Nicknamed “North Carolina’s International City,” High Point is known as the furniture capital of the world. Twice a year–in April and October–designers, buyers, exhibitors and media from across the globe flock to the city to see the latest in home and design trends.
Situated in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina (which also includes neighboring cities Greensboro and Winston-Salem), High Point is home to a mix of cultures, in terms of both ethnic diversity and socioeconomic status. At first glance, with its many textile and furniture manufacturing plants, the area seems to be a blue-collar, working-class town. Look at little closer, though, and you’ll see hints of old and new money, like the Bentley showroom on Main Street, the country club homes along Eastchester Drive and the sprawling campus of High Point University.
Driving through High Point’s quaint downtown, you’ll find an abundance of furniture showrooms. Many of these lavish spaces sit empty most of the year, but come market, the streets are filled with activity, and the whole downtown comes alive with parties and exhibitions. High Point Market attracts an average of 75,000 visitors–an impressive feat for a town of 110,000–including celebrities such as Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, Oscar de la Renta, Paula Deen and Kathy Ireland.
High Point University is another crown jewel of the region. What started as a small Methodist college is now one of the most prestigious and financially successful private universities in the country. Its sprawling campus is impressive indeed, with its shiny stadiums, wrought iron fencing and state-of-the-art facilities.
Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the Piedmont Environmental Center, which has eco-tours, guided nature walks, a lake, and 11 miles of hiking trails through beautiful hardwood and pine forests. There is also a lake where guests can enjoy boating and sailing. Leashed pets are welcome, and you’ll find a picnic area to enjoy snacks or simply take in the picturesque views.
Adjacent to the Environmental Center is the High Point Greenway. A work in progress, the Greenway will eventually connect High Point with Greensboro, to the east. For now, you’ll find nine miles of paved paths that weave through the city. If you’d prefer to meander on wheels instead, rent a bike from a local shop or bring your own. There are plenty of places to stop, plant yourself in a sunny spot and take a load off under a Carolina blue sky.
High Point may not have the size or fame of other North Carolina cities, but it is surely an up-and-coming destination. A downtown revitalization plan, led by High Point University President Nido Qubein, includes a baseball stadium, an events center, a children’s museum and a park with a free educational movie theater. The baseball stadium is on track to be completed in the spring of 2019, bringing a much-needed, year-round focal point to the area.
If you’re visiting High Point, use this guide as a starting point, but remember: this is the South, famous for its warm hospitality. Friendly locals are always willing to offer suggestions, so smile, wave and don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with a stranger.
For those traveling to High Point for business, market, or furniture shopping, the area has a range of lodging options. If luxury is your thing, stay at the JH Adams Inn (1108 N Main St.). This historic boutique hotel in the heart of downtown has 31 rooms, each decorated individually with furniture collections from around the world. There is also an elegant on-site restaurant, Christina Gray’s, that serves upscale versions of Southern favorites like shrimp n’ grits, pork barbecue, meatloaf and fried green tomatoes.
Also on the smaller side, with 38 rooms, the Atrium Inn (425 S Main St.) features spacious rooms with sitting areas and ceiling fans, and is within easy walking distance of the International Home Furnishings Center (the epicenter of furniture market). Pandora’s Manor (407 W. High Ave.) is a lovely bed and breakfast with six rooms in a 100-year-old plantation style home. Six prominent interior designers were given free reign to design their dream room, and each is stunning, plush and inspiring. For the ultimate in convenience, the Radisson(135 S Main St.) is just steps from the IHFC and has an on-site bistro, workout facilities, a pool and a business center.
High Point’s diversity and “international city” nickname is reflected in the city’s dining scene. Case in point: Sumela (805 N Main St.). Tucked in an unassuming strip mall, this Turkish and Mediterranean restaurant serves dishes varied enough to please large groups as well as picky eaters. The menu provides many vegetarian and vegan options (think baba ghanoush, hummus, spanakopita, stuffed grape leaves and tabbouleh) along with the selection of succulent kebabs and traditional dishes like kofte, durum adana and chicken souvlaki.
For top notch, upscale Asian cuisine, head for 98 Asian Bistro (1800 N Main St.). Inside, the giant Buddha statue and soothing waterfall build a zen vibe. Correspondingly, the service here is warm and attentive. The owner, Tu, regularly strolls the dining room, checking in with regulars and introducing herself to first-time visitors. Pho fans can surely get their fix here, but the menu doesn’t stop there. Choose from fresh, consistent, expertly-prepared traditional dishes like pad thai, larb salad and curries complemented by a respectable wine and spirits selection.
For a taste of France, take a seat at Penny Path Cafe and Crepe Shop (104 Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr.). Named for the meandering trail of pennies that leads guests from the front door to the counter, this cute café has a European feel and serves both sweet and savory crepes. The lemon and Nutella are perennial favorites, as is the red pepper and feta. Along with the penny path, the design features other recycled materials. Penny Path is a perfect brunch spot, and kids love watching the chefs prepare meals on traditional crepe pans.
For quick lunches or a hearty breakfast, Plaza Cafe (336 S Main St.) has you covered. This straightforward diner is a High Point institution, adored for its great location downtown, ample free parking, quick service and excellent prices. The owner, Alex, makes it his business to be on-site every day, greeting customers, doling out handshakes and friendly words, and making sure the family business stays on course. The dated decor is part of the homey charm. On the menu you’ll find traditional breakfast items, salads, sandwiches, and “meat and three” lunch plates with Southern sides. Everything is homemade. Bring cash or use the on-site ATM.
Looking for a cool coffee shop to hang out or get some work done? Look no further than DeBeen Espresso (709 W Lexington Ave.). A combo café and yoga studio, the space is bright, cheery and well-lit, including a stunning fountain with live koi fish, art, locally-made goods. The outstanding coffee selection uses fair trade beans. And, don’t even get us started on the bountiful snack selection! De Been also hosts open mic nights and mixers. Be sure to check their website for special event specifics.
If you’re more in the mood for fine dining, make a reservation at Marisol (5834 High Point Rd., Greensboro). Considered one of the best restaurants in North Carolina, Marisol is technically in Greensboro, but lies right on the edge of the High Point border and is well-worth the easy 15-minute drive from downtown. The menu changes regularly, inspired by global influences and prepared using fresh, local ingredients. With an impressive wine list to match the creative menu, Marisol works equally well for business dinners, romantic date nights and group celebrations.
Being the furniture capital of the world, you’ll find showrooms galore around town. The largest is Furnitureland South (5635 Riverdale Dr., Jamestown). You can’t miss it–Furnitureland is the building that looks like a giant chest-of-drawers just off Business 85. With an astounding 1.3 million square feet of showroom space, the company retails more than 500 brands of furniture and home accessories. Even if you are not into furniture, perusing the space has been known to spark contagious design inspiration. If you’re in town in June, there’s an annual garage sale (literally located in the massive parking garage) where you can score incredible deals on floor samples and discontinued items.
Those who appreciate shabby chic will love The Market (141 West Lexington Ave.). Not to be confused with the biannual event, this rustic shop has a country farmhouse vibe and an ever-changing inventory of reclaimed and refurbished items. Antique vases and vessels, home decor and handmade items are interspersed amongst locally-made artisan products. A trip here is like going on a high-end treasure hunt.
High style, smart design and a touch of whimsy: that’s what Persnickety (1800 N Main St.) brings to the High Point shopping scene. Here you’ll find a mix of new items, market samples (pieces that were only used briefly in showrooms) and high-end consignment items. Persnickety’s team members are experts at mixing textures and price points, ranging from massive chandeliers to leather-bound books, modern sofas to vegan taxidermy. You’ll find most items to be delightfully affordable–especially compared to some of the big name showrooms.
There’s a lot to love about High Point, so naturally you’ll want to take a piece of it home. For mementos and gifts, stop by Authentic NC Goods (1701 N Main St.) before you head home. Everything here comes from North Carolina producers. This shop is heavy on food items–after all, Southerners are known for their cooking! Look for items like stone-ground grits, jams, pottery, jewelry, soaps, candles and art. During furniture market, they sell gift baskets as well, which can be personalized. Not sure what to include? Ask the helpful staff to help you build around a North Carolina theme.