Families may not find costumed characters and sky-scraping roller coasters among Transylvania County's 250 stunning waterfalls, but North Carolina's Land of Waterfalls has enough natural splendor and wild adventure to charm both the young and young-at-heart. One moment families find themselves nipping down for a splash at a beloved swimming hole, and the next popping each other with foam-tipped arrows at archery tag. One thing is for sure, family adventures this remarkable last a lifetime.
Walk in the Woods
Did you know Transylvania County is home to North America's largest concentration of waterfalls? The streams and rivers that wind through the enveloping mountains have been carving their way through this land for ages. How you explore them is up to you, but we think they're best enjoyed up close and personal; don't just limit your admiration to the Blue Ridge Parkway either, this is wilderness best experienced underfoot.
Gorges State Park
Although it is the youngest of Transylvania County's parks, Gorges State Park is not to be missed. In fact, its age is part of its charm. At Gorges, your family won't be walking trails that millions of visitors have trodden. In fact, your family will be absorbing sights that once weren't so easily accessible to visitors. Don't miss Rainbow Falls, Upper Bearwallow Falls, and Turtleback Falls.
DuPont State Recreational Forest
For hikers and mountain bikers, the DuPont State Recreational Forest continues to be an enticing swathe of wilderness...but something else lurks within those hills: an arena where only the most clever and quick survive. Well, where only the most clever and quick survive until everyone goes to have lunch. When Suzanne Collin's hit series The Hunger Games was adapted into film in 2012, a number of locations within the wild DuPont State Recreational Forest were used for filming. Tour operators Leigh Trapp and Tammy Hopkins take their Hunger Games film tours a step further than just showing off the sights. They showcase DuPont's natural beauty while giving guests a master class in archery and special effects make up. The tours end with a rousing game of foam-tipped archery tag and a lunch the characters from the Hunger Games universe would have dined on, creating the perfect day out for fans of the series.
Go River Tubing
The real problem with all those lazy river rides at water parks is that they end way too quickly. For a real-life lazy river float, try tubing down the Davidson River. Your family may be in the Land of Waterfalls, but don't expect any tumbling falls or dastardly rapids here. The calm, shallow waters of the river have just enough small dips to keep things interesting while being safe enough for the whole family to enjoy.
Although a popular activity all over the country, the first zipline canopy tour in the United States actually originated right in the Land of Waterfalls.
Earthshine Mountain Lodge
This family-friendly inn has become a staple in Transylvania County. Not just as an outdoor education hub, but as America's original zipline experience. With its route still fully functional, the Earthshine Mountain Lodge is ready to send your family whirling into the leafy canopy below. Talk about enjoy the natural splendor of the area on a whole different level. For families that can be a little flexible with bedtimes, they also offer a sure-to-be unforgettable zipline tour under the stars.
Seek Swimming Holes
Tubing isn't the only way to cool off on a balmy summer day. Some of the most scenic waterfalls in the Pisgah National Forest actually make for some of best swimming holes.
Let Sliding Rock put your backyard slip n' slide to shame as it rushes you down its broad, smooth granite rock into a chilly pool below. As nothing short of a bucket list experience, it is no surprise that it was named one of the Top 10 Swimming Holes in the Country by USA Today. However, with publicity comes with popularity. Arrive early during the summer season to avoid the crowds.
Whale Back Falls
Although less popular among tourists, Whale Back Falls is the swimming hole of choice for the locals. After a short hike, visitors encounter a small waterfall whose notable feature is the large slab of granite poking from the water. It's this whale back-like appearance lends to the name. Head here early on the weekends or anytime during the week to claim this secret swimming hole for your family.
No visit to Transylvania County is complete without a stopover at Looking Glass Falls. While visitors can content themselves with simply admiring this majestic beauty from the viewing platform, swimming at the base of the falls is allowed, though caution on the slick rocks is advised.
Peer into the Universe
Don't bet on the mountains or the trees blocking your view of the night sky; they frame inky skies.
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
Have a starry-eyed student of the universe in your brood? Why not watch them get transported to a galaxy far, far away before your very eyes? The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, or P.A.R.I. for short, is open for guided tours. For those who find themselves in the area on the second Friday of the month, P.A.R.I. also offers night-time star gazing.
Rainy Day Back Up Plans
When the weather just won't cooperate take refuge in these fun, kid-oriented places.
O.P. Taylor's Toy Store
"A toy store, really?"
This might be the first reaction to the uninitiated, but O.P. Taylor's is no ordinary toy shop. Dubbed 'the coolest toy store on the planet', it ranks among Disney flagship stores on USA Today's 10Best Toy Stores. Don't let the kids get too ahead of themselves; O.P. Taylor's is 6,000 square feet brimming with toys and charmingly chaotic sights and sounds.
Rocky's Soda Shop
Step back in time for an all-American diner experience. Order up a famous malt or milkshake, topped with whipped cream and a Maraschino cherry. Satisfy a sweet tooth with jawbreakers, rock candy, gummies and homemade fudge. Those looking for a nostalgic meal should order Mrs. Varner’s original pimento cheese recipe of the day, which has been served here since 1941.
Are you taking the family to Transylvania County this year?
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