Why You Should Explore Lexington This Fall

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Known for fast cars, award-winning wine and, of course, barbecue, Lexington offers a small-town fall getaway that just can’t be beat.

“Lots of folks visit Lexington specifically for barbecue, so that is a huge draw for the town,” says Robin Bivens, executive director of the Lexington Tourism Authority and Visitor Center. “But once they come into the Uptown area, even if they think they’re coming just for lunch, they want to spend the afternoon.”

Lexington, North Carolina

Photo by Justin Kase Conder

Lexington-Style Barbecue

So, what is it about the town’s culinary specialty that makes it so, well, special? Chalk it up to a tradition that started in the alley behind the building that now houses the Lexington Visitor Center, when local restaurant owners smoked pork shoulders – not the whole hog – over hickory coals for half a day. Rather than seasoning the meat as it cooks and risk overpowering it with sauce, these family eateries still use only a little salt in the process. At the table, a dip made from ketchup, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and a smidgeon of cayenne pepper is served on a choice of coarsely chopped or sliced barbecue, with a side of “red slaw” made with ketchup instead of mayonnaise to add a sweet twist.

Local favorites include the family-owned Bar-B-Q Center on Main Street and Lexington Barbecue, established in 1962 and nicknamed by area residents “The Monk” after its founder, Wayne Monk. Don’t forget to try the hush puppies, onion rings and barbecue beans!

Photo by Justin Kase Conder

A great way to sample the town’s signature cuisine is to stroll the tents at the annual Barbecue Festival, which features eight stages of entertainment, arts and crafts, and more. The event is held on Main Street in October. Among the weeklong events leading up to this crowd-pleaser are a pig sand sculpture, antique car show, pig race, BMX stunt shows and a bike race.

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Art, Antiques and More

For more fall events, check out High Rock Outfitters, a popular nightspot that hosts musicians from around the state. Also worth visiting is the new outdoor Breeden Insurance Amphitheater, which sits at the site of a former furniture factory. It’s home to a number of concerts, including Alive After Five, which takes place on the second Friday of the month. In mid-September, spend the day at the Davidson County Agricultural Fair and support the Kiwanis Club’s camp for underserved kids.

When you’re hungry for something other than barbecue, wet your whistle at  great uptown eateries such as Sophie’s Cork & Ale, a chef-owned wine bar; the family-style Village Grill, where you can order everything from a liver mush sandwich to a lamb gyro; or Main Street Pizza and Deli, rumored to bake the best bread in town. Also on Main Street, Red’s Donut Shop slings frosted and filled sweet treats from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The Candy Factory; Photo by Justin Kase Conder

Many of Lexington’s landmarks, like Conrad & Hinkle, have stood in the same place for decades. This irresistible food store, with its original 1919 tin ceiling and concrete floors, is known for a “top-secret” pimento cheese recipe (traditional or spicy) that attracts buyers from miles away.

“A lot of groups bring their little individual cooler bags so they can take it home with them,” Bivens says.

At The Candy Factory, thousands of nostalgic bestsellers, from peppermint puffs to cream penny sticks, line shelves and bulge from bins, surrounded by collectibles and novelty items.

See more: Visit This Museum to Celebrate America’s Favorite Pastime

Red’s Donut Shop; Photo by Justin Kase Conder

“People come here and enjoy looking at the antiques and the old-fashioned toys that we sell and hearing the floors creak,” says Annette Conrad, who owns the shop with her husband, Wynn.

Spend some time browsing uptown art and antique stores, including the multi-booth Collectors Depot and Wennonah Mills Consignment, which also stocks new furniture. Along the way, you can’t help but smile at the Pigs in the City sculptures dressed as barristers, ballerinas and more. (Bivens’ favorite sculpture is the Sight Seeing Sow, which depicts local landmarks like the old Davidson County Courthouse on its stocky body.)

Lexington, North Carolina

Photo by Justin Kase Conder

Away from town central, Denton FarmPark features a restored gristmill, blacksmith shop and full-size steam train circling the park. For more train history – and fresh produce – visit the Lexington Farmers’ Market.

See more: Why You Should Visit Greenville in the Summer

Car Connection

Race fans will enjoy learning about one of the state’s most successful stock car drivers at the Richard Childress Racing Museum, which displays more than 50 vehicles, including over 25 of the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolets driven by Dale Earnhardt. Building on his love of wine, Childress began growing grapes at his home and later opened Childress Vineyards, now one of the prominent wineries in the state.

Photo by Jeff Adkins

Learn More

For more information on Lexington, see visitlexingtonnc.com or call (866) 604-2389.

For more auto-related entertainment, attend the Que-City Cruise’N, which brings up to 150 old cars to Main Street the second Tuesday of each month through October.

“We are a small town, but we are a very friendly town,” Bivens says. “When you go into the shops, talk to the shop owners. Ask questions. Ask them how they started, why they do things the way they do. They like to engage with you. You learn so much more about a town when you learn about the people.”

– Nancy Henderson

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