Spare a summer Saturday for Saxapahaw, an Alamance County community where a rural renaissance is blooming.
This day trip (about a 45-minute drive from downtown Raleigh) is a reminder of what's possible when the best of rural traditions combines with a modern understanding of the relationship between man and nature. Within a half-mile radius along a bend in the Haw River, Saxapahaw offers all you need to get in touch with your version of nature.
Start with the Saxapahaw General Store – convenience store, restaurant, gas station and produce stand. Visitors come from miles around to shop the bulk spices, curated wine and beer selection and the freshest product of local farms. Vegetables, breads and dairy – all born in the community – share shelf space with staples like Jif peanut butter and Purina dog chow.
A small seating area indoors, and a more generous one out, welcome those who choose to dine rather than shop. The Saxapahaw General Store offers a regular menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner, and extensive daily blackboard specials. Everything is made to order in a kitchen the eschews microwave cooking.
After you're fed, wander outdoors. It's the reason you left the city and suburbs, after all!
The adventurous can put in with the Haw River Canoe & Kayak Co. for trips that vary from the short and guided – an hour or two on flat water – to overnight camping covering dozens of miles with the opportunity to ride some rapids.
If you'd rather stay dry, the Haw River Trail parallels the river offering various terrain for hikers and plenty of photo opportunities.
Those show prefer their entertainment indoors will find plenty to do as well.
Saxapahaw Artists show in a gallery space in the Sellars Building. Browse the changing selection of paintings, furniture, textiles, pottery and even jewelry. Support a local working artist and score a one-of-a kind creation for your home or as a gift.
As dark falls, the Haw River Ballroom becomes the place to be. Weekly concerts are scheduled each Saturday through the summer and highlights include The Old Ceremony May 24, Ricky Skaggs in June and the Piney Woods Boys Aug. 31.
Assuage your appetite at the Eddy Pub. Don't let the name fool you. This relaxing river overlook is an all-day affair. Locally roasted coffees, specialty teas and baked goods beyond belief give way later to pub classics like fish and chips and shepherd's pie served with NC craft beers.
The menu at the Eddy varies based on what's fresh and available, but the view is always superb. Three levels of outdoor seating overlook the Haw River. Inside, diners can grab a book from the stack and, on concert evenings, enjoy the music from the Haw River Ballroom below.