When you ask most people about the Blue Ridge Parkway, they think about the 469 miles of windy, picturesque road and overlooks. Beautiful mountain views and tunnels.
But you’ve got to get off at some point. I mean you do have to eat and sleep right? Even better, if and when you do take a little excursion you’ll be surprised by the variety and offerings of all the towns and cities along the parkway.
We could talk about Asheville all day. But there are smaller cities like West Jefferson and Black Mountain. I’ve done some posts on all three of these cities, but it would take a long time to visit ALL of the towns.
So I asked for some help and these 7 fellow travel enthusiasts and bloggers shared their favorite cities and towns near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Of course, there are still plenty more places, but these wonderful travelers offer a taste of what’s out there.
Anna Cook at stuckonthego.com
The town of Linville Falls may not be the first one you think of when planning a vacation, but don’t count it out just because it’s a little smaller.
This cute little town is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway between Little Switzerland and Grandfather Mountain. The main attraction here is the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
There are plenty of well-marked trails to occupy you for a day and even more difficult trails for the advanced hiker if you want to stay longer. The main trails are all about the gorgeous upper and lower waterfalls while the others will take you down to the Linville River.
The Wilderness area isn’t the only draw here though. There are the Linville Falls Caverns to visit and Linville Falls Winery, which is a great place to spend the afternoon. Also a great stop after a full day of hiking, but maybe that’s just me.
If you want to stay overnight then try the Linville Falls Lodge & Cottages. This lodge is absolutely adorable and staff is so friendly. For a more rugged adventure, you can camp at the Linville Falls Campground or in the Wilderness area.
Alexandra Beesting at somewheresomeway.com
Tucked in the trees of the Blue Ridge mountain range lies a small town called Blowing Rock. Home to a population of 1,367, Blowing Rock, NC is a small but mighty town to visit if you’re hoping for charm and access to the outdoors. Its distance from the popular Grandfather Mountain makes it a great spot to spend a day and get a true Blue Ridge experience.
Start your morning with some endorphins by hiking Grandfather Mountain. At the top sits the Mile High Swinging Bridge, a must-do for those not scared of heights. I also highly recommend the MacRae Peak hike. It’s a steep hike that requires about three hours even though you only hike 0.9 miles. The views were amazing!
When you’ve worked up an appetite, the Blowing Rock Ale House had a great dining atmosphere, delicious food, and beer flights, which make a perfect combination after a long hike.
After dinner, walk to the Blowing Rock Market, a converted gas station. The place had a little bit of everything and it’s the perfect place to grab a glass of wine to end the evening. This would also be a great spot for a morning breakfast or lunch sandwich.
We picked up a deck of playing cards and made our way back to the Julian Price campground, which we highly recommend if you’re interested in camping.
Tegan George & Alex McKenzie at whynotwalk.com
When exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the U.S.’s great treasures, make sure to budget some time for a stop in Boone– one of North Carolina’s quaintest college towns.
For such a small community, Boone has a lot to offer the nature lover, college sports enthusiast, antique collector, or foodie. While you’re here, don’t miss the mile-high Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain, breathtaking wraparound views at Blowing Rock, and the Tweetsie Railroad– an original, early 20th-century steam-powered train.
While window shopping at the antique shops, general stores, and locally-owned boutiques downtown, make sure to check out Appalachian State University’s beautiful campus, or perhaps even catch a football game if you’re visiting in the autumn.
If you find yourself in Boone during winter, the area boasts some of the best skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and tubing in the southeast.
If you’re in the mood for a bite to eat, check out the Pedalin’ Pig for mouthwatering barbeque, or Stick Boy Bread Company for lighter fare. For the vegetarians and vegans out there, you’ll find lots of options at F.A.R.M. and Our Daily Bread.
Lora Gene Young at gypsynomadhiking
Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway (exit at Hwy 21 or Mahogany Rock Rd) is the quaint town of Sparta, NC.
Sparta is the county seat of Alleghany County, and, though not as splendid as its Greek namesake, Sparta offers small-town, mountain charm. From your morning coffee to a big southern dinner, this town has you covered.
Start your day off right, at Becca’s Beans. Not just coffee, Becca also offers smoothies, teas, and fruit juices along with a delicious array of baked goods, soup, and sandwiches.
If you are looking for a relaxing place to stay and play, Olde Beau Golf Resort is just up the road. The resort features luxury rooms, a golf course and dining.
A dose of down-home cooking more your style? Stop in at Brown’s Restaurant, just off Main Street. Brown’s boasts everything tasty, and do not leave without a huge slice of coconut cream pie.
Head down to Main Street Pizzeria and Taphouse for a variety of beers, wines, mixed drinks and the best pizza in town. And do not forget to check out Laconia Ale Works, Sparta’s first brewery boasts a seven-barrel brewhouse and a wide variety of beers.
Sparta, NC, mountain living meets southern charm.
Tara and Eric Schatz at backroadramblers.com
If you’re looking for a mountain destination with a walkable downtown, amazing indoor and outdoor art, and indulgent restaurants and breweries, you have to check out Roanoke, Virginia!
Located between Milepost 110 to Milepost 121 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Roanoke is the largest metropolitan area on this scenic route. It’s also the best place to grab a locally-crafted beer, luxuriate in the perfect farm-to-table meal, or meander through an art, history, or science museum.
You will need at least a weekend to explore all that Roanoke has to offer, but even if you’ve only got an afternoon, be sure to stop!
While you’re here, drive up to the famous Roanoke Star on the top of Mill Mountain, learn about Roanoke’s railroad history at the Virginia Museum of Transportation, and fuel your DIY dreams at the famous Black Dog Salvage.
Top it all off with a delightful meal at Local Roots and a famous brew from Deschutes Brewery’s downtown tasting room.
Karen Keathley at somewheredownsouth.com
Bryson City is a beautiful small town situated on the banks of the Tuckasegee River and bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It is also located just west of the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway making it the perfect place to stay as you either begin or end your drive on this stunning road.
There are so many things to do in Bryson City and it is particularly known for outdoor activities. At nearby Deep Creek, you can go tubing as well as see 3 waterfalls with just a short walk. You will discover plenty of hiking around Bryson City as well as white water rafting, zip-lining, mountain biking, fly fishing, and horseback riding.
If you prefer to do something a little more sedentary you can take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad which will give you a scenic and relaxing tour of the countryside.
In addition to all of the outdoor activities it offers, you will find that Bryson City is a walkable and laid back town. It has art galleries, some fun shopping, a historical museum, and a variety of restaurants and accommodations.
It is a perfect town to include on your tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway!
Mouth of Wilson (Grayson Highlands State Park)
Emily Adams at theplankingtraveler.com
In the small town of Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, you can easily spend an entire day exploring Grayson Highlands State Park. It offers many hiking trails (including Appalachian Trail access) with views of waterfalls, panoramic mountain peaks, and the famous wild ponies that roam freely in the area.
Make sure to dress warmly as it can get quite chilly with the wind, and bring cash as the entrance does not accept credit cards.
Cabin Creek Trail is a 2 mile moderately strenuous loop with several waterfalls along the way. There are numerous creek crossings and slippery rocks to climb, so it’s a good idea to wear hiking boots with good tread and bring a change of socks.
The Rhododendron Trail is where you will have the best chance of seeing the wild ponies and you’ll notice it’s much more crowded than the Cabin Creek Trail as everyone wants to get a photo of them.
Note – it is not permitted to pet the ponies as they are wild animals, and do not approach from behind as they have been known to kick.
I absolutely loved all the different markings on the ponies and watching families of them graze together.
Lora Gene Young at gypsynomadhiking
While I did my best with my visit to West Jefferson (you can read it here), Lora is a local and you just can’t beat a local’s insight on their town.
If you want a locals view of West Jefferson, check out the backstreets. Main Street gets a lot of attention, and can get crowded, so we locals like to hit up the back streets.
Across from the Farmer’s Market is Havana Café. This tiny little restaurant is my favorite place to eat. It is only open for lunch so timing is everything. Serving authentic Cuban style food with an American flair, you will not regret stopping here. https://www.facebook.com/Havana-Cafe-144259242426687
There is a brewery on Main Street, and I do love Boondocks, the Brew Haus and the restaurant, but if you want a less traveled brewery, head down to New River Brewing. A menu boasting home-brewed beers as well as a wide selection of beers from other local breweries gives you plenty of options. Make sure you try their in-house cider. Crisp and not too sweet, refreshing on a hot day. https://www.newriverbrewing.beer/
Finally, make sure you stop in at Catchlight Gallery. This photo gallery is a cooperative. It is operated by the artists whose photos line the walls. The photography is superb and most of the photos are local, as well as the artists. Catchlight is a great way to support local artists and have a good yarn with whoever happens to be manning the shop. https://www.facebook.com/CatchLightGallery