Blue Ridge Country

Word & Image

Blue Ridge Country brings together a collective of writers and photographers for our newest blog, Word & Image, a web journal of travels, pictures, observations, reviews and stories, from the pens and lenses of accomplished, award-winning (and even a New York Times-bestselling) contributors.

TWEETSIE : A Timeless Theme Park

TWEETSIE : A Timeless Theme Park

All of a sudden, we took a turn and found the Country Fair. It was loaded with rides, like little cars to drive, plus a merry-go-round, and it all sat in the middle of the Tweetsie Railroad theme park, encircled by the active train tracks of the three-mile-long Tweetsie Railroad.

Boone, Blowing Rock, and the High Country of North Carolina have changed in the past 40 years. Certainly, Appalachian State University has grown, adding buildings all over Boone. And the lodging of the High Country has expanded from mom-and-pop motels to big cabins, condos and the comforts of places like the LaQuinta, built like a extended mountain lodge, as warm as your grandfather's house, and cozily snug at the center of Boone.

But Tweetsie? Well, it still looks as shiny and new as it must have in 1972, when I took a ride on the Tweetsie Railroad at Blowing Rock, NC. The centerpiece of the theme park remains the train. It was nicknamed "Tweetsie" for the sound of its whistle and, long before the park was established in the 1950s, it once ran between Johnson City, TN, and Boone, NC.

Some 39 years ago, I came here as a wide-eyed, three-year-old kid, much like my four-year-old son, John, in 2011. I rode the train, and I wanted to hear that whistle blow. I also hunkered down when the cowboys and Indians got into a battle at Fort Boone - all part of Tweetsie's railside adventure.

Tweetsie now boasts a few mildly thrilling rides, like the Tornado, Free Fall and Round-Up. Among them, I sampled the dizzying Tilt-a-Whirl and simply-fun Tweetsie Twister. Still, a large focus remains on what you can do with a little one, especially a kid about John's age. And, as for me, as a daddy, there remains nothing as magical as coming home, a week later, and still hearing my son talk about Tweetsie. He imitated the Tweetsie train whistle just like I did in the '70s. And he still relished wearing his conductor's cap - a souvenir of a timeless theme park, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 

Review: Haunts of Virginia's Blue Ridge Highlands

Review: Haunts of Virginia's Blue Ridge Highlands

First off – full disclosure.

I love ghost stories. My partner, photographer John Sheally, knows any mention of a spectral sighting signals that he should settle in and get comfy – we’re staying for the full story.

Remembering Judy Bonds, a Voice Against Mountaintop Removal

Remembering Judy Bonds, a Voice Against Mountaintop Removal

Cancer took Judy Bonds, the legendary West Virginia fighter against the destruction of Appalachia's mountains, early this year at 58.

Bier and Sauerkraut! Mountain Lake's Oktoberfest

Bier and Sauerkraut! Mountain Lake's Oktoberfest

For 22 years, they have poured their hearts into the music and the mountain.

And, if all told, they have been toasted by a ton of beer.

Where the New River Disappears

Where the New River Disappears

It’s called The Dries.

Between Hawks Nest Dam and a power plant just upriver from Gauley Bridge, the New River almost disappears. Most of the river is diverted into a three-mile long tunnel dug in the 1930s to provide power for a chemical plant. Hundr...

New River Float: Ivanhoe to Foster Falls

New River Float: Ivanhoe to Foster Falls

The National Committee for the New River organized a float this summer from Boone, N.C. to Gauley Bridge, W.Va., where the New joins the Gauley to form the Kanawha. Tim Thornton paddled along and dropped a line whenever he found a wireless connection; th...

Conservation at Camp Dickenson

Conservation at Camp Dickenson

The National Committee for the New River is floating from Boone, N.C. to Gauley Bridge, W.Va., where the New joins the Gauley to form the Kanawha. Tim Thornton is paddling along and dropping a line whenever he can find a wireless connection. Thornton's w...

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Featured Blue Ridge Videos

Hannah Harvey: Telling Tales of Coalminers, Gaelic Fairies and More. (Click to Read More.)

Riding The Wind at Lookout Mountain. (Click to Read More.)