Best-Kept Secrets

Best of the Best-Kept Secrets: Piedmont, Triad and Triangle

Riccy Marroquin, Luis Laverde and Ryan Long enjoyed a picture perfect day atop Hanging Rock last summer . Hanging Rock State Park, near Danbury, is one of North Carolina’s crown jewels.
Riccy Marroquin, Luis Laverde and Ryan Long enjoyed a picture perfect day atop Hanging Rock last summer . Hanging Rock State Park, near Danbury, is one of North Carolina’s crown jewels.

See & Do

Cedarock Park, Burlington

This 414-acre park at the northern tip of the Cane Creek Mountains includes a restored and reconstructed farmstead, a playground, volleyball and basketball courts and plenty of open space. There also are two ponds, fishing and an 18-basket, 10-acre disc golf course. 4242 R Dean Coleman Road, Burlington. 336-570-6759.

Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail, Reidsville

The quirky stone mansion where tobacco heir Jeff Penn and his electric-power heiress wife, Betsy, lived is closed now, but you can still get a sense of their Jazz Age high life with a stroll along the Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail. Visitors can also see the “summer house” – a circular stone pavilion overlooking a pond where the Penns served Sunday brunch on tables made of millstones – and the artificial waterfall Jeff Penn dubbed “Little Niagara.” Just west of 2138 Wentworth Str., Reidsville.

Downtown Warrenton

Founded in 1779, Warrenton was one of North Carolina’s richest towns, booming in the 1800s on the back of cotton, tobacco, education and railroads. The architecture of its heyday is its charm of today. A stopover here should start at the Chamber of Commerce for printed guides to the area’s historic structures and markers. 130 N. Main St., Warrenton. 252-257-2657,

Elsewhere, Greensboro

Sylvia Gray’s three-story collection of dishes, clothes, classic toys and countless other items spans the 58 years she operated a thrift store and, at times, boarding house in downtown Greensboro. That vast collection forms the heart of Elsewhere, a living museum and artists’ residency program. Visitors can unleash their inner children and learn through art that spins, bangs and grows. 606 S. Elm St., Greensboro.

Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury

Nestled in the Sauratown Mountains – named for the Saura Indian tribe that used to live in the area – this park offers amazing views, waterfalls, cliffs, lakes and hiking trails. Hanging Rock’s features include Moore's Knob, House Rock, Wolf Rock and the Upper and Lower Cascade Falls. In addition to the many trails, the park offers swimming, fishing, camping, canoeing and riding trails. 1790 Hanging Rock Park Road, Danbury. 336-593-8480,

Historic Bethabara Park, Winston-Salem

The Old Salem area first comes to mind when you think of the Moravians and that religious denomination’s contributions to Winston-Salem. But Salem wasn’t the first stop for the Moravians in North Carolina. That would be Bethabara (be-THA-ba-ra), where a small group of the German-speaking Protestants settled in 1753 and stayed until the bigger Salem was built. Bethabara offers a smaller, quieter, more natural visit. 2147 Bethabara Road, Winston-Salem. 336-924-8191.


This is one of those places you could miss entirely if you blinked when you’re driving through. But some local interests have built eye-grabbing welcome signs that indicate this is no place to be so dismissed: “Welcome to Leasburg/Established 1752/First Caswell County seat 1777-1792.” Between the signs, you’ll spot one large, old, striking home after another from the tobacco-boom years before the Civil War. A walk around town with the Caswell County Historical Association’s Leasburg Architecture page will let you know what you’re looking at. On U.S. 158 between Yanceyville and Roxboro.

Person County Museum of History, Roxboro

Though the focus is Person County, the museum’s cornucopia of artifacts and architecture includes a hall of dolls, several rooms on local African-American history and a room dedicated to Major League Baseball star and Person native Enos Slaughter. 309 N. Main St., Roxboro. 336-597-2884,

Pisgah Covered Bridge,


The 54-foot bridge sits just inside the Uwharrie National Forest and has had its share of ups and downs since it was built in 1911. Now, it’s a Randolph County local historic landmark. 6925 Pisgah Covered Bridge Road, Asheboro.

RCR Racing Museum,


NASCAR team owner Richard Childress commemorates his rich racing history in the museum, which includes more than 50 race cars. At least half of those were driven by the most celebrated Childress driver, the late Dale Earnhardt. Other features include a vast trophy room and a wildlife gallery with mounted bear, elk, deer and other animal trophies from Childress’ years of hunting. 236 Industrial Drive, Lexington. 800-476-3389,

Reynolda House,


The former “bungalow” home of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds has been preserved with most of its original furniture. Throughout the house, you’ll also see the largest collection of American art south of Washington. Outside, the Reynolda Gardens are their own works of art. 2250 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem. 888-663-1149,

Riverwalk, Hillsborough

A 1.8-mile commuter and recreational trail near downtown Hillsborough that follows the Eno River. There are paved paths, boardwalks and two 100-foot bridges. Main entrance is by the Eno River Parking Deck at the end of Nash and Kollock Street, Hillsborough. 919-732-1270.

Sennett’s Hole, Durham

It’s simple: This is the perfect swimming hole. It is said to be named after Michael Synnott and his mill that reportedly stood nearby. As the story goes, a surge of water took Synnott and his pot of gold and silver into the hole, never to be found in its interminable depths. So take that as a cautionary note: Sennett’s Hole, also known as Turtle Hole, should be carefully assessed before swimming. It’s in West Point on the Eno park. 5101 N Roxboro Road, Durham. 919-471-1623.

Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art,


This isn’t your typical art museum with paintings on the wall and sculptures on pedestals. First, there’s no permanent collection – SECCA has a series of exhibits that rotate in and out for a few months. Another unique thing is its location – adjacent to the former family home of James G. Hanes. Visitors can look at the contemporary style of the newer museum building or the traditional style of the Hanes home. 750 Marguerite Drive, Winston-Salem. 336-725-1904,

The Abundance Foundation, Pittsboro

From the grounds of an abandoned chemical plant complex off U.S. 64, this nonprofit is known for its do-it-yourself workshops, kid-friendly activities and community events. The nonprofit shares space with Piedmont Biofuels and other businesses specializing in local agriculture, renewable energy, clean water and conservation. One-hour tours are held every Sunday and the first Friday of the month. 220 Lorax Lane, Pittsboro. 919-533-5181,

The Bullhole, Cooleemee

For years, Davie County residents looking for a way to cool off have ventured to this beautiful area of natural falls on the Yadkin River, right at the Davie-Rowan county line. A few years ago, RiverPark at Cooleemee Falls opened at the site. Erwin Temple Church Road, Cooleemee. 336-751-2325.

Wake County Speedway,


Summer Friday nights are soaked in the rumbling sounds, bright lights and sizzling smells of a good old race at this track south of Garner. Drivers compete with several classes of cars, ranging from slower mini-stocks to swarms of speeding late models. 2109 Simpkins Road. 919-578-7858,

Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro

This museum has an imposing permanent collection but also focuses on traveling installations. There’s much to enjoy and contemplate at this free attraction. 500 Tate St., Greensboro. 336-334-5770,

Browse & Shop

Bees’ Knees Country Store, Henderson

This little white building once was a gas station and grocery. Now, it’s chock full of crafts, gifts and, most importantly, honey. Bill and Marie Craig keep 50 beehives on the 72-acre lot that stretches back into the woods and along a creek behind the store. 2250 Weldons Mill Road, Henderson. 252-492-9599,

Cedar Creek Gallery, Creedmoor

The gallery’s 4,000-square-foot building features a circulating set of art from about 200 regular artists, including many North Carolinians. The mix of pottery, glass, wood and metalwork is always worth a visit, but the gallery also hosts periodic events and festivals in the spring and fall. 1150 Fleming Road, Creedmoor. 919-528-1041,

Scuppernong Books, Greensboro

This downtown bookstore has built a reputation as a spot for readings, music and general support for North Carolina writers. Find seats at the in-store counter for a glass of local IPA, coffee or a sandwich. 304 S. Elm St., Greensboro. 336-763-1919,

Trade Street Arts District, Winston-Salem

This thriving, creative area is the envy of many other North Carolina cities. The eclectic mix of shops includes Earthbound Arts, with its beads, skin-care creams, herbal mists and soaps; Kindred Spirits, with its Tarot readings and “aura cleanses,” and a new, two-story outpost of the Mast General Store. Trade Street, downtown Winston-Salem. 336-734-1864,

Eat & Drink

Dairi-O, King

The giant milkshake with two large straws heralds the entrance of this restaurant, but it’s the food and atmosphere that have been bringing folks for decades. The menu includes everything from burgersto salads, but the specialties are the hot dogs and milkshakes. You can find Dairi-O sister restaurants in nearby towns, but the one in King is the original. 365 E. Dalton Road, King. 336-983-5560,

Emma Keys Flat Top Grill, Greensboro

Burger places come and burger places go, but there’s something about the textures and flavor combinations at Emma Keys that create a line out the door of the former vintage barber shop. Part of the fun is watching these perfect burgers (and don’t miss the sweet potato fries) emanating from the bro-meets-boho crew who tend the grill. 2206 Walker Ave., Greensboro. 336-285-9429,

Glaze King, Asheboro

A popular destination with rows of sprinkled cake doughnuts, glazed raised doughnuts, apple fritters and bear claws. The shop is open all day. 1056 Albemarle Road, Asheboro. 336-318-0864.

Hillbilly Hideaway, Walnut Cove

This restaurant is open just Friday through Sunday, and its family-style breakfast is only available on Sundays. (And not even then November through February.) But when it’s served, it’s amazing – bacon, sausage, country ham, sliced tenderloin, scrambled eggs, two kinds of gravy, grits, fried potatoes, apples, a savory “hoecake” and a sugar cake that’s a decadent mix of butter, dough and brown sugar. The restaurant’s many fans love the nighttime all-you-can-eat feasts, too. 4365 Pine Hall Road, Walnut Cove. 336-591-4861,

Liberty Oak Restaurant & Bar, Greensboro

This white-tablecloth spot might give the impression that homeboy author O. Henry will drop by for a cocktail. But the food – try the fried oysters or the healthier wasabi- and sesame-crusted grilled tuna – speaks both of tradition and new Southern cuisine. 100 W. Washington St., Greensboro. 336-273-7057,

Lynch Creek Farm, Kittrell

Barely marked and never advertised, this place truly is a secret. Bob Radcliffe and Kerry Carter open their gate three times a month for picnics, farmhouse dinners, and jazz and bluegrass music, with room for only a few dozen guests in their cozy cabin they built. The meal might include one of Radcliffe’s pizza-like tomato pies, all soundtracked by bands from across the region. The cost of entrance supports the Ben Franklin Society, the couple’s nonprofit that helps historical and cultural endeavors. 1973 Rocky Ford Road, Kittrell. 252-767-1167,

Pulliam’s, Winston-Salem

For more than 100 years, a Winston-Salem fixture with perhaps the best hot dog you will ever eat. It’s hard to pinpoint the secret to its success. Some say it’s the bun – lightly buttered and toasted on the grill. Others swear by the slaw or the chili. Either way, Pulliam’s draws blue-collar workers, tobacco company executives and Wake Forest University students to its nondescript building in the Ogburn Station neighborhood. 4400 Old Walkertown Road, Winston-Salem. 336-767-2211.

The Table, Asheboro

This restaurant’s fresh-made breads, pastries, salads and sandwiches change with the seasons; most ingredients come from the neighboring Asheboro Downtown Farmer’s Market. 139 S. Church St., Asheboro. 336-736-8628,