If you grew up watching the Andy Griffith Show or got hooked on the reruns, a visit to Mount Airy NC should be on your bucket list. See the small mountain town that was the inspiration for Mayberry with unique attractions you won’t find anywhere else.
Mount Airy is a small town in North Carolina, just six miles south of the Virginia border. The town was originally an 18th-century stagecoach stop before joining the furniture and textiles industries. The world’s largest open-face granite quarry is in Mount Airy, giving it the nickname “The Granite City.”
But let’s be honest, Mount Airy is famous for a much bigger reason than furniture and granite. It’s best known as the hometown of Andy Griffith! Mount Airy was the inspiration for Mayberry, the fictional town in the Andy Griffith show. In fact, the Mount Airy visitors website is even named VisitMayberry.com. As you might imagine, there are lots of Andy Griffith and Mayberry attractions to see in this small town but you won’t want to miss other fun things to do in Mount Airy when you’re in town.
In case you stumbled upon Mount Airy while driving around North Carolina, and aren’t familiar with 1960’s television, let us fill you in a bit. Andy Griffith was a television actor most famous for the Andy Griffith show, which ran from 1960-1968. He played the sheriff of Mayberry and his son, Opie, was played by Ron Howard, now a famous Hollywood director. In later years (1986-1995) Andy Griffith starred in the courtroom television series Matlock.
I admit that I’ve passed by Mount Airy on my way to Florida many times, but it wasn’t until I was planning a trip with my mom and dad that this small mountain town really got on my radar. When given the opportunity, my dad chose to visit Mount Airy over the Outer Banks and he couldn’t have been more excited.
If you’re looking for a unique destination to take someone who grew up watching the Andy Griffith Show, I can’t recommend Mount Airy enough. Dare I admit that I may be the only person on the planet who hadn’t watched the famous TV show? And yet, I loved our visit to the area every bit as much as my mom and dad. So travel with us on a trip through Mayberry.
Begin your Visit to Mount Airy with a Mayberry Squad Car Tours
There is no doubt about it, our Mayberry Squad Car Tour started our visit to Mount Airy off on a high note. If you want the full Mayberry experience, don’t even hesitate, sign up for a squad car tour. You really have no reason to say no, as the tour is only $40. No, that’s not per person, that is per CARLOAD. That’s right, you can fill the vehicle with up to five people and cruise all over Mayberry in Barney Fife’s squad car. That’s what I call affordable family fun.
The tour starts and ends at Wally’s Service Station where you’ll find a fleet of 1960’s Ford Galaxy vehicles waiting to show you all the sites of Mayberry, like Floyd’s Barber Shop, Snappy Lunch and yes, even the world’s largest open-face granite quarry that can be seen in outer space! The tour stops along the way for photo opportunities, so don’t forget your camera!
Our tour guide, Allen, was the first to welcome us to Mount Airy. He was warm, personable, and knowledgeable. His love and pride for the place he calls home was infectious. We couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador for the community. Thanks to his southern hospitality, by the time our tour was over, I was considering how I could convince my husband to pack our bags and move south.
Wally’s Service Station and Mayberry Courthouse
Wally’s Service Station was built in 1937 and now sells a variety of souvenirs so stop in after your tour or grab a seat on in one of the rockers outside and imagine life in a simpler time. Unfortunately, the gift shop and Mayberry Hotel replica were closed during our visit but we did get a chance to get a peek inside the Mayberry Courthouse and Otis’ Jail Cell. We may have even spent time behind bars!
Andy Griffith’s Home Place
We’d traveled all day to reach Mount Airy and my mom and dad were beat so we grabbed dinner and headed to our home for the night, which I would say was the highlight of the trip, although I think everything about Mount Airy was notable. Die-hard Andy Griffith fans won’t want to pass up the opportunity to sleep in the very home where Andy Griffith grew up.
The modest home is located across the street from the water tower so it’s not hard to miss, which is evident from the frequent vehicles that drove by with their cameras in hand. The home is stocked with memorabilia which includes the entire collection of the Andy Griffith Show DVDs which my mom and I started watching after my dad had fallen asleep.
The home is a quick drive from all the fun downtown attractions that made Mayberry a quaint TV town. Reservations are handled through the Mount Airy Hampton Inn. If you love finding unique places to stay, Andy Griffith’s Home Place is perfect for you- it was for us!
Call the Hampton Inn Mt. Airy NC at 336-789-5999 to reserve the Andy Griffith Home during your visit to Mayberry.
Andy Griffith Museum
The Andy Griffith Museum has the world’s largest collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia. Fans of Andy Griffith will love this collection, curated by his childhood best friend. You will find items from his early life, acting career, singing career, awards, and props and sets from his television shows. Outside, you’ll find the much-photographed TV Land statue of Andy and Opie. The museum is open seven days a week, and your small admission fee includes free parking.
Floyd’s City Barber Shop
Floyd’s City Barbershop may have been the biggest surprise of all. I knew I needed to pop in for a quick look and to take a photo or two and while my mom was game, my dad wasn’t too interested. But it was hot outside, it was too early for lunch and he didn’t want to wander too far away so he joined us as we all stepped inside a 1950’s era barbershop.
The walls are lined with photos of visitors to the shop and on the barber chair sat Bill, the son of Russell Hiatt who was the original owner of the barbershop, finishing his lunch. Russell served as the inspiration for Floyd in the Mayberry series. We were told that Mr. Hiatt loved interacting with the people he met in his shop and never met a stranger. It’s obvious that his genuine love of people was passed on to his son who stepped in to continue the tradition when his dad passed away in 2016.
Bill is a special person who even enticed my dad to grab a seat in the barber chair for a Mount Airy style haircut and styling. And before leaving, he took a photo of the three of us to grace his Facebook page. Floyd’s City Barbershop is a special stop that you won’t want to miss.
The Snappy Lunch is the only remaining establishment in Mt. Airy specifically mentioned by name in the Andy Griffith Show which makes it a hopping tourist attraction. But if you want to sink your teeth into one of their world famous pork chop sandwiches, you’ll need to plan to make it a lunch stop. This small town diner closes its doors in the early afternoon.
Opie’s Candy Store
Opie’s Candy Store specializes in old-thyme favorites and welcomes visitors from across the world. In addition to candy, you’ll find fudge, jellies, bottled sodas and hard dipped ice cream.
Things to do in Mount Airy NC beyond Mayberry
Mount Airy Museum of Regional History
Once you are Mayberry’d out, head to the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. The museum has three floors of artifacts dating back to the Native tribes who inhabited the region centuries ago. The “original” Siamese twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, settled in Mount Airy and you can read more of their fascinating story at the museum. The basement displays various fire trucks from the town’s history, including the first truck from 1917. Don’t miss a trip up to the clock tower observation deck, where you can look out over Mount Airy and the surrounding mountains.
Gertrude Smith House
This Victorian home is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built by Jefferson Smith Davis, and his daughter Gertrude Smith lived here until 1981. She was trained as an interior designer, which shows in the details of the home. The home and surrounding gardens and landscape have been preserved for visitors to enjoy. The home is open for visitors, free of charge, from April through December.
William Alfred Moore House
Another historic Mount Airy home that is open to the public, the Moore House is the oldest known remaining building in town. It is estimated the home was built in the early 1860’s, and enlarged again in the 19th and 20th centuries. Architecture fans will recognize Victorian, Italianate and Greek Revival features on the house. Tours must be arranged in advance.
For some fresh air, head to Riverside Park. There is a paved path around a small lake, as well as a walking/bike path that follows the Ararat River on the Granite City Greenway. All told, you can combine trails for up to an 8-mile walk or ride. The playground is super cute, with a mini-Mayberry for your kids to climb all over. You can also fish or skate, and there are restrooms and free parking.
Another green space worthy of a spot in your Mount Airy itinerary is Westwood Park. This park is more wooded and has five miles of single track mountain bike trails. There’s a 9-hole disc golf course, plus a fishing pond, fishing pond, fitness stations and ball fields.
Things to do beyond Mount Airy
Yadkin Valley Wine Region
Mount Airy is part of the Yadkin Valley, North Carolina’s first American Viticulture Area, or AVA. Visitors can ramble along one of several wine trails through Yadkin County and the Swan Creek region. There are dozens of commercial wine producers in the region, with tasting rooms, bed and breakfasts, and unique dining options to complete your trip.
Follow the Surry Sonker Trail
You may be asking yourself what sonker is and thinking it’s an alcoholic beverage of some sort. That would be wrong. Sonker is described by the New York Times as “A soupy, deep-dish baked dessert of sweet potatoes or fruit topped with a crust or a batter.” I didn’t manage to eat my way through the entire trail, but what I sampled at Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies and the Rockford General Store (a fun stop on its own) was similar to what we call a fruit cobbler here in Ohio. If we would have spent more time in the area we would have made more of a dent in along the trail.
Pilot Mountain is said to have helped travelers navigate for centuries and one look at the uniquely shaped landmark and you’ll understand why.
The mountain is a recreational hotspot with hiking and bridle trails, campsites and rock climbing and rappelling. For the less adventurous or for those unable to manage the trails, a steep drive to the summit allows incredible views of the surrounding area and nearby mountains that include the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Rockford is on the NC Civil War Trail, the NC Scenic Byway and part of the Yadkin Valley Wine Region. This quiet town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in its entirety and worth a drive through if only to look at the varying architecture of the homes and properties. The Rockford General Store is also on the Sonker Trail so pop in, take a look around, grab some old-fashioned candy and a sandwich and finish of your visit with a plate of sonker. Take a drive along the Yadkin River and you may spot a Bald Eagle or two.
Now here is where I share a bit of embarrassment on my part. I visited Mount Airy a year ago and while I shared about our trip on social media, I failed to write about it until now. While I loved our visit to this destination, I also found it one of the hardest posts to write. Want to know why? Because I can’t put into words how amazing this destination was and is. We drove into Mount Airy and left all our cares at the outskirts of town. We weren’t welcomed as tourists, but as friends, by every single person we met during our brief stay. We met people who are passionate about their community and went above and beyond to ensure that our trip was a memorable one.
Hello! We were in Mayberry, how on earth could it not be memorable? And yet when I think of Mount Airy, I’ll remember how cool it was to ride in the police car, get locked in jail and sleep in the same home where Andy Griffith once did his homework and ate his dinner, but more than that, I’ll remember Allen who took time out of his day to drive me around with my mom and dad, blaring the horn of that 1960’s Ford Galaxy to show us the best of Mayberry. Bill, who we met at Floyd’s City Barber Shop who shared the joy he receives from doing what his dad loved most, greeting the many people who walk through the doors of the barber shop and dabbing a bit of Aqua Velva behind my dad’s ear before he sent us off with a hug. The waitress at Snappy’s Lunch who served us the World’s Famous Pork Chop Sandwich with a smile and kind words in her southern accent. Next time you find yourself driving through North Carolina, instead of passing by the exit that says Mount Airy, NC, turn right, exit the interstate and take some time getting to know the people and the town of Mount Airy. You won’t regret it.
Have you visited Mount Airy? What would you suggest visitors do in the area?
© 2018, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.