From poet Carl Sandburg’s home to the mountainside wineries of the Crest of the Blue Ridge American Viticultural Area, the neighboring towns of Flat Rock and Hendersonville, North Carolina, reveal surprises at every turn. A scenic drive north on State 25 from downtown Greenville will bring you to Flat Rock within an hour.
Despite its small size, Flat Rock claims a couple of big attractions. The town of just over 3,300 permanent residents is home to the 264-acre farm where Sandburg, the “people’s poet,” lived with his family and wrote from 1945 until his death in 1967.
Right across the street is the Flat Rock Playhouse, which started as the summer home to the Vagabond Players in 1940 and now stages a regular repertoire that includes Broadway musicals. Don’t leave Flat Rock without treating yourself to an incomparable thin-crust wood-fired pizza by the artisans at Flat Rock Village Bakery (check out their breads and pastries too).
From there, follow State 225 North less than four miles as it turns into Main Street in Hendersonville. You’ll know you’ve arrived in the commercial center when you spot the gold dome of the 1905 historic Henderson County Courthouse, crowned by a 6-foot-tall statue of Themis, the Greek goddess of divine justice and law.
Originally built wide enough to allow horse-drawn wagons to turn around, Main Street was narrowed and landscaped in the 1970s to make it more inviting. The old brick buildings lining this thoroughfare now house enticing shops, galleries, and restaurants, such as the venerable McFarlan Bake Shop, which has operated here since 1930.
It’s easy to lose track of the hours while perusing the shops and galleries, so make sure you leave time for a winery visit or a stop at one of the area’s cideries, which make tasty use of the apple crop for which Henderson County is renowned.
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
1928 Little River Road, Flat Rock
The poet, author and Lincoln biographer lived at this pastoral farm called Connemara with his wife, Lillian, their family, and his wife’s herd of dairy goats, descendants of which still occupy the on-site barn.
Henderson County Heritage Museum
First and Main streets, Hendersonville
Located inside the historic Henderson County Courthouse, the museum spotlights the early days of Henderson County in six rooms of artifacts and multimedia presentations, including an interactive scale model of the Saluda Grade railway, the steepest main-line standard-gauge railroad in the U.S.
Stone Ashe Winery
736 Green Mountain Road, Hendersonville
Focusing on Bordeaux clones, the newest winery in the Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA perches on 67 ridgetop acres, where its 3,100-square-foot tasting room spills over onto the patio and deck.
119 S. Main St., Hendersonville
At this Main Street eatery, international flair jazzes up chef/owner Jesse Roque’s menu of tasty tapas, which includes her signature gingerbread Love Muffins.
401 N. Main St., Hendersonville
Expect traditional dishes interpreted with regional products and a contemporary twist at this beloved downtown spot.
West First Wood-Fired
101-B First Ave. West, Hendersonville
Known for its terrific pizza and satisfying Italian entrées, West First was started by the same folks who brought you Flat Rock Village Bakery.
Appalachian Pinball Museum
538 N. Main St., Hendersonville
Kids will love this hands-on museum/arcade, where the entry fee buys you unlimited play on dozens of vintage pinball machines.
Flat Rock Playhouse
2661 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock
The State Theater of North Carolina, Flat Rock Playhouse presents a nine-month season of plays, encompassing comedy, drama and Broadway musicals.
Jump Off Rock
4433 Laurel Park Highway, Hendersonville
Head for this overlook to survey the mountain scenery and hike one of the three trails that begin here. The rock’s name reflects an old Cherokee legend about a heartbroken Indian maiden who threw herself from its summit.