What are some of the best things to do in Banner Elk, North Carolina?
After all, when we think about the town of Banner Elk in North Carolina, what typically comes to mind?
Well for starters, the town of Banner Elk is located in the North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It lies between 2 ski resorts: Sugar Mountain Resort to the south, and Beech Mountain Resort to the north. The town was believed to have been used for hunting and fishing back when the Cherokee inhabited the nearby areas, although there is no evidence of a permanent Cherokee settlement has ever been found.
Martin L. Banner was the first settler to live here and as his family grew, the area where they lived became known as Banner’s Elk. Which was then shortened to its current name “Banner Elk”, when the town was incorporated back in 1911. And as of the 2010 census, it was estimated that around 1,000 people live in this town currently.
But besides that, what else do we really know about the town of Banner Elk?
The town of Banner Elk, although small, is beautifully positioned to take advantage of all there is to see and do in the High country of North Carolina.
For instance, within a few minutes of the lone stoplight in the town, visitors will be able to enjoy attractions, outdoor adventure, family fun, winter sports, shopping, museums, wineries & breweries, spas and much more.
During the winter time, visitors are able to head to either one of the two ski resorts nearby where they can take part in a variety of winter activities. There is even an alpine roller coaster which is open year round and offers thrilling rides for people of all ages and experiences.
Or if you come during the spring or summer, visitors will be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and pleasant temperatures of the surrounding areas. All of which makes for perfect opportunities to do some hiking, biking, rafting, tubing, horseback riding, antiquing, festivals and gallery tours.
Which is why, if you’re still wondering exactly what you are able to see and do here in the town of Banner Elk, then you are in the right place.
In this post, we’ll be detailing all the best things to do in Banner Elk, North Carolina.
So if you’re ready, lets get started!
- Things To Do In Banner Elk, North Carolina
- Visit Grandfather Mountain State Park
- Check Out Grandfather Vineyard & Winery
- Have Fun At Woolly Worm Festival
- Visit The Sugar Creek Gem Mine
- Play Around In Apple Hill Farm
- Have Fun At Sugar Mountain Resort
- Visit Ensemble Stage
- Fish Around At Grandfather Trout Farm
- Have Fun At High Mountain Expeditions
- Zip Down The Hawksnest Zipline
- View The Elk River Falls
- Have Fun At Wildcat Lake
- Visit A Local Brewery
- Ride Along An Alpine Coaster
- Visit The Banner House Museum
- Visit The Linville Caverns
Things To Do In Banner Elk, North Carolina
In no particular order, here are the best things to do in Banner Elk, North Carolina.
Visit Grandfather Mountain State Park
If you’re ever visiting the area of Banner Elk, North Carolina, then one place you almost definitely have to visit is a place called Grandfather Mountain State Park.
Grandfather Mountain State Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire area as it located on top of one of the highest peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each and every year, this state park attracts over 250,000 tourists who come here wanting to do some hiking, viewing animals, visiting the nature museum and even picnicking.
In fact, one of the best known pastimes here in this park is to walk across a Mile High Swinging Bridge. The reason for this is because this bridge is the highest known suspension footbridge in the entire country. A walk along this bridge offers expansive views of the surrounding mountains and valleys nearby. Plus, there is even a “Top Shop” that provides an elevator access to the bridge.
Aside from the bridge, the mountain is a very popular spot for hikers as it consists of over 11 different hiking trails all varying in difficulty. From an easy stroll in a meadow or woodland to the tough rugged trek up challenging terrain, this state park has it all. Plus, while you are roaming around, you might even encounter some wildlife animals consisting of black bears, elk, river otters, cougars, bald eagles and more all roaming around outside.
But it’s not just the outdoors that make this place so wonderful. In fact, this state park also has a museum called the “Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum” where you can learn all about the region’s natural history. From valuable gemstones to the plants or even animals found in this region, you will learn a lot here at this museum.
So if you’re ever in the area of Banner Elk, then the Grandfather Mountain State Park is definitely worth a visit.
Check Out Grandfather Vineyard & Winery
One of the best kept secrets about the area of Banner Elk is that they have one of the most interesting and fun vineyard and winery locations ever.
Known as the “Grandfather Vineyard & Winery“, it is a family owned and operated venture and is home to over five acres of 10 to 12 grape varieties. The grapes were first planted back in 2003, and eventually they opened a winery here in 2011. Ever since then, they have become one of the top spots to visit in terms of really delicious wines to drink.
The vineyard here grows the “Vitis Vinifera” grapes, which thrive in the terraced land with warm days and cool nights.
When visitors come here, they’ll be able to try out many different wines. For instance, the dry wines include things like a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rosé, Syrah, Pinot Noir and selected red and white blends. And for those who are wanting to enjoy a sweeter wine, the winery uses North Carolina’s native muscadine grapes to make these varieties. And their specialty is when the winery produces ice wine, which is made from grapes that freeze on the vine.
The tasting room is also a great experience here as they offer sampling flights for people to try. Visitors can simply try out some dry, sweet, sparkling and dessert style tasting options, and even be given a souvenir glass to take home which make the experience more memorable.
Now the winery doesn’t serve any food, but they do allow you to bring your own. There are many spots around the area that are ideal for picnics and events all while being surrounded by beautiful scenic views.
Overall, it is a fantastic place to visit and one you will definitely not want to miss out on.
Have Fun At Woolly Worm Festival
If you’re ever in the town of Banner Elk, North Carolina during the month of October, you might just be able to join in on the fun with one of the biggest festivals around.
Known as the “Woolly Worm Festival“, it is an annual festival held on the third week of October each and every year. And as you can probably guess, the festival is all about the “woolly worm”. It started back in 1978 and ever since then, this quirky and world-famous festival has been used to help predict the upcoming winter weather for the area of North Carolina High Country.
There is a legend that states that the 13 bands on the woolly worm represents the 13 weeks of winter. Brown bands on the worm help indicate a mild week, black bands indicate a cold and snowy week. And because every woolly worm is different in color, the festival holds a type of race to determine which worm is used to help make the weather forecast.
For instance, the winning worm on Saturday gets a prize of around $1,000 and the honor of predicting the upcoming winter. Contests will continue to Sunday where the day’s winner will receive around $500.
But aside from the woolly worm contests itself, the festival is also home to a variety of other things. For example, there will be about 175 craft vendors, food, live entertainment and rides all ready for people to enjoy.
It’s a whole lot of fun and one where kids and adults will have a great bonding experience as they try out everything that this festival has to offer.
Visit The Sugar Creek Gem Mine
If you love rocks and gemstones, then one place you absolutely must visit is one called the Sugar Creek Gem Mine.
The Sugar Creek Gem Mine is a family owned and operated establishment that offers some prospecting fun for the entire family to enjoy.
Visitors who come will be able to select from different buckets that are at various sizes, each containing authentic gemstones for them to enjoy. They will then undertake the amazing process of which they’ll sift through the area in order to find, identify and transform the gemstones into special keepsakes.
Aside from the gem mining experience, they also have an area where they can help turn your gemstones into beautiful jewelry for you to wear. The staff here will work with you to pick out the best gemstones that are suited for cutting. And with their state of the art equipment and supplies, they’ll make sure every cut gemstone is flawless.
But the best part about this place is that this place even has expert miners and gemologists who are available for the toughest of questions. They’ll make sure your gem mining experience is as good as it gets.
Overall, the gem mine is open year round and is one of the most popular activities for people to see and do. Walk-ins are definitely welcome, but if you want to ensure yourself a spot than you might want to make a reservation. Coming here is definitely an experience you will enjoy as there is so much for you to see and do.
Play Around In Apple Hill Farm
One of the best kept secrets about the area of Banner Elk, is that there is a special farm here called “Apple Hill Farm”.
Apple Hill Farm is a really amazing farm that specializes in working with alpacas and llamas.
Visitors are able to come to this farm and go on guided tours, that last anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes long. During each tour, visitors will be able to learn all about the different animals that live here as well as hear the special backstories behind them as well.
But it’s not just alpacas and llamas that are on this farm.
In fact, when visitors come, they’ll see that the farm is home to a wide range of animals. Some of the animals you might find includes things like angora goats, horses, donkeys, ponies, pigs and even chickens. All of which are able to be enjoyed as visitors will be able to pet them and interact with them for hours on end.
Fun Fact: Fibers from the angora goats are made into mohair which are then sold in the farm store. Also in the store is alpaca yarn which is made individually from each alpacas. So if visitors are wanting a present to bring back home, these are perfect.
Aside from the animals, Apple Hill Farm is also home to a variety of events throughout the year. Such events include things like alpaca shearing day or even a Christmas celebration.
Whatever the case may be, Apple Hill Farm is definitely a place anybody would enjoy.
Have Fun At Sugar Mountain Resort
If you love doing all kinds of winter activities, then one place you definitely have to visit is a place called Sugar Mountain Resort.
Sugar Mountain Resort is the largest ski area in the entire North Carolina region.
It is here where you can find over 21 trails and nine lifts, including a hi-speed detachable six-person chairlift that is the fastest style lift in the state. This resort has over 115 acres of skiable terrain and has a peak elevation of around 5,300 feet.
But the most interesting part about this ski resort is that it boasts the only double black diamond slope in the entire state of North Carolina, as well as the largest vertical drop (around 1,200 feet) in the state. With so many different slopes for you to ski on, the possibilities are endless. For instance, Upper Flying Mile is an intermediate slope that connects into Lower Flying Mile for a total of 1.5 miles long. Where as Gunther’s Way is the newest slope made in the region and is rated as difficult being about 2,900 feet in length.
But it’s not just skiing that you are able to do here at this resort.
In fact, Sugar Mountain Resort has many other things for you to see and do as well. For instance, there is an outdoor ice skating rink, snow tubing park, magic carpet lift, and more all ready for you to enjoy. Plus for beginners, there is even a Sugar Bear Ski School which will offer a variety of different lessons for people of all ages and experiences.
It’s definitely one of the best things to do at this park as there are so many exciting and fun things for you to see and do. It’s no wonder that Sugar Mountain Resort is always on the recommended list for people to do when they are visiting this city.
Visit Ensemble Stage
If you love the performing arts, then one place you have to check out is a place called the “Ensemble Stage”.
The Ensemble Stage is a professional theater troupe in the mountains that is known for their high-quality performances with a robust year-round schedule of events.
They are based at the Historic Banner Elk School, where they entertain audiences with performances. They have converted the school’s auditorium into an intimate 99 seat theater that provides every attendee with amazing views of the show no matter where they are sitting.
Some of the performances you’ll see them perform includes things such as ““It’s A Wonderful Life,” “The Star Spangled Girl,” “Robin Hood,” “Dracula” and “Treasure Island.” All of which are masterfully done and puts a smile on each and every visitor who watches them.
The troupe was founded back in 2009 in Blowing Rock to help provide visitors and locals of the High country with a variety of different live theatrical performances, while also inspiring a greater participation into the arts. They have since moved to Banner Elk during 2017 and now offer year-round performances for all to enjoy.
It’s a fun filled event where both the kids and adults will enjoy as no matter which performance you decide to watch, it will definitely be the highlight of your day.
Fish Around At Grandfather Trout Farm
One of the best things you can ever see or do during your visit to the town of Banner Elk, is to simply go visit the famous Grandfather Trout Farm.
The Grandfather Trout Farm as you might suggest, is a farm that has a lot of trout. Which means one of the best things visitors are able to do here is to go fishing for some trout.
The farm will provide free bait, free tackle, and all the essentials you will need to have a fantastic fishing experience. You don’t even need to be a professional fisher as there are staff nearby who will help anybody of all experiences and levels be able to catch some truly amazing fish. Plus, once you catch the fish they’ll be able to help you clean your catch, filet and smoke, or even package your fish to take home.
But the fun doesn’t stop there!
In fact, aside from the fishing aspect of this farm, visitors are also able to find a gem mine where they can go and mine for gems. And just like fishing, all the equipment and essentials you will ever need for mining will be provided free of charge. Once you find your gemstone, you are able to take it into the gem shop for identification, cutting and even mounting.
Visiting the Grandfather Trout Farm is definitely a great experience. Visitors will be able to have fun for hours on end doing fishing, mining, or even learning about all the cool things that they have to offer.
Have Fun At High Mountain Expeditions
If you’re looking for some trilling adventure with tons of fun, then you will need to head down to High Mountain Expeditions.
High Mountain Expeditions which opened up in the year of 1986, is the premiere place for all things fun and adventure. It is here where you’ll be able to find some really awesome whitewater rafting services being offered here in the North Carolina mountains.
They have four known outposts in the NC mountains, with one of them being on Banner Elk near the Tynecastle Highway. They specialize in different kinds of rafting adventures out on the Nolichucky River, Watauga River, and rugged Wilson Creek.
Visitors who are wanting to have some fun will be able to find that this company doesn’t just only offer white water rafting adventures. In fact, they also offer river tubing, canoe and kayaking, hiking, as well as caving adventures. It’s basically your one stop shop for all things fun and adventure.
All the staff are really knowledgeable and will help you with any and all questions you may have. Plus the best part about this company is that prices for these adventures are all really affordable. For instance, river rafting is only around $85 dollars and will last from either half day, full day, or even a 2 day rafting adventure.
So if you’re ever in the mood for the exciting fun and adventure, then you’ll definitely need to pay a visit to High Mountain Expeditions.
Zip Down The Hawksnest Zipline
Do you love ziplining?
If you do, then you’ll be happy to know that here in Banner Elk, North Carolina, you’ll be able to find one of the best ziplining places for you to zipline at.
Known as “Hawksnest Zipline“, they are the premiere place for all your ziplining needs. They feature four miles of zip-line cables for riders to soar through the sky over trees, lakes and even creeks all while taking in some really breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It doesn’t even matter if you have never ziplined before or if you are a seasoned professional, this place is a really fun place to experience the thrill of ziplining while being surrounded by scenic views.
For instance, the most popular option they have is the “Hawk Tour”, which is ideal for beginners who haven’t ziplined before. It’s a one and a half mile tour that involves 11 cables, two of them stretch for more than 1,500 feet and reach heights of more than 150 feet. Going on this zipline, riders will be able to hit speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
Now if you are a more advanced rider, you might want to do the “Eagle Tour”, which requires good physical condition due to the long distances of the wire as well as going at extremely fast speeds. This tour involves nine cables that cover around three miles long and reaches speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. Two of the cables are more than 2,000 feet long, and several are more than 200 feet high.
Each of the tours lasts between one and a half to two hours in length. Once you finish the tours, you’ll be able to enjoy the view from the top of an observation deck at Hawksnest Mountaintop Lodge.
Regardless of which tour you decide to pick, Hawksnest Zipline will definitely give you the excitement that you crave.
View The Elk River Falls
Located only a few miles away from Banner Elk, visitors will find one of the most beautiful and impressive waterfalls in the North Carolina Mountains.
Known as “Elk River Falls“, or “Big Falls” as some may call it, is a fifty foot high waterfall that runs large volumes of water each and every second over a rock cliff down into a picturesque oval pool.
Getting to this waterfall is a fairly simple thing to do as there is a trail that visitors follow which will take them straight to the waterfall. The length of the trail is about half a mile long round trip, which makes for a short work for people wanting to see this beautiful attraction.
Once visitors come to the waterfall area, they can view the waterfall from an area near the top of the waterfall or down the trail near the bottom of the waterfall where there is a large rock besides the pool.
Only thing to note is that visitors who are wanting to get a closer look at the waterfall should not venture too close to the currents as they are powerful enough to drag you in. Also, visitors are warned to not swim in the pool down below as the large volume of water creates an undertow current that pulls everything down into the bottom of the pool, which is dangerous.
Other than that, the Elk River Falls makes for a fantastic place to visit as it is just so beautiful and makes for a perfect day trip event to do with the family and friends.
Have Fun At Wildcat Lake
For those who are wanting to get out onto the waters and have some fun, there is no place better to go than to Wildcat Lake.
Wildcat Lake is the premiere destination in Banner Elk for people who are wanting to do many types of different water activities. This lake is about 13-acres wide and is the centerpiece of a public-access facility that includes things like a white sand beach, swimming pier and even a fishing dock.
For instance, visitors who come here will have a plethora of things for them to see and do. Some of the most popular activities include things like swimming, sun bathing and boating. Plus, safety is always kept at the highest standards as there are always lifeguards on duty during the summer hours.
But another amazing thing you can do here at this lake is fishing. In fact, the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission stocks this lake with fish all the time. From things like bluegill to largemouth bass or even three varieties of trout, fishers will definitely have their fill fishing at this lake.
Also the lake is located right next to a park which provides an ample bath house, picnic tables, and even three picnic shelters that are all open to the public to enjoy.
Overall, it’s a really fun lake that reminds people of an old-fashioned swimming hole. It’s no wonder this place draw sin thousands upon thousands of visitors each and every year.
Visit A Local Brewery
One of the best things you can ever see or do when visiting some place new is to pay a visit to the local brewery in town.
And here in Banner Elk, there are many different breweries for you to visit.
With one of the most popular being “Kettell Beerworks“. The brewery first opened up in 2013 but was since purchased by the current owners Mark and Yumiko Ralson during 2017. Since then, they have been the premiere place where people are able to get some really good delicious beer here in the town of Banner Elk.
Visitors who come here will find that they offer quite a few different beers for people to drink. For instance, their flagship beer offerings all year-round includes things like the Rollcast Kolsch, Top Coast IPA, Profile American Pale Ale and Big Falls Nutty Brown Ale. These four are complemented by a rotating variety of seasonal beers and experimental small batches.
And if you noticed, their beers typically are named after local landmarks and activities. For example, the Profile American Pale Ale is named after the Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain, while the Rollcast Kolsch gets its name from the roll-casting technique used in fly-fishing.
Aside from the beer, they also have a small menu where they serve some really tasty foods. You can find things like a pizza with various kinds of toppings, pretzels, and even chicken wings for you to eat.
So if you ever are in the mood for trying out some really good locally crafted beer, Kettell Beerworks is definitely the place for you to visit.
Ride Along An Alpine Coaster
If you are looking for something that is extremely unique and fun, then look no further. Here in the area of Banner Elk, visitors will be able to find a Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, which is the first of its kind in the state.
The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster was built by Germany’s top alpine coaster company and modeled after the popular coasters in Europe. The track length is around 3,160 feet and includes three circular loops, a series of waves and several twists and turns for some of the most amazing views you have ever seen.
Each ride starts with a cable-pulled ascent of around 770 feet to the top, at which point the alpine coaster then roars off and starts showing you all the amazing views and scenery that the area has to offer. Riders are able to go at a top speed of around 27 miles per hour and the average ride lasts around 5 minutes tops.
It’s a fun filled ride where riders will be looping, dipping, turning and just overall having a whole lot of fun. In fact, there is no point in the five minute ride where riders are just riding. Every second of the ride will be able to provide them with some truly amazing sights and things for them to see.
The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster is one of the top things for people to see and do here in the area of Banner Elk, and for good reason. With the amount of things you’re able to see and enjoy, the coaster is definitely going to be the highlight of your trip.
Visit The Banner House Museum
If you are wanting to step back through history and see exactly how life was like in the North Carolina mountains during the mid to late 1900’s, then one place you definitely have to visit is the Banner House Museum.
This house which was built back in 1865, belonged to the Banners, one of Banner Elks founding families. In fact, Samuel Henry Banner, his wife, Jane, and their seven children have all lived inside this house. And as the family grew, so did the town which eventually became known as Banner Elk.
Visitors who come here are able to go into the house and explore all the things that it has to offer. For instance, on display are many artifacts that illustrate the daily lives of those early settlers, furnishings, farm tools, hand-stitched quilts, vintage clothing, photographs, paintings and more. Not to mention that the rooms are also arranged in a way where it depicts the culture of the late 19th century.
And all throughout the year, this museum will also play host to a variety of special events. From things like Children’s Day to a Cemetery Tour and even a bus tour of the historic Banner elk, the choices are endless.
Plus, there are volunteers who work here which will be able to provide tours and give information pertaining about everything inside this house.
So come on down to the Banner House Museum, where you can live through the past and see exactly how life was like for these hard working settlers.
Visit The Linville Caverns
Located about a few minutes drive away from Banner Elk, is one of North Carolinas best kept secrets that most people do not know about.
Known as the “Linville Caverns“, it is located inside Humpback Mountain and offers some of the best sights to see some truly amazing geological formations. It is here where you can see stalactite and stalagmite formations in all their glory, hanging from the ceiling or even rising from the floor.
These caverns were virtually unknown for a long period of time until they were first discovered in the early 1800’s when fisherman from Eastern North Carolina spotted trout that appeared to be swimming in and out of a rock. That investigation eventually led them to find these beautiful caverns and an underground stream which is now known as Linville Caverns.
Linville Caverns first became open to the public during 1937, and has since then been upgraded with a variety of things to help make the caverns an even more special p[lace to visit. For example, pathways have been upgraded and lighting has been improved to make everything more enjoyable.
Visitors who come here will be able to follow tour guides as they lead them into the caverns and explain the history, showcase all the beautiful stalactite and stalagmite as well as anything else the cavern offers. Plus, one of the coolest things about this cavern is that visitors are still able to see trout and other wildlife roaming around the area.
So if you have the time to spare, try to make a day trip event where you’ll be able to head to the Linville Caverns. It’s an experience you definitely do not want to miss.
The town of Banner Elk in North Carolina is definitely one of the most amazing places you can ever visit. This city offers so much in what you can see and do and is definitely a must-visit place if you ever get the chance.
So hopefully this post about the “16 Best Things To Do In Banner Elk, North Carolina” was able to help you out in some sort of way. This way if you ever find yourself visiting the town of Banner Elk in North Carolina, you will know exactly what things you are able to do for some fun.
Also, if you are going to be visiting the state of North Carolina any time soon, you might be interested in some of my other North Carolina posts:
- Things To Do In Wilson, North Carolina
- Things To Do In Charlotte, North Carolina
- Things To Do In Emerald Isle, North Carolina
Or if you are interested in reading some of my other posts about traveling, you can do so by clicking these links:
- Essential steps for planning a trip
- How to find cheap flights
- There is no such thing as a perfect time to travel
Or you can check out all my blog posts by click this link.
Have fun traveling and let me know how it goes~