Spend a long weekend in one of the South's best mountain towns.

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

Downtown Boone, North Carolina, was buzzing when I walked along King Street on a crisp Thursday afternoon in November. Patrons were huddled underneath the Appalachian Theatre’s glowing marque awaiting showtime; Appalachian State University students were scampering to a nearby brewery; tourists (like me) were window shopping and taking in the Blue Ridge’s fall color. “Word is getting out that Boone is a destination,” says Denise Lovin, co-owners of downtown’s new Horton Hotel. Our readers have caught on too—you voted Boone as one of the South’s best mountain towns for 2020. Here’s how to spend a long weekend in this charming corner of the High Country.

Stay

Book your stay at downtown Boone’s first boutique inn, The Horton Hotel. It’s set in the heart of King Street 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 last year. Make this your home base for exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway (bonus points for pet-friendly rooms). 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.

Eat & Drink

Fuel up for a day outdoors at Hatchet Coffee Roasters. Order a stick-to-your-ribs, Instagram-worthy breakfast like their oatmeal bowl before hitting 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 their bread from here.) Pick up a box of their popular cream cheese-topped cinnamon rolls or a homemade loaf of sourdough. Of course, there’s no shortage of breweries in town that’s home to both college students and outdoor enthusiasts. Grab a table next to the stone fireplace at Lost Province Brewing Company, set right off the main drag in downtown Boone 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 buzziest spot at this brewery is outside on the patio around the firepit.

Have dinner in downtown Boone at one of the many restaurants dotting King Street, which are walkable from The Horton Hotel. Vidalia is an upscale-casual eatery serving farm-to-table dishes with North Carolina-sourced ingredients. Or venture 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.

Explore Downtown Boone

Browse boutiques along King Street, like Lucky Penny and Lililu. Mast General Store is a one-stop shop for all the outdoor gear you’ll ever need. Don’t miss Common Good Co., part retail space and part art gallery featuring local creatives. Catch a movie or live show at the newly restored Appalachian Theatre of the High Country. Walk through the Appalachian State University campus.

WATCH: 2020 South's Best Mountain Towns

Get Outside

Boone’s signature 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. The Blowing Rock 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. 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 reaching the top. Cross the Mile High Swinging Bridge for panoramic views of the 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, hike with co-owner Fulton Lovin on Saturday and Sunday mornings.