From outdoor parks to places for rainy-day fun, here are some of our picks for places to go that will take you two hours or less to get there.
1. Pullen Park
Pullen Park is the first public park in North Carolina — and arguably the coolest. The more than 66 acres are home to a carousel, kiddie boats and pedal boats, a train, tennis courts, softball and baseball fields, an arts center and cafe, and a theater that draws 40,000 people annually. There are separate playgrounds for toddlers and big kids, and the newly renovated Olympic-sized pool opens in June.
Admission: Free. Attractions are less than $2. Read reviews.
2. Museum of Life + Science
This Durham museum is a bit pricey, but the experience is worth the cost. From the tree-top playground to a butterfly house and after-hours space camps with cocktails, there’s something here for the kid in all of us. Take a look at the exhibits.
Admission: Starts at $15. Read the reviews.
A 2-hour drive makes for a long day trip, but we know y’all are ambitious. So check out Carowinds, a theme park that straddles North Carolina and South Carolina. You’ll find roller coasters, shows, and water attractions.
Admission: Day passes start at $45. Read the reviews.
4. N.C. Transportation Museum
Take a 25-minute train ride, roam a 90,000-square-foot shop with aviation and automotive exhibits, and take a look at one of the largest bay houses ever built — something you haven’t seen since the last episode of Thomas the Train. More than 40 restored trains call it home. See photos.
Admission: Starts at $4. Read reviews.
5. N.C. Zoo
Pack your walking shoes and explore North America and Africa in what is literally the largest walking zoo in the world. Get there before 10 to miss the huge line at the gate, and plan to have lunch during the hottest hours of the day — we are firm believers that during the summer, the N.C. Zoo is the hottest place on Earth. Check out the exhibits.
Admission: Starts at $11. Read reviews.
6. Morrow Mountain State Park
Located in the Uwharries, a scenic drive leads you near the top of Morrow Mountain, one of the highest points in the piedmont. A variety of short and long hikes are available, and you can rent a canoe or rowboat to paddle around Lake Tillery. A pool is open from 10-5:30 starting on Memorial Day. Note: This weekend’s storms caused some damage, so check the website before heading out.
Admission: Free. Boat rentals and swimming pool access are cheap. Read reviews.
Bonus: End your trip to Morrow Mountain with a drive-in movie in nearby Albemarle.