North Carolina’s beautiful bookends – the mountains to the west and beaches to the east – make for great spring break destinations for those who love playing outdoors. If an urban getaway sounds more up your alley, cities in the central part of our state have lots to discover with museums, amusement parks and dining hot spots.
1 For the Kids and Kid in You
1 For the Kids and Kid in YouCharlotte areaSee on map
As the largest city in NC, Charlotte has the popular attractions you’d expect, such as one of the nation’s top interactive museums, Discovery Place, and a big amusement park in Carowinds, which opens each year on the weekends in time for spring break. Parents will love Charlotte’s family-friendly breweries with cool outdoor spaces: Olde Mecklenburg, Birdsong and NoDa, to name a few.
More fun awaits 30 minutes north at Lake Norman if you want to add in a little nature to your urban getaway. Explore our state’s largest manmade lake by renting a boat, or get your paddle on with kayak, canoe or SUP rentals, while chartered cruises are a relaxed way to enjoy the water. Plus, the area is home to Zootastic Park and Lazy 5 Ranch, providing zoo and safari-like adventures.
2 Take the Family to the Beach
2 Take the Family to the BeachCarolina BeachSee on map
This beach town has retained its vintage charm with the colorful Carolina Beach Boardwalk, one of the only remaining beach boardwalks along the East Coast. An arcade and Ferris wheel offer plenty of fun between stops at restaurants, bars and sweet shops. Check out Nauti Dog, where you can get fun, made-to-order hot dogs.
Leave plenty of time for playing on the beach and savoring the views. Rent a surrey bike that accommodates up to eight people, walk the 700-foot scenic pier, and enjoy your picturesque beach cottage or oceanfront condo. In nearby Kure Beach, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher also deserves a visit for its interactive experiences and free daily programs that include feedings, diver talks, and meet-and-greets with reptiles.
3 An Escape for Two
3 An Escape for TwoHighlandsSee on map
The neighboring mountain towns of Highlands and Cashiers deliver the perfect settings for your intimate vacation. Think waterfall hikes, heavenly spa treatments and cozy retreats. Splurge and stay in Half-Mile Farm’s luxurious cabin rooms or suites.
For dinners, you’ll find multiple highly rated fine-dining experiences in Highlands, including Madison’s and Ristorante Paoletti. Or wow your partner with a picnic dinner with supplies from Mountain Fresh Grocery & Wine Market while you watch the sunset from the appropriately named Sunset Rock or Whiteside Mountain Trail. Add in some activities at Lake Glenville – home to three waterfalls that tumble into the lake – and your romantic getaway is officially planned.
4 Good Times, Good Friends
4 Good Times, Good FriendsDurhamSee on map
Time for a long-overdue reunion? You’ll have a blast in Durham. By day, Bull City’s walkable downtown provides groups with easy access to a number of cool galleries. When the sun goes down, locals, college students and visitors alike can be found hopping between live music venues, lounges, dive bars and breweries.
Sandwich spot Toast should be essential lunching. For donuts, try Rise or Monuts, which you can work off by paddling the Eno River just 15 minutes from downtown. Sports fans can catch a baseball game from the Triple-A Durham Bulls. And while Durham is known as a hub for blues music, a healthy amount of music venues, including the popular Motorco Music Hall, offer lineups to please any concertgoer.
5 Calling All Couples
5 Calling All CouplesKill Devil Hills, Nags HeadSee on map
One of the fun things about “adulting” is the opportunity to go on trips with your couples friends. Pitch in to stay at an I-wish-we-lived-here beach house that will be your home base for quality time exploring NC’s barrier islands. The Outer Banks towns of Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills will keep your group entertained with nightlife and dining choices, and they also have easy access to the famous wild horses in Corolla and historic Roanoke Island.
To soak in the beauty of OBX, load up your rented off-road vehicle and hit the sand, or book a cruise on the Atlantic Ocean. Adventurers can reserve one of the dozens of adventures through Kitty Hawk Kites, which offers hang gliding, parasailing and paragliding lessons.