Recently, my mountain family connected with our coastal cousins and put my 7 Tips for a Successful Family Reunion to use for a wonderful family reunion in beautiful Banner Elk, North Carolina.
The “North Carolina High Country” is known for its gorgeous mountains and year-round opportunities for activities such as skiing, hiking, biking, fishing, golfing, and more.
It was the perfect location for our gathering full of active children and teens.
Our accommodation was an extremely well-equipped nine-bedroom cabin located in a mountainside village called “Mill Ridge Resort,” an intimate family resort in the heart of the High Country.
Many families live there year-round, but you can also rent lovely vacation chalets and mountain cabins that are a short walk to the tennis and basketball courts, swimming pool, and stream on the property.
We enjoyed a late morning hike on their scenic trails, which used to be part of a snow skiing resort, right on property.
Of course you can also hop in your vehicle for a short drive, we’re talking minutes, to many exciting attractions close by in the towns of Boone, Banner Elk, Linnville, and Blowing Rock.
A nature preserve and scenic travel attraction, the majestic Grandfather Mountain is one of the highest peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The ticket price includes access to beautiful scenery, alpine hiking trails, a mile-high swinging bridge, picnicking, a nature museum, and various naturalist programs.
Outdoor enthusiasts will also enjoy nearby snow-skiing, tubing, and ice skating at Ski Beech, Ski Sugar, Appalachian Ski Mountain, and Hawksnest.
Golf courses, horseback riding, biking, hiking, whitewater rafting, fly-fishing, and zip-lining are some of the amazing adventures also found in the sportsman’s paradise of the North Carolina High Country.
For family fun the little ones can enjoy, Tweetsie Railroad, a family oriented railroad and Wild West theme park located between Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina. In addition to a 3-mile ride aboard an authentic steam locomotive, the park features amusement rides and other attractions geared towards families with children.
There’s another reason to call this area the “High Country”… you find yourself right in the midst of an active and eclectic arts scene .
Appalachian State University in Boone offers a visiting writer’s series, concerts, and more.
Lees McRae College in Banner Elk offers exciting theatrical productions, and Blowing Rock is known as the inspiration for author Jan Karon’s highly successful “Mitford Series” books.
The area is also known for dozens of festivals and celebrations throughout the year, such as the Wooly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, and the infamous “Merlefest,” an annual “tradition plus” music festival held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro.
If you work up an appetite at this altitude, dining options are outstanding in this area, with everything you can imagine from barbecue and down-home cooking, to tapas bars and fine dining establishments.
There is something for every palate!
We visited the local Earth Fare in Boone and enjoyed cooking most of our meals in the spacious and extremely well-outfitted kitchen at our beautifully appointed cabin.
This helped us to ensure that the atmosphere was relaxed and fun, giving our kids plenty of time and space to play games and be a little loud if they wanted while re-connecting.
One of our favorite outings was a visit to the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis , just a short 10 minute drive from our cabin.
You can truly imagine yourself stepping back in time over 100 years ago as you visit this historic store to play in the creek out back, sit down for an intense game of checkers, and purchase just about anything you could ever need or want.
My husband bought a shirt and some knives, and our kids loaded up in the candy store.
What I needed and bought was a jar of their sour dill pickles – just like my own Mamaw used to make – YUM!
And keeping it weird (which is normal for us), as a graduate of Appalachian State University, a family member knew about a special tradition of spray-painting in the graffiti tunnels on the campus of ASU, which the kids LOVED!
(Okay, I have to say I enjoyed participating in a little bit of that deviant behavior myself!)
I may or may not have spray-painted something about “Go Vols!”
The North Carolina High Country truly provides something for everyone – a change of scenery for the coastal-living side of the family, and the opportunity for our mountain family to break away and enjoy the winter amenities so close to home, making it the perfect setting for a successful family reunion!