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Banner Elk NC – Our Weekend Getaway (2024)

Over the years, we have visited the small mountain town of Banner Elk NC a number of times, primarily as a lodging point for our annual visits to the Land of Oz amusement park.   Each time we visited, we always talked about how we wanted to return and spend more time exploring Banner Elk and learning more about what it has to offer.

We finally did!  We spent a long weekend in June of 2023 exploring all that Banner Elk NC has to offer, including things to do in Banner Elk, the best restaurants in Banner Elk, and places to stay when visiting.  

Did you know that Banner Elk is becoming a culinary hotspot here in the North Carolina Mountains and the High Country?  We didn't either, but after a visit to LP on Main and Stonewalls Restaurant, we definitely agree!

There are tons of great places to stay as well, including a new luxury glamping venue, Vines and Goats, and a very nice budget-friendly hotel, the Best Western Mountain Lodge.  We stayed at both, and really enjoyed our stay.

During our visit, we fell in love with Banner Elk and we were pleasantly surprised by how much this small town of less than 2 square miles offers visitors.   

So join us, as we spend a long weekend in Banner Elk NC - We're sure you're going to fall in love with this wonderful small town as much as we have!

Disclosure: We were invited by the Banner Elk TDA and our visit was complimentary; however, all opinions, information, and photos are our own and we were not asked in any way to influence our thoughts, comments, or the content of this article.  All opinions are our own - We believe in putting our readers first.

Our Weekend in Banner Elk NC Video

Here is our video:

Traveling To Banner Elk NC

After packing and doing a quick check to be sure we grabbed all of our camera gear, we loaded up our car for the two-hour drive from our home in Waynesville NC to Banner Elk NC.   

The great part about the drive is that a 2-hour drive through the mountains, doesn't seem like long at all.  There is SO much to see.

We left our home around lunchtime, and stopped in Waynesville to grab a quick lunch before getting onto I-40 to head to Banner Elk.   Siri took us through Asheville and over Black Mountain to Old Fort NC, where we caught Highway 70 to Marion NC.  From Marian, we took Highway 221 to Highway 105 into Banner Elk.

The drive is mostly all back roads, through some beautiful NC Mountain scenery and old mountain towns.

Luxury Glamping at Vines and Goats

Vine and Goats Glamping

We arrived in Banner Elk around 3:30 pm, and more specifically at our super cool Banner Elk lodging location for the next two nights, Vines and Goats Glamping!   To say we were looking forward to this would be an understatement.  We had glamped a few times before, but this was going to be a whole new level of luxury for us.

Siri took us right to the driveway, and there, sitting on the hillside where the two luxury glamping domes.  The whole setting looked beautiful and more than we expected.   

Vines and Goats is literally right off the same road as the Banner Elk Winery, which was on our short list of weekend activities.   More on this awesome winery later.

We drove up the gravel driveway and parked in the gravel parking area for Vines and Goats.  We were in "Happy Goat", one of the two domes available at Vines and Goats.

Two small gravel walkways take you from the parking area to a wooden deck around a black metal building.  The domes are on each side of the building.   The building has private bathrooms for each dome and a shared kitchen area.  

We walked past the kitchen area to the far side of the building, where we saw the barrel entryway for our dome and a sign saying "Happy Goat", confirming we were in the right place. 

The entrance to the bathroom is directly across the entry doors for the domes. 

We opened the door and peeked in ... the interior was simply gorgeous.  

The geo domes are above the ground on wooden decking, but the floors in the dome itself are wooden flooring.   Inside is a super comfy king-size bed, a leather couch, a few chairs, and a table.   There is also a small coffee station with Keurig, refrigerator, and some shelves containing games and other conveniences (like a flashlight).   

What immediately grabs your attention is the large and wide window providing a forward view of the front yard and scenic view.   The bed and couch face this view, and there is also a skylight at the top of the dome as well.   We literally felt like we walked into some magical luxury tent, like something out of a Harry Potter movie.

We put our stuff down, adjusted the air conditioning, then headed into town to find some dinner. 

Before we left, Joe, the owner of Vines and Goats Glamping stopped by to introduce himself and make sure we had everything we needed.  

Dinner at Cam Ranh Bay

Cam Ranh Bay Banner Elk NC

The last time we visited the Land of Oz, we stayed in Beech Mountain, and had a craving for Asian food.   We found a place in nearby Banner Elk, and really enjoyed it.   Jenn and I were both in the mood for some Sushi, so we decided to visit Cam Ranh Bay again.

Cam Ranh Bay is located just a short drive outside of downtown Banner Elk, and not far at all from our glamping location.  Fortunately, they weren't too busy yet, and we were seated quickly.   There was even live music from a local musician who was a pretty talented singer and guitar player.

We started looking over the HUGE menu.   They have lots of options, all mainly Vietnamese and Japanese food.   We ordered steamed dumpling as an appetizer and a few different Sushi rolls to try and share for dinner.  All were very good.  Our waitress was attentive, friendly, and focused.    

We enjoyed our dinner, along with the live music, and left to stop off at the local Food Lion to grab some water, some coffee, and a few other items.  

Ending Day Zero

We returned to our Geo Dome for the evening and decided to relax in the private hot-tub.   The hot-tubs are clean, roomy and most importantly nice and hot.  We didn't want to get out, but it was getting late and we had a busy day planned for tomorrow.

We slept really well that night.  The area around our Geo Dome was quiet, and the AC kept us nice and cool.  In fact, it got pretty chilly in Banner Elk that night, down in the 40s.   

Day 1 - Our Weekend Getaway in Banner Elk NC

We woke up early to the sun coming through the skylight in the top of the Dome, and a rooster crowing in the distance.  

Ok, let's just stop there ... I mean, how many times in your life can you say something like that?

BUT ... It was cold.  A quick check of my phone showed that it was in the 40s that morning.  I switched the heat on in the dome and our "tent" warmed up quickly.  Once again thankful for the heating and AC unit.

We made some coffee, took showers, and prepared to explore around our glamping venue a bit before heading out to find some breakfast and explore Banner Elk some more before our first scheduled itinerary item at 2:00.   

The bathrooms and showers at Vines and Goats are super nice and roomy.  Inside the lockable private bathroom, you'll find a sink, a modern flush toilet, a large shower with a rain-style shower head, and a smaller handheld shower head.   Towels, soap, shampoo, and conditioner are provided.   

There is even a bathroom fan and heater, which came in handy that morning with it being so cold.

Bella's Breakfast

Front view of Bella's Breakfast Banner Elk NC

We don't normally eat a heavy breakfast, but we remembered previously enjoying having a great breakfast at Bella's the last time we were in Banner Elk and we wanted to visit them again.

Bella's Breakfast and Lunch is a friendly local spot, that serves up all of your breakfast favorites like eggs, bacon, pancakes, and waffles.    The environment is very casual and friendly, and they have outdoor seating.   They are located right off Main Street near downtown.   

We definitely recommend them, and the prices are very reasonable.

Exploring Downtown Banner Elk

Banner Elk NC

After breakfast, we decided we needed to explore downtown Banner Elk a bit before our scheduled afternoon events.  

We parked in one of the many public parking areas in downtown Banner Elk and started exploring.  

What really surprised us about the downtown area, and the village was how much is packed into such a small space.   We really liked all of the outdoor public space.  There are many small shops, bars, and seating areas. 

Everything was decorated very well, with rock walls, flowers, and brick walkways.

Downtown Banner Elk

We discovered a really nice ice cream shop that has a small tricycle outside for children to ride on.  We found a cool arcade full of modern and classic arcade games and a cool art shop with some really unique and fascinating pieces. 

We also explored the old restored school, which is home to the Banner Elk Book Exchange, various arts and crafts, and a Community Theater called Ensemble Stage.

Banner House Museum

Banner House Museum Banner Elk NC

The first scheduled item on our itinerary was a tour of Banner House Museum.   We arrived and parked in the small parking area and immediately next to us was a small old country home, which is the Banner House.

I'll be honest, we were skeptical about this when we pulled up.  We wondered how interesting or fun it would really be.  

Fortunately, we were very wrong. 

The tour was incredibly interesting, and the home and grounds were really fun to tour and explore.   The tour and museum really helped us gain an understanding of the history of Banner Elk, and how it became the town it is today.

The Banner House was built around 1870 by Samuel Henry Banner, one of the early settlers of the area. He and his wife had 7 children.   The home has been restored and furnished with period and regional heirlooms to accurately reflect what the home would have been like in the late 1800s.

As we walked around the side of the home and onto the front porch, we were immediately greeted by the staff, who were incredibly friendly and helpful.    

We started a guided tour with Meredith, who walked us around the interior of the home home, and told us all about the history of the home, the items in it, and about the family's influence on the area.

In addition to heirloom home items, the walls also feature historic photos of Banner Elk, buildings, and people of historical influence.    

The tour begins on the main floor, where you walk through the living area, dining area, and kitchen.   Then you proceed up the stairs to the bedrooms where you learn about the children, and how they were educated.    The Banner family actually influenced the creation of the local college and hospital.

There is also a mobile phone tour that you can take by installing an app on your phone.

We really enjoyed our visit and meeting with all of the staff and volunteers.   The Banner House Museum is a great place to visit on a rainy day, between events, or while waiting on dinner reservations.  

Wildcat Lake and Canoeing

Outdoor Adventure in Banner Elk NC

Just up the road from the Banner House, is Wildcat Lake.  We had a canoe at the lake, waiting for us shortly after finishing our Banner House Museum tour.    

Wildcat Lake is small by lake standards, but really nice.  The lake is part of a full recreation area, offering swimming, fishing, a playground, picnic areas, and even a white sandy beach!  The day we were there, the lake was very busy with lots of people fishing, families having cookouts, and kids swimming in the water and playing on the playground.

They even have lifeguards to keep everyone safe and manage the canoe rentals.

We walked up to the building where the lifeguards were.  They were expecting us and had our canoe ready to go.  We signed a quick waiver, put on our required life vests, and the lifeguards carried our large canoe out to the far side fo the beach for us.  They even helped us get in and get out in the water.  Thank you!

Canoeing at Wildcat Lake Banner Elk NC

We spent about an hour out paddling around, enjoying the surrounding scenery.   The lake is full of Lily Pads that were blooming.   Being photographers we really enjoyed taking photos of the blooms and using our waterproof GoPro to capture some video and photos under the water as well.  

Wildcat Lake is very calm, and there weren't a lot of people out in the water, so it made for a very relaxing experience.   

Wildcat Lake Snapping Turtle

One of the highlights of our canoe adventure was a huge snapping turtle that was swimming through the Lilypads we were photographing.  The turtle, which was probably a good 2-foot in diameter, was swimming through the Lilypads and near our canoe.  

It just stopped to watch us and we enjoyed taking photos of it.  We were close, as it was only a few feet away from us in the water.

Wildcat Lake is really nice, and a great place to go fishing, or take the family to get them outdoors.  For photographers, it's really pretty with a number of fantastic photo opportunities.  We really enjoyed our time there.

Banner Elk Winery

Things to do in Banner Elk NC

One of the things to do in Banner Elk that was on our weekend itinerary was a visit to Banner Elk Winery.  

We didn't even know Banner Elk had a winery!  

Not only does Banner Elk have winery, they have an excellent winery, that produces fantastic wine and makes for a great place to hang out and enjoy some live music and the surrounding scenery.  

Banner Elk Winery is literally down the road from the Vines and Goats where we were staying.  You can literally just take a short walk up the road.

As rounded the corner, and saw the winery ahead.  We were shocked at how big and busy it was. We expected a very small winery.

Banner Elk Winery

The parking lot was nearly full.  There was a main building with lots of tables out front and also around the large front yard which surrounds a huge pond.   There were lots of people and a talented live band playing on the front porch area.   Jenn and I just looked at each and said "Wow!".

We walked to the main Banner Elk Winery building and entered through the front door.  The winery is gorgeous and full of tables and a large tasting bar.   We walked up for our wine tasting and were met by their friendly, helpful, and very knowledgeable staff.  

We were able to sample 10 of their different wines, including their prized Sangiovese.  The winery produces 9 wines annually, and some specialty and seasonal wines.  The 10th one on our list was an excellent blueberry wine.

As part of your tasting experience, you'll receive a paper summarizing the wines, and allowing you to make notes about each one.   Our favorites were the Banner Elk White, Banner Elk Red, Heirloom Red Blend, and the Sangiovese.  

Banner Elk Winery Wine Tasting

We both got a glass of our favorite wines and headed outdoors to enjoy the live band and beautiful property.   Jenn got the Heirloom Red Blend, and I got a class of the Sangiovese.  We found a couple of comfortable chairs, sat down, and just relaxed.   We enjoyed watching the kids play, the beautiful scenery and the live music.

We really enjoyed the casual, relaxed and scenic features of Banner Elk Winery, and the wines were excellent and also very reasonably priced.  

Open 7-days a week, Banner Elk Winery is a great place to just come hang out.  We saw lots of families here, and it's dog friendly as well.  

Dinner at LP on Main

LP on Main Banner Elk NC

LP on Main was our first real culinary dining experience in Banner Elk, and they really made an impression.  LP on Main is one of the original 3 restaurants in Banner Elk, and recently moved into their new building off of Main Street.

They offer indoor and outdoor dining, a full bar, and a casual, yet sophisticated dining experience.  We were seated indoors and off to the side and near a window for optimal lighting for the food photos we would be taking.  

We started off with some drinks from their unique cocktail list, followed by a selection of various appetizers.   The BBQ Shrimp was spicy and exceptional, the crab cake was huge and delicious with tons of crab, and the grilled peach salad was light and very flavorful.

For our main entrees, we had the Bison Meatloaf with smoked mac and cheese and the Scottish Salmon.  Both were excellent and perfectly prepared.

For dessert, we had their hot sticky toffee pudding and the Strawberry Pave.  Both were excellent, but that toffee pudding ... oh man.

We loved LP on Main - the staff, the ambiance, and the food.  We included LP on Main as one of our picks for the best restaurants in Banner Elk NC.  

Special thanks to our outstanding waitress Samantha, and to the owner, Laurie Bagby for going above and beyond to accommodate us.

BBQ Shrimp

An evening by the fire

Around the firepit at Vines and Goats Glamping

After dinner, we headed back to Vines and Goats and changed into some comfortable clothes.  We lit a fire at our private outdoor fire pit, enjoyed a glass of Banner Elk Winery wine and just relaxed after a long busy day.  

It was a perfect evening.

Tired from our busy day, we soon headed to bed to get some sleep.  We had lots on the agenda for Day 2 of our Banner Elk adventure.

Day 2 - A Weekend in Banner Elk NC

We woke up early, dressed, and showered.   We were staying at the Best Western in Banner Elk for our final night, so we had to pack and clean up before leaving Vines and Goats.   

We also had a morning appointment with some goats ... 

Shortly after packing our car, our hosts, Joe and his wife Marianella, came walking up with two of their goats, "Cool Beans" and "Bubbs".  

Yes, Vines and Goats really has goats.

The goats seem to be having a lot of fun, but like kids, the wouldn't sit still for a photo!

We said our goodbyes to the goats, and our hosts Joe and Marianella, and headed into town.   We needed some coffee, and we found THE perfect spot.  

Fred and Larry's Coffee

Front view of Fred and Larry's Coffee House Banner Elk NC

While debating on where to grab some coffee, I recalled seeing a small coffee shop up near the Food Lion.  

We pulled up, parked, and walked into this warm, wonderful smelling, and cozy small coffee shop called Fred and Larry's.  

I mean, with Larry in the name it must be great right?  But I digress ... 

Fred and Larry's Coffee has a big coffee menu, lots of baked items to enjoy, and some very comfortable-looking leather chairs.  They even have outdoor seating.

We grabbed some Cappuccinos, a strawberry muffin and a cheese danish.  We enjoyed relaxing with some hot coffee.   

We really enjoyed Fred and Larry's Coffee Shop.  They also support our troops, and specifically the Marines Corps based on the signs and the Marine flag flying out front.  Being a Marine family, we really appreciated that and them.

Tate-Evens Park

Things to do in Banner Elk NC

We had heard that there was a nice local park in downtown Banner Elk.  Using the Visit Banner Elk site, we found it and headed over.  The park is literally right outside of downtown Banner Elk, near town hall.

Tate-Evens Park is super nice and just beautiful.  There is a bubbling creek that runs through the middle, with small cascades.  There is lots of playground equipment for kids, a dog park, and a really nice paved walking trail.  They also have covered picnic areas, picnic tables, and large open fields for children to play in.

The park has public restrooms by the outdoor Amphitheater which is used for live music, shows, and events.  

The entire park is very well maintained, and we really enjoyed walking in it, exploring it, and watching the kids burn off some energy.   Tate-Evens Park is very dog friendly, and we say lots of people and families there with their dogs.

Dog friendly is a common theme in Banner Elk.  Many areas and businesses are very dog friendly.

Lunch at Banner Elk Cafe

Banner Elk Cafe

Banner Elk Cafe is a popular spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   They have both indoor and outdoor seating.   The size of their outdoor eating area really surprised us, and the cafe overall was much larger than we expected from the outside.

We sat outside on a covered deck area, to avoid the coming rain.  Unfortunately, rain was in the forecast for the remainder of the day.

Also large is their menu, which is actually two menus in one, a combination of the cafe menu and lodge menu.  You can order from both.  The cafe menu offers burgers, salads, and sandwiches.  The lodge menu offers a number of Italian dishes and other larger meal items.  

Between the two, there is plenty to choose from!

We started with a glass of wine and a local craft brew they had on draft.  Based on a recommendation from our waitress, we shared the Strawberry Goat Cheese salad, which was fantastic and our favorite.  

For our entrees, we ordered the Crab cake sandwich and the teriyaki chicken and pineapple wrap.  Both were very good.  

The Banner Elk Cafe is a great casual dining option with outdoor seating and good food.

Apple Hill Farm

Alpaca at Apple Hill Farm

After lunch, we took a drive out into the surrounding mountains and countryside to Apple Hill Farm, an active and functioning farm that you can tour.  

The highlight of the farm is the numerous farm animals they have, including alpacas, pigs, donkeys, horses, goats, cows, and more.   The views from this high-elevation farm are incredible as well.

The farm is located off a rustic and narrow mountain road.   You'll park and walk to the main barn, where the staff will greet you.  Our guide was named Abby, and she was very friendly and knowledgeable about the farm and animals.

Donkey at Apple Hill Farm

We saw pot-bellied pigs, many alpacas, donkeys, tons of goats, horses, and cows.   She also highlight the surrounding scenery and showed us a few amazing views.

Our tour wrapped up in the Apple Hill Farm store, where visitors can purchase a number of various items, including Alpaca fur products.  Turns out Alpaca fur is great for socks and other weather-resistant clothing.

We really enjoyed our tour of this beautiful farm and seeing all the animals.  A visit to Apple Hill Farm is a perfect trip for families, and young children will really enjoy it and learn something at the same time.

Apple Hill Farm is included as one of our top picks for the best things to do in Banner Elk NC.

Wilderness Run Adventure Course and Alpine Coaster

Wilderness Run Mountain Coaster Banner Elk NC

Alpine Coasters are popping up in a number of locations in the Blue Ridge Mountains and are becoming very popular thrill attractions.   Banner Elk added their own in 2019 with Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster.  

Wilderness Run was by far our favorite of all the things to do in Banner Elk.

Wilderness Run Alpine coaster is the first Alpine Coaster in the High Country and was designed by a German team.  This 3,000+ long coaster winds, turns, drops, and accelerates down the mountainside.  The total ride is 5-7 minutes, including the steep ride up the mountain.

You ride down in specially designed cars that are attached to the metal track.   There are manually controlled brakes that allow you to control the speed and thrill to your desired level.    

With no braking, the cars reach speeds of up to 27mph.  While that may not seem all that fast, it has a whole different meaning when you are plummeting down the mountainside.

On the way down, you'll enjoy beautiful mountain scenery along with the thrill of the ride.  The coaster hugs the mountain contours and provides lots of twists and turns.  

It's pure mountain fun at its best.  We highly recommend this attraction when in the Banner Elk area.

Wilderness Run Adventure Course

While there, be sure to challenge yourself at the Wilderness Run Adventure Course next door, which is a high ropes course that will test your limits as you cross rope bridges, logs, and navigate obstacles as you try to ring the bell at the top at more than 40 feet above the ground. 

We started on the intermediate course with full hopes of ringing the bell.  We ended up barely being able to do the beginner course!   It's definitely a challenge!

There is even a children's course, recommended for children from 2 - 5 years old.

Check-in at the Best Western in Banner Elk

Best Western Banner Elk

After our thrilling ride and ropes course at Wilderness Run, we headed over to the Best Western Mountain Lodge to check in.  The Best Western would serve as our lodging point for our final evening in Banner Elk, before heading back home.

We had stayed at this nice hotel a few times in the past when visiting the area.   We checked in with their super- friendly and courteous staff and made our way to our room.  We were surprised as we opened the doors and realized we had a large suite with a Jacuzzi tub!

The room was actually two connected rooms made into one suite.   The first room was a living area with a couch, TV, and the large Jacuzzi tub.  The second room had a king-sized bed and bathroom.  This room was also ADA-friendly with a full ADA bathroom in addition to the standard bathroom.

The room was very clean and really nice.    The Best Western also has a large outdoor pool available for guests to enjoy as well, and provide a complimentary continental breakfast each morning.

The Best Western is one of our top picks for the best hotels in Banner Elk NC.

Dinner at Stonewalls Restaurant

Front of Stonewalls Restaurant in Banner Elk with fire going

Stonewalls Restaurant is an award-wining dining experience in downtown Banner Elk NC.  They are one of the 3 original restaurants in Banner Elk, and while they have lots of menu options, they specialize in steaks.   They even offer their own in-house dry-aged steaks on weekends as specials.

We pulled up, parked, and walked around the corner to the entrance,  which is welcoming.   Out front are a number of comfortable chairs arranged around a warm fire.   This makes for a great place to wait until your table is ready or meet with friends after dinner.  

Walking up to the hostess desk, we were greeted by the friendly and incredibly professional staff, which really set us up to expect an excellent meal and experience.

We were seated at a large booth next to a window and soon greeted by our friendly and professional waiter Josh, who went over the menus and specials for us.

Steak from Stonewalls Restaurant

We started with some drinks from their cocktail menu, then ordered appetizers.  We selected the panko fried deviled eggs and roasted brussel sprouts with blue cheese and a bacon jam.  Both were outstanding.

For entrees, we ordered a filet and the pan-seared scallop special.   The filet was cooked perfectly.  Nice and crisp outside, medium-rare on the inside, and served with a baked potato and bearnaise sauce.   Just incredible.  

The scallops where some of the best we've ever had, perfectly cooked and seasoned, and served with asparagus and Brussel sprouts with a maple syrup drizzle on top.

For dessert, we had their chocolate lava cake and the salted caramel brownie with ice cream.

Overall our experience at Stonewalls was in the top tier of restaurants we've ever eaten at.  

The atmosphere, service, and food was exemplary.   Stonewalls Restaurant is in our Best Restaurants of Banner Elk Guide, and for good reason.

What an amazing day

With full bellies, we returned to our room at the Best Western Mountain Lodge.  

We were exhausted after an amazing but very busy day once again exploring all of the great things to do in Banner Elk NC.  

The hot Jacuzzi tub was just what we needed to relax, and prepare our muscles for the busy outdoor day we would have tomorrow, as we would be visiting nearby Grandfather Mountain.

Our stay that evening at the Best Western in Banner Elk was quiet.  The beds were comfortable, and we had a fantastic night's rest.   We would definitely recommend this nice and budget-friendly hotel, and I'm sure we'll be back.

Day 3 - Our Last Day in Banner Elk NC

Day 3 of our long weekend in Banner Elk finally arrived.  Time flies when you're having fun, but we were excited to visit Grandfather Mountain before heading back home to Waynesville NC.

We woke up early, dressed and showered, and loaded the car up.   We were scheduled to be at Grandfather Mountain around 10 am.  Fortunately, Grandfather Mountain is very close to Banner Elk and our hotel. 

Breakfast at Fred and Larry's Coffee House

We couldn't drive by Fred and Larry's without stopping again before we left.   We selected some Cafe Meil's, which were the daily special, and chose these incredible looking cinnamon bun muffins with creme icing ... so good ...

We finished our breakfast sitting inside, as it was pretty chilly and rainy outside.   A bit of a prequel to the extreme weather we would experience at Grandfather Mountain.

Grandfather Mountain

The entrance to Grandfather Mountain is located about 20 minutes from downtown Banner Elk NC, and just a few minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway near Linn Cove Viaduct.

Book your Stay Now - Visit to Grandfather Mountain today!

We pulled up to the entrance, and were greeted by the friendly lady at the gate.  She gave us our information pamphlets and USB audio guide, and we headed up the entrance road to the top.

The drive up to the parking area for Grandfather's Mile High Bridge is one heck of a drive.  

Hiking at Grandfather Mountain

Along the way, you'll pass several overlooks providing outstanding views of Grandfather Mountain and the surrounding mountains.   You'll pass by the Nature Center and animal habitat, drive through Forrest Gump Curve, and take the narrow windy road to the very top.

For those curious, Forrest Gump Curve was where one of the iconic running scenes was filmed for the blockbuster movie Forrest Gump.  It is the scene where Forrest is running across the US, and you can see him running in a turn with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.  That scene was filmed at Forrest Gump Curve at Grandfather Mountain.

Forrest Gump Curve Grandfather Mountain

Upon reaching the top and parking in the parking area, we were met my incredibly high winds and rain.   Per the visitor center, the last recordings were over 50mph sustained winds, with higher gusts.   We elected to try again later and in the meantime, visit the Nature Center and animal habitat.

We explore the various Nature Center exhibits, and then walked outside in the light rain to see the animals.   We saw a few black bears, bald eagles, and otters, but no Cougars or Elk.  We suspected they were staying out of the elements, unlike us.

We decided to grab lunch and kill a little more time before going back up to the Mile High Bridge.  We ate an excellent lunch at Mildred's Grill in the Nature Center.  

Their specialty is the Mile High hamburger, which is a double cheeseburger with Chili and all the fixings.  We shared one along with a chicken wrap with a slice of pecan pie.   Very good and the service was friendly, and the dining area spotlessly clean.  Mildred's Grill is definitely a great place to grab food when visiting Grandfather Mountain.

Back at the top, the wind was even worse, and it was raining pretty heavily now.   I wasn't about to leave without walking the bridge, so camera in hand, I headed up, and recorded some video of me crossing.  The wind was insane and it was like being in Hurricane.  

Foggy and rainy day at the Mile High Bridge at Grandfather Mountain

We'll have the video out soon.

We spent a little more time exploring various overlooks, and ended up seeing a Deer in the trees.  But soon it was time to head back home.

Head back home to Waynesville

We regretfully left Banner Elk on Monday, wishing we could stay a little longer.  As we mentioned, we kind of fell in love with Banner Elk, the people, and area.  We look forward to returning again soon.

If you are looking for a wonderful mountain town to visit, that really delivers a ton of fantastic restaurants and things to do, we highly recommend Banner Elk NC.

We would like to thank the Banner Elk TDA for their assistance with our trip and all of the businesses that so graciously welcomed us and shared their story with us.  We appreciate it very much, and your kindness just made us love Banner Elk even more!

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


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