By Jessica Isaacs
Photos by Ken Ketchie
The unseasonable weather that’s kept people off the ski slopes this month has given them more time to check out other attractions like Mystery Hill, which saw the best business day in its 68-year history on Monday.
At this longstanding family entertainment center, the phenomena created by a strange gravitational pull on the property draws in an average of 150-200 people each day.
But on Monday, with no snow for skiing and heavy rain and fog keeping them from enjoying the outdoors, more than 1,000 people toured Mystery Hill over the course of the day.
“People come up here for Christmas and, if it’s not good ski weather, all of the other places that are open in town benefit from the wet or no-snow weather,” Underwood said. “This is one of those years that we’ve really benefitted from there not being any snow.”
Mystery Hill’s busiest days of the year typically fall between Thanksgiving and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, so the Underwoods were not surprised at all that their best day ever happened during this same period of time.
“There’s so much to see around here and people want to get together with family and do family things,” Underwood said. “They love to go eat at Dan’l Boone Inn because it’s a family thing, and they love to visit Grandfather Mountain.”
Monday’s influx of visitors broke the attraction’s previous record of approximately 750-800 people in one day, which was set back in April when it offered $2 admission for the entire month and ushered in 25,000 guests in a 31-day period.
“You ever heard of wall-to-wall people? That’s what it was like,” Underwood said. “We’d get a big group in and we would be really rushed for a few minutes, but the tour guide would take them on through, so it wasn’t total chaos.
“The people who came to see us knew that we were busy, but everyone enjoyed themselves. We didn’t have people fussing or anything and everybody had a really good time.”
Despite the warm weather’s effect on the local ski industry, the Underwoods say they’re having no trouble keeping their nine on-site rental cabins booked, either.
“We’ve had several cancellations from people who booked to come for skiing that found out there’s no snow here,” Underwood said. “We have been able to fill most of those cabins back, though. Just as soon as it says we’ve got cabins available, we start getting phone calls and people walk right in looking for a place to stay.”
Mystery Hill has been opened year-round since 1980, and Underwood said the High Country has as much to offer visitors in the winter months as it does in the summertime.
“In 1979, we closed for the winter and my family traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia for the holidays. I’ve never seen so many people in my life than I did there that year,” Underwood said. “On the way back from that trip, I told my wife we were going to stay open through the winter in 1980, and we’ve been open year-round ever since.
“I told people back then that, if we work at getting things opened up and having things for people to do in the winter, they will show up,” he said. “That’s exactly what has happened, and it’s now a busy, busy time of year.”
Underwood said Mystery Hill’s next-door neighbor, Doc’s Rocks Gem Mine, which offers indoor mining, saw a great number of visitors on Monday, too.
Heavy rain and fog returned on Wednesday, bringing another day of record-breaking business to the attraction.
Want to learn more about the unusual things you can find at Mystery Hill? Give the Underwoods a call at 828-264-2792, find them on Facebook or check out mysteryhillnc.com.