Day Trips around NC
We have collected some of our favorite spots to spend on day trips around the state. We’ve made it easy to find a new idea by categorizing the activities by region and by cost. If there is an activity or place you want us to feature, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many of the ideas below have seasonal hours or may require reservations or advanced tickets so make sure you visit their website while planning your next adventure! There also may be changes to their hours or operations due to COVID-19, but that should also be found on their website.
Bass Lake Hike
Elk Knob State Park Hike
Glen Burney Falls Hike
Rough Ridge Hike
Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park, Boone:
Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park is the perfect place to go mountain biking. Admission is free, bring your own bike. There are over 8 miles of trails to ride.
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blowing Rock:
The park is where the Summer Home of Moses and Bertha Cone is located. In addition to the historic estate and visitor center, the property has numerous hiking trails and carriage trails for exploration, and a fire tower that has beautiful 360 views. It is free to visit, some tours may require a small fee.
Mount Mitchell State Park, Burnsville:
Mount Mitchell is the highest peak East of the Mississippi! There is an observation deck, museum, and many trails to enjoy. Admission into the park is free, camping and the restaurant require payment.
Grandfather Mountain, Linville:
While Grandfather Mountain State Park is free, entrance to the Grandfather Mountain attraction which includes the Mile-High Swinging bridge requires ticketed admission. Admission for children ages 4-12 is $9 and for adults is $22.
Hawksnest Zipline Canopy Tours, Seven Devils:
Enjoy several different package options while zipling high above the Appalachian mountains. Admission varies based off which backage/tour you choose.
Tweetsie Railroad, Blowing Rock:
Tweetsie Railroad is an Amusement Park that features, a 3-mile train adventure behind a historic steam locomotive, live entertainment, amusement rides, gold panning, and Deer Park Zoo.
Botanical Gardens of Asheville, Asheville:
The Botanical Gardens of Asheville are dedicated to diverse temperate ecosystems of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. You can explore the expansive grounds, through the many trails offered and experience the natural wildlife of the area. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.
Fryingpan Mountain lookout Tower
The Grandfather Trail
Looking Glass Rock
DuPont National Forest
Blue Ridge Parkway
Pisgah National Forest
Linville Caverns, Marion:
Visit Linville Caverns to be able to hike into the active limestone caverns inside the mountains. Admission for children under the age of 5 are free, children ages 5-12 years old are $8 and adults and children over the age of 12 are $10.
The Orchard at Altapass, Marion:
The orchard has walking trails, scenic views, butterfly exhibits, a general store, and birdwatching available all spring and summer. In late summer early fall they also have apple picking you can do as a family. While it is free to visit, the apple picking, food and shopping require payment.
Navitat Canopy Adventures, Asheville:
Navitat offers ziplining, ropes courses, guided ATV tours and much more. You can pick your package that vary in adventure and cost for parties of 8 or more.
Biltmore Estate, Asheville:
There are lots of beautiful outdoor activities to explore at the Biltmore Estate, from the award-winning grounds, and gardens to horseback riding and hiking. You can spend an entire day at the Biltmore.
There is a lot to do in Cherokee from hiking, fishing and learning about the culture of the Cherokee people through numerous museums, shows and visitor spaces. Some experiences in Cherokee can be enjoyed for free, while many require advanced tickets and fees.
Pilot Mountain State Park, Pinnacle:
Pilot Mountain State Park has free admission, but some activities may require a small fee. The iconic Pilot Knob can be seen from miles away. This park offers many hiking trails, opportunities for horseback riding, paddling, picnicking, fishing, bicycling and rock climbing.
Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury:
Hanging Rock State Park has free admission however, some of the activities may require a small fee. Hanging Rock State Park offers the best of a traditional outdoor experience with a campground, picnic grounds, stocked lake for swimming and canoe rentals and more than 20 miles of hiking trails that climb onto spectacular views and weave alongside clear streams and waterfalls. There is also access on the Dan River for paddling, 8.4 miles of mountain biking trails and rock-climbing opportunities with permit.
Boone’s Cave Park, Lexington:
Boone’s Cave park offers 6 miles of hiking trails, fishing and some camping. It is believed that Daniel Boone’s family arrived in the area in 1755. The unique park has small caves, unique wildlife and various terrain to explore. Admission to the park is free.
Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem:
Reynolda Gardens is a 134-acre center for community recreation and exploration. Access to the gardens and grounds is free.
Old Salem Museums and Gardens, Winston-Salem:
Old Salem is a historic district of Winston-Salem, North Carolina that was originally settled by the Moravian community in 1766. This small city features a living history museum that interprets the restored Moravian community. The grounds, gardens and visitor center are free and open to explore. Currently during Covid the historic buildings and tours are closed. During normal operating hours, a ticket is required to go inside all the unique historic buildings.
Tanglewood Park, Clemmons:
Tanglewood Park has many activities to participate in including, walking trails, horseback riding, golf, swimming, tennis, gardens and bmx racing. Access to the park and gardens is free, activity costs range based on the activity.
Triad Eco Adventures, Winston-Salem:
Triad Eco Adventures offers Segway, paddle boarding, and electric bike tours all around Winston. Cost of the activities depends on the package you choose.
Morrow Mountain State Park, Albemarle:
Admission to Morrow Mountain State Park is free, some of the activities offered require an additional charge. There is a lot to do at the park including, hiking, camping, paddling, fishing, horseback riding and swimming.
Crowder’s Mountain State Park, Kings Mountain:
Admission to Crowder’s Mountain State Park is free. This park offers challenging hikes, and opportunities to rock climb, and their visitor center. If you are looking for some harder hikes with rougher terrain, this is a great park to visit.
Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary, Charlotte:
Admission to Wing Haven Gardens & Bird Sanctuary is free for kids ages 10 and under, and $10 for adults and kids over the age of 10. Admission allows access to Wing Haven Garden & Bird Sanctuary, SEED Wildlife & Children’s Gardens and The Elizabeth Lawrence House & Garden. The SEED Wildlife & Children’s Gardens is a hands-on exploration including spades for digging, rain barrel and watering cans for watering plants, a living tunnel, a stream bed, observation spots, a nest to explore and so much more.
Dan Nicholas Park, Salisbury:
Dan Nicholas Park is free admission however, some of the attractions charge a very small amount to participate. The attractions include, fishing, camping, shelters, a barnyard with animals, paddle boats, carousel, gem mine, train station, water plaza, mini golf, wildlife adventures and a nature center.
Treetop Adventures on Lake Hickory, Conover:
Treetop Adventures on Lake Hickory is great for families to go and enjoy adventures from in the sky, they offer ziplining, ropes courses, dancing logs, suspended disks and much more.
US National Whitewater Center, Charlotte:
At the US National Whitewater Center there are lots of activities for the family to enjoy, including, whitewater rafting, flatwater kayaking, ziplining, ropes course, mountain biking, and much more.
Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Greensboro:
- Guilford Courthouse National Military Park is a battlefield of the American Revolution. This free park offers interpretive films, museum exhibits, walking trails, tour road, & monuments.
Tanger Family Bicentennial Gardens and Bog Garden at Benjamin Park, Greensboro:
- These adjacent parks provide a beautiful landscape perfect for walking trails, picnics, wildlife watching and photography. The Bicentennial Gardens are home to award-winning landscapes full of seasonal blooming plants and flowers that attract bees, butterflies and many more wildlife animals. The Bog Garden’s trails take you through 7 acres of natural wetlands, full of a variety of plants, birds, wildlife and waterfalls. Both parks are free admission.
The North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro:
- The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro is the world’s largest natural habitat zoo with 2,600 acres. During Covid you must get your tickets online before visiting for a specific entry time. Tickets are $11 for children ages 2-12, free for children under the age of 2, and $15 for adults and children over the age of 12. There are special activities and exhibits that may require an additional fee.
Lake Brandt Marina, Greensboro:
- Lake Brandt features fishing, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), kayaking and canoeing. Fishing is most successful for largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish. Rental and activity fees are minimum.
Kersey Valley, Archdale:
- Kersey Valley is an adventure park that offers year-round fun as well as seasonal activities. Some of their outdoor activities include a high ropes course, ziplining, an outdoor bowling experience, outdoor laser tag and outdoor axe throwing. Some of their seasonal activities include a sunflower field in the late summer and a corn maze, in the fall.
Eno River State Park, Durham:
- The park offers nearly 30 miles of trails along a swift, shallow stream that’s popular with anglers, photographers and sightseers. Activities available include, hiking, paddling, fishing, and picnicking. Admission to the park is free.
- William B. Umstead State Park has many activities that you can participate such as hiking, boating, bridle trails, cycling, fishing, and picnicking. Admission to the park is free, there is a small fee for boating.
Pullen Park, Raleigh:
- Pullen Park is the first public park in North Carolina and the 5th oldest operating amusement park in the U.S. At Pullen Park you can rent a pedal boat, ride a carousel, take a swim, sign up for an art class, see a play, play your favorite sport, picnic, play on the playground and more. The cost for each attraction is around $1.50 per person.
State Farmer’s Market, Raleigh:
- The State Farmer’s Market has restaurants, farm fresh produce and plants from farms allover the piedmont, baked goods and even home décor. While it is free to visit the market, we guarantee you won’t leave without buying something.
TreeRunner Adventure Park, Raleigh:
- TreeRunner Raleigh Adventure Park offers 70 obstacles and zip lines, three difficulty levels, and seven different courses, there is plenty to explore at our outdoor adventure park in Raleigh. Prices vary based of packages and age.
The Aurora Fossil Museum, Aurora
- The Aurora Fossil Museum is a science education resource center and museum with a focus on paleontology while emphasizing the natural and cultural history of Eastern North Carolina.
There are interactive inquiry-based activities and exhibits. Admission is free but donations are encouraged.
Dismal Swamp State Park, South Mills:
- Dismal Swamp State Park has free admission however some of the activities or rentals may require a small fee. The park features 20 miles of trails, beyond a 2,000-foot boardwalk that puts visitors in the midst of the Great Dismal Swamp. Birding and viewing abundant wildlife are favored activities. Mountain biking on the trails and kayaking the adjacent Dismal Swamp Canal are both encouraged. Visitors may bring their own equipment or rent at the park.
Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center, Harkers Island:
- Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center is a facility with both indoor and outdoor exhibits. It is a museum that highlights the historical, cultural, artistic, environmental, and educational elements needed to preserve the rich waterfowl heritage of eastern North Carolina associated with the Core Sound area. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.
Cape Lookout National Seashore, Harkers Island:
- Cape Lookout National Seashore consists of 56 miles of undeveloped beach stretched over 3 to 4 barrier islands from Ocracoke Inlet on the northeast to Beaufort Inlet on the southeast. A visit to the islands can be very enjoyable, but even a day trip requires some advance planning. Access to the park is free but some of the activities require a fee. There are ferries that will take you between the islands, and you can explore on foot. You can also bring your 4-wheel drive vehicle or atv, or you can canoe or kayak around. There are also tours you can pay to go on with tour guides and various modes of transportation.
NC Aquarium– at Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island:
- There are two NC Aquariums to visit while in the Outer Banks, the one at Pine Knoll Shores and the one on Roanoke Island. Advanced tickets are required ruing the pandemic. Tickets are free for children under the age of 3, $10.95 for children ages 3-12, and $12.95 for children over 12 and adults.
- Currituck Beach Lighthouse
- Bodie Island Lighthouse
- Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
- Ocracoke Lighthouse
- Cape Lookout Lighthouse
Alligator River Kayak Adventure, Manns Harbor:
- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is a 125,000-acre wildlife preserve managed by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Through a guided tour, your family can kayak along the river and see all sorts of unique wildlife including alligators, red wolves, and blue herons and many more.
Bayard Clark Park & Nature Preserve, Fayetteville:
- Bayard Clark Park & Nature Preserve offers activities for everyone, from museums, to walking tails, playgrounds, picnic areas, waterfalls and such much. Admission to the park is free while some of the activities or events have small fees required.
- Carolina Beach
- Brunswick Islands
- Kure Beach
- Wrightsville Beach
- Topsail Island
- Sunset Beach
- Holden Beach
- Atlantic Beach
- Emerald Isle
Battleship North Carolina, Wilmington:
- This National Historic Landmark is a restored WWII battleship. Visitors are encouraged to explore 9 levels of the ship, including the mess decks, berthing areas, engine room, bridge, Combat Information Center (CIC), museum, and much more. Admission for children 5 years old and younger is free, for children ages 6-11 admission is $6 and for adults and children over the age of 11 admission is $14.
Fort Fisher, Kure Beach:
- Fort Fisher State Recreation Area
- Alternate between nearly six miles of pristine beach and trails through salt marsh brimming with wildlife at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, a park touching both the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River. Activities available include hiking, fishing, swimming, picnicking and off-road vehicles. There is no admission fee, but a permit is required for the off-road vehicles.
- Fort Fisher Historic Site and Museum
- Fort Fisher Historic Site and Museum is located where one of the most influential battles the Civil War took place, it was the largest land-sea battle of the Civil War. Tours of the museum and grounds are free and begin at the visitor center.
- North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
- North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is free for children under the age of 3, tickets are $10.95 for children ages 3-12, and $12.95 for children over 12 and adults. The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher is one of three of our state’s official aquariums.
ZipQuest Waterfall & Treetop Adventure, Fayetteville:
- ZipQuest is a 2+hr zipline tour & nature adventure through the pristine forest and over beautiful Carver’s Falls! Prices vary based off the package you pick.
Old Baldy Lighthouse & Smith Island Museum of History, Bald Head Island:
- Old Baldy Lighthouse & Smith Island Museum of History requires admission to get on the grounds, climb the lighthouse and explore the adjoining museum. Children under the age of 3 are free, children ages 3-12 require a $5 ticket, and adults require an $8 ticket. If you are not already staying at Bald Head Island you must ride the ferry over from Southport. Round-trip ferry tickets cost $23 for adults, $12 for children ages 3-12. While on the island, in addition to the lighthouse and museum there is plenty of trails and beach access to enjoy. Consider packing a picnic and make it a whole day adventure.