In September 2021 I wanted to try to do a road trip for a few days of R and R and Visiting Mayberry On A Budget seemed perfect! Plus my boyfriend is a big fan. So I watched a few seasons of the Andy Griffith Show (which I was able to stream online) and felt educated enough to enjoy myself. Off to Mayberry, Andry Griffith’s hometown and small-town America, we went!
Times of Year To Avoid
Sunrise view from the front porch of the Airbnb.
Mount Airy is near the mountains on the North Carolina and Virginia border so the temps when we went were warm during the day and cooler at night. And since we wanted to do a day at Hanging Rock State Park hiking we didn’t want it to be too hot. We picked the middle of September and the weather was flawless.
The famous statue of Andy and Opie!
Once a year they have a Mayberry Days festival with parades, concerts, and special vendors for the fans. And while there are tons of fun activities and people dressed as Thelma Lou and Betty Lynn it also means housing is more expensive. They also have an Autumn Leaves Festival and we saw a slight raise in housing prices then as well. By avoiding those dates we saved on housing, found plenty of parking, and didn’t wait in long lines.
Don’t miss the other Frugal Travel Ideas!
There are plenty of housing options available. There are multiple locations available on Airbnb at reasonable rates. We stayed in a little town called Cana, VA about 15 minutes away in our own house and it was fantastic. We had a great place with a big front porch, beautiful views, and a nice quiet environment.
If you are lucky enough to snag it you can stay at Andy Griffith’s childhood home! We saw it on the tour. The house contains antiques and is decorated in the 1930s-1940s style with Griffith memorabilia. Pricing was reasonable when we checked but as you can imagine it books early.
Outside of the proper Mt. Airy downtown area, there were plenty of big chain hotels as well. You can find what you are looking for!
Where To Eat
Since we were staying in an Airbnb we brought groceries to do quite a few of our meals. But we did eat out a few times so I wanted to share the places we recommend.
Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies (and the ice cream place next door)- In Downtown Mt. Airy (on Main Street) are two places to indulge your sweet tooth. The Hillbilly Creamery has two things we tried- one knocked it out of the park and one was kind of blah. According to the sign on the wall, they grow their peaches so I got the peach ice cream. TOP NOTCH- five out of five stars. Their most popular ice cream is made with moonshine and we also tried that. It was just okay. If you like peaches I would grab the peach.
At Miss Angel’s we got an apple and key lime. The little pies are $5 each and are just enough to curb your sweet tooth without overindulging. The crust was crispy and the texture was incredible. Highly recommend.
The Loaded Goat– It’s a sports bar but the food was fantastic. The vegetables were fresh and the service was quick. Prices were very reasonable and it’s only a block off Main Street so convenient. There was plenty of free parking near and we just left the car all day as we walked around.
The Depot Restaurant at Cody Creek– We wanted to do a nice night out without going broke and were BLOWN AWAY by this restaurant. As you drive over the covered bridge you see a beautiful old lodge in front of you. There is a church, a lovely gazebo, and stunning property. While it was a reach for me as a vegetarian the meat eater in the group had a wide variety of selections. There were no complaints from either party and we took home plenty of leftovers.
Walker’s Soda Fountain– If you are familiar with The Andy Griffith Show you know why it’s named Walker’s but it looks nothing like the show inside. We just stopped in for a drink and they have a huge selection. I asked the waitress what her favorite was and she said it wasn’t on the menu. She jerry-rigged me a pina colada drink that was phenomenal (alcohol-free).
The Mayberry Squad Car Tour– This was our first stop at Wally’s Service Station. The tours can fill up fast. We arrived about ten minutes after they opened and tours were already full until 2 p.m. However the visitors who had the first reservation of the day had not shown up so we were able to jump right in the car.
You get to sit in the back seat of a squad car and have a guide drive you around to show you everything! Besides the Andy Griffith stuff, Mt. Airy has an open-face granite quarry that is amazing. There are beautiful buildings and fantastic views. Our driver had met his wife of 50 years by the pool at the local rec center so he showed us that too.
They have a small fleet of cars- one from each season of the show. They are completely redone and authentic. It’s a fantastic way to see the area. The cost is $40 per carload of up to 4 people. We tipped our driver as well- he earned every dime of it. It was a great start to the day.
Right behind Wally’s Service Station is a small-scale version of the sheriff’s office and jail cell from the show where Otis spent many hours sleeping off his moonshine. It alone is worth the trip for a fan of the show.
The Andy Griffith Museum– After the car tour next stop was the museum. Right near the Andy Griffith playhouse and the famous statue it is tucked away. Admission was around $9 each. We also paid $2 for the audio guide- worth the money.
While the city focuses on The Andy Griffith Show he had a career that included much more. He did theater, had a few marriages, and recorded quite a few albums. And yes that is Matlock’s suit. The Andy Griffith Memorabilia was more than worth the price of admission.
This also includes admission to the Original Siamese Twins exhibit and the Old Time Music Heritage Hall in the building next door.
Hanging Rock State Park – This part of the trip will soon have its own post because it deserves it. It was about a 40-minute drive and worth every second of it. There are tons of trails, incredible views, and quite a few waterfalls. There is no admission charge and we packed a lunch so it was a frugal day.
Downtown Mt. Airy– I could talk for an hour about the cute shops and restaurants, including Floyd’s Barber Shop and Snappy Lunch with its famous Park Chop Sandwich. While many are full of t-shirts, shot glasses, and other touristy trinkets there are some beautiful small businesses as well.
There are decorated instruments up and down the street celebrating the rich musical heritage in the area. As well as murals and other artistic items. Give yourself a few hours just to browse up and down- it’s worth it. There are also lots of benches to sit on if someone needs a rest.
At night there was live music on the streets and some vendors. The locals were enjoying themselves and the talent was great.
And again… more artwork.
Mount Airy Museum of Regional History– This will teach me think a small town can’t have a hugely rich history. Or a fantastically curated museum. The museum represents ALL the history of the area- including those who truly inhabited the region.
There are full-sized fire trucks inside as well as beautiful furniture, amazing clothing, replica general stores, and tons of other displays. The $6 admission is well worth the money. And supports a necessary organization that struggled greatly to remain during the pandemic. The ghost tour I mention next is their biggest earner and has been a huge boost for them.
Mt. Airy Ghost Tour– I LOVE a ghost tour. I have been on them in half a dozen towns and find it a fantastic way to learn local history. I was not at all disappointed with Mt. Airy Ghost Tours. It was $15 per person and well worth the money. We had kids on our tour so it was pretty PG- not sure how it would be without them.
Mayberry Spirits– I am not much of a drinker but I cannot recommend Mayberry Spirits and Distillery enough. I enjoy their whiskey- it’s the only whiskey in the country made with sorghum. They do tours Friday and Saturday and they are only $12. You get to see how their product is made (all on-site and in small batches) and get an incredible tasting. They are generous with recipes. I also brought back some whiskey-infused coffee for my mom and she was VERY sad when it ran out.
It is also a truly local business- as many items in the product and the store as possible are local. You can ask about all the items inside the store (reclaimed wood, light fixtures made from items thrown away in the town, products from local artists). I ended up buying whiskey, earrings, a necklace, and coffee before I left.
Flea Markets- So this was the unexpected part of our trip. I wanted to just hang out at the house on Saturday and the boy wanted to explore. Since we were staying in Cana and had been going to Mt. Airy every trip we always turned right out the driveway. Saturday morning we turned left. And found… wow.
I won’t give away any secrets but just let me say- it’s an eye-opening experience. There is plenty to see just driving away including some stunning scenery.
A Frugal Chick Gives Two Thumbs Up
If you are looking for a quick getaway that won’t break the bank I highly recommend Mt. Airy. It’s the best little town- so peaceful. The views are stunning and the people friendly. I’m not sure we will do a repeat trip but it’s high on my list of favorite places ever. There is a reason so many people move there after retirement and it provided the inspiration for the fictional town of Mayberry!