Day Trippin’ in Carolina

 

By Lisa Moore

It’s the peak of summer now – hot, humid and the kids are tired of going to the pool. This is a great time to eliminate summer boredom and explore the unique and fun-filled destinations within a few hours from Charlotte. Take a look some of the vast entertainment options the Carolinas offer and plan your own day-long adventure.

Gem Mining and Cave Exploration

Become a prospector from the 1800’s and strike it rich. Reed Gold Mine, site of the first documented gold find in the United States, offers tours of underground tunnels and a restored ore-crushing stamp mill as well as exhibits on gold and gold mining techniques and equipment. Pan for gold, have a picnic and explore the trails winding through this historic mining area in Midland, NC. ReedMine.com

Emerald Village is a group of gem, mining, and historical attractions nestled in foothills of Brushy Mountain in Hiddenite, NC. Visit the North Carolina Mining Museum and take an underground tour of the Bon Ami Mine. Dig for emeralds in the famous Crabtree Emerald Mine or try your luck at the Emerald Hollow Mine, host to more than 63 different types of naturally occurring gems and minerals. HiddeniteGems.com

Elijah Mountain Gem Mine, in Hendersonville, NC, claims to have the world’s largest gem mine bucket. Prospectors may find Rubies, Sapphires, Amethyst, Garnets, and many more. There is experienced help available for novice rockhounds and gem cutters are on hand to cut and design jewelry from your finds. Flumes are covered for your comfort and for rain or shine mining. GemMountain.com

To experience a mountain from the inside out, visit Linville Caverns. Guided tours escort visitors through the caverns with information about cavern history, resident creatures, and the lore surrounding the caverns, including the tale of the Civil War deserters who used the caverns as a hideout, as well as the geology of the stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations found on the tour route. LinvilleCaverns.com

Talk to the Animals

The Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooreseville, NC, offers the unique experience of a 3.5 mile safari tour of over 750 animals from all over the world. Drive through the ranch in your car or on horse drawn, open-air wagons. Lazy 5 Ranch educates while entertaining and helps the recovery of several endangered species including the Grevy Zebra, Scimitar Horned Oryx and Ring-tailed Lemur. Lazy5Ranch.com

Ranked 4th best in the U.S. by Tripadvisor, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, SC is a treat for all ages. From elephants and koalas to penguins and sharks, formal gardens to natural woodlands, the zoo promises new discoveries around every corner. Adventure Tours allow visitors to encounter animals up close, explore behind the scenes and meet experienced keepers. Riverbanks.org

At the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC, you can connect with wildlife as you walk from Africa’s grasslands to North America’s Arctic coast to explore 500 acres of exhibits carefully constructed to resemble natural habitats. The Dinosaurs Exhibit has 15 life-like animatronic creatures representing more than a dozen dinosaur species that inhabit a deep forest exhibit created just for this first-time attraction. NCZoo.org

Zip It Up!

Experience the thrill of a lifetime on the Richland Creek Zip Line Canopy Tour. Soar through the forest along Richland Creek in the shadow of Purgatory Mountain on over 1 ¼ mile of cable! One of the highlights of the tour is a stop at beautiful Mendenhall Falls. Enjoy white knuckled excitement as you explore some of most scenic wilderness in the Asheboro area. RichlandCreekZipline.com

Kersey Valley Zip Line Tour, located in Archdale, NC, is themed as an aviation educational experience and starts with a “Flight School” to cover the basics. The First Class Tour has 14 zip lines, 10 various Sky Towers with a total of 17 Sky Decks representing airport city codes. The Coach Class flight takes around 2 hours to complete covers 200-600 feet. KerseyValleyZipline.com

The Beanstalk Journey Ziplines inMorganton, NC, take visitors through a life-size Ewok Village – an exhilarating network of fifteen interconnected islands in the sky. You’ll be transported from one tree house to the next by a series of sky bridges and multiple zip lines. Challenge your climbing skills on the 32-foot Beanstalk Climbing Tower and play right above on the giant Spider’s Climbing Web. TheBeanstalkJourney.com

Take a Hike

Enjoy the gifts of nature surrounded by the Uwharrie Mountains, the oldest mountain range in North America, at Morrow Mountain State Park near Ablemarle, NC. Recreation is plentiful in and around the waters of Lake Tillery and the Yadkin / Pee Dee River. Fishing and boating are popular pastimes. Nature lovers can pick from miles of trails to travel on foot or horseback. And for those who want to stay and take it all in, cabins and camping are available. NCParks.gov

At Crowders Mountain State Park in Kings Mountain, NC, raptors soar gracefully in the wind, vegetation reaches to the sky, and sheer vertical cliffs drop 150 feet. High atop Crowders Mountain, views stretch for more than 25 miles. For a closer view of nature’s marvels, walk the park’s many miles of trails. The gently rolling landscape of the North Carolina Piedmont lets you dip into valleys, cross the foothills and climb to the peaks. Quiet woods, trickling streams and melodious birds await you. NCParks.gov

Make a Big Splash

How about an old fashioned swimming hole? Sliding Rock, in the Pisgah Natural Forest near Brevard, NC,
is a perfect place to beat the summer heat. You can either watch from an observation deck or take a slide down Mother Nature’s 60-foot smooth rock waterslide and plunge into a 7-foot pool of cool water at the bottom. Bathrooms and showers are open during the summer swimming season and the area is lifeguard protected until mid August from 10am – 5:30pm. NCWaterfalls.com/sliding_rock1.htm

Spending time on a river is a great contrast to feeling hot in the city. Rent a tube and set sail for a lazy day on the calm, Green River, in Saluda, NC. It’s a great way to explore the outdoors and be lazy at the same time, with floats lasting from 1 ½ to 6 hours. If you’re feeling more energetic, there is white water kayaking for all levels. Or if fishing is your thing, cast your reel into the river for Brook, Rainbow and Brown Trout. WildernessCoveCampground.com.

If an indoor water park is more your speed head to Concord to experience Great Wolf Lodge, and enjoy 80,000 square feet of water-packed excitement, including jaw-dropping slides for thrill seekers or zero-depth entry areas for little ones. Outside the water park, the fun continues. Grab a wand and battle a dragon in MagiQuest or get an ice cream-themed manicure in Scooops Kid Spa before gathering your family in the grand lobby for nightly fireside story time. GreatWolf.com

Get a Little Nerdy

SciWorks in Winston Salem, NC offers 25,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 119-seat Planetarium, demonstrations and special programs, nature trails and a 15-acre outdoor environmental park that includes habitats for river otter, deer and waterfowl. Permanent exhibits include: Foucault Pendulum, PhysicsWorks, SoundWorks, HealthWorks, BioWorks and KidsWorks. SciWorks.org.

At EdVenture Children’s Museum in Columbia, SC, all exhibits are hands-on and experiential. Kids can learn about anatomy with Eddie: The World’s Largest Child, appreciate the diversity of jobs in The World of Work, learn about plant and animal biodiversity in Critter Garden, become communication savvy through art at Mission Imagination and learn about the environment at The Great Outdoors. EdVVenture.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

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