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We have listed below just a few of our favorite North Carolina Beach and Mountain destinations, and will continue to add more NC beach and mountain destinations.  If you would like to suggest NC trip destinations for inclusion, please .  We welcome your suggestions!

 

North Carolina Beaches
North Carolina Mountains

 

NORTH CAROLINA BEACHES

Wilmington, NC and Wrightsville Beach, NC; Cape Fear
(also Kure Beach and Carolina Beach)

 
Websites: www.gocapefear.com
www.cape-fear.nc.us/
www.gocapefearcoast.com or call (866) 266-9690 for a free visitors guide to Historic Wilmington and North Carolina's Cape Fear Coast.
Things to see and do:

- The Children's Museum of Wilmington , 116 Orange Street, Wilmington, NC 28401 -  Originally opened in 1997, the Children's Museum of Wilmington has continued to grow over the years and now has re-opened in its beautiful, expansive new home on a quaint, shady tree-lined street in historic downtown Wilmington.  The Children's Museum offers fun activities for children of all ages, including an Art Studio where children can create their own masterpieces, a Pirate Ship for climbing and exploring, with wonderful props for imaginative play (don't miss the hidden mermaid, octopus and giant oyster!), a Grocery Store where children can shop for pretend groceries or check-out groceries at the cash register, a pretend International Diner where children take orders and put on an apron and play short-order chef, Imagination Circus with lots of fun games and activities, a long train table with wooden trains and wooden boats, Animal Friends (where children can visit animals such as a chinchilla or a bunny rabbit), a Toddler Room for younger children and their parents or caregivers, a fun outdoor play area featuring giant bubble blowing, a rock wall and a giant rope spider's web for climbing, and so much more for lots of fun imaginative play!  Children won't want to leave and will enjoy visiting again and again!  New location in Historic Downtown Wilmington now open (Summer, 2006!)
Hours of Operation: Monday 9-5 (open Mondays from June-August only); Tuesday-Saturday 9-5; Sunday 1-5.  Admission $7.00; babies 12 months and under Free; memberships available.
(910) 254-3534
 

 

- Battleship North Carolina (downtown Wilmington, NC) The most decorated U.S. Battleship of WWII has 15 battle stars and has been on tour since 1941.  Explore nine decks, crews' quarters, gun turrets, and much more.  (910) 251-5797.

- N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher (Amazing sea life right before your eyes!  Watch the sea horses and pet the starfish and other North Carolina sea creatures.  Interact with scuba divers who answer questions from the audience while swimming around with sharks, fish, skates, and other sea life!  Lots of fun for the whole family.)  Located on US 421 @ 15 miles south of Wilmington, just beyond Kure Beach.  From Southport take the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry.  900 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach, NC  28449.  (866) 301-3476.

- Play on the beautiful expansive white sand beach at Wrightsville Beach.

- Carolina Beach State Park (Look for the Venus Flytraps!)

- Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

- Downtown Wilmington Historic Riverfront District (shops and restaurants in a beautiful historic riverfront setting; horse drawn carriage tours)

- Bike Riding

- Riverfront Farmers Market (Saturdays and Wednesdays, April - Sept.)

- Airlie Gardens (Airlie hosts First Friday Concerts in the Park from May - Sept.)

- Shopping in downtown Wilmington at the historic Cotton Exchange

- Bellamy Mansion Museum of History & Design Arts (spectacular restored 22-room antebellum house c. 1861and formal gardens.  (910) 251-3700.

 - Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson - Visit the excavated ruins of a colonial port town that was founded in 1726 and burned by the British in 1776; during the Civil War Fort Anderson was the site of a battle in 1865.  (Located off of NC 133 near Orton Plantation).  (910) 371-6613.

- Cape Fear Museum of History and Science (featuring Wilmington's Giant Ground sloth from the prehistoric era.)  (910) 341-4350.

- Hugh MacRae Park (giant public playground; lots of fun for children) - New Hanover County Parks.  Located  on Oleander Drive, one block East of S. College Road.

Wilmington Festivals and Events:

 

- North Carolina Azalea Festival  (April)
- Airlie Arts Festival (April)

- Orange Street Arts Festival (May)
- Fantail Film Festival on the Battleship North Carolina (Fridays in May, 2006 8:30pm)
- River Fest (Fall Festival held October 6-8, 2006 in Historic Downtown Wilmington,
NC on Water Street.Wilmington's Annual Riverfront Celebration features live music, arts, crafts, food, ship tours, a children's carnival and much more. For more information call 910-452-6862.  The 2nd Annual Invasion of the Pirates Flotilla will take place on Saturday, Oct 7, 2006 during Riverfest.

 

Approx. Drive Time from Chapel Hill area to Wilmington: 2.5 - 3 hours

Bald Head Island, NC

Website: www.baldheadisland.com
Cars are not allowed on this beautiful and unique beach island.  Residents and guests take a 20-minute ferry ride to the island and use golf carts, bicycles, or their own two feet for transportation on the island.  (If you will be renting accommodations, ask whether access to the Bald Head Island club and pool are included.)

 

Approx. Drive Time from Chapel Hill area to Bald Head Island: 3-4 hours + 20-minute ferry

Beaufort by the Sea, NC
Wild ponies at Shackleford Banks, Blackbeard the Pirate, and the Crystal Coast!
Atlantic Beach, Morehead City and much more

Websites: www.historicbeaufort.com
www.insiders.com/crystalcoast
www.nccoastchamber.com/tourism/
Founded in 1709, Beaufort , NC is North Carolina's third oldest town.  Beaufort is the seat of Carteret County (the Crystal Coast), and is a great place to take historical strolls.  The historic homes are beautiful and the town is wonderfully scenic.  Visit the Old Burying Grounds (300 year old cemetery), Blackbeard the Pirate's House (The Hammock House), and go on the Beaufort Ghost WalkBlackbeard's ship, the "Queen Anne's Revenge," was discovered late 1996 in the shoals of the Beaufort Inlet at Beaufort, NC and recovery was expected to last several years.  Also visit the nearby islands.  Wild ponies roam at Shackleford Banks, not far from Beaufort!  

 

Things to see and do:

- Deep sea fishing
- Dolphin watching
- Restaurants and Shopping in Beaufort and Morehead City
- See Wild Ponies roam the beach at Shackleford Banks
- Cape Lookout National Seashore (Visit the beautiful old lighthouse on open house dates - by reservation only; or take a sailboat tour to Cape Lookout Lighthouse.)  The seashore is a 56 mile long section of the Outer Banks of North Carolina running from Ocracoke Inlet on the northeast to Beaufort Inlet on the southeast.
- Town of Atlantic Beach

- Rachel Carson Marine Estuarine Research Reserve on Carrot Island
- The N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores (Brand new renovation and expansion completed in 2006, including wonderful features like a sunken pirate's ship with sea life swimming all around it and much more.)  Located five miles west of Atlantic Beach off Highway 58 in the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area.  P.O. Box 580, 1 Roosevelt Drive, Atlantic Beach, NC  28512-0580.  
(866) 294-3477.

- Fort Macon State Park (guards the Beaufort Inlet)
- The NC Maritime Museum
- Town of Beaufort
- Core Sound Waterfowl Museum
- Harkers Island 
- Beaufort Ghost Walk
- Legend of Blackbeard Tour
- Fun Activities for Kids on the Crystal Coast (Miniature golf, roller skating, bowling, etc.)
Beaufort Area Festivals and Events:

 

- The American Music Festival in Beaufort & Morehead City (The Magic of Mozart - concerts scheduled from July, 2005 through April, 2006)
- 45th Annual Old Homes & Gardens Tour, Beaufort (June 24 and 25, 2005)
          (http://www.historicbeaufort.com/bha/oht_brochure_2005.pdf - broken link)
- NC Seafood Festival (First Weekend Each October)

 

Approx. Drive Time from Chapel Hill area to Beaufort, NC: 3.5 - 4 hours

The Crystal Coast is at the southern end of the great barrier island chain called the Outer Banks.  It is a three-hour drive from Raleigh (a straight shot on U.S. Highway 70), and only a few  hours from Greenville.


Outer Banks, NC
Carova Beach, Corolla, Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head
Roanoke Island, Hatteras Island, Ocracoke Island

Website: www.outerbanks.org
The Outer Banks has pristine white beaches and offers an abundance of things to see and do.

 

Things to see and do: - The Lost Colony: Musical Theatre Under the Stars  (Roanoke Island) -- at the Waterside Theater at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site (here Sir Walter Raleigh's explorers and colonists founded settlements on Roanoke Island in 1585.  Visitors center, book store, and nature trail; open year-round but closed Christmas day.  (252) 473-5772.

- The N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island (Located at 374 Airport Road, off Highway 64 Business on the north end of Roanoke Island near Manteo.)  P.O. Box 967, 374 Airport Road, Manteo, NC  27954-0967.  (866)332-3475.

- Wright Brothers National Memorial - Visit the site of the Wright Brothers' First Flight

- Run up and down the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk.  Visit Jockey's Ridge State Park - 42-acre park has the largest natural living sand dune on the East Coast.  (Walk around the valleys and hills of the dunes and picture what a desert might be like - all white sand and blue skies.)  Hang gliding, kite flying, hiking, visitor's center, gift shop, museum, picnic facilities and restrooms available.  Open year-round; 
free admission.  (252) 441-7132

- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge - Enjoy hiking, kayaking, canoeing (guided canoe tours available for a fee) and wildlife observation at the Refuge with more than 150,000 acres of wetland habitats hosting wildlife ranging from wood ducks and alligators to black bears and red wolves.  (252) 473-1131

- Roanoke Island Festival Park - Visit the Elizabeth II, a sixteenth-century representative sailing ship, and the Roanoke Island Settlement Site featuring blacksmithing, woodworking and games, Art Gallery, Museum Store, Fossil Pit, Film Theatre, waterside boardwalk, maritime forest and marsh conservation area, and more.  Picnic tables available.  Admission fee.  (252) 475-1506; (252) 475-1500.

- Visit the Elizabethan Gardens, a living memorial to the lost colonists.  Open year-round. Admission fee.  (252) 473-3234.

- Visit the Cape Hatteras National Seashore - extending more than 70 miles from South Nags Head to Ocracoke Inlet, with more than 30,000 acres.  Lighthouses, picnic areas, camping grounds.  (252) 473-2111.

- Bodie Island Lighthouse - This 156-foot tall striped lighthouse is not open for climbing, but there are nature trails and a visitor's center in the old keeper's quarters features exhibits, a bookstore.  Located eight miles south of US-158 and US-64 intersection within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

- Take the kids for lunch or dinner at Goombay's in Kill Devil Hills and have a "Shirley Shark" (beach version of the classic Shirley Temple; arrives with a fun surprise and a toy rubber shark).  Kids also will enjoy the decor; frog and fish tank featuring some of the coolest aquatic frogs, and underwater ceiling scene.  Good food and lots of fun for the whole family!

There is so much more to do at the Outer Banks!  We have listed some of the highlights here; to find more visit www.outerbanks.org.

Outer Banks Festivals and Events:

 

Click here for a comprehensive calendar of festivals and events in the Outer Banks.  A great resource for planning your trip to the Outer Banks!
Approx. Drive Time from Chapel Hill area to the Outer Banks 5 - 5 1/2 hours
NORTH CAROLINS MOUNTAINS

Asheville, NC

 
Websites: www.exploreasheville.com

 

Things to see and do: - Visit the Biltmore Estate
- Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride with Mt. Pisgah Hot Air Balloons
- Take a guided canoe tour on the French Broad River led by Headwaters Outfitters
- Visit Chimney Rock Park (25 Miles southeast of Asheville) 1-800-277-9611
- Go hiking
- Explore the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Take a historic Trolley Tour
- Go horseback riding
- See the Cherokee Eagle Dance and visit the Museum of the Cherokee and the Oconaluftee Indian Village (NC US Highway 441 N; Cherokee Indian Reservation, Western North Carolina, Adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

 

Asheville Festivals and Events Highlights:

 

- Summerfest at the Biltmore Estate (live music, wine tasting, cooking demonstrations, kids' activities including a "grape stomp," and more) July 13, August 67, and September 34
- Comprehensive Listing of Asheville Area Festivals and Events (
A great resource for planning your trip to Asheville!)
Approx. Drive Time from Chapel Hill area to Asheville: 4 - 4 1/2 hours

Grandfather Mountain - Boone, NC

Website: www.VisitBooneNC.com
www.grandfather.com
www.tweetsie.com
Things to see and do: - Blowing Rock
- Blue Ridge Mountains
- See the swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain
- Hike Grandfather Trail (for experienced hikers, the hike requires the use of in-place cables and ladders; easier hikes also available.)
- Visit Tweetsie Railroad family amusement park (wild west theme; authentic steam engine and three-mile train ride, ferris wheel, deer park, cable cars, and more).
- Visit the Mast General Store
- Linville Caverns
- Go hiking and see the waterfalls
- Whitewater rafting
- Visit the "Horn in the West" outdoor theater

Boone offers lots of fun in every season!  Enjoy four modern ski resorts in winter, few people and long-range views in spring, cool mountain breezes in summer, world-famous leaf color in fall, scenic mountain beauty year round, beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway views, and Boone is closer now on new 4-lane US 421.  For more information, call the Boone Convention Vistors Bureau at 1-800-699-5097or visit www.VisitBooneNC.com.

- Brown Mountain lights - (just a little NC trivia!):  From the WesternNC.com website: "Brown Mountain lies in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Parkway with an elevation of only 2,600 feet. The Brown Mountain Lights of Burke County, near Morganton NC, have intrigued residents and visitors for hundreds of years. The lights are mentioned in local Native American mythology, and by Geraud de Brahm, a German engineer and the first white man to explore the region, in 1771. The lights have been described in many ways from being a glowing ball of fire, to being a bursting skyrocket, or a pale almost white light. The fact that they never seem the same is as fantastic as the lights themselves. At times they seem to drift slowly, fading and brightening and at other times they seem to whirl like pinwheels, then dart rapidly away. . . . The lights can be seen from as far away as Blowing Rock or the old Yonahlosse Trail over Grandfather Mountain some fifteen miles from Brown Mountain. At some points closer to Brown Mountain the lights seem large, resembling balls of fire from a Roman candle. Sometimes they may rise to various heights and fade slowly. Others expand as they rise, then burst high in the air like an explosion without sound.  Brown Mountain is located in the Pisgah National Forest, in the Blue Ridge mountains of Western North Carolina. . . . "  Click for more.

 

Boone Festivals and Events Highlights: Comprehensive Listing of Boone Area Festivals and Events (A great resource for planning your trip to Boone!)

 

Approx. Drive Time from Chapel Hill area to Boone: 3 - 3 1/2 hours

Great Smoky Mountains - Bryson, NC

Website: www.GreatSmokies.com
Things to see and do: - Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the highest peak is Clingman's Dome)
- Go tubing down Deep Creek
- Whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River
- Steam locomotive train rides
- Go mountain biking across the Great Smoky Mountains
- Smoky Mountain Trains (Model Train Museum)
- Santa's Land Fun Park & Zoo
- Click here for more attractions and links

800-279-6176

 

Approx. Drive Time from Chapel Hill area to Bryson: 4 1/2 - 5 hours

Additional NC Mountains Highlights Coming Soon!  If you have favorite NC mountain vacation spots not listed here, please your suggestions! 

 

 

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