Ideas & Escapes
Fun Freebies In NC
Looking for something fun to do on your next trip without spending a fortune? Here are a dozen free ideas from the mountains to the coast – including music, dancing, festivals and one-of-a-kind events.
- Reed Gold Mine
Midland (approximately 25 miles east of Charlotte)
Reed Gold Mine is the site of the first documented gold find in the nation. Wander through exhibits on gold, mining technology and original equipment. Numerous locations feature historic mining machinery, and an area on Upper Hill has the chimney and restored foundations of the 1854 mill house. Panning for gold costs extra, but the mine and exhibits are free.
- USCG Cutter Diligence
From a boat rescue to the perfect storm, the Coast Guard is always on. Tour the USCG Cutter Diligence in Wilmington, one of only eight US Coast Guard cities in the country. It’s also important to note that the USCG Cutter Diligence offers free tours daily on days they are in port. The nature of the US Coast Guard makes it impossible to know in advance when they are in port; however, the ship is typically in port more often than it is at sea.
- Sliding Rock
Heat getting to you? Come slip down this renowned 60-foot sloping slide into an eight-foot deep mountain pool near Brevard. Lifeguards supervise the fun during the summer, so bring the family. Enjoy 11,000 gallons of water flowing down over the rock face each minute, and it’s just a few strokes to shore. While it’s not quite free, it's just $1.00 per person to enter the recreation area.
- Whippoorwill Academy and Village
Ferguson (about 15 miles west of Wilkesboro)
Whippoorwill Academy and Village is a village of restored log cabins, including a one-room schoolhouse, known as Whippoorwill Academy, built in 1880. North Carolina's Poet Laureate, Larkin Pearson, attended this one-room school. The Academy includes the Tom Dula (Dooley, of folk song fame) Museum for those interested in what happened to Laura Foster. The village also features the Smokehouse Art Museum, a blacksmith shop, weaver's shop, country store and the Chapel of Peace.
- American Classic Motorcycle Museum
This museum boasts one of the largest private collections of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the country. It’s a unique piece of American heritage whether you own a bike or not. Included is a 1936 OHV Knucklehead, the first overhead design by Harley-Davidson and one of only three known to exist. The museum owner and curator also teaches a Harley-Davidson restoration class for interested visitors. It also features original artwork by the owner, a parts and apparel retail store and an attached Harley-Davidson themed Heritage Diner. Admission to this museum is free.
- Film sites from Dirty Dancing
You saw the movie. Maybe you “saw yourself” in the movie. Now you can take a self-guided tour of some of the most iconic scenes in Dirty Dancing.
The Esmeralda Inn: Houses the original Dirty Dancing dance floor in their lobby.
Rumbling Bald Resort: Home to the 16th Hole where Baby asks her father for money.
Firefly Cove Development: The original location for some of the most famous Dirty Dancing scenes such as "the lift" practice, the white bridge where Baby practiced her dance moves and the rock steps that Baby dances up.
- Create-Your-Own Art Tours
A DIY art tour can turn into an adventure – plus it costs you nothing to look. HomegrownHandmade Art Roads and Farm Trails let you create your own free driving tour of authentic folk artisans, handicrafts, farmers and creative entrepreneurs rooted in our North Carolina’s rural countryside.
Or how about looking into the artistry of traditional and not-so-traditional patterns on a Barn Quilt Tour? Free tours, each featuring between 30-100 quilts, can be found in three western North Carolina counties: Avery, Watauga and Ashe.
Or, turn an afternoon walk through the Queen City into a glimpse of interactive, neo- and urban expressions on a self-guided Charlotte Public Art Tour.
- Shindig on the Green
Starting in July, Asheville’s Shindig On The Green goes into high gear as crowds with lawn chairs and blankets gather on summer Saturday evenings to enjoy Appalachian mountain music and dance traditions. The free event takes place Saturday evenings July–September.
- Corolla Wild Horse Museum
The Corolla Wild Horse Museum offers kids the chance to pet a horse and paint one, too. Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer, The Corolla Wild Horse Fund sponsors horse painting. Kids choose from large cutout horses attached to trees that stay up all week for passersby to admire or horse cutouts that they can take with them. A $5 donation is accepted for large horses, $3 donation for the small ones. All proceeds benefit the wild horses. On Wednesdays, children can pet live Colonial Spanish Mustangs. Admission to this museum is free.
- The Mast General Store
Midday rush? Not in Valle Crucis. The Mast General Store has music on the back porch each Saturday and Sunday from noon until 2 pm at the Original Store in Valle Crucis. Sometimes groups start a little earlier; sometimes they play a little later. Musical selections include bluegrass, old-time, Celtic and Appalachian performed by local talent. On occasion, cloggers, flat footers and shufflers come along to dance a bit.
- Litle Herb House
The Little Herb House is literally another world – a 10,000-square foot herb farm and gardens that is open to the public by appointment. Take the self-guided tour at no cost, or purchase an information-packed guided tour for $10. The Little Herb House has been featured in Our State and Country Gardens.
- 12th Annual East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame
This one you have to see to believe. It’s literally a trip back in time to the Golden Age of the American Automobile. A reunion of drag race legends, antique and classic cars and the people who love them. As well as a trip down memory lane and parking at the drive-in. Join in the fun on Oct. 18-20, 2013 in historic downtown Henderson with live entertainment, dancing, cruising, bench racing, scrapbook viewing and general dreaming of the way things were.
added: June 15, 2009
updated: March 28, 2013