The Blue Ridge Mountains span through North Carolina in many different points, but the area known as the High Country is a favorite destination for all times of the year. Winter months call for skiing at the slopes of Beech Mountain or Sugar Mountain while the summer allows for drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway with the top down. Merlefest is a popular bluegrass music festival held every spring in honor of Merle Watson and the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games celebrate Scottish heritage in July. The High Country is made up of dozens of towns, including Boone, Blowing Rock, Valle Crucis, Wilkesboro, Banner Elk, Beech Mountain, and Linville. Choose one to base yourself from and to explore the area.
What to Do
Tweetsie Railroad– Open seasonally, Tweetsie is a park featuring a ropes course, rides, live shows, animal habitats and, of course, the railroad. The former line opened as a tourist attraction in the 1950s. Also, come by for their seasonal events like the Ghost Train. 300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane, Blowing Rock
Grandfather Mountain– You’ll see the familiar outline of the mountain from town, but make a visit to the park. Not only was it a filming location for Forrest Gump, but it offers hiking trails and a nature preserve with black bears and other animals. 2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville
Hickory Ridge Living History Museum (Horn In the West)– To better understand what life was like here during the 1700s, visit this outdoor museum. You’ll find cabins and period actors in costumes doing crafts and showcasing their talents. It’s also here that you’ll find Horn in the West, an outdoor drama about Daniel Boone and the fight for independence. 591 Horn in the West Drive, Boone
Linville Caverns– These private limestone caves were discovered in the 1800s and have fish swimming in an underground stream. It’s been a popular tourist attraction since 1937. Their hours change seasonally, so check before you go. Tours last 35 minutes. 19929 US 221 North, Marion
If you’re visiting during ski season, visit Beech Mountain Resort, Sugar Mountain Resort, Inc. or Appalachian Ski Mountain‘s slopes. Hiking trails are also plentiful, like the Cascades Trail, and tubing and rafting are offered seasonally.
Downtown Blowing Rock is known for its shopping but they also have outlet malls. Boone also has a number of boutiques and shops. Be sure to stop by the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, originally the town’s main grocery and essentials store. It’s still a functioning post office!
Where to Eat
Black Cat Burrito– Since 2000, Black Cat has been a college student favorite for its offbeat styles of burritos, like Thai and Greek, and cheap margaritas. Tacos and salads are other options and the eatery also has live music. 127 South Depot Street, Boone, (828) 263-9511
Come Back Shack– Located on the way into town with all the chains, Come Back Shack is known for their burgers. Everything is made fresh, including milkshakes and fries. Choose one of the signature burgers or build your own. 1521 Blowing Rock Road, Boone, (828) 264-2797
Boone Bagelry– Start your day with at the area’s only bagel spot. Established in 1988, they have 15 different styles, including gluten-free. Top them with cream cheese or make a breakfast sandwich out of it. 516 West King Street, Boone, (828) 262-5585
Coyote Kitchen– Caribbean meets Southwestern at this strip mall eatery. Their bowls are the most popular, but they also serve burgers, sandwiches, salads and tacos. Meats are all natural and the menu includes items for those with dietary restrictions. 200 Southgate Drive, Boone, (828) 265-4041
Woodlands Barbeque Restaurant & Catering Service– This cozy barbecue joint specializes in North Carolina style and almost always has a wait. The menu includes beef, pork, chicken and ribs, as well as Mexican cuisine. 8304 Valley Blvd. (Hwy 321 Bypass), Blowing Rock, (828) 295-3651
Dan’l Boone Inn– Another popular spot is the family-style restaurant named after the frontiersman. Arrive early for weekend breakfast, which includes country ham and biscuits and gravy. They’re also open for lunch and dinner when they’re known for fried chicken. 130 Hardin Street, Boone, (828) 264-8657
Our Daily Bread– The beloved bakery and restaurant in downtown Boone has offered hearty soups, salads, and sandwiches since 1984. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available as well as their delicious desserts. 627 West King Street, Boone, (828) 264-0173
Famous Louise’s Rock House Restaurant– Originally built as Linville Falls Tavern, Louise’s is made of pieces of stone and sits on three counties. The menu features homestyle cooking and seafood, as well as pies. 23175 Rockhouse Lane, Linville Falls, (828) 765-2702
Over Yonder– The folks behind Mast Farm Inn opened this restaurant and full bar in the rolling Appalachian hills. Favorites include North Carolina trout, shrimp and grits, and meatloaf. They also have a full bar. 3608 North Carolina Highway 194, Historic Valle Crucis, Sugar Grove, (828) 963-6301
Boone Saloon– The college student’s favorite bar turns into the best brunch spot on Sunday mornings, or what they call “dunch” (drunk lunch). Indulge in mimosas and Bloody Marys with eggs benedict, huevos rancheros and french toast. It’s also a popular spot to watch sporting events. 489 West King Street, Boone, (828) 264-1811
Grandfather Vineyard & Winery– This part of North Carolina also has its own wineries. Grandfather Vineyard offers tastings, bottle sales and events on weekends. It’s a popular wedding venue. 225 Vineyard Lane, Banner Elk, (828) 963-2400
The Appalachian Mountain Brewery– One of the area’s craft breweries is in Boone, serving up artfully created beer and cider. The tasting room is open daily and you can also take growlers home with you. 163 Boone Creek Drive, Boone, (828) 263-1111
Lost Province Brewing Co.– Another brewery is also a restaurant, located downtown in Boone. They serve lunch and dinner, including pizzas, salads, and beer created in-house. They have weekly trivia, live music, and other events. 130 North Depot Street, Boone, (828) 265-3506
Where to Stay
There aren’t all that many places to stay in the High Country in the traditional sense, but you’ll find plenty of chain hotels around Boone and the highway. Green Park Inn Hotel in Blowing Rock is a historic hotel atop the mountain and The Mast Farm Inn is another historic inn in Valle Crucis. Banner Elk Winery is a winery with accommodations. Yonahlossee Resort in Blowing Rock has lots of accommodation options and amenities.
If you’re staying for a week or traveling with a group, look into rentals through websites like AirBnB, FlipKey, and HomeAway. There are campgrounds at Grandfather Mountain and Linville Falls as well as a KOA in Boone.