All posts in Winter

Ski Wilkes?


Ok, ok… I know there is not a ski mountain in Wilkesboro, but there are several in our backyard! We are close enough to make the short trip up the mountain, but far enough to avoid the severe weather issues.

I grew up making the short one hour drive up the hill on U.S. 421 to Sugar Mountain or Appalachian Ski Mountain. (Actually, my very first experience was at Hawksnest) The NCDOT always makes sure that the highways are clear and skiers can get to the slopes, so travel is rarely an issue. So, why would anyone chose to stay in Wilkesboro instead of going up the mountain? Well…

  1. Great hotel accommodations… the Wilkesboro Hampton Inn is a great place to stay and offers great weekend rates for skiers.
  2. Great restaurants… Wilkesboro is home to many of the best sit down and fast food chain and “mom and pop” restaurants, with many more under construction. (
  3. Better weather… by being down the mountain, Wilkesboro doesn’t experience the same extremes that you get up there. (
  4. Shopping… Wilkesboro is home to some of the best chain and boutique shopping available. (
  5. Time savers… Cooks Sporting Goods in North Wilkesboro has all the latest and greatest Ski and Snowboard equipment rentals. You can pick up your equipment here locally and not wait in lines and miss your time on the slopes. Call Roy at 336.667.4121 and tell them that the VisitInsider sent you. (
  6. Did I mention you will save some dough…

Here is how I do my daytrip to Sugar… I rent my equipment the night before and save an hour of waiting at the ski rental shop at the ski mountain. I get up early, eat a good breakfast at the Hampton Inn (free of course!). Hop in car with a cup of hot chocolate in my hand, ski equipment in the trunk, and head up the mountain. I arrive at Sugar at 9:00, purchase my lift ticket and hit the slopes for the day. The slopes are open for day skiing from 9 am – 4:30 pm. Have a great day of skiing. Load up my gear, head down the mountain and arrive back in Wilkes by 6:00 pm. Take a wonderful hot shower and work out the kinks and head out for a great meal at one of the many excellent restaurants in Wilkesboro. If I am up for a second day, repeat.

Here is the good news… the Hampton Inn will extend your checkout to accommodate your schedule. Also, they work with Cooks Sports and is the designated return location for your equipment on Sunday. Now that makes life easy!!

So, to sum it all up… SkiWilkes is the way to go! You will actually save time and money and enjoy your trip more. Call the Hampton Inn at 336-838-5000 and begin making your plans for a great ski weekend today!

Light Up Downtown

Chritmas in Wilkes

Annual Light Up Downtown Celebration

Light Up DowntownLight Up Downtown is an annual celebration held in historic Downtown North Wilkesboro to usher in the holiday season. The celebration is kicked off with the lighting ceremony when the B Street Park Christmas Tree is light along with all of the holiday lights that line the town streets. Vendors gather from in and around the county to sell their goods on the streets as store owners stay open late to welcome in the crowds and to show off their holiday window displays. The celebration also features hay rides and dance performances and Santa!


Shopping at the festival…

There are always a few folks offering free snacks and drinks, while supplies lasts, but be sure to bring your wallet and a little cash. You are sure to find great holiday gifts in the shops or in any of the vendor booths. As you shop you may be tempted to buy a few goodies to eat. The smell of funnel cakes and fresh coffee are hard to resists. If you miss the festival don’t worry too much….you can enjoy shopping in Wilkesboro NC at any time of the year.


How to get there and where to park…

The festival is in the heart of Downtown North Wilkesboro and results in the closing of many of the streets, mainly Main St, 9th and 10th. The streets usually aren’t closed until about half an hour to an hour before the festivities. There is plenty of parking close to the festival most of which can be easily reached from the CBD Loop which borders the downtown area.

If you are coming from the east, I would advise you to take the NC Hwy 115 exit and turn right on 115. This will take you to NC 268, turn left on NC 268 and you will run right into the festival.

If you are coming from the west on US 421, take “421 Business” into the downtown area. This left turn is the next left after the Taco Bell. Business 421 will take you directly into the down town area. If you are tech savvy, just enter North Wilkesboro into whatever device you have and hit the road.


This years event is November 16 from 6pm-9pm.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree


I remember visiting the Christmas tree lots as a kid. It was fun. Seems like there was always a fire in a 50 gallon drum and some guys living out of a camper. But it was still fun. My sister and I usually got to choose, with a very critical eye from a perfectionist father to make sure he guided us to the one that we should choose. We would point to it and the camper guy would untie it and put it on top of our car and home we would go.

Now that is not a bad memory, but in all honesty it comes up way short when compared to the experience that is available today… to you and your kids.

A couple of years ago, I decided to check out the whole “Cut your own” program. The Hampton Inn of Wilkesboro and Holiday Inn Express of Wilkesboro had joined with a tree farm to offer a great deal on a “package stay” that included all kinds of fun stuff and a Christmas tree from the farm. Since I live in Wilkes, I didn’t need the hotel room, but I wanted to do the whole farm thing. So, early on the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving, my brother and I loaded up the wives and kids and headed up the mountain. The drive was fun and the views were wonderful. We carried along some hot chocolate and snacks and made the entire trip an adventure.

We arrived at the farm and knew right away that we were in for some serious Christmas fun. The barn at the bottom of the hill was decked out as a Christmas store with lots of items made from the trees and other seasonal necessities. We gave the man our tree voucher and soon he had us on a hayride to the top of the mountain on our search for the perfect Christmas tree. The ride was bumpy and fun! We sang carols and drank our hot chocolate all the way to the top. I believe we sang Jingle Bells and Frosty until I was “sung out”.

At the top of the mountain, our ride came to an end and the search began. The kids found their mountain legs quickly and began the hunt for a tree that needed a home. The laughing and squealing and running will always be part of me, for the rest of my life. We were blessed that it had snowed before we arrived and the ground was white and the trees looked absolutely beautiful. The smell of pine was thick in the air and everything was right at that moment. I stood there and let my senses take it all in. The cool, crisp November air, the scent of Christmas trees, the crunching snow under my feet, the prickly branches of the Frazier Firs and the joyful noise of children running through rows of perfectly manicured trees. That my friends cannot be found on the Christmas tree lot!

After some wonderful time of throwing snow and chasing children, we settled in on finding the tree that would adorn our home as our family remembers the coming of God’s only Son. It didn’t take long, as each tree seemed to be perfect. We identified out tree and our host for the hayride came over and handed me a saw and let me do the honors. Afterward, we loaded up for the ride down the mountain. “Hot” hot chocolate was awaiting our arrival and I enjoyed a cup while we loaded the tree on the top of our car. We listened to Amy Grant’s Christmas songs all the way down the mountain and we knew that Christmas had officially begun at our home.

We are already making plans for our trip up the mountain this year. Maybe we will hit the Daniel Boone Inn for some breakfast before we make the hayride up the mountain. I don’t know the details yet, but this I am sure of, memories will be made and another Christmas will be made special by a trip up to the farm and cutting the perfect Christmas tree. May you and yours have a blessed holiday season. If you make the trip up to the farm, you will not be disappointed. Pack a little patience and let the kids be kids. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Preferred Tree Farm-


Blowing Rock


Blowing Rock

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 to Blowing Rock

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!

View Larger Map

Tanger Outlets

Blowing RockIf 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

Blowing RockThis 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.


  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. Get some Grub!  Whether you are looking for a casual, quick meal or a fine dining experience, Blowing Rock has something to offer!
  4. Check out the Farmer”s Market!  You will have the chance to meet local farmers and purchase some yummy fresh produce!