Every family has a happy place. For mine, it’s the North Carolina mountains. For over a decade now my family has been traveling to the Boone area several times a year. No matter when we head to the mountains, there are a few things we’ve come to know we’ll find. An abundance of natural beauty, tranquility that comes from being in God’s Country and plenty of things to do! Our little slice of Heaven is only 2.5 hours away from home, yet a whole other world!
Over the years, we’ve enjoyed the mountains at just about every time of the year. Whether our kids were just babies or old enough to enjoy some adventures, we’ve checked out a ton of places and had a lot of fun in the high country of North Carolina! Here are a few of our favorite places to visit and things to do in the Boone and surrounding areas.
Winter in the High Country
Whenever I hear talk of snow on the local news, I get an itch to head to the mountains! We still haven’t yet hit all the ski resorts, but we’re working on it! Our older child learned to ski at the Appalachian Ski Resort’s ski school. More recently we’ve enjoyed skiing at Beech Mountain – where we found plenty of runs for all ability levels. We have also had a lot of fun snow tubing at Hawksnest, where they only offer tubing so it’s a little less hectic. So fun and no ski skill required! And if you’re not interested in skiing at all several of the resorts offer ice skating and tubing. There is truly something for everyone!
Spring in the mountains
Ski slopes close for the season mid-March, yet it can still be quite chilly in the mountains. This is a great time of the year to take in a hike, visit the nearby towns or one of the many attractions like Grandfather Mountain or Linville Caverns! It isn’t super touristy in the mountains in the spring so the crowds aren’t bad this time of the year.
There are so many beautiful hiking spots in the area. We have found so many great ones on the Alltrails app. Or by jumping on the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopping at one of the many spots along the road. Those hikes tend to have great views as the elevation is higher! One of our favorites is the Tanawha Trail, which runs from Price Lake, off the BRP, to Beacon Heights. Though this trail, in total, is over 11 miles there are a few spots to park and shorten the route.
Explore the towns. Downtown Boone is our personal favorite but there are several cute areas to choose from. Downtown Banner Elk has some great places to eat and fun park (Tate Evans Park) with multiple playgrounds, a dog park and a nice greenway. (this park is our favorite in the summer because the kids and the dogs LOVE playing in the creek) Downtown Blowing Rock is by far the most touristy with tons of shops, a great brewery and plenty of places to eat. There is also a big park (Memorial Park) and some really pretty neighborhoods and trails to explore right in downtown. Downtown Boone is a little more, umm, earthy. There are plenty of places to eat and shop in Boone, plus it’s a college town and way more laid back than Blowing Rock!
Check out the playgrounds. Now that our children are a little older, we don’t spend as much time on the playgrounds as we used to. But over the years we have clocked many (MANY) hours at the parks in the area. Here is a short list of our favorite parks.
Valle Crucis Community Park – This is a huge park with multiple playgrounds, a stage for live music, a little village the kids can play in, a path the circles the entire park, and a creek. It’s a great park to pack a picnic and spend the day. Bring the bikes or scooters for the kids!
Shane Outpost Park in Beech Mountain is another one of our favorites. This is also a large park with a path around it and plenty of green space. We love this one because the playground is different from a typical park (think ropes course) and there is a great hike around a lake there as well.
Tot Lot in Boone has been a favorite of ours for years. The playground area is smaller, enclosed with a path perfect for little ones to ride. The playground is located right by the Boone Greenway so we have enjoyed the playground then hit the path with our stroller, scooters or bikes, depending on our stage in life at the time.
Summer is amazing in the mountains!
Personally, we’d stay in Boone all summer long if we could. The high country is just amazing in the summer! Never hot, no humidity and so much to do. Hiking, biking, tubing and playing in all the creeks in the area seem to be our favorites!
The best tubing we’ve ever found was just east of Boone, in Todd, NC. This is a spot where tons of people park a car and the top, a second at the bottom and put in their own tubes. There is also a company that rents tubes and has a shuttle to pick up at the end of the rafting trip. The river is super wide, very shallow and just beautiful. It flows right behind a bunch of big homes where we spotted several families hanging out at the edge of the water. This is a great tubing trip for all ages, including little kids, as the water is plenty shallow to stand up and park it on one of the “beaches” along the way. Though we rented tubes the day we rafted this river, it was so fun we talked about buying tubes and making this a regular stop! (www.wahoosadventures.com/new-river-tubing)
Another one of our favorite things to do in the mountains is biking. There is a wonderful, long greenway in Boone where we have walked, biked and scooted more times than I can count! We like to park at the Tot Lot and go from there. It’s a beautiful, paved path that meanders through open fields, forests and along a stream (which we have also spent lots of time playing in).
One of our favorite day trips we took recently was to ride The Creeper Trail in Damascus, Virginia. This is seriously fun for any age. My husband and I rode this trail for the first time about 2 decades ago (pre-children) and took our kids this past summer. It’s a fantastic, easy ride with amazing scenery. We rented bikes in town, took the shuttle to the top of the trail, then pedaled (and coasted) our way back down to Damascus. The half of The Creeper Trail we rode was about 13 miles and has a very convenient snack station along the way for lunch. If you’re in that area I highly recommend checking out The Creeper Trail!
The wineries in the area are also a great way to spend a summer afternoon. Our favorite is Grandfather Winery. They typically have live music on weekends, vineyards you can walk through (amazing hide and seek!) and are conveniently located right beside a creek. We bring chairs and relax while the kids and the dogs play in the water or wander through the vineyards. There may be some wine involved too. (full disclosure – Grandfather Winery doesn’t sell beer, just wine, which is my husband’s number one complaint)
And speaking of beer, there are a bunch of fun breweries in the area too! Recently we ventured to the top of Beech Mountain, via the ski lift, to enjoy a beer at 5506’ Skybar. The views are amazing, and we loved watching the bikers get off the lift and head down the trails on their mountain bikes. This is an activity for our to-do list when the kids are a little older as both Beech and Sugar offer mountain biking in the warmer months.
There are also quite a few companies that run white water rafting trips in the area. We haven’t done those yet, but rafting is on the short list too, now that my youngest is old enough! My husband also recently found a fishing guide through Orvis who took him for a half-day fly fishing lesson. Honestly, there are a ton of fun ways to spend a day in the North Carolina mountains during the summer!
Fall in the High Country
Fall in the mountains is a breathtaking spot. Thousands of people flock to the area every September and October to see the beauty of the changing foliage. This is another great time of the year to enjoy the scenery as you go for a hike! There are also several fun, and popular, fall festivals in the area. Our favorite is the Wooly Worm Festival in downtown Banner Elk. It’s a themed festival, complete with wooly worm races, lots of food vendors, a kids play area and shopping too.
I could go on (and on) about all the great experiences try in the North Carolina Mountains. We have done a lot over the years, yet there are still so many more we haven’t gotten to yet. (Alpine coaster, zip lines, rafting and more!) If your family makes the short drive to the area, I hope you love it as much as mine has!
A little about the Faulkners…
The Faulkner family has lived in Greenville since 2013. Prior to moving to Greenville, they lived in Frisco, Texas for three years and spent many years in Charlotte before relocating to Texas for Brett’s job. Brett has worked his entire career with Verizon Wireless. After working in corporate marketing for many years and spending several years with Kidding Around Greenville, Elizabeth transitioned her skills and knowledge of Greenville to a career in real estate. Brett and Elizabeth have been married for 15 years and have two children. Kate is 12 and in the 6th grade at Langston Charter Middle School in Greenville. Anna Clare is 8 and in the 2nd grade at Oakview Elementary School in Simpsonville. The Faulkners purchased their second home in Echota On The Ridge, located in Foscoe, NC, in 2010. They have enjoyed every minute of their time in the mountains and look forward to making many more memories in the area!