Boone on a budget: Activities that won’t break the bank

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Aldo Sarabia

The Watauga County Farmers’ Market hosted at Horn in the West July 30, 2022. The market has been open since 1974 and offers a variety of snacks, produce and artisan crafts from locals. Currently, tomato season is in full swing.

Briley Turpin, Reporter

For many students, the end of summer may signify the end of fun. But returning to the hustle and bustle of school work each academic year doesn’t mean completely trading in adventures for books and free time for studying. It’s important to get out and do something fun, so why not take advantage of everything Boone has to offer before the eternal winter sets in? Here are five of the best things to do in Boone without breaking the bank.

Hiking

Rough Ridge offers a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, from it you can see the Linn Cove Viaduct. Rough Ridge lookout is easily accessible, there is a parking area off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo taken on July 20, 2022.
(Aldo Sabaria)

Boone is home to countless hiking trails that can provide hours of free entertainment for visitors and residents of Boone alike. It is easy to get overwhelmed trying to choose which trail to take when there are so many to choose from. There’s a hike for everyone’s skill level. A common place to start is Rough Ridge, a 1.5 mile round trip hike located at milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This trail takes hikers to a breathtaking lookout where many people take the iconic Rough Ridge picture. A more strenuous hike than Rough Ridge is the Summit Trail at Elk Knob State Park. The 4-mile round trip hike is not for the faint of heart, however it offers incredible views at the summit. A less strenuous, but still lengthy hike is the Flat Top Tower Trail. It is a 5.3 mile out-and-back trail for easy hiking. The trail leads to the summit of Flat Top Mountain where there is a fire tower offering panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Watauga County Farmers’ Market 

The Watauga County Farmers’ Market, located at 591 Horn in the West Drive, is open to the public with free entrance. The market is open every Saturday, April to October, from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. and in November from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. According to the market website, the market is home to over 70 vendors each week, and products range from produce to art, plants and plenty of things sure to please all shoppers.

Sunrise Mountain Mini Golf

Located on Highway 105 as a part of Sunrise Grill is Sunrise Mountain Mini Golf. This 18-hole mini golf course costs $10 per person. Operating hours are Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Friday and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. The course is on a hillside outside of Sunrise Grill and because of this, hours are subject to change based on weather conditions.

Picnic at Thunder Hill 

Another way to appreciate the beauty of Boone without having to hike a summit is driving to Thunder Hill Overlook, found at milepost 290.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Thunder Hill Overlook offers a panoramic view of the mountains and has a spacious parking lot backed right up to the edge of the overlook. Take advantage of this view by ordering food to-go, grabbing a few friends and heading to the overlook for an evening picnic.

Grandfather Mountain 

Grandfather Mountain State Park is home to several hiking trails, a restaurant and a mile high swinging suspension bridge. The swinging bridge offers views of the surrounding mountains in all directions. The park will celebrate the bridge’s 70th anniversary in September. Grandfather Mountain is one of the pricier items on the list, sitting at $24 per person.