Wilkesboro NC: Racing Thrills And Distilling Chills

A trip to Wilkesboro NC is made up of all the magical stuff of classic summertime stories — secret moonshine caves, high-speed chases, over-the-top frozen treats, and hikes to waterfalls, to name a few! Get ready for racing thrills and distilling chills as we take a summer loop through the moonshine capital of the Carolinas.

Heritage Square Splash Pad in Wilkesboro NC

In summer, the Heritage Square Splash Pad is the place to be.

Heritage Square: The Epicenter Of Summer Fun

Kids will love the Heritage Square Splash Pad in front of the Wilkes Heritage Museum in downtown Wilkesboro. Of course, all are invited to frolic in the refreshing waters of this interactive fountain, which boasts 29 jets, rainbow LED lighting, and tilework in the quilt pattern of an “Ohio Star” as a symbol of the region's heritage.

Once you've thoroughly dried off, take a self-guided walking tour through the Wilkes Heritage Museum. What used to be an old county jail is now an impressively restored educational hub for the region. Tour rooms dedicated to moonshine, pottery, racing, and other Wilkes-centric trades and talents. For those with a long lineage of Wilkesboro ancestors, the McNeil Genealogy Collection is a digital genealogy database derived from cemetery/gravesite locations and may offer interesting insights! General admission is $7 and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge.

The Wilkes Heritage Museum is also home to the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, which shines a spotlight on beloved musical artists hailing from the greater Blue Ridge Mountains from northern Georgia to northern Virginia.

Merle Watson Garden of the Senses mural

The Doc and Merle Watson Mural at the Garden of the Senses | Photo: Cheryl H (Tripadvisor)

Summertime and the livin' is easy…

Speaking of regional musical talent… the Garden of the Senses at Wilkes Community College Gardens is another Wilkesboro NC bucket list attraction that has connections to two of the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame's inductees. The garden itself evokes wonder with its scented and textured plants and Braille-accompanied sculptures. Within, the Doc and Merle Watson mural evokes the special relationship between the musical father/son duo.

Did you know? Doc Watson won seven Grammy awards and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his picking prowess. He recorded and played with his son Merle until Merle’s untimely death, and named MerleFest – one of the world’s biggest folk music festivals held annually in Wilkesboro – in his honor. MerleFest 2025 is set to take place April 24, 27.

Mountain bike trails and speedways in Wilkesboro NC

Put the pedal to the metal (or forest floor!)

How to get your adrenaline fix in Wilkesboro NC

In addition to its musical heritage, Wilkesboro NC is known for its high speed thrills. The N. Wilkesboro Speedway is the place to be in May, with the Wright Brand 250 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series and NASCAR All-Star Race NASCAR Cup Series revving up May 18-19. Did you hear about the possible moonshine cave that was recently discovered under the frontstretch grandstands?

For fast speeds on an equally daunting course, pedal to Warrior Creek Mountain Bike Trail at W. Kerr Scott Dam & Reservoir in Wilkesboro NC. This trail offers exhilarating challenges and breathtaking views of the surrounding wilderness. Pedal your way through lush forests, rocky descents, and flowing singletrack for an unforgettable mountain biking experience.

Glizzy Burger at Dooley's Tavern

Why choose between a burger and a hot dog when you can have both? Behold the Glizzy Burger at Dooley's Tavern…

Wilkesboro NC: Where to eat

Wilkesboro’s outdoor attractions call for sufficient fuel. Kill two birds with one stone when you visit Cook’s Sports and Outfitters for outdoor gear, then walk next door to Main Street Shaved Ice and Snacks for popcorn, cotton candy, and shaved ice in a rainbow of flavors.

Find locals saddled up to the bar at Dooley’s Grill and Tavern, where menu items like the “Glizzy burger” have a hypnotic effect. The tavern constantly racks up accolades for “best night spot” and “best hamburger” in Wilkesboro NC. For something unique, try non-alcoholic mead brewed at Stardust Cellars. Flavors like hibiscus and ginger quench one’s thirst without compromising the senses (which you’ll need for the rest of your day in Wilkesboro).

North Wilkesboro is also one of the newest communities to adopt a “social district,” where local businesses come together to create a dynamic hub of dining, shopping, and entertainment for patrons — most of whom are local — to enjoy while (respectfully) consuming alcoholic beverages in a designated area and within designated buildings. The North Wilkesboro Downtown Social District is one such area.

How does it work? Visit any participating vendor and request a Downtown Social District cup, purchase an alcoholic beverage in that cup, and enjoy it while you shop and wander around Downtown North Wilkesboro! Make sure to properly dispose of your cup before leaving the Downtown Social District. Learn more about the Downtown Social District in North Wilkesboro NC.

Discover more social districts in NC: Cary | Asheboro

Cabin at Moravian Falls

Stay in a cabin next to Moravian Falls — a one-of-a-kind Carolina experience!

Put your boots up at these places to stay in Wilkesboro

The stars are your streetlights at Leatherwood Mountains Resort. Spend the day at the full-service Equine Center, challenge your group to a game of tennis, and take on the canopy zipline adventure. At Moravian Falls Family Campground & Cabin Rentals, you can start or end your perfect summer day with a walk to pristine waterfalls. Cabin, campground, and RV hookup rentals are at your disposal – you can even book a cabin adjacent to Moravian Falls!

You might also like…

The Summer 2024 Issue Is Here!

The Summer 2024 Issue Is Here!

Get ready for summer adventures with Carolina Traveler’s 2024 issue! From the biggest Memorial Day celebration in the Southeast to thrilling hikes and hidden gems, our spotlight on the best destinations and events in NC and SC is your ultimate guide. Click to discover more!

read more