Summer Trips for All Types

Summer is definitely the best time of year to travel — the kids are out of school and there are plenty of opportunities for things to do. And you don’t even have to leave North Carolina to have a great vacation!

Our fantastic state has places of interest for travelers wanting to take any type of vacation, from a romantic getaway to a kid-friendly trip. Read on for some of our favorite North Carolina vacation spots that we hope you get the chance to visit this summer!

Active: Waynesville

Nestled in the middle of the beautiful Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Waynesville offers stunning scenery, fresh mountain air, and up-close encounters with Mother Nature. Waynesville is close to several national parks, including Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (only half an hour away). Both parks have plenty of opportunities for hiking or backpacking, horseback riding, camping, bicycling — you name it! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is particularly known for its beautiful waterfalls, swimming holes, and diverse plant and animal life.

You also might choose to hike nearby Cold Mountain, made famous by the novel of the same name. The area has more than 700 miles of streams in which to fish — or raft, kayak or inner tube. Nearby Lake Junaluska also offers paddle boating along with kayaking. Because this area is so well-known for active travelers, there are many local outfitters where any supplies can be purchased or rented.

History Buff: Winston-Salem

History isn’t all in the books. For a hands-on, interactive historical experience, Winston-Salem is the place to be. This town’s biggest attraction is Old Salem Museums and Gardens, a living-history town with costumed interpreters and historical demonstrations about the daily life of the early settlers from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Visitors can watch an old-time shoemaker or gunsmith at his work, laugh at one of several fun-filled puppet shows, or visit any of the nearly 100 restored and reconstructed buildings, including St. Philips Moravian Church, the state’s oldest standing African-American church. Plan your trip around one of the special events throughout the year, such as the Independence Day celebration with an interactive reenactment of the celebration of peace after the Revolutionary War.

The several on-site museums offer classes teaching the skills practiced by the early settlers, such as hearth cooking or making pottery, and garden workshops on topics like seed saving or growing heirloom tomatoes. Don’t just learn about history — participate in it.

Family: Greensboro

Who knew that Greensboro had so many fun things to do for a whole family of travelers? Not only is it less than two hours away, but the local attractions are very affordable, and there are plenty of accommodations and dining options.

If you want to go educational, there are plenty of historical sites and museums, covering Greensboro’s role in the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The Greensboro Children’s Museum and Natural Science Center of Greensboro both have plenty of hands-on educational activities and exhibits for kids of all ages.

For kids who have lots of energy, the Greensboro Arboretum and the Piedmont Environmental Center in nearby High Point both offer outdoors locations and activities, with trails for walking and hiking that won’t be too challenging for children.

But all kids will especially love the Wet ’n Wild Emerald Pointe Water Park, the largest water park in the Carolinas, with rides, a tsunami pool and a lazy river. Top off the vacation with an old-fashioned root beer float from the century-old Fordham’s Drug Store in downtown Greensboro, and you’re sure to have some happy campers for the ride home.

Natural Science Center                                               Wet ’n Wild Emerald Pointe 

Foodie: Asheville

With hundreds of independent restaurants and at least a dozen farmers markets, Asheville attracts and satisfies everyone from the casual diner to the strict locavore. Asheville takes the ballooning farm-to-table movement one step further; creating a way of life they call a Foodtopian Society, which brings together farmers, chefs, local experts and community organizations to foster a truly interconnected culinary lifestyle. Ashevilleians are fiercely proud of their local produce and dedicated to making food the centerpiece of daily life.

Particular local favorites include any of Asheville’s nationally recognized restaurants, such as the Tupelo Honey Café, with its local New Southern fare, and the 12 Bones Smokehouse, famed for its delicious barbecue — and for President Obama’s affinity for it (he’s eaten there twice since he became president!).

The famous Biltmore mansion also has also gotten in on the action, with several small restaurants on the estate, using food grown and produced on the Biltmore property. Its winery also offers regular wine tastings and occasional cooking demonstrations for anyone interested in the art of winemaking or in sampling their homemade reds and whites.

True foodies can look for a local culinary travel package, which might include food tours of the town or culinary classes on any type of cuisine. These classes can vary from a few hours of a cooking demonstration to weeklong, hands-on cooking school. And don’t leave without picking up a locally-made foodie souvenir, such as handmade kitchenware or specialty food products, from any number of vendors in the River Arts District or the Grove Arcade.

Romantic: New Bern and Oriental

Sometimes the idea of just getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life sounds like the most romantic thing in the world. And the many small North Carolina towns outside of the Triangle offer plenty of opportunities to do that.

New Bern, North Carolina’s historic second oldest town located on the Neuse and Trent Rivers, is a definite must-visit for couples wanting to get out of town. Stay in a luxurious local bed and breakfast, like the Aerie, an elegant and surprisingly affordable B&B with a hot breakfast every morning and available amenities like in-house spa services and massages. Go on a cozy horse-drawn carriage tour through the downtown area in the evening, or do some local antique shopping. Be sure to visit the historic and beautiful Tryon Palace, and don’t miss the Birthplace of Pepsi, where Caleb Bradham invented Pepsi-Cola in 1898!

You won’t regret spending one day of your vacation in nearby Oriental, “The Sailing Capital of North Carolina,” partaking in the favorite local pastime. You can rent a boat and go out on the water for a few hours for some private time, or make a reservation for a sunset sailing cruise. There are also power boats or kayaks and canoes to use to explore the quiet rivers around the town together. You’re sure to feel relaxed and rejuvenated after such a trip with your sweetheart.

Photos courtesy of  National Parks Service; Greensboro Area CVB, Dan Routh;; Tryon Palace;

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *