Theater Packages Provide a Romantic Escape

Theater Packages Provide a Romantic Escape

Looking for a romantic getaway? Book a Banner Elk theater package and escape to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

A pair of Banner Elk accommodations have teamed up with Ensemble Stage to offer theater packages that start at just $119. Each package includes one night of lodging for two, a pair of tickets to an Ensemble Stage performance, discount dining coupons for Banner Elk Café & Lodge, and breakfast at your lodging the next morning.

The packages are centered around Ensemble Stage, a professional theater group that performs year-round in an intimate setting in the renovated auditorium of the Historic Banner Elk School in the heart of town. Shows range from comedies to dramas to murder mysteries.

Lodging options for the packages are the Best Western Mountain Lodge and Perry House Bed & Breakfast. The Perry House is walking distance to the theater and restaurants. The Best Western is located just 1.3 miles from the theater.

Booking a package involves two easy steps. First, go to the theater package page to pick the date of the show you wish to attend. Then, contact your choice from the lodging options and request a Banner Elk Theater Package. Once the package is booked, your accommodation will set aside two show tickets to be presented to you at check-in. Your hosts prefer at least a week’s advance notice, but will make every effort to accommodate shorter lead times.

All package info is available here.

Banner Elk’s World Famous Woolly Worm Festival

Banner Elk’s World Famous Woolly Worm Festival

Every autumn during the third weekend of October, the Blue Ridge Mountain town of Banner Elk becomes the woolly worm racing capital. That’s when this resort town welcomes visitors from near and far for the world famous Woolly Worm Festival.

The festival features two days of racing woolly worms, aka woollybear caterpillars, with crowds cheering on their favorites. The 2020 festival takes place Oct. 17-18.

Races are held throughout the day Saturday and Sunday at Historic Banner Elk School in the heart of downtown. The overall winner of Saturday’s races earns a $1,000 grand prize and the honor of predicting the winter weather for North Carolina’s High Country.

While Sunday’s races don’t involve forecasting privileges, participants still vie for prestige, along with a $500 prize.

“It’s really an all-American small town at its best,” says Mary Jo Brubaker, festival chairperson. “As a society, we go to such extremes to entertain people these days, but the down-home simplicity of this festival is wonderfully refreshing.”

Woolly Worm racesThe quirky weather-forecasting tradition comes from mountain lore that says the 13 segments of a woollybear caterpillar represent the 13 weeks of winter. Black bands mean cold, snowy weeks, while brown bands indicate warmer conditions. However, each woolly worm sports a different color pattern, so the festival was started in 1978 to determine which worm provides the official forecast.

All attendees are welcome to race a woolly worm. They may bring their own or purchase one from the local PTO. Races take place in heats of 25 contestants. Each worm inches its way up a string as its owner coaxes and cheers. The first to the finish line advances to the next round.

“We have families that have come year after year, and they wear family team T-shirts, like they’re a NASCAR racing team,” Brubaker says. “It’s so much fun to watch people racing the worms, and everyone’s laughing and cheering.”

In addition to races, the festival includes food, craft vendors and live entertainment.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Those interested in racing a worm must register and are encouraged to do so by 1 p.m. each day. Daily admission is $6 for adults, $4 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and younger.

Lodging options are available here and be sure to check out Banner Elk’s award-winning culinary scene.

For details festival information, go to www.WoollyWorm.com or call 828-898-5605.

Four Best Places for Snow Tubing in the North Carolina Mountains

Four Best Places for Snow Tubing in the North Carolina Mountains

There’s no tubing like snow tubing, and the Banner Elk area is home to four of the best places to snow tube in the North Carolina mountains.

Snow tubing is among the easiest — and most fun — winter sports because it requires little preparation, equipment or skill. Just hop on a tube and whoosh your way down the hill.

Visitors to Banner Elk have a quartet of options. Within a few minutes of downtown are snow tubing parks at Sugar Mountain Resort and Beech Mountain Resort. About 25 minutes from town is Hawksnest Snow Tubing at the former Hawksnest ski resort. And, 30 minutes from Banner Elk is Jonas Ridge Snow Tubing.

All of these tubing parks provide 100% snowmaking to help with snow conditions when Mother Nature is taking a break, and they are considered the cream of the crop for snow tubing in North Carolina. But as far as which one is the best depends on what you’re looking for.

Hawksnest Snow Tubing is the biggest. It converted from a ski resort to snow tubing in 2008, giving it plenty of space. There are more than 30 runs in four sections, all connected by conveyor carpet lifts. The runs range in length from 400 to 1,000 feet.

Hawksnest also offers a winter zipline tour that soars above the tubing lanes. Because its elevation is not as high as Sugar Mountain or Beech Mountain, it occasionally encounters slightly warmer temperatures that create challenges in snowmaking.

The snow tubing park at Beech Mountain Resort is the newest. This state-of-the-art facility opened in winter of 2015-16 in the Alpine Village at the base of the ski slopes. The eight runs are extra-long and punctuated by small moguls known as rollers. It is lighted and surrounded by high-tech snow guns and a sound system. A Magic Carpet conveyor whisks tubers quickly back to the top.

Customers can buy tickets right there in the Beech Mountain ski village and enjoy other activities in the village, including ice skating and shopping, when finished with snowtubing.

Sugar Mountain Resort has the closest snow tubing park to Banner Elk. Sugar Mountain is known for strong snowmaking capabilities on the ski slopes and that goes the same for its snow tubing runs. Six runs are served by a conveyor carpet lift and Sugar probably stays open the most days each winter. The tubing runs are adjacent to the skating rink and both are easy to access because they have their own parking lot before you get further up the mountain to the ski resort.

Jonas Ridge is a smaller operation that has been in business since 2004. It has five lanes and recently replaced its rope tow with a conveyor carpet lift. Photographers take pictures as you tube and the photos are available for purchase on the spot, or later online. There is a small, cozy lodge with a fireplace and an observation deck.

Although snow tubing is easy and no lessons are needed, there are a few things you can do to maximize your adventure:

  • First, wear warm socks and waterproof or water-resistant winter boots. Otherwise, your shoes will get soggy, wet and/or ruined, and your feet will be cold the entire time.
  • Second, wear a winter jacket that is either waterproof or water-resistant for all those same reasons. You will be on ground level and encountering snow and slush.
  • Third, pay attention to your pants. If you don’t have waterproof/water-resistant pants, make sure to wear thermal underwear or some other layer underneath your pants (jeans are okay, but they are 100% cotton and absorb a lot of water).
  • Fourth, wear a ski cap (or beanie, tobaggon, whatever you call it) and an old pair of sunglasses. Your head and face will encounter wind as you whoosh down the tubing runs!

Finally, when the day of fun is done, head to your choice of lodging in Banner Elk and then check out the amazing culinary scene. Better yet, stay a couple nights and visit all four tubing parks in one trip!

Banner Elk Lodging Recognized for Quality, Value

Banner Elk Lodging Recognized for Quality, Value

Winter-ViewA major travel website says travelers seeking a desirable winter destination and affordable lodging rates can find both with Banner Elk lodging.

TripAdvisor.com, which has more than 375 million unique visitors monthly, named Banner Elk to its list of Top 10 Affordable Winter Hidden Gems in the United States.

Trip Advisor analyzed user ratings for all U.S. towns that have rental properties available on its website. It then calculated the average cost of a week’s stay in a two-bedroom vacation rental in those cities and towns.

The end result? Banner Elk made the list thanks to a user rating of 4.8 stars on a 5-star scale and its affordable, yet upscale, lodging options.

“There’s nothing cozier than a family cabin rental in the woods, where nights are spent around the fireplace drinking hot cocoa and enjoying each other’s company,” says Trip Advisor in its ranking. “Banner Elk offers this in spades, with rentals going for just $765 per week on average for a two-bedroom property. Depending which winter month you visit, you may catch temperatures warm enough for hiking and outdoor recreation, or it could dip low enough for fresh powder on the slopes.”

Banner Elk has long been known throughout the Southeast for its close proximity to two of the largest ski resorts in the region – Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort. Both are less than 15 minutes from the town’s lone stoplight.

And, the list places Banner Elk in very good company. Among the other hidden gems are: Redmond, Ore.; Cody, Wyoming; Fort Pierce, Fla.; and Garden City Beach, S.C. Of the 10 places ranked, only Chelan, Wash., had a better user rating than Banner Elk.

“Trip Advisor is the top website in the U.S. for consumer-rated travel. It’s a big deal when a site of that magnitude recognizes Banner Elk,” says Nancy Owen, representative of the Banner Elk Tourism Development Authority. “This exposes Banner Elk to millions of people throughout North America and paints us in a very positive light. It also lets people know that, even though we have very nice accommodations, we are also reasonably priced.”

For more info on Banner Elk lodging options, go to the lodging section of this website.

Winter is Better Here

Winter is Better Here

Winter_Is_Better_In_Banner_ElkNorth Carolina’s High Country is a welcome escape any time of year, but winter is especially magical. And when it comes to choosing a winter destination in the NC mountains, Banner Elk just might be the ideal spot.

Banner Elk, located near Boone, is known for cozy lodging, romantic getaways, family fun and great restaurants. It’s place that has both small town charm and big city amenities.

The two largest winter sports venues in the South – Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort – are located within 10 minutes of Banner Elk’s lone stoplight. Both resorts offers skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and snowtubing. There’s even a free youth sledding hill in the town of Beech Mountain.

About 30 minutes away are more snow sports options at Hawksnest Snow Tubing and Appalachian Ski Mtn. And for travelers who like the mountains but not the snow, there’s always winter hiking and the famous Mile High Swinging Bridge at nearby Grandfather Mountain.

When the sun goes down, Banner Elk’s reputation as a culinary hotspot takes center stage. There are more than a dozen popular restaurants within this town of just 1,067 residents. Culinary choices range from contemporary to traditional, with everything from white tablecloth fine dining to tasty Southern comfort food. Ethnic cuisine runs the gamut from Italian to Cajun to Mexican to Vietnamese.

For a romantic day of exploring, visit the local wineries. Banner Elk Winery has several award-winning dry wines, and is also known for its unusual ice wine. At Grandfather Vineyard and Winery, every bottle comes with a view of its namesake mountain. As you sip a glass by the tasting room fireplace, it’s easy to see why winter is better here.

There are three craft breweries in and around Banner Elk. Flat Top Brewing Co. is located on Main Street East and always features a winter brew. Just up the mountain from Banner Elk is Beech Mountain Brewing Co., nestled in the alpine village at the base of the Beech Mountain ski slopes. And a scenic drive into the country takes you to Blind Squirrel Brewery in nearby Plumtree.

Sometimes, the best thing about a winter getaway is spending quality time in your lodging of choice, and Banner Elk has a banner selection. Cozy cabins. Upscale condos. Friendly bed-and-breakfast inns. Comfortable hotels. Spacious vacation homes.

Many of Banner Elk’s lodging options feature a mountain motif and most have a fireplace for making warm memories on cold winter nights in the NC mountains.

Did you know Banner Elk is North Carolina’s top ski town? Click here to learn more about ski vacations in Banner Elk or call us at 828-898-5398.

Grandfather Mountain a Big Part of Wintertime Fun in Banner Elk

Grandfather Mountain a Big Part of Wintertime Fun in Banner Elk

Visit Grandfather Mountain in winterAn invigorating winter getaway awaits in the mile-high elevations surrounding Banner Elk. This town in the North Carolina mountains offers the chance to get outdoors with hiking and exploring at Grandfather Mountain, as well as snowtubing at nearby ski resorts.

One of the biggest winter attractions in the area is Grandfather Mountain — known for its distinctive profile and Mile High Swinging Bridge. The mountain, a popular attraction since the 1950s, is open daily in winter, weather permitting.

Grandfather’s 12 miles of trails include easy and advanced routes. For a low-impact adventure, talk a walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge or embark on an easy hike through forests and meadows. Those wishing to take it up a notch can do so on backcountry trails featuring challenging and rocky terrain. Winter hikes afford long-range views not visible when leaves are on the trees.

Winter fun at Grandfather Mountain“A winter hike is one of the most invigorating, fun and memorable outings that you can make during this season,” says Frank Ruggiero with Grandfather Mountain. “You can see winter spread out through the whole High County.”

At 5,946 feet in elevation, Grandfather Mountain experiences beautiful snowfalls. And when there’s no snow, rime ice often forms on spruce fir trees, giving the appearance of a fresh dusting of the white stuff.

Snow brings out the animals’ personalities in Grandfather’s wildlife habitat. Cougars Logan and Trinity frolic in the fluffy flakes. Resident elk, Doc, Merle and Watson, look particularly regal against a backdrop of snow, and the mountain’s four otters steal the show.

See animals at Grandfather Mountain in winter“The otters are an absolute riot,” Ruggiero says. “They adore the snow. They go ice-skating, slide down hills and play hockey on the pond by sliding a rock back and forth to each other.”

If you want to enjoy winter sliding, try snow tubing. Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain resorts offer multiple tubing runs with advanced snowmaking and grooming to keep the chutes slick. Twenty-five minutes away, Hawksnest Snow Tubing has more than 30 runs and a zipline experience above the tubing runs. Click here to read all about snow tubing in Banner Elk.

After your winter adventure, enjoy Banner Elk’s top-notch culinary scene at one of more than a dozen independent restaurants. Standouts include authentic Italian dishes made from family recipes, a classic steakhouse with a famous salad bar and a cozy lodge with some of the best trout in the mountains.

Banner Elk offers lodging packages that include tickets to Grandfather Mountain. For a complete list of Banner Elk lodging choices, click here.

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