I doubt if there is another place quite like Lexington, North Carolina. Imagine a husband coming home and telling his wife that he’s tired of selling radio time and wants to open a winery. Now, visualize a family that inherits a piece of land and ends up growing fresh organic shiitake mushrooms. The daughters that now operate the family candy store are another interesting story.
The names attached to those stories are probably ones you’d never recognize. However, there are a few others that might just sound familiar to you. An artist/collector named Timberlake and a NASCAR team owner/winery owner named Childress. That’s Lexington, a friendly community with intriguing people stories to share.
Good food and wine
All groups have one thing in common. They like to eat. Known worldwide for fabulous barbecue, Lexington has 15 delicious venues to sample. Locals each have a favorite, but I personally prefer the elder statesmen of the legendary Lexington barbecue brand − Barbecue Center and Lexington Barbecue.
They’ll all join together on Oct. 26, 2013 for the 30th Annual Barbecue Festival. You know an event is special when Amtrak schedules a special stop to accommodate some of the 200,000 festival-goers.
Although BBQ is king, there is a variety of specialty restaurants featuring everything from traditional Southern fare to Asian, Italian and Mexican delights. For lunch during your stay, do plan a visit to The Bistro at Childress Vineyards. Both the view and the entrees are fabulous. Situated at the gateway of the Yadkin Valley wine region, Lexington vineyards and wineries welcome guests for tours and tastings.
In 2004 NASCAR team owner Richard Childress lived his dream when he opened Childress Vineyards. With 100 acres (77 planted) of perfect soil for his vineyards and internationally acclaimed winemaker Mark Friszolowksi, this centerpiece of North Carolina’s burgeoning wine industry continues to garner honors. Just 8 years after opening more than 700 medals have been awarded Childress Vineyards. Daily guided tours of the Italian Renaissance-style winery are available at no charge. A visit to the tasting room and the gift shop with 30 varieties of Childress wines and numerous accessories rounds out a wonderful afternoon.
One evening Sid Proctor announced to his wife Miranda that he wanted to make wine. From there the dream grew and in 2005 they opened Weathervane Winery. Sid confides that in the beginning it wasn’t easy. A slow process with admittedly some not so pleasant tastings, plenty of trial and error and the help of a good friend finally produced a sweet wine. Still a favorite, Sweet Mountain Bliss has been joined by more than a dozen additional varieties. Tastings and a fun gift shop make Weathervane Winery a nice addition to any tour. Rest assured that Sid still oversees every phase of every bottle produced.
The first American Indian-owned and -operated winery in the United States has been producing wines since 1998 and it’s located in Lexington. Along with husband Nick and daughters Victoria and Dana, Darlene Gabbard, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of Southeast North Carolina, operates Native Vines Winery, which sits on 36 acres of the family’s land. Of the 26 varieties on the wine list, 14 have received awards. The tasting room is located in the Old Tack Room of a stable that still houses a few horses. Try the sweet apple wine.
Although gift shops at the wineries are certainly a delight, there’s plenty more to discover. The Bob Timberlake Gallery has been welcoming guests to the offerings of North Carolina’s most recognizable artist since 1997. Timberlake’s talents as an artist, designer, author and collector all meld seamlessly in this 16,000-square-foot gallery. Space is certainly not wasted as original paintings, limited-edition reproductions, decorative home accessories and lighting are displayed in tasteful vignettes. Timberlake’s numerous collections of memorabilia from duck decoys to Ice Santas continuously rotate and are displayed throughout the gallery.
Recognizing Lexington’s time-honored furniture tradition, the Timberlake 18th century-inspired furniture line is showcased. A recreated furniture shop with many of the original hand tools used in early furniture production is a highlight. The gallery’s Riverwood Coffee Shop provides a quiet spot for relaxation and thought.
Like so many communities’ downtown districts, Lexington’s Historic Uptown is recapturing its earlier glory and offering visitors a true slice of Americana. Lanier’s TrueValue Hardware was established in 1940. The largest TrueValue Hardware in the Southeast provides everything from hardware and housewares to toys and sporting goods. You have to like a retailer that says, “If you can’t find it here, you don’t really need it!”
The Backyard Retreat is home to all your garden accessories, while a half dozen antique shops offer a bounty of treasures. For the more adventuresome, High Rock Outfitters will take care of all your on-water needs.
Sporting a classic red-and-white-striped awning, The Candy Factory blends nicely into the Main Street shops and restaurants. Opened in 1978 by Robert Ebelein in the front of his Piedmont Candy Company, the store quickly out grew its location and six months later moved into a circa 1907 hardware store. Now owned and operated by Ebelein’s three daughters, The Candy Shop offers hundreds of candies. Guests of all ages enjoy wandering the wooden-floor aisles while trying to decide on a favorite.
A quick drive to neighboring Welcome, N.C. provides two special pleasures. Where else could you find a 14-foot hummingbird and lily sculpture and more than 25 No. 3 cars driven by the legendary Dale Earnhardt during his career with Richard Childress Racing?
Dempsey’s Place is the specialty shop of hummingbird artist Dempsey Essick. The hummingbird is displayed in Essick’s art and on a wide selection of accessories and gift items. The artist enjoys greeting group guests.
Trophies, photographs, memorabilia and more than 50 race vehicles from throughout the top series of motorsports await you at the RCR Racing Museum. Both the Daytona 500 cars driven by Dale Earnhardt and Kevin Harvick are on display, along with the No. 3 transporter. Some of stock car racing’s greatest moments are highlighted at this 47,000-square-foot facility. Yes, there’s an extensive gift shop.
When John and Brenda Garner inherited Sandy Creek Farm, they committed to continue the rich farming tradition on their parcel of land. Although they grow smaller specialty items from grapes and berries to garlic and peppers, fresh organic Shiitake mushrooms have become a mainstay. Although the homegrown mushrooms are an interesting story, do allow time for a visit to The Farm Store and The Greenhouse.
Conveniently located on I-85, Lexington is a perfect hub & spoke tour location for the outlet furniture shopping of High Point and the Moravian history and art of Old Salem in Winston-Salem. Kannapolis and outlet shopping in Concord as well as metropolitan Greensboro and Charlotte are close by, too.
Before heading-out to some of her better-known neighboring communities, do make certain you’ve seen and experienced all there is to see and do in Lexington. Be careful, though − you might not want to leave. Begin your visit online at visitlexingtonnc.com.