Beer Trip Ideas★ ★ Take a trip to the taps. ★ ★

Hickory to Blowing Rock: A Trip to the Taps 4,000 Feet Above Sea Level

Half the fun of a road trip is getting there. Which means that the other half is being there. Both sides of the adage prove true on an excursion from Hickory to Lenoir and Blowing Rock, where folk art and folk heroes fill the space between beer stops.

Hickory delights in craftsmanship, and it shows in the city’s sites and beer. Stroll through Union Square, the delightful downtown hub, and artistically rendered benches will catch your eye: dogs with adopt-me eyes, jazzy figures, wild animals in “hidden picture” style. The Union Square seats are part of the citywide “Art on the Bench” project saluting the region’s furniture heritage. Stop to sample beer craftsmanship at the Olde Hickory Taproom before tracking more benches, including one at the Hickory Museum of Art, home to an innovative hands-on Southern folk art gallery.

Hickory Boulevard’s famous “20 Miles of Furniture” leads to Lenoir, home to an extensive outdoor sculpture collection. There, Howard Brewing approaches its first birthday and celebrates NC Beer Month with one of the month’s most intriguing releases: General Lenoir’s Old Ale, made from the Revolutionary War hero’s handwritten recipe.

William Lenoir settled in Historic Happy Valley, which travelers can explore from the route to Blowing Rock. Follow blacksmith Dean Curfman’s highway markers along N.C. Highway 268 past Fort Defiance (Lenoir’s house, built on the site of a frontier fort) into Daniel Boone and Tom Dooley territory. Download a music-filled podcast about the Tom Dula legend for the road, which takes you to Laura Foster’s grave (visible from the road) and Whippoorwill Academy & Village, which preserves Dula artifacts and an art collection depicting his life. Whippoorwill Academy also displays a replica of a cabin Daniel Boone shared with his wife and eight children in the 1760s. It includes rocks from the original chimney.

Track back to U.S. 321 and head for the High Country. Sitting about 4,000 feet above sea level on the Continental Divide, Blowing Rock became a travel destination more than a century ago and is well-versed in providing hospitality worthy of the fresh mountain air, magnificent views and wonders of nature. Blowing Rock is the rare resort town that meets the standards of well-heeled travelers while also welcoming those in muddy hiking boots.

Pubs, restaurants and shops cater to the beer traveler’s thirst for North Carolina craft brews. Here's a list of suggested places to check out: Blowing Rock Market, Mellow Mushroom, Sixpence Pub – the list goes on. Of special interest: Blowing Rock Ale House, a downtown brewery that also offers rooms for overnight stays.

Beyond the walkable village, the Blue Ridge Parkway skirts the town. You can enjoy the spring wildflowers and popular attractions such as Grandfather Mountain without the heavier traffic of summer and fall.