If you’re seeking a long weekend getaway with your family, there’s no better destination than Boone, North Carolina. A town deeply steeped in American history, having recently celebrated its 150th birthday, Boone is home to the captivating Blue Ridge Mountains and historical tales of American frontiersman Daniel Boone. Explore the town on foot, where the downtown features a variety of restaurants, historic sites, and endless shopping. In the Boone area’s great outdoors, hike the Appalachian Trail, kayak the many rivers running through the area, or swim in the cool mountain water. From off-the-beaten-path adventures to the town’s sights, the possibilities are endless for family fun.
There are two conveniently located airports to choose from when beginning your family’s journey to Boone. The Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is serviced by all major carriers and is located roughly 95 miles from town. Visitors seeking a scenic drive through beautiful mountain country can fly into Tri-Cities Airport in Blountville, Tennessee.
Where to Stay
There are many hotels to choose from in Boone. Some of the top-rated include the Fairfield Inn and Suites, The Hampton Inn and Suites Boone, and the La Quinta Inn & Suites. Each of these hotels offers a different experience, with the La Quinta Inn & Suites being the closest to the downtown area and the Fairfield Inn offering quick access to shopping centers. Seeking smaller accommodations paired with a bit of history? The Lovill House Inn is a charming bed and breakfast that is sure to please. There are also cabin rentals available in the area for families seeking more rustic accommodations.
Day 1: A Historical Walking Tour
The best way to explore the town of Boone is to take part in the historic downtown Boone walking tour. The streets are lined with beautiful buildings, including the Jones House, a Queen Anne-style home in the heart of Boone. This house served not only as a family home but also as a space for several medical offices for Dr. John Walter Jones in the early 1900s. The home still has the original furniture and is where locals gather every Thursday for old-time jam sessions with local musicians.
The Boone Post Office is another tour highlight. Inside, you can enjoy the sight of the original mailboxes and a stunning mural of Daniel Boone. The Mast General Store is next door, where you can sip an old-fashioned soda pop and snack on buttery, warm popcorn.
There are more than a dozen historic stops along this walking trail. One of the most popular to mention is the Daniel Boone Cabin Monument in Rivers Park. Built in 2005, the monument is a recreation of the original from 1912.
You’re probably getting hungry at this point, so why not stop at the county jail for a bite? Considered one of Boone’s hidden gems, the former Watauga County Jail has transformed into the restaurant known today as Proper. Dine on mouthwatering Southern cuisine in the oldest surviving governmental building in the country while observing the original steel-case door frame and reading messages carved into the walls by prisoners.
If dining in former prisons doesn’t sound appealing, there is no limit to the number of restaurants to choose from in downtown Boone. From the Black Cat Burrito serving up premiere quesadillas and burritos to Blue Deer Cookies baking fresh cookies paired with milk and lemonade, you won’t go hungry!
One of the most popular places in downtown Boone is King Street. In addition to historic shops and restaurants, one of the best ways to see the town is climbing the 40-foot climbing wall! And no trip would be complete without some souvenirs. Stop in at High Country Souvenirs for a $5 t-shirt; it’s the best deal in town.
Day 2: Mountain Adventures and Toe-Tapping Entertainment
The second day of your Boone family vacation takes you about 35 minutes outside of town for some wilderness adventures. First up is Grandfather Mountain. Grandfather Mountain is the only privately-owned Biosphere Reserve in the entire world. There are all types of walking and hiking trails, from casual strolls to thrill-seeking views! Some of the most popular trails for families include Woods Walk, the Black Rock Trail, and the Grandfather Loop.
But one of the most iconic walks is the Mile High Swinging Bridge. This 228-foot bridge is the country’s highest suspension bridge and provides 360 degrees of iconic, mountainous views. If you have a little extra time, you can also make the hike up to the observation deck on the mountain.
No matter what time of year you visit, there are several ski resorts to choose from for your next adventure. Yes, even in the summer! Of course, when snow is on the ground, you can enjoy snow tubing and fresh powder for skiing, but during the summer, you can also enjoy grassy, wildflower-filled meadows, mountain biking, hiking, tennis, and golf.
And speaking of snow, when you drive back to Boone, it’s worth stopping by The Blowing Rock because, according to Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not, this is the only place in the world where you can see snowfall upside down! But hey, if it’s warm when you visit, you can enjoy some of the most dramatic cliffside views of North Carolina’s oldest and must-see attraction.
You also have to explore Mystery Hill, another unique attraction that’s a family favorite. Due to a natural gravitational anomaly, weird stuff that defies the law of gravity occurs at Mystery Hill! Walk through the historical museum and orchards to explore and experiment as a family. There are also many other fun-filled activities, from mechanical bull riding to ax throwing, river walking, and exploring the hall of mystery.
End your adventure-filled day with tickets to the historical production at Horn in the West. This outdoor theatre brings to life local pioneers and heroes of the American Revolution every August and September. Watch under the stars as actors perform on a spectacular outdoor stage that’s surrounded by forest, while special effects such as a fire-spinner and prop gun blasts keep you on your toes throughout the show.
Day 3: All Aboard for Theme Park Thrills
A family vacation to Boone would not be complete without a day dedicated to Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park, the local premier family fun park that takes you right back to good old Western times. Tweetsie provides a three-mile train adventure on real steam locomotives, including locomotive No. 12 “Tweetsie,” built in 1917, and locomotive No. 190 “Yukon Queen,” built in 1943. “Tweetsie” is the last surviving locomotive that ran from Johnson City, Tennessee, to Boone from 1919-1940.
There are also several other amusement park rides for all ages, from a Ferris wheel to a carousel, tilt-a-whirl, a chair lift to Miner’s Mountain, and so much more. And if rides aren’t a family favorite, there are still plenty of activities such as exploring for gold, arcade games, playgrounds, and shopping.
And, of course, there is something for everyone regarding meals and treats. Watch the locomotives chug by at Feed & Seed while you enjoy a variety of family favorites such as chicken fingers, pizza, corn dogs, and French fries. For dessert, enjoy warm funnel cakes covered with your favorite toppings at the Funnel Factory, or perhaps sit back and enjoy a piece of creamy, decadent fudge from Fudge Works. But the most popular destination is the Tweetsie Palace, where you can savor hand-dipped ice cream and soft pretzels while enjoying live, interactive shows for the entire family.