We have owned a vacation property in Blowing Rock and now own a second home in Boone, so we spend a lot of time up here! I love helping others fall in love with the High Country since it’s it’s my favorite place in all of North Carolina. My husband grew up in Boone, North Carolina but long before we met, I loved visiting Boone and Blowing Rock, probably because it reminds me a lot of Utah, where I was raised.
The elevation of the “High Country” is over 3300+ feet in the Blue Ridge Mountains so it’s significantly cooler in the summer months than where we live full-time, in Winston-Salem, making it a great spot to escape the heat. Then, in the the fall, the foliage is truly breathtaking. People travel from all over the United States to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall to see the colors. Skiing and tubing are popular winter activities (although that’s a hard pass for me since I hate the cold!). All to that say, it’s a popular spot year round and is getting more and more popular every year, for better and worse.
We visit Blowing Rock, North Carolina almost every month throughout the year and come more often in the summer, staying for longer periods. Tommy’s parents still live in Boone, which is close to Blowing Rock and a great excuse to visit. (Be sure to check out my post about things to do in Boone too!) And now that Tommy and I have our own townhouse in Boone as well, we’re up in the mountains much more frequently.
I feel like I discover something new every time I visit, so here is my most recent list of must-do’s and must-hit restaurants in the Blowing Rock area.
We own a place up there, but if you’re planning a weekend away, and need a place to stay, my friends own two rentals houses, one in Blowing Rock and one in Boone. These are the two places I recommend to friends and family when they visit the High Country. I provided some details below about each and I know they take a lot of pride in providing great experiences for their guests so I’d book ASAP before their calendar fills up. If you book with them, mention you found their home on my blog and you may get a little surprise at check-in!
“Cone Mountain Cottage” has 3 bedrooms, 5 beds and 2.5 baths. It’s five minutes from downtown Blowing Rock, a few minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Moses Cone National Park, and has stunning views of Grandfather Mountain. It’s a perfect spot if you want to explore the outdoors, but also be able to pop into town for shopping and dining. This house has amazing views – I’m jealous!
“Grand Escape” has 5 bedrooms, 6 beds and 4.5 baths and is centrally located to everything in the High Country, which is great if you want to explore all the different towns in the area. It’s less than 15 minutes to downtown Boone and Banner Elk, less than 20 minutes to Blowing Rock, and a two minute drive to Grandfather Vineyard & Winery. I especially love the backyard and outdoor fire pit at this house.
If you’re looking for a nice romantic getaway, I’d look into Chetola Resort. It’s a historic building with 42 rooms in the lodge, Timberlake Restaurant, and a spa.
The food scene in Blowing Rock is really fantastic. These are my staples.
This is our #1 favorite place to eat in Blowing Rock. I’ve never had a bad meal here and the drinks (and customer service) are great. We like the outdoor patio since it’s super kid friendly. This is located on Sunset, just off Main Street, so it’s a great spot to stop after a day meandering downtown.
Best Cellar is great for an adults-only dinner; ask for a patio seat when you make your reservation if the weather is nice!). Our go-to’s are the caesar salad, whatever fish they have on the specials menu (often North Carolina mountain trout) and their parmesan-crusted buttermilk chicken. They also have great Oysters Rockefeller. You’ll find this restaurant inside the Inn at Ragged Gardens on Sunset Dr.
Big menu, solid food, comfort food, casual vibe. I love their blackened salmon on any salad and their cornbread is unreal. It’s located on Valley Blvd, so not exactly walking distance from downtown Blowing Rock but they have plenty of parking.
The food is fantastic with an upscale-casual setting. They’re known for their wood-fired pizzas and lobster mac and cheese.
They have a great burger and craft beer, and the outdoor patios are super kid friendly.
The Speckled Trout restaurant has great trout entrees (no surprise there) and also plenty of options for the non-fish-eating crowd, like my husband, including ravioli. Their outdoor patio is a great spot for happy hour as well. And I am fairly certain the chef used to work at Gideon Ridge. Speaking of…
I have been trying to get a reservation here for over a year. They open up reservations only two weeks in advance, between 12 and 12:30pm ET. If you don’t book RIGHT then, you’re out of luck. I’ve heard incredible things, both about the food and the views. If you go, tell me all about it so I can live vicariously. I WILL get a reservation someday.
We love this spot for so many things – sandwiches, snacks, and they have expanded their front patio and I think they have been doing grilled food in the summer now. It’s also a great spot to grab a bottle of wine, some beer or kombucha and chill outside on the picnic tables in the evening. They also have clean restrooms. 🙂
Nothing remarkable about this food (pub food,) but it’s the spot to go if there’s a game you want to catch on TV, or you just need to feed hangry little people easily. There’s usually cornhole outside and plenty of seating. They have anything from fries and wings to tacos.
Kid friendly. They have great BBQ and it’s loud, so who cares if your kids are loud! Their wine list is eh, so plan to drink beer. Live music on most weekends!
Six Pence Pub is a British pub that I’ve never been to, even though it’s been around forever. They have indoor and outdoor seating and serve British fare, including bangers & mash, fish and chips, and of course, shepherd’s pie.
This is my favorite coffee spot in the high country. Their chai latte is the best I’ve ever had and their black drip coffee is equally as good. They also have homemade lavender syrup from time to time! Their nitro coffee is fantastic too. Honestly, you can’t go wrong here. Super nice people too.
A great spot for ice cream and free fudge samples. Don’t stress if there is a line – it moves quickly.
Whether you want to shop or get outside and explore, you’ll be happy in Blowing Rock. Main Street has lots of cute shops for browsing, including home decor, clothing, antiques and jewelry.
My VERY favorite place to shop in Blowing Rock is Monkee’s. Not only do they carry the cutest selection of clothing, but they have the best customer service. They won’t let you buy something that doesn’t look great on you, and they’ll make sure to find something that does. And they’ll do the shopping FOR you. I’ve learned that my very favorite way to shop is to tell the employees what I’m looking for, and have her pull things for me to try. I always end up trying and LOVING things I never would’ve picked out myself. The owners are very involved in the store and truly lovely people.
This is also right on Main Street. They have American art, history & Appalachian culture exhibits with regular classes & events.
This is right on Main St. and has an amazing playground with sand volleyball, two basketball courts, a gazebo and public restrooms.
If you visit the Moses Cone Manor trails, you’ll likely see people on horseback. You can book rides through Vx3 Trail Rides.
Julian Price Lake is a short drive from Blowing Rock and is a beautiful spot to explore. We park in the picnic loop and go down near the bottom of the loop. There’s a spot where kids can get in the river and play and you can rent kayaks at a rental shack near mile marker 297. It costs about $15/hr. It opens at 11am, so I recommend getting there about 10:45. They do include life jackets!
This is 20 mins from Blowing Rock and it’s a nice park with a great playground for kids. Just a little ways back is a place where you can get into the riverbed to play and walk up & down the river a bit (unless they’ve had a big rainfall – then be careful.) It has clean bathrooms nearby. The original Mast General store is close by.
If you want to venture a little further out, you’ll be rewarded with some great spots. For a very nice dinner, definitely make reservations at Louisiana Purchase or Artisanal.
Louisiana Purchase – Great wine list!
Eric’s Wine & Cheese Shop – perfect for grabbing a unique bottle and cheese and crackers.
Banner Elk Cafe – casual spot for breakfast and lunch.
Mountain Grounds – great coffee and huge tea selection.
I hope you like the outdoors because there is SO much to do year-round in Blowing Rock. I’ve included activities in and around Blowing Rock, since there are so many great close by places to visit as well. Be sure to download the AllTrails app if you want more hiking options.
I asterisked the trails that are some of my favorite spots for running. (And if you want to run during your vacation, you should consider the Zap Endurance Running Camps – seriously amazing.)
Hike the profile trail for an active day, or head to the state park with the swinging bridge for a short walk. They start at different places so be sure to make sure you go to the right spot.
This is an easy-to-moderate hike that is right behind Blowing Rock main street. There’s a great waterfall at the end and gorgeous views that open up to see forever. It’s not super toddler friendly (unless you give them quite a bit of help navigating some rocks on the trail), but I think kids 4 and up would be okay.
Blowing Rock National Park is worth the $7 entry fee for the views alone! Great for all ages and fitness level.
It’s a gravel path that’s very flat and very pretty. It’s a great place to take the pup or kids. There are great trails that run above the lake for longer hikes or runs too. You’ll often see the Zap Endurance elite runners out there too! I always stop by Camp Coffee Roasters after a run.
You’ll access this from the Blue Ridge Parkway and you can hike down 2.5-3 miles (depending which route you take) to Bass Lake and then back up for a 5-6 mile loop.
If you park at Moses Cone manor, you can access this trail. If you’re facing the view with the parking lot behind you, go left, past the bathrooms and under the arched bridge. Go straight up the hill on the Flat Top Hill path. It’s 2.5 miles up.
You’ll also start this by the Moses Cone Manor. This is a 0.7 mile “hike” (totally do-able for kids) but it feels like a real hike because you’re in the woods the whole time. It’s a big loop – follow the trail arrows, and there are restrooms near the parking lot. Park here: 6570 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Blowing Rock, NC. Walk down to the manor house. If you’re facing the manor house, the trail is off to the left up a little bit. There’s a sign that marks it. It’s not the big gravel path that goes down the mountain. (That will take you back down to Bass Lake.)
It’s a short hike but the trail is pretty rocky with lots of roots. But, the views are INCREDIBLE, especially at sunset (pictured below).
This area is beautiful and especially popular if you like water sports, like canoeing, paddling or swimming. Reference their website before you go since only certain activities are available at certain areas. They have beginner to advance hiking trails, and some trails that are handicap accessible.
This is a flat trail that’s great for kids.
There are short and longer hike options. The short hikes are family friendly!
A 0.8 mile out & back trail that walks alongside a creek and down stairs to 2 waterfalls (just to see, not to play in.) This is slightly more challenging, but doable. Don’t go if it’s just rained – there are a few spots that would be too slippery. The trailhead is in a large parking lot with picnic tables & restrooms.
This is Moses Cone Manor.
This is Rough Ridge.
This is on the trails between Bass Lake and Moses H Cone Memorial Park.
TIP: The weather in the High Country (e.g. Blowing Rock, Boone and surrounding areas) can be finicky. The mornings can be cold, even if the afternoons warm up. So pack layers and be prepared for some wind in the fall and winter months!
If you’ve visited Boone, Blowing Rock, Grandfather Mountain, Linville or Banner Elk, what are your favorite things to do? What is your favorite restaurant?