As spring brings warmer temperatures to the North Carolina mountains and the snow melts into the creeks and streams, the Boone area shakes off the boots and jackets in exchange for sandals and shorts, turning winter wonderland activities involving skis and skates into hiking, ziplining and water adventures.
Ziplines: The area boasts three zipline outfits: Hawksnest Zip Line (hawksnestzipline.com), Screaming Ziplines (screamingziplines.com) and Sky Valley Zip Tours (skyvalleyziptours.com). All feature tree canopy tours that run about 2 hours. At year-round Hawksnest, children as young as 8 can zip, and the tour has had a man 86 years young enjoy the ride!
Grandfather Mountain, Linville (grandfather.com, 828-733-2013): Hiking, an animal preserve that now features a bald eagle habitat, along with bears, deer and other animals, are just a part of the park. The Mile High Swinging Bridge is now wheelchair accessible so all can enjoy the 360-degree panoramic view of the mountain.
Water activities: The New River, Watauga River, Wilson's Creek and the Nolichucky River provide tubing, paddling and whitewater rafting opportunities. Local outfitters such as Wahoo's Adventures (wahoosadventures.com, 800-444-RAFT) offer packages for all levels at all four waterways.
Other sites include the Blue Ridge Parkway, The Blowing Rock, Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park, Julian Price Park, Elks Knob State Park and a plethora of outdoor activities.
Places of interest
Tweetsie Railroad, Blowing Rock (800-526-5740, tweetsie.com): The state's first family theme park opened in 1955 and still thrills all ages with the Old West robberies, gunfights and riding in a train pulled by a coal-fired Engine No. 12 (built in 1917) and Engine No. 190 (built in 1943). The 200-acre park also features restaurants, shops, carnival rides and musical shows.
Mystery Hill, Blowing Rock (828-264-2792, mysteryhill.nc.com): For more than 65 years, visitors have tried to defy gravity in the Mystery House, but feel the gravitational pull, witness balls rolling and water flowing uphill.
Doc's Gem Mining, Blowing Rock, adjacent to Mystery Hill (828-264-4499, docsrocks.net): Open all year; specializes in North Carolina gemstones. A geologist on staff explains what's in your bucket of rocks and how each became a gem. The site also has a fossil museum.
Mast General Store, Valle Crucis (828-963-6511, mastgeneralstore.com): An old-fashioned general store, with barrels of candy — 'nuff said.