Until the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center opened near Asheville (Milepost 384) in 2008, the Parkway didn't have a "main visitor center." The new facility's proximity to the Folk Art Center (Milepost 382), another major Parkway attraction, reflects Asheville's convenience as a Parkway entrance/exit for travelers targeting the Boone area High Country of North Carolina for a Parkway adventure.
The Blue Ridge Parkway boasts 12 other visitor centers, of various sizes, throughout its length.
Be forewarned: visitor center seasons and hours vary. Visitor centers and other facilities range from low elevations with easy year-round highway access, to lofty elevations where weather is fickle and visitation can be light in early and late season. Expect some smaller visitor centers to be open only on weekends or five days a week at slow times (and possibly closed at lunch). In general, most facility seasons start in April, but don't reach fulltime schedules (generally 9-5 with some exceptions/7days) until late May. Most facilities close in late October/very early November.
Facilities schedules are announced annually, based on weekend calendar dates in early and late season, and occasionally around road closures. To be certain, visit the park's Web site and click "Closures" under Quicklinks on the homepage (or call 828-298-0398).
There are nine visitor centers likely to be seen by travelers who target the Boone area part of the Parkway (to find them, click italic "i" symbol on the interactive travel map below):
One of the Parkway's newest facilities, Fisher Peak Music Center explores Appalachia's early ballad-based music that "helped shape American country music, making Southwestern Virginia's musical heritage the nation's musical heritage." Great exhibits trace those traditions from the 1700s through the early 20th century emergence of "hillbilly music," then Bluegrass, and today's commercial country music. In summer, musicians appear daily and there's a Saturday night concert series from June to autumn in an impressive outdoor amphitheater. The National Council for the Traditional Arts organizes the series. New trails explore the surrounding fields and forests.
This gallery near Jefferson, North Carolina offers some of the Parkway's best craft shopping.
This late-1800s mountaintop mansion was home to an early denim manufacturer whose surrounding land became Parkway property. The striking structure houses an outlet for the Southern Highland Craft Guild where artisans demonstrate their crafts. There's a Parkway information desk, and a book/gift shop. Weekend tours explore the once off-limits upstairs quarters of Moses and Bertha Cone. The easy Figure-Eight interpretive trail is just outside.
This small visitor center has exhibits on one of the Parkway's most stunning structures, the Linn Cove Viaduct that arcs around Grandfather Mountain. There's also a book/gift shop and restrooms. The partially handicapped accessible Tanawha Trail leads to views under the span.
A small visitor center beside the Linville River with restrooms and a book/gift shop. Trails lead to popular views of Linville Falls.
This larger center (renovated in 2006) offers extensive exhibits on Blue Ridge geology, restrooms, a book/gift shop, and a local tourism office for the Spruce Pine/Burnsville area where gem mining is a popular visitor attraction www.sprucepinegemmine.com
Craggy Garden OverlookA small center at the start of the Craggy Gardens Self-Guiding Trail has spectacular views, a few exhibits, a book/gift shop, and restrooms.
This is the premier Parkway attraction for anyone interested in crafts. The Center features stunning handcrafted objects, contemporary fine art, and permanent exhibits on the long Southern Appalachian tradition of handcraftsmanship. There are frequent programs and crafts demonstrations by members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild whose work is for sale on-site at Allanstand, the Southern Appalachians' first craft shop (located here from Asheville in 1980).
The Parkway's newest visitor center and greenest building has a meadow-covered roof and active and passive heating and cooling. The main floor has bold graphics and interactive exhibits that present the Parkway's vistas, history, geology, and culture. A startling, interactive wall map covers the entire journey. Parkway-wide travel information is dispensed by representatives of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, a Congressional designation that identifies and preserves the nation's distinctive landscapes and cultural traditions. There's a large bookstore, theater, and restrooms.
Cabins on the ParkwayThe Parkway preserves some of America's early log structures. In the Boone area, Brinegar Cabin at Doughton Park (Milepost 238.5) is one of the best, and it's the only Parkway log cabin listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. This and adjoining structures are the real thing: an original cabin built circa 1880 by Martin Brinegar at a lofty 3,500 feet. In summer there's a small garden behind the structure. Carolyn Brinegar's original loom is inside and there are summer demonstrations. Also in Doughton Park, Caudill Cabin (Milepost 241) is visible far below a dramatic drop from Wildcat Rocks in the Basin Cove backcountry. The cabin has a fascinating history (view a video). A visit makes a great day hike. Near US 421 east of Boone, pull into the Tompkins Knob Overlook and a short walk leads to Jesse Brown Cabin, a fascinating log springhouse, and the Cool Spring Baptist Church, a log structure that sheltered worshippers when a circuit riding preacher stopped by. To find these cabins, zoom in on the interactive travel map below and find the small yellow house symbols.
Zoom in close on the map below (use the plus sign and directional arrows at upper left, or repeatedly double click near, but not on, the map symbols). You can literally see the parking lots for Parkway destinations in this guide. Click any map symbol and information packed balloons pop up to describe locations all along the route. In the map balloons, click "Directions" to add your address and get step-by-step directions to Parkway locations from wherever you are. Start in the north, follow the road south, for a local's introduction to your own Boone-area Parkway adventure.