Best Hiking Trail: Rough Ridge
By Dan Davidson
For the second year in a row, the Rough Ridge trail was voted Boone’s best hiking trail.
The popular pathway is a 0.8 mile-long stretch of the Tanawha Trail, which stretches over 13 miles from Julian Price Park to Beacon Heights. The trail is home to a highly vulnerable ecosystem that features many rare and ancient plant species.
The trail features stairs, cables and a boardwalk for hikers in order to protect the fragile plant community. At its peak, Rough Ridge offers a grandiose view of Grandfather Mountain, Linn Cove Viaduct, and even distant views of the Piedmont.
Its spectacular views and proximity to the App State campus have earned Rough Ridge widespread local recognition as the best hiking spot in the High Country.
Best Overlook: Thunder Hill
By Connor Davidson
Thunder Hill Overlook is consistently one of the best places on the Blue Ridge Parkway to take in the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is always the perfect spot to go with friends to have a picnic and watch the sunset. Even after the sun goes down, Thunder Hill is a great place to unleash the inner astronomer in everyone and look at the stars because of its location far away from major light sources.
Across the road from the parking area is a serene pasture with a few peaks in the distance, making this more of a 360 degree experience than other overlooks. Anyone trying to get to Thunder Hill won’t have to travel far since it is one of the first overlooks that anyone can come across.
Stunning views, picnics, stargazing and ease of access make Thunder Hill Overlook the prime spot on the parkway to see and experience the beauty of the High Country.
Best Swimming Hole: Laurel Creek Falls (Trash Can Falls)
By Alex Urquiza
The Appalachian Mountains are known for their cold weather and winter activities, but skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only fun outdoor activities to do in Boone. Once the weather warms up, many students cool down by heading to their favorite swimming hole, Trash Can Falls.
Located off U.S. Highway 321, Trash Can Falls is roughly 15 minutes from Boone. Also known as Laurel Creek Falls, Trash Can Falls is a popular place to hang out during the warm Boone weather. Although it’s nicknamed Trash Can Falls, it certainly is not trashed, and is home to beautiful scenery.
The 15-foot waterfall is one of many things that makes Trash Can Falls such a popular place to visit, with visitors plunging into the water from rocks ranging 15 to 30 feet high. Starting off with a small hike to the waterfall, it has everything you would ask for in a visit to the High Country.
Best Place to Bike: Greenway Trail
By Silas Albright
For at least the second year in a row, the Greenway Trail is Boone’s best place to bike. The intricate trail system includes many hills of varying sizes sure to keep any level of biker entertained.
The picturesque trail follows alongside Winklers Creek and the South Fork of the New River for much of its length, with multiple bridges crossing back and forth across the water. Another popular sight on the trail is the historic site of the power plant and dam that brought energy to Boone for the first time in 1915.
Parts of the greenway also weave around App State’s recreation fields at State Farm, making sports games going on part of the trail’s usual backdrop. Colorful sunset views with the mountains and waterways in the background are another favorite of greenway visitors.
Beloved by active community members and herds of local deer equally, Boone’s greenway is an asset to the High Country.
Best Ski Mountain (tie): Appalachian Ski Mountain & Beech Mountain Resort
By Jackie Park
This year, the slopes were so nice on ice, we had to name a winner twice. Appalachian Ski Mountain and Beech Mountain Resort rounded out the winners’ list for best ski mountain, and for good reason.
At each mountain, you can shred boxes, rails, jumps and jibs in terrain parks or take a lesson from a pro when you’re just starting out. From simple green circle hills to trying black diamonds, both mountains cover all skill levels, no matter if you just clicked those skis on for the first time or if you’re a veteran winter sports athlete.
Plus, both spots offer more than just skiing. Ice skating rinks provide round the mountain family fun, and Beech Mountain even features snow tubing for a softer way to get your heart rate up as you speed down on the snow.
When your session starts to get littered with falls and wipeouts, head inside to warm up with some eats at App Ski’s in-house restaurant or Beech Mountain Brewing Co. Top off your experience at Beech with the famous 5506’ Skybar, featuring unbeatable views of the Appalachian Mountains, as you relax from your long day on the slopes.
Best Winter Sports Shop: Recess Skate & Snow
By Jack Jackson
Located at 1158 NC Highway 105 in Boone, Recess has all the gear you need for a day on the slopes. With a wide selection for both the winter and summer seasons, there’s no going wrong stopping by Recess for all your boarding needs.
Alongside the wide variety of gear for snowboarding in the winter or skateboarding and longboarding in the summer, Recess has a wide variety of merchandise to make your day the best possible. Many people have said “this is exactly where you want to be” and the staff is always “knowledgeable, kind, and helpful” for all customers.
JP Purdy, an employee, said, “We’re super appreciative to have that support and for people to vote for us.” With so many great reviews and top notch staff, there’s no reason you shouldn’t stop by Recess before your next boarding session.
Best Outdoor Shop
By Alex McCaskey
Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday in a building that was built in 1922, the Boone location of the Mast General Store, which opened in 1988, offers a variety of outdoor gear for customers to pick from.
Brands such as Columbia and Patagonia are available in a variety of sizes for men, women and children. The store also offers a variety of items for pets. Located on the other side of the store is the Candy Barrel. The Candy Barrel, as the name indicates, offers a variety of different candies for customers to purchase.
In addition to the in-store experience, customers can shop online. Online orders can be shipped with certain offers such as free shipping on orders over $60 except for Lodge cast iron, Yeti coolers, various pottery and oversized items. Online orders can also be picked up in store.
Best Place to Buy App State gear: Mountaineer Mania
By Cameron Burnett
Mountaineer Mania has become a staple in Boone since it opened in 1981. Bill and Wanda Corriher opened the store for fans and members of the App State family to come buy gear for their favorite school. The store has become a family business and has the Corriher children working in the business as well.
Located on King Street, most people walking down the street notice the store and it has become recognizable by Mountaineer fans as the best place to buy their App State gear. The store sells a large assortment of gear, from shirts to hats to novelty items in the back. Comfort Colors is one of the most popular brands at the store and plays a large part in their success.
Within such a tight-knit community, being able to have a homegrown store that has everything they can ask for is a must, and Mountaineer Mania has served its community well for 40 years.
Best Thrift Store: Anna Banana’s
By Dan Davidson
Boone’s number one thrift store, Anna Banana’s, is located in the heart of downtown Boone, on the corner of Depot and King streets. The consignment shop offers a wide range of trendy clothing at more than reasonable prices, and is known for its extraordinary atmosphere.
For those looking to consign, the store offers 40% of the total resale amount if all of their items sell within the first 30 days. Anna Banana’s strives to create a warm and friendly environment – so much so that it even offers a 10% discount to its customers who are willing to dance before checking out.
The store’s unique, friendly atmosphere has helped it to stand out amongst all others in the High Country. The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Best Place for Piercings
By Alex Urquiza
When it comes to getting new piercings, no place does it better than Noble Tattoos and Piercings. Noble Tattoos and Piercings has become a staple in Boone as the place to get piercings for a reasonable price, with regular earlobe piercings at $35.
Noble has a clean environment with super nice staff that welcomes you, making you feel comfortable through an experience that is expected to be painful. Bookings with Noble are by appointment only during the pandemic. The staff is easy-to-contact and can help you set up your appointment with no hassle.
Located on King Street, Noble Tattoos and Piercings is open from noon to 8 p.m Monday through Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Best Tattoo Artist: Logan Isaacson, Speakeasy
By Sophia Lyons
Tattoo artist Logan Isaacson started working at the front counter at Speakeasy Tattoo six years ago, even completing a year and a half of his apprenticeship at the same time before earning his tattoo license in 2017. Since then, he has built a clientele including both returning customers and new clients. Isaacson works in several tattoo styles, as documented on his Instagram page @loganisaacson.
“I push traditional stuff a lot, but I also started out doing blackwork stuff and I have no problem with that, I really enjoy that stuff,” Isaacson said. “Colored traditional is the stuff I tend to push more, but both of them all the time, I have no real preference.”
Spanning over 200 images, Isaacson’s Instagram portfolio showcases his tattoos ranging from bright, flashy, thickly shaded traditional work to thin, delicate blackwork landscapes and natural imagery, and much in between. His work spans palm-sized small tattoos to large, thigh- and chest-adorning pieces of art. Although Isaacson does not accept booking via Instagram DMs, those interested in his work can email Speakeasy Tattoo for scheduling.
Best Smoke Shop: High Life
By Silas Albright
From tobacco products to rolling papers, vapes, glassware, lighters, other accessories and more, High Life Boone is the one-stop shop for all High Country smokers.
Located just off King Street at 221 Howard Street near The Local and walkable from App State’s campus, High Life’s central location helps make it easily accessible. The store also keeps things fresh and interesting with different holiday deals or other promotions, like the annual 4/20 blowout sale every April 20.
No matter your smoking expertise, whether you’re an experienced veteran seeking the newest technology or highest-quality glass items, or you’re looking for your first piece, the folks at High Life are sure to help you find what you’re looking for. The smoke shop is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
Best Nonprofit or Civic Organization: OASIS
By Alex McCaskey
OASIS stands for Opposing Abuse with Service, Information and Shelter. Since its founding in 1978, OASIS has been working to end domestic violence and sexual assault in Watauga and Avery counties.
The services provided by OASIS are both free and confidential, including the crisis line, available 24 hours a day in both English and Spanish. For those seeking shelter, OASIS offers a temporary emergency shelter free of charge at a confidential location.
There is also an 8-week course offered to local middle schools that is focused on preventing sexual violence. The course engages students in discussions on the topics of relationships, healthy boundaries, respect and autonomy.
OASIS also takes donations and a list of items can be found at https://www.oasisinc.org/get-involved/. For those looking to get involved, you can visit https://www.oasisinc.org/get-involved/ and fill out a volunteer or internship application. The number for the crisis line in Watauga County is 828-262-5035 and the Spanish Crisis Line is 828-504-0800.
Best Local Band: Barefoot Modern
By Gabrielle Troutman
This Boone-based indie pop band is quite accomplished and steadfast in their dreams, considering that the band started while most of the members were in high school. Signed to Split Rail Records, the student-run record label, their most recent single “La La Land” has been a fan favorite along with their EP “Bitter.” Similar to the typical “indie” feel, the band’s songs have a storyline portrayed in most. The whisper-y conversational style builds up the majority of their songs before a crescendo meets the background vocals and instrumental to create an inviting back and forth between the two.
The band consists of five members: Caleb LeJeune, Tegan Dean, Hunter Evans, Robert Beverly and Joe Karmazyn. The band has evolved the alternative aesthetic and group dynamic they have worked hard to maintain from their senior year of high school to now! This is the kind of music Boone-lovers are eager to hear live, in-person once the pandemic eases.
The band has played in festivals and won awards, having an album, four singles, an EP under their belt; they surely will accomplish much more as they get back to performing live. Barefoot Modern is available on all streaming platforms, so be sure to give Boone’s Best Local Band a listen!
Best Haircut: Canvas Boone
By Elizabeth Hutto
Whether you’re looking for a modern haircut or dye job that doesn’t break the bank, look no further than Canvas Boone. With a bright, modern interior, and welcoming and cheerful staff, customers feel at home the moment they step foot through the door.
Canvas offers services such as men, women, and kids haircuts, balayage, brow waxing, and tinting, as well as lash tinting and extensions. If it is wedding season for you, Canvas can help with that as well. The salon offers wedding hairstyles and makeup for your big day. Pricing for services varies based on the stylist, but Canvas will ensure that you are paired with a stylist who can accommodate all your hair wants and needs.
Canvas is also finding ways to “make beauty social.” If you post a photo on social media visiting a local business and hashtag it, #makebeautysocial, you are entered into a contest to win a free service. Canvas chooses a winner monthly and that person is welcome to choose a service that Canvas offers, additionally, the establishment that you visited will get one free blowout.
Canvas Boone is open Monday through Saturday and is located at 151 W Howard Street.
Best Hotel: The Horton
By Elizabeth Hutto
Tucked unassumingly in the heart of downtown Boone is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway, staycation, or an evening of admiring the gorgeous scenery and sunsets that Boone has to offer. The Horton, “Boone’s only downtown boutique hotel,” is an unexpected glimpse of luxury that will leave guests planning their next trip before their stay is even over.
The Horton offers amenities such as complimentary breakfast, free parking and is pet friendly. Locals who don’t see a need to spend the night but still want to experience The Horton’s sophisticated and lavish interior are welcome to enjoy drinks at the cocktail bar in the lobby lounge. Locals can also plan a trip to The Horton’s beautiful rooftop bar, complete with a unique fire pit and 360 degree views that showcase all of Boone.
The lounge and the rooftop bar are open Thursday through Sunday, and The Horton is located at 611 W. King Street.
Best Off Campus Housing: University Highlands
By Cameron Burnett
University Highlands was voted the best off-campus housing for App State, and located just around twelve minutes away from campus, it’s reasonable for all students to not have a long commute to class.
The apartments are well-renowned and fit the needs of most college students. With both two-person and four-person suites, University Highlands units are fully furnished and rent covers a monitored security system, as well.
On top of the rooms themselves, the facilities that come with the complex set Highlands apart from the competition. The community includes a clubhouse, firehouse lounge, a vacuum and car wash among many other amenities. The recreation facilities also include a basketball, tennis and volleyball court, a fitness center, swimming pool, and jacuzzi.
For college students, these extra amenities are very welcoming and give the complex its identity and great reputation. University Highlands gives App State students everything they could ask for.
Best Rental Company & Best Amenities: The Winkler Organization
By Connor Davidson
The Winkler Organization has been a staple to housing in Boone since 1983. After being around for so long, it only stands to reason that Winkler would have the best options around.
With 24 total properties and 16 close to campus, Winkler prioritizes students from App State and Caldwell Community College, allowing for a student-friendly living experience. Not only does Winkler portray itself this way, its residents agree. According to its website, 91% of Winkler’s residents say they are having a “good” to “excellent” experience.
Not only did The Winkler Organization win best rental company, but it also won best amenities. Winkler provides a housekeeping service at no additional cost to the tenant, making sure common spaces, kitchens and bathrooms stay clean. Another perk of being a Winkler resident is its exclusive discount programs, allowing residents to save money at 16 different businesses in Boone. With so many different perks, Winkler makes itself the obvious choice for housing in Boone.
Best Place to Live Alone: Studio West Apartments
By Jack Jackson
Year in and year out, many students find themselves comfortably living alone in Studio West Apartments. Located 1.3 miles off campus at 1785 NC Highway 105, Studio West gives students the perfect option for living alone.
With spacious rooms, an AppalCart stop, and access to a variety of amenities, students find themselves living the true Boone experience. These one bedroom, one bathroom, one kitchen and dining room units give students all the space they need to live alone in a community environment.
Studio West Apartments provide the best Boone experience, located conveniently within walking distance of App State and downtown Boone, alongside the local neighborhood needs, consisting of markets, retailers, and many other necessities you may require, while living alone, comfortably.
The apartments are “mostly quiet and overall a great place to live,” according to website reviews. Overall, Studio West Apartments provide all the necessities you need to have a happy and great experience living off campus.
Best of Boone: Best Pet-Friendly Complex
By Gabrielle Troutman
Your pets will most definitely find a welcome environment at The Cottages of Boone. Whether it be walking along the sidewalks, playing in the yards or hillsides along the houses with views of Boone below, your pet is sure to enjoy their time here. There are not many limitations for this pet-friendly complex as long as you are approved by management.
Make sure you send in a cute snapshot of your companion along with their shot record if you choose to have a tag-along join you in your home! Pets are welcome in all of the many accommodations The Cottages of Boone has to offer. This complex is close to the fields and river in Valle Crucis, the always pet-friendly Greenway, App State’s campus and many more of the pet-friendly sights Boone has to offer!
If you have roommates they will need to send an email saying they consent to having a furry (or scaley) friend in whatever home you are in! A $250 non-refundable deposit with $30 monthly fee per pet is all you’ll need to pay to accommodate your companion in the home you make at The Cottages.