Are you looking for the best things to do in Banner Elk, North Carolina? Banner Elk is one of the cutest small towns in North Carolina and has so much to offer visitors. The town is nestled into the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains, opening up an avenue of possibilities to visitors along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
While the majority of things to do in Banner Elk are outdoorsy, there are also historic locations, great food, a winery, and shopping opportunities as well. Foodies, in particular, will love this lovely little mountain town as it has become one of the hot spots in the high country for finding delicious southern cuisine as well as international dishes. No matter what type of traveler you are or what you are looking for, you can find it in Banner Elk.
15 Best Things To Do In Banner Elk NC You Shouldn’t Miss
Linville Falls is one of the prettiest waterfalls near Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina. This waterfall is located between Boone, Blowing Rock, Asheville, and Banner Elk, making it a perfect waterfall to visit when you are in Banner Elk. One of the best parts about the falls is that the surrounding area and the waterfall itself is maintained by the National Park System and is free to visit.
It is easy to see why Linville Falls is one of the best things to do in Banner Elk. A shocking 350,000+ travelers visit this stunning waterfall each year. The ninety-foot drop and breathtaking beauty of the waterfall as it tumbles down into the Linville Gorge draw visitors from all over the world.
Here are a few tips for Linville Falls, NC. First, you will want to be prepared for crowds. This is one of the most popular waterfalls, and the crowd size shows this. If you are able to, visit on weekday mornings. Next, if you are going to be hiking in the area, invest in some sturdy hiking shoes for the occasion.
Among the most fun things to do in Banner Elk is whitewater rafting with the Edge of the World Whitewater Rafting. While whitewater rafting is the most popular offering for this NC company, they offer travelers a wide array of adventurous experiences. Just minutes away from Boone and Asheville, the professional guide team will make sure you make the most of a summer visit to Banner Elk.
If you are a family traveler wondering if this is going to work for your family, the answer is yes! Children are welcome, and they even have savings and discounts for kids. (There are also discounts for veterans, service members, and first responders!) Rafting is one of the best things to do in Banner Elk!
The best parts about rafting here are that you are driven to and from the site, you get free re-runs on the biggest rapid, and instead of getting a cold sandwich for lunch like most companies give guests, you are given a home-cooked meal! Whether you are interested in whitewater rafting, whitewater kayaking, or rock climbing and rappelling opportunities, you are sure to make memories that will last a lifetime when you take a trip with Edge of The World!
One of the most incredible places to visit in Banner Elk is Rough Ridge. Technically, Rough Ridge is about twenty minutes away from Banner Elk, but it is well worth the drive. This hike gives visitors spectacular views of the Linn Cove Viaduct and the popular Grandfather Mountain.
Rough Ridge is among the most stunning natural features in the Blue Ridge Mountains, making it one of the best things to do in Banner Elk. The overlook on the trail is one of the very best overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway. You will find the overlook at 3218 Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville, North Carolina. The trail starts at Milepost 302.8.
Here are a few tips for the Rough Ridge Trail. You do not have to hike the whole thing! The trail is a part of a longer trail called the Tanawha Trail, which is 13.5 miles long. The Rough Ridge portion of this trail is only 0.8 miles. Also, be sure to wear pants, as a lot of the trail is sandwiched by vegetation. You can avoid poison ivy, poison oak, and scratched legs by wearing a good pair of hiking pants.
Make sure to check out our list of the Best North Carolina Mountain Towns you must visit!
Bayou Smokehouse & Grill
If you are wondering what to do in Banner Elk for lunch, check out the Bayou Smokehouse & Grill. You will find scrumptious Cajun dishes and BBQ plates alongside craft draft beer, all served in a relaxed dining room or in the outdoor seating area.
The menu is full of all of your southern favorites. From crawfish etouffee and red beans & rice to ribeye and fried okra, you will love the food at the Bayou Smokehouse and Grille. For BBQ lovers, check out the Texas-style smoked beef brisket BBQ or the Texas Smokehouse combo. Trying some of the delicious offerings at this mouthwatering smokehouse is among the best things to do in Banner Elk!
Drive The Blue Ridge Parkway
A Blue Ridge Parkway drive is always a good idea! In fact, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most fun Southern road trips. Driving along the curvy roads through the tree-covered mountains is such a dream.
Originally, the Blue Ridge Parkway was called the Appalachian Scenic Highway. This famous drive in the south spans 469 miles through the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Built for the purpose of connecting the Great Smoky Mountains with the Shenandoah National Park, this parkway has become a frequent flyer on the list of best things to do in North Carolina.
There are tons of overlooks and hikes that you can enjoy on the drive. One of the best Blue Ridge Parkway hikes is the Graveyard Fields hike. This popular hiking trail draws tons of road trippers and travelers from nearby towns like Banner Elk. The trail is only around three miles round trip, making it one of the best things to do in Banner Elk for those looking for a fairly short hike in the mountains.
Banner House Museum
The Banner House Museum is a must-add to your list of best things to do in Banner Elk, North Carolina! As one of the best activities in Banner Elk for history lovers, you will be able to learn a lot about the town and the surrounding areas when you visit. The museum is actually the home of Samuel Henry Banner, who was one of the early settlers of the area.
He and his wife lived in the house with their seven children. Today, you can experience 19th-century life and enjoy seeing artifacts from the time period. Other than a tour of the house museum, you can also take a walking tour of the town. The tours start at the Banner House Museum and take guests on a 1.5-mile walking loop through Historic Downtown Banner Elk.
Blowing Rock is the ideal addition to your dream North Carolina road trip! From Banner Elk, the drive to Blowing Rock is roughly half an hour. Takings a short road trip to Blowing Rock is one of the best things to do in Banner Elk. The area was settled by the Scottish and Irish in the 1700s.
Before that, it was home to both the Cherokee and Catawba tribes. There is actually a Native legend that is still around today. The legend says that the 3,000-foot drop over the Johns River Gorge is where a brave Indian jumped to his death because he couldn’t choose between his responsibilities as a man and his love for a maiden he had met.
One of the best things to do in Blowing Rock is to go shopping in the Historic Downtown area. There are also museums, hiking trails, parks, and waterfalls in the area that make for wonderful stops as you tour the town.
If you are looking for free things to do in Banner Elk, consider visiting Wildcat Lake! This thirteen-acre lake is the perfect place to be on a hot summer day in Banner Elk. You can lay on the soft white sand and watch the ripples on the water, practice your front flip off the deck, read a good book, or picnic nearby.
The lake is owned and operated by the Lees-McRae College. As a premier attraction in Banner Elk, it is looked after with care. Swimming is allowed during the summer months when lifeguards are on duty, and there are other features that make this one of the best things to do in Banner Elk as well. Pavillions for cookouts, a playground, and picnic areas are available to guests.
Boone sits at an elevation of 3,333 feet. This dreamy mountain town is home to Appalachian State University and is roughly thirty minutes from Banner Elk. Before the area was settled by Europeans, it was home to the Cherokee and Watauga people.
Road tripping to Boone is one of the best things to do in Banner Elk, NC! If you decide to visit Boon, be sure to check out the Daniel Boone Native Gardens, as it is one of the best things to do in Boone! Another popular attraction is the Tweetsie Railroad which has a lot of activities that family travelers will love.
Dutch Creek Ice Cream
It’s time for a sweet treat! What would a trip to Banner Elk be like without trying some of the sugary offerings in town? Visiting the little log cabin ice cream shop known as Dutch Creek Ice Cream is one of the best things to do in Banner Elk. The little wooden building is hosting seriously delicious treats!
You can find the ice cream shop on Broadstone Road in Banner Elk. With generous scoops of ice cream, reasonable prices, and a lovely outdoor area with picnic tables for guests, a visit to Dutch Creek Ice Cream is a great addition to any Banner Elk itinerary.
The Village of Banner Elk
One of the best things to do in Banner Elk for adults is to visit The Village of Banner Elk. If you are looking for things to do in Banner Elk at night or as a couple, you will want to check out The Village. It serves as your hub for amazing drinks, good food, and entertainment while you are in town.
Restaurants like Sorrento’s Italian Bistro, Barra Sports Bar, and Prime 21 Steakhouse are all waiting to greet you when you arrive in The Village of Banner Elk. There are also lodging options there as well. For example, the Azalea Inn is a lovely bed and breakfast that guests love. (Keep in mind, it is a pet-free and child-free inn!)
During the wintertime, the best Banner Elk activities are centered around the snowy weather. Sugar Mountain is a great destination that is less than ten minutes from the downtown area. Home to the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster and the Sugar Mountain Resort, it is one of the best things to do in Banner Elk with kids.
The Sugar Mountain Resort normally opens after Thanksgiving and has roughly 125 acres of ski terrain for guests to enjoy. With twenty-five slopes and eight lifts for quick and easy transport, you will love this resort! They have equipment rentals and ski lessons available for beginners. Sugar Mountain is firmly on the list of best things to do in Banner Elk, thanks to its stunning natural beauty and outdoor activities!
Beech Mountain is another mountain nearby that is perfect for winter sports. First inhabited by the Cherokee Indians, the mountain was a favorite hunting ground as it is home to bears, elk, and deer. The most popular attraction on the mountain is the Beech Mountain Ski Resort which is one of the top five best North Carolina ski resorts!
Visiting Beech Mountain is one of the best things to do in Banner Elk in the winter for those looking for opportunities to participate in winter sports. If you aren’t visiting during the winter months, that’s okay! They also have trails and activities available on the mountain all year round.
Banner Elk Winery
The Banner Elk Winery is among the most beautiful vineyards and wineries in North Carolina! There are a lot of relaxing things to do in Banner Elk, and visiting the local winery is one of them. The idyllic setting and luxurious accommodations are perfect for travelers looking for a unique and relaxing experience.
Tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, the winery is in one of the most stunning locations in the country. Not only beauty, but the winery is also the most acclaimed in the high county. Visiting the winery is one of the best things to do in Banner Elk! If your bucket list includes visiting the most dreamy wineries in the south, be sure not to skip over this incredible Winery.
Grandfather Mountain was formed more than 750 million years ago, making it one of the oldest geological features on Earth. Banner Elk is one of the best romantic getaways in North Carolina, and visiting the nearby Grandfather Mountain is the perfect way to get the most out of your time spent in the area.
One of the most popular things to do near Grandfather Mountain is to walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge. This bridge spans an 80-foot chasm at more than a mile high! Since 1952, visitors have enjoyed the panoramic views from the bridge, which is America’s highest suspension footbridge. The mountain is easily one of the best things to do in Banner Elk, as it is more than just a bridge. There are trails and a shop nearby, making your time spent on the mountain all the more exciting!
Attractions in Banner Elk and the area surrounding the town are plentiful. The picturesque landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Southern hospitality, and the remarkable food make for an incredible experience no matter what time of year you visit. While the town is stunning year-round, if you have the opportunity to visit during the fall months, you should, as it is one of the best places for fall in North Carolina!
Tell us, which of the best things to do in Banner Elk will you do first?