Boone/ Blowing Rock

Boone and Blowing Rock are rare Southern travel towns that don’t go into hibernation when autumn leaves fall. In the High Country, the demise of warmer weather just means ski season is on the way. But before the slopes open, the autumn color display is one of the best reasons to head to Boone.

The Halloween season nicely coincides with fall color in the mountains, and this year there’s a great reason to combine the two: the 25th anniversary of Tweetsie Railroad’s Ghost Train ( Weekends through Nov. 1, the terrifying train pulls out every 30 minutes. The amusement park also features trick-or-treating, a haunted house, a 3-D maze, a “Freaky Forest” and more.

The Boone area’s top fall festivals always draw crowds, and both are held this year the weekend of Oct. 18-19. The Valle Country Fair ( offers acres of handcrafted art, traditional foods and music, all set amid the autumn glory of Valle Crucis, a pastoral vale south of Boone known for the Mast General Store and choice B&Bs. Brunswick stew, fresh apple cider, baked goods and other items add up to a memorable harvest-time lunch. The Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk ( embraces the folksy pastime of guessing the severity of the coming winter by reading the stripes of the black and red fall caterpillars. The official winter forecast is based on the coloration of the winning worm. If you’re attending mostly to see flaming fall colors, the High Country’s peak leaf viewing often happens the week just before these events.

Appalachian State University’s Performing Arts Series ( offers weekday excuses for savoring fall foliage without the crowds. Oct. 7, the N.C. Symphony performs with Appalachian’s orchestra. There’s an Oct. 23 concert with ’80s band Los Lobos, and on Nov. 11, L.A. Theater Works presents “In the Heat of the Night.”

ASU football is a popular reason to head to the colorful hills. This year the Mountaineers ( play in Boone on Oct. 4 and 11 (Homecoming). Nov. 29, there’s a rare Thanksgiving Saturday game that offers a reason to spend the holiday in the High Country.

The Christmas season explodes that weekend as well, with Blowing Rock’s Christmas in the Park and Lighting of the Town on Nov. 28. Blowing Rock stages its Christmas Parade on Nov. 29.

The annual Thanksgiving Kiln Opening at Bolick Pottery and Traditions Pottery ( just outside Blowing Rock puts the focus on the handcrafted side of holiday gift giving that shoppers find at so many mountain craft shops and galleries.

Thanksgiving also kicks off the choose-and-cut Christmas tree season. The High Country area is home to the Fraser fir, nationally famous for its shape and excellent needle retention. Buying a tree out of the field where the farmer raised it is a great way to save money and create a family tradition. Many farmers also offer hayrides, hot chocolate, cider and other atmospheric perks. Randy Johnson