Blowing Rock in North Carolina is a tiny but adorable town that has surprisingly much to offer. During your mountain escape you can explore the legend of the Blowing Rock that gave name to the village, hike Cone Park, see the impressive Flat Top Manor and make excursions on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Continue reading to find out more about the best things to do in Blowing Rock.
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The blowing rock that gave name to the village
In the southern end of Blowing Rock you find the legendary cliff, the Blowing Rock. Its formation is extraordinary and it offers beautiful views of the surroundings, unusual wind gusts that cause the snow to fall from below in the winter and even a romantic legend that has lasted for hundreds of years. And to visit the mythical rock is definitely one of the best things to do in Blowing Rock.
The actual Blowing Rock
The Blowing Rock reaches out from the other parts of the mountain over the gorge below. At about 3,000 feet (900 m) above John’s River Gorge the overlook is truly captivating and a great place to visit in Blowing Rock.
But the Blowing Rock is not only known for it’s beautiful views. It’s as renowned for the strong upward winds that come from the gorge below the rock.
Wind passes through the gorge toward the Blowing Rock. At the end of the gorge, at Blowing Rock, the wind follows the path of least resistance up the slopes until it reaches the outreaching rock.
This phenomenon causes snow in the winter to follow the wind and fall from below. Or upside down as some call it.
Try the phenomenon out yourself if you visit a windy day and throw something light that can’t hurt anyone or anything over the edge. If you pick a good day chances are in your advantage that you will experience the legendary gusts.
The Blowing Rock legend
The gusts of Blowing Rock have made it into a romantic story about an Indian man and woman.
As the legend goes a young Indian woman moved with her father to escape the wars between her tribe the Chickasaws and the rivals the Cherokees.
But love has its ways and one day when the young woman was looking for food she stumbled on a young man who hunted in the woods. Love struck them at first sight. But the love also meant big danger for both of them.
It was a dangerous love because the young man was Cherokee and not Chickasaw like the woman. Passion is a strong element and they continued to quietly see each other even though they were supposed to be enemies. At secret places in the woods they found solitude and enjoyed each other’s company for months.
However, one evening the couple saw a red glow in the sky. The glow drew them to a certain cliff, the Blowing Rock. From there they could see how the glow turned more and more red, until it took the color of fresh blood.
The Cherokee man interpreted the glow as a sign. As he understood it a huge battle with a lot of spilled blood would soon take place between the Cherokees and the Chickasaws.
Stuck between his duties as a Cherokee man and his love for the Chickasaw woman he saw no other solution but to leap off the rock toward the floor of the gorge.
All the Chickasaw woman could do was to pray to the gods about what had happened. She prayed them to make the wind send her love back to her where he belonged. And her prayers were heard and granted. The man was lifted right back by the wind to her arms.
As the legend goes on the couple after this event stopped hiding and instead used their love as an example to make the nations stop fighting.
Hiking Moses H. Cone Park
Two miles (3 km) outside Blowing Rock you find the Moses H. Cone Park. Moses Cone was a very successful man within the textile industry. He fell in love with Blowing Rock and together with his wife Bertha they developed the estate and built the house of their dreams. Today to visit the Cone grounds is one of the best things to do in Blowing Rock.
The Moses H. Cone estate belongs to the National Park Service. It goes under the name Moses H. Cone Park, or just Cone Park. The 3600 acre (14,5 km2) estate was donated to the National Park Service as a public pleasure-ground in 1950 and to visit is among the best things to do in Blowing Rock.
A pleasure-ground is just what Cone Park is. Here you nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains find lakes, trails, a family cemetery and even an idyllic apple orchard. Some of the trails are partly overgrown, but that only contributes to the charm and cements the Cone Park as one of the best things to do in Blowing Rock.
A popular trail in the park is the Flat Top Mountain Carriage Trail up to Observation Tower. There at the outlook you get a thorough view of the estate. The return hike from the manor is about 5.5 miles (8,9 km).
You can visit Moses H. Cone Park anytime during the year. This great thing to do in Blowing Rock is always open.
Exploring the flat Top Manor itself
The jewel of the Cone estate is the Flat Top Manor. The manor is a white mansion in Colonial Revival style which was completed in 1901.
Flat Top Manor consists of more than 20 rooms and while Cone Park always is open, the mansion is open for visits seasonally from spring to late fall or early winter.
On the first floor of the Flat Top you find the Parkway Craft Center. Here you can buy handmade crafts including textiles, pottery, woodworks, jewelry, glass, toys, photography and painting.
To see more of the house you can take a seasonally arranged Cone Manor Tour. Then you get to see the second floor of the house while hearing more about the history of the Cone’s.
A popular place easily gets more than one name. And the Flat Top Manor also goes under the names Moses H. Cone Mansion, Moses Cone Estate or simply put the Flat Top.
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
Of all road trips you can make in America the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most beautiful ones. It stretches out from Shenandoah NP in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains NP in North Carolina.
Blowing Rock is one of the best stops along the parkway. But there is much more to explore too. Even if you’re not driving the entire 469 mile (750 km) Blue Ridge Parkway exploring some of it is one of the best things to do in Blowing Rock.
Linn Cove Viaduct as well as Linville Gorge and Falls are less than an hour away from Blowing Rock, making them perfect day trip destinations on your Blowing Rock itinerary.
Linn Cove Viaduct
So how cool could a viaduct be? Well, the Linn Cove Viaduct has become a symbol for the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s one of the most photographed sights on the parkway and it’s easily accessible less than 30 minutes away from Blowing Rock. Drive over it or use the hiking trails for an even more magnificent view of the bridge and its surroundings.
Linville Gorge and Falls
Add another 20 minutes on the driving time from Linn Cove Viaduct and you reach Linville Gorge and Falls. It’s a beautiful area that includes a waterfall that moves in distinctive steps. Linville Falls may be the main attraction of Linville Gorge, but the entire area is stunning.
The annual WinterFest in Blowing Rock
Every winter the WinterFest is held in Blowing Rock. Winter is fun and that is celebrated in Blowing Rock. If you visit in winter you shouldn’t miss this unique thing to do in Blowing Rock.
The variety of the celebrations is impressive. The program is updated each year but popular inclusions have been a dog show, lake plunge, wine tasting, live music, s’mores and much more fun activities.
And Blowing Rock has been named one of America’s prettiest winter towns, so where could possibly be a better place to celebrate the winter?
Shopping opportunities in Blowing Rock
Blowing Rock has risen to become a great shopping destination in North Carolina. And nowadays shopping is one of the best things to do in Blowing Rock. In Blowing Rock you find both unique trinkets and all the most famous mainstream brands.
The downdown environment is unique with streets filled with boutiques, jewelry, art and home decoration shops. And the central district is very walking friendly, so it’s easy to get from store to store by foot.
Further down the road you find Tanger Outlets. There you have many of your favourite brands at competitive pricing. Make sure that you clear the trunk before you go!
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Best things to do in Blowing Rock FAQ
Here you find the answers to some frequently asked questions about the best things to do in Blowing Rock, NC.
Blowing Rock is a true year round destination, so you can go anytime that suits you. The Blue Ridge Mountains are beautiful every season of the year. Just have in mind that the Cone Manor is closed for visitors during the colder months of the year. On the other hand Blowing Rock is one of the prettiest winter towns in America, so winter is still a wonderful time to go.