Dirty Dancing captured the hearts of many in the late 80’s, and to this day still has not lost any of its appeal. The super catchy I’ve had the time of my life song won an Oscar and became the most popular wedding song of 1987. Forever associated with this movie, you cannot hear this classic without picturing that famous dance number. Unlike some movies which fizzle past their time, Dirty Dancing still attracts a strong cult following. It’s not rare to find airings at classic cinemas. So regardless if you missed it the first time around, you can enjoy the opportunity today to watch the movie how it was meant to be seen on the big screen.
The movie that made Swayze a heartthrob with his famous “nobody puts baby in a corner” line had just about every girl dreaming of being whisked away by a hunky dance instructor. Many couples have tried unsuccessfully to recreate the iconic lift scene, only to end up in the ER. The stars were a bit more lucky considering that they did not even rehearse the ending dance number lift!
In the late 80’s, it seems just about everyone wanted to take a lake vacation, sign up for dance lessons, and most importantly, try that lift scene which Patrick Swayze & Jennifer Grey made look all too easy. The dance water lift scene was filmed in Lake Lure, North Carolina. Today, you have an opportunity to see some of the most iconic Dirty Dancing film sites in this quaint North Carolina lakeside community.
Gorgeous Lake Lure
A cruise on gorgeous Lake Lure is one of the best things to do in the Western North Carolina region. As it is located within an easy hour drive of both Greenville SC and Asheville NC, it makes for a perfect daytrip from either city. Lake Lure, a man made lake, was established in 1965. The lake is 720 acres, with 21 miles of shoreline, and 100 foot deep at certain points. The highlight are the lush green mountains and beautiful granite outcroppings which surround the lake.
National Geographic rated Lake Lure “one of the ten most beautiful lakes in the world.” Besides the terrific scenery, what draws more to the lake is its movie filming history. Numerous films have used the gorgeous lake as a backdrop, most notably Dirty Dancing as mentioned above. The small town has really capitalized on the movie’s popularity with a Dirty Dancing festival each year, plus various memorabilia throughout town.
Although the film was set in New York’s beautiful Catskills region, filmakers came across Lake Lure on a scouting trip and felt that the scenery was reminiscent of that found in the Upstate NY region. The gorgeous mountains and rolling hills surrounding the lake really work as a comparable alternative to the rolling green scenery that draws so many to the Catskills every summer.
A cruise along beautiful Lake Lure
Taking a cruise is the must-do while visiting the area. This is the best way to enjoy the scenery and learn more about the history of the area. The 1 hour long cruises fill up super fast, and unfortunately, no online reservations are available. You must get here at least 45 minutes prior to the cruise to get a seat, or be prepared to wait.
Along the cruise, your tour guide will point out many interesting sites. You will see the first house on the lake, the only house built over the water, the only mobile home on the lake, and many gorgeous mansions including one which ships in sand from the West Coast of Florida. A week here can be yours for only $15,000!
Cruises aside, the lake is a perfect place for any type of recreation. Fishing, water skiing, kayaking, and sailing are all popular here, all summer long. A great diversity of birds live within the Blue Ridge mountains, thus making Lake Lure & Chimney Rock a prime place for birdwatching.
Dirty Dancing film sites
The highlight of the cruise is seeing the exact area where Johnny and Baby practiced their dance lift scenes in the freezing cold water, and also the scene where Baby was practicing her dance scenes on the stairs. Unfortunately, no boats are allowed in this area although the tour guide is kind enough to get as close as possible so you can snap a quick photo.
This is about as close to the stairs as you will get via the cruise
The lodge featured in the movie is actually the Mountain Lake Lodge in Virginia, although the cast did stay at historic Lake Lure Inn. You will come across this beautiful historic property at one point during the cruise. The inn is open to guests to browse around. If you are in town on Sunday, you may want to check out the Veranda Room Sunday Brunch featuring an omelet bar and build your own bloody mary bar.
Note: Leave your cell phone at home as you won’t need it. There are many opportunities for recreation all around the Lake Lure/Chimney Rock area (not to mention the numerous daytrips nearby, so use this time to break free from the tech, if only just for a rejuvenating weekend!
More to do in the Lake Lure region…
Lake Lure visitor center
The visitors center has a few interesting Dirty Dancing photo ops. Movie memorabilia adorn the walls and more detailed info on filming sites is also posted amongst various plaques. While you are here you can also read more about the history of the formation of the lake. This is a good place to kill some time before your cruise takes off.
Lake Lure Flowering Bridge
You will also want to take a walk across the Lake Lure flowering bridge, a collection of gardens which was started along the historic 1925 Rocky Broad River bridge. Assuming you do not have a bee phobia, this is a gorgeous stroll through hundreds of colorful flowers. You will also find a few pretty fountains and a handful or art pieces. You can easily walk here from the cruise parking lot, so it is something to do while waiting for your boat to load. There is no admission charge and the bridge is always open.
A half mile nature trail takes you past the lake. This is more of an easy walk as opposed to a hike, so really great for anyone seeking to enjoy some of the splendor of the area without going all out. The gazebo here is one of the most popular places for weddings.
Lake Lure is conveniently located just a few miles from Chimney Rock State Park, another one of North Carolina’s most popular and beautiful touristy attractions. Combining these 2 attractions makes for the perfect day out enjoying nature and the Blue Ridge mountains.
Chimney Rock is an incredible place to get in a quality workout while simultaneously enjoying a bird’s eye view of the beautiful Blue Ridge scenery. Although getting to this incredible viewpoint involves quite a steep climb of 500 steps! If getting in a monster workout while on vacation does not sound at all appealing, don’t worry as you can opt for an elevator ride up to to the same viewpoint.
Hickory Nut Falls
The hike to Hickory Nut Falls, a magnificent 404 foot waterfall, is definitely a must while you are here. As you are paying $17 to get (much more than other parks in the area), it would be a wise idea to get as much as you can out of that hefty fee! You may remember this waterfall from the Last of the Mohicans. Bonus – 2 movie filming locations in the same area!
Chimney Rock Village
Bigfoot souvenirs, wacky Southern gag gifts, outdoor apparel, Maybery knick knacks, old fashioned general goods…you will find just about everything in this eccentric entertainment district next to Chimney Rock.
- Location: Lake Lure cruises is located at 2930 Memorial Hwy, Lake Lure, NC 28746.
- Pricing: Adults $16, Seniors $14, Youth $7.
- Hours: Tours operate from 11am-5pm(April-May & Sept-Oct) and until 6pm(June-August), first come, first served. Typically 2 boats are taken out each hour. I recommend getting here at least an hour prior to departure to ensure your spot, especially during the prime summer season.
- No pets allowed