If you watched any or all of the 249 episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” in the 1960s — or still catch reruns — consider a visit to Mount Airy, N.C. Griffith, who plays Sheriff Andy Taylor in the show, grew up in this small town and used it as a model for his series.
While the show exists only in reruns today, parts of the town are happily stuck in the past. Just six and a half hours down Interstate 77 you’ll find an entertaining getaway that makes the most of its connection to Barney, Aunt Bee, Opie and the rest of the gang.
Glimpses of the Past
During our visit, we slept in the retro, pragmatic and clean Mayberry Motor Inn at the edge of town. Keep in mind, this is a flashback to simpler times, and the motel appropriately small and historic. Rumor has it the owner sometimes dresses up as Aunt Bee while working the front desk.
The best start to visiting the town, after a good night’s sleep, is the Squad Car Ride. While we waited our turn in the Ford Galaxy (the fleet consists of ’62 ’63, ’64 and ’67 models) we checked out the replica of Wally’s Service Station.
Inside the historic corner building, we took turns posing in the jail cell and propping our feet on Andy’s desk. Definitely Facebook moments.
For our ride, we perched on the vinyl backseat and cranked down the old windows. Riding up and down the streets, we learned about the man and the show. We saw places that Andy Griffith/Andy Taylor frequented such as Floyd’s City Barber Shop and The Snappy Lunch.
After getting the lay of the land, we slid into a small booth at the 94-year-old The Snappy Lunch diner for North Carolina’s official pancake-battered pork chop sandwich. Topped with coleslaw and served between two waffles, it was bargain-priced and deserving of another Facebook post.
For dessert, we walked down Main Street to Miss Angels Heavenly Pies and chose a five-inch Mountain Moonshine cutie pie to share. Another sweet option in Mount Airy is a local culinary favorite known as a sonker, a pie-cobbler hybrid made with local fruit.
Fully fed, it was time to walk around the corner to tour The Andy Griffith Museum, which underwent a half-million dollar renovation this year. Smart tourists arrive on the third Friday of the month when the actress Betty Lynn, who played Barney Fife’s girlfriend Thelma Lou, meets with fans and signs autographs. She relocated to Mount Airy in 2007 and celebrated her 91st birthday in 2017.
The small museum jogs memories thanks to a serious collection of artifacts donated by and that pay homage to various actors, and from Emmett Forrest, a former schoolmate and friend of Griffith. Memorabilia includes courthouse doors, Barney’s salt-and-pepper suit and keys to the jail.
Connect with Your Inner Otis
At one point we made like Otis — the town drunk — and stopped by Mayberry Spirits distilling. There, a youngish man in a red flannel shirt invited us to sample three sorghum-based whiskeys produced in the backroom still. Samples were tasty and tiny, and we never reached Otis’ condition.
The Loaded Goat, a local sports bar, was an obvious choice for dinner. Named after a 1963 episode of “The Andy Griffith Show,” it was opened in 2015 by Craig Deas, a former northeast Ohio resident and Lake County Captains broadcaster.
And, finally, we were back to our motel. While we were just stopping through on a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway, folks with more time might want to stay in the area longer and check the local wine, spirits and brewing scene.
Find Your Way Around Mayberry (But Watch Out for Ernest T. Bass)
The Andy Griffith Museum: 218 Rockford St., surryarts.org/agmuseum; 336-786-1604
The Loaded Goat: 247 City Hall St., theloadedgoat.com; 336-755-3627
Mayberry Motor Inn: 501 Andy Griffith Parkway North, mayberrymotorinn.com; 336-786-4109
Mayberry Spirits: 461 N. South St., mayberryspirits.com; 336-719-6860
Miss Angels Heavenly Pies: 153 N. Main St., missangelsheavenlypiesinc.com; 336-786-1537
Mount Airy Visitors Center: 200 N. Main St., visitmayberry.com; 800-948-0949
The Snappy Lunch: 125 N. Main St., thesnappylunch.com; 336-786-4931
Squad Car Tours: 625 S. Main St., tourmayberry.com; 336-789-OPIE