Approximately 20 minutes east of Lake James is the “Simply Charming” town of Morganton, a designation to which we couldn’t agree more. Offering everything we love about small town America, Morganton’s rich history, delicious restaurants, local craft breweries, independent bookstores, and seasonal festivals make it the type of picturesque small town you’ll stumble upon and tell all your friends about visiting.
Food & Drink
If you’re looking for locally-grown products, be sure to visit Morganton’s open-air Farmers Markets. Starting around the first of May and running through the end of October, the Saturday market runs from 8:00 am to noon, and it’s where you’ll find some of the best produce and craft goods our area has to offer. There’s also a mini-market held on Wednesday afternoons from noon to 4:00 pm, perfect for picking up some fresh vegetables, cheese, or bread to include in a delicious meal celebrating the halfway point of the week. With a mix of upscale and casual dining options, along with adorable cafes and delectable desserts, the Morganton food scene is irresistibly diverse. For a fancy dinner, head downtown to Root & Vine or Treat. Root & Vine features locally-sourced produce, meats, and fish that contribute to a rotation of southern comfort foods, like the wood-cooked pork chops with Cheerwine sauce, and internationally inspired cuisines, like the pan-seared duck breast.
Treat offers a variety of cooked to order fare. Some of our favorites include the Asian South Pork, a dish of fried pork shanks topped with an Asian reduction sauce, and the Fall’s Bounty, a sweet and spicy pumpkin, apple, and chickpea curry served with jasmine rice. Pair your meal with their selection of fine wines, craft & domestic beers, or fresh seasonal cocktails. For a more laid-back meal with tasty bites, you’ll find delicious gourmet pizzas at Moondog Pizza and specialty burgers, wraps, and more at Blue 42 Sports Bar & Grill. Make sure to leave room for dessert and stop by Toasted and Rolled for all things ice cream. Serving specialty rolled ice cream creations like sea salt caramel, peanut butter blast, and mint chocolate chip, “over the top” milkshakes, and delicious vegan and gluten-free ice cream options, this is an after-dinner must.
For the craft beer enthusiasts, Morganton will certainly keep you busy. Catawba Brewing Company is a staple in Western North Carolina with several taprooms throughout the Asheville area, including the production facility and tasting room in downtown Morganton. One of the pioneers of the craft beer scene, this brewery produces 9 flagship brews, like their White Zombie white ale and Hopness Haze IPA, along with a rotation of seasonal, specialty, and limited-release beers.
Fonta Flora prides itself on the artistry and sustainability of their beers. They focus on seasonal flora, bringing together English tradition and Belgian inspiration to the craft. Their traditional tasting room is in downtown Morganton while their second location at Whippoorwill Farm on Lake James offers an expansive outdoor space against the backdrop of the rugged and beautiful Linville Gorge, giving visitors a true sense of Morganton’s Appalachian roots. They feature rotating selections of IPAs, Saisons, Pale Ales, Seltzers, and Imperial Stouts. Likewise, local favorite Sidetracked Brewery focuses on craft beer using sustainable and locally-sourced malt, and their downtown taproom offers a friendly and fun environment designed as a gathering space for the community. They feature a variety of Pale and Brown Ales, IPAs, as well as the popular Red Led, an Irish Red Ale.
South Mountains State Park
Featuring elevations reaching 3,000 feet, numerous streams, an 80-foot waterfall, and over 40 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, South Mountains State Park is a hidden gem with endless opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Located about 20 miles south of Morganton and 70 miles east of Asheville, it’s a perfect location to pack a picnic and spend the day wandering through the woods. Hike up to High Shoal Falls, a 2-mile moderate loop along the Jacob Fork River leading to a stunning 80-foot waterfall. While the waterfall is the main attraction, the boardwalk trail winds through river streams, smaller cascades, and rhododendrons to keep you motivated throughout the entire hike. At the top, there’s a steep section of steps to reach an observation deck right beside the falls. You can also extend your hike a little further by climbing the steps to the top of the waterfall, making it a 2.7-mile round trip hike.
Horseback riding and mountain biking are also popular, with 29 miles of equestrian trails and a 17-mile loop for cyclists. Equestrians will enjoy dedicated parking for trailers and a stall barn. They can ride up to the second highest peak in the park, along the Dogwood Trail, at an elevation of 2,894 feet. The 17-mile mountain biking loop is strenuous and recommended for bikers in top physical condition. The park is open every day (except Christmas) and hours vary depending on the time of year.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Running all the way from Virginia to North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers hundreds of miles of breathtaking scenery. One of the most awe-inspiring drives in America, you can hit the Parkway north of Morganton near Linville. Head north towards Blowing Rock and Boone or take the scenic drive south towards Asheville. There are plenty of overlooks and trails along the way to make this an unforgettable experience.
As you can see, there's no shortage of fun or charm within the adorable mountain town of Morganton. Spend your day strolling through the quaint downtown streets, stopping to check out the numerous novelty shops and art galleries, grab a delicious bite and cold beer in the afternoon, and spend your evening driving the parkway to catch the sunset behind the majestic mountain peaks!