Top 10 MUST SEE sites on the Blue Ridge Parkway

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For Seniors who love the outdoors, nature, and have the time to travel or go on vacation, then experiencing the Blue Ridge Parkway is the place to be. There are many beautiful trails and visitor centers that can provide much excitement and entertainment while traveling on the road through the Blue Ridge mountains. While on the Blue Ridge Parkway , senior citizens can enjoy scenic sunsets, colorful foliage, beautiful waterfalls, and community events along the way while getting plenty of rest and relaxation.  To make the trip even more enjoyable, here are the top 10 must see sites on the Blue Ridge Parkway that everyone should experience.

Each site provides picturesque views of nature, acres of forest trees, and plenty of hiking trails and some may even have swimming areas seniors can enjoy with their families. The Blue Ridge parkway starts at the deep woods of the Humpback Rocks in Virginia and travels down to the Waterrock Knob found along the Appalachian trail. The Parkway ends with the Shenandoah skyline drive that seniors can take while riding along the scenic road into Virginia. All the stops are marked with their milepost number for easy access. Each of the sites are among best parts of the blue ridge parkway and offers many entertainment and relaxation for all seniors to enjoy.

1. Humpback Rocks Visitor Center; Milepost #5.8

Located in the north end of the parkway, the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center offers scenic views of beautiful forestry and valley vistas just five miles from the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Humpback Rocks offers some of the best views on the blue ridge parkway, including several hiking trails for seniors to explore and historic farm buildings that open for visitors during the summer season. During the winter, the trails are open for people with a desire for a short stroll. Most of the Humpback Rocks visitor center and picnic areas provide outdoor tables, charcoal grills, and comfort stations. Accessible walkways for seniors with wheelchairs are also available. Inside the center is a museum filled with exhibits about mountain life. The hiking trails come with a tour guide that is accompanied by a ranger and are available seasonally. There are also some music concerts in the area for more entertainment that is supported by Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway

At a Glance: Visitor Center with Museum, Historic farm, Three Hiking trails, Mountain music concerts for free, Picnic area. Location: Waynesboro, VA: 12 miles, Charlottesville, VA: 32 miles, Closest Access Road: Interstate I-64. 

2. Peaks of Otter; Milepost # 85.6

Seniors who love to spend their vacation time or retirement going camping, hiking, or taking in some fishing off Abbott Lake, then the Peaks of Otter is the place to visit. The visitor center is open seasonally and offers many points of tourism as you walk through the center. The Peaks of Otter also offers 144 campground sections where families can sleep under the stars, surrounded by beautiful nature. The site provides outdoor seating with picnic tables; however, the lodge is also available for those who rather stay indoors while visiting. The lodge offers 63 rooms, a full-service restaurant, and lounge. For visitors who want to stay active while vacationing, then the Johnson Farm is where you need to be. Seniors can play games, help work the garden, or just enjoy nature’s beauty from a porch rocking chair right on the farm. Visitors who want to fish off the lake, having a North Carolina or Virginia license is required. 

At a Glance: Visitor Center, Historic Peaks of Otter Lodge, Campground, Picnic area, Hiking Trails, Fishing, Polly Wood’s Ordinary, Johnson Farm. Location: Bedford, VA: 10 miles, Closest Access Road: Virginia State Route 43

3. Virginia’s Explore Park; milepost # 115

Virginia’s Explore park, which is located at milepost 115 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, provides fun for all seniors and their families. The park offers the best views on the blue ridge parkway and is surrounded by hundreds of acres of mountain hills and gentle slopes, colorful woodlands, fourteen miles of hiking trails, river frontage areas, some historical buildings, and a visitor information center. Many visitors come to the Explore Park to bike, hike, picnic with family, and canoe off the river banks. There is also the visitor center where seniors can learn all about local history in the region, including a gift & snack shop and a theatre room where visitors can relax while watching a movie all about the Blue Ridge Parkway. Inside the visitor’s center is also a museum that highlights the important history behind the parkway and its beautiful region. The season events begin in April and go on until November. Located in Roanoke County, Virginia’s Explore Park is making new plans for the park to become a regional destination for many outdoor entertainment and attractions. Boat launches off the Roanoke river is just $2 per person or $20 per year. 

At A Glance: hiking trails, historic landmarks and buildings, gift shop, museum, fishing. location: short distance from Roanoke, VA.

4. Blue Ridge Music Center; Milepost # 213

The Blue Ridge Music Center is the place to be for those who enjoy some good ole folk music and dancing. Seniors of all ages can enjoy live music playing daily, from The Crooked Road in Virginia or the Blue Ridge Music trails of North Carolina. The best time to enjoy the traditional folk music is in the summer and fall seasons. Information about the music and upcoming concerts or events at the Blue Ridge music center is on their website. The center provides a museum filled with exhibits, such as the “Root of American Music” display.  It is recommended to call ahead to check for availability and scheduled events.  The center offers an outdoor  3000-seat amphitheater with live performances. The outdoor events are easily accessible for seniors with limited mobility with some seating that is wheelchair accessible. Although the Blue Ridge Music Center does not provide sleeping or eating arrangements, local communities can accommodate travelers who come to visit the center. 

 At A Glance: visitor center and museum, mountain music outdoor concerts, plenty of hiking trails. Location: Galax, VA: 10 miles, Mount Airy, NC: 25 miles, closest access roads: Interstate I-77, Virginia State Route 89

5. Valle Crucis-Mast General Store; Milepost # 292

Located off of milepost 292, the Valle Crucis-Mast General Store in the Blue Mountains of western North Carolina offers a friendly atmosphere, warm climate, authentic home-cooked meals, outdoor entertainment, and down-home music for senior citizens that desire to step back from the present of traffic jams and chaos to take a stroll down memory lane and enjoy some favorite pastimes. Valle Crucis-Mast General Store provides a quiet place to experience North Carolina’s first rural historic district with a bed and breakfast getaway, while exploring the district’s art collection, cabin rentals, delectable food, and plenty of outdoor destinations. Visitors at the Mast General Store can still receive a cup of coffee for only 5 cents. Valle Crucis is only 8 miles from Boone, NC. The town is also known for the Dutch Creek Ice Cream shop, Mast Store Knife Shop,  and the  Mast Store Annex. 

At A Glace: rural and historic landmarks, authentic food, friendly people, artistic environment, outdoor entertainment. Location: Sugar Grove district.

6. Moses H. Cone Memorial Park; Milepost # 294.1

The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is  really a radiant white, 20-room mansion estate built in 1901, where seniors can enjoy high life in a Colonial Revival style. This is one place that seniors can relax and admire beautifully crafted landscapes across the Blue ridge Parkway. The Flat-top Manor and country estate was built and named after the “Denim King”, Moses H. Cone, a conservationist, textile entrepreneur, and philanthropist of the Gilded Age. The mansion is located near Blowing Rock. The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park includes twenty-five miles of carriage trails and forestry within the 3,500 acre estate. Visitors can use the trails for horse-drawn carriages, horseback riding or hiking. The estate also consists of a family cemetery and a 10,000-tree apple orchard and apple barn. There are also white pine forests and hemlock hedges on the property, as well as many lakes stocked with bass and trout for fishing. 

At A Glance: Colonial style living, horse-drawn carriage rides, fishing, mansion estate craft décor, home of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. Location: near Greensboro, NC.

7. Julian Price Memorial Park; Milepost # 297

Another point of interest in the Blowing Rock area is the Julian Price Memorial Park. It is a popular stop, adjacent to the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park at the foothills of Grandfather Mountain and off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The park is named in honor of Julian Price, an insurance executive that purchased the land in the late 1930s.  It was created as a weekend retreat for his employees that worked for him and was later donated to the Parkway. Julian Price Memorial Park offers 4,300 acres for visitors to find some rest and relaxation away from the bustle of the work week. The park offers trails for hiking, lake areas for fishing and canoeing, camping grounds, and guided walkways. The park also includes evening campfire programs, with a 300-seat amphitheater, 100 picnic sites, comfort stations, and seven trails which circles Lake Price. The park is off milepost 297 near Blowing Rock. 

At A Glance: 4,300 acres, hiking, canoeing, fishing, music, and picnic areas.

8. Linn Cove Viaduct; Milepost # 304.4

The Linn Cove Viaduct is located at milepost 304.4 and consists of an award-winning complex concrete bridge, which symbolizes the pride to landscape architects and engineers in connection to beauty with unity and habitat protection. The viaduct is a true unique engineering feat, designed with spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Visitors cannot actually stop or walk along the Linn Cove Viaduct; however, it does offer overlook areas and hiking trails where visitors can take in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are also boardwalks off the Tanawha trail on the Rough Ridge that provides views of the mountains and a 13.5-mile hike that connects Julian Price Park to Beacon Heights hiking area. There are no sleeping or eating areas on the viaduct yet the nearby towns are not too far away from providing accommodations. 

 At A Glance: Visitor Center, Historic architecture/ parkway design, Hiking trails. Location: near Ashville, NC.

9. Folk Art Center; Milepost # 382

For senior citizens who love to learn about Appalachian folk art and enjoy craft sales, demonstrations, and go to art exhibits, then the Folk Art Center is the place to visit. A craft library and an auditorium is also available at the center. Folk Art Center is located near Asheville, NC and is open year-round. However, it is recommended to call ahead for specific times for showing at the exhibit. There are also several hiking trails, which run along a large section of the Parkway near Asheville.  The Folk Art Exhibition Hall at the center is the headquarters of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. At certain times of the year, craft demonstrations are presented to give visitors a chance to see folk art being made, as well as talk to the artists and craftsmen as they work. The Folk Art Center is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 382. 

 At A Glance: Visitor center and folk art exhibition hall and hiking trails. Location: Asheville, NC.

10. Waterrock Knob; Milepost # 451.2

The Waterrock Knob off the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great place for enjoying sunsets and sunrises that expand across the tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Waterrock Knob Visitor Center is located at milepost 451.2 approximately located at about 6,000 feet elevation, which makes it the highest peak  in the Plott Balsams mountain range, including the 16th highest mountain in the Eastern United States and the 15th highest of the 40 mountains in North Carolina over 6000 feet. The Waterrock Knob center offers several exhibits, accessible restrooms, and books for seniors to purchase, including waterfall springs off the side of the center. Waterrock is also where many hunters and farmers come together to rest. There is a neighboring trail with access to the summit. If you are able to make it to the summit, there are panoramic views surrounding the area once you arrive. At this spot, it is considered one of the best overlooks on the blue ridge parkway. The Great Smoky mountains are visible at the summit as well. 

At A Glance: visitor center and historical exhibits, awesome panoramic views of both sunrises and sunsets, accessible restrooms for seniors with limited mobility, and high summit views from an elevation of about 6,000 feet. 

Whew, that was a whirlwind of an adventure.  Wasn’t it amazing to visit these breathtaking vistas? So many places, yet so little time to visit them all.  However, I encourage you to come back as many times as you like, so you can experience each and every place on this list until you have seen them all.  Each location is suited for each person, no matter their mobility level. Some locations also provide accessible restroom accommodations for seniors with limited mobility.  Every location on this list provides numerous activities that will entertain you to the max.  Adventure keeps us young, and the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway is a required appreciation that each of us needs to see.  Come to feel young, stay a while and enjoy the magnificent sites, and leave invigorated.  Seniors who take on the Blue Ridge Parkway will enjoy art exhibits, wine tasting, or the unique music of the valley.  There is something for everyone on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  From hiking to fishing or anything in between; you will find it here on the Parkway.  There are shows to see, sunsets to admire, and trails filled with colorful trees and shrubbery. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers more to the imagination than any explorer can ever expect. So pack up the car, van, or RV and go explore the open road of the Blue Ridge Parkway!

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