8 Fun-Filled Things to do With Kids in Boone, North Carolina
Take a nice morning trail hike around beautiful falls and a gorge, where you and your kids can enjoy waterfalls, verdant forest, and bird watching. The start of the trail is at a nature center providing a history of the area and descriptions of what you will see. Kids will run through the trails in pursuit of the next overlook.
The Caverns are a great way to see what grows underground, and are full stalactites, stalagmites, and calcification of the cavern walls. The guides are well trained and knowledgable. The kids were remarkably attentive while hearing about the history and nature of the cave. Everyone got their energy out, sliding through tight spaces of the caverns. When the guide turned off all the lights, we had the unique experience to spend a couple of minutes in total darkness. If you are lucky, you may spot a bat or two.
Hawksnest has two ziplines, one for first timers or younger kids (based on weight) and one for more seasoned zipliners. Our youngest and husband took Hawk tour and had great runs through the mountainside. Our two older ones and I went on the faster (and longer) Eagle tour. Both tours overlook the Blueridge Mountains and the lines go over open fields of wild flowers and into wooded areas past large trees and over streams. Hawksnest is one of the nations longest ziplines and the views are magnificent. It’s well run and friendly, and the organization is well fitted to handle younger zipliners. The guides are seasoned zipliners and enjoy working with the groups. The minimum age is 5 years and there is a weight minimum (and a limit), so make sure to check out the regulations before you go.
Rock Dimensions, Rock Climbing
Our kids love rock walls. Since Boone is known for its rock climbing and bouldering, we thought it was a good opportunity to introduce them to the real thing. We arranged a half day of rock climbing with Rock Dimensions; full days are also available. In the morning, we met with our guide in their shop in downtown Boone in the early morning. They provided and fitted us with helmets and shoes. The guide takes care of all the ropes and devices. Our guide took us to a 35 ft rock face and set up the ropes. After instruction on safety and teaching us how to belay, we were ready. The guide walked us through proper climbing, helped us locate areas to put our hands and feet as we climbed and encouraged all of us to keep going. He showed us through three different approaches, starting with the easiest and progressively getting harder. Kids will love to test their climbing strength and parents who are not trained in rock climbing will become aware of how much they need to strengthen their upper body. Climbing on rock is nearly nothing like a climbing wall. Our morning was a chance for kids to gain confidence, and for us to bond as a family.
Grandfather Mountain, part of the Appalachian Mountain Chain and visible from the Appalachian Trail, the mountain looms over Boone. You can tailor this activity to your kids age, ability, and desires. For older kids, some of the trails can be a bit challenging for younger kids. You can also drive up the mountain, synchronized to a CD you’re given at the entrance with your admission fee. The disc provides a description of the mountain’s history, the plant species on the mountain, and the animals that live on it. The CD also let us know where to stop for views and things to do, like climbing massive rocks, and finding look-out points. As you drive up, you’ll stop at the nature museum (included in admission), housing natural exhibits of the mountain and a nature reserve (also included) that cares for local animals, bears, otters, cougars, that could not be rehabilitated back into the wild. Our kids were fascinated with the black bears.
The main attraction, at least for us, is the mile-high swinging bridge at the top of the mountain. The bridge is the highest suspended footbridge in America and once across, you can hike across some rock formations and sit and take in the stunning views of the valley below. Keep young kids close; the drop offs are close to the trail and steep.
The kids will love this self-proclaimed gravitational anomaly. In truth, it’s a collection of optical illusions. I still get nauseous thinking about it. If you have any type of reaction to spinning rides, roller-coasters, then don’t spend too much time in gravitational room where balls appear to go up hill and you think you’re walking up when you are walking downhill. However, the kids will love it, and will love spending time in the hall of mystery and the bubble room, where they can make giant soap bubbles with hula hoops.
With the combo ticket, you can visit the home of Appalachian State University’s founder. Located next door, it’s a 1903 home, restored to resemble the first home to have electricity in the area. The furniture and appliances are that of the early 1900’s. The kids get to see a part of Appalachian history and what a home looked like without modern amenities. It won’t hold their attention for long, and you’ll soon be moving on (and trying to avoid the tchotke-filled lobby of Mystery Hill).
Grandfather Trout Farm
If you are not the serious fisher, but enjoy fishing here or there, then this is the place. The trout pond is stocked with fresh water trout and you pay for what you catch. You will be provided with bait and tackle and a bucket to store the fish once you catch them. Our kids had a blast and managed to pull in some nice sized trout (though it’s harder than it looks). The employees will clean and filet the fish for you as well. Be warned that the price per pound and cleaning makes it significantly pricier than going to the market, it does give the kids the satisfaction of bragging that they caught dinner.
Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway
We had fallen in love with the upper part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, having driven Skyline Drive through Shenandoah. After reading about the beauty of the Blue Ridge through North Carolina in the coffee table book DRIVES OF A LIFETIME,
we included the section from Boone to Asheville in our itinerary. It doesn’t disappoint: our jaws dropped with one vista after another. The Blue Ridge doesn’t have the biggest mountains or the biggest turns. What it does have is a preternatural expanse of rolling and impossibly green mountains that seem to stretch on forever. Take your time on this one. Stop frequently along away for some picture ops and short hikes. When we went, everything was in full bloom and the kids loved looking out at the sea of mountains with no end.
Make the side trip to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. This is a great place to stop and have lunch. You can use one of the many picnic areas or eat there. From the highest parking lot, it’s a moderate hike to the summit for more spectacular views. If you’re feeling sprightly, you can make a very challenging day hike–3600 feet of vertical in a little over 5 miles up.
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