look out for bandits trying to rob the train in true outdoor drama style. It’s a spectacular Wild West show, and while you enjoy it, sit back and relax on a grand piece of American history. Built in the 1800s, this particular steam engine had been around the country before the people at Tweetsie gained ownership of the nostalgic locomotive during the middle part of the last century.

Live shows also make up a big part of the theme park, in addition to the show on the train. Hop on over to the saloon and you can take part in a live 1800s style saloon show with bar girls, gamblers, bandits, and the like. Stay for the Tweetsie Cloggers, who have been entertaining crowds for years. Roam the streets with the Tweetsie Railroad cast as they pull you into their wild-west story.

Tweetsie RailroadKiddie rides abound at the Tweetsie Railroad theme park. Inline cars, a merry-go-round, planes or any of a number of other rides have been built with children being the sole focus. This is a great time – while the kids are enjoying the rides – for parents, or anyone else to get something to eat in the park. The food is all carnival-type fare, and really good. From cotton candy and caramel apples to ice cream and hot dogs, all are available at the park’s restaurants or food vendors. Just be sure to ride everything you want before you eat.

Whether you’re just there to hop a train ride or sample park food till your heart’s content, you will have the time of your life at Tweetsie Railroad. The Tweetsie Railroad theme park delights thousands of guests each year. You’ll find yourself having more fun then you thought you could ever have in Blowing Rock, NC. Check the Tweetsie Railroad website for operation times before you go because their hours are limited. They are only open during the better weather parts of the year so please plan your visit accordingly. Tweetsie Railroad is a sure-fire, fun time in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Moses Cone Manor

mcm1Whether you call it the Moses Cone Manor, Flat Top Manor, the Moses Cone Memorial Park or the Parkway Craft Center, the former home of Moses Cone that seats along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a majestic piece of architecture that has stood the test of time.  Moses Cone was a textile entrepreneur that created countless jobs in the area during his heyday.  The home itself was given to the National Park Service after his death but it is certainly something that he himself would have loved to have seen done.  Nowadays a visit to the Moses Cone Manor lets you see the handy work of countless crafters and artisans of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild.

Moses Cone was a huge name in the textile industry during the 19th century.  He and his brother Cesar started their careers as traveling salesmen.  The brothers found that their knowledge of dry goods from their time on the roads gave them a foothold in the textile industry.  Eventually, Cone moved his operations to Greensboro North Carolina.  The people of the highlands of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains had need of plain durable clothing.  Cone started manufacture denim and other such fabrics to be used by companies like Levis that made clothes that the people of the area needed and loved.  While he made his money through the textiles industry, he also gave back to the area through job creation and through his philanthropic actions.

mcm2He also built a home on top of the mountains, Flat Top Manor.  The home takes its name from the proximity of Flat Top Mountain.  Built at the turn of the century, the Flat Top Manor was finished in 1901.  It has 23 rooms and measures in at 13,000 square feet.  Built in the Victorian Neo-Colonial style, large white columns surround the front of the house.  Dormers up top and leaded glass in ever window make this a wonderful example of this style and because it is open to the public throughout the year, people get to roam though the halls and experience the home much the way that it would have been when it was built.

Flat Top Manor is also known as the Parkway Craft Center.  It is home to one of the exhibits of the Southern Highland Craft Guild.  With craft demonstrations daily and a wonderful gift shop, this is a huge stop for tourist visiting the area. Each year, more then 200,000 visitors come to the Parkway Craft Center to see the crafts that are for sale, learn more about the crafters and the crafts that are being made and of course, to visit the home itself.   Next time you are traveling the blue Ridge Parkway, stop at Milepost 294 and visit the home of Moses Cone:  Flat Top Manor.

Moses Cone Manor
667 Service Road
Blowing Rock, NC
828-295-7938
http://www.blueridgeheritage.com/attractions-destinations/moses-cone-manor

Mystery Hill

A Great Place to Visit

I love a good roadside attraction and Mystery Hill in Blowing Rock, NC is one of the best that you will find in the Smokies.  It is on the side of the road before you get to Blowing Rock proper and if you are looking for a fun activity for you and the family, this is the place to stop.  plus, once you get there you will find that there are actually three attractions in one: Mystery Hill itself, the Appalachian Heritage Museum and the Ntaive American Artifacts Museum.

Mystery House and Hall of Mystery
The Mystery House was the first of the attractions at Mystery Hill and the longest running in the area.  This house is the place where the laws of gravity seem to cease to exist.  Due to the location of the house, or maybe the makeup of the mountainside that it is built into, the basic laws of physics don’t really work right.  Try walking through a room that make sit feel like you are at a 45 degree angle the whole time.  Maybe you will wonder why the Mystery Platform seems to make people appear to be taller or smaller depending on which side you are on.  Then you also have the Hall of Mystery where you and the family get to be hands on with science and various experiments.  Make  a bubble big enough to put your child in, play with holograms and experience the Flying Mirror.

Appalachian Heritage Museum
Then you can walk through a museum dedicated to the people and the culture of the mountains.  This museum came to Mystery Hill in 1989 from its former home on the campus of Appalachian State University.  The museum is still in the same house it was in while it was on ASU campus.  The whole house, one of the first in the area to have electricity was moved to the Mystery Hill location and now it tells the story of the people that lived inthis area and settled the Appalachian area.  Personal belongings, furniture, and other pieces of home life speak to the lifestyle of the people.

Native American Artifacts Museum
Starting from a collection of three arrowheads, this collection of Native American Artifacts now houses 50,000 pieces.  There are artifacts from 23 states and the pieces cover almost all of the time periods of Native American history.  Obviously there is a focus on the Cherokee that called Western North Carolina home, but there are also pieces from other tribes and locations around the US.  This museum is a 70 year testament to a people and to the collectors love for the native peoples that created the original societies in the Americas.  From arrowheads to pottery to ceremonial items and artifacts from the everyday this is a perfect museum for those people that want to see the artifacts of a past people.