Small town feel meets cutting edge sports science appeal aptly characterizes Boone, N.C. Boone-based Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab is considered one of the best in the country, and its Community Testing Program offers a full battery of fitness tests to the public at a fractional cost.
Atop nearby Beech Mountain, Lance Armstrong famously found inner peace and outer strength while contemplating his post-cancer return to cycling. He calls this Alps-like area his favorite U.S. training ground. Hit the trails in Moses Cone Park and you might be equally inspired by a flock of fleet-footed Olympic distance running hopefuls, athletes from nearby ZAP Fitness’ non-profit training center.
While lap swim lanes are in short supply, Boone is nestled near a number of pristine mountain lakes, including Watauga Lake, host to a well-loved annual triathlon. If a stacked pro field is more your style, a three-hour drive deposits you on the start line of the newly launched Rev3 Knoxville race.
Love it if: You’re right at home among the young college crowd. With the local university student body comprising half the town’s population, the median age barely tops 22.
Leave it if: Beat-the-heat tourists from Florida cripple your enjoyment of this otherwise secluded sports-friendly sanctuary.