The Best of Black Mountain, North Carolina.
Surrounded by mountains and two famous conference centers, Black Mountain offers a neighborly small town flavor and a delightful array of one-of-a-kind shops, cafe's and restaurants
If there was an award for "Most Charming Small Mountain Town", Black Mountain would be a strong contender for the top prize. Located just 15 miles east of Asheville, this little community of 11,000 has revitalized its classic historic downtown with an eclectic collection of fine shops, galleries and restaurants, while maintaining a low-key, home-town feeling. Here you'll find the Chocolate Gems shop that ships its artisan sweets around the world. But just down the street you can get a haircut at Around Town Barber Shop, a two chair linoleum floor classic tonsorial parlor where you get the feeling that Andy Griffith might stop in for a quick trim at any moment.
And that's the fun of Black Mountain. Stroll around the very walkable two or three square blocks of downtown, window shop and chat with the locals. The Dripolator Coffee Shop is the town's main gathering spot, and an hour or two spent relaxing and chatting with residents will update you on the town's history and local happenings.
Some of Black Mountain's shops are truly one-of-a kind. Step inside Song of the Wood and even if you have no musical skills you will be drawn to the beautiful handmade dulcimers that line the wall. And more than one casual visitor has walked out with a new musical instrument that is also a work of art. The C.W. Moose Trading Company is a whimsical shop full of moose-themed art, clothing, toys and jewelfy. Across the street, you'll find thousands of square miles of the great outdoors packed inside the shoebox sized Outdoor Paths Map Store which specializes in detailed topographic and trail maps of the mountain regions as well an amazing selection regional, national and international guidebooks. Nearby, you can gear up for the mountain outdoors at Take a Hike, the fine outdoor gear shop on Sutton Ave. Here too is the wonderful Seven Sisters Gallery, a fine gift shop featuring quality pottery, crafts and artworks, many of which are made by local artists.
Two very traditional businesses add to Black Mountain's small town flavor. The Town Hardware has morphed into a charmingly eclectic shop where you can buy gifts and collectables on one side of the store and nails by the pound on the other. Tucked away around the corner on Church Street, the Black Mountain Bakery is the place to go for fresh baked bread, and apple turnovers that are so light and crispy you'll have to eat two.
Black Mountain was originally called Grey Eagle by the native Cherokee. Its current name comes from the extensive Black Mountain range that rises to the north of town. Also to the north is Montreat, an open community that is home to the Presbyterian Montreat Conference Center and Montreat College. Anyone can drive into Montreat, and it is a great place to walk or hike. One of our favorite walks is an easy half-mile perambulation around lovely Lake Susan in the heart of the conference center. There are also several mountain hiking trails that range from the moderate but steep, mile-long Lookout Trail that leads to a spectacular mountain summit, to the challenging 8 mile Greybeard Trail. One of Montreat's most famous residents is The Reverend Billy Graham. Just a few miles west of Black Mountain is Billy Graham's large and legendary evangelical training and retreat center The Cove.
Our Favorite Black Mountain Shops and Restaurants:
Song of the Wood. Owner Jerry Read Smith has been playing and building hammer dulcimers in Black Mountain for almost 30 years. In addition to the 25 or so commercial models of dulcimers on display, Jerry hand builds his own line of dulcimers from black walnut, rosewood and sixteen other hardwoods. It is nearly impossible to walk into this shop and not want (at least for a moment) to take one of these musical masterpieces home with you and learn to play it. The shop also sells easy to play bowed-psalteries, as well as a wide range of CD's featuring the music of top dulcimer artists.
Seven Sisters Gallery. Named for a nearby range of peaks known as the Seven Sisters, this is one of the oldest established fine craft galleries in Western North Carolina. Current owner Andrea McFadyen took over the operation in 2002 after working in the shop and falling in love with the town of Black Mountain. Today, under Andrea's artistic management, the shop offers an excellent selection of paintings, pottery, furniture and other works by regional and national craftspeople. Ceramics are a specialty here and go well beyond the cups-and-plates format into wild and colorful ceramic sculptures, and tile art that dazzles.
Chocolate Gems. The owners of Chocolate Gems roamed the world in their sailboat for years before settling here to enjoy the beauty of the mountains. Now they produce a wide range of handmade artisan chocolates such as classic chocolate barks, European style truffles, Ganache and chocolate sculptures.
Outdoor Paths Map Shop.Travelers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts of every stripe will love this small shop located on a busy corner in downtown Black Mountain. Inside the shelves are filled with topo and hiking maps that cover every corner of the Blue Ridge Mountains as well as a wealth of travel guide books and maps on popular national and international destinations. Owner Larry Odoski is a very experienced hiker who loves sharing his knowledge of his favorite mountain trails and outdoor places with customers.
Take a Hike Outdoor Outfitters. Once you have your maps, you may want some outdoor clothes and equipment for your hiking adventures. If so head down to the small, friendly and well-stocked Take a Hike Outdoor Outfitters. Here you'll find serious tents, ultra light camping and cooking supplies, survival and climbing gear and clothes for every mountain climate and condition. Most of the staff are experienced outdoor enthusiasts and are more than willing to share the inside scoop on the region's trails and local conditions.
Dripolator Coffee Shop. This charming coffee shop is the bustling, warm and inviting social center of Black Mountain. The shop specializes in fair trade, organic and shade grown coffees and takes pride in brewing a fine cup of coffee as well as creating a wide array of hot and cold coffee beverages. The interior is comfortable and welcoming with deep, soft couches and chairs. This is often a busy place as locals bring their computers in to take advantage of the wireless internet, and friends gather for casual conversation over coffee and pastry.
C.W. Moose Trading Company. Ok, its true that there are no moose in North Carolina. This clever shop is the brainchild of a long-time Maine resident who got tired of the long northern winters and moved himself and his delightful moose shop to the milder climates of the southern Blue Ridge. The lack of North Carolina Moose doesn't slow down business however, as customers flock here to shop for stuffed moose toys, moose-themed T shirts, pajamas and other clothing; moose art, moose jewelry and more types of delightful "Mooserabelia" than we have ever seen before in one place.
Black Mountain Bakery. This friendly, small-town bakery is legendary for its light flaky baked goods, such as melt-in-you-mouth blueberry turnovers and almond croissants. Located just off Main Street, the bakery offers tree-shaded tables out front where you can sit and watch small town comings-and-goings as you sip freshly brewed artisan coffee and bite into a sweet something from the bakery counter. They also incorporate their baked-fresh-daily whole grain breads into a full range of hearty sandwiches at lunchtime.
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