Whether looking for a full-day adventure or a way to stay engaged for a few hours, the High Country has many attractions and places for visitors to see and do.
Ashe County Cheese (West Jefferson)
Families looking for a free activity for everyone may want to visit Ashe County Cheese — North Carolina’s largest cheese manufacturer. The company consists of a cheese making factory with its cheese retail store across the street.
Brittany Elliott, the Ashe County Cheese assistant store manager, explained that visitors can watch the cheese making process and learn how the products are made in a viewing room inside the factory. Originally opened in 1930 by the Kraft Corporation, what is now known as Ashe County Cheese produces on average 40,000 pounds of cheese per week. Elliott said the company updates its website with its weekly cheese production schedule, and visitors may want to view the schedule before deciding which days to visit.
Patrons can purchase Ashe County Cheese products as well as imported cheeses at the retail store across the way. Elliott said the store also has assorted candy barrels with a selection of more than 200 types of candy as well as freshly made fudge, ice cream and a selection of North Carolina wines.
As of late May, Ashe County Cheese was limiting the amount of patrons inside of its retail store to comply with social distancing guidelines due to COVID-19, according to Elliott. Clear shields were also placed at the cash registers in order to protect guests. For more information on Ashe County Cheese, visit www.ashecountycheese.com or find “Ashe County Cheese” on Facebook.
Ensemble Stage (Banner Elk)
Ensemble Stage — a professional theater that began in 2009 — has had to alter its 2020 summer production season due to the pandemic. Gary Smith, the theater’s artistic director, explained that Ensemble Stage’s mission is to provide live performing arts to the High Country and its visitors at an affordable price.
“We’re going to do everything we can to have live theater up here this summer,” Smith said.
The June 5-13 showing of its “Tiny Island” production as well as the June 26-July 3 production of “Catch the Butcher” have been postponed to summer 2021. So far theater officials had not made decisions on the July 24-Aug. 1 production of “Beer for Breakfast” or the Aug. 14-22 production of “Zaglada.” Tickets for main stage shows are $24 for adults, $22 for students/seniors/military and $12 for kids 16 years old and younger.
“We’ll take each one of those show by show,” Smith said. “We don’t know how things are going to change.”
Ensemble Stage still had plans to move forward with its summer kids theater shows on July 11, July 18 and Aug. 3. The production for the summer kids theater shows is “The Fisherman and his wife,” and is $6 per person. Smith said they were also planning to host their children’s theater summer camp July 13-17.
Audiences will be able to view productions by quality actors, as Smith said that Ensemble Stage brings in talen from across the country. This past year the theater had actors from 48 states. Smith will view about 4,000 auditions every season, and then will pick about 20 or so people for a cast for each show. Visitors of Ensemble Stage will surely be entertained.
Ensemble Stage has created a Youtube channel to show video archives of its past Christmas shows as well as recordings of taped radio plays.
Smith said the theater are not allowed to post any videos from past main stage shows, but are able to do so from their Christmas shows and radio plays as they have the rights to those.
To stay up to date on Ensemble Stage, visit www.ensemblestage.com.
High Gravity Adventures (Boone)Families and individuals looking for a little more of a thrill can check out High Gravity Adventures — an aerial adventure park that also offers zip lining.
A High Gravity Adventures zip guide can lead guests on a tour through the trees on five zip lines for 1,700 feet of zipping. The highlight is the 1,000 foot zip line soaring through the valley. The tour includes a dropzone with a 70-foot foot descent with a controlled landing, and a slow-moving rappel option for those who would rather not take the leap.
The adventure park has two courses — the Foothills and the Blue Ridge. The Kids Foothills Course is for ages 4 and older and features 13 challenge elements. The Blue Ridge Course is for ages 7 and older, and offers more than 65 challenge elements for guests to explore — with options for difficulty levels of beginner, intermediate and advanced. Both courses allow for a maximum weight of 265 pounds.
The park also offers a Ninja Ground Course with four elements such as 45 degree walls, over-under logs, monkey rings and an up-down net. The course is set up for two people to race through. The park’s giant swing may be temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The park may have modified operations throughout the summer due to the COVID-10 pandemic. The park stated it had taken proactive measures in the areas of individual hygiene, personal protective equipment for employees and guests as well as the management of physical distancing and movement throughout the facility.
For more information on how High Gravity Adventure is operating and responding to the pandemic, visit www.highgravityadventures.com/modified-operations-plan-2. For more information on High Gravity Adventures or to purchase tickets, visit www.highgravityadventures.com.