On a sunny summer day, a prescription for R&R with a healthy dose of Americana lies in a small town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The one-hour drive from Greensboro to Mount Airy is a straight shot from Highway 52 north, heading toward Virginia, and is the perfect place for a day trip or staycation.
The town of Mount Airy, made famous for being the real life Mayberry from the ’60s hit show, “The Andy Griffith Show,” has morphed into a quaint town chock full of one-of-a-kind stores, antiques, and unique eateries.
Mount Airy is the actual hometown of actor Andy Griffith, and tributes to the actor who put the town on the map are everywhere. On any given day, tour buses and cars line the streets as fans of Mayberry and shop for memorabilia, take a ride in the squad from the show, pop into Floyd’s City Barber Shop, or grab a “world famous” pork chop sandwich at Snappy Lunch.
But the town that Andy built is much more than just Mayberry. Mount Airy is also situated in the heart of wine country in the Yadkin Valley American Viticulture Area (AVA), North Carolina’s first. New restaurants have opened in recent years with more sophisticated offerings such as sushi and wood-fired pizza. Thirsty Souls Brewing, located in a former funeral home, is the town’s first brewery and the scene of live music on the weekends.
Start with a ride through the downtown to see the artisan beauty of Granite City; buildings, such as the Mount Airy Public Library, local churches, and the Mount Airy Post Office, are crafted from local granite from the worlds’ largest open-faced granite quarry. Then, shop till you drop in the many stores lining the streets, have lunch, and stay for live music in the evening at a local restaurant or brewery, or at the Blackmon Amphitheatre.
There is never enough time to see everything in the town voted one of North Carolina’s best attractions. There are so many options; an itinerary can literally be tailored for any taste. Here are some ideas:
• Mayberry-themed stores. Browse Mayberry-themed stores on Main Street, including Opie’s Candy Store, Aunt Bea’s, Mayberry Market & Souvenirs, and Floyd’s City Barber Shop.
• See “Thelma Lou” at Andy Griffith Museum. The third Friday of every month, actress Betty Lynn who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show” makes an appearance at the Andy Griffith Museum to sign autographs and visit with fans.
• Take a selfie in front of the Andy and Opie statue at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. Landscaping is by famed national architectural landscaper, Chip Calloway, from Greensboro.
• Squad Car tours. Depart from Wally’s Service station in a replica of the Ford Galaxie squad car that Barney and Andy drove in the show for a 30-minute tour of Mayberry landmarks.
• The Groovy Goose. Relive the ’70s with décor, accessories, vinyl, cool clothes, and more in the colorful vintage boutique that promises a trip back to “funkytown.” The groove is on the minute you hit the door with LPs playing Peter Frampton, Elton John, and other ’70s artists.
• Farmhouse Spits and Spoons. Kitchen accessories and décor never looked so good. The store has galvanized tin serving pieces, cast iron skillets with recipes, the Mud Pie accessory line, and more. Watch an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” while shopping.
• Scarlet Begonias. A blooming boutique experience with home décor, jewelry, accessories, and more.
• Snappy Lunch. No trip to Mount Airy would be complete without eating the famous fried pork chop sandwich that was touted in Gourmet magazine. Celebrity photos of Oprah and others line the walls. In business since 1923, the prices are diner style and the experience is priceless.
• Mi Casa on Main. Try the Jalapeño Bottlecaps, street corn, and Cowboy Candy. After dinner, treat yourself to a blackberry margarita. Mi Casa is also keto friendly.
• The Loaded Goat. The sports bistro and pub is named from an episode of "The Andy Griffith Show." Try the award-winning Carolina Burger.
• Dairy Center. Get old-fashioned car hop service. Order a hot dog all-the-way and treat yourself to a strawberry milkshake made from homemade ice cream.
• Mount Airy Meat Center. Step in and grab the best pimento cheese (at the best price) in the region.
• Surry Sonker Trail. Try pastry and cake concoctions found in Surry County. Three of the nine stops on the Surry Sonker Trail are downtown.
• Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies. Try the moonshine ice cream or other goodies.
• Speedy Chef. The unassuming and nondescript eatery made the "Best Of" list in Our State magazine for its mega-sized hot chocolate sundae.
Brews and Spirits:
• White Elephant Beer Company. Check out weekly events like music and trivia night, or sit outside with your favorite brew on the town’s revamped Market Street.
• Thirsty Souls Brewery. Spend time in Mount Airy’s first craft brewery where the beer names themselves are equally as crafty. Try the Fake News Re-Porter, Killing Me Softly Saison, and other inventive brews. Live music entertains along with top-notch eats such as wood fired pizza and charcuterie plates.
• Whistling Duck Ale House. The location along the greenway and the Ararat River make the brewery a perfect place to stop and relax while connecting to nature.
• Mayberry Spirits. The first legal distillery in Mayberry since Prohibition. Mayberry Spirits produces hand-crafted Mayberry RFD (Really Fine Drink) in three premium sorghum whiskeys along with entertaining tours of the distillery. Tours are held on Fri & Sat, noon–6 p.m. on the top of each hour.
• Old North State Winery. Start your tour at ONSW, which is located on Main Street. The winery produces a large array of dry, semi-sweet, and sweet wines under two labels — Old North State and Fish Hippie. The winery also has a popular restaurant.
• Surry County Wine Trail. Featuring 15 wineries, breweries, and distilleries, guests can pick and choose which to visit.
• Round Peak Vineyards. Come for amazing views and stay for a tasting at one of the few pet-friendly wineries. The vineyard also owns Skull Camp Brewery in Elkin.
Music and Festivals:
• First Friday’s on Market. Enjoy music and food on Market Street hosted by Thirsty Souls Brewing (May to October at 4 p.m.).
• WPAQ’s Merry-Go-Round. Tap your toes on Saturday’s at the jam session recorded live at the Earle Theatre. The session is the nation’s second longest-running live radio show.
• Blackmon Amphitheatre Summer Concert Series. For music under the stars, it’s the best ticket in town. Weekly shows through October.
• Mayberry Days. A celebration of all things Mayberry in September.
• Autumn Leaves. Spend a beautiful fall weekend in downtown Mount Airy browsing handmade crafts from across the Southeast.
Mount Airy’s downtown was voted best attraction in North Carolina 2018 by USA Today. Go to visitmayberry.com for more information and upcoming events.