Try This Fantastic
Long Weekend for Families!
Spring and summer will be here before you know it—and the 2014 Boone Area Visitor's Guide is here to help! Flip through it now.
Use the Guide and this itinerary to make a Boone Area family weekend even more fantastic—by taking three days—or longer. The energetic itinerary below can easily be the core of a relaxed week-long warm-season vacation in the Boone Area.
Base yourself most anywhere in the broader Boone Area and this itinerary works nicely. Click to our Places to Stay pages to make the perfect lodging choice. Many local hotels, motels, and resorts have a kid’s favorite—a pool—and some resorts even have tennis courts and their own trails.
Get to bed early for a full day of fun tomorrow. Track your trip on the interactive map down below...
Day One: Get the lay of the Land
(Blue balloons on the map below.)
Start in Boone. A scenic loop of the High Country makes Grandfather Mountain your peak experience.
Find your way to Blowing Rock on US 321. (Mystery Hill, with its nostalgic “gravity-defying phenomenon,” makes a fun stop on the way.)
Hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway and head south. Brief pull-offs are possible—
Cone Manor House, Parkway Milepost 294, has great crafts and views.
Price Lake Overlook, a left at Milepost 296.7, surveys a beautiful lake with your destination, Grandfather Mountain, towering beyond. Briefly pop across the dam and into the woods on the trail (check out the Price Lake trail guide)—or keep driving and the mountain looms above.
Rough Ridge Parking Area, a right at Milepost 302.8, permits a short, rocky scramble on the Tanawha Trail to boardwalks where huge views drop to Piedmont NC with Grandfather Mountain State Park soaring overhead (out-and-back, 30 minutes). (Check out the Rough Ridge trail guide.)
Linn Cove Viaduct. Cross the famous viaduct then turn left into the visitor center at Milepost 304.4. A short handicapped-accessible paved peeks under the serpentine span (out-and-back, a mere 15 minutes).
Exit the Parkway right at Milepost 305.1 and turn right on US 221 for one mile to Grandfather Mountain.
Stop at the first overlook on the way in—the famous peaks spike the sky.
Lunch. Just beyond, hit the Grandfather Mountain Picnic Area if you brought lunch. Walk the nature trail to work it off after. Or keep going (crags and views invite stops if you wish) to the Nature Museum and head right in to the restaurant for lunch (save room for dessert!).
Explore the top-notch museum, gift shop, perhaps watch a nature film in the theater. Grandfather Mountain's many indoor areas are fun even in a drizzle—or snow flurries! Then wander outside to natural habitats for deer, bears, cougars, otters and eagles. Head back to your car—but stop at the environmentally green fudge shop!
The Swinging Bridge is next. When the road swerves back and forth—that’s Forrest Gump Curve (yep, it’s in the movie). Pull left into Cliffside Overlook, the curve is just below.
If only climbing a mountain on foot will do—go for it! Park at Black Rock Parking Area and take the Bridge Trail to the very top (moderate footing, 20 minutes up—a great adventure for the active, 8-and above crowd). If you want one of the East’s real adventures, awe your active teens with a 2-3 hour loop hike over MacRae Peak where ladders climb cliffs on the Grandfather Trail. (Not for beginners.)
Or drive to the summit parking area, enter the Top Shop, and find your way across the Mile-High Swinging Bridge, justifiably called “Carolina’s Top Scenic Attraction.” (The bridge is handicapped accessible—parents should closely supervise young children on the rocky peak beyond.)
Head Back to Boone
From Grandfather take US 221 right to a right turn in Linville on NC 105. You should easily make Boone by dinner (but be forewarned, Eastern America’s highest McDonald’s is on the way, at the junction of NC 105 and NC 184).
Just beyond that intersection, turn into Grandfather Mountain State Park’s Profile Trail to see how hikers scale the mountain’s highest peak, Calloway. Wander the riverside trail a short distance if you like.
It’s a beautiful drive back to Boone. If you’re cooking your own dinner in a nice condo or cabin—the Grandfather Mountain Trout Farm has fresh, prepared fish—or catch your own and let them do the hard part!
Evening—If you’re still kickin’ after dinner (June 27th through August 17th, 2014)—Horn in the West outdoor drama makes an exciting, historically insightful spectacle under the stars in the cool High Country evening. Arrive early and explore the frontier cabins next door at Hickory Ridge Living History Museum. (If you're a history buff, explore our History Travels & Tours page for more great insight into the High Country's past.) Or relax and wander around downtown Boone or Blowing Rock and just enjoy an ice cream cone or custard.
Day Two—On Track for Fun
(A red balloon on the map below.)
Train your eyes on an early start. Whenever you get going, head to Tweetsie Railroad, the Boone Area’s premier family fun park. (The park opens April 11th, 2014.)
Many guests—especially rail fans—bee-line it to the Western-themed ride on an authentic steam train—actually the Boone Area’s first high-tech link to the outside world from the late 1800s to 1940. Ride along behind Engine # 12—the real deal—listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When the shrill-whistled train screams out, you’ll know why early mountain residents nicknamed it “Tweetsie.” Some of the shrieking may be passengers—the train crosses a trestle, circles a mountain, and encounters robbers and Indians!
The train’s just the start. Back at Main Street, explore the shops and head to the Country Fair for a long list family-friendly rides—some of them fair classics—to get dizzy, giggle, or gasp with excitement.
Take a chairlift to Miner’s Mountain—then ride a train through “America’s Only Cheese Mine!” Meet the friendly animals in the Deer Park, pan for gold or gems, or any number of other entertaining options. Shopping adds to that list, with fun family photos, routed wood signs, custom license plates, engraved glass ware and all sort of souvenirs.
Tweetsie is fun for an entire day for young kids (teens will love the train and rides but may want to move on sooner), so plan for lunch at any of nearly a dozen eateries and snack spots.
When it’s time to grab a seat—make it at one of Tweetsie’s five live shows featuring everything from a musical to magic, can-can dancing to authentic mountain clogging and traditional music.
There are great events at Tweetsie. They range from one of the Boone Area's best fireworks displays and October's Ghost Train season to separate visits by Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora the Explorer, and Barney. The Grammy-Award winning singing cowboys Riders in the Sky perform August 6th and 7th, 2011.
Evening—If you’re still kickin’ after dinner (between June 27th and Aug 17th, 2014)—Horn in the West outdoor drama makes an exciting, historically insightful evening of spectacle under the stars in the cool High Country dusk. (If you're a history buff, explore our History Travels & Tours page for more insight into the High Country's past.) Or relax on a wander around downtown Boone or Blowing Rock and enjoy an ice cream cone or custard.
Day Three—Outdoor Adventures (Green balloons on the map below.)
The Boone Area’s range of outdoor activities is second-to-none. The High Country offers nationally significant access to all there is to do in Eastern America’s highest mountains.
Raft, Paddle, or Go with the Flow
Any number of Boone Area Outfitters can get you out on a scenic mountain river or stream. Float through the scenery on a tube if you like—it’s a quintessential summer experience. Or navigate the current and small rapids in a canoe or kayak. Whitewater rafting really ramps it up—and the action happens from within minutes of Boone to not far away. Depending on the river, you can take an outfitter shuttle or drive yourself. You can be your own guide, or join a group (lunch can be part of the plan).
The Boone Area’s easiest paddling adventure? Pull into Price Lake at Boone Fork Overlook (Milepost 297.2) on the Blue Ridge Parkway and rent a rowboat, canoe, or new in 2013, a kayak, and paddle the calm, scenic lake. Find a quiet cove, dock at a rock, and have a picnic on shore beside the trail. Fishing is permitted and the rental facility has bait and rental fishing tackle.
Just want to enjoy the shoreline and revel in the water? Hike the shoreline path at Price Lake or Bass Lake on the Parkway (check out the Bass Lake trail guide) or stroll around a High Country Lake. Visit New River State Park’s multiple riverside access points. Or just take a dip at Wildcat Lake, one of the High Country’s favorite swimming holes.
Ride, Ride, Ride Your Bike—BIG Bike News in Boone for 2013!
Bring your bike! (Or rent one at a Boone Area bike shop.) The entire family will love the Boone Greenway. It has miles of paved paths along the South Fork of the New River and even more challenging trails for mountain bikers. The Boone Area's BIG bike news is the spring 2013 Grand Opening of Rocky Knob Bike Park, a spectacular, dedicated—and free—bike facility if the kids are older and mountain biking’s on your mind. Even if your kids are younger, the park has an inviting and entertaining rustic playground that's a real family favorite. And there's an easy skills development area for youngsters. Check out this amazing facility.
Take, Take, Take a Hike!
There’s everything from easy leg-stretcher strolls on the Blue Ridge Parkway (some suitable for toddlers) to serious summits to scale for active teens. See the Grandfather Mountain hike above on Day One—or explore our hiking guide. Or don’t try to choose a trail yourself. Just check out the High Country’s best waterfalls! They’re always an awesome sight—and there are easy destinations for even young families.
Soar Above it All!
Have a real eco-adventure and take a zipline tour! There's nothing more fun or exciting than soaring above and through fields and forests, with dazzling scenery and the breeze in your hair.
That’s a pretty busy three days! Don't forget—spread out this itinerary over a week and you still won't get bored.
Best-Kept-Secret Add-On Activitites
Boone’s Fun 'N' Wheels go-kart track is family-friendly warm-weather amusement.
Linville Caverns is only a twenty minute scenic drive, mostly on the Blue Ridge Parkway, past Grandfather Mountain. Exploring North Carolina’s only publicly accessible cavern is a cool subterranean adventure (literally) on the rainiest, warmest, or coldest day.
The Children's Playhouse is an exciting, innovative Boone attraction if your children range from infants to eight years old—especially on a rainy day! Rain or shine, you'll feel like a lucky local when you walk into this independent, non-profit children's museum.
Located near downtown Boone, The Children’s Playhouse includes indoor play areas for rainy days—a pretend vet clinic complete with real x-rays, an art room, indoor "Romp and Stomp" with ballpit and bouldering wall, and a pretend play area complete with dress up clothes and a play kitchen—all tucked into a child-friendly space. Outdoor fun includes sand and water play, climbers, and gardening and art activities.
Thanks to grants from the Helen M. Clabough Foundation and the Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in 2011, the museum completely overhauled its outdoor spaces, adding custom-built rustic fencing, arbors, and a shady picnic area as well as a popular “kid-powered” water pump. Phase II continues in 2012 with more plantings and musical instruments.
The Playhouse is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. Parents or caregivers must stay with their children. Admission is $5 per person and infants one year or younger are free.
Check out our Long Family Weekend Interactive Map!
Zoom in close on the map below (use the plus/minus signs and directional arrows at upper left), or repeatedly double click near, but not on, the map symbols. Day One locations are blue ballons, Day Two is red, and Day Three sites are green. You can literally dive down to see the parking lots and landmarks for the Fabulous Long Family Weekend. Click any map symbol and information balloons pop up. In the parking area map balloons, click "Directions," add your address or location, and step-by-step directions will guide you to the location from wherever you are! This satellite map permits "Map view" or "Terrain view" should you wish.
View Boone Area Long Family Weekend in a larger map