By Alyssa Seranni
If you’ve grown up in North Carolina, chances are you know there is a lot to love here in the First in Flight state. However, when planning your next vacation you may have neglected to consider what North Carolina has to offer. Whether you are looking for a week away, a long weekend or a day trip, North Carolina has several summer vacation destinations you can visit without straying too far from home. There is enough to satisfy mountain, beach and city people, as well as a number of historically rich and beautiful locations. Enjoy!
Great Smoky Mountains
Located on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains are rich in history and culture, while also providing an ideal getaway destination. With millions of visitors every year, this is a place that all native Carolinians should visit at least once in their life. For those who love the great outdoors, there are over a hundred scenic hiking trails, including the historic 70-mile Appalachian Trail. Other popular destination for hikers include Chimney Tops and Alum Cave Trail, among many others. Along the way, you will encounter countless waterfalls, including Tom Branch Falls, Indian Creek Falls and Juney Whank Falls. If you favor bicycling or simply taking a drive, Cades Cove provides eleven miles of breathtaking scenery along paved roads. For the adventurous, there is also horseback riding, whitewater rafting, hot air balloon rides and ziplines to provide an adrenaline rush. Additionally, since the Smokies are located near Asheville, there are a number of places to stay, dine and just simply relax.
A small town in Macon County, located in the southern Appalachian mountains, Highlands offers an alternative to more popular destinations like Asheville. Among its most notable attractions are its many waterfalls, including Glen Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Secret Falls and Dryfalls, where you can walk safely behind the waterfall. There are also several noteworthy hiking trails, including Whiteside Mountain Hike. Located just 8 miles west is Nantahala National Forest and Cashiers, home to a number of beautiful waterfalls and rivers, as well as charming restaurants, antique shops and other small town treasures. You can also go to Wayah Bald Lookout Tower, built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, for some spectacular views at a vantage point 5,342 feet in the air. Among Highlands’ other attraction are its downtown area, numerous golf courses and the luxurious spa at the Old Edwards Inn.
If you are craving a trip to the coast without venturing too far, Wilmington may be the place for you. Located along the Cape Fear River, Wilmington is a historical town that has been attracting tourists since it was first established in the 18th century. Known for its historic downtown, restaurants, cafes, architecture and vibrant nightlife, Wilmington has something for anyone looking for a long weekend away from the big city. Among its many attractions are the Bellamy Mansion, the World War II battleship USS North Carolina, the Airlie Gardens and its many museums and artistic venues. There are also several notable beaches within a half-hour drive, including Fort Fisher, Wrightsville, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.