The top 10 things to do in the High Country this summer

While Western North Carolina is known for its beautiful winters and the skiing, snowboarding, and other outdoor activities that come along with it, summers in the High Country are just as special. The rolling mountains are lush with leafy trees, the weather is mild and sunny, and the long days are perfect for soaking it all in.

While school may no longer be in session, there are still plenty of events and activities in the community perfect for making the most of the summer season. Here are your top 10 things to do in the High Country this summer:

Hang out with animals at wildlife presentations in the park

Fridays at 1 p.m. in Tate-Evans Park; Saturdays at 11 a.m. in Grandfather Mountain’s Wilson Center

Summer is a great time for animal lovers to learn more about the world around them through wildlife presentations. Students in the college’s Wildlife Biology and Wildlife Rehabilitation programs conduct free presentations twice a week in the community, where they educate about local wildlife with the help of animal ambassadors from the college’s May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

There are presentations in Tate-Evans Park at 1 p.m. each Friday, May 31 through July 26; and at Grandfather Mountain at 11 a.m. each Saturday, June 1 through July 20.

Enjoy excellent musical performances with FORUM

Mondays at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in Hayes Auditorium

The annual FORUM summer music series at Lees-McRae College kicked off with its 45th season on Monday, June 17. Each Monday throughout the summer season, the series hosts a musical artist, group, or band in Hayes Auditorium on the college’s North Campus.

The 2024 season features eight exciting new acts each week through August 5. Single-show and season tickets are available for purchase now, so get yours today.

Learn more about FORUM 2024

Attend a Boone Bigfoots game

Various times at Appalachian State University’s Beaver Field

Summer in the High Country is a great time for athletics, and the Boone Bigfoots are one of the best ways to enjoy local sports and support athletics efforts in the area. The Boone Bigfoots is a 501(c3) non-profit baseball team that plays all their games right down the mountain at Appalachian State University’s Beaver Field at Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium.

Lees-McRae is the official housing partner of the Boone Bigfoots, and throughout the summer the team is housed right here on the college’s campus.

Get tickets to a game

Attend an Appalachian Football Club game

Saturdays at various times

The Appalachian Football Club is another great way to cheer on local athletics throughout the summer. The Appalachian FC is a National Premier Soccer League housed right here in the High Country. According to the league’s website, “Appalachian FC is bringing the world’s most popular game to our community and will provide opportunities for local students to pursue a sports management career.”

Soccer players from around the world travel to the High Country to play with Appalachian FC each summer, and the league’s head coach is Lees-McRae College alum Dale Parker.

Get tickets to a game

Take a dip in Wildcat Lake

Open seven days a week on the Lees-McRae College South Campus

Maintained by the college, Wildcat Lake has long been a staple of community recreation in the summer. The lake is open to students, faculty, staff, and members of the community throughout the season for swimming, fishing, and other recreational activities.

Hammocks, canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, pavilions, and field games are available for visitors to rent on site. The lake and all equipment rentals are managed by students in the college’s Outdoor Recreation Management program, making Wildcat Lake both an recreational asset to the community and an academic asset to the college.

Browse full hours, policies, and more

Outdoor Recreation Management Students Gain Work Experience at Wildcat Lake

Soak up live music with local summer concert series

Throughout the summer the mountains come alive with multiple outdoor concert series. The town of Banner Elk hosts Concerts in the Park each Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. in Tate-Evans Park, while Valle Crucis holds Music in the Valle, their summer concert series in Valle Crucis Community Park each Friday at 6 p.m. Concerts in the Park and Music in the Valle are both free for all attendees.

In addition, Beech Mountain Resort, one of the area's premiere ski resorts, hosts their annual ticketed Summer Concert Series. The series kicked off on Saturday, June 8 with a performance by String Cheese Incident, but there is much more to come. This season the series features, Need to Breathe, Dispatch, Greensky Bluegrass, Sylvan Esso, Soccer Mommy, and more. The all ages shows also feature food trucks, beer and wine from Beech Mountain Brewing Co., and crafts. Not to mention the beautiful mountain views.

Support High Country farmers at local markets

Tuesdays from 3:30−6:30 p.m. in front of Watauga County Social Services; Thursdays from 4−6:30 p.m. at the Historic Banner Elk School; Saturdays from 8 a.m.−noon at Horn in the West

Sourcing food locally is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint and support farmers, growers, and makers in your community. There are lots of great options for shopping local in the area, including weekly farmer’s markets on Thursdays in Banner Elk, and Tuesdays and Saturdays in Boone.

On campus this summer? The Avery County Farmer’s Market is right around the corner and easily walkable from anywhere on campus.

Celebrate local heritage at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

Thursday, July 11 through Sunday, July 14 at Grandfather Mountain

Scots-Irish heritage is a major influence on Appalachian culture, due to the large number of Scots-Irish immigrants who settled in this area in part because of the similarities they found to their home in the Scottish highlands.

To honor and celebrate this heritage each year, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of the Scottish Clans is held in July. The weekend-long event features traditional dancing and musical performances and competitions, traditional athletics competitions, parades and ceremonies, themed food and drink, and much more.

This year the event will be held Thursday, July 11 through Sunday, July 14.

Learn more about the tradition

Catch a showing of Lees-McRae Summer Theatre’s “From the Mountaintop: The Edgar Tufts Story” and brush up on local history

Tuesday, July 16 through Tuesday, July 23 at various times in Hayes Auditorium

The Lees-McRae Summer Theatre show “From the Mountaintop: The Edgar Tufts Story” is another celebration of local heritage. The musical, written and directed by Lees-McRae Summer Theatre’s own Janet Barton Speer, tells the story of the college’s founder Rev. Edgar Tufts. Discover the journey of Tufts’ life from his early days in Banner Elk as a seminary student, to founding some of the town’s most historically significant institutions, including Grandfather Home for Children, the Banner Elk Presbyterian Church, Grace Hospital, and Lees-McRae College itself.

The show is the opening of the 2024 Lees-McRae Summer Theatre season and will officially kick off the college’s year-long 125th anniversary celebration.

Buy tickets to a show

Immerse yourself in the culture of the mountains at High Country Talent Jamboree

Friday, July 26 at 7 p.m. in Hayes Auditorium

The second show of the Lees-McRae Summer Theatre season, “High Country Talent Jamboree” will showcase the culture of the North Carolina High Country through music, dance, comedy, and more. The show will only have one performance at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 26, so be sure to secure your tickets before they’re gone.

Buy tickets to the show

By Maya JarrellJune 21, 2024
Campus LifeCommunity