The Best of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina

The North Carolina High Country, in its natural beauty and historic significance (U.S. Presidents have visited for over a century; Daniel Boone made camp here), is perhaps the most singularly rewarding travel destination in the Southeast. Comprised of adjoining Avery, Ashe, and Watauga counties, The High Country draws together a network of historic small towns and tourist attractions. It offers natural beauty and outdoor recreation in all seasons: golf, hiking, fishing, and boating are all available until the snow falls, and when the cold weather comes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better region for skiing. A rich cultural tradition (the area was originally settled by Irish and Scottish immigrants) has blossomed for centuries, and the local arts-and-crafts scene remains alive and well. Whether you’re looking to shop, spend some time on the links, or simply get away from it all and marvel at the beauty of nature, North Carolina’s High Country has something to offer you, and the following locations feature the best of local accommodation for the whole range of budgets.

The Broyhill Inn and Conference Center is the perfect spot for conferences, special occasions, or travelers seeking affordable luxury accommodation in the heart of North Carolina’s High Country, Boone, NC. Operated in conjunction with the University of North Carolina system (the inn is situated on the campus property of Appalachian State University), rates vary from season to season, and the Inn requests that you call for information at their toll-free number, (800) 951-6048, or visit their website to make reservations (www.broyhillinn.com). The Broyhill is perfect for large organizations. Whether you have a conference or a corporate retreat, the Inn’s twenty-thousand square foot facility features 22 meeting rooms, ten thousand square feet of exhibit space, direct internet connectivity, and state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment available for rental, as well as a/v support staff. Catering is available for large groups through the dining room staff. For individuals staying at the Broyhill, the Jackson Dining Room and Lounge features a mountain view of twenty-five local peaks. The full dinner menu includes light fare and entrees, from the Chicken, Red Pepper, and Mozzarella Panini (“Chicken breast marinated with olive oil and fresh rosemary, grilled and topped with roasted red peppers and mozzarella on grilled ciabatta bread”, $9) to the Pecan Encrusted Trout (“Filet of Rainbow trout coated with crushed pecans, sauteed and finished with a black bean corn salsa”, $15.50, served with soup or salad, starch du jour, vegetable du jour, and fresh bread). There’s also a kids’ menu for children under twelve. A daily lunch buffet is available Monday through Saturday for $9 plus beverage, tax, and gratuity, and the Bountiful Sunday Brunch is offered from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for $20.

Historic Downtown Boone abounds with shopping. The Mast General Store showcases clothing, odds and ends, and a candy shop with hundreds of candy varieties available via bulk. Countless arts-and-crafts galleries line King St., where potters, painters, woodworkers, welders, and all manner of craftspeople offer their work for sale daily. Boone is also within a forty-five minute’s drive of three major ski resorts, including Ski Beech, where the highest slopes east of the Mississippi can be found. Historic Blowing Rock and the Blue Ridge Parkway are five miles south on the winding, scenic Highway 321.

In nearby Valle Crucis, the Mast Farm Inn features bed-and-breakfast style accommodations in an 1880s farmhouse. Nestled in a beautiful woodland valley away from the hustle and bustle of the town, the Mast Farm offers spacious country rooms with one queen bed, an antique claw-foot bathtub, and an optional gas fireplace from $175-$235 based on room particulars and season. Deluxe rooms ($180-$250) feature a four-poster king bed, and the “Cousin Sarah” room has a soaking tub built for two. The dormer rooms ($185-$215) come with a queen or king bed, a soaking tub for two, and a gas stove. Finally, the “John Summer” room is available for travelers on a budget. At $135-$175, it’s the least expensive room, but it’s also the smallest and, the Mast Farm staff point out, the noisiest, as it’s situated directly above the kitchen. But for a taste of old-fashioned country life, it’s an authentic bargain.

The price of a room includes a complimentary two-course gourmet breakfast each morning. The staff will set a private table for two if you wish, or they’ll arrange a larger table for your family. The menu is determined by their chef, adding an element of surprise. Juice and fresh-brewed, organic coffee or tea are included. Recent first courses have included: “Croissant ‘French Toast’ served with a homemade raspberry syrup and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar”; “Honey Baked Apple topped with walnuts and dried cranberries”; and “Puff Pastry with seasonal fruit”. Some recent breakfast second courses: “Mushroom, Feta, and Red Pepper Frittata with choice of pork or vegetarian sausage patties”; “Belgian Waffles with Strawberry Syrup and Whipped Cream served with applewood smoked bacon”; and “Tomato Basket – baked whole tomato stuffed with prosciutto, spinach, and egg”.

From the Mast Farm Inn, drive a short distance down Hwy 105 to Grandfather Mountain, famous for its “mile high” swinging bridge and its blustery winds (gusts over 100 mph have been measured on its peaks in winter). Grandfather also features a wildlife preserve and zoo (black bears are the star attraction), a nature museum, and miles of hiking trails, all with amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each July, Grandfather is taken over by the Highland Games, a four-day celebration of Scottish heritage featuring music, sports, shows, dancing, food, and education. One of the largest gatherings in the U.S. of the descendants of the Scottish clans, events include sheep herding, highland wrestling, bagpipe performance, clan tugs-of-war, and the Atlantic International Highland Dance Championship Competition. From the Inn, Boone and Blowing Rock are just minutes away by car, but the truth is you just might choose to stay at the B&B lounging in a rocker on the porch.

Blowing Rock’s historic Green Park Inn, housed in a stately white Victorian manor, is home to luxury accommodations, fine dining, and outdoor recreation, and it is just a short driving distance to various local attractions. Built in the late 19th Century, the Green Park was the favorite mountain destination for well-to-do Americans in the early 1900’s. Presidents and magnates have visited; Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Margaret Mitchell, and Calvin Coolidge’s names are all in the register. Today the Green Park, with its 85 luxury rooms, three dining rooms (The Laurel Room, The Divide Tavern, and The Library), and golf course, is the High Country’s premier lodging for visitors looking for a natural setting with all the amenities. Standard rooms can be booked at their website (www.greenparkinn.com) for $79-$159 during the week and $109-$169 on the weekend, with prices ranging based on season and bed configuration. Suites with private balconies and multiple rooms range from $119 (two rooms, One King/One Double) to $199 (Imperial Suite, two rooms, golf course view) during the week and $139-$269 on the weekend, again depending on the season.

A full breakfast is available in the Laurel Room from 7:00-11:00 a.m. seven days a week. It can also be reserved for weddings and events. The sporting-themed Divide Tavern, named so because it is situated directly on the Eastern Continental Divide, is open for dinner with a broad menu of reasonably-priced tavern fare, with appetizers like the Sold Out Nachos from in the $5-$7 range, burgers and subs from $5, and entrees from spaghetti and meatballs to the restaurant’s special pork spare ribs ($10-$17). The Library offers casual fine dining after 5:30 p.m. and features signature dishes like its Green Park Crab Cake appetizer (“Alaskan snow crab and cream cheese blend, lightly breaded, served with whole grain mustard horseradish sauce”, $7, available as entree, $17) and Black Tiger Shrimp Scampi (“Farm-raised shrimp simmered in a butter, fresh garlic, scallion and white wine sauce served over pasta”, $16). The Library is open until 9:00 p.m. during the week and 10:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Golf packages can be arranged with any of the five area courses (Boone Golf Club, Hawksnest Golf Club, Roan Valley Golf Club, Blue Ridge Country Club, and Orchard Hills Golf Club). These include one night in a course-view room with one king bed or to queens, one round of golf with a cart at any of the courses, and a complimentary breakfast buffet in the Laurel Room. Price, based on double occupancy, is $165.00 + 9.5% tax per golfer, per night. Other local attractions: The Blowing Rock, named so for the Native American legend in which a lost lover’s spirit is embodied by the wind, offers spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains for a small admission price; Tweetsie Railroad, a theme park based around the now-defunct mountain railway lines, is great for children, offering rides and shows, including Wild West Cowboys-and-Indians shootouts aboard the train itself; and the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, maintained by the National Park Service, offers a breathtaking drive through the mountains with parks and picnic areas along the way. All three attractions are within a five minute’s drive.

Wherever you choose to stay, a trip to the High Country is worth the visit for the natural beauty alone. A western-looking view of the mist-ensconced range at dawn will give you an idea of how the Blue Ridge Mountains got their name. With plentiful attractions and entertainment to choose from, you can’t possibly run out of things to do. What are you waiting for? Pack your bags, book a room at one of these excellent resorts, and get ready to choose your adventure!

The Broyhill Inn and Conference Center
775 Bodenheimer Drive
Boone, NC 28607
(828) 262-2204
(800) 951-6048 (toll free)
www.broyhillinn.com

The Mast Farm Inn
P.O. Box 704
2543 Broadstone Road
Valle Crucis, NC 28691
(828) 963-5857 (voice)
(828) 963-6404 (fax)
(888) 963-5857 (toll free)
www.mastfarminn.com

The Green Park Inn
P.O. Box 7
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
(800) 852-2462 (Reservations Only)
(828) 295-3141
www.greenparkinn.com

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