Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Pack some TV episodes for the trip
- Squad car tours start at Wally's Service Station
- Andy Griffith Museum
- Granite Quarry Eerie, and International
- Dynamite burger triggers lots of laughing
- Where to eat in Mount Airy, and why
- Kid-friendly foods please young travelers
- Wine, a chef and locally sourced foods also on Main Street
- Camp with experience or rented tents
- Picnic and hike at Pilot Mountain
- Bluegrass history lively today in Mount Airy
- Siamese twins and their heirs
- More in North Carolina
Mayberry’s for real, and the place to giggle about lovable characters from The Andy Griffith Show. Their antics live on in Mount Airy NC. People, places and things from the 1960s sitcom live large here. Families can adventure, eat and then sleep in Andy’s childhood home. Population holds at 10,000. With 45 wineries, the nearby Yadkin Valley presents a vigorous American Viticulture Area.
When I arrived on Main Street in Mount Airy, North Carolina, I wanted to imagine myself in The Andy Griffith Show.
Visiting Mayberry was one fantasy, but I wanted to pretend to go back in time and meet the characters. As a kid in the 1950s, I had watched lots of episodes on a black and white TV.
My chiropractor plays the shows as a loop in his waiting room. Guess wholesome humor is good for spines and nervous systems!
Pack some TV episodes for the trip
In three days of exploring, I satisfied my desire to immerse in television episodes of my childhood. Among them were Andy’s home, Aunt Bee’s household memorabilia, squad car replicas, Goober’s personal possessions and Thelma Lou herself via actress Betty Lynn.
I recommend packing some of the 249 episodes from The Andy Griffith Show for the road trip or flight to feel at home exploring this charming town.
Approaching a life-size bronze sculpture of Opie near South Main Street will be much more fun for kids who recently watched him living life with Aunt Bee or Barney Fife or Andy Griffith.
Signing up for Mayberry Squad Car Tours is more fun after watching deputies on the show in the same car.
Walking up to Wally’s Service Station felt nostalgic to me, and would to grandparents in a multigen family visit to Mount Airy. Or to young people who have discovered the old fashioned joys of Mayberry RFD on YouTube or Amazon Prime.
Squad car tours start at Wally’s Service Station
My Squad Car Tour in a replica Ford Galaxie circa 1960-67 took me from Wally’s Service Station to iconic Mayberry sites. Cruise by Andy’s home, Floyd’s barber shop, Snappy Lunch and the Andy Griffith Museum.
Then go back to each place for a deeper dive into Mayberry memories. The Andy Griffith Playhouse and historic Earle Theatre are among them.
Might start next door to Wally’s Service Station at the replica courthouse and jail. Door’s always open and photos are fun.
Andy Griffith Museum
Kids can connect to real people at the Andy Griffith Museum because Emmett Forrest collected loads of memorabilia related to his boyhood friend Andy, and it’s all here.
Plus Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on the show, tells stories and signs autographs at the Museum on third Fridays. She’s in her mid-90s. I asked her why she moved from California to Mount Airy and she smiled, “The friendliness.”
Goober actor George Lindsey and Barney Fife actor Don Knotts, through his widow Francey Knotts, gave the Museum lots of original memory materials too.
218 Rockford Street is the address.
Granite Quarry Eerie, and International
Might need your own car, not the Squad Car Tour, to see the unexpected: Mount Airy’s granite quarry. Did Andy, Barney and Opie go there?
You’ve got time–at least 500 years. This mile-long open pit has barely touched the surface of available granite, and work started in 1889. Granite City is another nickname.
It’s desolate, chalky, monochrome. Eerie and inspiring. Maybe being on the moon in Mayberry.
When the kids visit places around the world built of highly polished, carved granite, they can remember the quarry source in Mount Airy. Find evidence in Chicago’s Hyatt Center and Amoco Building, Washington’s World War II Memorial and United Arab Emirates Chancery.
Unexpected travel discoveries intertwining with past and future trips please me immensely.
Dynamite burger triggers lots of laughing
Gotta laugh remembering episodes of the Andy Griffith Show when ordering lunch at The Loaded Goat.
That’s the episode when a goat wandered into town and ate some dynamite. Andy and Barney had to get him out of town before he exploded.
The enormous dynamite burger is sized for sharing at The Loaded Goat.
Like lots of fun things to do in Mount Airy with kids — deciding to watch TV show episodes before an experience or after is a travel-planning decision.
Where to eat in Mount Airy, and why
Two dozen individually owned restaurants in a town of 10,000 – that’s distinctive. Families watching enough Andy Griffith shows can pick the TV-inspired spots fast.
Guess that qualifies as history/heritage travel!
Mount Airy cuisine stays true to Floyd and the barber shop. Fried pork chop sandwiches at Snappy Lunch can include chili, slaw, onions, ketchup, mustard and tomatoes.
Take the kids to Snappy Lunch and then look for it during a Season One episode of The Andy Griffith Show. This is the only actual business operating today mentioned in the TV show.
The Dairy Center is where Freddy Hiatt cooks ground steak sandwiches in 50-year-old seasoned pots. Seriously popular, crowded place. Eating here is building memories in a place of traditions. Casual with kids is a good fit.
Kid-friendly foods please young travelers
Walker’s Soda Fountain sticks with meals Opie and Andy liked: malts, hot dogs, chips and pickles. Things to do in Mount Airy NC should include some simple foods like these.
Scoop’s Ice Cream & Such dips up warm-weather treats from a converted camper van sitting on the edge of the woods. Patio seating’s one way to enjoy.
Another is strolling into the forest on a trail featuring metal sculpture created by the Scoops proprietor Chazz Elstone.
Scoops Ice Cream opens April through September, but the sculpture garden trail is year-round.
Opie’s Candy Store on North Main Street stocks wax lips! Look also for chocolate-covered raisins, caramel cremes and double dip peanuts. Lots more old-fashioned sweets too.
Wine, a chef and locally sourced foods also on Main Street
Then there’s Old North State Winery on Main Street, where Chef Chris Wishart likes to“source beautiful food.” Weekend nights might be best for adult travel with multi-course meals paired with wine.
Lunch with the kids, and other dinners, can be comfort food, chef-designed “departures from the norm.” Look for regional fish, game and fowl too.
“I could easily have no menus. Just talk to me and I’ll guide the food to suit your likes,” Chef Wishart has said for years.
Farm-to-table serves up a side angle also in Mount Airy — farm to feet. Socks manufactured here are sold at big outfitters like Cabela’s.
Where should families stay in Mount Airy?
Deep-dive Andy Griffith fans might choose his 1935 childhood home. Bonus—all 249 episodes of the show are available in this home.
Family friendly for sure with two bedrooms and a rollaway. And all those episodes to watch on TV.
Hampton Inn is the contact for a night or two at Andy’s home on 711 East Haymore Street. The price is $175 per night, $200 during special events.
Of course, the Hampton Inn is family friendly too. One mile from downtown Mount Airy, this is a classic Hampton except for the gift shop. Mayberry souvenirs and photos of the TV show’s actors are for sale, fittingly.
Bed and breakfast welcome teens, not so much little kids
Heart and Soul is the Mount Airy bed and breakfast.
The kids need to be 13 or older to stay at Heart & Soul Bed and Breakfast on Main Street.
Innkeepers Chris and Pam Bastin speak readily about family: 35 years of marriage raising two daughters. In fact, they named the rooms of this 1901 home to reflect their family life in Virginia before moving to Mount Airy.
The innkeepers also honor the extensive antique furnishings and welcome children old enough to appreciate them.
Motor Inn modernized and still 1950s traditional
Aunt Bee keeps a room in the Mayberry Motor Inn.
I could almost believe I was hanging out with Aunt Bee at the Mayberry Motor Inn where one room is a museum filled with items from her home.
Twenty six others can be reserved.
The chance to overnight in a 1950s motor court doesn’t pop up on many family vacations. Updates mean this classic is outfitted with wifi, color TV and air conditioning.
Even the address is iconic – Andy Griffith Parkway, also known as Highway 52. A Mayberry squad car is parked out front, and so is Emmett’s pickup truck!
If the kids have watched the shows, they’ll know some history about Thelma Lou. A flowery trail named for her is a good place to stretch a bit on this 10-acre property after a road trip.
Camp with experience or rented tents
Beechnut Family Campground rents tents for families not equipped to camp. Full hook-ups also ready for experienced RV road trippers.
Open Apr. 1 – Oct. 31, Beechnut is pet friendly and the wifi is free.
Things to do in Mount Airy NC at Beechnut includes three swimming pools and three fish ponds. There’s a Ga Ga Dodge Ball pit too. That’s dodge ball with soft foam.
Picnic and hike at Pilot Mountain
Mount Airy is 11 miles from North Carolina Pilot Mountain State Park and that means outdoor family activities.
Picnic food from downtown Mt. Airy eateries offer an easy way to take a hike, play outside and imagine Opie and Andy Griffith doing the same. Perhaps Floyd, Barney Fife and the Siamese twins too.
Park rangers lead walks, and offer talks as diverse as night owl encounters and trees through the eyes of early American woodworkers.
Family camping with tents and trailers happens at Pilot Mountain with 42 campsites. Canoeing in works too with two camping sites for paddlers.
Oaks and hickories, sycamore trees and river birch fill the woods. The unusual sight to point out to the kids is the rocky knob of Pilot Mountain.
Rising 2000 feet, this knob is an abrupt landscape feature — popping up unexpectedly and reportedly used as a navigational tool for centuries.
Bluegrass history lively today in Mount Airy
Round Peak is a community, and the name of old-time music in Surry County. Intense syncopated melodies and driving rhythms are the sounds to point out to the kids before you get there.
Heritage Hall in the historic Earle Theatre is the place to listen.
Round Peak native son Tommy Jarrell died in 1985 but his legendary fiddle and banjo sounds continue. Consider music among the things to do in Mount Airy NC.
Radio bluegrass traditions continue too. AM radio of course. WPAQ are the call letters of the show launched in 1948. Called the Merry Go Round today, the WPAQ weekly live broadcast is considered America’s second oldest live radio show.
Round Peak is also a mountain here, and a winery in sight of that mountain. In fact, this entire Yadkin Valley supports wineries with vintners relocating from the Napa Valley and entrepreneurs with winemaking degrees from Surry Community College.
Siamese twins and their heirs
By the way, Andy Griffith is not the only area celebrity. The Mount Airy community also honors Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese twins from what is now Thailand who settled in Surry County in the mid-1800s.
Their story is remarkable and their descendants gather in Mount Airy each July for a family reunion.
Never separated, these men married sisters named Sarah and Adelaide Yates, ultimately spending three nights with one wife, three with the other.
Meet Melvin Miles at the visitors center. He’s the author of “Eng and Chang: From Siam to Surry.” Miles’ great-great grandfather assisted Eng and Chang throughout their North Carolina years.
Respect and honor: That’s how stories of the Siamese twins are told in Mayberry.
Another interesting connection: the director of the Siamese Twins Exhibit next to the Andy Griffith Museum is their great-great granddaughter.
Find the facts in sophisticated displays in the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.
More in North Carolina
TravelingMoms check out lots of North Carolina destinations. Here’s what they report about a few:
36 hours in Raleigh with girlfriends
16 fun and free things to do in Charlotte NC