Mount Airy, North Carolina
You'd better brush up on your Nick At Night viewing before coming to Mount Airy, North Carolina. This town has fully devoted itself to celebrating Andy Griffith and his classic TV show. You won't be able to turn a corner or drive down a single street, without seeing some reference to Barney Fife, Aunt B., or Opie.
Even if you overlook all the Andy Griffith mania in Mount Airy, it's still a great little small town. It's not quite Mayberry -- it's bigger, and there are more businesses -- but it's charming enough to have any metropolis-dweller thinking, "this is the kind of place I could live."
While the Mayberry theme extends to the farthest reaches of town, it reaches its highest concentration along Main Street.
Perhaps the one and only truly authentic Mayberry landmark in downtown Mt. Airy is the Snappy Lunch restaurant. The Snappy Lunch is only open for breakfast and lunch, six days a week, and is famous for its very messy pork chop sandwich.
I'll credit the Snappy Lunch as "authentic", because it is the only business to actually exist in real life, to be mentioned on the Andy Griffith Show. Long before Andy Griffith's TV success, he regularly ate at Snappy Lunch (he was born and grew up in Mt. Airy).
The rest of the businesses, I suspect, were named to capitalize on the popularity of the show. You can still get caught up in all the fun of it...
... and even get married in the Mayberry Wedding Chapel!
There are, of course, plenty of gift shops featuring more Mayberry-inspired items than you could possibly imagine. Since I was visiting in the evening, all of those stores had already shut down for the day. There was one restaurant open downtown, but it looked to be slightly above my shoestring travel budget. So, I headed back to the motel for the night.
Another Andy Griffith Show landmark is just a few miles down US Hwy. 52 from Mt. Airy: Pilot Mountain. The distinctive quartzite mountain peak stands next to a city that bears the same name. On the TV show, Andy and the gang routinely referred to "Mount Pilot" as a nearby town. In the real world, Pilot Mountain is surrounded by a state park, and trails lead up to the bottom of, and then encircle, the mountain's cap.
Downtown Mount Airy is several miles from the I-77/I-74 split, which was the location of my motel. While it wasn't especially convenient to downtown, it was a good spot to start, the next morning. Day 7 begins at the NC/VA line on the Blue Ridge Parkway. To get there, take NC 89 west to NC 18, which connects with the Parkway, just south of the state line.
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