Located in Blowing Rock NC, and just south of Boone NC, you can discover the mysteries and indoor/outdoor adventure of what is commonly referred to as North Carolina's most unique attraction, Mystery Hill.
The whole family will enjoy the visit as you experience the gravitational anomaly, Hall of Mystery, Bubblerama, the mechanical bull, gem mining, ax throwing, and more!
We visited Mystery Hill during our recent visit to the 2022 Grand-opening of Tweetsie Railroad. Tweetsie's opening was delayed due to a "mysterious" spring snow storm, so we had to scramble to figure out how to kill the day. We spent time exploring Boone and Blowing Rock, and decided to pay a visit to Mystery Hill, as we had heard a lot about it.
I'll admit, we were skeptical, but we really enjoyed our visit, and it was far more than we expected.
What is Mystery Hill?
Mystery Hill is a bit hard to describe, as it has a number of attractions, and is really a one of a kind place, that seems on the surface to defy the laws of physics.
As you pull up, you'll see a series of buildings with a parking lot in front. One of the most notable is the old Doughtery House, which was owned by the founders of nearby Appalachian State University. But more on that later.
Mystery Hill is a series of various attractions, with the main one being the Gravitational Anomaly. Before Mystery Hill was an attraction, it was an Apple Orchard, more than 70 years ago.
Employees of the orchard reported many strange things, including water flowing uphill. The owners did a little research, and found that their property was part of a small number of other properties across the US, with similar strange reports.
According to Mystery Hill, a gravity vortex attracts (pun intended) more than 70,000 visitors every year! The vortex, located deep under ground, causes all sorts of amazing gravitational anomalies. You'll experience these, and a number of other attractions when you visit Mystery Hill.
Where is Mystery Hill?
We recommend making Mystery Hill a part of a bigger area adventure. Maybe as part of your daily adventures with Tweetsie Railroad, or just exploring around Boone and Blowing Rock.
Our Mystery Hill Adventure Video
Here's a video of our recent visit to Mystery
What to do at Mystery Hill - Our Visit
Visitors arrive at Mystery Hill for generally three main reasons: 1) They really aren't sure what it is, but want to find out 2) Explore and experience the Gravitational Anomaly. 3) Gem Mining
We visited for reason #1, as we heard Mystery Hill was fun, different and unique. But honestly, we had no idea what to expect, making Mystery Hill even more Mysterious, at least for us!
We will summarize all the cool things to do at Mystery Hill, and show you the photos we took during our visit throughout this article.
But first, we just want to say thanks to the awesome staff at Mystery Hill who were very accommodating of our visit, letting us go through multiple times, and take our time while filming our video and taking photos. They rocked, especially our guide!
You could even say that even with all the gravity issues ... the staff never let us down ....
Never let us down ... gravity ... get it? ... Ok, moving right along ...
Tickets and Exploring the Gift Shop
As you enter the main building (the brown one pictured above), you'll reach the ticket counter. This is where you'll buy your tickets. They have a number of different packages, and the tickets are discounted when you have more in your party.
Oh! Almost forgot, right as you go in the doors, they have Zoltar machine. Yep, the one from BIG, with Tom Hanks. Best part? It works! Cool stuff, I was excite already.
After purchasing your tickets, you'll wait until the next tour begins. This is a great time to explore their awesome gift shop, full of Mystery Hill merchandise, mountain memorabilia, candy, snacks, and much more.
The Gravitational Anomaly
When you hear your guide calling everyone together, you'll walk down a hallway into a presentation room, where your guide will show you a video, and give you a bit of history and information on Mystery Hill, including a little of what to expect.
Next you'll move towards the Gravitational Anomaly portion of your visit. This begins with a walk down an outdoor but covered walkway, with lots of old tools from the site on the wall, a moonshine still on your right ... and well, a gravesite for a revenuer who must have stumbled on the moonshine still. His shoes are still sticking up out of the dirt!
After climbing a short ramp, the gravitational fun begins. Your guide will show you the first mystery, the old Cider Mill Platform. This is a bit crazy, but if two people stand facing each other on the platform, then switch, their heights seem to change by up to 6 inches!
We didn't believe it until we tried it, but it's true. Now, is this truly some type of anomaly going on? It makes for great discussion, especially with kids. I did check the platform, it's 100% level. Hmmmm, maybe something is going on here.
After your mind-blowing experience on the Cider Mill Platform, you'll enter a room where gravity seems to just go haywire. The room is designed to fool your mind and eyes, and gravity seems to be way off. You'll have trouble walking, stick to walls, and see balls and water both roll uphill. You can even swing on a swing, that doesn't fully swing.
After explaining the room some, your guide will leave, and the guided tour will be over. Your guide will allow you stay for how ever long you would like to experiment and explore the room.
For those that can't handle something like this, there is a bypass hallway. I'll admit, the room did make us feel dizzy.
Hall of Mystery
After exploring the gravity room, you'll exit out on the far side from where you entered, and head to the left, and downhill, where you will see a door with a sign saying "Hall of Mystery".
The Hall of Mystery is full of neat exhibits that test your mind, and understanding of physics. The exhibits are both entertaining and educational, and at times will have you really wondering what the heck is going on.
One of our favorites was the Plasma ball - While we've seen these a number of times, the one they have at Mystery Hill is larger, more powerful, and more colorful and reactive.
We also enjoyed using the blowers and balls, and learning how the forces of air work.
The Bubblerama exhibits take you onto a carpeted platform, with a few different liquid soap and water displays. You can use the wands to make various different sizes and shapes of bubbles.
The most popular exhibit, allows one person to stand inside a ring, and another person can try to wrap them with a large bubble. We found this a bit challenging for some reason, but others seem to do it more easily. We suspect there are some physics involved, and maybe even an anomaly going on here.
If you have kids, they will love this exhibit.
You'll exit Bubblerama into the back side of the gift shop. We spent some additional time looking around and exploring before heading over to the Heritage Museum and Dougherty house.
To visit the Heritage Museum and Dougherty House, you'll need to exit the main entrance, and head to your left. You'll see the white and historic home just a short ways down the walkway. Walking towards the home, which has the Heritage museum in the basement, you'll pass the Gem Mining and Tomahawk throwing attractions.
The heritage museum is in the basement of the Dougherty house, and contains a large collection of Native American artifacts, mainly arrow heads. We haven't see so many arrow in one place, ever.
"Moon" Mullins and his wife, Marion, collected around 50,000 of these relics throughout their lives. They are all on display, along with carved statues, clothing, weapons, tools, and other items.
The tour of the museum will take you in a loop back to the entrance. To tour the Dougherty House, which we highly recommend, head up the stairs.
Dougherty House is the home originally owned by the founders of Appalachian State University, in nearby Boone NC. The home was owned by Dauphin Disco Dougherty. What's really interesting is that Dauphin was Daniel Boone’s son. Yep, the one and only Daniel Boone.
The home was built in 1903 and was the first home in the area to have electricity and running water. In the early years of the university, the home had classrooms and administrative rooms as well.
The house was originally located closer to Appalachian State University, but was purchased and moved by Mystery Hill in 1989. To move the home, the top of the house literally had to be cut off, to get under all of the stop lights.
Mystery Hill guests can tour the home, which also has many turn-of-the-century furniture items, antiques and memorabilia, most of it originally from the home. The house provides a really cool glimpse of life in Appalachia in the early 1900s.
Locals swear the house is haunted as well, and a number of very strange things have been reported.
Our final Mystery Hill adventure for the day was Bull Riding. The Bull Riding venue is at the very front, to the left of the main ticket and store building. You'll see signs pointing you in the right direction.
We opened the doors, and immediately saw a very large cushioned area, and a large mechanical bull in the middle. Not going to lie, my daughter and I were nervous.
We showed the Mystery Hill team member our tickets, and and he said hop on. Turns out, at least for me, getting on the thing was the most difficult part! There are not stepping stools, and you have to hop and pull yourself up onto the mechanical bull. I was SO sore the next morning, but it was still worth it.
Once you're on the bull, you'll find an incredible slick saddle, with a single rope piece sticking up out of the bull to hang on to. The bull starts slow, just moving forwards and backwards, but soon starts to spin, and even move side to side.
The side to side motion was what got my daughter and I both, and we didn't last long. It was fun, but was more challenging than I expected. I did last 16 seconds though!
We didn't do the Tomahawk throwing, as we have done it before at other places we've visited. We did watch others throwing tomahawks at the wooden targets, and having lots of friendly competition.
At Mystery Hill, adults can choose either tomahawks or knives. Younger guests can use form or Velcro axes.
Be aware, it's harder than it looks, but if you keep at it, you'll figure out the technique.
Gem Mining is a popular attraction and activity for kids and adults in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and in most towns and cities, gem mining venues are very common. Mystery Hill provides one of the nicest and most reasonable Gem mining experiences you can have in the Boone and Blowing Rock NC area. The Prospector Hill Gem Mine is even indoors!
Miners can purchase a few different sized "mine rough bags":
- The Jr. Prospector with over a half pound of gems
- The Prospector with over a pound of gems
- The Miner 49er with over 2 pounds of gems
- The Carolina Gold Rush with over 4 pounds of gems
- The Fossil Dig featuring over 10 REAL FOSSILS
Kids can sift through the dirt to find shiny gemstones from all around the world, that they can take home. They’ll even get a colorful miner’s helmet to remember their Mystery Hill Gem Mining adventure!
Professor Finnegan's Photos
Near the bull riding area is Professor Finnegan's Photos, where you can get "old timey" photos of you and your family or friends. This is a wonderful way to wrap up your day, and cheerish your visit the Mystery Hill.
Professor Finnegan has been dressing up and capturing Mystery Hill guest photos in all their Old Time glory for years. Photos feature a range of choices, costumes, and backgrounds to capture your memories. You can dress up in old-time attire with antique backgrounds, or opt for our green screen, souvenir frames, and many more options.
Adjacent and accessible from Mystery Hill is the beautiful Middle Fork Greenway Trail. The Middle Fork Greenway Trail connect Boone and Blowing Rock via a paved biking and walking trail. Also visit Sterling Green Park, where there are picnic tables and river access for you to enjoy.
If you enjoy fishing, bring your NC fishing license and fly rod or regular rod, and you can fish for native brown and rainbow trout that are in the waters. You can also wade, swim and tube!
Grab some Grub
Front Porch eats is the Mystery Hill eatery for all of grub needs. You'll find:
- Over the Top Mason Jar Milkshakes
- Homemade Belgium Waffles,
- Hand Dipped Ice Cream,
- Floats, Malts, Old Fashioned Glass bottle sodas
- Fresh roasted Blue Ridge Blend coffee from Hatchet Coffee Company,
- Fresh Roasted North Carolina Peanuts,
- North Carolina Popcorn,
- Giant North Carolina Pickles,
- Local Pickled Eggs,
- Fun specialties for the kids like: North Carolina Mud, Dirt, and Worms, Cheerwine floats, Homemade Hot Fudge Cake, and more!
Tips for visiting Mystery Hill
We spent a good amount of time at Mystery Hill during our recent visit. While doing so, we talked to a number of staff members, and learned a few tips:
- Come prepared for weather conditions - We visited in early April, and as usual mountain weather is unpredictable. The day we visited, it was snowing, and in the low 30s!
- Avoid eating or drinking before visiting the Gravity Room - During our visit, the gravity room did make us a bit dizzy, and we heard others saying the same. So probably best to avoid eating or drinking before you visit.
- Passes are good for the whole day - If you want to leave and come back, it's not a problem, as the passes you purchase are good for the whole day. This is also a great option if you want to go grab more than a snack for lunch.
- Volume Discounts - When you purchase tickets, the more people you have, the less expensive the passes are. So bring a bigger group to get discounts.
- Discount Coupons - While not easy to find, there are discount coupons available. Yelp seems to have a consistent offering, and we've seen a few locally in Boone and Blowing Rock as well.
- Plan to spend 1/2 a Day - If you visit everything, your visit will take you about 1/2 a day to take in everything.
Mystery Hill Explained
** SPOILER ALERT - If you don't want to know how some of the "mysterious" things at Mystery Hill work, skip this section **
Mystery Hill is a fun adventure, if taken as just that, entertainment. The guides do a great job making the whole "magnetic vortex" believable, and the exhibits do a good job backing this up. Knowing that it was all just a bit of physics, we still had a great time. We really enjoyed figuring out the science behind each exhibit, and how it "worked". This proved to make our visit not only more fun, but educational as well.
Now, with that said, we personally don't buy into the "phenomenon" concept. Sure, there could absolutely be something going on here, but it's all explainable with basic science. Also note, this information was not provided to us in any way, we're just sharing what we "figured out", which could also be very wrong. Just our 2 cents, for what's it's worth (probably less than 2 cents).
Of course the most controversial and discussed event is the gravitational anomaly, which includes the Cider Mill Platform and the Gravity Room.
The Cider Mill Platform Explained
The Cider Mill Platform is absolutely level. There is a level on it (that is accurate), and we even checked it with our level.
So how do people appear taller on one side?? Well, the exhibit bets you pay more attention to the platform and the people on it, than what you're standing on. If you pay attention to what you are standing on, the deck, you'll see the "trick". The deck is angled. This causes your perspective of the platform to be tilted a little, and just enough to show a height difference when viewing the level platform.
The Gravity Room Explained
The gravity room is amazing, it's hard to walk, balls appear to roll uphill and even water appears to flow uphill. Something must be going on right?
Right, but not what you think, or maybe you figured it out right away. As you enter the gravity room, the floor is flat, but as you progress to the door, and enter the room, the floor goes from 0 degrees to around 40-45 degrees (measure by us). This is because the entire building/room is built at a 45 degree angle, sloping downward, including the floor.
When you enter, you'll feel the pull of gravity, pulling you down due to the angle. The ball roll and water tube are built nearly at a far less angle, making it look as though they are level, but in fact still angled down a little. So when a ball or water is placed on or in them, they flow normally, but having the optical illusion of flowing up hill.
Some cool stuff really, and we had fun in the room.
Wrapping up our visit to Mystery Hill
We had a great time, and found it well worth the money. The staff is incredibly helpful and friendly as well. Sure, it's a bit of a tourist trap, and some of it is a bit cheesy, but we kind of like cheesy.
We had fun, and that is what was important. We also had some great educational conversations between us, and it challenged our daughter a little to figure things out. All good stuff.