Whether you’re looking for gorgeous family beaches or a hike up a mountain, North Carolina has something for you. From toddlers to teens, the younger members of the family will have plenty to do at all of the many adventures the state has to offer.
DuPont State Recreational Forest
More than 100 miles of trails and waterfalls await you in this 10,000 acre tract of wooded land that is used for hiking, biking, wading, swimming and many other activities depending on the weather. Fans of the Hunger Games might recognize parts of the forest that were used in many scenes of the film, both as the forest outside District 12 and in the Arena. Visitors in late May might even catch sight of the beautiful blue fireflies that light up the forest for about four weeks in the spring.
For more than four centuries, descendants of Spanish mustangs have roamed wild on North Carolina beaches, surviving on grasses and pools of fresh water. Although tourism and vacationing groups have taken over much of the land, three groups of horses still survive, persistently clinging to a carefree life. Beaufort’s wild horses run freely in Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve which can only be reached by boat. Also only accessible by water, the wild horses of Shackleford Banks live on an isolated nine-mile stretch of island between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout. The wild mustangs of Corolla inhabit the state’s northernmost beaches, which can be reached only by four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The heart of this Wild West theme park is the only narrow gauge steam engine remaining from the East Tennessee and North Carolina Railroad. The park picked up a second coal-fired steam locomotive in 1960 and now has two vintage locomotives leading adventure rides (your train could be attacked by outlaws!) The park also offers live shows and other amusement rides. Thomas the Train and Scooby Doo make seasonal appearances, and special events are usually planned for holidays.
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This isn’t most people’s vision of a waterslide but the cascade of water over the gently sloping rock is just that. People long ago realized that watching the waterfall wasn’t nearly as much fun as playing in it, and Sliding Rock has been a favorite waterslide for locals and tourists alike for generations. The U.S. Forest Service has added steps and railings to make the slide safer, and a changing area to get back into dry clothes. Lifeguards are on duty throughout the summer season.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The shifting sands of Diamond Shoals have claimed countless vessels off of Cape Hatteras. For two centuries the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has served to warn sailors of the peril. In 1999 the changing seas almost doomed the well-loved seaside emblem itself, until it was moved 880 m inland for protection. The lighthouse remains the tallest masonry structure ever moved in addition to being the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. Visitors can climb the steps of the historic lighthouse and experience history for themselves.
Chimney Rock State Park
There are many hiking trails for all levels throughout the park, but the biggest attraction here is Chimney Rock – a 96 m rock formation that towers over the landscape. Sure, you could take an elevator to the top, but why miss out on the fun of climbing 26 stories of stairs to summit the 535 million-year-old monolith? Don’t miss the easy Great Adventure Woodland Adventure hike with discovery stations along the short trail, or Hickory Nut Falls, the second-highest waterfall in the east.
Mile High Swinging Bridge
If standing atop Chimney Rock isn’t exciting enough, why not challenge the kids to cross the 228-foot suspension bridge that spans a chasm? The elevation of the structure is one mile above sea level but fortunately the chasm is only 24 metres deep. The rest of Grandfather Mountain is also exciting with environmental habits that let visitors see cougar, black bear and other animals up close, and a nature museum full of educational exhibits. Stop by the fudge shop before you leave to get some treats for the ride home.
The 398 acres of the theme park are filled with rides, entertainment, food and lots of excitement. There are thrilling roller coasters, gentle rides for youngsters, a Snoopy-themed section and more. Visitors can interact with dinosaurs in a realistic-looking setting and learn about the marks they left on the world. Boomerang Bay has huge water slides, wave pools, a water jungle gym and a play area just for toddlers and infants. Adults can lounge on deck chairs or hop in a tube and join the kids in the fun. Top off the adventure with some authentic Carolina fare from the restaurants and a live show before calling it a day.
Wright Brothers National Memorialhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/justycinmd/
If you came to North Carolina by plane you can thank Wilbur and Orville Wright, the brothers that flew the first powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. Walk the routes taken by the early planes and marvel at the distance after visiting the museum in the Visitor Center that shows the tools and machines they had to work with. The 18 metre memorial tower sits on the massive dune that the Wright brothers used for many of their glider trials. Check out the fascinating images on the door panels before you leave to see how others attempted to conquer the skies.
From natural beauty to man-made thrills, North Carolina has it all. Whether your perfect vacation is a day at the beach, an afternoon in the hills, or an evening of music, you’ll find everything in more when you visit this gorgeous state that offers world-class entertainment served up with more than a hint of Southern hospitality.
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