Everyone loves a good tale of romance. If towns could tell their own tales, the prize for ‘Most Romantic Beginning’ could easily be awarded to Blowing Rock, NC. Early in this small mountain town’s history, before it was settled by Europeans, the Cherokee and Catawba tribes inhabited its windy cliffs along the Blue Ridge Mountains. As the legend goes, two star-crossed lovers from these rivaling tribes were so distraught by their ill-fated romance that the young brave, torn by his choice between duty and love, leapt from the edge of The Rock. But his maiden called upon the Great Spirit for help, and the famous winds of the John’s River Gorge blew the young brave back into her arms, uniting them in love and inspiring The Legend of The Blowing Rock for generations to come.
Today this enchanting site attracts throngs of curious tourists, eager to see if there’s truth to the tall tale that says this huge rock cliff known as The Blowing Rock will blow objects back to you if you drop them from the top. Wintertime tourists come to confirm the rumor that wind gusts here are so strong, it’s the only place on earth where it snows upside down near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Having sprung from such wondrously magical legends, this town was destined to become known for its beauty and romance. It’s no wonder then that Blowing Rock is considered by many to be the perfect place for a romantic escape. Its relaxing spas, B&Bs, quaint cabins, and peaceful retreats, are favorite places to relax and unwind with that special someone.
This town has a wild side too. It’s teeming with exciting activities for adventurers and thrill-seekers. For the outdoor adventurers, there’s hiking, biking, and spelunking. Thrill-seekers will want to add bouldering, zip-lining, snowboarding, and crossing the mile-high swinging bridge. (Talk about exhilarating!) And everyone will want to come to Blowing Rock to check out some of the best festivals in North Carolina.
As more and more visitors become enamored with the wealth of opportunities that adorn this “Crown of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” there is growing interest in Blowing Rock real estate. Just up the road, an easy 30-minute drive along Highway 321, you’ll find The Coves Mountain River Club, a gated mountain community with its own blend of adventure and relaxation. It’s a Baby Boomer’s paradise, complete with all the coziness of mountain living, plus easy access to the High Country. Residents there answered the call of the mountains by choosing The Coves and settling into a lovely custom-built mountain home that’s close to High Country highlights in towns like Blowing Rock, Boone, and Banner Elk.
This trio of towns along the Blue Ridge Parkway provides endless Southern charm and mountain recreation for residents of The Coves and surrounding areas. Weaving your way in and around the breathtakingly beautiful scenic parkway on your way to explore each town will make your journey just as memorable as the destination. As you wind your way up higher and higher from Boone (3,300 ft. above sea level) to Banner Elk (3,739 ft.) to Blowing Rock (4,000 ft.), you’ll understand why this area is one of the most popular destinations for mountain lovers.
If Blowing Rock is the “Crown of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” then Boone is one of her most precious jewels. With pleasantly high elevations, this town lures Southerners with her cool mountain breezes, providing a perfect escape from the blazing summer heat. Travel magazines call Boone one of the Southeast’s “ultimate outdoor adventure destinations.” The town’s namesake, Daniel Boone, camped here on his way to Kentucky in the late 18th century. And today, it’s still a favorite spot for those who love camping out in the heart of High Country. Not only does the National Park Service provide tents and RV sites along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, the Boone area also offers campers a wide choice of privately owned campgrounds perfect for parking an RV or pitching a tent under a blanket of stars in the clear Appalachian sky.
Boone is not only a campers’ paradise, it’s also a college town with a rich history. College life here is infused with the same pioneering spirit of the town’s founders who prevailed in the face of the many hardships of early mountain living. The Boone Campus of Appalachian State University was established over a century ago with strong roots in the community. Its impressive alumni network helps “App Grads” find leadership roles within the community, an important factor in helping build Boone’s reputation as a commerce hub in the NC High Country area, and contributing to the big city-feel of this small Southern town. Boone is a “big small town” in more ways than one. At 3,300 feet above sea level and with a population of over 10,000, Boone has the highest elevation of any town this size east of the Mississippi River.
Just 18 miles west of Boone (and equidistant to Blowing Rock) you’ll find the small but culturally rich town of Banner Elk. It’s nestled within some of the highest mountains east of the Rockies, including Grandfather Mountain and two mighty slopes – Sugar and Beech Mountains – that are perfect for wintertime skiing, tubing, and snowboarding. This stunning stretch of Blue Ridge is known as “The Ski Capital of the South.” At over 3,000 feet above sea level and tucked cozily in the embrace of these highest of mountain peaks, the Banner Elk elevation makes for cool year-round mountain lake climates and ideal conditions for winter sports and recreation.
In the warmer months, lake lovers are drawn to Banner Elk for swimming, boating, fishing, and picnicking at family-friendly Wildcat Lake. Or, for a larger lake experience, nearby Watauga Lake, famous for its more than 6,000 acres of gorgeous mountain-fringed shoreline, spans along 16 miles of lush landscape and welcomes visitors to enjoy a variety of Cherokee National Forest activities, including boating, swimming, and fishing for bluegill, bass, and rainbow trout. Because this lake is so peaceful and secluded, it’s a favorite location for private cabins and lake houses. Those in the market for vacation properties will find an abundance of charming cabins for sale or rent in Banner Elk, and land for sale near Boone. Visitors and residents alike are fans of this town’s lively arts and culture scene. World-class restaurants, upscale boutiques, diverse cultural venues, and unique shops along the pedestrian shopping promenade give this town colorful character and an artsy feel.
If it’s starting to sound like the three small towns that make up High Country’s “Southern Loop” are a virtual four-season playground, you’re right. This fun-paced region has something for everyone, and it’s visited often by neighbors in nearby communities like The Coves Mountain River Club, who count their blessings every day that they get to wake up in their own personal mountain haven plus have quick access to all the goings-on in nature’s year-round playground.
When they’re ready to drive on down the Parkway to play for the day (or set up camp and stay a while), our mountain friends are sure to jump in and enjoy all the not-to-be-missed attractions in these three bustling towns – Blowing Rock, Boone, and Banner Elk:
The High Country is home to a number of museums and galleries perfect for immersing yourself in Appalachian culture and history. In addition to exhibits, most of these venues offer workshops and lecture series, and many are admission-free.
BRAHM: Blowing Rock Art & History Museum – 59 Chestnut Street, Blowing Rock, NC
This state-of-the-art museum “promotes the visual arts, history, and heritage of the mountains” through educational programs, including exhibits, lectures, and workshops. They also host ongoing special events, including a member coffee series and a summer concert series.
Carlton Gallery – 10360 NC Hwy 105 South, Banner Elk, NC
With a rich 30+ year history as the region’s most established fine art house, this is a community-focused gallery that boasts “original art that opens our hearts and lifts our spirits.”
Hickory Ridge Living History Museum – 591 Horn in the West Drive, Boone, NC
Located on the grounds of “Horn in the West,” this 18th-century living history museum gives a glimpse into the daily lives of NC’s mountain ancestors, with a focus on Daniel Boone and the fight for American Independence.
Morning Star Gallery – 1151 Main Street, Blowing Rock, NC
When you’re looking for fine art and American crafts, this gallery offers a carefully considered collection of “the beautiful, the original, and the unusual.”
Turchin Center for Visual Arts – 423 W. King Street, Boone, NC
This is Appalachian State University’s premier art museum and Boone, NC’s home for world-class visual arts programming. Visitors enjoy exhibits, lectures, special events, and workshops for all ages.
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
As you drive through The High Country enjoying the spectacular scenery of the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll want to make a few stops along the way to check out some of these natural beauties:
Julian Price Memorial Park & Lake – Milepost 297, Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, NC
Pull off at Milepost 297 and you’ll find yourself at the entrance to this stunning park at the foot of majestic Grandfather Mountain. Plan to spend some time here and take advantage of the park’s 100 picnic sites and seven trails, including the brilliantly engineered 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail, which passes under the Linn Cove Viaduct and wraps around the southeastern ridge of Grandfather Mountain. You’ll also enjoy canoeing or fishing in the small but well-stocked lake. The park is open 24/7, so why not stay overnight in one of the park’s campsites for a nominal fee.
Linville Gorge Wilderness – Milepost 305, Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, NC
Hiking, biking, fishing, boating, hunting, rock climbing, horseback riding, water activities … what doesn’t this gorgeous gorge have going for it? The Linville River bisects this stunningly beautiful valley, which is formed by the Jonas River on the east and Linville Mountain on the west. Be prepared for steep, rugged terrain, and have a camera handy to capture some of Mother Nature’s most spectacular rock formations. Speaking of cameras, Linville Falls is the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina! Choose from among five different viewpoints that you can hike to along two trails to make sure you see this magnificent waterfall from the best angle. Camping is free at Linville Gorge Wilderness, but you do need a permit, so plan ahead!
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park – 667 Service Road, Blowing Rock, NC
Adjacent to Julian Price Park, this country estate is a tribute to its namesake, the late Moses Herman Cone, a 19th-century textile engineer who was a well-known conservationist and philanthropist. Cone’s love of nature is evident on the grounds of this lush estate, which features miles of walking and carriage trails, well-stocked lakes surrounded by white pine forests, hemlock hedges, and a 10,000-tree apple orchard. All of this natural splendor surrounds the grand 20-room, 13,000 square foot mansion, Flat Top Manor, which Cone built in 1901 in the style of Colonial Revival. Today, the manor houses the Parkway Craft Center, where local artists display handmade items, including pottery, woodcarvings, blown glass, and quilts on the manor’s front porch.
Grandfather Mountain State Park – 9872 Hwy 105 S, Banner Elk, NC
They say when you visit Grandfather Mountain, you’ll never experience the same mountain twice. A hike along one of the mountain’s 12 miles of trail might bring you eye-to-eye with a saw-whet owl or provide a glimpse of a white-tailed deer. Some peaceful canoeing can lead to an impromptu serenade by a chorus of leopard frogs. A rare wildflower might suddenly catch your eye while you’re busy searching for a vesper sparrow or yellow-rumped warbler on a guided bird hike. The vibrant natural wonders of this ancient mountain habitat provide endless outdoor experiences for all ages.
HIKING AND BIKING
The High Country of North Carolina is the perfect place for a hiking or biking adventure. Pisgah National Forest, Julian Price Park, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Grandfather Mountain State Park, and Linville Gorge Wilderness all offer easy, moderate, and strenuous trails to fulfill a variety of appetites and abilities. Whether you’re hiking it or biking it, you’ll want to check out the trails at each of these locations. Two of them are highlighted below:
Grandfather Mountain has more than 12 miles of trails through 2,456 acres along the mountain’s ridgeline. The terrain is rocky so most of the trails are strenuous, but the views from the rock outcrops are a sight to behold. Try Black Rock Trail (1 mile, moderate), Cragway Trail (1 mile, strenuous), Grandfather Trail (2.4 miles, 5,844’ elevation, advanced), or Daniel Boone Scout Trail (3 miles, 5,946’ elevation, strenuous). Experienced hikers will want to go all the way to the summit of Daniel Boone Scout Trail, to Calloway Peak, the highest point on the Blue Ridge range.
Mountain Biking at Beech Mountain offers a variety of options from smooth trails for beginning riders to steep, rocky terrain with enough tricky corners to satisfy experienced riders. Many of these are NCAA National Mountain Bike Championship favorites. Beech Mountain Resort offers lifts, as well as a team of experienced instructors who deliver skills-based biking instruction and guided tours to the highest bike park in the east (5,506’ elevation) with panoramic views to enjoy on your ride up the mountain.
This area may be “The Ski Capital of the South” but there’s a whole lot more to do besides skiing in The High Country, NC. Winter activities popular in these parts include snow tubing, snow shoeing, ice skating, snowboarding and sledding. So bundle up, grab a lift, and make the most of your snow days at some of these popular resorts and attractions:
Appalachian Ski Mountain – 940 Ski Mountain Road, Blowing Rock, NC
Operating since 1968, with the distinction of being the first ski area in Northwestern North Carolina and the second oldest ski area in the State, this resort has some history behind it. Translation: these folks know how to do skiing right! With 12 slopes, including two terrain parks, and a lodge with a large stone fireplace and a 200-foot observation deck with amazing views of the slopes, this is ski heaven. They also do ice skating and snowboarding. And, if you’re ready to tie the knot, this resort makes an idyllic wedding location (hint, hint).
Hawksnest Snow Tubing – 2058 Skyland Drive, Seven Devils, NC
Try out all 20 lanes at the largest snow tubing park on the east coast. Lanes are 400-1,000 feet long.
Beech Mountain Sledding Hill – 403 Beech Mountain Pkwy, Beech Mountain NC
Sled at the highest town on the east coast. Kids 12 and under sled for free, but bring your own sled.
Sugar Mountain -1009 Sugar Mountain Drive, Sugar Mountain, NC
Enjoy skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, or skating, or take a scenic lift ride to the 5,300-foot peak on the new Summit Express, a Doppelmayr high speed, detachable, six passenger lift. The new Little Gray lift transports skiers to the top of Easy Street Extension. All in all, the ski mountain has 8 lifts and 21 trails (15 of them are night skiing trails). The longest run is 1.5 miles. 100% of the mountain has snow making capability.
If you’re anything like our fun-seeking friends at The Coves Mountain River Club, you’re a die-hard fan of the festivals in North Carolina. Everyone knows this area – home of bluegrass and rich in mountain heritage – has some of the best! There are so many fantastic festivals in Blowing Rock, Boone, and Banner Elk that you could fill your calendar for the year! To get you started, we’ve distilled the list down to eight of the big ones coming up this spring and into the fall. But, trust us, there are lots more where these came from.
Savor Blowing Rock: The Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival – April
Wine tastings, cooking classes, wine seminars, winemaker’s dinners, and more are featured throughout this four-day festival showcasing wineries from North Carolina and around the globe. Location: Downtown Blowing Rock
Appalachian Summer Festival – July
Presented by the Appalachian State University Office of Arts & Cultural Programs, this annual arts celebration features an eclectic mix of music, dance, theatre, visual arts and film. Location: Various venues on and around the ASU campus in Boone, NC
MusicFest ‘n’ Sugar Grove – July
Join this heritage-rich celebration of Appalachian music and cultural traditions featuring world-renowned recording artists. Location: Grounds of the Historic Cove Creek School in Sugar Grove, NC
Beech Mountain Annual Mile High Kite Festival – September
Go fly a kite this Labor Day weekend! And participate in other kite-related activities, including kite contests, kite clinics, and build-your-own-kite tutorials. The sky’s the limit! Location: Beech Mountain Town Hall
Blowing Rock Music Festival – September
This “Rock” festival features a variety of live music performances to celebrate the best in Americana, folk, blues, rock, and jazz. Location: The Blowing Rock Attraction
Tweetsie Railroad Ghost Train Halloween Festival – October
It’s one of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast” and features a train ride that transports Halloween lovers through a Mountain Monster Hunt in a spooky-themed park. Attractions include a Freaky Forest, 3-D maze, Haunted House, and a mystifying Warp Tunnel. Location: Tweetsie Wild West Theme Park, 300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane, Blowing Rock, NC
Boone Heritage Festival – October
This family-friendly event focuses on Appalachian traditions, history, and heritage. It features music performances, storytellers, historical demonstrations, traditional crafts, kids activities, food, and fun. Location: Hickory Ridge Living History Museum
Woolly Worm Festival Banner Elk – October
Got a worm you want to race? The Woolly Worm Festival is famous for its “Woolly Worm Races.” The winning worm receives a $1,000 prize and, uh, winter weather predicting rights. Not into worms? There’s also live music, arts, crafts, and food. Location: Downtown Banner Elk, NC
All that High Country fresh air and clear skies can make your full day of outdoor activities fly right by. When you’re ready to take a break to relax and refuel, here are some favorite Blowing Rock dining spots you’ll want to try:
Bistro Roca – 143 Wonderland Trail, Blowing Rock, NC
Open daily for brunch, lunch, and dinner, this casual neighborhood restaurant presents a seasonally changing menu and a welcoming atmosphere for folks looking to enjoy each other’s company at a cozy bistro with “easy cuisine and drink.”
Foggy Rock Eatery & Pub – 8180 Valley Blvd, Blowing Rock, NC
There’s no set cuisine at this trend-oriented pub that’s passionate about food and determined to deliver a “twist on the ordinary.” Their current menu includes avocado eggrolls, Appalachian peach marmalade, and fried green tomato sliders, but this eatery likes to shake things up, so who knows what they’ll be adding tomorrow?
Storie Street Grille – 1167 Main Street, Blowing Rock, NC
This elegant gastropub in the heart of Blowing Rock uses local ingredients to create a menu that’s “simple, seasonal, and memorable” and offers a full bar and extensive wine list to enhance the perfect seafood, steak, or pasta dinner.
New Public House & Hotel – 239 Sunset Drive, Blowing Rock, NC
After a day of gliding down Appalachian Ski Mountain, you’ll want to drop into this quaint restaurant/inn for some craft cocktails and Southern-inspired cuisine. There’s an abundance of food, drink, lodging, and hospitality set inside this 1920’s clapboard building. It’s located less than 4 miles from skiing and 7.4 miles from Boone Golf Course.
Restaurant at Gideon Ridge Inn – 202 Gideon Ridge Rd, Blowing Rock, NC
This intimate Bed & Breakfast offers an elegant and relaxed dining experience embellished by sweeping mountain views. Take a table in the European-style dining room and treat yourself to such culinary specialties as rabbit liver pâté, warm Brussels sprout salad, and North Carolina duck breast. The menu mixes gourmet meat dishes with plenty of decadent vegetarian options.
Village Café – 146 Greenway Ct, Blowing Rock, NC
Tucked away in the heart of Blowing Rock, this charming café is worth the visit as much to enjoy their savory breakfast and lunch menu as to appreciate the exquisite architecture. Exposed-rafter ceilings, original glass window panes, cobblestone patio, and the largest free-standing fireplace in Blowing Rock are just some of the structural features you’ll admire about this two-story gem that was originally built in 1907 as a workshop facility for spinning, weaving, basketry, and woodwork.
Did you know The High Country is also Wine Country? All those sunny days, warm breezes, and crisp mountain nights we love to brag about are not just perfect for mountain lovers. These conditions are also perfect for producing some fabulous wines that range from deliciously delicate to boldly robust. A variety of prize-winning wines are produced year-round in this region of North Carolina, with Banner Elk being home to two of the area’s finest wineries that you’ll want to tour: Grandfather Vineyard & Winery (225 Vineyard Lane, Banner Elk, NC) and Banner Elk Winery & Villa (60 Deer Run, Banner Elk, NC).
When you make your way to Blowing Rock, be sure to sample even more wines at Savor Blowing Rock, The Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival (See FESTIVAL section above.) The event takes place April 14-17 and features an April 16th Corkscrew 5K, a scenic, competitive run (prizes are awarded!) through the beautiful Chetola Resort. This unique event combines road racing and wine, and it benefits both The Blue Ridge Park Foundation and Girls on the Run. If you prefer to walk and wine, no problem! This is a great way to get moving – and get wining – no matter your speed.
From old-world craft shops and posh boutiques to downtown retailers and nearby outlets, The High Country is the place to scratch that shopping itch. While Blowing Rock, Boone, and Banner Elk each have a variety of shopping options, we picked one favorite from each town to give you just a hint of what’s out there:
Tanger Outlet Mall – 278 Shoppes on the Parkway Road, Blowing Rock, NC)
Such a deal! You’ll find discounts on all your favorite designers and brand-names as you enjoy this “ultimate shopping experience.” So many stores, you could fill a day. Or, if you don’t have the time, just ask for a Tanger personal shopper to handle it for you.
Mast General Store – 630 W King Street, Boone, NC
Welcome to the best known shop in downtown Boone. Built in 1883, the original “Old Boone Mercantile” has been through a few evolutions, but this landmark downtown shop has preserved plenty of history, including The Candy Barrel, an entire room dedicated to sweets! You’ll also find a variety of food, apparel, and outdoor gear.
Hidden Valley Antique Mall – 8795 NC-105, Banner Elk, NC
Banner Elk is known for its antique shops, and Hidden Valley gives you access to quite the assortment. With 45 booths’ worth of antiques, collectibles, unique gifts, crafts, and other “pieces of history,” priced to suit all budgets, you will easily see why this is a favorite shopping spot for antique lovers.
While you’re in the shopping groove, don’t forget there are some heavenly day spas and relaxing salons in this region for those who prefer the gift of pampering. When you want to take a souvenir home with you, there are plenty of fabulous wineries, art galleries, craft stores, and specialty shops in all three towns. You definitely won’t be walking away without that perfect High Country experience (a mountain massage… aaah) or a unique Appalachian gift to preserve and share your mountain memories.
If you’re like your mountain-loving neighbors, you’ll want to preserve those memories each time you visit the High Country of North Carolina. And eventually, you’ll realize it’s not only a great place to visit, it’s also a great place to live. That’s when you’ll start exploring Blowing Rock real estate or land for sale near Boone. When you get to that point, be sure to put The Coves Mountain River Club at the top of your list of neighborhoods to consider.
Tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the peaceful Johns River, and with so many leisure activities built in to this gated-community lifestyle, The Coves is one of those places that feels like a vacation retreat. But the good news is, this place is home sweet home. And it’s a home you can have custom built to your specifications, with impressive great rooms, sloping ceilings, and wrap-around porches. This is your home, built your way, in a mountain paradise that’s tailored for a happy ever after.
Start writing your own romantic tale with your perfectly happy ever after by visiting The Coves Mountain River Club and discovering the joys of scenic mountain living.
If you’re exploring the area for the first time, ask for our 84 page complimentary Western North Carolina Visitor’s Guide which provides more information about living in the foothills.