In the rolling foothills of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains is a place that has been quietly beautiful, always inspiring for generations. It’s here a new generation of creators have made their home. Potters who reach into mountains of clay and find the delicate vase within. Chefs who craft meals over a glowing bed of hickory and oak. Winemakers who work with Mother Nature to harvest the perfect bottle of red. Musicians who don’t just write songs, but put words to the beauty around them. This tour is your invitation to meet them, feed your soul and leave with a little inspiration of your own.
2 days | 15 stops
STOP 1: Shelby Cafe
The Shelby Cafe is the kind of place where a balanced diet starts with a fork in each hand. This local and nationally known favorite has been cooking up carolina comfort food for close to a century. From fried livermush to homemade pimento cheese, every order is the right order. Especially when it is brought to your table with a smile and followed by a “Y’all come back.”
STOP 2: The LP Project
A visit to Shelby would not be complete without a tip of the hat to native son Don Gibson. This prolific songwriter and country music legend, penned more than 375 songs during his career. The list includes I Can’t Stop Loving You, which has been recorded in several languages and across genres by over 750 artists. As a tribute to this poet of song, Shelby has a walking tour that highlights Don’s work. There are ten stops around Uptown Shelby. Each location has a different LP sculpture designed by a different artist that features information about one of Don’s hit songs. You'll even see a mural of Don along the way. The stroll will take about 45 minutes to see them all. But you’ll be humming the tunes for days after.
STOP 3: The Earl Scruggs Center
Earl Scruggs was born right here in Cleveland County in the small town of Flint Hill. (Ever hear Flint Hill Special?) Earl helped to define the voice of the banjo to the world. His three-finger playing style (Scruggs style) didn’t just cross musical boundaries, it created a whole new style of play. He was an innovator. He was a music lover. This Center that bears his name is our way to keep his legacy alive for future generations. You can even try your hand at the banjo in the Banjo Petting Zoo! Toe-tapping and inspiration included with admission.
STOP 4: Johnny Ray's Smokehouse
Johnny Ray's Smokehouse, formerly known as the Honey Hog, is a farmer and pitmaster owned. They source their meat from their own farm (or local farms) whenever possible. This makes the food fresh which makes it amazing. The ribs come wet or dry with a kick of spice. The fries are hand cut. The mashed potatoes are real, just like grandma's house on Sunday. Show up early and hungry. You will not be disappointed.
Photo Credit: NC Tripping
Photo Credit: NC Tripping
STOP 5: Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard and Winery
This vineyard is nestled into the rolling hills and farmland that has been in the Baker family for over a century. Inspired by a visit to Napa and Sonoma, the owners planted the first grapes here in 2003. Today the grounds include a historic farmhouse and eight different grape varietals ready to harvest. Venture into the original milking room for a tour of the wine-making operations and a tasting flight that may include chardonnay, merlot, Riesling, scuppernong and more. Raise your glass to a wonderful afternoon. That you may or may not remember.
STOP 6: Ron Philbeck Pottery
The hills of Cleveland County are filled with creative minds. Ron Philbeck is one of our best. He’s a potter whose work is as functional as it is beautiful. He makes pots for daily use as well as pots that serve a more decorative role. To that end, his work can be found in collections and kitchens around the world. His studio is just minutes outside of Uptown Shelby. Studio visits are welcome but call ahead. Be sure to pick up some one-of-a-kind creations as unique as their creator.
STOP 7: Newgrass Brewing Company
Anybody can drink a beer. But it takes intelligence to enjoy it. At least, that’s the thinking at Newgrass Brewery. That’s why they handcraft beer in small batches using only the finest ingredients from local farmers and around the world. Quality ingredients are the start of any great brew. Try a flight and see for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you prefer a pale ale or a stout, this place has the flavors to keep your beer palate at full attention. (Sit outdoors by the Earl Scruggs mural if you can.)
STOP 8: Pfeiffer Cafe
Pfeiffer Cafe is the perfect lunch spot. It’s right in the heart of Uptown Shelby, so it’s easy to find. Its menu offers everything from fresh salads to loaded tater tots, grilled sandwiches to paninis and more. Even the pickiest eater can find something they like and change their mind a dozen times. Specials change from week to week. So there’s always something new to discover.
23 HOURS VIEW LISTING
STOP 9: Veronet Vineyards and Winery
Where the foothills begin to ripple towards the Blue Ridge Mountains you’ll find Veronét Vineyards & Winery. This 70-acre estate includes panoramic views of Crowders Mountain along with six acres under vine. Good soils and a sustainable approach allow for a variety of grapes to grow abundantly. Sample a Chardonnay or Orange Muscat. Pour a glass of Malbec or Sauvignon Blanc. Each wine bearing the Veronét name is chosen, blended and aged with the utmost care and passion. (Hours may vary during Covid. Call for hours or to make a tour reservation.)
STOP 10: 133 West
Located in Historic Downtown Kings Mountain, 133 West brings a modern and creative approach to Southern cuisine. The atmosphere is light and relaxing. The menu is always changing. There is a focus on freshness and seasonality. But there's also a global curiosity to the dishes at 133 West. They are definitely Southern at heart. But you may also find a kick of Greek or Arab mixed in to keep your taste buds on high alert. (Ask to sit on the patio. It's the perfect way to enjoy your meal this time of year.)
STOP 11: Southern Arts Society
Everything about the Southeastern Arts Society is unique. Located in a historic Southern Railway Depot near downtown Kings Mountain, it's home to the creative wandering of more than 80 local artists. Enter the doorways and you’ll find hand-blown glass vases, hammered copper jewelry, pottery that would look perfect on that shelf that always seems like it's missing something. Everything is one-of-a-kind. Find the perfect gift for anyone, especially if that anyone is you.
STOP 12: Arts Council Gallery & Gift Shop
Located in an historic landmark building which previously housed the post office, the Arts Council welcomes visitors throughout the year. Pop over to take in art exhibits, attend art classes, enjoy performances and more. The gallery features work from local artists and craftsmen. On any given day you may find hand-woven baskets, homemade soaps or not-so-flighty birdhouses. Stop by and take a piece of Cleveland County home with you.
STOP 13: Buffalo Creek Gallery
If you’re anything like me, purchasing art can seem a little intimidating but that’s not the case at Buffalo Creek Gallery. When you walk in the door, you’re immediately inspired and surrounded by unique, beautiful works of art. This Co-op gallery is filled with paintings in a variety of mediums, jewelry, pottery, furniture, and accessories. It showcases the work of over 50 local and regional artists. Get ready to find perfect gifts for the hard-to-buy-for people in your life and of course a few for yourself!
STOP 14: The Wooden Carrousel
A century old wooden Carrousel is a staple at Shelby’s City Park. Volunteers spent thousands of hours restoring this artifact to her original beauty. Today, music fills the park from an authentic Carrousel Band Organ as the carousel spins with a blur of color and new life. Twenty-nine original horses and three hand-carved replacements form a ring around hand-painted rounding boards. For a mere fifty cents, kids of all ages can take a ride. Giddy up over and choose your horse. Check operating schedule for changes due to Covid-19.
STOP 15: Red Bridges Barbeque
Picture this: Tender, hand-chopped pork, painstakingly pit-cooked over a bed of glowing hickory and oak, slathered in red, Lexington-style sauce. Oh, and hush puppies and red slaw. For three generations this is what the Bridges family has been serving up in Cleveland County. The same old fashion flavor perfected in 1946 is what you get today. If the packed parking lot is any indication, visitors can’t get enough. Just make sure you stock up on extra napkins. If your face and hands don’t get messy eating this barbecue, you’re doing it all wrong.
Photo Credit: NC Tripping
Photo Credit: NC Tripping