Welcome To North Carolina's High Country

This majestic area of scenic mountaintops, quaint villages, raging rivers and cozy resorts offers a vacation like no other. In one diverse location, you can find adventure sports, a blossoming arts scene, shopping galore, awe-inspiring views and some very nice locals happy to show off their beloved region.

With the wealth of space, and tons of towns and things to do in High Country, it is important to get yourself oriented. Boone, Blowing Rock and Banner Elk are the most popular and well-known towns?they all offer great shopping and restaurants and serve as the venerable hubs of activity for the region. Other smaller towns like Valle Crucis, West Jefferson NCre worth a visit as well - they are quiet, quaint and provide a view of the quintessential mountain living experience. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs straight through High Country - catch a particularly scenic route from Grandfather Mountain in Linville Falls to downtown Blowing Rock.

The variety of activities from Blowing Rock to Boone ensures there's never a dull season in High Country. From skiing to kayaking, shopping for art to cutting down Christmas trees, the region is ripe with things to do and see from winter to fall. Throughout every season, you'll never have to look very hard to find excellent restaurants and bars, impressive galleries and unique shops. Escaping the heat of lowland areas is one of the most popular reasons visitors come to High Country in the summer, but you'll find the cooler temperatures aren't the only appeal of summer in the mountains. All attractions are in full swing, including the famed Horn in the West outdoor drama. Festivities and arts run the gamut, from the Appalachian State Summer Festival to the popular Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

Summer is also the best time for the numerous outdoor activities - golf courses are at their peak, it is the perfect temperature for a hike and sunny enough for a relaxing float down the New River on an inner tube. Summer evenings are cool, non-humid and most importantly, lack mosquitoes, so you can actually enjoy the outdoors in a stroll downtown or with a glass of wine on your deck. Autumn is one of the most picturesque times to visit High Country - the varying levels of elevation prolong the leaf color changing through October. The spectacular views provide a surreal backdrop for experiencing the outdoors. Hike around Grandfather Mountain and take in the views from the Swinging Bridge, kayak down one of the less intense rivers, or take a fishing trip through backcountry streams and untouched nature.

When the leaves brighten to orange, the communities brighten up as well with numerous fall festivals and events. Appreciate the colorful kites against the mountain background at the Mile High Kite Festival at Beech Mountain or take the family for a safe scare at Tweetsie's Halloween Festival. There are also apple festivals, Oktoberfest celebrations, country and craft fairs and even a Woolly Worm Festival, in which a worm race predicts the winter weather.

The winter is a quieter season, but the slopes are still bustling with skiers and snowboarders. High Country is known as the ski capital of the South - not only does it have the highest average elevation in the eastern United States, but it also has excellent ski resorts all within 30 minutes of each other. Natural snow combined with modern snowmaking machinery ensures 120 days of snow, from Thanksgiving through March. Hit the slopes at night at many resorts or opt to walk around one of the quaint High Country downtowns instead.

If you're here in the winter, don't leave without picking out and cutting down your very own Christmas tree. Dozens of tree farms carrying White Pines and Fraser Firs (the "Cadillac of Christmas Trees") dot the mountains of High Country, making it one of the country's top tree producers. The Choose & Cut events and festivities run annually from the day after Thanksgiving through mid-December - many farms also offer hot chocolate or cider, holiday cookies, local crafts and children's activities. Make an important family tradition out of picking your tree - and don't worry, you don't have to cut it down yourself if you don't want to.

You'll know it is spring in High Country when the Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron start to bloom - greens and pinks frame the mountain vistas, and the outdoors seems to come back to life. Spring is a great time to hike or bike the mountain trails and take in the scenery in its transition. Also, as the snow melts, area rapids are at their fastest, making it a great time for exciting whitewater rafting, canoeing or kayaking.

Spring also marks the re-opening of area attractions, including the Tweetsie Railroad, the Linville Gorge, the Daniel Boone Native Gardens and many more. It marks the beginning of a season of music and art festivals with the Blue Ridge Wine Festival and MerleFest in April, Boone's Friday afternoon "Concerts on the Lawn" and Blowing Rock's "Art in the Park." Visitors and residents are excited to be outdoors in the rising temperatures, whether it is for shopping and gallery hopping or rock climbing and kayaking.

Every season has a selling trait, so go ahead and experience them all. Be sure to come back to High Country for the changing leaves, the summer festivals, the skiing or some intense white-water rafting. Take the family, the girls or that special someone for an unforgettable trip to the mountains.


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