Ideas & Escapes
NC's Coolest Summer Vacation Spots
As summer temperatures continue to rise, escape the heat wave to the coolest vacation spots in North Carolina. With mountain breezes, underground adventures, water escapades and more, a trip to North Carolina will help you beat the heat.
Stand In The Mist Of A Cascading Waterfall
Land of the Waterfalls, Transylvania County
Transylvania County in the western mountains near Lake Toxaway, is known as “Land of the Waterfalls” with over 250 waterfalls to explore. Looking Glass Falls is one of the county’s most viewed falls. It is 35-feet wide and drops 65-feet. Whitewater Falls, known as the ‘king” of waterfalls, is considered the highest cascade east of the Rockies.
Go For The Gold Down Under
Reed Gold Mine
Reed Gold Mine in Midland is the site of the first documented gold find in the United States, but what makes this place really cool is the underground tunnels that feel like ice-cold air conditioning. Here, visitors can explore tunnels dug to follow gold-bearing quartz veins deep underground while cooling off in the 55-degree temperature. You’ll also find wooded trails and a visitor’s center with historical mining equipment and other exhibits. Be sure to try your luck panning for gold from the streambeds on site.
Wet N' Wildlife
North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
The aquarium’s largest exhibit, the 306,000 gallon Living Shipwreck, features a replica of a sunken World War II German submarine amid a variety of diverse marine life. This is the home of the aquarium’s largest animals, two female sand tiger sharks, both weighing over 300 pounds and over 8-feet long which are known to give visitors a very chilling stare as they swim around the tank.
North Carolina Zoo
Bear the frigid conditions at The RJR/Nabisco Rocky Coast in Asheboro, a re-creation of an Arctic world, and witness above and below water views of the sea lion pool. The exhibit is complete with jagged rocks, waterfalls and streams, all part of the complex filtration process which pumps 1600 gallons of water per minute. Alaskan Seabirds are also part of the Rocky Coast complex including thick-billed murres, parakeet aucklets and horned puffins. Inside the exhibit visitors find a 28-foot-high rock cliff constructed to enable the birds to climb atop the rocks and leap into an icy 45,000-gallon pool.
Cool View From The Top
With average summertime highs peaking at 65 degrees, you’ll find relief at Mount Mitchell, the highest peak (6,684 feet) in the eastern United States. Mount Mitchell is off the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 355 in Burnsville and provides the perfect environment to camp, hike, picnic, horseback ride, tour the exhibit hall or take an educational program among the early morning mist of low-hanging clouds. On a clear day, visitors can see as far as 85 miles and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the Pisgah National Forest.
Enjoy the Mile High Mountain Breeze
Mile High Swinging Bridge, Grandfather Mountain
Stop to enjoy the cool mountain air as you cross Mile High Swinging Bridge, a 228-foot suspension bridge in Linville, which spans an 80-foot chasm at more than one mile in elevation. Take in the inspirational vistas stretching out for miles in every direction from the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains or hike one of eleven trails varying in difficulty from a gentle walk in the woods to a rigorous trek across rugged peaks.
In the caverns, you’ll find a constant 52-degree temperature. After remaining a mysterious secret for centuries, North Carolina’s only show caverns in Marion near Boone allow visitors to glimpse nature at work "inside" the mountains. Slow moving ground water created underground labyrinths forming an incredible series of rooms and passages and spectacular formations.
Catch A Wave
Learn to surf in the emerald green waters of Wrightsville Beach and forget all about the hot weather. Surf Camp offers safe and exciting, private and group surfing lessons and camps. The program caters to all levels and the staff of professional certified surfing instructors will take you to the next level offering the perfect opportunity to cool down among the ocean breeze.
Chill Out With An Ice-Cold Pepsi
The Birthplace of Pepsi, New Bern
What could be cooler than sipping an ice-cold Pepsi on a hot summer day at the place where Pepsi was born? The inventor of Pepsi, pharmacist Caleb Bradham, invented Pepsi at his drugstore where the locals met to socialize and listen to the latest music. The cellar of Bradham's drugstore served as the original site of Pepsi-Cola syrup manufacturing. Visit the Pepsi Store and browse through memorabilia while learning more about the history of one of the world’s favorite soft drinks.
added: April 17, 2009
updated: February 6, 2012