North Carolina's High Country Host - Travel Information Center

North Carolina's High Country Host - Travel Information Center

Want to know where you can eat and sleep in the High Country and what there is to do and see here? Then stop by or call High Country Host in Boone. It's the host with the most - the most information on area hotels, restaurants, parks, shopping, recreation, businesses, activities, events and more.

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High Country Host is a regional visitor information center and chamber of commerce designed to promote travel and tourism in Watauga, Ashe, Avery, Alleghany, Mitchell and Wilkes counties, the mountainous area known as North Carolina's High Country. The center, which is celebrating its 21st anniversary, attracts visitors to the area and helps guide them once they arrive.

To entice potential visitors, High Country Host places ads in several magazines ranging from "Southern Living" to "National Geographic Traveler." The center also uses television and newspapers.High Country Host

Once people are interested, they can obtain information about the area 24 hours a day through High Country Host's phone system and web site. For after-hours calls, the phone system is equipped with member listings and phone numbers plus a fax-on-demand service.

For those with Internet access, the center sports a new and improved web site that includes information about area lodging, real estate, maps, golf, parks, skiing, group tours, weather and much more. It also includes a direct link to all members with individual web sites. There's even a link with the Blue Ridge Parkway web site, which provides a milepost-by-milepost itinerary for the parkway.

Once visitors arrive in the mountains, they can stop by the center seven days a week for some High Country hospitality and personalized help from hosts and hostesses.

High Country HostThe center's staff can answer just about any question about what the High Country has to offer and how to get there. There are also hundreds of brochures and pamphlets about High Country Host member organizations available at the center along with a 60-page area guidebook called "Mountain Vacation Planner." The guidebook is also available at North Carolina welcome and visitor centers.

Brochures available at the center range from attractions such as Grandfather Mountain, the Mast Store and the Blue Ridge Parkway to events such as ASU's An Appalachian Summer Festival and Banner Elk's Woolly Worm Festival. There are also several pamphlets about area outdoor activities such as fishing, camping and hiking.

Days & Hours Of Operation: Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 9a.m. - 3 p.m.High Country Host
Location: 1700 Blowing Rock Road (Highway 321 near K-Mart and beside Kentucky Fried Chicken.)
Mailing Address: 1700 Blowing Rock Road, Boone, NC 28607
Phone: (828) 264-1299 & (800) 438-7500
Fax:(828) 265-0550
E-mail: i...@highcountryhost.com
Web Site: http://www.highcountryhost.com/

You Want What?

High Country Host Answers Your Questions

People will be people but, when it comes to humor, few can match the folks who routinely make contact with Travel Counselors at the High Country Host, in Boone. The organization, along with its sister agencies the Blue Ridge Mountain Host, in Asheville, and the Smoky Mountain Host, near Cherokee, form what might jokingly be referred to as "the first line of defense" for travelers wanting to visit the state's mountain regions from all over the United States and various countries around the world.

While most calls to their 800-lines and questions from "walk-ins" prove to be business-as-usual-with information being sought on hotels, attractions, things to do, places to see and weather conditions-there are some which, quite literally, make the day for the Host's hosts.

"Can you tell me if Delta's flight #457 is on time?" Actually, the High Country Host doesn't keep track of what times Delta departs nor when it arrives or whether it's on-time or not. Nor do they book reservations for Delta. And, no, Delta does not fly into Boone International Airport. (For some reason, the High Country Host telephone number and Delta's reservation center are apparently closely related.)

"Do you have any idea of the filth I'm receiving when I call your 800-number!" comes the astonished gasp from another out-of-towner. (It seems that only one-digit separates the High Country Host's hotline from another hot-line offering gentlemen callers a rather provocative conversation with a young lady. Ditto for North Carolina's statewide tourist hotline, 1-800-VISITNC.)

And, then, there was the call one Travel Counselor received from a stressed-out motorist, demanding that the Travel Counselor try to locate his whereabouts. "Tell me what landmarks are around you, what road you're traveling," questioned the Travelor Counselor. "I've no idea; all I can see are trees and mountains!" The lost caller then slammed down his car phone, infuriated that Meacham couldn't find him in the deep forests of the Blue Ridge.

Of course, not all calls to the High Country Host concern questions or frustrations pertaining to travel. Some callers make contact in search of discounts…or outright freebies. Perhaps the most oft-recalled travel tale centers on a woman seeking free passage through the front gates of Grandfather Mountain. "I just love Grandfather Mountain and am good friends with the Morton's (the mountain's owners). Why, Hugh's wife, Mildred, is my best friend!" she bragged. What's so funny about that? Hugh Morton's wife is named Julia; Mildred was Grandfather Mountain's beloved mascot, Mildred The Bear, who went to whatever Heaven great bears go to many, many years ago.

The laugh-worthy Host Happenings tend to go on-and-on:

One large family, consisting of a mom and dad and mom's mom and dad and a mega-van's worth of tightly-packed children pulled into the High Country Host office (on Highway 321, next to Kentucky Fried Chicken) late one Friday afternoon. They were so excited about finally arriving in Boone that, after gathering handfuls of brochures and maps, they left in such a hurry that one of the offspring was forgotten. "Little Timmy" was last seen flailing his arms as he ran westward along Blowing Rock Road.

Finding "just the right" lodging facilities for visitors to the area can sometimes be an exercise in both patience and futility; in other words, some people can't be pleased no matter how diligent High Country Host staffers might appear. Take the instance where a couple was planning on attending a mid-summer Nature Photography Workshop at Grandfather Mountain. "We've already got reservations at a hotel in Linville for the weekend at $28 per-night," they explained, "but we thought we might be able to find something cheaper in Boone." ‘Nuff said.

And then there's the case of a customer wanting a bit more than advice on local nighttime activities. "I'll be staying in Blowing Rock at the Meadowbrook Inn, in a suite with a hot tub," noted one lovely, middle-aged woman to a male High Country Host travel specialist. "I understand that it's very romantic," she continued, "but, unfortunately, I'm all alone. It might be a lot more fun if I have some company in that hot tub," she continued, flashing her baby blues upward with great expectation.

One of the great joys of working at the High Country Host is the interaction with people from all over, be these contacts routine or outright outlandish. The old adage advises that "laughter is good for the soul," and nowhere is this more evidence than in Boone's number-one tourist information center.

"You want what? Lingerie? Uh, what kind?" asked the bewildered male travel counselor. "Bra and panties, with stirrups," came the cell-phoned reply from the woman seeking a last-minute wedding gift…the woman who'd already tried Victoria's Secret and Fredrick's Of Hollywood in larger cities. Minutes later, the red-faced counselor returned to the phone after conferring with his female High Country Host counterparts. "Asking the girls for help? joked the customer. "Well, yes, but nobody was quite sure what stirrups are, with the exception of stirrups on a saddle." More laughter from those on the phone and those merely listening-in. The customer hung-up, satisfied; while it's not known if she had found her "unmentionables" locally, the call had certainly helped make the day.

International Travelers

Stop Off In The High Country

Think all summer visitors to the High Country are from Florida and the Southeastern United States? If so, guess again, for a good percentage of local tourists travel thousands-upon-thousands of miles to enjoy our scenic wonders such as Grandfather Mountain, the New River and the surrounding Blue Ridge/Appalachian Mountains.

"This area is so beautiful, so clean. The people are great, very friendly and helpful. This is a wonderful place to visit. We're so glad we came and can't wait to tell our friends back home about our trip." These are but a few of the adjective-laden comments which are daily logged in the North Carolina High Country Host's guest register. While such praises might be expected from those visiting Northwestern North Carolina for the first time, what's surprising is that these words come not from Americans but from travelers hailing from all over the world…travelers such as Jan and Jenny Young, from Australia; Ali Almudara, from Saudi Arabia; Marisa Pignataro, from Brazil; Rob, Margie and Shannon Whitelaw, from South Africa; and Elena Kirillova, from Russia.

Europe, Australia & Africa

The High Country Host Visitor's Center, located on Blowing Rock Road, in Boone, represents the six-counties of the state's northernmost mountains (Watauga, Avery, Ashe, Alleghany, Mitchell and Wilkes) in showing visitors to the region what sites there are to see, what lodging options are available and where the best places to dine are located.

"You'd have to work here on a regular basis to believe the number of visitors we get from around the world," noted one of the High Country Host's Travel Counselors. "It's an almost daily experience to meet people from every corner of the globe. While Asians (from Japan, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam) perhaps outnumber other nationalities," he continued, "there are also large numbers of Europeans from all over the continent (Poland, Spain, Russia, Hungary), Africans, Australians and those from South and Central America."

The question asked by many both within and without the travel/tourism industry is, "How does an individual or family from Angola (the Andersons), Zimbabwe (Mike and Michelle Cowe) or Russia (Elena Kirillova) find its way to Boone, North Carolina?" While most people can understand traveling thousands of miles to visit New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles or Miami, it comes as a surprise that this state's High Country is also on many international traveler's must-visit list.

Round The World Travel

According to Judy Donaghy, Executive Director of the High Country Host, "International tourism is a growing phenomenon throughout Western North Carolina. In talking with folks who work with foreign travel agents, we have learned that the European and Asian travel patterns are vastly different from those of most Americans. It's very common in other countries for businesses to shut down for an entire month to provide ‘holiday' for their employees," she explained. "They are very accustomed to leaving the borders of their own countries, and the U.S. is not an unusual destination."

The majority of foreign travelers do, in fact, tend to visit America's major cities first; however, after that, they take to our nation's highways and byways in search of our roots. "Many of these travelers, after having visited the metropolitan areas, seek out the ‘real American' experience," says Donaghy. "Thus, they are discovering locales such as our mountains...the High Country."

When foreign visitors do make their way to the doors of the High Country Host, it's no doubt a pleasant surprise to discover the ‘international welcome' they often receive. The majority of the staff working the front desk (and everybody works the desk at one time or another) have vast experience in international settings; together, they've traveled to some 70-different countries on every continent and actually lived in locations ranging from Germany to Japan to Panama.

Looking For America's "Scenic Hideaways"

The visitor center's ‘international staff' is headed by Laura Cooper, the High Country Host's Member Services Coordinator, who was born and raised in Brazil and speaks three languages fluently (English, Portuguese and Spanish) and can "hold her own" in French.

Cooper attributes at least part of the High Country's appeal to foreigners being the Host's marketing strategies. "We might represent only a small section of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but our marketing efforts reach nationwide and, apparently, around the world," says Cooper. "Advertisements placed by the High Country Host appear in newspapers and travel magazines nationwide and, after foreign tourists have visited our nation's more well known locations, they look for its most scenic."

"Where are you folks from?" is an oft-asked question of visitors by High Country Host travel counselors. More and more, the answer-heavily accented-sends the staff for the international atlas in search of unheard of regions of the world.

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