Is Andy Griffith’s Mayberry a real town? That depends on who you ask. In our experience, many folks living in Mount Airy NC would like to believe so.
As you walk down Main Street in this friendly little North Carolina town, you can’t help but notice the many homages to The Andy Griffith Show.
Of all the characters Andy Griffith played in his 7-decade career, none is more beloved than Sheriff Andy Taylor. The immensely popular show ran from 1960-1968, but still lives on in syndication today.
The fictitious town of Mayberry was clearly based on Griffith’s hometown of Mt Airy NC. The Snappy Lunch diner was mentioned in the “Andy the Matchmaker” episode, as was the nearby town of “Mount Pilot.”
Visiting The Andy Griffith Museum was just the beginning of our tour of the charming town. We later hopped in a vintage police car and drove around Griffith’s hometown while learning more about Mount Airy history.
You can also check out a show at the Andy Griffith Playhouse, and drive by (or even spend a night at) the actor’s childhood home.
Even the restaurants in Mt Airy pay tribute to the many adored characters from the show, and Mayberry-related knick-knacks can be bought from just about every souvenir shop in town.
Read on for our guide to visiting the Andy Griffith Museum in Mt Airy NC, including info on museum hours, cost of admission, history, and other attractions where you can indulge in Mayberry nostalgia.
The Andy Griffith Museum Info
ADDRESS: 218 Rockford Street, Mount Airy NC 27030
PHONE: (336) 786-1604
HOURS: Mon-Sat 9AM-5PM; Sun 1PM-5PM. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
COST OF ENTRY: $8 per adult, or $6 for ages 12 & under. Includes admission to additional Surry Arts Council exhibits.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS FROM ASHEVILLE
Leaving Asheville on I-240 E, in 3.7 miles, use the left 2 lanes to merge onto I-40 E toward Statesville. In 2.6 miles continue on to stay on the I-40 E.
In 70.8 miles, keep left to stay on I-40 E. Continue for 26.1 miles then take exit 152B to merge onto the I-77 N.
In 48.5 miles, take exit 100 to NC-89 towards Mount Airy/Galax. After 8.4 miles, take a right onto NC 89 E/W Pine St. Continue for another 8.3 miles before turning right onto Graves St.
In 322 ft, take a right into Rockford St. The museum will be on your right. The parking lot is next to the Andy Griffith Playhouse, with the museum just beyond it.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Visit in North Carolina for 2023
A Short History of Andy Griffith’s Career
Born on June 1, 1926, in Mount Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith was a beloved US actor best-known for his portrayal of Sheriff Andy Taylor on the hit ’60s sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show.
A talented singer and musician, Griffith started out as an actor in the 1940s, playing Sir Walter Raleigh in The Lost Colony, a historical play about Roanoke Island that is still performed today.
After getting his Bachelor of Music degree from UNC in Chapel Hill, he gained national notoriety as an actor for his role as Air Force draftee Will Stockdale in his 1955 Broadway debut, No Time For Sergeants.
He ultimately earned a Tony Award nomination for the role, and later co-starred with Don Knotts in the film adaptation. No Time For Sergeants was said to be a direct inspiration for Andy Griffith Show spin-off Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.
But this was not Griffith’s first film success. He made his movie debut in the 1957 drama A Face in the Crowd, and he went on to earn a second Tony Award nomination for his role in the musical Destry Rides Again.
After the great success of The Andy Griffith Show in the 1960s, he and many of the original cast members reprised their roles in the 1986 TV movie, Return to Mayberry.
Griffith went on to star in a number of other movies, and as lawyer Matlock in the TV series of the same name. He was also a renowned singer, winning a Grammy in 1997 for his album, I Love to Tell the Story—25 Timeless Hymns.
Andy Griffith passed away at the age of 86 on July 3, 2012, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where he was buried on Roanoke Island.
READ MORE: 10 Great Train Rides in North Carolina
History of The Andy Griffith Museum
This special Mayberry museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia, with hundreds of artifacts relating to the actor’s personal life and career on display.
Some of the exhibits were donated to The Andy Griffith Museum by Griffith himself, while others were donated by co-stars of his various TV shows and movies.
But many of the artifacts were actually given to the museum by Mount Airy local Emmett Forrest, who was a childhood friend of Andy Griffith’s.
His large collection of Andy Griffith-related paraphernalia was finally collated in its current home in 2009.
Forrest died in 2013, but his passion to preserve the legacy of Andy Griffith continues.
The Andy Griffith Museum in Mt Airy underwent a major renovation in 2017, which has enhanced the experience of the museum’s thousands of annual visitors.
READ MORE: 7 Covered Bridges in North Carolina You Can Visit in 1 Day
The Andy Griffith Museum Overview
The Mount Airy Andy Griffith Museum building is tucked behind the Andy Griffith Playhouse and nestled among beautiful gardens with colorful flowers.
The building’s foyer shows photos of Emmet Forrest, Andy Griffith, and other images of the museum’s history.
A staff member gives you your own Sheriff Badge (actually just a sticker) to wear as you meander through the compact, but well-packed exhibitions.
As you read about Andy’s past and feel starstruck by the actual Andy Taylor uniform before you, some of the most popular episodes of the TV show play in the background.
Other cool exhibits feature suits, hats, and other costumes worn by Andy’s famous partner, Barney Fife (a.k.a. Don Knotts), as well as the iconic Goober hat worn by actor George Lindsey.
At the center of the museum, large replicas of the Mayberry Courthouse doors sport the original “Sheriff” and “Justice of the Peace” signs. You can also stand at the foot of Sheriff Taylor’s desk and watch an episode of the show.
As you leave, The Andy Griffith Museum gift shop offers a chance to buy souvenirs, including DVDs, books, and CDs celebrating Sheriff Andy Taylor and the other residents of Mayberry.
After you head out the door, go down the steps to continue the tour. In an adjacent building, you’ll find a separate collection of Betty Lynn memorabilia.
You may remember that Lynn played Thelma Lou, Deputy Barney Fife’s girlfriend, and ultimately became a resident of Mount Airy. She lived there and made frequent appearances at the museum until her death in 2021.
This building is also home to a small exhibit focused on “The Original Siamese Twins,” Chang and Eng Bunker, curated by The Surry Arts Council.
In front of the museum, make sure to stop for a look at the bronze statue of Andy and Opie with their fishing poles. This statue was actually the second one made, with the original one located in Raleigh NC.
Griffith himself lobbied to have another statue made for the Mount Airy museum, where he attended the statue’s dedication on September 24, 2004.
READ MORE: The 20 Best NC Swimming Holes for Summer
More Andy Griffith-Related Attractions
If visiting the museum (which some folks call “the Andy Griffith Show Museum”) hasn’t quenched your thirst on your Mayberry pilgrimage, there are plenty of other fun things to do in Mount Airy NC, and many a photo op to be had!
Squad Car Tours
625 S. Main St, Mt. Airy NC • (336) 789-6743
Taking one of the Mayberry Squad Car Tours feels like stepping into a scene from the show.
Costumed “deputies” sit on rocking chairs outside of Wally’s Fillin’ Station waiting to take you on a tour of Mount Airy, with a row of vintage Ford squad cars at the ready.
After piling into one of the squad cars, our cheerful tour guide was eager to drive us around his hometown and tell tales of Mount Airy and all its Andy Griffith connections.
We started at the local granite mine, where we learned how Mount Airy got its nickname, “The Granite City.” Then we were shown a number of historic buildings that were made from this special granite.
Afterwards, we couldn’t help but spot granite almost everywhere we looked as we explored the charming town.
We swung by the Andy Griffith home place and an amazing mural of the actor, and cruised through downtown Mt Airy, with the siren blasting any time the driver was feeling a bit cheeky.
Finally we got back to Wally’s, where we were led into a replica of the Mayberry Courthouse.
Inside, you can’t help but imagine Barney clumsily navigating the space, Andy sitting at his desk giving Opie some sage advice, and town drunk Otis sobering up behind the bars.
READ MORE: The 10 Best North Carolina Mountain Resorts to Visit
Andy Griffith Playhouse
218 Rockford Street, Mount Airy NC • (336) 786-7998
Located right next to The Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, the Playhouse was actually built on the site once occupied by Griffith’s elementary school.
It was there, as a child, that he made his amateur acting debut in the 1930s.
Run by the Surry Arts Council, the Playhouse is the center of Mt Airy’s cultural arts scene. The venue is host to many concerts, theatrical productions, and annual festivals.
Tickets can be bought at the Playhouse box office, or by calling the Surry Arts Council.
READ MORE: The 20 Best North Carolina Music Festivals
Andy Griffith Homeplace
711 E Haymore St, Mt Airy NC • (336) 789-5999
Andy Griffith lived with his mother and father in this humble My Airy house until he graduated from high school.
Today, the house is decorated true to its 1930/1940s style, and boasts some wonderful Griffith memorabilia.
True fans can even spend a night in the Andy Griffith house and imagine what life was like for him way back when.
His house has two bedrooms with full-size beds, a back porch with a seating area, and space for 5 guests.
The property is within walking distance of downtown Mount Airy, with breakfast provided by the nearby Hampton Inn Hotel.
Those who just wish to drive by the house should remember to be respectful of the paying guests inside.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Treehouse Rentals in the North Carolina Mountains
A Walk Through Downtown Mount Airy
Just walking down Mt Airy’s Main Street, you can’t help but admire the town’s love for The Andy Griffith Show.
The Andy Griffith police car is permanently parked outside a souvenir shop, and even unrelated businesses have posters, paintings, and other nods to some of the show’s best-loved characters.
Visitors can pop into Floyd’s City Barber Shop to see a wall dedicated to fans (some of whom are famous celebrities) who have stopped in for a trim.
Fans can also grab a sandwich at Snappy Lunch, a baked treat at Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies, a bag of sweets at Opie’s Candy Store, a beer at The Loaded Goat, breakfast at Barney’s Cafe, or burgers at Leon’s Burger Express.
Finally, be sure to take the time to head over to the corner of Moore Avenue and N Renfro Street (behind The Loaded Goat) to see the jaw-dropping Andy Griffith mural by Greensboro artist Jeks.
Created in May 2022 using spray paint, the photorealistic mural depicts the different stages of Andy’s career and is set upon a background image of nearby Pilot Mountain.
READ MORE: The 25 Best Western NC Small Towns To Visit (and Live In!)
The Andy Griffith Fishing Hole
Not to end on a disappointing note, but visitors in search of the fishin’ hole seen in the opening titles of The Andy Griffith Show will need to buy a plane ticket to Los Angeles CA.
The iconic scene that accompanied the show’s whistling theme song was actually filmed in LA’s Franklin Canyon Park. –by Emma Gallagher; all photos by Emma Gallagher unless otherwise noted