The tiny town nestled in the foothills of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains is called Mount Airy. Its reputation for charm precedes it, known mainly as the hometown of Andy Griffith and the inspiration for the idyllic neighborhood his show was set in, Mayberry.
As such the streets here are rampant with a retro nostalgia, for a unique feel unlike anywhere else, meaning there are plenty of unique things to do in Mount Airy for all. It also has more to offer than meets the eye with natural wonders nearby, quirky attractions to explore, and a rich history all its own. We believe it’s one of the best hidden gems in North Carolina, and below are all the best things to do in Mt. Airy that makes it so.
Where is Mount Airy?
Mount Airy is a small town in North Carolina. It’s located in Northwestern North Carolina, and almost borders the state of Virginia. The closest city is Winston Salem, and at just a 30 minute drive, it makes for a fantastic day trip away from the city.
The town sits at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is just 14 miles away from the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a small town of just 10,000 people, but it’s well known around the entire country for one main reason. Actor Andy Griffith was born in Mount Airy, and the town is believed to be the basis for Mayberry, the setting of the Andy Griffith Show.
All around you’ll see attractions and sights that will remind you of the bygone days. The community even holds an annual celebration in September called “Mayberry Days” where surviving members of the cast often visit.
Best Things to do in Mount Airy
Stroll Down Main Street
For that adorable small-town atmosphere, a stroll down the quaint Main Street is just the thing. We love to spend an afternoon moseying and popping into all the shops. It’s a great way to start off any adventure in Mt. Airy and get a real feel for the scene here. The Spotted Moon, Mayberry Trading Post, the Groovy Goose, and Bear Creek Gifts are all well worth a look around.
It’s a super walkable downtown, lined with specialty stores, eateries, and gift shops. In the summer outdoor vendors line the walkways as well. Walker’s Soda Fountain is always a favorite, especially for anyone with a hankering for the best milkshakes on the East Coast. Getting an old-fashioned chocolate malt and a hot dog here is really in your best interest.
Andy Griffith Museum
To really dive into the town’s biggest claim to fame, the Andy Griffith Museum explores all things Mayberry through fun and in-depth exhibits. If you’re a fan, it’s one of the best things to do in Mount Airy. As you may assume, it’s home to the world’s largest collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia, including costumes, photos, and records.
Many of these articles were donated by the cast and crew of creative projects and his childhood best friend Emmett Forrest. The rooms are filled with keepsakes spanning the entire career of the star, from movies to music to TV. An iconic statue of Andy and Opie going fishing sits right out front.
Pilot Mountain State Park
The stunning scenery that surrounds Mount Airy makes for a lovely way to spend a day enjoying the great outdoors. Pilot Mountain State Park is only 13 miles away from downtown and one of the best parks in the state. There are just under 30 miles of paths to hike, as well as opportunities for paddling, camping, and rock climbing.
Grindstone Trail is probably the most popular pick, as it takes you right to the top of Pilot Mountain to the famous Big Pinnacle Peak. Over the course of just three miles, you can reach the towering height of 2,000 feet above sea level which offers sweeping and uninterrupted vistas of the landscape around Mt. Airy.
Museum of Regional History
Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is home to four floors of informational exhibits focused on the heritage of the area. It covers a wealth of history from indigenous tribes to early settlers to hometown heroes.
The Hands-on History Gallery is a fun interactive space for all ages. Special focuses, like the displays on the Old Time genre of music that’s specific to the area, successfully shine a light on what makes Mt. Airy so unique.
This iconic landmark has been a famous fixture in Mt. Airy since 1938. The historic structure has since been restored to its former glory and screens films as well as hosting some community events. It seats 2,768 and screens a variety of new and classic cinema.
Check their schedule for showtimes and even live music performances, such as Thursday Jam Night or the second longest running broadcast radio show in the country, WPAQ Merry Go Round, both of which feature local bluegrass bands rocking out. Be sure to stop by the Old Time Music Heritage Hall while in the building, which displays vintage records and musical instruments.
Have a Drink at the Breweries
White Elephant Beer Company is a family-owned and operated establishment known as the mecca of craft brewing in Mt. Airy. They guarantee the most varied taps in town, and it’s a popular watering hole for both visitors and residents alike. It’s a spacious setting and a fun atmosphere, with colorful murals, outdoor picnic tables, and a general laidback friendly neighborhood vibe. Local bands often perform here as well. They offer drafts from all over the world, across the state, and many are made on-site.
Thirsty Souls Community Brewing aims to create a sense of community through its small-batch craft creations. They make mostly European-style beers with nuanced flavor profiles. It’s set in a former funeral home and has a unique ambiance unlike anywhere else. They also serve up some seriously tasty artisan pizzas to pair with the pints. The Lost at Sea Gose Sour and the Raw Dawg IPA are two of the most delicious drafts here if you ask us.
Mount Airy is sometimes called“The Granite City,” and for good reason. One of the quirkier, and surprisingly cool, sites to see in Mt. Airy is the giant quarry set just outside of town, often affectionately referred to as the Rock that has been around over 150 years. It’s the world’s largest open pit granite quarry, and if that doesn’t entice you enough it can actually be seen from space.
Granite is also the official state rock of North Carolina, and this quarry has a high ridge above the pit that allows for a staggering view of the entire expanse. It can’t be toured but sometimes you can see the blasting happen. Although it can’t be toured as it’s owned by NC Granite Corp you can visit the Observation Deck.
Here you can see nearly all the activities and are close enough to get the full rattling of an explosion, which happens multiple times a day. The observation deck can be reached by car, and access is open year round!
This small town is a treasure trove for finding unique antique items. Scouring these stores for collectibles and vintage gems is one of the best things to do in Mount Airy. Remember When Antiques and Main Street Market are just a couple of superior antique purveyors to peruse.
The Mayberry Antique Mall is a great option for a one-stop-shop of old furnishings, knick-knacks, and general goodies galore. There are over 100 vendors in 18,000 square feet here to browse. Dig through old school artwork, lighting fixtures, magazines, vinyl, photographs, and other decorative odds and ends to find that perfect piece while in town, it’s likely to be here.
Hanging Rock State Park
There are over 18 miles of trails to traverse here, for both hiking and biking, that meander all through the rugged wilds of the Sauratown Mountains. It offers over 9,000 acres of preserved nature to discover. They boast a milder climate than some other natural wonders around and are enjoyable to explore any time of year.
Hanging Rock State Park is home to an abundance of rare native flora and fauna and boasts many craggy cliffs that reach staggering heights of over 2,500 feet above sea level. It’s a great place to pack a picnic and find a scenic spot to relax with a bite in a beautiful backdrop. Access to the Dan River is available here for plenty of paddling adventures and a sparkling lake offers an opportunity for a refreshing swim. It’s only around 40 minutes from town, making it a top candidate for a scenic day trip.
Squad Car Tour
A fun, one-of-a-kind way to see all the Mayberry related sites in Mount Airy is to take a squad car tour. An Andy Griffith expert will chauffeur you all around town in a vintage Ford Galaxie 500 police patrol replica that dates back to the 1960s.
It goes past the birthplace of Andy Griffith, Floyd’s Barbershop, the Courthouse, and the Old Jail, all prominent locations featured in the famous series. It starts right from Wally’s Service Station as well. It gives great background and context about the show and its fictional setting and includes some interesting little-known facts for any Griffith history buffs out there.
Try the Old School Restaurants
Snappy Lunch is a beloved landmark of Mount Airy, mostly famous for its prominent role on the Andy Griffith show. It has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, with cozy booths and walls adorned with old photographs. Its most iconic meal is the pork sandwich, which everyone will recommend. However, all the breakfast plates are just as delicious, especially when they come with the homemade biscuits. It’s been curing the cravings of the hungry masses here since 1923.
The Loaded Goat is named after the dynamite eating billy in the Andy Griffith Show. The ambiance is unassuming, they cook up classic pub grub, and always have the game up on the big screen. Some Southern classics grace the menu here, like the Blackened Catfish and Fried Green Tomato BLT. The long and electric list of apps always makes us want to order a few and share.
Very few people actually know what a sonker is before visiting Mount Airy, but if you’ve played your cards right you are sure to be made aware by the time you leave. A regional specialty that’s a must-try for all the sweet tooths, it’s a cross between a pie and a cobbler made with all kinds of seasonal fruits.
There are eight different dessert spots around town that serve up this specialty – creating a “Sonker Trail”. Miss Angels Heavenly Pies is a popular pick, as here the sonkers are topped with a glaze made from local moonshine. Its origins in the county date all the way back to the 1800s. Don’t miss trying a piece of confectionary history in Mount Airy by hitting the Sonker Trail.
Explore the Yadkin Valley
Mt. Airy is located inside the Yadkin Valley, which also happens to be home to over 30 North Carolina wineries. With such an extensive array of vineyards to visit, it’s easy to explore the verdant valleys of the surrounding areas while taste testing any number of varietals from the native sweet Muscadine wines to the European styles of Pinot Grigios and Sauvignons.
The Old North State Winery is located right in downtown Mount Airy and offers both tasting and tours to learn more about the wine making process. It’s an urban and modern space set in a renovated hardware store. They have an extensive cellar of affordable options, farm-to-table fares, and often host live entertainment.
Tour Historic Homes
The Gertrude Smith House is a breathtaking example of Victorian colonial revival architecture built in the early 1900s. You can take a tour of the elegant abode, which has been carefully preserved with period pieces of art and furnishings.
The William Alfred Moore House is the oldest structure still standing in Mount Airy. It boasts an interesting style, with an Italianate and Gothic revival exterior and a Greek revival interior. It was built in 1862 and today is listed on the National Register of Historic places and is open for self-guided tours.
Mayberry Spirits is the first legal distillery in Mount Airy since prohibition. Taking a tour here is a fun way to learn all about the process and the complex history of liquor in North Carolina. Their main products are the three premium sorghum moonshine whiskeys – Crystal Moon, Toasted Oak, and Toasted Vanilla.
Taste samples of whiskey and moonshine along the way and end the whole thing with a few expertly mixed cocktails. You even get to take home a souvenir shot glass. They sell bottles of their craft small-batch spirits in their retail section, along with other handmade local wares, like paintings and pottery.
Andy Griffith Playhouse
The Andy Griffith Playhouse was originally an elementary school where the TV star once attended. Today it serves as a theater for performances, community classes, and art camps. It’s also home to the famous Siamese Twins Exhibit. Eng and Chang Bunker were born in Thailand in 1811 attached as Siamese twins.
They took a liking to North Carolina and moved to the area after touring all over the world as a sideshow attraction. They later married and had many children, with over 1500 descendants today in total. The exhibit at the playhouse explores their unique and highly publicized life. You can also visit their shared grave at the White Plains Baptist Church cemetery nearby.