Love Valley, NC Banned Cars & Is a Real-Life ‘Westworld’ (Kind of)

Love Valley, North Carolina might sound like the fictional setting of a heartwarming movie or show, but it’s a very real place with a unique attitude about cars.

In the popular and confusing HBO series Westworld, people in an indeterminate future travel to a place where intelligent sci-fi robots play cowboys and horses with them. Of course, the show is all about the sci-fi robots, but the idea of going to a place that looks like an Old West town for fun is not new. What (in theory) separates the Old West tourist attractions from the park in the show is that it is populated by people who are, for all intents and purposes, “real.” In this respect, Love Valley and Westworld are very similar.

Love Valley is a town in North Carolina that does not allow cars on its streets. Instead, people ride horses, hitching them to posts outside of the buildings on their main street. The buildings themselves look right out of the history books. And, just like Westworld, you can go there and surround yourself with real people who live a lifestyle we thought had long gone away.

So, This Is a Real Old West Town from the 1800s?

Love Valley may look it was built in the days before the railroad connected the coasts, but it actually has only been around for 64 years. Andy Baker founded the town in 1954 because he always idolized the old west. He had two visions for Love Valley. First, he wanted to create a Christian community, and second, he wanted to live like a cowboy. So, he had the town built like an old-style western community. There is a saloon, a general store, and they have rodeos nearby. The town has a population of about 104, but plenty of tourists come through to check it out.

Credit: Trip Advisor

Despite Baker’s goal to create a community built on Christian morality, Love Valley drew a different crowd. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the small town hosted the annual “Love Valley Rock Festival.” Local farmers complained because rock fans and hippies descended on the town. They called them “drug addicts” and “troublemakers,” but eventually the culture moved on. Today, it’s idyllic little town frequented by tourists who love horseback riding and the Old West feel of the place.

Why Did They Ban Cars?

When the town was incorporated in 1963, cars were booming. It was the industry driving America. Cars were well-designed, loud, and fast, which is precisely why Baker didn’t want them in the town. Remember, he wanted to live in a kind of Little House on the Praire utopia and having Studebakers and stations wagons rolling through town would disrupt that. In the years since, the residents of the town have kept up the practice. Residents do have cars for when they want to travel outside of Love Valley, but in the city limits, it’s all horses and buggies.

Of course, there are other places in the world where they’ve banned cars. Usually it’s for the same reason as in Love Valley, the residents simply don’t want or need them. However, these decisions are also very environmentally friendly. When vehicles burn fuel, they give off lots of emissions that the residents of the town don’t really want to breathe in. There is also the larger benefit to the environment in reducing the output of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Of course, horses produce greenhouse gases, too. 

Love Valley is a nice place to visit if you are comfortable riding horses and have an affinity for the Old West.

While there may be no “violent delights” in the town of Love Valley, it does share some similarities to the fictional Westworld. In fact, they could likely film the show right on the main drag of the town and no viewers would be the wiser. It’s a simpler, but more difficult, way of living. For the hundred or so residents of the town, that’s just how they like it. For the rest of us, it might not be a great lifestyle but it’s definitely a trip you should take. There are hundreds of miles of horse trails near the town. Just don’t rent a car.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, reactions, and experiences in the comments below. Would you want to visit Love Valley? Tell us here or online when you share the article on social media. 

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