I’ve only been skiing once in my life, and that was back when skiing was pretty much the only thing people did on the slopes. Nowadays, there are tons of snow-related activities to enjoy, and Western North Carolina attracts thousands of snow enthusiasts to its quaint and charming Blue Ridge Mountain villages every winter. I visited one of these villages, Banner Elk, over the summer and fell completely in love with it.
Banner Elk, a perfectly picturesque mountain town of about 1,100 people is a hidden gem for most of the year, and perhaps that’s why it remains so unspoiled. But, it deserves to be visited all year round, and the best way to soak up its high country magic is to get outdoors. There’s something about the cool, clean crispness of mountain air that makes one feel alive (even when it’s not ski season!)
Climb a mountain
There’s nothing like the Blue Ridge Mountains in the summertime, and the best way to see them is to go high altitude. Head up to Beech Mountain Resort where for just $12, you can purchase a lift ticket and enjoy the spectacular vista on your way up, down and from the top. Stay a while at the top and enjoy a beer with your view from the 5506′ Sky Bar deck. (Website)
Bike down a mountain
Mountain bike enthusiasts can cruise down the mountain trails to their heart’s content when they purchase a day pass. The chair lifts are equipped with racks to get the bikes to the top, but it’s up to the riders to get their bikes to the bottom. If I were a few years younger, I’d totally do it. Actually beginner biking terrains are being added, so that everyone (not just hardcore bikers) can enjoy the sport! (Website)
Visit a working alpaca farm
Take a tour (offered daily) of Apple Hill Alpaca Farm, and you’ll never think of a farm in quite the same way again. Not only will you have the chance to get up close to the alpacas, llamas, cats, chickens, dogs, goats, horses, miniature donkeys and a very special pig named Mr. Pickles. but you’ll feel really connected to the animals and the outdoors. The farm sits atop Valle Mountain in an apple orchard, and the view is absolutely exquisite. The animals aka family members (all of whom have names except the chickens) are so well loved and cared for. You’ll witness them receiving many hugs and friendly scratches. This is a must-visit for all ages. Be sure to visit the gift shop before you leave where you can purchase socks or yarn made from the wool of your favorite friends.(Website)
Go for a stroll
You’ll find locals, second-homers and visitors alike enjoying the beautiful Banner Elk Greenway walking trails. With several loops of varying lengths to choose from and more in the works, it’s a great way to spend some time outside in a beautiful, peaceful place. (Website)
Get out on the water
Visit Wildcat Lake for a bit of the beach while you’re in the mountains. The serene lake setting is a throwback to the summers of yesteryear with its old-fashioned fishing pier, swimming dock and canoes for paddling. The 13-acre lake begs visitors to take non-motorized boats out among the lily pads and explore. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer, and the lake is stocked for fishing. (Website)
Learn about wildlife rehabilitation
If you have a soft spot for animals, you won’t want to miss making a visit and/or taking a tour of the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on the campus of Lees-McRae College. The center rehabilitates and cares for orphaned and injured animals in the hopes of successfully releasing them back to the wild.
When I was there, they were working with a baby bobcat and a paralyzed goose in the medical facilities, and during the presentation, we were able to see a barred owl and a hawk. It’s quite moving to hear the students talk about the animals they care for, and the ones they’ve been lucky enough to see completely rehabilitated. (Website)
These are just some of the many things to do in Banner Elk outdoors, but I hope it intrigues you and gives you a taste of what’s there. I’ve fallen in love with this very special spot in high country, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you do too. I hope you’ll visit!
You’ll find more visitor information at bannerelk.com, and be sure to check out my post on Artisanal, a restaurant in Banner Elk you have to taste to believe. If you’re visiting in the fall, don’t miss Autumn at Oz, a Wizard of Oz festival in an abandoned theme park on Beech Mountain!
Comments & Reviews
Christina G. says
Well there’s certainly no shortage of stuff to do. It all looks like fun. Thanks for posting!
Tania Potter - Soul Sense Coaching says
What a lovely variety of things to do, the Piano project, the wildlife rehabilitation and the Alpaca shop all appeal to me.
Bike down a mountain looks like it would be fun but definitely the Apple Hill Alpaca Farm & Wildlife rehab I’d spend most my time at both.
I love the pianos! What an awesome idea. I would go if only for that (and of course for the beer with that view!)
I’d love to have a beer at the top of a mountain or visit the Alpacas! 🙂
Shirley Wood says
All you need to say is North Carolina because I know what a beautiful state it is! Now I really want to go to Banner Elk! I’d be too afraid to ride a bike down a mountain! The Alpaca farm would be so much fun! Our city just began a piano program and it’s just so cool.
There is so much to do, I would love to visit the alpaca farm and meet Mr Pickles, also the wildlife rehabilitation centre x
Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says
What a gorgeous place! I love the outdoors,and I LOVE wildlife. I could spend all day with the sheep.
Wow what a gorgeous place to visit – there’s so much to see and do! x
Janet W. says
There is so much to do there! I’d love to take my grandsons to the Alpaca Farm! They love animals.
Jessica Harlow says
I love the idea of visiting a working alpaca farm! I’m not much of a ski buff so I’d definitely be looking for other things to do! Banner Elk definitely has a variety of interesting things to offer!
Julie Syl Kalungi says
Banner ELk sounds like a great place to visit either for Adventure get away or a simply a regrouping chilled out now. Either way it looks super fresh, lovely beautiful and just tranquil.
I have never been Skiing ever so it would be news to me, I prolly would settle for the other sport!
I love the Idea of music played by anyone in different parts of the town on those public Pianos! So unique. Thanks Liz for sharing your experience of his lovely town!
Paula Schuck says
AHHH! Llamas and pigs and geese. I’m dying. I want to go there with the family so bad.
Sarah Bailey says
What some amazing sounding places to go and explore there – I would love to visit the working alpaca farm myself! x
Ashley @irishred02 says
Looks like a great place to take a hike. So pretty! My hubs would like to sample the craft beers I’m sure!
Oh this looks fun! The animals looks adorable..
Rebecca Bryant says
What a fun place to hang out. I like getting outdoors to explore.
Looks like you can do a lot here!
We’ve wanted to relocate to NC for such a long time. This post makes me want to go right now!
Diana Rambles says
I’ve only dipped my toes in NC, but after seeing this AND reading Nicholas Sparks novels I really want to visit. North Carolina is on our short list of vacation destinations for 2017!
Just how cute is Mr Pickles, he looks adorable and those views are just incredible x
MIchelle Liew says
Banner Elk looks like it has something for everyont. I love the photos!
Christy Maurer says
Wow, there is a lot to do in Banner Elk! I would love seeing all of the animals at the Alpaca Farm! It looks like you had great weather too.
Marcie W. says
I love getting some fresh air outdoors and Banner Elk looks so green. Getting up close and personal with alpacas would definitely be a must for me!
WOW there is a lot on the list to do here! I LOVE all the ideas you have here! Usually I struggle with what to do when there is snow on the ground, but I never even though of any of these to do in the summer!
This looks like a fun place! I’ll have to keep it in m for my next NC visit!
Karen Glatt says
This place is amazing! The animals and all the fun places to go and visit. IT really is a beautiful part of the Country we live in. I want to vacation in NC!
What a fab post, so much to do and wonderfully illustrated x
What a beautiful place to visit! I love destinations where you can see some cute animals!
Mistee Dawn says
It looks like such an amazing place. I love seeing so many animals! This would definitely be a place that I visit in the future.
maria @closeothome says
The last couple of years we have been to a few ski slopes during the summer. It is such a fun experience and for the not big skier in me I love the warmer weather.
Now that is some outdoors right there. How beautiful is Banner Elk. I’ve never heard of it before – not certain if it’s because I’m a hermit or if they are keeping these gorgeous places away from the rest of the world 🙂
Heather Lawrence says
I saw from your photos that they still run the chair lift. Do you know if they allow mountain biking and they carry the bikes back up the hill? That would be something my husband would be into!
It looks like there is a ton of stuff to do outside in Banner Elk. I would love to do just about any and all of these things!
This looks so fun! I love being active and to me going on vacation is always all about being outside.
North Carolina is one of the few states I have never been. This looks like such a beautiful place with lots of outdoor adventures.
I’ve actually been to Banner Elk before but had no idea that there was an alpaca farm there. How cool is that! Now I have to go back!
I have only ever visited Florida, New York and Boston in America but it looks like there are so many treasures elsewhere to explore xx
Amber Myers says
This looks like so much fun! I want to see the alpacas! I know my daughter would love that farm.
Divya @ Eat Teach Blog says
Gorgeous pictures! I don’t drink beer, but with THAT view, I’d drink ANYTHING!
Now this sounds and looks like a place that I would be totally comfortable in–and would have a hard time leaving! Of course I probably would tend to stay with all the animals. I might even try that sky lift!
Catherine S says
These all look like fun activities. I would love to go to the top and have a beer or two.
Melanie Edjourian says
My goodness there is loads to do there. I would love to visit the alpaca farm my girls would love it and so would I.
Neely Moldovan says
Ive never been to NC but so many parts of it look so beautiful! This looks like a great place to visit.
That looks like such a great place to visit! There are tons of activities for the whole family to enjoy.
I love alpacas. Such cute little critters. I think they need some goats, though. Missoula has the piano thing in the summer. It’s so nice to walk down the street and hear the music. Banner Elk looks like a nice place to visit.
They have so many activities outside of the snow season. I’d love to visit!
Rhian Westbury says
Wow so much to do, those views are well worth the trek for x
Ana De- Jesus says
Alpaca’s are so cute and I would love to bike down a mountain as that really does sound like a lot of fun!
Angelic Sinova says
I’ve never been to North Carolina before but I’m definitely adding it to my travel bucket list now! I would love to ride that lift and visit the 5506′ Sky Bar.
Wow, it all looks so much fun! Sounds like there is something for everyone! xo
We were talking about moving to NC. It’s so pretty there.
Melissa @ The Staten Island family says
this looks like a great getaway for the e tire family! I love that there are so many unplugged activities- and your photos are giving me ALL THE FEELS!
Kimberly C. says
This looks like a very nice place to visit for the entire family. I’m sure the kids won’t be bored either. I bet those ski lift rides are amazing. That view. Thanks for teaching me about another beautiful spot on our planet.
I’m totally getting a kick out of those alpaca! I’ve never seen one up close, and would love to visit.
These all sound like great activities! I would love to visit an Alpaca farm and learn more about animal rehabilitation.
Winona @Southern Family Fun says
Banner Elk looks like a beautiful place to visit! Your pictures are awesome and you look like you had a great time!
Looks like a great place to visit to enjoy nature and family time!
Dawn Lopez says
Banner Elk looks like a great place for people who like to do Nature activities. I think the Alpaca Farm and the Bike rides down the mountain look like a lot of fun. I know my son would enjoy that!
Reesa Lewandowski says
The mountains of NC are gorgeous. Banner Elk looks like such a great place to visit.
Robin Rue says
I would love to take a trip here. Looks like so many fun things to do and experience.
Ann Bacciaglia says
These all look like fun things to do in Banner Elk. I would love to start with the Alpaca Farm.
What a fun experience! I would love to take a trip here and see what there is to do! Looks like a lot!
Anita Anderson says
Your pictures are beautiful. The lift would definitely put you within eyes view of everything. I would love to travel to NC and check this place out in the summer too.
Seattle Travel Blogger says
This looks like a fun idea.
What a great destination!
Amy Desrosiers says
My husband would likely be in heaven with that sky bar! A beer flight and ride would be all he needed to unwind.
I think I would have more fun here when it isn’t ski season.
Melanie Smith says
Wow!! Looks like a really amazing place. I want to spend a weekend there with my son, it should be so nice.
Cindy Ingalls says
I love spending time in the mountains, especially when there is no snow. Banner Elk looks like the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors and see some spectacular wildlife.
That looks like a great place to be. There is so much you can do. This would make for a great family trip!
Claudia Krusch says
It sounds like you had a great time! It looks like so much to do! Love it!
Lisa Favre says
It looks like there’s so much to do! My husband used to live in North Caroline – gotta ask him about this area!
Makes me think of North Carolina in a whole new way. What a great family vacation this would make.
Nancy L. says
I think I would rather go to Banner Elk when it isn’t ski season! There is so much to do and the activities look so enjoyable. I love animals so I could spend all day there! The ski lift view is amazing! Gorgeous place to visit!
Such gorgeous pictures! Wow what a beautiful location – I’d love to visit sometime! It looks amazing!
We were in NC in August, and I loved how beautiful the state is. This is something I will definitely check out the next time we are down that way.
So much to do there! What a gorgeous view from the top of the mountains. That’s cool that you can go on the lift even though the slopes aren’t open for skiing.
Aimee Smith says
So fun! My kids would love the alpaca farm and rehabilitation center, they are pretty into animals!
Veethee Dixit says
Wow! I love cycling. Sounds like so much fun!
aaronica @ the crunchy mommy says
You had me at Alpaca Farm! They are so cute!
Amanda West says
What a great place to visit for those adventure seekers! I’ve never been to NC before, hopefully one day.
Jam and Tea Blog says
OMG! That alpaca farm looks awesome! A lot of these are outdoor activities that aren’t really my thing, but a good read anyway 🙂
Toni | BoulderLocavore.com says
All these activities are amazing! Would love to visit NC one day! Looks like a fun weekend for the family!
Baby Isabella says
My mummy is awful at skiing and has only been when she was a child. This place looks spectacular and we love that it’s teamed with wildlife and local businesses xx
Tara L says
Everything looks so entertaining. I would be with the pet areas because I adore/love pets myself, and I have two potbelly piggies too (: so adorable! Love the piggy! I also love the great scenery places my son would love the riding bmx style lol.
Never heard of Banner Elk NC but looks like fun for an outdoorsy person. I dont know about biking down a mountain I am too scary lol!
Elizabeth O. says
It’s an extremely relaxing place to go to especially during this season when the weather is more bearable than the summer or the winter. I love that you can just sit and enjoy the view atop the mountain. It’s also perfect for athletic people!
It looks like there is so much to do there. All fun too!
Sam | North East Family Fun says
wow there is SO much to do! To be honest I’d be happy just looking at those stunning views. Such beautiful scenery!
Sarah, Things Sarah Loves says
Looks like there is so much to do and all of the photos are beautiful. Biking down a mountain does sound fun (although if I tried it I can only imagine the carnage at the bottom!)
Sheena Tatum says
My favorite thing to do on this list is climb a mountain. Yes please!
Kelly Reci says
Oh my goodness! I would love and enjoy this place. I love those fun activities there even I’m afraid of heights.
This is a nice and fun place to go with the family and friends
Franc Ramon says
I love the outdoors. I would surely enjoy taking a hike, riding a bike and playing with the animals here.
Wow that looks like a great place that offers something for everyone. A bit of wildlife and yet some unique shopping and adventures as well.
This looks like so much fun, I would love to visit x
amy h says
I’ve never been to NC before, but I think it is now going to be a want to stop on my bucket list. I especially want to visit the alpaca farm.
Teresa Kunberger says
Ive never been to NC but I do live in WV so maybe one day I can go there!
Michele d says
I’ve through North Carolina many times but never stopped to see the beauty of this state. It’s so pretty there.
Mimi Green says
Sign me up for the Alpaca’s and their friends. I would so enjoy that. I bet this place is beautiful in the fall.
Amanda Love says
I’m not the only one who will have the best time here. I’m sure that when I take the kids here they are also going to have a blast. I like that alpaca farm and the wildlife rehabilitation as well.
Joyce Brewer (@MommyTalkShow) says
We are driving through NC during Christmas and you’ve made me want to stop. Our son loves bike riding and animals.
It looks like there is a LOT to do!
I love North Carolina! It’s so beautiful. I’m down for everything on this list and then some.
Jasmine Watts says
I’ve never been to NC before but would love to go there one day! Looks like there is so much to do!!
Tiffany VanSickle says
My husband and I have always wanted to travel to North Carolina. This looks like our kind of travel destination!!! Beautiful!
Alaina Bullock says
Oh wow! I love N Carolina – esp. around the mountains. I’ve yet to go to this area, but it looks like it would be a lot fo fun. Gorgeous scenery!
Looks cool, and I’d love to visit! Great post!
Olivia Thristan says
Wow your pics are amazing in this post, got me seriously wanderlusting! 😀 x
Wow looks like such a fun time in North Carolina unfortunately I’m in Edinburgh, Scotland but maybe one day I can visit!
Bonnie @wemake7 says
Looks like there is so many fun things to experience there. I will definitely have to check these out if I’m ever in the area.
Leigh Anne Borders says
First, I have to say I love seeing your adventures. You are always having so much fun! I love North Carolina and visit there often.
Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy says
There looks like there is a lot to do! I always like biking in ski resorts in the warmer months.
Amazing pictures, Liz. So many fun things to do! I haven’t been in North Carolina before. Hoping to visit when i get back to the states.
OMG I would love to visit an alpaca farm! Those guys look so cute and fun! xxx
Oh my god, alpacas are so adorable!! As well as Mr. Pickles <3 I love mountains, they're so relaxing yet they make you really active. My favorite activity is taking a stroll, i love walking 🙂
Now this looks like my kind of vacation spot! I love peaceful mountain views and unspoiled nature!
Cynthia Nicoletti says
My husband loves the outdoors> He would love it there.
Sheena Tatum says
I would LOVE to visit here. Climbing a mountain would be number one on my list for sure!
Charli Bruce says
Oh I would love to visit here! The Alpacas are just the cutest things as well, I can’t get enough of their faces xx
I haven’t been to North Carolina. I am an outdoor person so these are the things that I like to do.
Tiina A says
Beautiful place! I would love to have a couple of days off and be in a place like that and enjoy fresh air and be active.
Tiina A says
Great tips! Oil makes magic for hair. The eye shadoe trick was new for me but makes sense.
That looks like a great place to be. A lot of wonderful things to do too. I would love to visit there someday.
That looks fun… i would love to visit this place.. my kids love animals
what gorgeous views and beautiful pics. i would have never thought of NC as having ski slopes, and it’s fun to learn more things to do in that area.
Ana Sanchez says
This looks like such a fun place to visit. It is not far from me so we might have to plan a weekend trip here.
I love to be doing thi right now! Cycling wud be a good idea and exercise for my family! Great list!
Rachel Ferrucci says
When I travel I love to get into the local events going on and this all looks like so much fun. I would totally try the bikes going downhill although many people would need to pass me because I’d ride the brakes… lol… no jumping for me
Alissa Apel says
I’d like to go to the alpaca farm. I heard there’s one here in Nebraska, but they are only open 1 weekend late summer. I missed it! 🙁 I kept seeing people’s posts on FB, and was like, “I want to go!” There’s always next year.
aziel morte says
What a beautiful place to visit! I want to go there and see it in live.
Olga Parker says
I love biking down a mountain not up ))) and I will surely visit that great place to save wild animals. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Celeste SunDragonLady Burgess says
Beautiful place and you have chosen some of those most beautiful pictures to add. The biking path looks extremely fun. Thanks for sharing