Mount Airy offers affordable trip down memory lane

Pack a picnic and plan for the past. Mayberry is just about two hours away.

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MOUNT AIRY, N.C. — Pack a picnic and plan for the past. Mayberry is just about two hours away.

Head west on Interstate 40, then north on U.S. Highway 52 for budget family fun in Mount Airy, the real-life town that claims to be the inspiration for Andy and Opie’s television home.

"We're the friendliest town in the world,” Jessica Icenhour, of the town’s tourism bureau said. “When you walk down the street, people wave. Everyone says hello, everyone smiles."

The drive from Raleigh to Mount Airy is about 140 miles. Along the way, you can stop at Pilot Mountain State Park. Admission is free, and from 1,400 feet above sea level, you can look down on the many birds stalking their prey.

Danny Brown took his family to Pilot Mountain for the cost of "just a few gallons of gas," he said.

When you arrive in Mount Airy, stop by Floyd’s City Barber Shop on Main Street. It is the real thing. Russell Hiatt says he even cut Andy Griffith's hair.

For $8, your child can sit in Hiatt’s barber chair.

"You'd be surprised at the number of people that'll bring their kids here for their first haircut," he said.

Koyu Inoue took home on his head a memento of his visit to Mount Airy. "I decided to get a hair cut for my experience and my memories," he said.

If you behave in the barber shop, treat yourself next door in Opie's Candy Store.

The Andy Griffith Playhouse on Rockford Street features a collection of memorabilia from Andy himself. Admission costs $3, but children 12 and under can get in for free.

Kevin Green visited Mount Airy from Tennessee. He brought some friends from Louisiana. He estimated the group would spend less than $100 on gas, food and fun on their visit.

Children will also enjoy a visit to the North Carolina Granite Corporation, the world's largest open-pit granite mine, located just on the outskirts of town.

The quarry does not offer tours, but you can sit on the overlook for hours and watch the work.

"Kids love it. They just ooh and ahh," the company’s vice president, Kenny Moles, said.

If you can spend the evening, the Bright Leaf Drive-in Theatre on Andy Griffith Parkway offers another taste of the past.

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