There’s a place where music moves mountains.
Within the towns that line the mountains and foothills of North Carolina, visitors are invited to hear the traditional sounds of music handed down from families and communities, as well as new musicians that have flocked to the region. This is the land of the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina.
Here they’ve made it easy to find the music, curating events and day trips that will encourage you to dance, listen, watch and most certainly join in. These are just some of the highlights you can expect to find along the way.
Nicknamed “The Little Town that Rocks,” charming Black Mountain is 15 minutes east of Asheville and surrounded by its namesake mountain range. It boasts unique shops and art galleries and a creative vibe.
A can’t miss stop on the Blue Ridge Music Trails, the White Horse Black Mountain is a renovated 1940s car dealership that is now an arts venue serving beer, wine and snacks. All types of artists can be heard here beyond the local flavor, even traditional Irish musicians. Tuesdays are especially fun as it is open mic night.
Live music and local, hand-crafted, certified organic beer can be enjoyed at Pisgah Brewing Company. Its free Sunday Jam Hosted by Spiro and Friends welcomes all ages for an outdoor evening of music in which bringing your own instrument is encouraged.
Other free and ticketed events offer a range of musical styles. If you’re visiting in the summer, Park Rhythms at Veterans Park is a free live concert series with a variety of musical genres that takes place Thursday evenings, June through August.
In May and October, the weekend-long LEAF Festival (formerly the Lake Eden Arts Festival) celebrates art, music and culture at the site of historic Black Mountain College. This year on October 20-23, the LEAF Festival is celebrating its 50th anniversary with multiple performance stages and artists, a family adventure village, art and culinary vendors and more.
Just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Sparta is another small town worthy of a road trip for music lovers.
The Allegany Jubilee, set in a former historic movie theater, invites you to “clog, square dance or just tap your foot to old time mountain music” on its dance floor on Tuesday nights for a Hillbilly Hoedown with the Rise and Shine Band, and on Saturday nights with bands that change weekly.
Look for live music events on Main Street through the Alleghany Arts Council. May through December, Saturdays in ‘SpARTa’ offers music, art and more. Other spots to listen to live music include Muddy Creek Café & Music Hall and Laconia Ale Works.
As you explore the Blue Ridge Music trails, combine your visit to Sparta with a stop at the Blue Ridge Music Center, 30 minutes along the Blue Ridge Parkway near the North Carolina/Virginia state line. Open May through October, it offers daily free “Midday Mountain Music” from noon to 4 p.m. featuring local and regional musicians, as well as ticketed Saturday night concerts. The music continues year-round regionally with the Center’s “On the Road” series.
Discover more about the region’s musical heritage and get a chance to mix your own mountain music on-site at the Blue Ridge Music Center’s Roots of American Music Museum exhibition. The Center’s two hiking trails (one easy, one moderate) can get you singing on your own while discovering the area’s natural beauty.
For more musical adventures, drive about 40 minutes west of Asheville to Waynesville, one of the largest towns in Western North Carolina.
First, explore the shops, restaurants and art galleries of downtown and Main Street. Schedule your visit to be a part of a mountain hoedown tradition that has been going strong for almost a century during the Waynesville Street Dance. Main Street transforms for this event, which takes place four times from June through August and features bluegrass musicians, bands and clogging teams. The most fun of the event is when you join in to dance with the locals.
For live music from spring to fall, Frog Level Brewing in downtown offers an outdoor beer garden and music venue set on a scenic creek.
The 16th Annual Music at the Mill is slated for Sept. 10, 2022, at the Francis Grist Mill, which dates to 1887 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The annual event celebrates Western North Carolina bluegrass and barbecue. Bring a lawn chair to relax and enjoy the regional sounds. There will also be crafts and a milling demonstration.
Not too far from Waynesville, the Stompin’ Ground in Maggie Valley is one big dance party on Saturday nights from May through October. Participate or simply watch the high-energy line dancing, square dancing, clogging and two-step dancers and listen to the lively mountain and country music.
Does a trip to the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina sound like your kind of road trip? Tell us in the comments.
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Featured image: Aerial view of the town of Black Mountain. (Credit: Visit NC)