It’s been two years since we have travelled on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the National Park Services second most visited “park unit” after the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, but now we’ve finally made it back. It is easy to see why it is so popular. It is a magical drive.
The Parkway is 469 miles long. It starts at the southern end of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive and it ends near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The mountain towns that are nestled alongside the parkway, and the parkway itself, provide endless opportunities for sightseeing and family adventure. For the first leg of our summer trip we decided to camp at the Fancy Gap KOA in Fancy Gap, Virginia. We have long suspected that this KOA would make a great base camp for a Blue Ridge Parkway adventure. We were right.
The campground is nestled on a mountainside and is filled with beautiful, shaded back in sites, pull through sites for big rigs, and a mixture of rustic and deluxe cabins. Many of those sites are surrounded by native flowers and meticulous landscaping. Pride of ownership is evident here.
We are not dog owners, but we were also impressed with this KOA’s unique and spacious pet friendly sites. They have a large fenced in area at the rear that easily doubles the overall size of the site.
We also loved the campground’s club house and its brand new patio area right outside of the camp store. These were great shared spaces for socializing with other campers and relaxing with our boys. We played checkers there every night. There was a barbecue dinner Friday night prepared by pitmaster Ben from Blue Ridge BBQ–and it was awesome. The ribs and pulled pork hit the spot after a long day of adventure in the mountains. There was an ice cream social held in the club house on Saturday night and we did partake of not one, but two scoops each.
Our evenings at the campground were peaceful and relaxing and allowed us to recharge our batteries for the next day’s adventures. And with an entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway only 200 yards from the campground, adventure is literally waiting around the corner. On our first day we headed South on the parkway to the Blue Ridge Music Center. There is free bluegrass there every day from 12-4 and the quality is amazing. The Center is educational and inspiring, and the musicians give you a delicious taste of the area’s rich musical heritage. There are rocking chairs set up on the breezeway for listeners–and a few of them even got up and danced to the livelier tunes. If you love pickin’ then this is your place.
On day two of our Blue Ridge adventure we headed south to Mabry Mill, the most photographed site on the Parkway. We did a little exploring around the mill and then headed into the restaurant next door for tasty salads and sandwiches served up at a reasonable price with lots of Southern hospitality. After lunch we went on a nearby hike that skirted the ridge of the mountain and weaved in and out of densely wooded forest with the occasional spectacular vista. Even though we were close to the parkway the woods were filled with deer who were playful and unafraid of our presence. Even when I pulled the camera out.
If you stay at the Fancy Gap KOA you will be tempted to spend each day enjoying the seemingly never-ending splendor of the Blue Ridge Parkway. But then you would miss a day trip to Mount Airy, North Carolina, birthplace of Andy Griffith, and inspiration for the town of Mayberry in the legendary Andy Griffith Show. Missing Mount Airy would be a crying shame. We had a complete hootenanny of a day there. We enjoyed the famous pork chop sandwich at Snappy Lunch, where Andy ate as a boy.
Then we visited the town “courthouse” modeled after the one in the television show. Even though the boys had been on best behavior all day it still felt mighty good to throw them in the clink!
Don’t worry. They didn’t stay long. We had to make our 3 o’clock tour of the town in a vintage Ford police car, just like the one on the show. Our tour guide was informative and funny. The highlight came when the 1963 Ford broke down right in front of Andy Griffith’s childhood home. Another tour guide, Melvin, raced from the “courthouse” to pick us up in another police car. He was also informative and funny. Luckily he was driving a ’67 Ford. We made it back okay.
On our way out of Mount Airy I ran into a gift shop and bought season one of the Andy Griffith show. When we got back to the Fancy Gap KOA it was raining and the day was quickly coming to an end. We put Wesley to bed and then the boys asked if we could watch a few episodes. So we cuddled up in bed and were transported back in time to Mayberry in the 1960’s.
The Blue Ridge Parkway and Mount Airy had cast a magical spell over all of us. We didn’t want to leave the Fancy Gap KOA the next morning, but summer was calling us deeper into its arms. Time to head further south to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We have heard that it is pretty nice there too.
We have been frequent customers of KOA over the past 5 years, but this was a sponsored trip. Our opinions are always our own.
To hear more about our stay near the Blue Ridge Parkway and our fun adventures in Fancy Gap and Mount Airy, listen to Episode #42 of our podcast: Greetings from the Blue Ridge Parkway!