5 Day Trip Destinations for Summer Fun

Wilmington’s Riverwalk is the city’s top attraction and a popular spot for dog-walkers, photographers and strollers of all sorts.

Instead of binging the latest season of Grey’s Anatomy, ​get off the couch and have an adventure! Summer is the perfect time to explore N.C., and whether you’re looking for outdoor excursions or fresh foodie finds, the perfect day trip is a short drive away.

Here’s a list of five fun destinations – all under 2.5 hours from Cary – for you to visit this summer:


Drive Time from Cary: 1 hour, 8 minutes

Enjoy a stroll in the Cape Fear Botanical Garden and explore over 80 acres of natural beauty situated between the Cape Fear River and Cross Creek. Or, if you’re in the mood for some retail therapy, browse local boutiques, antique shops, and gift stores in the heart of historic downtown. Food lovers can try one of Fayetteville’s many locally owned restaurants or grab a brew at Bright Light Brewing Company

This summer, Fayetteville is also the home of a prehistoric adventure. Visit Dinosaur World at Sweet Valley Ranch with 25 dinosaurs, a museum, fossil dig, Dino Playland and more. On Saturday evenings, visitors can take part in an Interactive Rescue Mission to find missing staff on the Dinosaur Trail. 

A young boy excitedly views the polar bear exhibit at the North Carolina Zoo in Ashboro. Photo by JNix / Shutterstock.com


Drive Time from Cary: 1 hour, 16 minutes

While many people know Asheboro as the home to the North Carolina Zoo, this quaint city is a great destination for food lovers, craft brew aficionados, and explorers of all ages. Take a self-guided food tour down Sunset Avenue, enjoy one of the many restaurants, bakeries, and cafes in downtown, or cool off with a beer from Four Saints Brewing Company. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike in the Uwharrie National Forest, or opt for a shorter walk to see the Pisgah Covered Bridge, one of N.C.’s two remaining covered bridges.  

With a full lineup of live music, shows, and sports, Asheboro is bringing the fun this summer. Cheer on the Asheboro Copperheads at McCrary Ballpark, catch a race at Caraway Speedway, or enjoy family-friendly music at the free Summer Concert Series at Bicentennial Park. 


Drive Time from Cary: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Shop local, eat good food, and enjoy family-friendly fun with a trip to Kinston. Try out popular restaurants like Chef & the Farmer, a progressive eatery from N.C. chef Vivian Howard, or King’s Restaurant, a BBQ joint that tied for first place on The Drew Barrymore Show’s Best BBQ in the Country competition. No trip is complete without a stop at Mother Earth Brewing to try locally brewed craft brews in their tap room and beer garden. 

For younger visitors, Kinston offers a host of fun activities. See a 14-foot-tall dragon at Pearson Park playground or hop on Big Daddy’s Express for a train ride at Neuseway Nature Park. If you’re looking to beat the summer heat, Lions Water Adventure Park has water slides, a kiddie lagoon, and a lazy river to enjoy.

An brick house in the Old Salem Historic District, in Winston-Salem. Photo by Shutterstock.


Drive Time from Cary: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Hop on I-40 and head west to explore Winston-Salem, a city with over 260 years of hands-on history to enjoy. Take a trip to Old Salem and visit the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) for a look at a collection of architecture, furniture, craftwork, and other decorative arts from the early American South. Foodies can get their fill and choose from over 100 restaurants, cafes, and craft breweries in downtown Winston-Salem.

Live music is back this summer in Winston-Salem with concerts happening all season long. Jam out to local bands Coalpit Live at The Coal Pit, a historic area turned gathering space, or head downtown for free outdoor concerts on Fridays and Saturdays. 

The main gun on the USS North Carolina, a battleship that can be toured on a trip to Wilmington. Photo by Shutterstock.


Drive Time from Cary: 2 hours, 3 minutes

Take a trip to the coast and explore all N.C.’s largest port city has to offer. From the National Register Historic District, with over 230 blocks of historic homes and churches, to the bustling Riverwalk, with shops and restaurants nestled beside the Cape Fear River, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. History buffs can take a tour of Battleship North Carolina or a walking tour of the riverside city. If you prefer outdoor adventures, pop over to Carolina, Kure, or Wrightsville Beach for a day in the sand. 

Wilmington has many family-friendly activities happening all summer long. Search for hidden gems on a Pirate Island Treasure Hunt, learn at a Turtle Talk at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, or take a tandem kayak eco tour to Carolina Beach State Park. 

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