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!
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.
North 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.
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.
An 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.
“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.
“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.
Create a new tradition this holiday season with the Banner Elk Choose & Cut Christmas Tree Packages. These packages take advantage of Banner Elk’s location in the NC High Country. The High Country is considered the Christmas Tree Capital for its abundance of tree farms growing high-quality Fraser fir trees. And, it is common for one of the farms in our region to provide the White House Christmas tree in Washington, D.C.
For one price, starting at $139 weekdays and $159 weekends (plus tax), our choose & cut packages include: one night’s lodging at your choice of accommodations, a full breakfast, 15% off dining at Banner Elk Cafe, and a voucher for one 7-foot tall choose & cut Christmas tree at Elk River Evergreens.
Elk River Evergreens is a perennial favorite in the NC mountains with lots of on-site activities and a great variety of trees.
The packages are available Nov. 16-Dec. 8, 2019. Booking them is easy. Just contact you choice of lodging options below to ask for the choose & cut package and book your stay. Upon check-in, you will receive a voucher good for one 7-foot Christmas tree at Elk River Evergreens. You will also receive a coupon for 15% off dining at Banner Elk Cafe, a popular restaurant in Banner Elk with a wide-ranging menu.
For an extra dose of holiday cheer, be sure to visit the weekend of Dec. 6-8 for Banner Elk’s annual A Small Town Christmas celebration. More details about that special weekend are available by clicking here.
Lodging Options – Packages are available at the lodging partners below. Please contact them directly and mention the Banner Elk Choose & Cut Christmas Tree Packages:
> Best Western Mountain Lodge – Click hereor call 828-898-4571 > Perry House Bed & Breakfast – Click here or call 828-898-3535 > Banner Elk Mountain Cabins** – $25-$50 off per night on cabins that sleep 4-8. Click here or call 828-387-1209
**- Breakfast not included at Banner Elk Mountain Cabins
Soak up a season of holiday cheer with “A Small Town Christmas in Banner Elk” the first full weekend in December. Escape the rush and enjoy an authentic small town holiday Dec. 6-8 in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Festivities start Friday evening and run through Sunday. Most events take place within walking distance in the downtown area of Banner Elk, and the 2019 schedule is listed at the bottom of this page. For out-of-town visitors, weekend lodging packages are available that include a choose & cut Christmas tree from Elk River Evergreens.
Get in the mood for the weekend on Friday evening with caroling, hot chocolate and the lighting of the official town tree in the Corner On Main Park at 6:30 p.m. After the tree lighting, Ensemble Stage presents “A Banner Elk Christmas” at 7 p.m. just a short walk away at the Historic Banner Elk School. The holiday musical variety show is one of the most popular shows each year by the local professional theater group.
Saturday’s schedule starts early with the 5K Reindeer Run at 8:30 a.m. in Tate-Evans Park and concludes back at the park around 6:30 p.m. following the Parade of Lights. The parade, which starts at 6 p.m., finishes in the park with a synchronized Christmas light snow, train rides through luminary lights, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, a DJ with karaoke and the Avery County High School Band’s Christmas music recital.
During the day Saturday, events include a pancake breakfast with Santa at Dunn’s Deli, holiday market at Lees-McRae College, and a new event in 2019, the Banner Elk Polar Plunge at Wildcat Lake. Local businesses are also involved Saturday with events like ornament making and cookie decorating (see schedule below).
As the sun sets Saturday, the Banner Elk Parade of Lights kicks off at 6 p.m. at Lees-McRae College. The parade includes the traditional marching bands, cars and floats, but also features surprises, such as dogs dressed in lights and Santa arriving on a fire truck.
“People decorate their cars, their kids, their pets with lights, and they’re all in the parade,” says festival organizer Jo-Ann McMurray of the Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce.
Visitors can put a bow on their holiday experience Sunday with a visit to one of many Christmas tree farms in the area, or they can opt for a 2 p.m. performance of “A Banner Elk Christmas” at Historic Banner Elk School.
“The whole town gets involved with A Small Town Christmas,” says organizer Jo-Ann McMurray of the Banner Elk Chamber. “We love seeing families and couples get away from the hustle and bustle to enjoy a simpler celebration in a small town. And what better way to end the weekend than visiting a tree farm and driving home with a hand-picked tree on top of the car?”
Also available all three days are Christmas-themed walking tours of Apple Hill Alpaca Farm. Tours are hourly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each. Cost is $12 for adults and $7 for children ages 4-10. Children 3 and under admitted free.
An added bonus is the Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas Tree Contest. Town businesses try to out-do each another with decorated outdoor Christmas trees. The trees must be real trees from Avery County Christmas tree farms. Everyone is encouraged to vote for their favorite at the Visitors Center and the winner is announced Saturday evening as everyone gathers among the lights in Tate-Evans Park.
Great Lodging Options Available
Because it is a resort town, Banner Elk has many accommodations that allow families and couples to find the idea lodging option for this special weekend. Seek out your perfect accommodations by clicking here. Or, check our special Choose & Cut Christmas tree lodging packages by clicking here.
Schedule of Events for 2019
Friday, Dec. 6
6:30 p.m. – Christmas Tree Lighting & Caroling at Corner on Main Park 7:00 p.m.– A Banner Elk Christmas musical variety show at Historic Banner Elk School
Saturday, Dec. 7
8:30 a.m. – 5K YMCA Reindeer Run in Tate-Evans Park 9:00 a.m. – Pancake Breakfast with Santa at Dunn’s Deli (through 10:30 a.m.) 9:00 a.m. – Holiday Market at Evans Auditorium at Lees-McRae College (through 5 p.m.) 10:00 a.m. – Christmas at Apple Hill Alpaca Farm (through 4 p.m.; tour purchase required) 11-Noon – Christmas card and bookmark making at the Book Exchange at Historic School 11-3 p.m.– Pet photos with Santa at Banner Elk Chamber sponsored by Avery Co. Humane Society 1-3 p.m. – Christmas ornament decorating at Bayou Smokehouse and Grill 2:00 p.m. – Banner Elk Polar Plunge at Wildcat Lake (plungers need to arrive at 1 p.m.) 3:30-4:30 p.m. – Cookie decorating at Banner Elk Cafe and Lodge 6:00 p.m. – Parade of Lights on Main Street (ending with festivities in Tate-Evans Park) All day – Special treats for humans and pets at My Best Friend’s Barkery
Sunday, Dec. 8 All Day – Choose & Cut Christmas Trees at Avery County tree farms (get a free tree with Choose & Cut lodging package) 10:00 a.m. – Christmas at Apple Hill Alpaca Farm (through 4 p.m.; tour purchase required) 2:00 p.m.– A Banner Elk Christmas musical variety show at Historic Banner Elk School
For additional info about A Small Town Christmas in Banner Elk, call the Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce at 828-898-8395.