If you want to check out the mountains in North Carolina on a getaway from Raleigh, then I suggest you put Boone near the top of your list. This mountain town is only 3 hour’s drive from Raleigh and is perfect for a weekend getaway (or longer).
Well known for its charming downtown, stunning natural beauty, rich history, adventurous mountain sports, hiking trails, and Appalachian State University we experienced a lovely five-day visit during Thanksgiving in 2021.
Despite being popular for skiing in the winter, you will find there are many things to do in Boone all year round, from the hiking trails to getting a feel for the thriving arts scene – we loved our visit there during Thanksgiving in 2021 and it’s one of our favorite places in the North Carolina mountains.
If you’re planning a trip to Boone but not sure what to do, in this guide I’ve shared some top attractions in Boone, places to eat and drink, and options on where to stay!
Where Is Boone?
Boone is located in Watauga County, North Carolina. It’s situated in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range, in the Northwestern side of NC.
- From Raleigh, it’s approx a 3 hour 10 minute drive via US 421 and Highway 421.
- From Charlotte, it takes approx 2 hours via the US-321 N and US-321 N
- From Asheville, it’s approx a 1 hour 50-minute drive via US-221 N
- From Knoxville, it’s approx a 2 hour 50-minute drive via I-81 N
Top Things to Do in Boone
1. Wake up with coffee at Hatchet
If you’re like me and coffee always comes first, then head to East Boone where you’ll find the best coffee in Boone to kick start your day!
Boone has several good options, my favorite was Hatchet Coffee, a 5-minute drive east of downtown who has a roasting lab, slow bar, and coffee lounge. I like their coffee and their chill space, with plenty of seating to hang out for a while or simply grab a brew to go and explore Boone with a quality cup of Joe!
Also good is the The Local Lion, who not only specialize in organic, fair-trade coffee but homemade doughnuts made from scratch daily. Their coffee is named after the local mountain lion that crossed the owner’s path on a mountain camping trip.
2. Walk the Brookshire Park Trail
Close to Hatchet Coffee and downtown Boone, The Brookshire Park Trail is an easy 45-minute hike in East Boone to start your day and work up an appetite for breakfast. The hike takes you to see stunning views over the South Fork of the New River and East Boone.
Beginning at Brookshire Park, you walk along a path next to the river, before going through a forest and up into the mountain. It then does a little loop around the mountain before heading back down. You could do this anytime of day, of course.
3. Grab Breakfast at Melanie’s Food Fantasy
Probably the most popular breakfast spot in Boone is Melanie’s Food Fantasy in the heart of downtown. Here you can indulge in good old Southern style food and hospitality that fits in the culture and landscape of Boone.
Eating here is like experiencing a traditional diner with homemade hearty goodness and friendly service but food that goes beyond your typical greasy sausage and grits. Items such as breakfast burritos, pimento cheese grits, tempeh with your scramble, and stuffed French toast are popular.
We ordered the Potato Madness and Bacon Avocado Benedict, both served with home fries.
The inside interior is small and cozy with local art adorning the walls and colorful cloth tablecloths. On good weather days consider a meal in the outside patio area.
Note: Melanie’s also serves lunch and has plenty of gluten free options for those with dietary restrictions!
4. Explore Downtown Boone
Downtown Boone is very walkable and a vibrant place with several restaurants, art galleries, vintage shops, and antique and boutique stores with local products and produce.
If you want to bring back some souvenirs, then we recommend checking out the Common Good Co, Mast General Store (see below), and the Shoppes at Farmers Hardware which offers a unique shopping experience in the heart of historic downtown.
5. Visit the Mast General Store
The Mast General Store is a historic landmark in downtown Boone, and a must-visit for anyone interested in history or shopping. It’s not the original store in downtown, that would be their other store in nearby Valle Crucis, 15-minutes away!
The original store was founded in 1883 and still features many of its original fixtures and furnishings. Although you might be thinking it’s just a store, this creaky wooden shop is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
You can browse through clothing, outdoor gear, and food items, and learn about the history of the store through interactive exhibits. If you can’t drive out to the original, the downtown store is a fine alternative!
6. Taste a Craft Beer at The Boone Breweries
Boone has a solid craft beer scene for those who like to enjoy a cold, refreshing brew at the end of a day’s hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Boone has three breweries that offer delicious craft beers you can pair with hearty meals.
Lumberjack Hipster was the word that came to mind when I walked into the Lost Province brewery in downtown with beer names such as Up Schitt’s Kriek, What’s Up Bro?, Kiss My grits and Hipster Juice.
Located just off King Street, Lost Province pairs innovative brews with excellent wood-fired pizza. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch here!
The Appalachian Mountain Brewery (AMB) is located just out of downtown and is one of the most famous breweries in Boone. They not only serve beers but innovative ciders, and it’s one of the few East Cast cider brands Caroline likes – she usually drinks their mystic dragon but was delighted to try a pint of their mimosa cider and give it a double thumbs up! I enjoyed their stout.
Finally, there’s the Booneshine Brewery in East Boone. It has a more communal feel with a lovely outdoor area we enjoyed where you can sip beer under a warm summer sun. alternatively, they have a large indoor restaurant area.
7. Visit the Daniel Boone Native Gardens
The Daniel Boone Native Gardens is a beautiful botanical garden located in downtown Boone. The gardens feature over 200 species of native plants and are a peaceful oasis in the middle of town.
Consider packing a picnic to enjoy the gardens on your own, or pop into the reception to enquire about one of their group tours to learn more about the plants and their history.
8. Dinner at The Local
From the attentive service to the ambiance, food, and drink selections I loved everything about our dining experience at The Local in downtown Boone.
As the name suggests, at the Local they use local ingredients (and beers) with a focus on creating a space where family and friends can gather. On display you’ll find local art decorating the walls, and live music on the weekends.
The menu is quite diverse with seafood, burgers, tacos, and specialty dishes that will take you on a journey through Asia and the Americas with plenty of gluten free options.
We started with an appetizer of Thai beef tidbits – sliced NY strip in soy, curry, and butter sauce and the Roasted Salmon over Caesar Brussel sprouts with applewood smoked bacon and turmeric roasted cauliflower.
For entree, I absolutely loved my Brazilian char-grilled steak with sweet plantains, roasted asparagus, ancho chile black beans topped with homemade chimichurri. And Kalyra enjoyed a Margherita Flatbread.
And for dessert, a fabulous Mississippi Mud Pie and Carolina Beignets for the kids!
They also serve up expertly crafted cocktails, and I find the prices here very reasonable for the quality, and it’s definitely one of the best places to eat in Boone!
There is a covered and heated patio if you just want a drink outside or while you wait for your table.
9. Visit the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts
The Turchin Center for the Visual Arts is a vibrant cultural center located on the Appalachian State University campus. The center features a variety of exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing works by local and national artists.
You can also attend workshops, lectures, and other events hosted by the center, or simply rock up to admire some of the incredible pieces in the gallery.
10. Treat yourself at Hole Lotta Doughnuts
This is one for the kids, or us big kids, and if you love oversized handcrafted yeast doughnuts then head to Whole Lotta Doughnuts in downtown Boone.
Take your pick from flavors like peanut butter dream, maple, and seasonal doughnut delights. They also have fritters, pastries, sweet breads, cookies, gourmet popcorn, gourmet coffee, ice cream, and shakes.
11. Rooftop drinks at the Horton Hotel
The popular Horton Hotel rooftop bar has 360-degree views of Howard’s Knob, Appalachian State University, and downtown Boone which you can admire over shared plates, craft beverages and specialty beers and wines. Why not stay at this boutique hotel.
12. Check out the Watauga Farmers Market
If you’re looking for things to do in Boone on the weekend, head over to The Watauga Farmers Market on a Saturday morning for a buzzing vibe!
The market features over 60 vendors, selling everything from fresh produce and baked goods to handmade crafts and jewelry. Spend a morning browsing through the stalls, sample local food, and enjoy live music and other entertainment.
13. Feast on a burger at The Cardinal
If you like mouthwatering burgers, be sure to add The Cardinal to your list of places to eat in Boone. With its eclectic, laid back vibe it’s the perfect casual place to eat after a day of fun exploring Boone (or to fuel up before you go).
You’ll find exotic burgers, crafty beverages, and classic American food (with vegan surprises like tempeh tenders and beet burgers).
I went with their rotating Wild Game burger, and Caroline could not resist the 50/50 burger – Amaroo Hills Emu, Chorizo, Queso, Grilled Jalapeños & Onions, Greens, Tomato, and Cilantro Sour Cream – we’ve never had a burger quite like it and it was exploding with flavors in our mouths.
14. Take a Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic drive that winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
The whole drive is 469-miles in length, but ¼ of this is in the High Country, which is arguably the most scenic section.
Many of Boone’s top attractions are along the Blue Ridge Parkway, so you will likely find yourself driving on it without realizing it but do make sure you stop at overlooks along the way to take in the views and explore nearby hiking trails and other attractions.
15. See The Mile High Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain
The highest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains is Grandfather Mountain, which is a 300-million-year-old mountain that stands at a whopping 6,000 feet.
At the top of the mountain is a mile high swinging bridge, which connects the two peaks. It’s only a short 228 foot bridge, but it’s a marvel of engineering made with steel and reinforced cables.
From the bridge, you get a 360-degree view of the Blue Mountain and Appalachian Mountain Ranges.
Despite being named a swinging bridge, it doesn’t swing like it used to, but there are signs telling visitors to be careful. It’s one of the top attractions in Boone, but we wouldn’t recommend it if you’re afraid of heights; there is an 80-foot drop below.
You can drive all the way to the top of Grandfather Mountain, so you don’t have to hike, though there are many trails up to the peak.
16. Hike the Blue Ridge Mountains
If you’re looking for fun outdoor things to do in Boone, then you can’t visit without doing a bit of hiking. Hiking is the most popular activity in Boone, thanks to its location in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains that surround the town.
With miles of hiking trails, there’s something for every level of hiker. Here are some of the hikes we enjoyed near Boone:
The Rough Ridge Trail (Milepost 302.8)
If you’re looking for a hike that doesn’t take more than a couple of hours, then this is the best trail for you. It’s a 1.5-mile return hike with an elevation of around 480 ft.
You can find the trailhead from the Rough Ridge Overlook, park at the Parkway overlook at Milepost 302.8 (just before the Viaduct when traveling from Boone. It’s one of the best hikes to do in Fall in NC because of the stunning fall colors of the forest.
Linville Falls (Milepost 316)
Another hike just off the Blue Ridge Parkway is Linville Falls, known as “Eloseeoh” or River of Cliffs in Cherokee.
The waterfall is made by the Linville River which begins at Grandfather Mountain and travels to the three-tiered cascading Linville Falls, before winding through the forested Linville Gorge and ending at Lake James and the Catawba River.
The hiking trail is a 1.6-mile loop walk which takes you to four of the overlooks. My favorite viewpoint was Chimney View as it was the closest to the falls.
The Upper Falls view is also a great spot to see the river flowing through the narrow canyon before the water plunges 45 feet over to lower falls. For views of the lower basin, head over to the Plunge Basin overlook.
Hike Crab Orchard Falls
The Crab Orchard Falls hike is a 1.5-mile return hike that takes you out to the cascading Crab Orchard Falls in Valle Crucis, at the Valle Crucis Conference Center.
The trail is short, but it’s quite steep, so we recommend you wear sturdy hiking boots and pack a lot of energy!
17. Go Skiing or Snowboarding
If you’re visiting Boone in the winter, then you will soon learn that it’s one of the top places in North Carolina for skiing.
Boone is home to several ski resorts, making it a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Some popular resorts in the area include:
- Appalachian Ski Mountain: This is one of the first ski resorts in NC and has been open since the early 1960s. The resort features 13 slopes of various difficulty and four terrain parks.
- Beech Mountain Resort: This resort is a large ski resort with 17 trails for skiing and snowboarding. It’s also the highest ski resort in Eastern America.
- Sugar Mountain Resort: This resort features 21 slopes and trails, with 15 of them featuring lighting for night skiing. There’s also a tubing park and ice skating rink.
18. Visit the Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park
The Tweetsie Railroad is a family-friendly attraction in Boone that’s been entertaining visitors for over 60 years, making it the first theme park in North Carolina.
The park features a variety of rides and attractions, including a train ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains, a petting zoo, and a variety of shows and entertainment.
You can relive your Wild West fantasies and ride a historic narrow-gauge steam locomotive through the mountains.
If you’re visiting in the winter around Thanksgiving or Christmas, then we highly recommend the Tweetsie Christmas event.
The locomotive turns into a Polar Express, and there’s also a live Christmas Show and a chance to meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus. It’s a Christmas experience not to miss.
19. Visit Trash Can Falls (Laurel Creek Falls)
Laurel Creek Falls, nicknamed Trash Can Falls, is somewhat of a hidden gem in Boone.
Don’t let the nickname put you off, it received its nickname because it used to have a dumpster site in the parking lot, but the waterfall is actually beautiful, clean and the perfect spot for a swim.
The falls has a lawn area at the top where you can unpack a picnic or hang out. Below the falls is a refreshing pool that you can swim in and cool off on a hot summer’s day.
20. Admire the Linn Cove Viaduct (Milepost 304)
One of the most iconic landmarks along the Blue Ridge Parkway is the Linn Cove Viaduct, which sits between Rough Ridge and Grandfather Mountain.
This marvel of engineering was created to preserve the slopes of Grandfather Mountain while also allowing cars to enjoy a scenic road trip.
Rather than drive straight over the viaduct, pull in on the left before you reach it (when driving from the north) and you get a really great view of the structure. There is also a Visitor Center on the south side of the viaduct which has some information about its construction.
21. Go Wine Tasting at Linville Falls Winery
If you’re looking for a delightful and memorable experience, wine tasting at Linville Falls Winery should be at the top of your list.
Nestled in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, this charming winery offers much more than just great wines – the picturesque setting alone is worth the visit.
Linville Falls Winery also boasts an impressive selection of handcrafted wines, from crisp whites to bold reds, their diverse range of varieties caters to every taste preference.
The knowledgeable staff members are there to share information on each wine and enhance your tasting experience.
22. Marvel at The Blowing Rock
For photographer lovers, a popular thing to do in Boone is visit The Blowing Rock, which is a natural viewpoint of an outcropped rock sitting 4090 feet above John’s River Gorge.
There’s a Native American myth of the rock, which tells of how a brave Cherokee resident who was torn between duty and love.
He leapt from the rock and into the chasm below, leaving his lover broken hearted. She visited the rock and prayed, and the Great Spirit blew her lover back onto the rock on a gust of wind.
The rock has since been known for its windy climate, which is why it is so named, Blowing Rock. Watch your step and be careful.
23. Wander Around The Village of Blowing Rock
Just below the Blowing Rock is the village of Blowing Rock, which is a cute and charming town that looks like something out of a fairy tale.
You can stroll around the main street and dip into boutique stores full of antiques, home décor, outdoor gear and clothes.
If you’re driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, this is pretty much the halfway point and is the perfect place to stop for lunch – we recommend The Speckled Trout. The trout burger is particularly good!
Where to Stay in Boone
We stayed in a cabin 15-minutes northwest of Boone in Fleetwood. Because we were on a six-night getaway from Raleigh we wanted some space and nature with views without being too isolated. And our cabin was perfect.
It had two bedrooms with a bed in the loft space and a downstairs area that was set up as a game room. It also had its own deck, a firepit, and a well-stocked kitchen. We enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving lunch in the cabin.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Boone
Boone is a beautiful mountain town with so much to see and do, it will mesmerize you no matter what time of year you visit. Whether you’re interested in hiking, skiing, shopping, or simply relaxing in the outdoors, there’s something for everyone in Boone.
We hope this guide helped you plan your trip and gave you some inspiration about what to do in this incredible mountain town.