What does an Australian family with no Thanksgiving tradition or extended family around them in Raleigh choose to do over the holiday break?
How does a log cabin sound with spectacular mountain views where we can relax and explore a little of the Boone area.
Since Craig and I had only briefly visited Boone back in 2005, we decided it was time to take the kids and find out if this was a place we’d love and want to return to.
I’m happy to say that’s a giant YES. So much so that we decided to share it with you even though we said it was a vacation, not a business trip!
Our job as travel bloggers is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing of course, as we get to travel often and earn income doing so. A curse because it means we NEVER shut off. We have not taken a typical vacation in 12 years – like one where you do nothing but enjoy the vacation. We’re always switched on to experience as much as we can, so we can document it and create content from it.
We love to help people plan their trips. And there are just too many amazing things to do in Boone, and top places to eat in Boone, that we couldn’t let the opportunity pass to explore and then share.
Truth is, I travel to explore, connect, and discover. I don’t want to sit around all day and play games by a fireplace; I’d stay at home and save myself some money!
We did dedicate all of Thanksgiving Day to spend entirely at the cabin where we did nothing but eat, drink, play games, watch movies, and sit around the fire pit. That was vacation enough for me.
- Our Endless View Cabin near Boone
- Where is Boone?
- Our Top Things to Do in Boone NC
- Explore Downtown Boone
- Brookshire Park Trail
- Enjoy a Craft Brew at these Boone Breweries
- Get Your Coffee Fix at Hatchett Coffee
- Places to Eat in Boone
- Things to Do Near Boone
- Experience Tweetsie Christmas (Tweetsie Railroad)
- Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Hike the Rough Ridge Trail (Milepost 302.8)
- Marvel at the Linn Cove Viaduct (Milepost 304.4)
- Walk the Mile High Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain (Milepost 305)
- Hike Linville Falls (Milepost 316)
- Wine Tasting at Linville Falls Winery
- The Blowing Rock
- Explore Blowing Rock Town
- Hike Crab Orchard Falls
- Visit the Original Mast General Store
Our Endless View Cabin near Boone
Our intention was to have a rare relaxing break in a cabin, so we chose a lovely vacation rental to suit that for six nights. Views were a must, as were a well-stocked kitchen, and great location.
We found a property, The Endless View, for a decent price in Fleetwood, which is just 15-minutes northwest of Boone. It was quiet, without feeling too isolated, and the views were beautiful!
It was two bedrooms with a bed in the loft space, which Savannah loved sleeping in, and a downstairs area that was set up as a game room. It also had its own deck and could easily have someone sleep down there on the sofa.
Not only was the kitchen well stocked, but there were a lot of games, books, streaming access, an X-Box, puzzles an indoor fire and outdoor fire pit. It was easy to have a relaxing mountain getaway in this property.
Owners, Neal and Sharon were excellent hosts with great communication and attention to helping you have a great stay.
Where is Boone?
This ‘Heart of the High Country’ was named after explorer Daniel Boone, who lived nearby during the mid-1700’s before blazing the famous trail into Kentucky.
We love how Boone is only a three-hour drive from Raleigh, making it accessible even for a weekend trip.
As it’s near to the ski towns of Banner Elk and Beech Mountain, it’s a perfect destination year-round. We want to experience ALL seasons. Our next visit hopefully will be in the warmer months so we can experience the lushness of the forest and mountains.
Our Top Things to Do in Boone NC
There are so many things to do in Boone, especially if you like outdoor activities. As we were trying to relax, we were intentional in choosing just a few popular attractions and experiences.
We had slow starts or early finishers, mixing in cabin relaxation with Boone attractions and dining in Boone experiences. Even though I’m staying in a mountain cabin, I don’t want to cook everyday while on vacation!
We only had one full day – and it was a great one – exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway. We will have a full post on that soon with a lot more information. Join our VIP email list so you don’t miss it and grab your free NC Bucket List while there.
Explore Downtown Boone
Downtown Boone is a lively place to spend time, especially with the campus of Appalachian State University located behind the main street, King Street.
You’ll find a vast array of art galleries, antique stores, and specialty shops with lots of local Boone products – perfect for gifts or souvenirs. You’ll also find great places to eat and drink.
My favorite Boone stores were Common Good Co, Mast General Store, and the Shoppes at Farmers Hardware.
Here are a few more things to do in Downtown Boone that we didn’t get time to do, but are on our list for future visits:
- The Jones House Cultural & Community Center is an historic building that is a community hub for live music and art displays.
- d a 40′ climbing wall in downtown Boone
- Horton Hotel rooftop bar has 360-degree views of Howard’s Knob, Appalachian State University and downtown Boone over shared plates, craft beverages and specialty beers and wines. Why not stay at the boutique hotel downstairs?
- The Turchin Center is part of Appalachian State University and has seven art galleries of changing artworks. The galleries feature contemporary art from local, regional, national and international artists.
Brookshire Park Trail
Boone is surrounded by incredible opportunities for hiking. Since this was meant to be a more relaxing trip, we decided not to go on many hikes. However, we can never abstain from them entirely. A good walk can be a relaxing – and free – way to explore a region.
Thankfully, a local, Emily, shared with us an easy 45-minute hike that was near Hatchett Coffee in East Boone that we could do. If you are visiting Hatchett’s Coffee (the best in Boone) or Booneshine Brewery, this is a good opportunity to stretch your legs on this hike that winds up a mountain for beautiful views over South Fork of the New River and East Boone.
The trail starts at Brookshire Park. Follow the paved path which winds alongside the river. Once you reach near the end, you’ll see a trail on the left going into the forest up the mountain. Take that. Turn right at the first fork. It will wind you up in a loop on top of the mountain.
Enjoy a Craft Brew at these Boone Breweries
What do you get when you cross a mountain town with outdoor adventures and a vibrant college atmosphere? Pretty cool breweries of course!
Boone has three breweries in the area to help quench your thirst, get to know the flavors of Boone, and grab a bite to eat. Lost Province is located just off King St in downtown Boone and it’s here you’ll find a hipster vibe, innovative brews, and delicious wood-fried pizza!
Appalachian Mountain Brewery (AMB) is just south of downtown and is probably the most well known of the Breweries in Boone, given they distribute over North Carolina, South Carolina and East Tennessee. They also brew fantastic ciders (try the mimosa cider or the Mystic Dragon). As we drink them all the time, we were delighted to visit AMB!
Booneshine Brewery is located in East Boone and has a great communal feel with an outside patio area and separate beer garden area with views. They also have an indoor restaurant – wait times can be long!
Get Your Coffee Fix at Hatchett Coffee
Good coffee is always on our list of things to do! Boone thankfully, had outstanding coffee to add to our list. Hatchett Coffee in East Boone has a roasting lab, slow bar, and coffee lounge.
There is plenty of space for you to hang out for awhile with the other students and remote workers enjoying the chill space and delicious warming cup of coffee.
Places to Eat in Boone
We’ll have a separate post on places to eat in Boone with our favorites (we hope to keep adding to this list!) and more in-depth information. Here is a quick list of Boone restaurants not to miss.
- The Local – Simply Outstanding. Will be a meal I forever remember (and we’ve eaten at thousands of restaurants in the USA)
- Melanie’s Food Fantasy – known to have the best breakfast in Boone
- The Cardinal – mouthwatering burgers Try the 50/50 or wild game burger.
- The Pedalin’ Pig – pulled pork, brisket and all the fixins’
Some of our dining experiences were covered by Explore Boone.
Things to Do Near Boone
Experience Tweetsie Christmas (Tweetsie Railroad)
Visiting during Thanksgiving meant we were in Boone for opening night of the Tweetsie Christmas event at the Tweetsie Railroad.
The Carolina’s first theme park, the Tweetsie Railroad is a unique attraction where you can relive the Wild West featuring a ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains on a historic narrow-gauge steam locomotive.
During the holiday season, the open-air locomotive transforms into a magical ride through a winter wonderland of twinkling lights. The very popular Tweetsie Christmas event also has a live Christmas Show – be sure to watch the 12 Days of Christmas performance – it was pretty funny.
Some of the park’s classic amusement rides are open, you can meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus inside a gingerbread house, and you can even enjoy roasting s’mores over an outdoor firepit.
It was a wonderful way to slip into the Christmas spirit and one of the best things to do in Boone over the holiday season.
We had ridden the Polar Express Christmas train in Bryson City just the week before so enjoyed experiencing another NC mountain Christmas tradition.
Tips for Tweetsie Christmas
- Train rides start at 5:30pm. Book for one of the first rides to beat the crowd. We rode the 6pm and once we alighted, had to hustle through crowds.
- Gates open at 5pm. Arrive then so you can visit Santa and see the Christmas Show without any crowds! We loved doing it this way. It meant we could leave earlier (it was cold!) and enjoy a delicious dinner
Disclaimer: Our Tweetsie Christmas experience was hosted by Tweetsie Railroad and Explore Boone.
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
The star event of any trip to the North Carolina mountains is a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which has the moniker of “America’s favorite drive.’ (see more top USA road trips and USA scenic drives)
Almost a quarter of its 469-mile length is located in the High Country, and many will argue it’s the most beautiful. It certainly has several of the most popular attractions on the Blue Ridge.
It’s worth getting up early to experience a day enjoying the many beautiful viewpoints, hikes, and experiences.
More Blue Ridge Content
- A Summer family road trip to the Shenandoah National Park
- 22 Fun things to do in Roanoke, VA
- A Spring Mountain Getaway to Virginia’s Blue Ridge
- A mountains and music road trip (NC – TN)
Hike the Rough Ridge Trail (Milepost 302.8)
We LOVED this easy 1.5 mile return hike that takes you 480 ft. up to the most spectacular views of Grandfather Mountain overlooking over the famous Linn Cove Viaduct, the parkway, and the ridges of the Pisgah National Forest below.
The trail is at the Rough Ridge Overlook parking lot. Veer left on the Tanawha Trail (which the Rough Ridge is part of). It will take you to a boardwalk where you can walk onto a rock for great photos and views of Grandfather Mountain and the Linn Cove Viaduct.
Keep walking a little further past the boardwalk and you’ll see this most famous rock.
As we never promote irresponsible behavior, we have to spill the beans and let you know this is not as dangerous as it looks. It’s all trick photography. There is a ledge under here. While you couldn’t hurt yourself too bad if you fell (you still could) it’s still a little unnerving dangling over space like that. But boy what beautiful views and a photo opportunity.
The trail will take you a little further up to the Rough Ridge Summit (4,773 ft).
Definitely go early to beat the crowds. There was only one other person on the trail when we went. Sunset is meant to be stunning here.
Marvel at the Linn Cove Viaduct (Milepost 304.4)
An iconic site on the Blue Ridge Parkway is the Linn Cove Viaduct between Rough Ridge and Grandfather Mountain.
It’s an engineering marvel created to preserve the scenic and fragile environment on the slopes of Grandfather Mountain while allowing cars to continue their scenic road trip on the parkway.
There is a pull off on the left before you reach it coming from the north with a small path adjacent to the highway where you can walk to get a closer view (Do not walk on the road!). You can also stop in at the Visitor Center on the southern side to learn more about the viaduct.
Walk the Mile High Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain (Milepost 305)
The 300-million-year-old peaks stand 6,000 feet above sea level, giving you stunning 360-degree views over the stunning Appalachian Mountain ranges. It’s a pristine place for interacting with nature and soaking up some peace and serenity.
One-third of the mountain is a privately owned nonprofit nature preserve that operates as a paid scenic travel attraction. The other two thirds of the wild and undeveloped sections of Grandfather Mountain is owned by the state of North Carolina. The Grandfather Mountain state park offers miles of backcountry hiking trails.
There is so much more to explore on Grandfather Mountain. Take your pick from scenic overlooks, hikes, nature museum, and picnic areas. Be sure to pack up a picnic lunch to take with you.
Drive slowly up to the top while you listen to the CD/USB audio (given at the entrance) where you can learn more about Grandfather Mountain and the various stops along the winding road to the top.
The most popular thing to do on Grandfather Mountain, especially if short on time, is the Mile High Swinging Bridge, which connects two peaks at one mile above sea level.
Even though it’s a mile up, this 228-foot suspension bridge actually only spans an 80-foot chasm. As it is now made of steel and reinforced with cables and springs, it doesn’t swing like it used to, more sings with the whistling wind. It has railings on the sides to ensure safety.
It’s totally worth it, even if you are afraid of heights. And once you’re across the bridge, there are stunning views of the valley below.
If you have more time, and are experienced hikers, Craig and I thoroughly recommend the 2.4-mile Grandfather Trail. We did it in 2005 and LOVED it. Expect rocky cliffs and scrambles with cables and ladders to spectacular views. Challenging but loads of fun.
Hike Linville Falls (Milepost 316)
One of the star attractions of the Blue Ridge Parkway and North Carolina Mountains is Linville Falls, known as “Eeseeoh” or River of Cliffs in Cherokee.
The Linville River travels from beginning point high on Grandfather Mountain where it flows 2,000 ft down and reaches the three-tiered cascading falls at Linville Falls, where it continues through the beautiful, forested Linville Gorge (the Grand Canyon of the Appalachians) to its end at Lake James and the Catawba River.
Since we’ve seen some stunning waterfalls in the US (and the world i.e. Victoria Falls), It’s hard for us to be wowed by them, but we loved Linville Falls and so agree it’s one of North Carolina’s best.
I’d especially love to return in the summer to see it surrounded by the lush forest landscape.
Linville Falls is more than just a “take I was here photo”, which I liked about it. There are five different overlooks to appreciate the beauty of the Falls, which gives you a lovely hike through the virgin hemlock forests.
The Falls trail is a 1.6-mile round-trip walk which takes you to four overlooks, each offering a unique perspective of the Falls, and all worth experiencing.
Chimney View was my favorite as it was the closest and gives a fantastic opportunity to photograph both the lower and upper falls.
The Upper Falls view also offers a unique perspective of the upper Falls flowing through the narrow canyon where it disappears and plunges forty-five feet over the lower falls.
Don’t miss the Plunge Basin overlook which gives you a great view of the lower falls and chimney view above. Surprisingly, no one else was here. It was a fantastic viewpoint.
Check out these other Grand Canyons of the USA:
Wine Tasting at Linville Falls Winery
What a surprise Linville Falls Winery was! We only learned about it when we drove past a crowd of people sitting in the sun with gorgeous valley and mountain views.
We decided we’d return after our Linville Falls hike. It was the perfect end to a great day spent exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This family owned and operated 40 acre vineyard, winery, and farm sits in a fertile valley between hills in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains.
Cool nights, low humidity, and an elevation of 3,200-3,400 ft allows the grapevines to thrive and ripen slowly into fresh vibrant flavors. Varieties include Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Noiret, Marquette, Petit Verdot, Marechal Foch, and their flagship grape, Riesling
North Carolina is not typically known for wine, but it’s wineries like this that is starting to give it a label of “Place to watch for quality wines”
It’s family-friendly (and pet friendly) with a beautiful outdoor seating area overlooking the vines and the Christmas tree farm (which was a hive of activity.) There is a small pond with Adirondack chairs as well.
We chose a wine tasting flight each and grabbed some cheese and crackers from the fridge. You are welcome to bring your own snacks and they sometimes have food trucks. (and live music in the warmer months).
Flights are $12 for your choice of 4 wines, 2oz. of each. I loved the Riesling and Chardonnay and I found their Brandy Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon to be outstanding and very similar to one of my favorite Double Barrel Jacob’s Creek wine back in Australia (which you can get at Harris Teeter!)
Our our next trip to Boone, we want to visit Grandfather Mountain winery. (It was closed for Thanksgiving!)
The Blowing Rock
Another top thing to do near Boone is visit The Blowing Rock, which is an outcropping of rock 4090 feet above John’s River Gorge, which has a mysterious prevailing wind always blowing over it, which has been known to return thrown light objects over the void.
Native American myth tells the story of a brave Cherokee torn between duty and love for his maiden leapt from the Rock into the wilderness below. She prayed daily until the Great Spirit blew her lover back onto the rock via a gust of wind. Since then, a perpetual wind has blown up over the rock from the valley.
It’s a short Boone attraction to visit, with just the rock, a few extra viewpoints, and a small hiking trail. The views here are beautiful and worth seeing.
It is a paid attraction so allow for your budget. We were so fortunate to have very few people when we visited so we could get lots of great photos.
Explore Blowing Rock Town
The Blowing Rock is just outside of the town of Blowing Rock, another of our favorite places to visit in the North Carolina mountains.
It’s located near the midway point of the Blue Ridge Parkway and carries the title: “Crown of the Blue Ridge”
Blowing Rock is a quaint mountain village straight from the pages of a storybook. Main street is perfect for a stroll. You can find local stores filled with antiques, home décor, outdoor gear and clothes. Wander down small alleys to find other stores, galleries, restaurants, and cafes.
On our list for our next visit to Blowing Rock is the Glen Burney Falls trail which starts right near the Main street.
A good place for lunch, or dinner, is the Speckled Trout. It was busy, so we grabbed a seat at the bar, and enjoyed a trout burger. Of course, you’ll find trout in its various forms at this Blowing Rock restaurant.
What you will love about the menu is that at it includes ingredients that are the root of Appalachian food and beverage. This place helps to tell the story of this heritage and region.
Hike Crab Orchard Falls
Enjoy a 1.5-mile return hike to the cascading Crab Orchard Falls in Valle Crucis. The waterfall is on private property at the Valle Crucis Conference Center.
Although short, the trail is quite steep on the way to the falls (both up and down) but persevere as it’s worth it.
There is a viewing platform directly underneath the Falls, which is a lovely place for family photos.
Visit the Original Mast General Store
Located in the beautiful valley and small farming community of Valle Crucis just outside of Boone, the Mast General Store has been in business since 1883. Creaky floorboards help tell that story of why it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mast Store sells everything and anything you need, including great local gifts and products. If you are in this area near Boone, it’s worth a stop, especially if you are going to hike Crab Orchard Falls, which is right near it.
Mast Store now has several locations around Boone. Their downtown store is well stocked and has those creaky floorboards. So, it’s a good replica experience to the original if you can’t make it there.