How To Spend A Weekend In Boone, North Carolina

This tiny mountain town is the ultimate home base from which to explore the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Linville Gorge Sunrise Boone, NC
Photo: skiserge1/Getty Images

Downtown Boone, North Carolina, is known for its buzz. On any given evening, find patrons huddled underneath the Appalachian Theatre's glowing marque awaiting showtime; Appalachian State University students scampering to a nearby brewery; and tourists window shopping and taking in Blue Ridge's fall color. "Word is getting out that Boone is a destination," says Denise Lovin, co-owner of downtown's Horton Hotel. Since being voted as one of the South's best mountain towns in the 2020 edition of our annual South's Best poll, Boone has only continued to pick up steam. Here's how to spend a long weekend in this charming corner of the High Country.

Where to Stay

Book your stay at downtown Boone's first boutique inn, The Horton Hotel. It's set in the heart of King Street (Boone's main thoroughfare) in a former 1920s Studebaker garage. Boone locals and co-owners Denise and Fulton Lovin converted the abandoned space into a unique 15-room hotel in 2019, and have been booked up ever since. Make this your home base for exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway. And if you're looking to bring Fido along for the trip, you're in luck because the hotel offers pet-friendly rooms. Whether or not you stay, be sure to stop in for a drink at the Lobby Lounge or rooftop bar—The Horton's knowledgeable staff is eager to share their brand of High Country hospitality with you.

Where to Eat and Drink

Fuel up for a day outdoors at Hatchet Coffee Roasters. A draft latte or specialty coffee paired with an egg-and-tater-tot-stuffed breakfast burrito will provide enough energy for hours on the trails. A local artist recently made over the shop's white walls with vibrant, hand-painted murals.

A Boone staple, Stick Boy Bread Co. serves up freshly baked breads and pastries daily. (Pay attention to menus at other restaurants around town, and you'll notice just about everyone sources bread from here.) Pick up a box of their popular cream cheese-topped cinnamon rolls or a homemade loaf of sourdough to slice thick with homemade jam and butter.

After a long day exploring the great outdoors, head back to downtown Boone for dinner at one of the many restaurants dotting King Street, all of which are walkable from The Horton Hotel. Vidalia is an upscale-casual eatery serving farm-to-table dishes with North Carolina-sourced ingredients. If you're ready for another adventure, travel off campus to High Country favorite Gamekeeper. You'll wind up mountain roads until reaching a rustic stone cottage perched on a hillside. Inside, cozy dining rooms are decorated with taxidermy, vintage photos, and mountain memorabilia. The restaurant is known for—you guessed it—it's selection of wild game. Elk and emu two of the most popular dishes on the menu. For dessert, order a batch of homemade cookies (served warm) from Appalachia Cookie Company.

If you're looking for a lively night cap, there's no shortage of breweries in town. Grab a table next to the stone fireplace at Lost Province Brewing Company, which is conveniently located right off downtown Boone's main drag on North Depot Street. Wash down one of their Neapolitan-style, wood-fired pizzas with a craft beer. Another local favorite is Boonshine Brewing Company. Their indoor tasting room serves elevated pub fare for lunch and dinner, but the best spot at this brewery is outside on the patio around the firepit.

Where to Shop

Browse boutiques along King Street, like Lucky Penny and Lililu, which are big on women's fashion and accessories. Mast General Store is a one-stop shop for any outdoor gear you might need for a highly-active lifestyle. Don't miss Common Good Co., which doubles as retail space and an art gallery featuring works from local creatives. Catch a movie or live show at the restored Appalachian Theatre of the High Country. And while you're in the area, take a self-guided tour of the charming Appalachian State University campus.

What to Do

Boone's slogan isn't "Live It Up" for no reason. Make this mountain town your home base for year-round adventures along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Boone is a quick drive from the area's three ski resorts. Blowing Rock, located just 20 minutes up the road in a town of the same name, is a popular tourist attraction, but we suggest skipping the crowds and hiking Rough Ridge instead for equally scenic views. Pop off the Parkway to visit Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, and tour Flat Top Manor, the late-19th century summer home of the "denim king" Moses Cone and his family. Explore the estate by hiking the Flat Top Tower trail; at the end of the path, carefully climb above the tree line via the four-story fire tower for bird's-eye view of downtown Boone.

From there, venture on to Grandfather Mountain, and drive along its hairpin turns (you may recognize the scenery from Forrest Gump's famous cross-country run) until you reach the top. Cross the Mile High Swinging Bridge for panoramic views of Blue Ridge. The Linville Gorge Wilderness, about an hour drive away from Boone, offers more scenic vistas, hikes, and waterfalls to explore.

For the anglers, book a fly-fishing trip with Trophy Water Guide Service, and spend the day catching trout on the South Holston river with brothers Rhett and Justin Shroyer. If you're lodging at the Horton Hotel, you can spend a weekend morning like a true local by joining a hike led by co-owner Fulton Lovin. We won't judge if you're planning a move to the charming mountain town after just one stay!

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