Play, Eat, Stay, Repeat at Fun-Filled North Carolina Attractions

North Carolina offers a plethora of play-and-stay attractions that allow you to arrive at your destination, check-in, enjoy the experiences and activities, and then simply head back to your accommodations of choice. In between, you can ride the rides, experience the thrills, play the games, soak up the rest and relaxation, shop until you drop and eat to your heart’s content.

1 Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

Exterior view of Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort during daytime
photo: Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

1 Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

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As gaming getaways set in the majestic mountains of western North Carolina, two Harrah’s hotspots offer poker, blackjack, craps, roulette, video poker and gaming, and Asian gaming. There are also plenty of special events throughout the year, including slot tournaments and big-name concerts. The 21-story hotel, varied dining, shopping, pools, the Mandara Spa and more await Cherokee visitors. Plus, you’ll want to check out more of the same at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel in nearby Murphy.

2 Tryon International Equestrian Center

People sitting on lawn watching Tryon International Equestrian Center's Saturday Night Lights series

2 Tryon International Equestrian Center

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Open year-round, Tryon International Equestrian Center hosts a range of events including horse shows and competitions, a Saturday Night Lights series, Winterfest and concerts. Between events, shop at stores that offer clothing, classic jewelry, antique treasures and children's toys. If hunger strikes, enjoy a family meal at Roger’s Diner or Campagna Italian Cuisine – or choose a quiet evening for two at Blue Ginger Sushi & Noodles or Legends Grille. When the festivities are over, head straight to the on-site inn or cabins, or take an easy drive to the Lodge on Lake Lure.

3 Carowinds

View from ground of roller coaster at Carowinds against purple sky

3 Carowinds

CharlotteSee on mapSee on map

Carowinds combines the best of thrill rides – including Fury 325, the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster – themed and family rides, the splash-tastic Carolina Harbor Waterpark, live entertainment and special events (SCarowinds takes over in fall, and WinterFest during the holidays). Choose from a dozen-plus dining options, ranging from classic amusement park fare to diners and cafés for sit-down meals. Accommodations are right next door at Camp Wilderness. Choose from campground sites, two-bedroom cabins with full kitchens, or in the 1,100-square-foot Camp Wilderness Lodge that sleeps up to 14 people and comes with all the comforts of home.

4 Omni Grove Park Inn

Exterior patio at Omni Grove Park Inn with fall foliage and mountains in background

4 Omni Grove Park Inn

AshevilleSee on mapSee on map

This 100-plus-year-old historical attraction in the mountains offers you all of the conveniences and amenities imaginable without ever leaving the resort if you don’t want to – though nearby downtown Asheville is quite tempting. From the Donald Ross-designed golf course, championship tennis and a sprawling fitness complex to historical property tours, world-class dining, wild food foraging adventures, shopping and one of the top resort spas in North America, the Omni Grove Park Inn is steeped in Southern tradition and hospitality. At the end of the day, your room awaits, with lots of choices.

5 Great Wolf Lodge

5 Great Wolf Lodge

ConcordSee on mapSee on map

For the ultimate in stay-and-play family adventures, you’ll love Great Wolf Lodge, one of North America’s largest family indoor water parks. With dozens of waterlogged activities, including thrill rides, water slides and zero-depth-entry playgrounds for the tadpoles, the entire family can swim and splash the day away. After you’ve dried off, more awaits with ropes courses, MagiQuest adventures, bowling, Wolf Walks, story time and so much more. There’s a variety of kid-friendly dining options ranging from wood-fired steaks and seafood to poolside burgers and take-out pizza. When the sun goes down (or your kids run out of energy), a multitude of suites await in the lodge. From standard family suites to KidsKamp Suites with bunk beds in their very own tent or Wolf Den Suites with private forts, you’ll find the perfect place for your wolf pack.

6 Cataloochee Ranch

Wood fence with fall foliage and mountains in background at Cataloochee Ranch

6 Cataloochee Ranch

Maggie ValleySee on mapSee on map

Please note: Cataloochee Ranch is closed for the time being while it undergoes renovations.

This isn't your grandfather's ranch, but you'll feel right at home at Cataloochee Ranch, along with the many activities to remind you you're on a getaway. Book your stay at one of 12 private rooms or, if you're planning a family or group outing (couples' retreat?), choose from 12 cabins – complimentary breakfast and dinner is included with all accommodations. You'll want to spend much of your time outdoors, as the ranch is nestled among 900 acres at an elevation of 5,000 feet. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is its neighbor. Take in the scenery with mountain hikes, wagon rides, bird-watching and the especially popular guided horseback rides (and in winter, enjoy the convenient access to Cataloochee Ski Area, located less than a mile away).

7 Elkin Creek Vineyard

Cabin through trees at Elkin Creek Vineyard during daytime
photo: Elkin Creek Vineyard

7 Elkin Creek Vineyard

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Located in the Yadkin Valley, Elkin Creek Vineyard has produced whites, reds and sweet dessert wines for nearly 20 years from 6 lush acres of varied grapes. You’ll start with sampling in the tasting room, and if you’re there on a Sunday, enjoy a fresh, made-to-order pizza from the wood-fire brick oven (pizza dough reservations recommended). Then simply walk down the short path to one of Elkin Creek’s intimate creek-side cabins, featuring a full kitchen, stone gas fireplace, a soaking tub and complimentary Netflix in a rustic wooded setting.

 

Updated June 22, 2020
About the Author
Cele and Lynn Seldon

Cele and Lynn Seldon

Cele and Lynn Seldon are currently #midfiftiesgypsies, but they miss the sunsets and walks on the beach in Oak Island, where they basked in the North Carolina sunshine for 15 years.

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