Asheboro, NC is a pint-sized city that packs a big punch and we've created the ultimate weekend guide for this artsy city.
Big cities do have a certain je ne sais quoi for many of us, but, as of late, small-town America is starting to get more of the recognition it deserves. From one side of the country to the other, pint-sized communities are attracting newcomers and proving there’s more than meets the eye and Asheboro, North Carolina is one such place. Sometimes confused with bigger and bolder Asheville to its west, this “Ashe” is located in Randolph County and an easy drive from Charlotte, Greensboro, and the Triad. It’s home to the world-renowned North Carolina Zoo, minutes from the Uwharrie National Forest and neighbor to Seagrove, NC, known as the Pottery Capital of the United States.
When it comes to where to stay, bypass the chain hotels for accommodations with a cozier, more authentic ambiance. Getaway Asheboro offers one and two-bedroom cabins in the woods, or book a B&B experience at Duck Smith House and Seagrove Stoneware Pottery Inn.
Sunset Avenue downtown is where you’ll find the best of the locally-owned restaurants and shops that Asheboro offers. When it comes to options for an a.m. caffeine fix, the list is extensive at the Black Lantern Tea Room and Bakery. Their selection of fresh-baked pastries and sandwiches changes daily, but regulars will likely recommend the “shut yo mouth” bars.
Once you’ve bargain-shopped your way through the antique malls, boutiques and gift shops, it’s time to satisfy the hunger pangs. You’ll be able to spot The Taco Loco Cantina from a distance by the crowd gathered at the door. The tacos al pastor will be worth the wait, but they do have a walk-up window if you want to take your meal to-go. If you’re lucky enough to snag a table at another popular favorite, Magnolia 23, you’ll be in for a real treat. Settle in for generous helpings of some of the state’s tastiest soul food and sweet tea.
In the summer months, Bicentennial Park hosts live entertainment free to the public. For films and special productions, Sunset Theatre has a full calendar year-round. Wet your whistle at Leo’s, the working man’s whiskey bar, where the vibe is proudly blue collar, and the drinks are strong. Over at Four Saints Brewing, the Red Wolf IPA and Potter’s Clay Ale are a nod to the area’s star attractions.
Housed in a building that once produced hosiery, The Table Farm Bakery is now a go-to spot for inventive dishes like creole grit bowls and breakfast naan. If a hot, buttery sandwich gets you going, check out Biscuit Company. This no-frills joint opens early, and the biscuits come out piping hot and loaded up any way you want.
It’s hard to imagine 2,600 acres could feel like a “best-kept secret,” but the North Carolina Zoo definitely gives that impression. From conservation to research to sustainability, there’s so much going on behind the scenes, yet the woodsy, peaceful grounds feel miles from anywhere. It’s also the world’s (yes, the world’s) largest natural habitat zoo, so visitors will have a chance to see many of the animals from the African and North American continents roaming out in the open.
For art and culture, head south to Seagrove and North Carolina’s Pottery Highway (Hwy 705 on the map). Early settlers made earthenware from the area’s rich clay as far back as the 1800s, and today, potters and artists from all over the world are drawn to this artsy town. Before you take on the 30-mile trail of studios and galleries, it’s helpful to grab a map and a short orientation at the NC Pottery Center.
Sit back on the patio at The General Wine and Brew, catch a food truck, and you may just hear some great stories from the locals. Alternatively, Good Company Pups and Mugs is a cool “dog park” where you can enjoy craft beer with the company of four-legged friends.
Grab that coffee order to go (and throw in a bear claw) from Glaze King Donuts and take breakfast outdoors in Ramseur at the Deep River State Trail. It’s part of a larger network that also runs through the towns of Randleman and Franklinville, but this section is an easy walk that can be done at a leisurely pace. For more strenuous, longer hikes, the Uwharrie National Forest and Birkhead Mountains Wilderness trailheads are less than an hour away.
Before you close out the weekend, save some room for something sweet at family-owned Millstone Creek Orchards on your way out of town. Pull up a rocking chair while you enjoy the scenery and shop the homemade products in their store. Amongst other goodies, they’re known for their fresh-pressed apple slushies. These cold refreshments are straight-up goodness, made with nothing but fruit. Even the folks who say they’re not that into cider will be pleasantly surprised.