The lofty burgs of Boone and Blowing Rock are where staying cool in the North Carolina mountains may be easier than anywhere else. The Blue Ridge Parkway soars past resort towns, wineries, spas, Main Street shopping districts, and spectacular hiking trails lead to waterfalls, wildflowers, and rocky, alpine-like summits.
More than a month of diverse cultural programming has brought tremendous growth to Boone’s Appalachian Summer Festival ( www.appsummer.org), which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Once a small chamber music festival, it now attracts more than 27,000 people to increasingly sold-out shows from all over the region (Charlotte is the No. 1 market for attendees).
The anniversary festival is in the planning stages, but it starts June 28 with a fireworks concert performance by Little Big Town at Kidd Brewer stadium. The event continues through early August.
Whatever takes you to Boone, a downtown loop of Howard and King streets supply all the dining options you’d want. Char ( www.char179.com) has a tasty American menu and live evening entertainment on weekends. Cha Da Thai ( www.chadathai-nc.com) brings Thailand to Boone. Yosefa AntiquTEA ( www.yosefatea.com) has tasty sweets and 150 teas from around the world. Savor the flavors in settings where decor ranges from English formality to Zen-Asian ambiance or a Moroccan mood. CoBo Sushi Bistro and Bar ( www.cobosushi.com) is the kind of hip new spot you might find in Aspen, Colo. For small-plate Southern specialties with local ingredients, try Proper ( www.propermeal.com). Vidalia Restaurant and Wine Bar ( www.vidaliaofboonenc.com) always fares well at local dining competitions. Murphy’s Restaurant & Pub ( www.murphysboone.com) tempts with a huge and eclectic menu from great pizza to Chicago hot dogs, Mexican, barbecue, steaks, subs, seafood, and beyond – and don’t forget that chicken avocado melt!
Blowing Rock’s family attraction Tweetsie Railroad ( www.tweetsie.com) is always adding something new and entertaining to the fun of riding a historic steam train. The attraction opens this year on April 11. Four-time Grammy-winner David Holt and the Lightning Bolts will appear on May 25.
The Blowing Rock and Boone area may not be known for state parks but a few newish ones, including Grandfather Mountain, bring the tally to four. The appeal is low-cost outdoor adventure and education, and that includes great hiking to summits like Elk Knob and Grandfather Mountain. Each park leads guided hikes, and spring through early summer is the time to focus on wildflowers. It’s also when the New River is flush and flowing at New River State Park, where the park’s campgrounds and adjacent private sites permit multi-day canoeing adventures on a National Wild and Scenic River. Not up for being too active? Just drive to the top of Mount Jefferson for easy, astounding views. Each park has a summer or early fall family day. At www.ncparks.gov, open the “Find a park” search window for details. Randy Johnson