A lasting legend and a mystery yet to be solved.
Long ago news of a small town murder swept across the nation. Laura Foster had been stabbed in the forest but by who and why? It all began in Happy Valley where love transformed into lust and loathing, lead to the Wilkes County Jail and ended at the noose. Tom Dula (Dooley), Laura Foster, Pauline Foster and Ann Foster Milton all became deeply entangled in a love affair. Laura was found in a shallow grave and Tom hanged for the crime. Some say that Tom confessed to save Ann Milton while others believe he was justly put to death. The mystery lives on and the clues are yet to be untangled. Each person who visits Wilkes and hears the tale comes to their own conclusion. A tour of all things Tom Dooley is a thrilling adventure to be had, a mystery to be pondered and a memory to be made.
Places to see
You will get to tour the Robert Cleveland house and the jail where Tom was held after his run from the law. This is the place where the many a question was asked and where each answer drew Dula closer to his fate.
Whippoorwill Village is a collection of historic cabins including a schoolhouse, church, blacksmith shop, and more. This is where visitors can take a step back in time to see what it was like to live in those days. A museum dedicated to the legend holds within it paintings of those involved and accounts of what past Dula detectives believe to have transpired. The grave of Tom Dula is very near and some have even claimed to have seen Tom himself haunting the hillside.
Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend
This theatrical performance has attracted visitors to Wilkes for many a year. Nestled in forest this hillside amphitheater is the perfect place for the Dooley legend to unfold before your very eyes. Watch as the stage comes to life with fire and horses. Hear as fact and folklore unfold in this captivating drama.
Candlelight Ghost Tour
The Candlelight Ghost Tours have been attracting history buffs and ghost hunters from across the state and across the country. Join a guide, dressed in attire from the past, and hear tales of ghost haunting the streets and buildings of downtown Wilkesboro. This tour will take you past the old hanging tree and into the old jail where Tom sat in fear for his life. You may even have a ghostly encounter of your own!
Wilkes is home to both “mom and pop” local eateries and national chain brand restaurants . Depending upon your dining goals, your choices are many and varied. From long established, family owned establishments like Don’s Seafood and Steaks and Hadley’s to branded restaurants like Olive Garden and Ruby Tuesdays, Wilkes is home to dining that is sure to meet every preference.
The Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn are on my list of top two places to stay in Wilkes. Both are easy to fins and offer top notch service at reasonable rates. The Hampton Inn is located just off of 268 and is the closest hotel to Whippoorwill. You will even see the hotel to your left as you drive to the village. The Holiday Inn, located just off of Hwy 421, is just down the road from Fort Hamby Park, where the Tom Dooley drama takes place.
Whippoorwill has been a labor of love for owner Edith Carter, who saw the importance in historic buildings and began saving them long ago. Edith is also an artist and has repurposed an old smokehouse, built in the late 1700′s, for use as a gallery. Visitors will notice that much of the art displayed tells the story of local legend Tom Dula, a young man who hung for crimes he committed…or may have committed. This is the real mystery. There is also a cabin museum especially for Tom Dula. Those who tour the village will get to hear the legend of Tom Dula, visit the Daniel Boone Cabin, a blacksmith shop, a schoolhouse built in 1880, the lovely Chapel of Peace (a popular location for weddings) and many more structures. Most importantly, visitors will learn about life and the way things once were.
The village is open to the public Saturday and Sunday, 3-5 pm and during the week by appointment. The Village is closed January through March. I would recommend making a special trip to visit on Daniel Boone Day (the second Saturday in May) or for the Christmas Open House in December.
Call (336) 973-3237 for an appointment.
How to get there
Whippoorwill is not hard to get to but can be easy to miss if you aren’t looking for the sign.
- From 421 North (like you are coming from Winston-Salem) you will take exit 286 B towards 268
- From the ramp turn left onto 268 and continue straight for about 12 miles
- Whippoorwill will be on your left. Look for a gravel drive and small brown sign
- From 421 South (like you are coming from Boone) you will take exit 286 towards 268…the sign will also say “WCC Gardens.”
- From the ramp turn right onto 268 and continue straight for about 12 miles
- Whippoorwill will be on your left. Look for a gravel drive and small brown sign.
What to pay
The village is free to enter but we strongly recommend making a donation.
You will want to bring some cash for any special finds you may come across in the old country store. The store has old fashioned toys, canned goods and Items made by local craftsmen. I am a big fan of the bamboo pickles and am always able to find wonderful gifts for friends and family!
What to bring
Food! Whippoorwill does have some tasty goodies in the old country store but it is not really enough to make a picnic out of and Whippoorwill is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic. Anything that you would take for a day at the park is just the sort of thing that you may want to bring here.
Where to stay
The Hampton Inn of Wilkesboro is located just off of 268 and is the closest hotel to Whippoorwill. You will even see the hotel to your left as you drive to the village. You may also consider the Holiday Inn, located just off of Hwy 421.
If you would like to hold a wedding, or any other event at Whippoorwill Village, you will simply need to book ahead of time, pay a small rental fee, respect the property and have a jolly good time!
Located in the Yadkin Valley, Elkin Creek Vineyard is a wonderful place to do a wine tasting, have a wedding, or simply enjoy a nice dinner! Southern Living called Elkin Creek “the best in the valley”, referring to the excellent wine and food! The land was previously a century-old mill (which can still be seen from the winery), and today it is home to 6 acres of lush vineyards and a beautiful winery. The vineyards were planted in 2001 and are used for the 8 different types of wine available at Elkin Creek.
The first bottles of Elkin Creek wine were bottled in the fall of 2005. Talk about an exciting time for the owners!! Today there are 8 different types of wine available, which include; Chardonnay, Soft White, Sangiovese, Adequate Red, Rossa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Classico, and Remembrances. These are all as unique as the land the grapes were grown on. With the variety of wines, and bottles ranging from only $14 to $34, there is a bottle for every taste-bud and budget:)
*Hours & Wine Tasting- The winery is open Thursday-Sunday 11-5. Tastings are available by appointment only (336)526-5119
The Kitchen at Elkin Creek is currently only open on Sundays to the public. The talented chefs create pizzas made to order that are cooked in their wood-fire brick oven. YUM! What goes better with a glass of red wine than pizza?? It is strongly encouraged that you make reservations if you are planning to make a visit, the space fills up fast! The Kitchen is also used for weddings, receptions, special parties, meetings, and other events.
Weddings at Elkin Creek
Elkin Creek is a wonderful location to have a wedding! The spectacular Oak trees, May apples, Rhododendron, and Mountain Laurel create a scenic backdrop for the special event. There are two locations where the ceremonies can take place, one setting is by two creeks coming together as one, and the other is by a more intimate setting by a gentle waterfall. Receptions can be held in the vineyard harvest barn. There are proposal, wedding, elopement, and renewal of vows packages available.
At Elkin Creek there are creek-side cabins available for visitors to stay in on a nightly, or weekly basis. The cabins have a rustic feel, but provide modern day conveniences. All cabins feature a queen size bed, a full kitchen, a stone fireplace, LCD TVs, and back porch swings…and that’s just mentioning a few!
*Rental Rates: Weekdays (Sun-Thurs) $119/night, Weekends (2 night minimum) $135/night, and Weekly Rate $109/night
1. Go see the Vineyard. Whether you want to do a tasting, or just see the 6 acre spread, Elkin Creek is a site to see!
2. Schedule a Tasting! Grab a group of friends and try something new! Chances are you have never tried their wine, and it will be unlike any you have had before.
3. Visit The Kitchen. Try a pizza cooked in their home-made wood-fire brick oven! If you love pizza, you will love this!
4. Take a Bottle Home. If you find a type of wine that you like, buy a bottle! If you have a birthday of a loved one, or holiday coming up, wine also makes a wonderful gift:)
5. Stay the Night. The Cabins are located next to a creek and are a great little escape for your normal routine. The setting could not be more peaceful!
6. Take some Pictures. With the lush, green vineyards as your backdrop, you are sure to get some wonderful pictures!
Horn in the West is the nation’s oldest Revolutionary War drama! Frontiersman, Daniel Boone and the struggle for freedom during the War for Independence will come to life right before your eyes. The drama focuses on the settlers who came to the Blue Ridge Mountains, their experiences with the Cherokee Indians, and how the future of our nation was founded.
When & Where
Horn in the West is an outdoor drama held in Boone, NC. It runs from June 28- August 17 this year and there are nightly performances, except on Mondays. The pre-show is at 7:30 and the main show starts at 8 each night.
If you are driving from Wilkesboro, you will need to hop on US-421 North towards Boone. Once you have arrived in Boone, take a left at the Us-421 and US-105 intersection. Then take the first right onto Horn Ave. After the first stop sign, Horn in the West will be on your left!
General Admission… $20 for Adults, $10 for Children (12 and under)
Gold Level Seating… $25 for Adults, $13 for Children (12 and under) *First few rows of upper and lower sections
VIP Package… $34 for Adults, $24 for Children (12 and under) *This package includes: Complimentary Rain Insurance, Souvenir Program, VIP Lanyard, Guided Museum Tour, Daniel Boone Native Gardens Admission, Special Gift, Seat Cushion, Popcorn and a Drink
1. Go see the Play!! How often do you get to see a play in an outdoor theatre nestled among the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains?
2. Take the kids! This is a family friendly event, and the kids will love it. Not only will they enjoy the entertainment, but they will be learning about the first settlers in this country!
3. Get Involved. Horn in the West would not be possible without the great actors, crew members, and generous supporters!
Summer, Fall, Winter or Spring anytime is a good time to visit the parkway!
There are cooling waterfalls for hot summer days, leaves of all colors in the fall, mountains sparkling with snow and ice in the winter and wildflowers lining the road in the spring. Once a year really isn’t enough to take in the beauty of the North Carolina mountains and with so much to do along the parkway you will find it hard to stay away.
You may wonder… Why stay in Wilkes to visit the parkway?
There are many reasons.
- Hotels in Wilkes are more affordable than those up the mountain and offer top notch amenities and wonderful service. If you are traveling during a peak season, or during a big game day at Appalachian State University in Boone, you may also find that there is less chaos at the foot of the mountain.
- The drive up the mountain is beautiful! As you travel you can see how things transform. In the fall leaves can be seen at different stages of color transformation at the different elevations. There are wide mountain views to the left and folks are often selling produce, honey and other goods along the route.
- In the winter months weather can be a good reason for staying in Wilkes. Although we are only a short drive away there can be a drastic contrast between the weather in Boone and the weather in Wilkes. Unexpected snow and ice storms and strand travelers, make driving dangerous and close the parkway. Staying in Wilkes will allow you time to sleep comfortably, knowing that a foot of snow in Boone may only result in a few inches in Wilkes.
How to get there
- Take Hwy 421 South from Wilkes towards Boone
- Turn left onto the Pkwy ramp immediately after passing under large stone bridge.
- Follow ramp to the Pkwy and turn right to follow the Pkwy South.
- 20 miles, 30 min
- Exit Pkwy turning left onto Flat Top Road.
- Keep left to follow ramp to Hwy 321/221. Turn right on Hwy 321.
- Exit Hwy 321 by turning left after Tanger Outlets heading into downtown.
- Exit Pkwy turning right going North towards Boone on 221/312.
- Follow ramp to Hwy 321/221. Turn right on Hwy 321 North.
- You will clearly see Tweetsie Railroad on your left.
- Exit Pkwy turning left onto Flat Top Road.
- Keep left to follow ramp to Hwy 321/221. Turn right on Hwy 321.
- Turn left at light to Tanger Outlets.
- After crossing the Pkwy Viaduct be prepared to exit Parkway.
- Turn left at milepost 305 to take Linville Exit towards Blowing Rock Road / US 221.
- Take first left and turn right onto US 221 . Then follow signs to the park.
- Drive about 40 miles along Pkwy.
- Exit by turning right onto ramp towards US 221 / Linville Falls.
- Turn left onto US 221 and follow signs to caverns on the right.
- Exit the Pkwy at mile Post 316.4 turning left.
- Continue two miles to The Visitor Center.
- Hike half a mile to the falls.
Linville Caverns allows visitors the opportunity to venture inside of a natural limestone mountain and see it’s wonders! The caverns were first discovered in the early 1800s by a group of men on a fishing expedition. They had never seen anything quite like it and were very intrigued by this “hidden world”. Henry E. Colton, the man who headed up the expedition, described the caverns as, “fantastic festoons of stalactites hanging down within our touch” and “pendants that were of a delicate lightness, and a most beautiful hue”.
From Wilkesboro, you will need to get on US-421 and head towards Boone. Once you get to Boone, you will take NC 105 South to Linville. Turn right onto NC-105 at intersection Linville, then travel to the first traffic light and turn left onto US-221 South. The cave entrance will be approximately 15miles on right!
Today there are 35 minute walking tours through the caverns. It stays about 52 degrees year-round and the stalactites drip water on most days. During periods of heavy rain, the caverns will be very wet and drippy. Because of the cooler temperatures and the dampness, I recommend wearing a jacket or sweatshirt to stay warm! Also, be sure to wear tennis shoes, or shoes with a sturdy rubber sole. The stalactites and stalagmites of mineral deposits are a site to see and you want to be warm and safe while doing so!
Hours & Admission
**Hours change each month, check the website for full schedule!
1. Do a tour! Grab your jacket and a group of friends and do a walk through tour! This will be a unique learning experience that you will always remember:)
2. Bring a group of children. Kids will be learning about mineral composites in school, so this is a wonderful way to bring what they are learning in class to life!
3. Bring your Camera. Cameras of any kind are welcome in the caverns. What a neat way to take part of the experience home with you!
4. Make a Return Visit! Chances are the caverns will continue to change and transform as the years go, so there will always be something new to see:)
With everything from Tanger Outlet Shopping to a wonderful weekly Farmer’s Market, Blowing Rock has something to offer to visitors of all ages! Blowing Rock is part of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and is a popular vacation destination and wedding venue. The village part of Blowing Rock is filled with specialty boutiques offering local clothing, jewelry, gifts and artwork.
How to Get There
From Wilkesboro, hop on US-421 towards Boone. You will drive approximately 20 miles, then turn left onto US-221 for about 3 miles. You will then take a right on the Blue Ridge Parkway and drive on the parkway for about 11 miles. Next you will merge onto US-321 S/US-221 S for a mile. Last you will turn right onto Main St/US-221/US-321-BR. **This is the scenic Parkway route. You can also drive through Boone!
If you are looking for quality clothing at a great price, the Tanger Outlets will be the place for you. There are over 30 outlet stores at the Blowing Rock location, as well as a restaurant and a candy & ice cream shop! Some of my personal favorite stores are J. Crew, Polo Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Gap, Bass, Izod, and Carter’s.
Insider Tip- Make sure you check the Tanger Outlet Website before you go, there are always coupons for several of the stores!
Blowing Rock Village
This is where you will want to park your car and do a little local shopping! The boutiques and store owners are wonderfully unique. Boutiques offer local fashions, jewelry, and art for visitors to purchase or admire. If you are more of a window shopper, you can grab a cup of coffee or a cone of ice cream and stroll down main street. There are also wonderful restaurants and a great park in Blowing Rock Village.
Local Flavor (Restaurants)
Best Cellar – A favorite among locals and visitors! Offers delicious beef, fresh seafood, rack of lamb and roasting duck. Also features an extensive wine list and private cellar.
Bistro Roca – An American Bistro offering salads, steaks, and seafood. Pizza, fresh breads, and roasted meats are also available from the wood-fired oven.
Twigs – “Mountain Elegance at it’s Best” This is a fine dining experience that is sure to impress. From the low country shrimp with andouille sausage and grits, to the New Zealand lamb chops, your taste-buds will definitely enjoy themselves!
Canyons – Casual sandwiches, burgers and southwest specialties. Canyons has a family friendly environment and features live music on Sunday afternoons for their brunch crowd
Mellow Mushroom – Pizza, Calzones, Salads, etc. The pizza is outstanding and are made to order. They also make two types of pretzels that are simply delicious.
Woodlands Barbecue – Barbecue Beef, Pork, Ribs and Chicken. Woodlands has nightly entertainment and offers a catering service.
- Visit the Shops on the Parkway! There are stores for visitors of each and every age. With the variety of shops here, you are bound to find something to take home!
- Walk through the Village. You will have a great time walking down main street looking at the window displays and checking out the local merchandise in the shops.
- Get some Grub! Whether you are looking for a casual, quick meal or a fine dining experience, Blowing Rock has something to offer!
- Check out the Farmer’s Market! You will have the chance to meet local farmers and purchase some yummy fresh produce!
Every town has its claim to fame and it just so happens that Wilkes has several. We have MerleFest, Stone Mountain, W. Kerr Scott Dam and reservoir, Cycling, Tom Dula, Bluegrass and APPLES!
A visit to Wilkes is a trip for the senses. See the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, feel the breeze or the cool river waters, listen to local musicians, and taste apples fresh from the tree.
Ever since I was a little kid I have made several trips a year to visit the apple orchards of Wilkes. One of my earliest memories is one of my sister and me walking with our parents through an apple house during harvest. We watched as apples were sorted and each of us received a huge apple from a friendly man in overhauls. I remember peeking over the edge of the baskets filled with chocolate covered peanuts and cream drops at Christmas. I still drop in to search the shelves for the perfect jar of honey and comb just as I did with my family when I was a child. For many families, trips to the orchards of Wilkes are part of a family tradition. To them it is just as important as the yearly trip to choose a Christmas tree. Others have traveled to Wilkes in search of long lost apple varieties. One such individual described Wilkes as “mother load of heritage apples” and with more than 400 varieties having been found here it is easy to see why.
Where are they?
There are several orchards in Wilkes and each one is well worth a visit. The bulk of the orchards are along highway 16, between Wilkes and Taylorsville although there are several on Brushy Mountain, near Stone Mountain and throughout the county. You can look at our list of orchards to find the one, or many, that you wish to visit.
When to go and what to get?
Many of the orchards sell apples throughout the year with the aid of refrigeration during the cold months. The right time for harvesting the apples depends on the weather and variety but apples are generally harvested from late June to early December. Other goods can be found at the apple houses besides the usual variety of fresh picked fruit. Some houses offer cured meats, local honey, various seasonal produce, traditional candies and caned goods.
If you are a fan of the apple orchards be sure you don’t miss the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival. This festival is one of the largest events in the area and has far more than apples to offer. Each year, on the first weekend in October, the streets of Downtown North Wilkesboro are closed to traffic and filled with vendors and their goods. Food, music, art and crafts line the streets and people flock downtown to join in the spectacular.
Grandfather Mountain offers everything from beautiful hiking trails to a nature museum, from a breathtaking mile high swinging bridge to a wildlife habitat. Whether you are an experienced hiker, Blue Ridge Mountain lover, or simply looking for a way to spend a Sunday afternoon outside, Grandfather Mountain is the place for you!
Visitors can stay at the always warm and welcoming Wilkesboro Hampton Inn. The Hampton Inn is a great value for the Blue Ridge Mountain explorer. Wilkes, known for being the Gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains, is the perfect location for all things Blue Ridge. Take US 421 from Wilkesboro headed towards Boone approximately 30 miles. Once you have arrived in Boone you can either take the scenic route through the Blue Ridge Parkway, or take 105 South to Linville, turn left at the stoplight in Linville and take US 221 North for 2 miles. Both are about the same distance, so it is personal preference! (I recommend the Parkway-Lots of great photo spots and little waterfalls to see along the way)
Walking & Hiking
Grandfather offers 11 hiking trails, all of which are different levels of difficulty. There are rugged trails for the tenured hiker, and there are shorter, more gentle trails for those wishing to venture into the woods without a strenuous trek. The different trails can be accessed by parking lots on the various levels as you drive up the mountain.
The Nature Museum houses 2 dozen exhibits on Grandfather Mountain and the surrounding area. Visitors are able to see 62 gems and minerals found in North Carolina up close. Another exhibit showcases the common birds of the state, as well as several other featured animals. The animals featured here are the ones from the Wildlife Habitat which include, the black and brown bears, mountain cougars, river otters, and deer. You will have the opportunity to learn unique facts about each of these animals! For example, who knew that all cougars are born with deep blue eyes and later they turn gold?
Mile High Swinging Bridge
The Mile High Swinging Bridge is truly a mile above sea level! Talk about a view! It has been in place since 1952 and has allowed thousands of visitors the chance to take in breath-taking views. From the bridge you can see the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Sugar Ski Mountain, and on really clear days you can even see the Charlotte, NC skyline!
The Wildlife Habitats allow visitors to see animals in their natural habitat. The animals featured here are black and brown bears, mountain cougars, river otters, and the white-tailed deer. Visitors are able to get up close and personal to the animal habitats and take great pictures! On weekends, there are certain times of the day when Naturalists give educational talks at the different exhibits. This gives guests an even closer look at the daily life of the wild animals we do not commonly see.
Food & Beverage
There are lots of great picnic tables and huge rocks to lay a blanket on for a casual picnic lunch. However, if you do not bring your own food, there is a grill next to the Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum. Mildred’s Grill offers burgers, chicken strips, soup, and salads. For all of you with a sweet tooth, be sure to check out The Fudge Shop just around the corner from the museum!
Children under 4 Free
Children 4-12 $8
Adults 13-59 $18
Senior 60+ $15
1.Weather- It is typically 8-10 degrees colder at the peak of Grandfather Mountain, than at the base. Dress in Layers!!!
2.Wear comfortable tennis shoes or hiking boots, . Do not wear shoes with a slick bottom, we want you to be safe!
3.Clothing- Again, dress in layers and wear something comfortable! You can do as much walking and hiking as you desire, so you will want to dress appropriately.
4.Bring a Camera!! You will most likely want to take a picture of everything you see!
5.Bring Friends! This is a great outdoor adventure, and is even more exciting when shared with others.
6.Bring a picnic lunch and some snacks for the kids! And extra water- you are most likely going to be walking! Stay hydrated!
7.Stay on the trails and be aware of signs. These are here to keep you safe. If you choose to cross the bridge and continue the trek on the peak of the mountain, be extremely cautious, and keep an extra close eye on the kiddos. We want everyone to be able to visit Grandfather again!
8.Visit either of the Grandfather Mountain Gift Shops and make sure you bring home a little memento of your adventure. They have awesome comfort color t’s, coffee mugs, and personalized magnets. Or, if you’re like me, you will want to have proof you conquered the mountain and the Mile High Bridge by getting a sticker for your car!
9.Tell your friends & come back!! There are very distinct seasons in the mountains of North Carolina and they all have something different to offer. Each trip to Grandfather Mountain will bring new experiences and great memories!
Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends come from far and wide to take part in this triumphant moment! Having graduated from Appalachian State University, I know how wonderful it can be having everyone together for the big day and also how challenging.
Going to a graduation at App is, in some ways, similar to attending a football game. Crowds descend on Boone and the parking lots are filled with tags from across the country. People book hotels and make dinner reservations and go shopping for last minute graduation gifts. As wonderful as the hustle and bustle can be it can also be a little frustrating. Many families, like mine, are choosing to stay in Wilkes and make the short drive up the mountain.
Wilkes is just a short 30 minute drive from Appalachian State. Just take US Hwy 421 up the mountain and enjoy the views as you go. Once you reach Boone signs will direct you to the campus where graduation parking will be available. If you want to park close to the ceremony you will need to arrive early. There is a parking deck on campus but be sure you are ready to pay as you leave. Signs and parking lot attendants will also be there to help you find a space.
The Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn are two great options. Both are close to shopping, dining and are easy to access from Hwy 421. The hotels each have meeting space (which would be great for a graduation party), a swimming pool, business center, serve a delicious hot breakfast and offer much more!
Another good reason for staying in Wilkes is the weather. Graduates who are going to walk the stage in Winter need to factor in the possibility of ice and snow. The weather in Wilkes is rarely as severe as it is in Boone. If they get a foot of snow and cancel the walk you can relax in Wilkes knowing that you aren’t snowed in and can still have your own graduation celebration with friends and family here!
Wilkes has a number of fine eateries and offers a wide variety of cuisine. No matter what your grad prefers, Chinese, Italian, Thai, down home cooking, etc., you are sure to find a place to celebrate their day. Another bonus is that you are more likely to avoid the crowds and long waits that folks dining in Boone may endure.