Whether it’s a cool night in the mountains or a hot day by the lake, North Carolina always has your best interests at heart. We’ve compiled a list of places that are loved by the state’s longtime residents and newcomers alike.
Jordan Lake is a reservoir that has it all right by the Triangle. You can hike, swim, boat, fish, and camp all in the same areas. You might even catch a glimpse of a Bald Eagle.
Stay or Day: You can stay at Jordan Lake campgrounds or take a day trip and have fun either way! There are options for tents, trailer & RV, and equestrian campsites.
Attractions: There are trails to hike less than a mile and trails that are over 3 miles, as well as equestrian trails. The Crosswinds Boating Center is a nearby business that rents out kayaks and pontoon boats. There are also beaches for swimming and passes last for a day.
Restaurants: Chapel Hill and Pittsboro are nearby, with gems like Gov’s Burger & Tap & S & T Soda Shoppe. You could also take a short trip to Durham for restaurants at The Streets at Southpoint.
Some North Carolina natives might roll their eyes, but Charlotte’s Carowinds (while, ok, it’s no Six Flags) has something from the whole family — from roller coaster enthusiasts to waterpark lovers or kids who want an age-appropriate thrill. The water park, Carolina Harbor, opens June 12 with boogie board races, lazy river and more.
Restaurants: Being in the city of Charlotte, there are a ton food options outside the park. Dogwood Southern Table serves home-cooked Southern Style food and Paco’s Tacos serves Tex-Mex and takes group reservations.
Stay or Day: Springhill Suites by Marriott Charlotte at Carowinds or Carowinds’ Camp Wilderness Resort is nearby and kid friendly! Charlotte is around 2 hours from Southern Pines, making Carowinds close enough for a day trip if you’re game.
Attractions: Ride the Hurler, a sun-bleached wooden coaster that turns 27 this year; or Fury 365, one of seven giga coasters in the world — with a top speed of 95 mph. Something slower more your pace? Head to the park’s “County Fair” section.
National Whitewater Center
Another Charlotte attraction is the National Whitewater Center, which is great for outdoor enthusiasts. Kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting are all available in the center.
Restaurants: There are restaurants in the Whitewater Center with full and counter service and coffee. There’s also a full bar.
Stay or Day: Charlotte is close enough for a day trip, so the Whitewater Center is within a day’s reach, but there are a plethora of nearby hotels and Airbnbs.
Attractions: Whitewater rafting, ziplining, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and ropes courses are all available with an all-inclusive pass. You can also buy individual activity passes, or multi-day options.
Wet N’ Wild Emerald Pointe
With attractions from a wave pool to intensely steep slides, Greensboro’s Wet N’ Wild Emerald Pointe is perfect for a family trip.
Restaurants: There are restaurants in the park, as well as snacks and Icees. You can also enjoy a packed lunch before or after going into the park, at the picnic area right outside the gates.
Stay or Day: A Greensboro hotel or Airbnb would work perfectly for an overnight stay, but Greensboro is also a great location for a day trip.
Attractions: A splash pad, wave pool, and daring slides are all attractions of Wet N’ Wild Emerald Pointe. Daredevil Drop is an extreme slide with a 73-ft drop, but there are less intense slides as well.
Uwharrie National Forest
Uwharrie National Forest sports hiking trails for horses and humans, plus swimming, fishing, camping, and places to picnic for lovers of the outdoors. Stick around long enough and you just might catch a glimpse of the elusive Bigfoot.
Stay or Day: There are many bed and breakfasts, as well as camping or cabin options in the park for people who want to stay overnight and explore as much of the forest as possible. However, Uwharrie is close enough to do a fun day trip and make an adventure out of it.
Attractions: Biking, hiking, and horseback riding are all options for visitors of Uwharrie. There are also camping, climbing, and fishing available, so no matter what your preferred outdoor activity is, Uwharrie most likely has it.
Greensboro Science Center
The Greensboro Science Center is the place for anyone who loves animals. The indoor aquarium may be on the small side, but features fish you won’t find elsewhere plus chances to have behind-the-scenes encounters. Adrenaline junkies can strap into a safety harness and tackle the challenging treetop zipline and ropes course at Skywild, where you’ll get a birds-eye view of exhibits.
Stay or Day: There are hotels and Airbnbs a plenty, and also bed & breakfasts if that’s your thing.
Attractions: The Greensboro Science Center has a zipline, ropes course, museum, aquarium, and zoo. The ability to travel between the outdoors and indoors will help to keep you cool and still have the adventure you may be looking for.