Travel Like a Local: Boone, North Carolina

Travel Like a Local: Boone, North Carolina

The mountains are calling . . .

Words by Madison Featherston
Photos by Wes Hicks, Alan Gravick

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains sits Boone, a cozy mountain town that is known for picturesque views and eclectic, small-town culture. Whether you’re an outdoor sports enthusiast or are looking for more rest and relaxation, Boone has a vibrant culture where locals and vacationers alike can enjoy all this town has to offer. 

My first trip to Boone was in 2018. I was headed to a weekend retreat at The Art of Living Retreat Center, an Ayurvedic sanctuary that sits on 380 acres of beautiful forest and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The Art of Living hosts year-round retreats and events for those who are looking to reconnect the mind, body, and soul with the natural world. And once I got there, I was completely charmed. I immediately booked an Airbnb downtown to extend my stay in the high country. 

If you want a more luxurious stay, The Horton Hotel is Boone’s first boutique hotel sitting proudly on West King Street downtown. It offers top amenities and is just steps away from popular restaurants and shops. Not to be missed: catching a sunset from the hotel’s rooftop bar. 

Wondering where to get your morning cup? The next block over from The Horton is Espresso News, a cozy coffee shop and cafe that caters to the downtown crowds and nearby Appalachian State University students. Not only do they offer handcrafted drinks, but also the pastry case, which always has a rotating selection of sweet, savory, vegan, gluten free—something for everyone! Be sure to check out the smoothie menu or ask to try the soup of the day. A short drive away is Hatchet Coffee, another spot which is known for its avant-garde beverage menu. Be sure to check out their Instagram @hatchetcoffee to see what’s new and crave-worthy on the menu. 

A jewel of the high country, there are so many options for outdoor excursions for all sorts of activity levels. Visit Grandfather Mountain, walk across the famed Mile High Swinging Bridge (wheelchair accessible), and visit the nature museum, or check out some of the trails in Grandfather Mountain State Park. Ready to take the scenic route? Boone is just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and a short drive away from plenty of hiking trails and scenic overlooks. Don’t forget to get a picture of the Linn Cove Viaduct, one of the most photographed spots on the Parkway!

If you’re looking to take your self care to another level, Boone has a number of massage professionals who seem to be tuned into the healing energy of the surrounding mountains. Book a massage and a sauna session at The Care Collective and opt in for the infrared light therapy. You will walk out feeling so at peace you’ll wonder why you didn’t start coming up here years ago! 

Boone is a hidden gem for many things, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the vibrant food scene. First up: CoBo Sushi Bistro and Bar. Walking inside this swanky restaurant, you’ll forget where you are—3,333 feet above sea level—and enjoy a truly excellent dining experience. Locals tip: if you can’t get a table reservation, the bar is first come/first serve. If you want the more traditional Southern fare, head over to Proper, a charming restaurant that features some of the best modern renditions of the meals this region is famous for. You’ll want to call ahead to make reservations, but they also offer to-go, if that’s more your style. 

If you want to eat and drink where the locals go, look no farther than Lily’s Snack Bar and The Cardinal. Owned and operated under the same umbrella, these two restaurants have such an eclectic and fun energy, you’ll see why everyone—college students, townies, and tourists alike—keeps coming back for more. Check out the daily drink specials at Lily’s to plan ahead.

Take a final walk downtown before heading out—you’ll want to get a few souvenirs! Make sure to stop in Mast General Store. Across the street at The Shoppes at Farmers, if you go to the second floor, there is a beautiful yoga studio called Neighborhood Yoga, which also offers an excellently-curated gift shop. 

While Boone is probably most well-known as a fall destination for leaf peepers, it’s also a popular winter destination due to the local ski resorts—or if you just want to wake up feeling like you’re in the world’s most charming snow globe. In the springtime, the rhododendrons start to bloom, usually peaking in early June and giving way to what may be the locals’ most favorite season of all: summertime in the mountains, where you can expect average temperatures in the 70s. Regardless of season, Boone stays quite rainy (fun fact: this region is a part of the Appalachian temperate rainforest), so make sure to pack a few weather-proof options. Rain or shine, it’s always the right time to head to Boone!