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Out on the Town

Tourism is alive and well in Burke County. You’re invited to take off your hat and stay a while. Take time to leisurely explore the county, touring its panoramic back roads. The shopping experience in Burke County is enlivened by the many opportunities for both casual and fine dining, often in the atmosphere of one of the county’s exciting festivals, which add music and art to the leisurely strolls through our business districts.

This charming small-town experience can readily be enjoyed in Morganton and Valdese with the numerous antique shops, art galleries, and vendors of items from jewelry to books, from outdoor equipment to homes. The real thrill of shopping here is the dazzling variety of locally produced arts and craft ware, such as pottery and woodcarving with their own distinct flavor, that sprang from the vision and skill of individual artisans.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Some of the most breathtaking scenery on this national scenic drive lies at the northern edge of Burke County. Just a short drive from Morganton is Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak in the eastern United States. To its south, toward Asheville, Craggy Gardens produces a spectacular display of the native Catawba rhododendron every year. Further north, the modern engineering marvel, the elevated Linn Cove Viaduct, sweeps around the slopes of Grandfather Mountain, making visitors feel airborne as they gaze out over the rolling Carolina piedmont a thousand feet below. Hiking and picnicking opportunities abound.

Grandfather Mountain
The highest peak in the ancient Blue Ridge Mountain Range, this rugged, world-famous mountain has been recognized by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve. Here the annual Highland Games and the gathering of the Scottish clans is held. The privately owned park features the renowned Mile High Swinging Bridge as well as bear, cougar, otter, eagle and other wildlife habitats. One can hike in the preserve or motor the Parkway viaduct at its base.

Benjamin F. Long IV Fresco Trail
Let Morganton’s Municipal Auditorium with its Sacred Dance & the Muses ceiling fresco by internationally famous artist Ben Long be your starting point on the Fresco Trail.

A trail map available at CoMMA will direct you to both sacred and secular subjects painted by a process of applying pigments to damp plaster. Long’s frescos can be found in small, out-of-the-way places, such as West Jefferson and Glendale Springs, and in larger urban centers, such as Charlotte and Statesville.

Pisgah Loop Scenic Byway
Experience a great back-to-nature scenic loop that goes from Morganton high into the Blue Ridge Mountains and back. You can pause to picnic at the historic Bark House on Highway 181 or view Brown Mountain, home of the famous Brown Mountain Lights. You can also circle the rim of the rugged Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, while gazing down at Lake James far below as you descend to the piedmont area and head back to your starting point in Morganton.

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
Quaker Meadows, north of Morganton, was the gathering place on September 30, 1780, of the Overmountain Men who met there to plan their strategy for the Battle of Kings Mountain. Revolutionary War leaders convened under a huge tree, the “Council Oak.” The public motor route designated by the National Park Service leads west and east of Morganton to significant waypoints on the 1780 march, such as Gillespie Gap near Spruce Pine and Fort Defiance near Lenoir. Captain Charles McDowell’s 1812 house still stands at Quaker Meadows and nearby is the Quaker Meadows Cemetery.

Historic Sites
Burke County is rich in its heritage thanks to a farsighted vision of the future and an abiding dedication to preserving the past. Morganton, the county seat, is divided into nine national register districts with a variety of architectural styles, including Gothic and Georgian Revival, Art Deco, Victorian, and Romanesque styles. Driving and walking tours might include the Old Burke County Courthouse; the North Carolina School for the Deaf; the Senator Sam Ervin Library; and Bellevue, Creekside, and Mountain View residences. Visits to Valdese could take in the Waldensian Heritage Museum, the Trail of Faith, the model train exhibit, and Village Park and mural.

Lake James Cellars
Wine touring is the latest recreational day trip event in the Western Carolina Foothills. Visit the Lake James Cellars, a family-owned winery operating in a restored 1915 textile mill building in Glen Alpine, a short drive from Morganton. The winery has a gift shop and a tasting room, and it is adjacent to the Old Mill Antiques store.

Raintree Cellars
The winery was opened in 2007 by vintner Ed Yoder, a lifelong resident of the area. After making wine for family and friends for many years, he decided to open a winery to be able to share his delicious creations with others. Visitors to the winery often hear Ed tell stories about the area and explain how he chose the “fanciful names” he uses on his wine labels.

Waldensian Heritage Wines

Waldensian Heritage Wines
Located in historic Valdese, the winery is housed in an old 1930s barn, constructed from local field rock and timber. Waldensian Heritage Wines offers visitors an opportunity to sample wines derived from centuries of experience in the Cottian Alps of northern Italy. Tours and tasting are available at the facility, which offers a bocce court and a covered seating area.

Trail of Faith
A series of 15 outdoor exhibits commemorate major events in the history of the Waldensian religious community. The exhibits show the years that the religious community spent as a persecuted minority in the Middle Ages in the Alps of northern Italy to the 1848 Edict of Emancipation, which granted the same political and civil rights as other citizens, to the eventual immigration and settlement in Valdese in 1893. The tour begins at a visitor center with a brief introductory talk on the trail.

The Waldensian Museum (Valdese)
The Waldenses were persecuted Christians from northern Italy who, for centuries, survived the edicts of rulers calling for their extinction. Though many were massacred, miraculously some survived centuries of inquisition. A growing population and limited farming land forced the Waldenses to seek new land, and in 1893, the first 29 arrived in Burke County, where they founded the settlement of Valdese. Retrace the lives of these Christians from the Middle Ages in Europe to their settling in a new world. Experience their daily lives as settlers and see artifacts such as rustic tools, garments and photographs that document their lives. Witness their journey of faith to a proud heritage of honor.

Contact: 828-874-1111

Piedmont & Western Railroad Museum
Located on the ground floor of the Valdese Old Rock School, the museum features replicas of a small-town depot and numerous artifacts, such as a Pullman porter’s compartment and a motor car, which saw decades of service on the Clinchfield Railroad. Vintage photographs capture both the people and the equipment which made railroad history. The Piedmont and Western Railroad Club displays an 800-square-foot HO-scale layout with a mainline over four scale miles in length.

Contact: 828-879-2126 or www.visitvaldese.comx

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