When we move to a new state, we make a point of trying to get to know our new home. What works for us is taking day trips to places that interest us. Back in late September, long before the cool weather would begin to settle in, we headed up to Mount Airy. Mount Airy is a small town of 10,000+ in northern North Carolina, not far from the Virginia border and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It’s a hilly region at an elevation of 1,100 feet with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the northwest. The first landmark you will see is Pilot Mountain when approaching from the south. Some people might know Pilot Mountain as Mount Pilot. It was “renamed” for the Andy Griffith TV series that aired in the 1960’s.
That brings us to Mount Airy’s claim to fame. It is known as the place where Andy Griffith was born. He grew up in a small house just southwest of the quaint downtown area, a fact the town has understandably taken advantage of, and eagerly promotes itself as Mayberry, NC.
While it isn’t the real Mayberry — there isn’t a real Mayberry, it was a Hollywood movie set — the town does a pretty good job as a stand-in. They have businesses and restaurants geared towards promoting the show like Barney’s Cafe with it’s delicious old style diner food – we ate here, Floyd’s Barber Shop, Wally’s Service Station offering tours of the town in a replica of Andy and Barney’s squad car.
They also have a museum dedicated to Andy Griffith, his life and career, along with a couple of other famous residents, the Siamese twins, Chang and Eng. We chose not to view the museum on this trip. But if we return some day, maybe we will give it a try.
While there are plenty of souvenir shops and several soda fountains and restaurants filled with show memorabilia, it’s not tacky. Maybe it’s the laid back southern way of the people, but I found the effect to be delightful and would not hesitate to recommend a visit to family and friends. Even the visitor center, overwhelmingly geared towards promoting Andy and the show, offered a nice variety of things to keep one occupied. From all of the “Andy Griffith themed activities” to winery visits, tours of the world’s largest open granite quarry (who knew), to a selection of accommodations that range from chain hotels to B&B’s, to an opportunity to rent Andy’s boyhood home, now owned by the Hampton Inn.
As an unplanned bonus, on our visit, the third Saturday of September (we weren’t keeping track, honest), they were holding a classic car “cruise in.” And wow! Did they ever cruise in!
Classic cars from the 40’s through the 80’s, (Are 80’s cars really classics? I’m biased perhaps), lined main street on both sides and spilled onto several side streets. Folks just came to show off their rolling works of art, most being American made. But for good measure, there were a sprinkling of foreign models as well.
It made for a rather festive time, almost shutting down main street entirely. However, one lane remained open to one way traffic, which I’m thinking was to promote the “cruising aspect” of the classic car cruise-in — makes sense.
It was a delightfully unintended coincidence and a wonderful capper to a fun day trip, and all less than two hours from home. And with or without the classic car cruise-in, we would recommend Mount Airy to anyone looking for that small town ambiance with a 60’s era pop culture twist.
Featured Image By G Keith Hall (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
All other photos by CanuckatLarge