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Visiting Hickory Ridge Living History Museum with Kids

Hickory Ridge Living History Museum with kids
Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith's America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

For families, educators, and anyone passionate about experiencing history, Hickory Ridge Living History Museum and Horn in the West Outdoor Drama in Boone, North Carolina, offer a treasure trove of educational experiences. This guide helps history explorers make the most of a visit to Boone, gaining new insights and creating cherished memories.

Hickory Ridge Living History Museum is an immersive journey that explores life in Western North Carolina during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Built to recreate the atmosphere of a rural mountain community, Hickory Ridge includes six historic cabins, complete with artifacts and furnishings, staffed by volunteer interpreters and demonstrators in period clothing 

Adjacent to Hickory Ridge is the historic outdoor drama Horn in the West. Since 1952, Horn in the West has told the story of Daniel Boone and the settlers of the Blue Ridge Mountains as they struggled to preserve freedom in the lead-up to and during the American Revolution. Located in the heart of Boone, performances run Tuesday through Saturday during the summer.

Hickory Ridge Living History Museum with kids
Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith's America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Planning Your Visit

When organizing a trip to Hickory Ridge Living History Museum and the adjoining Horn in the West, there are a few things to keep in mind to maximize your educational adventure.

Timing Your Visit

The museum and outdoor drama season typically runs from early June through mid-August. Check their website for upcoming events and to book school tours outside their regular schedule. If you time things right, you can visit the Watauga County Farmers Market in the morning, followed by a stroll through Hickory Ridge Living History Museum and the Daniel Boone Native Gardens, before returning when house gates open at 7:30 pm for the Horn in the West Outdoor Drama.

Purchasing Tickets

You can purchase tickets for Hickory Ridge onsite. Tickets for Horn in the West Outdoor Drama can be bought online or from the box office, which is open 10 am to 7 pm on show days and located at the entrance to Hickory Ridge. Contact the Horn in the West ticket office at 828-264-2120 to inquire about group rates.

Preparing for the Day

As both attractions are primarily outdoors, preparing for varying weather conditions is essential. Always check the forecast and plan accordingly. Afternoon thunderstorms are common during High Country summers, so plan ahead, wear comfortable clothing suitable for walking, and bring layers for rain and cooler evenings at the theater. Sunscreen, hats, and refillable water bottles are always a top recommendation. We also recommend insect repellent if you stay for Horn in the West. The outdoor theater uses folding metal chairs, and you can rent seat cushions for a nominal fee.

Hickory Ridge Living History Museum with kids
Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith's America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Educational Preparation

Amplify your experience at Hickory Ridge and Horn in the West with a few simple activities that give broader context to the rich history of the North Carolina High Country. From reading about early mountain settlers to exploring other historical sites, young explorers can gain a greater appreciation for the daily life of these early pioneers. Here are a few resources to help you get started:

Dining Options

There are plenty of dining options between Boone and Blowing Rock and within minutes of Hickory Ridge and Horn in the West. If it's a nice day, we recommend packing a picnic lunch and strolling across the street to the Strawberry Hill Arboretum. This often-overlooked park began as a project of the North Carolina Urban Tree Evaluation Program and offers a peaceful setting and serene views overlooking Boone. Grab some fresh and delicious nibbles at Watauga County Farmer's Market, or plan ahead and pack a full spread from Wildwood Community Market and Deli in Downtown Boone. It's a local favorite.

 

While you may want to grab dinner before Horn in the West starts, you can bring outside snacks, and a concession stand is open throughout the performance, serving cold drinks, fresh popcorn, and candy.

Other Activities While in Boone

There are many things to do in the High Country that can complement your experience at Hickory Ridge and Horn in the West. High Gravity Adventures offers zip lines and aerial exploration for kids ages 4+ (a great parallel to challenges faced by early pioneers), while Mystery Hill and Tweetsie Railroad blend fun with historical themes and activities. We always recommend getting out on a nearby trail! Find our top 5 favorite hiking trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains on our blog. And a visit to Boone is not complete without a trip to the iconic Mast General Store for some old-fashioned shopping and fun. 

The surrounding Boone area presents a unique opportunity to engage children's curiosity about the past through vivid, interactive learning experiences. Whether you're visiting for the first time or come every summer, learning about the unique and varied history of the early mountain settlers grows your appreciation for the High Country. Boone offers numerous ways to cultivate a child's love for learning. Explore, learn, and create memories that will both educate and inspire for years to come.

Andrew Miller