Once a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town, Lansing has capitalized on its stunning mountain surroundings to become a more-than-quaint destination. Situated just a few miles from the Virginia border in Ashe County, Lansing boasts a handful of home-style restaurants, cool festivals, a bounty of outdoor adventures, and a new multi-faceted park. Getting there is half the fun: On your drive into town, take the new Big Horse Creek Scenic Byway that begins in Warrensville at N.C. 94 and winds past creek beds, shady forests, and rustic farmhouses.
The town is unveiling its new $1.2 million Historic Lansing Creeper Trail Park in August. Spread out across nearly 60 acres, it features hiking and biking trails, primitive camping spots, a dog park, and a renovated open-air barn for events and concerts. Running through the heart of the park is Big Horse Creek, which is regularly stocked with trout. Nearby, enjoy kayaking or canoeing along the gentle rapids of the New River, or hike the trails that meander past waterfalls and 5,000-foot peaks at Grayson Highlands State Park.
Situated across the street from Big Horse Creek, the family-owned Pie on the Mountain [9360 N.C. 194 N., (336) 384-8008, pieonthemtn.com], uses fresh, local ingredients on their specialty pizzas, including the hearty Mountain Man, with bacon, baked potato, and green onion. The popular eatery, which showcases the work of local artists, also serves yummy sandwiches, salads, and seasonal homemade desserts. For some old-fashioned Southern cooking, try Country House Restaurant [9334 N.C. 194 N., (336) 384-4678], which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and noted for its friendly service. Smithey’s Cafe of Lansing [8970 N.C. 194, (336) 384-4300] has casual fare such as burgers, sandwiches, and soup. Satisfy your sweet tooth with ice cream at Phipps General Store [2425 Silas Creek Rd., (336) 384-2382] and stick around for the store’s Friday-night bluegrass jam sessions, which start at 7 p.m.
Skip the typical hotel experience at Fort Awesome [9710 N.C. 194 N., (704) 492-8514, www.fortawesomenc.com], a four-acre spread with an old school building that’s been converted into an artsy, funky hostel (and there are several campsites as well). Next door is a 20,000-square-foot building that hosts workshops and parties. Fort Awesome also hosts the annual Five Elements Festival [www.fiveelementsnc.com], happening August 5-7, a kid-friendly gathering with live music, artists, yoga and hula hooping classes, and performance artists. While grooving to the festivities, quench your thirst at the new Molly Chomper Hard Cider [www.mollychomper.com], which uses local apples and offers four varieties, including a mouthwatering hops cider.