Lonely Planet: Andy Griffith's TV utopia is real
The Yadkin Valley is quickly becoming North Carolina's version of Napa Valley, a Southern "Yapa" Valley. With the Blue Ridge Mountains as its backdrop, the region is anchored by Mount Airy -- the real-life home of "The Andy Griffith Show" -- which is as close to small-town utopia as it gets.
Anyone who has glimpsed American television of the 1960s will recognize much of Mayberry in Andy's real-life hometown of Mount Airy. You can still get a pork sandwich at Snappy Lunch or visit Mount Pilot (nearby Pilot Mountain). You might even see a glimpse of Thelma Lou from the show: Actress Betty Lynn retired here in 2006.
It's rare when you find a place that's worthy of the word "perfect," but such is Pilot Knob Inn, in the foothills of Pilot Mountain. The former tobacco barns turned guest cottages and luxurious suites cater to baby-making rather than babies (children are not allowed). Visitors can enjoy the romantic private lake, full Southern breakfast and dazzling, cozy furnishings. Head across the highway to Pilot Mountain State Park just before dusk. You can drive almost to the top, where trails lead through leafy oaks to vistas of the wineries below and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west. For six and change, try a plate of BBQ, beans (green and pinto) and hush puppies at Aunt Bea's Barbecue in the town of Mount Pilot. For dessert, there's an ice-cream counter.
The following morning, head into Mayberry er, Mount Airy, stopping first at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. A statue of Andy and Opie (a young Ron Howard) stands on the front lawn as a testament to the man who put Mayberry on the map, literally. The playhouse contains the Andy Griffith museum and the Chang and Eng Bunker museum. Make sure you make it to Snappy Lunch before 12:30 p.m. for its famed pork sandwiches. Opened in 1923 and the only Mount Airy business mentioned by name on "The Andy Griffith Show," the old-school diner is where Andy bought his 10 cent hot dog during school breaks and where locals still go to get their town gossip and cheeseburgers, now a buck eighty.
If you want a more upscale meal, try Old North State Winery and Scuppernong's Restaurant, where pineapple quesadilla shares the menu with meatball sandwiches and fried oysters. For oenophiles, the bar offers wine-tasting -- a half-dozen samples of dry, sweet or semi-sweet wines. This is a great place to try the native muscadine grape in red and white varietals.
The Yadkin River Valley vineyards, or "Yapa Valley," has more than 30 wineries. Round Peak Vineyards is a great place to start. From Highway 89W, take Round Peak Church Road for 1.5 miles. The small 12-acre winery is unassuming as a tourist attraction, but notable for the production of exceptional French and Italian varietals. Take a deep breath in each glass to smell the spirit of the tobacco that once grew on this land. For a contrast, head to the polished Shelton Vineyards and Harvest Grill Restaurant. Take Highway 77S to exit 93 toward Dobson. Turn right on Zephyr Road, then a right onto Twin Oaks Road. Follow this for 2.5 miles, then take a right onto Oregon Trail Road. Throw out your best line about "blackberry overtones with a leathery finish" at the wine-tasting facilities and tour the grounds by bicycle. Don't miss the restaurant, with its oh-so-deliciously bastardized Southern creations, like cornbread crab cake.
Getting there » From Raleigh, take the I-40 to Highway 52 northwest out of Winston-Salem for about an hour.
Where to eat » Aunt Bea's Barbecue (336-368-2300; 642 S. Key St., Pilot Mountain) has burgers, ice cream and big plates of North Carolina BBQ; Old North State Winery & Brewery and Scuppernong's Restaurant (336-789-9463; http://www.oldnorthstatewinery.com" Target="_BLANK">http://www.oldnorthstatewinery.com; 308 N. Main St., Mount Airy) features fabulous wines and casual bistro dining downtown; Shelton Vineyards and Harvest Grill Restaurant (336-366-4724; http://www.sheltonvineyards.com" Target="_BLANK">http://www.sheltonvineyards.com; 286 Cabernet Lane, Dobson) is the largest of the Yapa Valley wineries, with an award-winning restaurant; and Snappy Lunch (336-786-4931; http://www.thesnappylunch.com" Target="_BLANK">http://www.thesnappylunch.com; 125 N. Main St., Mount Airy), an old-time diner, is the only original business from "The Andy Griffith Show."
Where to stay » Pilot Knob Inn (336-325-2502; http://www.pilotknobinn.com" Target="_BLANK">http://www.pilotknobinn.com; 361 New Pilot Knob Ln., Pinnacle; $99-$175, tobacco barn cabins $129-199). Honeymooners and other couples love the romantic rooms and tobacco barns and canoeing around the private lake.