Exploring Downtown Boone NC: Restaurants, Shopping & More

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. All hosted affiliate links follow our editorial & privacy policies.

Though it’s nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and steeped in a long history, Downtown Boone NC has the vibe of a young, hip, and happening town.

We live about 90 minutes from Boone, but try to visit every month to sample the great restaurants. We often spend a little time exploring Boone NC hiking trails on our way into or out of the city.

One of the things we love about Boone is that you’re in the heart of all the NC High Country adventures you could dream of, with the Blue Ridge Parkway right around the corner.

When you’re tired of exploring the outdoors, you can wander around the locally-owned shops, have a bite to eat, or chill with a microbrew at one of the many Boone breweries around town.

One of our favorite North Carolina mountain towns, Boone also offers plenty of indoor attractions, from museums and galleries to escape rooms and kids’ play centers.  

Read on for our guide to the best things to do in Downtown Boone NC, including all our favorite Boone hotels, restaurants, shops, and other attractions. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Cabin Rentals in Boone NC

Hickory Ridge Living Museum/Horn in the West
Horn in the West, photo courtesy of the Southern Appalachian Historical Association

History of Boone NC

The town of Boone is named after pioneer/explorer Daniel Boone, who is said to have camped several times at a site within current city limits. He first passed through the area in 1760.

Back in 1850, a single row of houses were named after him, and so began the community of Boone. It wasn’t until 1872 that the town was incorporated, with a population of 850 (now up to 19,092).

Since 1952, the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum’s play, ‘Horn In The West,” has depicted the lives of early American settlers, with Daniel Boone as one of its main characters. 

Boone’s Junaluska Community has existed since before the Civil War, and remains one of the oldest communities of people of color in Western NC. Descendants of its original residents still live in the community today! 

Historically speaking, the town’s main industry was sawmills. But the founding of Appalachian State University in 1899 and the growing popularity of snow skiing brought a surge of new folks to the area. 

Boone is known for its vibrant music scene, keeping traditional bluegrass and Old-Time music alive. The legendary Doc Watson was a beloved local, and you can get a selfie sitting next to his statue on a bench Downtown. 

Boone was once a stop along the Tweetsie Railroad until a flood in 1940 washed away the tracks, which were never replaced.

This town was designated a “Preserve America Community” in 2010, and the US Post Office, the John Smith Miller House, and the Jones House are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

READ MORE: The 25 Best Things to Do in Boone NC

Downtown Boone NC Hotels 

places to stay in downtown Boone NC

Lovill House Inn

404 Old Bristol Rd, Boone NC 828-270-0831 • CHECK RATES

The Lovill House Inn is pretty special as far as Downtown Boone NC hotels go, and it’s within walking distance of the heart of town.
This historic hotel was built as a home in 1875, and then converted into a B&B in 1993. It recently won the Sustainable Energy Project of the Year award.
They offer a local organic breakfast, and encourage you to walk through the gardens and visit their hidden waterfall. 
Boone NC accommodations - Hampton Inn Suites


Hampton Inn & Suites

1252 U.S. Hwy 421 S, Boone NC 828-386-6464 • CHECK RATES

This pet-friendly hotel is just minutes from App State University, and within a mile of all the best dining options Downtown Boone has to offer. 
Enjoy their free hot breakfast before spending a bit of time in the gym, or doing a few laps in the pool.
Boone’s Greenway Trail is just 10 minutes away.

Boone North Carolina lodging - TownePlace Suites

TownePlace Suites 

110 Meadowview Dr, Boone NC 828-386-1717 • CHECK RATES

The location of this Downtown Boone hotel puts you right in the heart of all the action.

This pet-friendly place offers a free breakfast, as well a gym and indoor pool access. 

In the evening, head to the outdoor patios to take in stunning Blue Ridge Mountain views and enjoy some food at one of their grill stations.

Boone NC hotel - La Quinta

La Quinta by Wyndham 

165 NC-105 Extension, Boone NC 828-262-1234 • CHECK RATES

All the best activities and attractions in Downtown Boone are within walking distance of this pet-friendly hotel.

This means that you can head out for a night on the town without worry.

The La Quinta by Wyndham offers a free hearty breakfast, as well as a pool and hot tub.

READ MORE: How to Get to Otter Falls Near Banner Elk NC

Things to Do in Downtown Boone NC

Popular dishes at Red Onion Cafe in Boone NC
Popular dishes at Red Onion Cafe, photo courtesy of Red Onion

    Downtown Boone Restaurants 

If you want to enjoy a meal with a craft cocktail or microbrew, The Local is the place to be for family-friendly fare. 

Proper offers delicious homestyle Southern cooking with a modern twist, while Vidalia is known for its casual upscale North Carolina cuisine. 

Wild Craft Eatery serves “good mood food” that’s sourced locally, and they also strive to be eco-friendly in their packaging when it comes to takeout boxes.

Macado’s is a popular choice with the local college students (serving burgers, fries, nachos, and Mexican-inspired dishes), and Red Onion has an impressive sandwich menu as well as serving other classics. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Restaurants in Boone NC

MAST General Store in Downtown Waynesville NC
Mast General Store, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

   Shopping in Downtown Boone

The wildly popular Mast General Store is a great place to start your Boone NC shopping excursion.

They always have lots of curiosities, vintage memorabilia, unique souvenirs, outdoor gear, and lots of old-fashioned candies.

If you enjoy indie bookstores, Dancing Moon Earthway Bookstore is a genuine treasure, specializing in spiritual literature and selling everything from tarot cards and candles to tapestries and incense.

The Happy Place is another cool spot full of bohemian joie de vivre.  

The Shoppes at Farmers is a beautiful store to get lost in, with lots of local arts and crafts as well as clothing, home furnishings, and toys.

We love to take the steps in the center of the store down to the “hidden” Benchmark Provisions, where you can sample some of their local beers, wines, and ciders. 

If you’re looking for sustainable shops in Boone NC, check out Off The Rack.

Though it’s not a thrift store, this place is packed with cool, second-hand, retro clothing and other paraphernalia from the past.

READ MORE: The Best Outdoor Gear of 2024 for Camping & Hiking

Things to do in Boone NC

Downtown Boone Attractions

It would seem strange to trap yourself indoors in a town with such stunning natural surroundings. But when the weather turns bad, Mysterium Escape Adventure makes for an entertaining rainy-day activity. 

The Children’s Playhouse is a fun place for kids up to 8 years old. There are lots of educational play experiences to be had, with indoor and outdoor spaces where kids can build, create, sing, and dance.

With over 200 species of plants, Daniel Boone Native Gardens offers a getaway from the bustle of Downtown Boone. We always enjoy their immense collection of native shrubs, trees, perennials, and North Carolina wildflowers. 

Turchin Center for the Visual Arts is a place for people to explore local, national, and international art exhibitions, join creative workshops, and learn from guided tours. 

Created in 1980, the Hickory Ridge History Museum offers a taste what late 18th century life was like in North Carolina. Guides lead you through 6 historic cabins complete with historical artifacts. 

Fun ‘N’ Wheels offers endless fun for kids of all ages, including Go Karts, Nas-Kars, Bumper Kars, Kiddie Kars, and a bunch of video games. Note that this is dry weather play only, so have a backup plan for rainy days!

If you’re looking for a romantic date idea or something to do with a small group, check out the scenic Horse & Carriage Rides through Moses H. Cone Park!  -by Emma Gallagher; lead image by Dawson Tozier

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Born in Britain, writer/photographer Emma Gallagher lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC on a permaculture homestead with her husband, Jonathon. While traveling the world for 13 years, she fell in love with the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge region when she lived at an artist retreat in Burnsville NC before moving to Brevard. Today Emma lives near Stone Mountain State Park and Doughton Park volunteers at the Surry County Fiddlers Convention, and cares for the gardens at the Reeves Downtown School of Music in Elkin. She's also a volunteer for the Elkin Valley Trails Association, which maintains segment 6 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.