Stay in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the charming ski community of Banner Elk, North Carolina. This picturesque town sits within reach of the state’s most rugged and beautiful wilderness, making it a great choice for active kids and families looking to embark off of the beaten path. In the winter, learn to ski on the nearby slopes. When temperatures rise, head out for hiking, biking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. Most of the best local attractions are situated within a 30-minute radius of many cozy Banner Elk vacation rentals. Check out the most unforgettable family-friendly activities in Banner Elk.

1. Go Skiing

As soon as you’re settled into your vacation rental, head straight for the nearby ski slopes. To the south, Sugar Mountain offers a variety of easy trails and a magic carpet conveyor that are suitable for children. A terrain park and a collection of intermediate and expert run suits adults, teenagers, and experienced kids. To the north, check out Beech Mountain, which features slightly more challenging runs and a fun kids’ Play Yard. If your little ones are too small to ski, both mountains feature snow tubing and ice skating.

2. Visit the Banner House Museum

Learn about High Country mountain life in the 1800s at the Banner House Museum. As you walk through this historic home, kids can see how people lived and worked in the 19th century. Take a close look at authentic clothing, furniture, and heirlooms from the era. From June through October, take a guided tour from a knowledgeable volunteer. The museum also hosts fascinating educational sessions about local wildlife and history. Kids aged six and under are free, and kids 12 and under receive a significant discount.

3. Enjoy Wildcat Lake

Cool down during North Carolina’s steamy summers at Wildcat Lake, which lies just south of downtown. A free public beach with a lifeguard sits on one side of the lake, creating plenty of space for swimming. Rent a canoe or paddle board from the onsite vendors to explore the forested coves; since the lake is not open to motorized boats, the water is calm enough to paddle with kids. The lake is stocked with bass, trout, and bluegill, so you can bring your rods and fish off of the pier.

4. Explore Grandfather Mountain

Join locals and visitors at Grandfather Mountain State Park, which offers rugged terrain and photo-worthy views. Start with a tour of The Nature Museum, and put your new knowledge into action on one of the park’s kid-friendly walking trail. Don’t miss the wildlife habitats, a collection of enclosures that give you the opportunity to see bears, cougars, bald eagles, and river otters up close. Close out your visit with a walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, the highest suspension footbridge in the United States.

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5. Hike the Blue Ridge Mountains

During the summer and fall, enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains on an easy, kid-friendly trail. The easiest options are Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain; both resorts offer scenic chairlift rides and excellent hiking opportunities. Check out the Elk River Falls trail, a short walk that ends at a beautiful waterfall. Near Grandfather Mountain, hike the paved trail under the Linn Cove Viaduct, and if you’re after great views, head for The Blowing Rock.

6. Have a Whitewater Adventure

If your kids are up for an adventure, plan a whitewater rafting trip. Companies including Edge of the World and High Mountain Expeditions provide guided trips on the Nolichucky River, Watauga River, and Wilson Creek. Both outfitters offer family-friendly river trips that are suitable for kids as young as three or four years old. Tours include training, safety gear, and the service of a professional guide. Alternatively, opt for a river tubing expedition or a rock-climbing trip.

7. Spend the Day on a Farm

Get close to farm animals a the Apple Hill Farm. This charming, family-owned spot is home to a variety of creatures, including alpacas, horses, pigs, and more. Head to the farm in the afternoon to join the daily tour. Along the way, friendly staff members introduce kids to different animals, show off each part of the working farm, and provide a running commentary about the area. If you can’t make the daily session, contact the owner to schedule a private tour.

8. Visit a Theme Park

Experience a one-of-a-kind theme park at Land of Oz, which sits just a few miles north of Banner Elk in Beech Mountain. The park is open for two public events each year. During the Journey with Dorothy experience, kids follow Dorothy as she skips down the yellow brick road in search of the wizard. The interactive show encourages participation and takes visitors past the park’s spectacular movie-themed buildings. In the fall, check out Autumn at Oz, which features all of your favorite characters from “The Wizard of Oz” movie, including the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, Munchkins, flying monkeys, and more.

9. Go Underground at the Linville Caverns

Go underneath the Blue Ridge Mountains at Linville Caverns. Follow the well-marked paths as they descend deep into the earth, taking time to check out the massive limestone formations inside. As you walk, tour guides provide an engaging history of the caves and help kids spot fascinating underground structures. Be sure to dress warmly, as the caverns are usually cool and damp.

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