Top Five Reasons to Visit N.C.’s High Country in the Summer

In North Carolina, we are lucky. We have the scenic coast and the beautiful Appalachian Mountains as great choices for family vacations.  In Raleigh, we can get to both within hours.

My family recently spent a few days in North Carolina’s High Country Mountain area, and our destination was the Boone-Blowing Rock area in Watauga County.  We didn’t see everything, but I thought I would share my views on why it makes a great vacation destination.

The Scenery

The Blue Ridge Parkway, High Country in the Sumner.
The Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway, the 77-year-old highway that links Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park in the north to the Blue Ridge National Park in the south, snakes through the Appalachian Mountains.  The Boone portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway is a pivotal point along the scenic highway.  We didn’t make a trip to Grandfather Mountain, the tallest mountain in the Blue Ridge located in Linville, N.C., on this trip, but it is a must-see when in the area.  We were short on time, and we wanted Baby Diva to get a little older before making that trek across the famous mile-high swinging bridge.  This park is wonderful for families, though, who like to hike and explore.


Jake's at the Rock in Blowing Rock, NC

I have talked about the beautiful town of Blowing Rock in a previous post, but I cannot emphasize enough how much fun it was for my children to play in the park, eat ice cream, and stroll down the main street.  Even if you are just passing through the area on the Blue Ridge Parkway, get off and take some time to stroll the streets of this charming town.

Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, N.C established in 1883

And talk about a kid in a candy store! The Mast General Store, established in 1883 in Valle Crucis, North Carolina, is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The annex, located down the street, has over 500 types of candy for sale.  I am not exaggerating.  It’s incredible. 

Tons of Candy can be found at Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, N.C.
It's hard to choose just one piece of candy

And it’s hard to get your kids out of the candy store, but if you tell them that you are going to the adorable park behind the candy store, then you may get them out of the store a little quicker.

Old-Time Adventures

Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, N.C.
Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, NC

If you ask my children what they enjoyed most about our trip to the High Country in May, both will say “Tweetsie Railroad.” So what if Baby Diva is afraid of any mode of transportation other than a car; she still had a great time at Tweetsie Railroad, located between Boone and Blowing Rock.  She didn’t get aboard the famous train, and she cried hysterically as she rode a bus to the top of the mountain, but she loved every other minute of this historic, fun amusement park.

The Cuisine

Watauga County is known for its restaurants, where chefs use the farm-to-table approach, cooking with local fresh ingredients.  It’s a mecca for little cafes with down-home charm and fine-dining establishments that will delight your palate. Since my dad was in the restaurant business for over 30 years, I make a point on my travels to seek out restaurants that are independently owned

Great food at Pepper's

On one of our nights in the area, we dined at Pepper’s Restaurant and Bar, which is a member of the Boone Independent Restaurants Organization.  Pepper’s was a great family choice for us, and the bar-type food was delicious.  They have a fabulous children’s menu, too.  Pepper’s also helps support North Carolina breweries by dedicating ten taps for N.C. beers, and they have numerous N.C. beers by the bottle on the menu as well as other popular national brews.

Outdoor Adventure, Wineries and Spas

In the winter, the Boone area is a bustling ski community, but in the summer it is the perfect playground for hiking, rafting, tubing, kayaking, biking, ziplining, and all things active.  There is also golf, tennis, and swimming plus luxury spas, and local wineries in the area that are open for tours.  In Watauga County, you can be as busy as you want or do as little as you want. can help you plan your special itinerary.

Where We Stayed:

The Mast Farm Inn, Valle Crucis, North Carolina

This luxury bed and breakfast inn, which is now a member of Historic Hotels of America, is a luxury haven in the small mountain village of Valle Crucis, North Carolina.  We stayed in one of the inn’s family cabins, and you can read about our stay in May’s“Pack Your Bags” segment.  Our only regret was that we didn’t stay long enough.  I highly recommend renting a family cabin to explore the area.  The Mast Farm Inn does not disappoint the luxury traveler or the foodie. The historic farm house is perfect for couples who want a romantic getaway, or if you want a little more space and a kitchen, the larger cabins provide a peaceful sanctuary away from it all.  Now, that’s a vacation!

Courtyard Marriott, Boone, North Carolina

My family also stayed one night in the brand new CourtyardMarriott in Boone before checking into The Mast Farm Inn.  This was my first time staying in a Courtyard Marriott after many years, and the first time with my kids. The hotel chain’s new slogan is, “It’s a New Stay!” I couldn’t agree more, and I think the hotel chain is doing a great job on providing guests with what I call “affordable luxury” for families.   This Courtyard looks like a regular chain hotel on the outside, but when you walk in you get the feel of a luxury boutique property.  This is why I chose it for our trip.  With special touches like a reading area, a fire-pit area, and a bistro that serves wine and beer, it embodies the quality of a four-star hotel.  Our bedding was nice, and the beds were as comfortable as I have found in the chain’s upscale sister properties.  It certainly doesn’t have a resort pool, but the small indoor pool was a fun experience for our children, and it was exciting for them to go swimming one night before bed.  I would definitely stay at the Courtyard Marriott again and would perhaps even seek one out if I was passing through town for an overnight stay. 

I received a media discount on my stay at the Courtyard Marriott and was a media guest of The Mast Farm Inn in order to write my “Pack Your Bags” feature.  All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the hotels. 

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