Practice your Dirty Dancing lifts in the manmade lake where Johnny Castle himself did.
In the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains rests a 720-acre manmade bit of heaven known as Lake Lure, although film fans may know it better as the lake where Johnny Castle taught Baby to lift.
While it looks like a naturally occurring feature, the body of water now known as Lake Lure didn’t appear until 1927. The area was slowly settled starting in 1902, and by 1925, a power company had come to the area to establish a dam on the Broad River. Once the river was dammed, the lake only took a couple of years to fill up, and a brand new rustic lake town was formed.
While it is beautiful in its own right, the lake and its attendant town are likely more recognizable from films than from family vacations. Most notably, the lake is seen in Dirty Dancing. Scenic areas in and around the lake, as well as the Fairfield Inn, were also used for some of the filming locations. The staff cabins were demolished not long after production, but the steps to the bridge are still there. The town even started an annual Dirty Dancing Festival in 2010, and in 2013, began donating part of the proceeds to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in memory of Patrick Swayze.
Other movies shot in the area include Last of the Mohicans and Firestarter, but it’s the memories of dance and romance that keep the lake alive.
After miraculously surviving a giant flood, the 19th-century nut tree and its offspring are protected with their own tiny park.
The area once known as Gumbo Flats, now referred to as “The Valley” by locals, is home to fine dining, outlet stores, fall pumpkin patches, and a little grove of stalwart pecan trees that has survived the Great Flood and other tests of time. The first tree (the monarch tree) was planted more than a century ago, and the three younger ones around it sprouted from its nuts.
In 1993, when the Midwest was devastated by the Great Flooding of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, Chesterfield’s 100-year levee couldn’t withstand the raging waters. As happened in many rural towns and cities, the backwaters seeped in, filling the valley with as much as 15 feet of floodwater that destroyed the area’s farmland and existing businesses.
The businesses may have fallen, but, miraculously, the pecan grove did not.
While the city was rebuilding the area, these trees became protected by a new 500-year levee, and a monarch tree ordinance was passed, preventing commercial development of the land they occupy.
To further protect and celebrate the longevity of the four trees, a half-acre park was built around them, giving both passersby and nearby retail workers a place to rest. In 2016, when the park was dedicated, a fifth tree was planted. In addition, Julie Sesti, a local artist, was commissioned to sculpt a life-sized bronze tribute to the Bayer and Brasher families who once farmed the area and planted the original tree in the 1890s.
For now, the future looks bright for this sturdy cluster of trees. Missouri pecan trees tend to thrive in the nutrient-rich, bottomland “gumbo” soil that this area provides. The largest tree has a trunk circumference of about 14 feet and stands around 70 feet tall. Healthy pecan trees can grow to 100-150 feet tall and yield nuts for up to 225 years, so this tiny park could be offering a nutty snack and a spot of shade for hundreds of years!
When you step out of your car and onto McCrackin Street, the nearby roar of water flowing over the Juilette Mill dam, the lonesome train whistle somewhere in the distance, and the aroma of southern hospitality will transport you back in time and onto the movie set of Fried Green Tomatoes.
The film is based on Fannie Flagg’s novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. The building that would come to play a major role in the movie was built in 1927 and served as a general store fit for a Norman Rockwell painting the next 45 years.
Industry slowed mid century; the mill shut down its operations in ‘57 and merchants couldn’t keep their doors open. Juliette, Georgia had become a sleepy little place until 1991, when the filming of Fried Green Tomatoes revitalized the community.
After productions, the buildings owner turned it into a thriving cafe where patrons can enjoy authentic fried green tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. If you look out back, you’ll see the outdoor kitchen where Big George would wipe his brow while he barbecued. Inside, you’ll be expecting to hear Idgie and Ruth having a food fight in the kitchen, or Sipsey telling another table that the “secret’s in the sauce.”
If you'd like a taste of the cafe's menu, be sure to call ahead for reservations.