From outdoor parks to places for rainy-day fun, here are some of our picks for places to go that will take you three hours or less to get there.
1. Lazy 5 Ranch
The North Carolina Zoo might be closed, but you can get a glimpse at zebras, llamas, emu and more through your car window at Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville, N.C. Purchase a bucket of feed for $3 and take a drive through the zoo. Animals will come up to your window for a morning and/or afternoon snack.
2. U.S. National Whitewater Center
From whitewater rafting to zip lining and ropes courses, the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte is like an amusement park for the adventure junkie. They post an activity schedule each day with events by the hour.
Admission: Day passes are $59 for adults and $49 for youth. Read the reviews.
3. Ziplining and Indoor Skydiving in Fayetteville and Raeford?
Yes and yes. Try the zipline over Carver’s Falls, the night adventure, or the swing shot at Zipquest in Fayetteville — or get locked in a windtunnel of emotion at Paraclete XP Indoor Skydiving in Raeford.
4. 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 from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
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.
5. Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden
Not only is this massive garden in Kernersville, N.C. the perfect spot for an IG photo-op, you’ll also learn a thing or two while you’re there. Take in more than 25 unique gardens that house region-specific plants. You’ll find everything from plants from the Piedmont region to the Japanese wetlands. Listen to a lecture on horticulture in the amphitheater and then head to the gift shop for a souvenir.