Oh, the places you can go this spring and summer vacation; and so many of them right here in North Carolina. This year why not treat your family to a fun and flavor-filled road trip to the Heart of North Carolina, in and around Asheboro, NC!
After visiting the Asheboro area several times this year as the guest of the team at the Heart of North Carolina visitors bureau, it was my pleasure to share all there is to see and do (and eat and drink) in a segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today last month.
Six Sensational Reasons for a Road Trip to Asheboro
In case you missed it, or just want a quick review of all we talked about, here is the video from the show. Watch, and then, read on for more details.
Advance warning: This is a lengthy post with lots to share, so settle in with a cup of coffee or tea or a cocktail and enjoy as you plan your Asheboro NC getaway.
I suggest you start making tracks soon. You don’t want the summer to slip away. Plans may include a day trip to the NC Zoo or a shopping spree in Seagrove, NC.
While day tripping is fun, I honestly suggest you make it a 2-3 day vacation for sure. That way there is no rush and enough leisure time to take everything in. And, you’ll have enough meal time to enjoy all the great restaurants I’ve suggested in this post.
And yes, while I did have some help, I really did eat everything I photographed on these digital pages and loved each and every bite!
Located just 90 mins. or so from Charlotte, the same distance from Raleigh/Durham and a stone’s throw from the Triad area; you and your family are going to love all the part of the state, in and nestled around Asheboro, has to offer.
Millstone Creek Apple Orchard, Ramseur, NC
Let’s start with a local orchard. Agriculture and agritourism are big in our Old North State. Farms in the heart of North Carolina offer lots to see and do. Spring and summer farm tours always make for wonderful friend and family photo opts. You’ll find everything is in bloom and it feels great to be outside!
Millstone Creek is a local you-pick apple orchard in Ramseur NC, just outside of Asheboro. You’ll find family fun at Millstone all year round; and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fabulous baked goods and beverages you’ll find here as well.
Look for fresh picked apples to puchase by the pound to take home; and more on the host of trees to pick yourself, in season. Enjoy tons of yummy baked goods, like the classic Southern “wine cake” pictured below. Wash the baked goods down with fresh apple cider and cool thick and delicious apple slushies like the one in the photo above, offered to farm guests all year round.
Often, you can watch them press fresh cider on the front porch of the Millstone store. Watch my apple cider pressing experience in the Charlotte Today video. It was fun and yielded delicious results, but I can tell you its hard work!
Hay rides and special events happen nearly every weekend! For more info on times and on the farm events, visit: millstonecreekorchards.com
The Petty Museum in Level Cross, NC
Do you know where Level Cross, NC is? Honestly I didn’t either when this exploration first started, but I’ve learned a lot since then.
If you are looking for Level Cross, there is still a green state sign out on the highway, and Google can take you there. But, it might be an easier find for you and Siri, too, if you know that the town is now more commonly known as Randleman, NC.
What makes Level Cross worth remembering? Why, it’s the birthplace and childhood home of The King, Richard Petty.
Definitely plan to stop in for a visit. The former NASCAR race car champion still lives in the area. The house Petty was born in is located right next door to his dad’s old shop. It will open as a museum all its own in the coming year.
The family jokes that, over the years, with each racing win, a new building was added to the property. Today those buildings are home to the Petty Museum and a working auto repair, maintenance and restoration shop. The business is still family-owned, all under the moniker of Richard Petty Motorsports.
If these cars could talk…
Even if you don’t follow NASCAR, you will love the experience and enjoy the history of North Carolina’s home-grown sport. Visitors are welcome to the Petty Museum, Monday – Saturday 9-5. Every car Petty ever raced is there; as are cars raced by his Dad, Lee Petty; his son Kyle Petty and his grandson, Adam Petty.
And you’ll be amazed to learn of the contributions Richard’s mother made to the sport. Ever wonder who first thought of the cloth window netting and fireproof racewear? Elizabeth Petty’s early hand sewn ideas have proved to be invaluable in saving lives and increasing the safety of driving a racecar round the track.
“RP” in the house
If you are lucky, when you come to visit, you might even meet Richard Petty while you are there! One of the nicest people I’ve ever met, he often comes in the shop just to see what is going on. You’ll see him take a look, and offer an opinion or two, about the cars his mechanics have on the lift. He keeps tabs on everything going on and you can tell, truly appreciates his fans. If he is there at the same time you are and is available, he will most certainly take time to shake a hand, sign an autograph, or pose for a photo.
History of NASCAR aside, if you are a car enthusiast here is a fun fact, you’ll want to know. Richard Petty Motorsports can help you restore, recondition or “zoop up” ( my words, not theirs!) your new or old automobile. Your auto need of some mechanical work ? Why not have just about any kind of Richard Petty signature parts replace those old ones? Or, have that vintage auto you’ve got covered up in the garage totally restored to its original splendor. For more information visit, rpmuseum.com
Victory Junction in Randleman, NC
Also located in Randleman, NC is Victory Junction. This camp for children with special needs is generally not open to the public. It’s an important part of the Asheboro area, though, worthy of your attention. Campers apply and are accepted at no charge. The Petty family is very involved in fund raising efforts and there are lots of way you can help give a child the gift of camp.
Victory Junction is spread across 84 acres, not far from the Petty Museum. The space, both indoors and out, gives children with special needs the opportunity to stop worrying about how they are different. Here kids have a chance to just be kids. And to enjoy the adventures and experiences camp life offers.
Adam Petty, Kyle Petty’s son and Richard’s grandson, was the fourth generation of Pettys to race professionally. He lost his life in a crash on the track. Victory Junction was created by the Petty Foundation in his memory and his honor. Everything here is over the top. Case in point, the building behind me and the rest of what looks like a group of diminutive travel writers, invited to Victory Junction for a visit. Sort of felt like a scene in “Honey I Shrunk the Kids!”
Use us as a guide to visualize the size here. This building is shaped like a giant race car; designed as is the rest of the Victory Junction campus, to create an extraordinary camping experience for kids with special needs. For more info visit, victoryjunction.org
Time for family fun in Asheboro at The NC Zoo
The North Carolina Zoo is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world. That’s right! To give you an idea on size, the San Diego zoo, would fit inside the NC Zoo’s Africa exhibit alone. With 2,600 wooded acres at hand – 500 now developed, it is a zoo with a mission to find ways for humans, and animals in the wild, to live together and fight extinction.
To that end, doctors and researchers at the NC Zoo work with like-minded colleagues across the globe to save, preserve and grow endangered species.
The NC Zoo is proud of its AZA accreditation. It is a distinction, that sets our zoo’s practices and principals apart from other facilities where animals are on display. At the NC Zoo, every animal always has a choice. Animals move around their habitats as they please. They are not “trained” as such; and are never forced or made to perform for a crowd.
It’s All Happening at the NC Zoo located in Asheboro, North Carolina
I can’t wait to go back again. There is so much to take in and so much to learn. Animals live in as close to their natural habitats as the zoo can get. And, I love that there are no artificial diets here. Every animal eats what it would if they were living in the wild. I invite you to help support all the NC Zoo does and is, by becoming a member.
While you are at the zoo, take advantage of the opportunity to go on safari. It’s the best way to see all the Africa exhibit holds in store. Look for NC’s famous baby white rhinos, the African elephants and dozens of members of roaming gazelle and families of antelope. The day I spotted this mom and baby it was pouring rain. We were soaked, even in our rain gear, but the animals loved it and so we saw lots of action on the safari. I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world.
In 2023, the much anticipated Asia exhibits opens. It promises to be spectacular.
Until then, enjoy the North America habitats and walk the hiking trails. Visit the giraffe deck where you will have fun feeding these popular long legged friends. Laugh with the playful polar bears or walk through the Kaleidoscope Butterfly Garden. Then, visit the aviary, home to more than 100 exotic birds.
The terroir and terrain is as amazing as the animals
The zoo runs like a small city. Each area with its own horticulturalist, animal researchers, and specially trained caregivers. More than 1800 animals call the NC Zoo home. Habitats are skillfully recreated to match the way animals live in the wild. Each captures the same sort of landscaping and horticulture of that actual region of the world. The work zoo personnel have done is truly incredible.
Meet my new friend Kelly the Cape Porcupine, a breed of one of the largest porcupines in the world. Most Cape Porcupines live in southern and central Africa. Kelly was born in captivity and lives in the Zoo’s dessert habitat.
I’m delighted to share the news that like me, Kelly loves to eat locally-sourced produce. Here I am feeding her some raw North Carolina Sweet Potatoes!
Honestly, I wanted to just plop down beside her and gently coax her into my lap, but then reminded myself that as cute as she is, she isn’t a pet.
These zoo animals are real wild animals and those are real quills on her back, designed to protect her from predators. When she sleeps she uses her quills so that she can rest easy by crawling in her cave face first so just the quills are sticking out. Nothing would dare come near her. Her face was like a little bear and she was adorable, quills and all. I feel very lucky to have had this experience. It was my pleasure to make her acquaintance.
For more on planning your next trip to the NCZoo in Asheboro NC, visit nczoo.org
Harley fans, don’t miss this when you are in Asheboro…
If you love motorcycles and a good old fashioned diner for breakfast and lunch, be sure to make the American Classic Motorcycle Museum a stop along the way during your Asheboro vacation. This privately owned museum houses one of the largest collections of old Harley’s in the world. Owners Ed Rich and his partner Rick Allen love collecting, the comradery that comes with the buying and selling, and the history and back story of each “new” dusty old bike that comes through the doors.
Open 6 days a week the museum is open to the public at no charge. You can and should leave a donation as that helps keep things running, but Ed, Rick and Rick’s son (who is also a part of the partnership) just want everyone to love these old bikes as much as they do!
The museum is inside and upstairs. On the street level of the nondescript warehouse of a building you’ll fine a Harley parts and repair shop. Hungry for more?
Country Breakfast coming right up
Inside the building, adjacent to the shop, you’ll find the Heritage Diner. This place is another must try on your Asheboro bucket list.
It’s THE spot for a down home Southern country breakfast and lunch as authentic as the bikes that make the building a destination.
Start with coffee served in one of those thick white china diner cups and then move on to local country ham biscuits, grits, eggs, toast, bacon, sausage and more.
If you are lucky enough, Ed will sit down to join you and regale you with stories about the food, the bikes and his wonderful original oil paintings that adorn the walls in the diner and the parts & repair shop.
Pro tip, as you place your breakfast order.
Don’t miss the gravy! Served alongside your toast or biscuit, eggs, ham and hash browns, this is some of the best sawmill gravy, I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying! Just in case you aren’t aware… sawmill gravy is whole milk and white flour blended with fried sausage and seasoned with a bit of salt and a lot of pepper. And in the dictionary beside the definition is a photo of a bowl of this creamy thick elixir from Heritage Diner in Asheboro, NC, just sayin’…
No reservations needed, just drop by the Heritage Diner at 1172 US-64 W in Asheboro, NC. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch from 5 am – 2 p,. six days a week. Closed on Sundays. The shop and museum are open from 6am – 5:30 pm. For more info or to contact, find the Heritage Diner and the shop and museum on Facebook.
Seagrove Pottery – Handcrafted North Carolina pottery
I’ve written about all you’ll find in Seagrove, NC a lot. You’ll find stories in this collection of digital pages here (its the third item on the list), here ( this article include a link to another) and in the latest issue of Charlotte Living magazine, shown here:
Seagrove is the home to over 80 talented craftsmen and women, all production and artisan potters, with a range from traditional pottery and North Carolina face jugs to the more contemporary dishes and dinnerware.
If you love handcrafted pottery, homegoods, local North Carolina art and the history behind it all, a visit to each of the pottery studios and galleries in Seagrove is a must!
Not only can you shop, you can also take classes. I had the most fun on a media trip just before the holidays, when Potter Bobbie Thomas opened her studio to our group of writers just as she does for anyone of her private classes. She showed us the basics of hand building and then let is go to it. As you plan your vacation to visit the Asheboro area, be sure to make reservations to take in some pottery time as well.
Bobby makes it easy, you’ll feel incredibly creative, plus it’s relaxing and lots of fun!
I don’t often reprint instagram posts here, but this shot from PR specialist Susan Dosier of DKCommunications, based in Charlotte, captured the moment better than any other! (That’s Bobbie smiling in the background!)
Pottery and Putters
And its not just coffee mugs and facejugs. As I mentioned in the video, Seagrove potter, David Fernandez has created a unique line of ceramic putters. They’re a great way to dress up your golf game and give you a new edge! Gotta check them out at the shop next to his studio while you are in town!
Where to Stay…
In fact, you can stay in the two bedroom Inn at 136 West Main Street in Seagrove NC between Fernandez’ shop and the studio he shares with his wife, potter Alexa Modderno. My husband Tom and I made it our home base for our last trip to the area. Roomy bedrooms and baths are upstairs and we enjoyed the living room and pottery filled kitchen area downstairs. The inn is open year round; rooms are based on availability. For more info contact Alexa directly at 336-707-9124.
What’s for dinner … and lunch and breakfast in and around Asheboro NC?
From several excellent restaurants a the NC Zoo – all with a focus on locally sourced product – to a great little hotdog stand in downtown Asheboro; on this vacation you’re gonna find something for everybody when it comes to ways to eat and drink.
From the Pig Pickin’ Cake at the Seagrove Family Restaurant in Seagrove, to the seasonal Strawberry cake at The Painted Batter in Asheboro, this part of the state has your sweet tooth covered as well.
While you are at the Painted Batter eating any one of a variety of flavors of cake, cupcakes and cookies, you won’t be able to help but notice that these talented bakers do wear their hearts and their profession proudly on their sleeves. Just check out these incredible food-centric tatoos!! Wowzer!
Desserts aside, here are some more of my favorite places to plan a meal when next you are in the Heart of North Carolina. All delicious, great service and spot on in terms of what they offer. Honestly not a bad choice in the bunch!
Start with breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner as you join friends to gather round The Table.
The Table 137 S. Church Street, Asheboro
This bakery, coffee shop, restaurant and market combined is the brainchild of owner Dustie Gregson and her husband Andy.
This building, on the historic registry, was once an old mill office and is remains surrounded by other old abandoned mill buildings. It took 18 months for Dusty and Andy to restore the building that is now The Table to its original grandeur.
Order at the counter and then take a seat to be served and you’ll find as we did that the food and baked goods here are as grand as the renovations.
Enjoy breakfast at The Table any day of the week, dinner is served on Thurs. Friday and Saturday.
Then, stay tuned, because just as Dusty and Andy bought the first mill building and restored it for the restaurant, they recently purchased another. Plans for the end use are yet unknown, but restorations are underway. This team, it seems is rebuilding downtown Asheboro, one historic building at a time.
Several other great spots to dine in downtown Asheboro, include this next one with traditionally Southern fare.
Get your chicken and dumplings on at Magnolia 23
Located at 23 S Fayetteville Street, it is here you will find fried chicken, catfish, Memphis-style ribs and some of the finest chicken and dumplings in the region, served with fresh baked corn bread, of course. And, in season, don’t you dare miss the homemade persimmon pudding!
Hamilton’s Steakhouse, located at 132 Sunset Avenue in Asheboro, is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday – Sunday. Inspired by the Broadway musical of the same name, this restaurant even has a marquee.
Steaks and seafood were superb and cooked exactly to order, but I think my favorite thing on the menu is the fried artichoke hearts – a delicious way to start!
One more don’t miss spot in the middle of things in downtown Asheboro, is The Flying Pig. This fun spot for food and drink is hoppin’ nearly every evening and that’s for sure!
Open every day and night but Tuesday and Wednesday, you’ll want to go for the pizza here, which by the way, is divine… but then, while it sounds cliche, be sure you leave room for dessert!
Owner Barbara Gallimore makes 4-6 different cheesecakes each week and rotates them on the menu for as long as they last. I am here to tell you we ordered them all. Four different cheesecakes and a pecan pie, oh my! It was fun to have several choices to share! Plus, people just like it when you order ALL the desserts on the menu!
Drink Local at Four Saints
To whet your whistle while you decide what you’ll visit next, start at this area’s first craft brewery – Four Saints Brewing Company.
The taproom here is open every day but Monday and not only celebrates the local brew they craft, but local music and art as well.
And, with a nod to their nearby neighbors in Seagrove, they hold an annual fundraiser where you can buy your own handcrafted mug to drink out of anytime you belly up to the bar ( or sit at one of the tables in the tap room)
Its a cool little place, doing some big things to support the community. Definitely a “not to be missed” stop on your trip.
More to eat and a few cool places to shop in Asheboro NC
For more casual fare, incredibly well done, while you are at the zoo, check out Iron Hen Cafe Express, a smaller spin off of the fabulous Iron Hen in Greensboro offering artisan salads, sandwiches, burgers and brunch items – don’t miss these local cheese grits! They are an amazing way to start your day at the zoo!!
For fried chicken for lunch or dinner its Billy’s D’s, a great little spot brilliantly conceived by North Carolina chef William Dissen of Haymaker in Charlotte NC and The Market Place Restaurant in Asheville NC.
Both of these places source local product, produce and protein supporting lots of local farmers along the way – gotta love it! Almost as much as I loved this banana pudding at Billy D’s – the perfect cool, creamy sweet foil to the plate of perfectly fried and spiced locally sourced chicken.
Insider tip – If you live in Charlotte and want to taste this amazing chicken in advance of your trip to Asheboro, go by Haymakers and sit at the bar – a Billy D’s Fried Chicken sandwich is now on the bar menu !
But that’s not all…
Off zoo property, for burgers of all sorts, be sure to plan a stop at Everything under the Bun, located just minutes from the zoo entrance. Here we have the classic chili burger at EUTB – and an order of the hand cut fries. The order of fries is enough to share, but you won’t want to so just order your own.
For hotdogs in Asheboro, Mike’s Chicago Dog is the way to go; and again, the fries here are killer!
Two more places before I leave you to make travel plans all your own. A great little shop in downtown Asheboro, across from the courthouse is Carriage House Tea. Lots of loose and bagged teas from the exotic to the sublime. In addition to the tinned tea and everything you need to correctly brew your own, you’ll find hand crafted gifts and local art in the rooms at Carriage House. Take your time, wind your way through and enjoy.
Also in downtown Asheboro if you are on the hunt for a deal, you’ll find several wonderful antique and thrift stores ( I could have spent hours…). I promise, you will definitely find a find and it will be so much more fun than simply googling up an item on eBay!
To help you make your new best bargain your own, you’ll also want to check out a great little Asheboro shop called Vintage Cottage.
Vintage Cottage has everything from cool jewels to funky clothing and restored items for your home. And remember that stuff you picked up at the collectables market? Vintage Cottage also gives classes in working with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint! They make it easy and fun to turn at least a day of your vaca into a DYI workshop so you can go home ready to redo it all.
Many more photos to share, but I’ll be posting them on my social media feeds to promote this post. Follow along to see more at @heidibillotto on Instagram, @HeidiCooks on Twitter; and @Heidi Billotto and Heidi Billotto Cooks on Facebook!
None of this would have been possibly with the kindness and generosity of my good friends at the Heart of North Carolina.
Thanks so much to everyone there for their help in letting me explore and helping me share the story about all there is to see in and around Asheboro, NC.
Plan your next visit now – the Heart of North Carolina website has tons of great info on all of these places and more. Be sure to #TellThemHeidiSentYou