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Banner Elk is a picture-perfect town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Every building, even fast food joints, have a lodge look with stone and wood in this “one stop light” town. Local restaurants, theatre performances and plenty of outdoor activities make Banner Elk a dreamy getaway.
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Italian recipes that originated generations ago in southern Italy are now enjoyed by locals and visitors of Banner Elk. Some of the dishes have a southern twist, like the crab cakes, which are totally loaded with tons of meat and have a crispy exterior that’s draped with a dreamy cream sauce. All of the pasta is authentic, and a cool art gallery is just steps away from the patio.
Sifting through a bunch of sand and rocks can be more addictive than it sounds! Sugar Creek Gem Mine has a fun trough set up where kids and adults can look for different types of colorful stones that can be turned into keepsakes. While being more on the “touristy” side, it gets a firm thumbs up as a family activity. The rustic setting fits right in with Banner Elk’s lodge town feel.
With some of the most striking hiking trails in the Carolina Mountains, Grandfather Mountain‘s “must see” sight is the Mile High Bridge, which extends over a deep valley. Also known as the Swinging Bridge, it’s an exhilarating place to view the rolling hills and rocky slopes. Don’t miss the animal exhibits either.
Something so peaceful and eclectic is happening here—a little house with fresh lavender gardens has merged into a daytime retreat offering massages, wellness products and candle workshops. Sip herbal tea while inhaling the mountain air, and pick out a special lavender product to take home.
In love with Alpacas? Spend a morning knitting amongst them in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with yarn made from sheared wool; there’s a huge selection in the gift shop. Apple Hill Farm is also home to goats, ponies, donkeys and a pig named Pickles who likes to do tricks. Tours are offered year round, but the times vary, so check in advance!
Those searching for a complete wind down will find refuge at the Banner Elk Winery, which sets on a gorgeous stretch of land, with hills perfect for east coast vineyards. Experts here know their wines, which they pair with local treats during tastings. Doing a tasting is the way to go—wines you never dreamed you’d be a fan of suddenly become your favorite. Don’t leave without trying the out of the box, completely refreshingly, and unarguably famous sangrias.
Ensemble Stage is a professional theatre company that has converted the gym of a historic school in Banner Elk into a fully operating stage. Shows have a broadway-like feel that bring visitors back to a time of true entertainment. Radio shows, which mimic the old school sound methods used on air back in the day, have been a popular play style at Ensemble Stage.
Texas-Louisiana style dishes are served up here, and there’s plenty of Cajun seafood and house-smoked meat. Bayou Smokehouse is an unusual and pleasant cuisine fusion with lots of open air dining space. Refreshing yet indulgent, the Salad Evangeline is a blend of shrimp, crawfish, fried green tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, cucumber, onions, field greens and a Cajun remoulade dressing.
Lees-McRae College has a summer program that puts on some seriously awesome shows. This June, The Wiz and a Frank Sinatra tribute will hit the stage, and are sure to be as fantastic as past productions like Legally Blonde.
Residing on the campus of Lees-McRae College, the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center treats injured and orphaned animals. Those who cannot recovery fully make the facility their forever home. The Elk River rushes right beside the cozy wood building, and visitors can stop by for scheduled demonstrations, where they’ll get to see rescue owls, snakes and other species up close.