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  • Firebird statute outside the Bechtler Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina
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    Starting Point: Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Traditional goods being baked in Old Salem, North Carolina
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    Art and Artisans in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

  • Live radio shows air from Rex Theater in Galax, Virginia
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    Bluegrass Jams in Galax, Virginia

  • Taking in the views from McAfee Knob outside Roanoke, Virginia
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    Museum Haven in the Mountains of Roanoke, Virginia

  • The Bluestone River Gorge aerial tram near Pipestem, West Virginia
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    Recreation, Theater and Shopping in Pipestem, West Virginia

  • Veteran miner leading an underground tour at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine in West Virginia
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    Arts and Coal Mining in Beckley, West Virginia

  • Concert in downtown Charleston, West Virginia
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    Charleston, West Virginia: A Capital Full of Culture

  • Sun sets over a valley in Wytheville, Virginia
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    Artisan Wine and Inspiring Views in Wytheville, Virginia

  • The Barter Theatre, the State Theatre of Virginia, in Abingdon, Virginia
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    Abingdon, Virginia: Mecca of Fine Arts and Homespun Crafts

  • Showcasing traditional and contemporary crafts at the Folk Art Center in Asheville, North Carolina
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    Earthy Arts in Asheville, North Carolina

An artist at work in her studio in Asheville, North Carolina
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Touring the World of Appalachian Arts and Crafts

  • Route distance:
    1188km
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

Discover creative expressions of cultural heritage

Appalachia’s place in the southeastern USA is at once unwavering and enchanting. Isolated by its own mountainous beauty, resourcefulness and handiwork are stamped into the region, inspiring creative traditions and a distinct cultural heritage. Jump in the car and discover Appalachia’s rich culture in yesteryear settlements, artist co-ops and music jams – from the big city highlights to the backroad gems.

01
Firebird statute outside the Bechtler Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina
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Starting Point: Charlotte, North Carolina

Start your journey in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, where you can experience a cosmopolitan core surrounded by rolling, green mountains. Fly into Charlotte International Airport, hop in the car and head west for your first stop in the city – the terracotta-tiled Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Inside, find mid-20th-century modern standouts, including works from the School of Paris post-World War II. Around the block, stop in the Mint Museum Uptown where you can marvel at collections like Craft + Design, featuring glass, fiber, metal, wood and clay decorative pieces by contemporary international artists. Grab a bite to eat at the museum’s local favorite restaurant before heading to the McColl Center for Art + Innovation, located in a historic Neo-Gothic Church. Here, Open Studio Saturdays and regular exhibits introduce visitors to artists-in-residence. Take time to appreciate their unique perspectives before diving deeper into the region’s art scene.

134 km
2 hours by car
02
Traditional goods being baked in Old Salem, North Carolina
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Art and Artisans in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

A breezy drive north takes you to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a scenic city known as a hub for arts and innovation. In Old Salem, you’ll find an authentically restored Moravian settlement town that was founded in 1766. Catch a demonstration of tinsmithing and clay-working at the Single Brothers' House & Garden. When it’s time for a midday snack, stop in to the iconic Winkler Bakery for their popular old-world sugar cakes. Just down the road from the bakery is the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, which includes a vast collection of antique furnishings, silver and needlework. Wind the day down with a walk between the West End Historic District and the Downtown Arts District where inspiring restaurants abound. If you time your travel right, you can attend a First Friday Gallery Hop, where galleries and studios stay open late into the evening and live entertainment dots the streets. Wake up refreshed and ready to uncover a different kind of craft in Virginia.

103 km
1 hour by car
03
Live radio shows air from Rex Theater in Galax, Virginia
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Bluegrass Jams in Galax, Virginia

Continue your journey north into the forested city of Galax, Virginia, a gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The town is also a cultural center for traditional Bluegrass music. Follow along the Blue Ridge Parkway and The Crooked Road (Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail) to experience it. Sounds of banjo and fiddle greet you at the Blue Ridge Music Center, which is open May through October with daily performances. While there, stroll through the Roots of American Music exhibit to discover the history and sounds of mountain music. In downtown Galax, family-run Barr's Fiddle Shop is a real treat – find walls lined with traditional handcrafted instruments. Outside the shop, stroll the downtown area, where historic buildings sit alongside charming boutiques and inspiring restaurants. Stop in for a bite to eat before walking over to the Rex Theater. You’ll need to arrive as early as 6:30 on a Friday night to be part of their popular Blue Ridge Backroads live radio broadcast. You’ll be humming the lively tunes all the way to your next stop.

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146 km
2 hours by car
04
Taking in the views from McAfee Knob outside Roanoke, Virginia
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Museum Haven in the Mountains of Roanoke, Virginia

Surrounded by ethereal views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the valley city of Roanoke is infused with culture. Roanoke’s railway past is celebrated at the O. Winston Link Museum and the Virginia Museum of Transportation, full of fantastic rail cars and antique automobiles. Sample fresh produce and pick up a gift at the City Market. Dating back to 1882, this year-round farmers’ market features dozens of local vendors. Center in the Square in downtown Roanoke is a cultural hub. Inside, you’ll find the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, the History Museum of Western Virginia, Mill Mountain Theatre and the Science Museum of Western Virginia. Play a few rounds of pinball at the Roanoke Pinball Museum while you’re there. Need a breath of fresh air? Hike to McAfee Knob on the storied Appalachian Trail, go for a leisurely drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway or explore nearly 50 kilometers of bike paths on the Roanoke Valley Greenways. Don’t miss the photo op from the Roanoke Star, the world’s largest illuminated man-made star boasting views of the city and surrounding areas.

174 km
2 hours by car
05
The Bluestone River Gorge aerial tram near Pipestem, West Virginia
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Recreation, Theater and Shopping in Pipestem, West Virginia

Your next scenic stop is Pipestem Resort State Park in West Virginia. Arrange a stay at the McKeever Lodge on the edge of the scenic Bluestone River Gorge, or catch a ride on the 1,100-meter aerial tramway to the Mountain Creek Lodge. Leave the car keys at your room and explore the nearby gorge on horseback, foot or mountain bike. All options are easily arranged within the park. Play a round of golf on one of two challenging and beautifully manicured courses overlooking the Bluestone Canyon. In the evening, enjoy a theatrical performance or some live Bluegrass music at the outdoor amphitheater nestled in the gorge. Before you head out of town, check out the Mountain Artisan Shop for souvenir shopping. Find West Virginia handcrafted items, furniture, quilts and other unique gifts. A relaxing stay in Pipestem will have you refreshed and ready to hit the road for your next destination.

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53 km
1 hour by car
06
Veteran miner leading an underground tour at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine in West Virginia
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Arts and Coal Mining in Beckley, West Virginia

Head northwest to Beckley, West Virginia, a cozy Appalachian city with deep roots in coal mining and the arts. Woodworking, quilting, glass blowing and other crafts continue to be an integral part of West Virginia’s culture, and artisans often use materials found locally. Just off the West Virginia Turnpike, in Beckley, is the Tamarack. An epicenter for West Virginia art, the Tamarack houses a juried selection of wares and fine art exhibits. Stop by to see one of the five resident artisan studios. Make time to sample the food court’s regional cuisine; especially the West Virginia rainbow trout – a local favorite. Visiting in August? Be sure to check out the annual Appalachian Arts & Crafts Fair. And from April through October, visit the Exhibition Coal Mine for a tour of an underground mine. You’ll head out of Beckley on winding roads on your way to Charleston.

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98 km
1 hour by car
07
Concert in downtown Charleston, West Virginia
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Charleston, West Virginia: A Capital Full of Culture

West Virginia’s capital city is as charming as it is cultured. Start at the State Capitol building, fronting the Kanawha River. With its distinctive gold-leaf dome, stately pillars, fountains and statues of Stonewall Jackson and Abraham Lincoln, it’s full of photo ops. Take a free tour of the Governor’s Mansion (by reservation), visit the West Virginia State Museum for a history lesson and check out the fantastic display of traditional Appalachian quilts at the Culture Center; all are located on the capitol complex grounds and are free of charge. A few kilometers upriver, shop for local produce and gifts and grab a bite to eat at the year-round Capitol Market. Browse the independent galleries and retailers along Capitol, Quarrier and Lee Streets, where the downtown ArtWalk is held on the third Thursdays of the month. Along the way, stop at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, which houses a fine art gallery and an interactive children’s museum. Wind down with some fresh air at Haddad Riverfront Park. Along with gorgeous river views, the park hosts a variety of free outdoor concerts and events.

61 km
1 hour by car
08
Sun sets over a valley in Wytheville, Virginia
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Artisan Wine and Inspiring Views in Wytheville, Virginia

Hop in the car and head south to Wytheville, a charming town with unbelievably scenic views. A tempting rest stop is the West Wind Farm Vineyard & Winery, a fourth-generation homestead where family members produce small-batch wines amidst beautiful rolling hills. Enjoy a sample and take in the view. For more mountain vistas, pull over at Big Walker Lookout in Wytheville for a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding natural splendor. You’ll want to grab a photo atop the observation tower. It’s located on the Big Walker Scenic Byway, and picnic areas and hiking trails are in abundance. It’s a great spot to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. As you continue on your way, contemplate how these views have inspired artists through the centuries.

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204 km
2 hours by car
09
The Barter Theatre, the State Theatre of Virginia, in Abingdon, Virginia
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Abingdon, Virginia: Mecca of Fine Arts and Homespun Crafts

Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Abingdon, Virginia is the perfect stop to immerse yourself in scenic beauty and rich cultural history. Founded in 1778 as the oldest English-speaking town west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is now a flourishing community with brick walkways, preserved architecture and a refined arts scene. Once you arrive in town, head to William King Museum to browse through fine and contemporary regional art exhibits and cultural heritage collections. Plus, admission is free! Heartwood is an obvious next stop. This artisan gateway gives a solid orientation to southwest Virginia’s music and art heritage trails. But don’t leave without a chat; ’Round the Mountain juried artisans sell their work at Heartwood and often offer demonstrations and lessons. Soak up the creative energy before heading to your final stop.

179 km
2 hours by car
10
Showcasing traditional and contemporary crafts at the Folk Art Center in Asheville, North Carolina
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Earthy Arts in Asheville, North Carolina

You're back on the city track, but Asheville eases you in with those Blue Ridge panoramas and an earthy vibe; vegan and yoga practitioners will rejoice. Follow the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Folk Art Center, home to the Southern Highland Craft Guild and its craft shop and exhibition galleries. Stroll through the center, which illuminates the guild's traditional-to-contemporary take on Southern Appalachian aesthetic. To the northwest is Grovewood Gallery, where craftspeople apply the aesthetic to garden art and furniture, wrought finely by hand. Finally, visit the Asheville Art Museum, where you can marvel at an outstanding collection showcasing the best of 20th and 21st century American art and contemporary art of North Carolina. With all this museum-hopping, you’ll work up quite an appetite. Fortunately, the city of Asheville does not disappoint in its culinary fare. Swing by downtown for an incredible selection of farm-fresh eateries. Grab a flight out of town at the Asheville Regional Airport, which offers daily connections to major U.S. international airports, or drive 2 hours east to fly out of Charlotte International Airport.

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