Boone, NC is a charming historical town located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina.

The home of Appalachian State University, it has a lively student-town spirit while also retaining the ruggedness associated with its past, which is closely linked to the legendary explorer Daniel Boone.

The surrounding area offers some of the country's best outdoor adventures, with fast, clear rivers perfect for rafting or kayaking.

1. Daniel Boone Native Gardens

Daniel Boone Native Gardens
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The Daniel Boone Native Gardens is a magnificent naturally landscaped garden near downtown Boone, North Carolina. It has a rare, extensive collection of native plants, shrubs, trees, and wildflowers. The 3-acre gardens, which opened in 1963, represent a conservation and education effort as well as a kind of laboratory where clubs, botanists, and schools can grow rare or endangered species.

There are hundreds of plants that continuously bloom during every growing season. There are different gardens with unique species – a bog garden, rhododendron garden, and fern garden, a rock wishing well, a vine-covered arbor, a lovely pond next to the historic Squire Boone log cabin, and magnificent wrought-iron gates at the entrance, built by Daniel Boone’s descendants.

651 Horn in the W Dr, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 828-264-6390

2. Foggy Mountain Gem Mine

Foggy Mountain Gem Mine
© Foggy Mountain Gem Mine

Gem mining played a huge role in the High Country’s history. You can just imagine how the shiny rubies, topaz, and emeralds grabbed peoples’ imaginations and started the Gold Rush. The area is honeycombed with gem mines and most are rich in gems of different kinds. Finding gems in real mines is a hard job that requires patience, equipment, and experience. At the Foggy Mountain Gem Mine, the hard work has already been done for the visitors.

They can buy buckets of gems mixed with soil and rocks and sift through them in search of real, beautiful gems. It is a fun activity for kids and there’s a competition for who can find the most valuable stones. If you wish, you can use the mine shop to set your precious stones in a piece of jewelry.

4416 NC-105, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 828-963-4367

3. Hickory Ridge Living History Museum

Hickory Ridge Living History Museum
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The mountains of North Carolina are rich in history. The Cherokee Indians, Daniel Boone, and other early explorers and settlers are an important part of the history of the area. At the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum you can learn what life was like in the 1700s as the young country was formed and expanded. The museum is located next to the site of the Horn in the West and consists of several original period cabins.

The oldest, the Tatum Cabin, is dated from around the time of the American Revolution and was originally located in Todd, North Carolina. The Coffey House dates to the early 1800s. There is a WPA cabin built in the 1930s, as was the cabin that is used today as a tavern. The museum staff are volunteers dressed in period clothing who provide the stories about the cabins and showcase the lifestyle of the early settlers. They also offer demonstrations of some of settlers’ skills, such as spinning, weaving, blacksmithing, tomahawk throwing, candle dipping, basket weaving, and shooting black-powder guns.

591 Horn in the W Dr, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 828-264-2120

4. Appalachian Ski Mountain

Appalachian Ski Mountain
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Appalachian Ski Mountain is a ski area in one of three ski mountains in Watauga County in western North Carolina between Boone and Blowing Rock. There are 11 slopes, three terrain parks, and five lifts with two quads and one double chair.

There is also a conveyor belt that takes ski novices to the top of the terrain as well as a large outdoor ice arena, meaning that there is something for every family member, regardless of their ski experience. The season in Appalachian Ski Mountain lasts from mid-November to late March, and there is also night skiing every night, making it the only ski area in the Southeast with late-night skiing.

940 Ski Mountain Rd, Blowing Rock, NC 28605

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5. Turtle Island Preserve

Turtle Island Preserve
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Founded by Eustace Conway, Turtle Island Preserve is a 1000-acre Appalachian heritage farm and education center located in a remote, wild, hidden valley that can only be reached along a long gravel road.

At Turtle Island, Eustace Conway offers visitors a glimpse of the lifestyle of their ancestors, including living in primitive, simple hand-made structures, using an “outhouse”, and wielding simple primitive tools for everyday chores. Everything comes from the land and is used with care and in balance with nature. Residents and visitors build shelters, plant and harvest gardens, milk goats, gather plants and herbs in the woods, and literally live “off the land.”

2683 Little Laurel Rd, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 828-265-2267

6. The Art of Living Retreat Center

The Art of Living Retreat Center
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Located high on the top of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains near Boone, North Carolina, the Art of Living Retreat Center and Ayurvedic Spa is a 380-acre sanctuary that provides an inviting place for those who seek the opportunity to practice guided meditation and yoga, attend philosophy workshops, indulge in spa treatments, take part in group ceremonies and celebrations, or just enjoy nature walks, peace, and solitude. A combination of the spectacularly beautiful surrounding nature and knowledgeable staff, the center is great place to nurture your body and mind. The center was established by the renowned spiritual teacher Sri Ravi Shankar, and was considered by the readers of the USA Today to be one of the Best Health and Wellness Resorts in America.

639 Whispering Hills Rd, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 828-263-4910

7. Howard's Knob

Howard's Knob
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Howard's Knob is both a mountain and a park in the North Carolina High Country overlooking the town of Boone. Howard’s Knob and the area around it are part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. It has an elevation of 4,396 feet above sea level and rises about 1,000 feet above Boone and the Appalachian State University campus.

The magnificent views of the city and the beauty of the mountain prompted the High Country Conservancy and a number of local residents to sign a conservation easement that protects 46 acres as a natural forested area with provisions for hiking trails and a small shelter.

8. Watauga County Farmer's Market

Watauga County Farmer's Market
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The Watauga County Farmers’ Market has been a community effort from the very beginning in 1974 – for people by people. They gather every Saturday from 8 am to noon, from May through October, at the Horn in the West parking lot in Boone. During the summer, this means fresh local produce, right-from-the-farm eggs, soft artisan breads, plants, fresh dairy products, delicious honeys, jams and jellies, local crafts and, on some weekends, a kid’s mini market, where kids can sell their own wares.

The Watauga Farmers’ Market also offers special events such as chef demonstrations, live music, art demonstrations, and more. The market is also a great spot to see the community, get to know the local farmers, and find out where your favorite goodies come from. Browse islands and beaches in North Carolina

591 Horn in the W Dr, Boone, NC 28607

9. Moses H. Cone Memorial Park

Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
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Moses H. Cone Memorial Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, was created to protect the country estate of Moses H. Cone, a textile entrepreneur, philanthropist, and conservationist. At its heart is Flat Top Manor, a 1901 Grand Colonial Revival mansion that is a 20-room, 13,000-square-foot gleaming white beauty. The mansion is surrounded by acres of forests, meadows, and wildflowers and lakes full of bass and trout.

There are 26 miles of carriage roads for horseback riding, walking, or biking and rangers offer tours of the house on weekends. The mansion, now the home of the Parkway Craft Center, offers handmade crafts by regional artists, who at times demonstrate crafts such as embroidery, quilting, weaving, woodcarving, pottery, and glass blowing to the public on the porch.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, NC

10. North Carolina Daniel Boone Heritage Trail

North Carolina Daniel Boone Heritage Trail
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Daniel Boone, one of America's favorite heroes of the pioneer era, spent the 21 years between 1752 and 1773 in North Carolina and left his trace on the area’s history. The North Carolina Daniel Boone Heritage Trail links different spots that played important roles in Daniel Boone’s and North Carolina’s history.

By visiting them, you are brought back to the exciting times when the young country was being built. Along the trail, you will visit a replica of Boone’s cabin on the bank of Beaver Creek, see the site of the fort where he hid during the Cherokee War, see the ruins of the historic 1753 Moravian village where Boone brought his brother when he was ill, visit the cave on the Yadkin River where Boone lived when fishing and hunting in the area, and so much more.

126 W Church St, Mocksville, NC 27028

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11. Booneshine Brewing Company

Booneshine Brewing Company
© Booneshine Brewing Company

At the Booneshine Brewing Company, there is a passionate belief in the fact that sitting down to enjoy a beautifully crafted beer with great friends can be sacred moments filled with joy, camaraderie, and laughter. This belief comes to life at Booneshine, a rustic brewing company that puts just as much attention into their beer as they do on their patrons. The brewery is home to a tasting room and restaurant, a beer garden, and even a food truck, each of which offers a unique experience to visitors. Whether you’re coming for lunch or dinner, the restaurant is sure to please with fantastic pairings of beer with their menu offerings, and an equally enjoyable atmosphere. Draft selections include the East Boon Pilsner, the South Fork Grapefruit Gose, the Boone Beach Wheat, and the Champagne in the Membrane Grape Ale.

465 Industrial Park Drive, Boone, North Carolina 28607; Phone: 828-278-8006

12. River and Earth Adventures

River and Earth Adventures
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For outdoor enthusiasts, western North Carolina offers some of the most spectacular adventures. River and Earth Adventures organizes whitewater rafting, canoeing, caving, hiking, kayaking, and climbing trips as well as guided day trips and they also have a paddling school with ACA-certified instructors.

If you are interested in conservation, all adventures can be combined with added eco-education from guides who are North Carolina State environmental educators. They will help you understand the magnificent world you are paddling through as well as the plants and animals that live in it. River and Earth Adventures provide organic lunches, top-of-the-line equipment, free photos, and a lifetime of memories. For the more adventurous and athletic, they offer whitewater kayaking on Watauga Gorge, but only for those over 18.

1655 NC-105, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 866-411-7238

13. Rock Dimensions

Rock Dimensions
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People climb rocks for fun, to challenge themselves, to explore their outer limits, to connect with nature in a very direct way, or to conquer their fear of heights. Rock Dimensions has been offering guided climbing trips and climbing instruction since 1998. All their guides are highly experienced and certified, ensuring that your climbing experience is not only enjoyable but completely safe as well.

You might want to start with the Discovery Course to test your comfort level. Kids hugely enjoy their five-day climbing adventure camp that includes rock climbing, caving, rappelling, ropes, climbing tower, and a challenge course. There is something for everyone, the atmosphere is positive and encouraging, the surrounding nature is spectacular, and you simply cannot avoid having great fun.

131B Depot St, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 828-265-3544

14. The Cascades Trail

The Cascades Trail
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The Cascades Trail is an easy, 1-mile loop through the forest that meanders on the very edge of the Blue Ridge. The path follows the crest above the Piedmont where it meets Falls Creek at the point where water thunders over the cliff. All along the trail you will see about 20 interpretive plaques with the names and descriptions of the trees of the Blue Ridge. The Cascades Trail starts on a paved trail that soon becomes gravel.

Turn right at the beginning of the loop to see great views of the valley below. There are a few benches on the way. Enjoy the profusion of local plants such as dogwood, pignut, tulip tree, serviceberry, black locust, mountain laurel, flame azalea, white oak, highbush blueberry, minnie bush, and chestnut oak. As you cross the bridge over Falls Creek, the steps will lead you to two great overlooks protected by a wall. Stay behind the wall as the area can be very dangerous.

15. The Greenway Trail

The Greenway Trail
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The Greenway Trail is probably the most popular hiking trail in the Boone area, and for a good reason. It is easily accessible, partly paved and partly gravel surfaced, and in most parts flat. It follows the south fork of the New River across meadows filled with wildflowers and through dense, rich forests.

You will pass a historical ruin and find many resting benches, shelters, and picnic tables as well as a number of interpretive signs on human and natural history. There are two easy loops you should not miss – one with great bird-watching opportunities and one with fabulous flower viewing. You might consider the trail a bit too tame for serious hiking, but it's perfect for families or those who prefer to simply enjoy the beauty of the Boone Area in peace and without rushing.

16. Turchin Center

Turchin Center
© Turchin Center

A department of Appalachian State University, the Turchin Center is located in the heart of downtown Boone and is a space for viewing not only art, but also the dynamic, living presence of the Appalachian community, offering opportunities for people of all backgrounds and ages to experience the power of the visual arts.

The center blends new and historically significant artworks by national, international, and regional artists and offers exhibitions, workshops, and activities related to visual arts throughout the year. The Arnold P. Rosen Family Education Wing offers educational workshops for school children and adults. The center’s permanent collection now holds about 1,700 objects, which are exhibited on a rotating basis.

Appalachian State University, 423 West King Street Boone, Boone, NC 28608, Phone: 828-262-3017

17. High Mountain Expeditions

High Mountain Expeditions
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When they started their expeditions in 1986, High Mountain Expeditions opened up some of the most spectacular North Carolina wilderness to visitors. For the last 25 years, they have taken families, adventurers, and nature lovers whitewater rafting on wild rivers, such as the Nolichucky, Watauga, and New rivers and Wilson Creek, as well as river tubing, hiking, and caving.

Thanks to their highly experienced guides, entire families can now enjoy this magnificent wilderness filled with wildlife and fish. They developed the local thriving whitewater rafting industry, which now greets thousands of visitors every year.

1380 NC-105, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 828-264-7368

18. Tweetsie Railroad

Tweetsie Railroad
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Located half-way between Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina, Tweetsie Railroad is a family-oriented railroad and Wild West-themed park. The main attraction is a 3-mile-long ride aboard a real, authentic steam locomotive, the only surviving narrow gauge locomotive of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. The park also features amusement rides and other attractions for families and children.

Opened in 1957, Tweetsie Railroad started as an excursion train ride along its 1-mile track near Blowing Rock, North Carolina. In 1958 the length of the track was extended to a 3-mile loop going around the mountain. A Western town and saloon were constructed around the original train depot area and, to spice things up for the tourists, an Indian attack and train robbery shows were added to the train ride. In 1962 an amusement ride and a chairlift area were constructed inside the rail loop on the central mountain.

300 Tweetsie Railroad Ln, Blowing Rock, NC 28605

19. Coyote Kitchen

Coyote Kitchen
© Coyote Kitchen

Coyote Kitchen is lively, brightly colored Caribbean restaurant located in an uninspiring location near the Walmart shopping plaza in Boone. The place is colorful and relaxed, with vivid murals on the walls and lots of local art everywhere. While they advertise their cuisine as Southwest Caribbean Soulfood, it does not really belong to any national cuisine and contains something from all of them.

They really care about what goes into their dishes, and even those not advertised for special diets are full of fresh produce and bursting with flavors, textures, and colors. Try their bowls, a wonderful blend of fish, meats, veggies, and spices that make a full meal. Check out the Saguaro, which has blackened salmon, black beans, coconut rice, fried sweet potatoes, sautéed spinach, squash, zucchini, roasted red peppers, sour cream and scallions. They have a great selection of soft drinks and some excellent local micro brews.

200 Southgate Dr, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 828-265-4041

20. Melanie’s Food Fantasy

Melanie’s Food Fantasy
© Melanie’s Food Fantasy

Located in a lovely garden in downtown Boone, Melanie’s Food Fantasy serves breakfast and lunch that has been satisfying everyone’s fantasy since 1991 and is now a Boone institution. Farm-to-fork ingredients that are fresh and seasonal, farm-raised eggs, organic coffee, and freshly squeezed juice feature on the traditional American menu, and a great atmosphere fills this place pretty fast.

Known as a gathering place where people come for the food but stay for the conversation, Melanie’s serves everything from the Truckers’ Breakfast and the Extreme Appalachian Breakfast to eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine, with everything in between. Colorful and nicely presented, the meals look almost too pretty to eat!

664 W King St, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 828-263-0300

21. Two Worlds Divers

Two Worlds Divers
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You do not have to be in the warm waters of the Caribbean in order to learn to dive. In fact, when you learn to dive with Two Worlds Divers in Vilas, North Carolina, you can learn all the theory, get familiar with the equipment, get certified, and get ready to jump in with the fishes once you reach your dream Caribbean vacation destination. Two Worlds Divers are western North Carolina's top SDI SCUBA retail store.

They specialize in rentals, certification classes, trips, and all of your other SCUBA needs. Their training is backed by SDI, one of the world’s premier training agencies. They offer first-class gear rentals at reasonable prices and they also sell the hottest SCUBA products. You can even join one of their dive trips, from diving Watauga Lake or a rock quarry to wreck dives off the North Carolina coast and liveaboards anywhere in the world.

2482 US-421, Vilas, NC 28692, Phone: 828-265-2255

22. Wahoo's Adventures

Wahoo's Adventures
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No vacation to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains is complete without at least one trip down one of its spectacular rivers. The Nolichucky River and the Watauga River both offer whitewater rafting at various levels of difficulty, while the New River offers kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, and tubing.

Wahoo's Adventures has fully equipped outposts located near all the most exciting rivers, with hot showers, changing rooms, camping, and secure riverside parking. Voted 1996 Outfitter of the Year by the Professional Paddlesports Association, Wahoo’s Adventures will make your trip safe and memorable, regardless of your experience level. They also offer guided trips upon request.

3385 US-321, Blowing Rock, NC 28605, Phone: 828-262-5774

23. Elk Creek Outfitters

Elk Creek Outfitters
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Fishing, especially fly fishing, means different things to different people. At Elk Creek Outfitters, they specialize in organizing fishing trips throughout the southern Appalachian Mountains. They cater to each client individually, organizing the fishing trip of their dreams. They offer trout fishing in the Watauga River, which has 24 miles of undiscovered river, as well as in the South Holston River and the remote Catawba River.

They will take you smallmouth bass fishing at the New River and the Nolichucky River, where you can catch more than just the bass, as well as to a number of other wild, scenic North Carolina rivers. You can also catch giant muskys at the North and Nolichucky rivers. Whatever you go for, you are guaranteed a great experience.

1560 NC-105, Boone, NC 28607, Phone: 828-264-6497

24. Horn in the West

Horn in the West
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Written by Kermit Hunter and produced by the Southern Appalachian Historical Association every year since 1952, Horn in the West is one of the country’s oldest outdoor dramas. Performed in the Daniel Boone Amphitheatre in Boone, North Carolina, the show is also one of the oldest dramas about the American Revolutionary War and tells the story of the life and struggles of the first European settlers in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.

It describes the period between the 1771 Battle of Alamance and the 1780 Battle of King's Mountain and follows the family of British loyalist Dr. Geoffrey Stuart, who was forced to escape the lower colony because of his son’s activities in the Battle of Alamance. When Daniel Boone led him into the mountains, Stuart had to sort out his own loyalties as he was divided between his love for his son and his love for his country.

591 Horn in the West Dr, Boone, NC 28607-4283, Phone: 828-264-2120

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