Local Area Guide: Things to do / Activities / Attractions
High Country Life
The North Carolina High Country encompasses multiple counties (Ashe, Watauga, Avery, Allegheny, Caldwell mountains) and the towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, West Jefferson, Banner Elk, Beech Mountain, and Newland, and Sparta as well as other unincorporated communities such as Valle Crucis. It is home to Appalachian State University as well as Lees McCrae College and Caldwell Community College and offers a diverse blend of cultural, educational and entertainment options provided by these institutions.
Our mountain music and cultural heritage is celebrated in nationally known events such as Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Merlefest, as well as other music festivals throughout the year. We have wonderful Farmer’s Markets in Boone, Blowing Rock, and West Jefferson to support our many small farms producing high quality produce and many organic choices.
Like your upscale small scale? Blowing Rock is big enough to have multiple fine dining options, luxury boutiques, antique shops, custom jewelry, art galleries, festivals and snow skiing, but small enough to dress up the grandchildren and march in the 4th of July parade, or claim a park bench for a round of people watching any time of the year. Grand mountain scenery is the perfect backdrop for a myriad of outdoor activities, and the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is close by. With John’s River Gorge to the west and Blackberry Gorge to the east, the town of Blowing Rock and its surrounds offer some amazing views in a variety of settings. Protected by thousands of acres of Pisgah National Forest and Park Service lands, the town of Blowing Rock has its own beautiful little parks as well as access to hiking/walking at Bass Lake, Trout Lake, Price Lake and all the miles and miles of trails in the Julian Price and Moses Cone Parks.
Boone is a bustling college town with the university literally adjacent to the town, so all the activity and shopping and dining choices one would expect in such a setting are there. The Appalcart offers free transportation to all area residents, not just the student population and the ASU Schaeffer Center hosts world class entertainment throughout the year. The restaurant scene is lively and offers great choices from sushi bars to Indian cuisine and everything in between. The Greenway trail offers paved walking/ biking along the banks of the New River, and Rocky Knob Park welcomes mountain bikers as well as hikers. Boone is the center of the North Carolina High Country.
Avery County is home to several well known private golf clubs such as Linville Ridge, Elk River, Diamond Creek, and Grandfather as well as the ski areas of Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain. Grandfather Mountain towers over all and is not to be missed with its mile high swinging bridge, nature center, vast views and serious hiking opportunities.
In Ashe County, the north and south forks of the New River offer scenic building sites and canoeing, tubing and fishing. With its beautiful mountain scenery and varied topography, this part of the High Country appeals to many and has many options for more rural living but with the towns of Jefferson and West Jefferson providing amenities and dining/shopping options. Two golf courses– Mountain Aire and Jefferson Landing are just minutes from the Jeffersons.
Providing expansive views of the mountains and meadows, several zip line companies are located in the area. Soar over the majestic mountains for an aerial view or go cliff-jumping. Or challenge yourself at an aerial adventure park.
Creativity is abundant in this mountain community, and each town has several arts and crafts galleries. Arts councils featuring classes and exhibits are located in Boone and West Jefferson. Here are a few other suggestions:
Here in the High Country you will not ever be bored, as in addition to activities, we have a multitude of attractions for the entire family. Nationally known popular attractions include the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain, Tweetsie Railroad, the original Mast General Store, Mystery Hill and many others.
The more hidden scenery of the area can be accessed through several back roads providing scenic drives through Avery, Watauga and Ashe counties. Feel free to try a few of these or explore our mountains on your own.
The High Country offers challenging mountain biking, leisurely scenic road biking, and greenways to appeal to any type of cyclist. Easy bike rides include the Greenway Trail in Boone (6 miles), the Watauga River Road in Valle Crucis (8 miles) and Railroad Grade Road in Todd (10 miles), while moderate bike rides include the Junuluska Road Ride (14 miles) and Eighteen Mile Road in the Wilson Creek recreation area. For more strenuous mountain biking adventures, you can explore the Wilson’s Creek recreation area and Linville Gorge area.
Rock & Ice magazine named Boone one of the top ten climbing towns in the US, and the area offers a range of climbing locations and for all skill levels. Grandfather Mountain and the Linville Gorge have several popular climbing areas, and area outdoor outfitters provide information and guided activities.
View traditional, organic, sustainable, flower, and tree farms in the region. Contact the farms for hours and directions.
Whatever your interests or the season, this area hosts a variety of festivals and special events throughout the year. Some of these include the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, an Appalachian Summer Festival, Sugar Mountain Oktoberfest, Valle Country Fair, the Woolly Worm Festival, Blowing Rock Art in the Park, the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show, and Savor! Blowing Rock wine festival. Outdoor concerts are held in the summer in Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk, while various arts and crafts community festivals offer lots to see and experience. Discover our small town parades and various festivals to celebrate the holidays. Check these sources for event calendars.
Offering many opportunities for either beginning or experienced anglers, this area lives up to its reputation as among the best fishing destinations in the southeast. The region has miles of scenic rivers and streams and several area lakes. Area outfitters can guide you to the best fishing opportunities, or you can get a guaranteed catch at a local trout farm.
A true mountain-specific activity, the fun and educational aspects of gem mining are enjoyed by the entire family. At various local gem mining establishments, you can mine for hidden precious and semi-precious gems in troughs of water. Knowledgeable staff members assist to identify your treasures and assist you with designing jewelry with your find.
With public and private golf areas, your options range from Par 3 courses, championship length, public layouts, and to nationally-renowned private resort courses. Public tennis courts are located in Boone and Blowing Rock, and private clubs and resorts provide many other courts for tennis players. Contacts for several public golf courses include the following:
Ranging from challenging backcountry hiking to easy family strolls, the High Country offers many types of hiking adventures. Favorite family friendly hikes include Bass Lake off the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Town of Boone Greenway, while more strenuous hikes include several higher altitude hikes at Grandfather Mountain State Park and Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Majestic scenic waterfalls can be found along trails at Crabtree Falls, Linville Falls, The Cascades and Glen Burney Falls.
A few popular and not-to-be-missed hikes include:
As one of the best equestrian travel destinations in the South, the region offers stables, riding programs, and miles of bridle trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show held in June and July attracts equestrians from all over, and the Moses Cone Estate on the Blue Ridge Parkway contain miles of recreational riding trails through forests, meadows and around lakes. Several companies in the area provide guided rides and rental mounts.
The High Country hosts several professional musical, theatrical , and dance ensembles, including Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre, Ensemble Stage, Mountain Home Music, and Horn in the West outdoor drama. The Blue Ridge Music Trail includes several sites for music in the area ranging from old general stores, parks, and schools. Also, Appalachian State University and Lees-McRae College sponsor many concerts, theatre and musical events.Different bands perform at area restaurants and venues.
Abundant parks and playgrounds are located in the High Country and include the following: Blowing Rock Park, Green Valley Community Park, Elk Knob State Park, the Boone Tot Lot, Valle Crucis Park, and Rocky Knob, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and Julian Price Memorial Park. Community recreation centers such as Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation and the Watauga County Parks and Recreation offer swimming pools, tennis courts, basketball courts, and recreational programs and special events.
If seeking adventures, you can brave the rapids or take a relaxing tubing float down the New River. Canoeing local lakes is a popular, leisurely activity as well. Several local outdoor outfitters can set you up with whatever experience you are seeking. Here are a couple favorites:
With specialty stores, outlet malls, outdoor sports shops, art galleries, craft venues, and antique stores, the towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk provide a variety of shopping experiences. Visit our local wineries for a taste of regional wines, sample craft beers at one of the local breweries, take a stroll through a farmer’s market, and shop for unique artwork and you will appreciate all we have to offer.
As the ski capitol of the South, this region keeps the slopes covered with natural snow supplemented with advanced snow-making abilities. Three ski resorts provide skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and ice skating, include Appalachian Ski Mountain, Beech Mountain Resort, and Sugar Mountain Resort, while Hawksnest boasts the largest snow tubing park on the East Coast. Opportunities abound for cross country skiing and snowshowing as well, including on the Blue Ridge Parkway, nearby Roan Mountain, and several miles of maintained trails at Beech Mountain.
For those who prefer swimming, your choices range from swimming holes in the streams and rivers, Wildcat Lake near Banner Elk, an outdoor pool in Blowing Rock, and an indoor pool in Boone. Various resorts, recreation centers, hotels, and membership clubs also offer aquatic activities.