Are you looking for some peace or quiet? You’ll find it in downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina. This small mountain town is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and lies in Watauga and Caldwell counties. Blowing Rock was officially established in 1889, and has been home to some of America’s most beautiful scenery since its establishment over 160 years ago!
Blowing Rock was once home to the Cherokee and Catawba Indian tribes before Scotch-Irish settlers arrived in the 1700s. Today, it’s home to over 1,000 residents.
If you’re seeking some quiet and solitude, you can explore the calm and cozy downtown in spring and fall. This quaint small town provides an authentic experience for visitors who want a peace-filled vacation, away from bustling cities or crowds.
Ready to explore this amazing town? Here are 21 things to do in Blowing Rock NC that we know you and your crew will adore!
LET’S START WITH A BIT OF HISTORY
EXPLORE MOSES H CONE MEMORIAL PARK
There’s plenty to keep you busy in Blowing Rock, NC, whether you’re interested in history, the outdoors, or both. For starters, be sure to explore Moses H Cone Memorial Park. This park is located just 3 miles north of Blowing Rock at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 294, and is an excellent choice for anyone interested in Appalachian history.
The park is named after the Denim King, whose 3500-acre estate includes the majestic Beaux-Arts-style Flat Top Manor. This 120-year-old property includes Flat Top Road, three lovely lakes, various hiking paths, apple orchards, 25 miles of flat top carriage trail, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
You can also tour the remodeled Flat Top Manor, which is now an exhibit hall featuring historical displays.
ENJOY BLOWING ROCK ART AND HISTORY MUSEUM
The Blowing Rock Art & History Museum is a beautifully designed community cultural center that opened in 2011.
The museum exhibits the history of Blowing Rock and the High Country in a small, yet spectacular way. It features numerous galleries, including a gallery devoted to the work of Pulitzer Award-winning landscape artist Philip Moose. Make sure you check out the exhibit dedicated to the history of Edgewood Cottage, located next door.
Stop by the gift shop for a souvenir on your way out.
TOUR THE DOUGHERTY HOUSE MUSEUM
If you’re looking for a dose of Appalachian history, take a tour of the Dougherty House Museum at Mystery Hill.
Built in 1903, the Dougherty House was the first in the area to have electricity and running water. Dauphin Disco Dougherty founded Appalachian State University in the home, and it housed the university’s classrooms in the early years.
The museum preserves memories from the early 1900s, and depicts the Appalachian ancestors’ way of life through books, home items, ledgers, sewing machines, and other personal items. The Dougherty House also provides a Storytelling Saturday the first Saturday of every month, where guests can hear folk stories from storytellers.
The home is part of the Mystery Hill complex, which features several fun outdoor and indoor adventures.
DON’T FORGET THE NATIVE AMERICAN ARTIFACTS MUSEUM
The Native American Artifacts Museum is also located on the grounds of Mystery Hill, and houses the most extensive private collections of Native American artifacts worldwide.
R.E. “Moon” Mullins and his wife, Irene, discovered three arrowheads during their honeymoon near Cartersville, Georgia, and decided to set up the museum. Today, the museum boasts over a quarter of a million unique items from over 20 states.
A visit here is a great way to learn more about Native Americans and their culture. You can also head to Tomahawk Hill to engage in activities like archery, throwing an ax, and more.
HAVE A COCKTAIL AT THE DIVIDE TAVERN
Located in the Historic Green Park Inn lobby, the Divide Tavern is a favorite among locals and visitors. Founded by the Green Park Company, the tavern first opened to guests in the busy summer of 1891.
The original structure spanned over 73,000 square feet on an extensive acreage, then known as Green Park. Influential politicians and business people started to make the Green Park Inn their summer residence, attracted by its stunning setting and luxury amenities.
Over the years, the inn has also hosted Hollywood legends, including Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Marilyn Monroe. Today, the Divide Tavern continues to be a popular destination for people from all walks of life. The inn provides distinctive pub food and pub favorites with chef-inspired flair. You can find local, craft, and draft beer at this tavern.
NOSH AT TIMBERLAKE’S RESTAURANT
Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Chetola Resort is a historical gem that has welcomed guests for centuries.
The resort was founded in the 1920s by J. Luther Snyder, who purchased the Chetola Estate. On July 28, 2012, Chetola Resort formally debuted Timberlake’s Restaurant. The cuisine is based on the culinary preferences of famous North Carolina designer and artist, Bob Timberlake. The restaurant offers waterfront dining on the patio, a cozy wine area, and three dining rooms.
Just inside Timberlake’s main door lies the quaint and cozy Headwaters Pub. The pub offers a unique menu with items such as pan-seared duck and roasted Carolina quail, salads of mountain-grown greens, and delicious shrimp.
The restaurant at Timberlake’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Whether you’re looking for a casual bite or a formal meal, Chetola Resort has something to suit your needs.
THEN GET OUTDOORS AND EXPLORE
CATCH THE VIEW FROM THE BLOWING ROCK
You can catch the fantastic view from The Blowing Rock, which legend says dates back almost 250 million years. Today, it’s a breathtaking spot at 4,000 feet above sea level, with a 1200-foot-long walkway that overlooks the valley below. A visit here is truly one of the best things to do in Blowing Rock NC!
The Blowing Rock is also famous for the peculiar current of air that flows upward from the Rock — allegedly because of a Chickasaw maiden and Cherokee warrior who fell in love.
Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the beautiful Johns River Gorge, located at 3,000 feet.
CHASE WATERFALLS ON THE GLEN BURNEY TRAIL
The Glen Burney Trail is just a few blocks from downtown Blowing Rock, and takes you on a 3.1-mile round-trip hike down to the base of Glen Marie Falls.
Even though it’s near the town, the route is rocky, with some sizable boulders, roots, and drop-offs, making it a steep and challenging climb. However, the scenery is worth it when you drop more than 800 feet to the foot of the falls. Just be sure to stay behind the cables near the tops of the waterfalls and drop-offs.
HIKE FROM JULIAN PRICE MEMORIAL PARK
Julian Price Memorial Park is a majestic 4,200-acre park located at the foot of Grandfather Mountain, and is named in honor of Julian Price. Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and Julian Price Memorial Park are conveniently close to each other. These two parks are both located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Price Park is a haven for relaxation and entertainment, with the 47-acre Price Lake as its focal point.
The lake is surrounded by one of the most popular and largest picnic areas on the parkway, making it an excellent spot for a family picnic or gathering with friends. The park also offers boating, fishing on Price Lake, and camping, with 129 tent sites and 68 RV sites.
In addition, there are a variety of nature walks and hiking trails in the mountains that are perfect for exploring the beautiful scenery. Other area hikes include the Boone Fork Trail, Tanawha Trails, Green Knob, Price Lake, and Gwyn Memorial.
RENT KAYAKS ON PRICE LAKE
One of the best ways to explore Price Lake is by kayak!
The paddling TRACK Trail on Price Lake is 2 miles round-trip and is a great way to spend time with loved ones or friends. You can rent canoes and kayaks for use on Price Lake seasonally, but please note that motorized boats and swimming are not allowed.
You can also bring your own canoe, kayak, or paddleboard, but you must wear a flotation device to enjoy a day on the water.
STOP AT THUNDER HILL OVERLOOK
The Thunder Hill Overlook is one of the most visited overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway and offers the best long-range views of the Piedmont of North Carolina. Thunder Hill is especially known as being a great place to catch the sunrise. It’s an outstanding stop for amateur astronomers too, as it’s far from many light sources.
The overlook here is also a popular spot to watch fireworks, including at Tweetsie Railroad and Boone. And if you’re feeling up for it, you can go for a short hike in a pasture with several apple trees; there’s a small trail across the roadway.
DON’T FORGET THE KIDS
RIDE THE TWEETSIE RAILROAD
Were you looking for a fun-filled day for the whole family? Tweetsie Railroad, located right in Blowing Rock, is the perfect place. This Wild West Amusement Park features a variety of kid-friendly attractions, including a vintage roller coaster, Ferris wheel, and merry-go-round.
Enjoy a 3-mile train adventure behind a steam locomotive, before heading to the Deer Park Zoo and the amusement park rides. The kids will love the gem mining here too!
And what would a Wild West theme park be without a few cowboys? Kids can hop on one of the park’s vividly painted horses and turn into a genuine cowpoke.
Adults can also enjoy the Miner’s Mountain ride, a tranquil trip that takes in the expansive views of the park. Whether you’re looking for adrenaline-pumping thrills or a stroll, Tweetsie Railroad has something for everyone.
STRIKE IT RICH AT DOC’S ROCKS GEM MINE
Doc’s Rocks Gem Mine is an Appalachian Mountain-based gemstone mining operation, and it is an excellent place to mine for incredible ‘treasures’ and learn about how they form. Kids especially enjoy rooting through buckets of ore (mud) for precious gems; it makes for a fun souvenir. The Appalachian-based gemstone mining operation buys their mine ore in tons from local gem mines in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
Afterward, they sell the ore to the public after depositing it into buckets at random. They’ll also give you an equivalent quantity of the ore you bought for free if you don’t discover anything worthwhile!
At Doc’s Rocks, you’ll also find the Appalachian Fossil and Dinosaur Museum (more below), and Paleo Putt-Putt, which features 9 holes of dinosaur-themed fun.
SEE FOSSILS AT THE APPALACHIAN FOSSIL AND DINOSAUR MUSEUM
The Appalachian Fossil and Dinosaur Museum is a must-see for any self-proclaimed dinosaur lover. As the most prominent private fossil collection in North Carolina, this museum is home to many rare and exciting fossils, including a triceratops rib section and several dinosaur heads. The museum is part of the Doc’s Rocks Gem Mine area.
The museum also features various life-size replica dinosaurs, popular with kids of all ages.
In addition to being educational, the museum is also highly entertaining, making it the perfect destination for a family outing. Best of all, the museum location is conveniently near the Blowing Rock factory outlet shops, so you can keep the fun going!
DEFY GRAVITY AT MYSTERY HILL
Have you ever been somewhere and felt like the laws of physics didn’t apply? Well, at Mystery Hill, that’s a thing!
In addition to the Dougherty House Museum and the Native American Artifact Museum mentioned earlier, Mystery Hill is also home to some mysterious attractions.
The Natural Gravitational Anomaly at Mystery Hill will thrill and perplex you and your whole family. See water flow uphill, and try to figure out how two people around the same height can look like one is a whole lot taller all of a sudden!
Kids will have a blast testing out the tricks by rolling balls along the floor — which seem to move upwards, defying gravity! Young ones will also love “losing” their shadow, learning to fly, and more in the Hall of Mystery.
SOAR AT HIGH GRAVITY ADVENTURES
High Gravity Adventures offers zip line tours for individuals, couples, families, and groups of all ages. You’ll start off zipping from treetop to treetop after the guides give you a short safety orientation.
Then, you’ll take the 70-foot jump at the Drop Zone and soar over the valley on their 1,000-foot fast line! If that sounds like too much of an adrenaline rush for you, don’t worry – they also offer a Kid’s Adventure Park for ages 4+ and a 3-Story Adventure Park for ages 7+.
If you’re feeling brave, you can try their Giant Swing or Ninja Ground Course! No matter what your level of adventure, High Gravity Adventures is sure to have something for you. Plus, they use state-of-the-art protective equipment, so you can rest assured that you’re in good hands.
HIGH COUNTRY DAY TRIPS WHILE YOU VISIT
Grandfather Mountain is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The clean landscape and expansive views refresh the mind and soul.
The mountain is regarded as one of the most diversified nature preserves in the world. Walk across the highest suspension foot bridge in the United States — the Mile High Swinging Bridge. It’s truly an experience you will never forget! Explore the hiking trails, see cougars, bears, and more in their wildlife habitats, learn more about the mountain at the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery, see amazing rock formations, have a picnic with a view, and so much more!
Nearby, you’ll find the Linn Cove Viaduct — a concrete bridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway that truly shows the care that was used to protect the habitat while finishing the parkway. The Linn Cove Viaduct has its own Visitors Center, so you can learn more about the last section of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be completed. Several overlooks and trails feature amazing views, and will help you understand this engineering feat.
Grandfather Mountain is located about 30 minutes away from Blowing Rock, making it an absolute must-visit when you’re in the area.
When you’re in Boone, North Carolina, you can time travel back to the 1700s at the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum. The museum is located in Daniel Boone Park, which also serves as the setting for the legendary seasonal drama “Horn in the West.”
Visit a local ski resort, channel your inner Indiana Jones at Linville Caverns, explore Elk Knob State Park, go whitewater rafting, and more.
Boone is only about 15 minutes away from Blowing Rock, so combining all the fun the two cities have to offer is a breeze!
Read More: 24 FUN THINGS TO DO IN BOONE NC YOU CAN’T MISS
Just a few miles from downtown Blowing Rock, Beech Mountain is the highest town in Eastern America. It boasts of the coolest average temperatures in the state of North Carolina – it stays below 72 degrees throughout the year.
Summers are pleasant and ideal for mountain biking, hiking, and fishing, while the magnificent autumn foliage lasts for weeks. Winter provides the means for sledding, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and snowshoeing.
Read More: BEECH MOUNTAIN SKI RESORT: A GREAT FAMILY SNOW VACATION DESTINATION
APPALACHIAN SKI MOUNTAIN
Appalachian Ski Mountain is the perfect place to enjoy a winter wonderland getaway.
With its picturesque slopes and award-winning ski school, this popular destination offers something for everyone.
Never been skiing before? Don’t worry! Appalachian Ski Mountain is the perfect place for beginners. They also offer clothing, snowboard, and ski rentals. You’ll find an ice skating arena here too, for when you want to take a break from the slopes.
Read More: APPALACHIAN SKI MOUNTAIN NC: AN AWESOME BEGINNER SLOPE
About 40 minutes from Blowing Rock, you’ll find the breathtaking, three-tiered Linville Falls. Linville Falls is probably the most famous waterfall on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and you can access it via both strenuous and moderate hikes.
The Linville Gorge Visitor Center (MP 316.4) hosts 350,000 visitors annually.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO NORTH CAROLINA
- YOUR NORTH CAROLINA VACATION
- BRYSON CITY: 9 Amazing Things To Do In Bryson City NC For Outdoor Lovers
- UNIQUE NC RENTALS: 29 Unique North Carolina Rentals For Your Next Getaway
- NC RESORTS: 24 Resorts In North Carolina That Will Have You Packing Your Bags Tonight
- NC DAY TRIPS: 23+ Incredible Day Trips In NC For Every Style Of Traveler
WHERE TO STAY IN BLOWING ROCK, NC
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