Let's face it: vacations can thin out your wallet. The trick to stretching your dollars and maximizing your family's fun is to intersperse some exciting yet budget-friendly excursions between those outings to major attractions. Here are 10 ideas for doing just that around Boone.

• Hike a Blue Ridge Parkway trail at any number of overlooks, including mileposts 272, 294, 296, 297, 302, 304, 305 and 316. Remember to "Leave No Trace" and pack out your litter.

• Visit Hickory Ridge Living History Museum in Boone to experience demonstrations of 18th century mountain living. Open every day except Mondays, through the end of November. $5 per adult; $3 per child.

• Visit the ducks at Mayview Lake and romp on the playground in downtown Blowing Rock before treating yourself at one of several Main Street purveyors of gifts, crafts, and delicious food.

• Explore Valle Crucis Park. Paved paths invite cyclists and walkers alike, leading to the cool banks of the Watauga River for some fishing or photos. Picnic shelters and grills, playground equipment and ball fields allow for a wide range of activities. Don't miss browsing the Original Mast General Store while you're there!

• Check out Todd Mercantile in Todd, NC, for baked goodies, gifts, crafts, and Friday night old-time music and dancing. Ride your bicycles along the Railroad Grade Road; bikes are for rent at RiverGirl next door.

• Go tubing on the Watauga or New Rivers. Area outfitters will drop you off and pick you up for transport back to your vehicle.

• Practice your fly-fishing techniques with our fly fishing outfitters.

• Experience the wind blowing straight up at The Blowing Rock, N.C.'s first tourist attraction - admission $7 for ages 12 & up, $2 children 4-11. The observation deck overlooks the Johns River Gorge. Enjoy short hikes, stunning views, souvenir shops, ice cream, picnic tables.

• Discover Mystery Hill, Appalachian Heritage Museum, Native American Artifacts Museum, and Appalachian Dinosaur and Fossil Museum - save on admission to all four ($18 for $30 value), or choose to visit one or two.

• Try your hand at gem mining. Buy per shovel-full, in a 1-shovel, 3-shovel or 5-shovel size bucket. Have your gem discoveries hand-cut by professionals in the area.

When you're ready to find lodging, visit ExploreBoone.com/hotels-cabins for a look at hotels, condos, rental houses, bed and breakfasts, and resorts.