MOUNTAIN HAVEN: Blowing Rock offers beautiful views, relaxing atmosphere, great shopping
BLOWING ROCK - A weekend in the mountain town of Blowing Rock means plenty of fresh air, clear views and mountain trails, but chances are, you'll be plenty distracted with the abundant shopping, dining, festivals and other diversions found in this charming community
Long a refuge from the heat of the lowlands to the south, Blowing Rock has been the summer home for countless families since the early 1900s. The beautiful mountain surroundings, leisurely pace of a downtown flanked by stone churches, and vacation homes large and small have enticed summer visitors equally from the north.
Today, there is an urgency about the town on summer weekends. The energy of old friends meeting and greeting, tourists seeking a bit of sedate hedonism after drinking in the glorious nature of the Blue Ridge, and frequent visitors revving up for the new shopping season - all migrate to Main Street.
Boutiques aplenty inspire fashionistas of all ages. Libba's, a smart shop for colorful women's clothing and exclusive Creed fragrances, even welcomes lapdogs. Almost Rodeo Drive, a Blowing Rock staple, serves both men and women with attractive summer resort styles for dress and casual.
Southmarke, a self-contained shopping village of sorts with brick walkways and a dozen white-clapboard shops, caters to the whims of well-dressed gents, costume jewelry lovers, and shoe fanatics. There's even a doggie boutique and bakery.
Gift shops seem to appear every other step - many in converted old, two-story homes - offering everything from indigenous North Carolina gems and jewels to candles, books, stationery and crafts.
Regional artistry is well represented with Main Street Crafts Co-op and Gallery. Exhibiting the work of 16 local artists, the gallery showcases turned wood bowls, pottery, stained glass, beadwork, paintings, and ceramics. Beautiful glass craft, handmade jewelry, contemporary wood furniture and accents, lamps, and other inspired handcrafts twinkle in the halogen glow of IAGO.
Combination interior design/antique shops cater to second-home owners who must outfit yet another season. Those who prefer their designs name brand, will enjoy the Bob Timberlake Gallery that subscribes to everything from buttery leather sofas to luggage, prints and paintings to clothing with the Timberlake name emblazoned.
Outdoor outfitters with innovative high-tech fabrics; a gourmet kitchen store; a linen shop specializing in authentic French provincial fabrics; the very funky Neaco design, interiors and gift store; and numerous other specialty storefronts give Blowing Rock a reputation as a shopper's paradise.