Boone, North Carolina
Rural Boone, North Carolina Boasts a Youthful Energy, Beautiful Mountain Scenery, a Cute Downtown and Excellent Outdoor Recreation
Cost of Living: Above the National Average
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains' densely wooded rolling hills in scenic northwestern North Carolina, an area known as the "High Country," Boone (population 18,000) is a mountain hamlet named after famous 18th-century frontiersman Daniel Boone. Appalachian State University (population 18,000), the sixth largest campus in the University of North Carolina system, is here and is Boone's lifeblood, providing an energy sometimes lacking in smaller communities. And since Boone is just 15 miles east of the famed Appalachian Trail, a well-traveled hiking trail that runs from Maine to Georgia, tourists and outdoor types often wander into town, too.
Boone population has gone up and down during the last 10 years and is currently on the upswing. Residents lean slightly to the left politically, and 40% of them are college educated. Racial diversity is minimal, and the crime rate is below the national average. When Appalachian State University (also known as ASU or "App") is in session, just 16% of Boone's population is age 45 or better, but empty nesters and retirees who live here seem to love it.
The cost of living is 6% above the national average, and the median home price is $450,000, reflecting a 7% increase since last year. Housing comes in all shapes and sizes, from beautiful chalets to mobile homes, many nestled in the hillsides. Many homes belong to people who once hiked the Appalachian Trail and then returned to build a vacation residence. Rental houses and apartments are available, but many of these are taken up by students.
North Carolina is somewhat favorable when it to taxes and retirement. The state does not tax Social Security but it taxes other retirement income withdrawls at a flat income tax rate of 5.25%. The average effective property tax rate (the annual tax payment as a percentage of median home value) in Boone is .44%. The annual taxes on a $495,000 home are approximately $1,980. The combined sales tax is 6.75%.
King Street is Boone's tidy main avenue and has mom and pop shops, bookstores, general stores, banks, pets stores, emporiums and fun restaurants, including the old jail house that is now a cafe. Many of the retail establishments target the college crowd, but the Boone Mall is the largest indoor mall in the area and has nearly 40 stores, including national chains. Boone also has a Wal-Mart, and residents enjoy a couple of fun farmers' markets. Thirty five outlet stores are five miles away in Blowing Rock.
Boone appreciates its heritage and celebrates it each summer with sold out productions of Horn in the West, a Revolutionary War tale, at the Daniel Boone Amphitheatre. History buffs enjoy the Southern Appalachian Historical Association's Hickory Ridge Homestead, a wonderful living history museum depicting the period immediately following the Revolutionary War through the early-1800s. Locals enjoy art, food and entertainment during the First Friday Art Crawl. The North Carolina Symphony occasionally performs at nearby Blowing Rock's Chetola Resort. When in the mood for quiet contemplation, Daniel Boone Native Gardens is a soothing place to spend an afternoon.
Boone, North Carolina
Recreation opportunities are plentiful. The Greenway Trail is a flat, three-mile long path through the heart of Boone and invites the young and young at heart to partake in healthy walks. The Watauga County Parks and Recreation Department offers a year-round calendar of public recreation programs, and the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are in every direction, boast not just the nearby Appalachian Trail but are a premier destination for camping, skiing, fishing, hiking, rafting, bicycling.
Three ski areas are within 20 miles of town, ensuring that winter is never boring, and Watauga Lake, just 45 minutes away, is the place for summer swimming and boating (and Watauga River is the best spot for fishing). For those that prefer to experience nature from the safe confines of an automobile, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers sweeping vistas of extraordinary mountain scenery. During the summer and fall, back roads are dotted with fruit and cider stands.
For people seeking indoor activities, the Watauga County Project on Aging operates the L.E. Harrill Senior Center, a place to gather and find camaraderie. Classes, health screenings, games, tax assistance, transportation, as well as trips and picnics, are offered. The Watauga County Library, another favorite indoor spot, is housed in a beautiful building just north of downtown. It has ebooks, an interlibrary loan program, guest author lectures, classes (origami, computers, day trading, etc.), a book club, a geneaology club, public access computers with high speed internet and more.
Watauga Medical Center is the primary medical facility and is part of the UNC Health Appalachian. With 117 beds, WMC provides a full range of care and is a regional referral hospital accredited by the Joint Commission. It accepts Medicare patients and is award-winning for patient experience and pulmonary care. Its Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center is recognized as an approved community cancer care center by the American College of Surgeons' Committee on Cancer. Charles A. Cannon Jr. Memorial Hospital is 15 miles away in Linville and is also accredited. For military retirees, Mountain Home (40 miles) has a VA medical center.
ASU has a pretty downtown campus and boasts a good academic reputation. Each spring, the University Forum Lecture Series brings nationally-recognized speakers to town to discuss world events, and the school's Turchin Center for the Visual Arts is the largest visual arts center in the region. The football team has been a national champion and has a devoted fan base (as a result, Boone weekends are a little rowdy during the fall). Nineteen other varsity sports give fans plenty to cheer all year long.
AppalCart provides public transit and has a fairly extensive route system throughout Boone (making many stops at ASU and to many nearby towns). A para-transit service is available, too, and has buses that are "low floor," meaning they have no steps. Best of all, all in-town routes, regular and para-transit, are free. The nearest international airport is Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, 85 miles away.
Boone sits 3,300 feet above sea level. As a result, summers are cooler than in other parts of the state and winters are longer and colder. Summer high temperatures are usually in 70s and low 80s, and winter temperatures are in the 20s and 30s. On average, the area receives 55 inches of rain and 40 inches of snow annually. Residents warn winter visitors to beware of black ice on winding mountain roads. The sun shines 205 days of the year. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Boone ranks above the national average.
A Boone retirement does, though, have some drawbacks. It is a remote place and hard to reach (Johnson City, Tennessee with 65,000 people is the closest city and is 38 miles away). Local leaders have adopted a growth plan, but much of Boone seems to have sprouted up somewhat haphazardly. Not everyone is happy with the expensive homes that have been popping up on once pristine mountainsides. The poverty rate is above the national average, but much of this is due to the large student population. Long time residents also grumble about traffic congestion. The number of college students may be a turn off for many retirees.
Despite these issues, Boone is still an inviting place. Unspoiled and unassuming with mountain charm and a bit of academic sophistication, it offers a peaceful lifestyle in a beautiful setting. For many people, it may be just the place for a perfect retirement.
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