The quaint town of Blowing Rock lies nestled amid North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as the Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests. The area offers crisp mountain air, easy access to nature trails, and a charming small town vibe. Renew yourself with a hike through the wooded trails, and experience the unusual magic of the town’s namesake rock formations. After settling in at your Blowing Rock vacation rental, check out these top area attractions.

1. Visit the Cone Manor

One of the top attractions is to visit Cone Manor, a 13,000-square-foot mansion dating back to the 1800s. It doubles as a historical site and an outdoor excursion, thanks to the attached 3500-acre estate. Tour the house, and then hike to one of its two lakes. With 25 miles of trails, let yourself get a little lost in the beauty of the grounds. You can even explore in style with a horse-drawn carriage.

2. Hop on Board a Train

Tweetsie Railroad is another attraction that’s part history. Constructed back in 1868, the railroad is now an amusement park with the historic Number 12 locomotive on site. Hop on board a train for a chug over the railroad lines, a 3 miles loop, then enjoy a Wild West show, explore an old stage coach or covered wagon, and get a thrill from the amusement park rides.

3. Mine for Gems

Continue your stroll through America’s rustic past with some mining at Gem Mountain. The entire family can try their hands at flume mining–the process of shaking gems from gravel with aid of a chute of water–or descend into a real mine where work was once done. Some gems found at Gem Mountain’s two mines include aquamarine, crabtree emerald, moonstone, ruby, and sapphire.

4. Summit Blowing Rock

One of the most popular things to do is summit Blowing Rock, the craggy precipice after which the town is named. After getting your ticket, you can go up to the observation tower for a great view or listen to the legends surrounding the rock. In fact, because of the unique updraft in the gorge below, light objects will float upwards when dropped. See the magic of science at work while enjoying the view.

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5. Explore on Horseback

Tour the Blue Ridge Mountains and Blowing Rock on horseback. Both Dutch Creek Trails and Burnt Hill Stables offer trail rides. With paths suitable for a number of skill levels, the entire family can take an easy ride through nature. If you’re out with your friends, try a more challenging path.

6. Zip Over the Trees

Experience the Pisgah National Forest and mountains from a bird’s-eye view by zip lining over the lush tree cover. Sky Valley Zip Lines takes you on 10 zip lines hundreds of feet above the ground for a journey that lasts a few hours. You also get to see the famous 120-foot swinging bridge.

7. Delve into the Local History

Finish off your historical tour of Blowing Rock at Blowing Rock Art and History Museum. Look at relics from the 1800s, or enjoy modern art from local artists. Stretch your creative side with an art class or two. Afterwards, stop at Todd General Store which is on the National Register of Historical Places. Todd General Store has been providing goods to locals since 1914. Now, it provides antiques, locally made jellies, and rustic furnishings.

8. Find a Mystery

Add a little mystery to your life by visiting Mystery Hill, an amusement science center that makes learning fun for all ages. The natural gravitation anomaly makes you question the basic laws of physics. View Indian artifacts and stones that illustrate the history and geology of Blowing Rock that date back beyond the settlers.

9. Browse the Arts

Go to the Wallington Street Park for Art in the Park, an open-air gallery where you can see local artisans with their work. Grab a few pieces for your home, or just enjoy the beauty. If you haven’t yet satisfied your creative itch, visit Reinert Fine Art or Carlton Gallery.

10. Do a Little Shopping

After a long day of hiking, relax by strolling downtown Blowing Rock and checking out all the unique shops. Pick up some sweets for the folks back home at Kilwin’s Chocolates. Nothing says love like homemade fudge. Tea makes a great souvenir as well, and with all the local eateries that use the spice and tea blends from The Spice and Tea Exchange, you can pick up your favorites before heading home.

11. Go Biking

You don’t need to bring your mountain bikes to enjoy the mountain trails around Blowing Rock. Rent some at Magic Cycles and use them to take you everywhere from downtown up to Rocky Knob, the latter of which is one of the great biking attractions of North Carolina.

12. Go on a Rafting Expedition

Get the adrenaline pumping with some whitewater Rafting. Thanks to Wahoos Adventures and River and Earth Adventures, you can explore the local waterways while having a blast. Wahoos Adventures also does kayaking, canoeing, and tubing, so you can get to now Wilson Creek intimately.

13. Descend the Linville Caverns

Shake up your outdoor activities with Linville Cavern exploration. Although you need to pay for admission because it’s privately owned, it’s well worth the cost with the echoing chambers, cathedral-like caverns, and local bat population. Guides take you through the caverns while entertaining you with the history and local legends.

14. Visit a Farm

Maybe you want a more relaxing nature experience, in which RRR Tree Farm and Orchard at Altapass are just the ticket. The latter offers hay rides, apple picking, and animals for the kids to pet, a bucolic paradise. The tree farm also has hay rides and, if you go back during the winter, you can select your own Christmas tree.

15. Feast

There are a couple of eateries you must try such as The Village Cafe. Occupying a building that’s also a historic place, you can enjoy history while feasting on Belgian waffles for breakfast and soups and sandwiches for lunch. Add Bistro Roca and Foggy Rock Eatery to your foodie list.

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