Many of us fell in love with the fictional small town of Mayberry that was depicted in the widely popular “Andy Griffith Show.” Most say the TV town was based off the actor’s hometown of Mount Airy, N.C.
After visiting, I can honestly say it’s the real Mayberry. Locals are just as jovial and inviting as those in the show and the town is just as charming. Everyone speaks to you as you walk down the street and you leave feeling like family everywhere you visit.
Here are the best ways to enjoy the quaint town.
Where to eat:
It’s hard to even know where to start with places to eat; there are so many delicious options to choose from. Here are the highlights:
If you’re looking for an authentic small town diner experience where everyone knows everyone, stop into the Dairy Center. They’ve got the most perfectly fluffy pancakes with crispy edges and you can take your pick from buttermilk, sweet potato or buckwheat. If you’re there during lunch, try their ground steak sandwich, a tasty local recipe from the depression-era that you’ll only find in Surry County. Don’t be surprised if the owner, Freddy, slips a free hotdog onto your plate with your meal! He’s a hoot.
To eat at Andy’s favorite spot visit Snappy Lunch on Main Street and get their famous pork chop sandwich! (It’s VERY messy, so be ready to use a lot of napkins.) They’ve got a very simple menu that features hot dogs and hamburgers and the prices are outrageously low. A hot dog is $1.50 and an entire breakfast plate is $3.80. If you’re trying to be healthy, forget it, this place is full of deliciously guilty indulgences.
For dessert visit Down Home Restaurant and get their sonker, five flavor pound cake, or my personal favorite, the blueberry pound cake. The cakes are perfectly moist and the sonker is just the right balance of crust and berries without being too sweet. They are all completely drool worthy; believe me, I tried all three. Don’t know what sonker is? Click here.
Looking for chocolate? Prudence McCabe has deliciously decadent handmade chocolate truffles.
Almost every local I ran into suggested 13 Bones for dinner because they have the best ribs. And they weren’t lying! I wanted to lick the plate. Everyone said to get there before 7 p.m. because it would be packed—even though it was a weekday. I arrived around 5 p.m., which is early for dinner for me, but I was starving from so much sightseeing and the restaurant was already packed, which is always a good sign. I was surprised to find out 13 Bones offers an $8 special on certain days, so I was able to get the best ribs I’ve ever eaten – I’m talking fall off the bone ribs—a salad, mashed potatoes and hushpuppies for under $10. I think my jaw literally dropped to the floor when I double checked the price with the waitress. The normal menu features a $19 filet mignon, so all the prices are ridiculously reasonable. They also carry local wines.
Check out Old North State for their five course dinner and wine pairings. The chef’s unique dishes are always changing, so check their website to see what’s on the menu. Don’t want to sit through five courses? They’ve also got expansive lunch and dinner menus to choose from.
What to do:
The highlight of the entire trip was the Mayberry Squad Car Tour! It was an absolute blast to ride around in the sheriff’s car – made to replicate Andy’s from the show—and learn all sorts of facts about the town and television show. During the tour you’ll get to see Andy’s childhood home and several other important landmarks. I highly recommend requesting Melvin when you book your tour; he has wealth of knowledge on everything from the Siamese twins that lived in Mount Airy to the world’s largest open-faced granite quarry that also calls the town home. Find out more about the twins, here.
Visit the Mayberry Courthouse to see Andy’s desk and the jail cells! Wally’s Service Station is right next door and is a functioning store full of Mayberry merchandise.
Even if you don’t take the squad car tour, take the time to drive by the granite quarry. It won’t take long and is absolutely incredible to see in person. According to Melvin, the 66 acres of exposed rock was previously used by astronauts as a guide to know where to land because they could see it all the way in space.
Take time to stroll down Main Street, it’s lined with several antique and primitive shops as well as clothing stores.
Catch a movie at the historic Earle Theater.
Grab a craft beer at Granite City Brews, which has a select variety of craft beer on tap available for tasting and a large selection of cans available for purchase.
Where to stay:
I personally jumped at the chance to stay at The Mayberry Motor Inn; a charming inn that’s a throwback to the 1960s – they even give you a real metal key to unlock your room – with new amenities including flat screens and wifi. The rooms are comfortable and very clean. It’s also conveniently located only a few minutes from historic downtown. The stay was very pleasant and I would definitely recommend it to other travelers who are looking for an authentic Mayberry feel.
You can also rent the Andy Griffith Home Place, where he lived during his childhood. Hampton Inn now owns it and rents it just like their other hotel rooms. The house has two beds and a rollaway. I’m sure it books up quickly, but if you plan on visiting at least check to see if it’s available.
Other accommodation options include Heart & Soul Bed and Breakfast located in a beautiful 100 year old home.
Honestly, my only concern in Mount Airy was whether or not I would be able to spend the minimum amount needed to use a debit card, because everything was so inexpensive.
[ Read more travel features by Amy Trainum on her website SouthernDeparture.com. ]
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