In 1884, a noted travel writer visited Boone, even then, "a centre of interest," in the mountains. When he left, he wrote, "There is nothing special to be said about Boone. We were anxious to reach it, we were glad to leave it."
What a difference a few years makes. Northerner Margaret Morley visited in 1913 and wrote, "That first visit to Boone!" with its "pretty snuggle of houses running along a single street," where the surroundings look "for all the world like a summer meadow in the New England hills."
Boone had gone from the dismal site of a famous Civil War skirmish (100 years ago in 2015) to renown for its cool summer climate. From the beginnings of Appalachian State University in 1899, Boone has become an educational center. Noted for athletic as well as academic distinctions, ASU is one of the most sought-after campuses in the University of North Carolina system. But Boone is more than a "cool" college town. It has emerged as the hub of commerce in the North Carolina High Country. Check out our Boone Area Buyer's Guide.
The main street, King Street, still offers the nostalgic feel of small-town America. Its 1930s recently restored post office is a classic, complete with a Depression-era Works Progress Administration painting of Daniel Boone. A statue of iconic mountain musician and local favorite Arthel "Doc" Watson picks a guitar on a bench downtown, as he once did on his way to fame in the early 1960s. Diverse businesses, great restaurants, shops, and boutiques line the streets and the buildings of Appalachian State provide a modern backdrop for this mountain town. One of those is the Turchin Center for the Performing Arts, a museum space at the heart of the town's First Friday Art Crawls where galleries and local artists and exhibitions take center stage. In its over 30 years, ASU's Appalachian Summer Festival has become a landmark cultural event for summer residents and locals alike.
Nationally significant travel attractions draw visitors from around the country, among them Grandfather Mountain, Tweetsie Railroad, and the long-popular, mid-summer heritage drama Horn in the West. Boone and surrounding communities wrap those offerings in world-class outdoor recreation, on the trails, rocky summits, whitewater streams, and rivers that provide some of the most spectacular natural settings in Eastern America. The Blue Ridge Parkway anchors those offerings as the most popular unit of the national park system.
All of those distinctions reflect a vibrant community where the focus is decidedly on local arts and agriculture, the latter sampled from April to November at the Watauga County Farmer's Market and of course, local eateries, even hip food trucks, and local breweries. Modern conveniences include the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, a landmark medical network that provides comprehensive services for the entire region. Boone's free AppalCart bus system is another plus, one reason why Forbes magazine named it a top place to retire.
Boone's High Country environment is elevated by nature, but it's renowned for a four-season recreational lifestyle that fits its status as the kingpin of Eastern America's highest mountains.