My husband and I weren’t sure what to expect from a small town located in the Heart of North Carolina, halfway between the mountains and the coast. But Asheboro, the seat of Randolph County, was a true gem. We found delightful places to eat, drink, shop, play, and stay in and around Asheboro. When we left, it was with the feeling we may have only scratched the surface of what the town had to offer.
The nearest major airport is Greensboro, 27 miles north. The town is also easy to reach from Raleigh or Charlotte, but it’s a longer drive. Here are 12 fantastic things to do in Asheboro, North Carolina.
Our visit to Asheboro was generously hosted by the Randolph County Tourism Development Authority. However, all opinions are entirely my own.
1. Downtown Asheboro
Asheboro has a charming, walkable downtown area. Older, mostly repurposed buildings house tempting shops, bakeries, restaurants, and other local businesses. Be sure to take in the delightful murals as you walk, shop, and partake in the variety of available food and beverages. Sunset Boulevard, or just off it, is where you’ll find everything you seek.
You can even stroll carrying an alcoholic beverage from a participating vendor in the Zoo City Social District on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m.
Pro Tip: You’ll most likely be driving to and from your Asheboro accommodations. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, a short drive to downtown Asheboro, which provided us with a clean, comfortable room and friendly service.
2. Carriage House Tea
Mary Murkin is the congenial owner of a local Asheboro art gallery and the face of Carriage House Tea. She runs both businesses out of a vintage house she lovingly repurposed.
Along with 160 tea flavors that Mary blends, packages, and sells, she carries various other health-related products. Mary taught me, among other things, the health benefits of matcha, as well as what chai is and is not. Finding this combination of art and tea in the Heart of North Carolina was a truly delicious surprise.
Pro Tip: You can peruse and purchase Carriage House Tea online.
3. North Carolina Zoo
This is not your typical zoo. The North Carolina Zoo is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world. This entertaining and educational treasure is located 7 miles south of Asheboro, far from city soundscapes.
The zoo has two main areas, North America and Africa, for viewing the 1,800 captivating creatures that call it home. The 5-mile paved path around the zoo is dotted with shady spots, benches, interactive activities, sculptures, and of course, the expansive animal habitats. The Kidzone is free and full of fun and fascinating nature-related activities.
If you think zoos are cruel, this one will change your mind. We were impressed by the care and love with which zoo staff treated the animals and the large and well-thought-out habitats these precious creatures had for roaming.
Pro Tip: Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen, and a hat, and bring a refillable water bottle. You’ll be there for some time.
4. The Petty Museum
If you’re a NASCAR fan, you’ll want to drive 6 miles north of Asheboro to the town of Randleman and the Petty Museum. Open since 1988, the museum has been telling the story of the Petty racing dynasty from the spot where it all began.
Videos, collections of memorabilia, and on occasion Richard Petty himself, make for a fascinating half-hour. Along with the museum, you can see the house where Petty grew up, and the Reaper Shed, his father Lee’s first race shop. You may also want to poke your nose into Petty’s Garage, a fully operational speed and restoration shop.
5. North Carolina Pottery Center
If you love pottery, an afternoon in Seagrove, the Pottery Capital of the United States, is a must. An excellent place to start is the North Carolina Pottery Center. From pottery depicting the history and progression of pottery techniques to modern works by Seagrove and other potters, you can spend a good hour getting lost in this timeless art.
We began with a peek into the past with the diorama depicting an old pottery studio. Then we took in a myriad of shapes, colors, and textures of functional and decorative pieces. We ended up behind the center gazing at a 5-foot-tall wood-fired groundhog kiln.
6. Eck McCanless Pottery
We had the good fortune to spend an hour on the porch of Eck McCanless Pottery, watching Eck transform colored clay into stunning, functional pieces. His specialty is carved agateware for food; oven and microwave safe.
On that particular day, Eck was crafting tumblers using two shades of blue, brown, and white. Using a special tool, he carved and coiled the clay joining the colors as the wheel spun, finishing with a unique vessel that anyone would be proud to own and use. If you’re in Seagrove, look for Eck on his porch and spend some time watching a true artist at work.
7. The Carolina Bronze Sculpture Garden And Foundry
A visit to the Carolina Sculpture Garden and Foundry in Seagrove can be a leisurely walk in a spectacular setting, a lesson on how those enormous bronze sculptures are crafted, or both.
The sculpture garden is a combination of natural and landscaped beauty. A half-mile sculpture-lined path loops around a tranquil pond with benches and a picnic area. The 27-piece collection represents emerging and established artists.
The foundry is adjacent to the sculpture garden. It specializes in fine art bronze casting and fabrication, working with sculptors to complete and install their bronze masterpieces. Foundry tours are available by appointment.
Pro Tip: Wear closed-toe shoes when touring the foundry.
Seagrove is where you’ll find more than 100 individual Seagrove-area potters. You’ll also find yourself surrounded by a bonanza of handcrafted pieces from which to choose.
Wander from shop to shop and immerse your senses in one-of-a-kind designs, colors, shapes, and textures created by the hands and hearts of artists who truly love their craft. If you’re lucky, you may see these craftspeople at work. Some Seagrove artisans are eighth-generation potters, so don’t be afraid to engage in conversation about their family history.
Pro Tip: Cellphone service may be spotty in the Seagrove area.
9. The Taco Loco
To us, no vacation is complete without some excellent Mexican food, and The Taco Loco did not disappoint. Conveniently located in Asheboro’s downtown area, this small but lively eatery served up some of the best tacos I ever tasted, and the house-made fresh salsa was outstanding.
Both the chicken and chorizo tacos were generous on the meat and packed with flavor. The savory beans and rice served as a perfect accompaniment to a meal that kept us comfortably full for hours.
It was no surprise that the cheerfully decorated restaurant was packed at lunchtime. For a more leisurely meal, dinner would definitely be a good option, especially with a frosty margarita or two.
10. The Table Farm Bakery
Breakfast at The Table turned out to be extraordinary. Housed in what was once a derelict textile mill office suite, this charming breakfast/lunch spot reflects the heart of downtown Asheboro. It has evolved into a favorite gathering place as well as a delightful place to eat.
My husband enthusiastically dove into a generously-laden autumn breakfast bowl of roasted sweet potato, dressed kale, faro, jammy eggs, and sausage topped with Greek yogurt. I thoroughly enjoyed my green chile bacon naan: toasted naan topped with scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon, avocado, green chiles, and house-made salsa. A lighter but no less scrumptious option is the house-made crunchy granola with fresh fruit on Greek yogurt.
Attention to detail was obvious. Our meals were a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds, and the frothed milk on my cappuccino was in the shape of a swan.
Owner, Dustie Gregson’s dream of opening a restaurant where locals and visitors could congregate and enjoy creative, house-made food turned out to be a dream come true for the entire town of Asheboro.
11. The General Wine And Brew
Seagrove Mayor David Fernandez and his wife, Alexa, made a similar dream to that of Dustie Gregson come true in Seagrove. The General is a friendly, funky retail wine shop and bar where folks like to gather. Many come in as strangers and leave as friends.
The General offers over 100 wines by the glass or bottle. Also available are beers on tap, in bottles or cans, and small plates to accompany your beverage of choice.
Located in the renovated 1910 Seagrove General Store, The General is a welcoming spot for regulars and visitors. We fell in love with the rustic bar decorated with 1,500 buttons sealed under a half-inch layer of resin. The buttons depicted everything from the faces of Seagrove potters, U.S. presidents, family members, and amusing sayings. Barrel tables and surprisingly comfortable tractor-seat bar stools completed the cheerful scene.
My husband and I both ordered wines from Romania. My dry rosé was light and refreshing, with tiny tongue-tickling bubbles. My husband’s cab merlot blend was full-bodied and juicy.
Pro Tip: David and Alexa are both accomplished potters. You can visit their gallery, Seagrove Stoneware, while shopping in Seagrove.