Get ready to increase your followers on social media. Wilson’s art scene is exploding with murals, public art, and revamped gas stations living a new life as galleries. Grab your selfie stick and perfect your angles for this two-day tour which will inspire you with wind-powered sculptures, thought-provoking photographs, and craftworks that will have you reimagining the ordinary. Ready, set, snap.
2 days | 14 stops
STOP 1: Flo’s Kitchen
Best. Biscuits. Ever. The restaurant’s cathead biscuits are larger than your fist, buttery as all get-out, and oozing gooey hoop cheese. Flo’s serves other diner-variety fare, but biscuits have always been the lifeblood here. Customize it with crispy chicken, tenderloin, sausage, eggs, bacon, or what-have-you--you won’t regret it.
STOP 2: The Selkie
Shop The Selkie and walk away with funky, artisan pieces to customize your wardrobe and your home. Just a short walk from the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, this unconventional gift shop celebrates North Carolina creatives from across the state. Don’t miss the handmade leather jewelry by owner Amanda Duncan or the interactive Art-o-mat machine which dispenses miniature art.
STOP 3: Iconostar Art
Inside the stark white, former gas station that holds Iconostart Art, you’ll find bright, bold, beautifully provocative art. Giant, mosaic sculptures will be the first thing to catch your eye. The signature pieces of artist Elizabeth Laul Healy fill this contemporary working studio and shop. Get up close to appreciate the intricate detail. Spend some time studying the vivid paintings, t-shirts, and jewelry--they’re anything but boring.
STOP 4: Barnes Corner Gallery
Looking for the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend or family member? How about a beautiful glass sculpture or a one-of-kind portrait of your child or pet? Look no further than the Barnes Corner Gallery. Find pieces from local and regional artists the moment you walk through the door. From pottery to paintings, every piece of art tells a story in a different medium. Even the building itself has a story to tell. . .first built as a saloon in 1900, it was a furniture store, and even a funeral home before it became an inspiring space that celebrates the arts.
STOP 5: Dick’s Hot Dogs
Family-owned Dick’s Hotdog Stand has been around for almost a century. A bit of a museum in itself, its walls are adorned with photos of celebrities, athletes, politicians, and other notables who wandered in over the past decades. But make no mistake, the only true stars in this restaurant are its famous hot dogs. Each is cooked up and slapped in a fresh bun for your dining pleasure. Add some slaw, mustard and maybe some original chili. Then prepare to have your taste buds applaud. Yes, they’re that good.
STOP 6: Whirligig Park & Museum
Vollis Simpson never called himself an artist, but the New York Times did. The farm machinery repairman had a way of turning metal scraps into magnificent things. Road signs were welded to plows and fastened to bicycles and washing machine parts. He created sculptures that, with the slightest breeze, would come alive –spinning, dancing, jangling. Inside the park that bears his name you’ll find 30 kinetic sculptures. Some are over 50 feet in height. Stop by and look at the sky on a windy day. You’ll be amazed. You’ll be inspired. You’ll never think of junk the same way again.
STOP 7: Raleigh Road Garden Center
This roadside garden center comes with its own petting zoo. Come for the flowers, herbs, and seasonal plants, stay to pet the friendly goats and gawk at the peacocks and pigs. The free roaming chickens will welcome some feed. Visit before an upcoming special occasion or holiday and you’ll be hard-pressed to walk away without the perfect gift for your loved one.
STOP 8: Beefmastor
This little restaurant in Wilson is known for not really having a menu at all. They serve ribeye steak, a baked potato and salad. That’s it. The owners wanted to keep things simple and concentrate on doing one thing well. Judging by the size of the crowds tailgating in the parking lot, it seems to be working out for them. So if you’re hungry for ribeye, and only ribeye, pop on over for a not-so-quick bite.
STOP 9: Wilson Donut
They say you can’t buy happiness. But you can buy donuts and that’s kind of the same thing. That’s why we recommend you stop by the Wilson Donut Shop. This place has been a fixture in Wilson since God was a boy. They serve a full menu for breakfast and lunch. But who are we kidding? You’re here for those circular bites of heaven. Grab some chocolate Iced and cream filled donuts. Or pick up some giant eclairs and blueberry poppers. Either way, your sweet tooth will find just what it’s craving.
STOP 10: Wilson Arts Center
Walk into the immense space at the Wilson Arts Center and try not to gawk. Formerly a Roses department store, this lovingly restored, bright gallery space now features a cleverly curated display of art exhibitions and a large gift shop. The gallery welcomes a rotating cast of community and professional artists and their works. The gallery shop
STOP 11: Eyes on Main Street
The windows of two storefronts of Goldsboro Street give you a glimpse into one of Wilson’s most intriguing galleries. Eyes on Main Street showcases exhibits from local and international artists. Each fall, the exhibit takes to the streets and visitors are invited to walk through an outdoor gallery of epic proportions at the annual Eyes on Main Street Festival. Nine city blocks in the downtown historic district showcase large-scale photographs in storefront windows, on walls, and buildings. Brilliant snapshots of life from other parts of the world stand out in stark contrast to the historic buildings that act as their gallery walls. Starting in October, the festival runs for 150 days and showcases 100 photographers from 38 countries. This mile-long art walk is not to be missed.
STOP 12: Ruckus & Redemption
When the drink menu includes a signature cocktail called Gunshot Bicycle Man, you know the meal is going to be a topic of conversation. That’s exactly what you get at Ruckus & Redemption. Located just a block from the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, this unpretentious little restaurant offers some big flavors to satisfy any appetite. The food is American with a Southern kick. Burgers are served topped with pimento cheese. Brussel sprouts are fried with pork belly. Cocktails go down easy. Maybe too easy. Come hungry and with a belt you can loosen a couple notches.
STOP 13: Artisan Leaf
See tobacco leaves transformed into art. Wilson’s local fields once overflowed with thick, hairy stems and large simple oval leaves. Today, their fields are not quite as abundant with tobacco, but one local store has found a new way to bring this cash crop back to life and, in the process, pay respects to local history. In this gallery, tobacco leaves are not cured and smoked. They are manipulated into various works of art. They are pressed into tables. They are affixed into wall panels. They are transformed into amber-veined tabletops, mugs, plates and vases. Each piece is as unique as the leaf it was created from.
STOP 14: Art Happens on Tarboro
Make your own stained glass creation at Art Happens on Tarboro. Try your hand at crafts of all kinds at this studio. Though best known for their stained glass instruction from artist Kim S. Joy, the studio also offers classes in jewelry making and mixed media art. The artist’s jewelry and works are also available for sale. Shop or take a class, you’ll walk home with something special.