It can be a challenge to plan a family vacation or weekend getaway that appeals to kids of all ages and parents too. Luckily, North Carolina has plenty of options for fun for the whole group. Plan your next excursion with this list of family favorites.
1 Pisgah National Forest
1 Pisgah National ForestAsheville and BrevardSee on map
Comprising more than 500,000 acres, this forest features whitewater rivers, waterfalls, hundreds of miles of trails and popular campsites. Venture to the legendary Sliding Rock, a 60-foot natural water slide. And choose one of the family-friendly campgrounds, such as Lake Powhatan or Davidson River. Pro tip: Keep to designated trails and durable surfaces. Be mindful of slick rocks around waterfalls and other potential hazards.
2 North Carolina Transportation Museum
2 North Carolina Transportation MuseumSpencerSee on map
Explore antique locomotives, rail cars, automobiles and more at a site that was once a national hub for steam engine repair at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. You can also take the train ride around the historic 60-acre site, enjoy the many family-friendly special events and learn how transportation helped build North Carolina.
3 Birthplace of Pepsi
3 Birthplace of PepsiNew BernSee on map
Pharmacist Caleb Bradham invented Pepsi in his drugstore in New Bern in 1898. Today, you can visit the Pepsi Store and browse through memorabilia while learning more about the history of one of the world’s favorite soft drinks.
4 Beach at Lake Lure
4 Beach at Lake LureLake LureSee on map
Gaze up at Chimney Rock as you play or lie on the beach. Plus, the water park offers soaking games, water slides and cannons, bumper boats and more. Then stop for a bite or an ice cream cone at one of the restaurants by the shore.
5 North Carolina Zoo
5 North Carolina ZooAsheboroSee on map
Connect with wildlife from two different continents (and a third coming in the next few years!) as you explore 500 acres of exhibits carefully constructed to resemble natural habitats. You can walk, or take a shuttle, from Africa’s grasslands to North America’s Arctic coast, all in one fun day.
6 Battleship North Carolina
6 Battleship North CarolinaWilmingtonSee on map
The most decorated US battleship of WWII offers you a chance to explore nine decks, crew’s quarters, gun turrets and much more. Afterward, visit downtown Wilmington for shopping, day or evening riverboat cruises, museums showcasing North Carolina artists and history, or tours of the historic district, nature preserves, and TV and film locations.
7 Tweetsie Railroad
7 Tweetsie RailroadBlowing RockSee on map
This family theme park features a 3-mile steam-powered train ride, which plays host to special events throughout the year such as Day Out With Thomas and Ghost Train. There's also live entertainment, amusement rides and a petting zoo.
8 Carolina Harbor at Carowinds
8 Carolina Harbor at CarowindsCharlotteSee on map
Carowinds expanded its water park in 2016, transforming it into Carolina Harbor and becoming the largest water park in the Carolinas. It will entice you to slide through Blackbeard's Revenge, watch your kids frolic in Kiddy Hawk Cove, catch some sun on one of the luxury cabanas and more.
9 WB Surf Camp
10 Linville Caverns
10 Linville CavernsMarionSee on map
Located near the High Country, North Carolina’s only show caverns allow visitors to glimpse nature at work “inside” the mountains. Slow moving ground water created underground labyrinths forming an incredible series of rooms, passages and spectacular formations.
11 Old Salem Museums & Gardens
11 Old Salem Museums & GardensWinston-SalemSee on map
Old Salem Museums & Gardens lets you experience early American history in the unique Moravian settlement of Salem. You can witness craftsmen performing historic trades, recreate Moravian crafts, enjoy sweets from Winkler Bakery, visit the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) and enjoy the gardens, an essential part of life in Salem since 1766.
12 North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
12 North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll ShoresAtlantic BeachSee on map
In addition to areas that celebrate mountain waterfalls, central rivers and coastal swamps, you can see three exhibits that replicate famed shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast – the sunken German sub U-352, Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, and the Caribsea freighter at this North Carolina Aquarium.
13 Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain
13 Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather MountainLinvilleSee on map
Enjoy the cool mountain air as you cross the Mile High Swinging Bridge, a 228-foot suspension bridge spanning an 80-foot chasm at more than 1 mile in elevation. A total of 11 trails dot this spot, one of the highest peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so you can take on anything from a gentle walk to a rigorous trek.
14 Pinehurst Resort
14 Pinehurst ResortPinehurstSee on map
With nine 18-hole golf courses – including the world-renowned Pinehurst No. 2 and the 9-hole short course known as The Cradle – Pinehurst is the largest golf resort in America. Non-golfers in the family can relax in the award-winning spa, take a lesson in lawn bowls or croquet, or kayak on the private lake.
15 Kitty Hawk Kites
15 Kitty Hawk KitesNags HeadSee on map
Learn to hang glide over soft sand dunes or fly tandem with an instructor at Kitty Hawk Kites. Other activities include kiteboarding lessons, dolphin tours, Lost Colony and bioluminescence kayak tours, as well as parasailing and stand-up paddleboarding.