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15+ Family Vacation Ideas in North Carolina – NC Travel Guide

By Life, Family Fun Team


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If you are looking for beautiful mountain hikes, thrill-seeking coasters, or fun scavenger hunts on the beach, then check out all the fun things to do in North Carolina!

North Carolina’s tourism has families and children in mind. Living in N.C. has been a wonderful experience for my family. We have vacationed all over our own state and have never been disappointed. The mild weather and getting to experience all four seasons, make North Carolina an ideal destination.

North Carolina

Family Fun in N.C. Mountains

The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains are in the western part of North Carolina. There you will find gorgeous waterfalls, amazing views, fun-filled hikes, and some of the best skiing facilities on the east coast.

  • Tweetsie Railroad

Tweetsie Railroad is located in the mountains of N.C. between Boone and Blowing Rock. It is a fun amusement park themed around the Wild West. This is by far one of my family’s favorite places. Parents and grandparents love the feel of stepping back in time, while children love all the fun amusement rides.

The steam engine takes you around the park with a live show in between. Tweetsie is one of the most family-oriented places in N.C. There are so many fun things to do such as fairground games, carnival rides and a petting zoo. They offer seasonal themed train rides for special holidays such as Christmas and Halloween. Thomas the Train also comes for a visit once a year.

  • The Land Of Oz

The Land of Oz is located on Beech Mountain, North Carolina. If your family is fans of the movie “The Wizard of Oz”, you will want to visit the nostalgic Land of Oz. Take a journey over the rainbow and on the yellow brick road with Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow to find the Wizard. You may even see a flying monkey or two. The park is only open during special events in June and September.


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  • Sliding Rock

What could be more fun than a natural water-slide? Sliding Rock, in the Pisgah National Forest, has been a hit with locals and tourists for years. Even though there is always a line, it moves fast with all the fun and excitement. In the summer, they have a life-guard on duty and restrooms/changing rooms available.

  • Chimney Rock Park

Chimney Rock Park is located near Asheville. There you will find the most beautiful views of the Carolina Mountains. Take a walk through a long tunnel to an elevator that takes you directly to the top of the mountain. There are also plenty of hiking trails and even a Woodland Adventure area just for kids.

  • Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is located in Bryson City. It offers a scenic ride through mountains and tunnels. Also offered, are many family fun themed adventures. My family’s favorite is the Polar Express Train ride during the holiday season.

We have tried out different Polar Express excursions throughout the years, and the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad has the BEST Polar Express experience offered. Spend a little extra and get first class tickets, it will be an experience your kids will remember for a lifetime.

  • Cherokee

There are many exciting ways to experience the Indian heritage in Cherokee. From weekly story-telling bonfires, to the the annual 4th of July Powwow, Cherokee offers an authentic tribal experience. Kids love all the entertaining dancers and drummers, while parents love the true craftsmanship of the vendors. There is always a family fun event to attend.

North Carolina Attractions for Families

Many family attractions are in North Carolina’s Piedmont region which is located between the mountains and beaches. The Piedmont region is home to some of the biggest cities in N.C. like Charlotte and Raleigh.

  • Emerald Hollow Mine

Emerald Hollow Mine, located in Hiddenite, is one the only emerald mines that is open to the public. Children love to go digging in the nearby creek and then sluicing for gems (be prepared to get wet and dirty).

Gem Mine in North Carolina

There are plenty of gems to be found and you will not leave empty handed. There is even a jeweler on site that can turn your treasured gems into jewelry. This is a fun experience for all ages!


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  • Carowinds

If you’re a thrill-seeking family, then checkout the roller-coasters at Carowinds. Located on the NC/SC border, Carowinds has been one the most exciting Carolina attractions for families for years. There is fun for all ages! They offer Snoopy Land for the little ones, and some of the most thrilling coasters in the world. Some of the roller-coasters at Carowinds are even record-breaking in their heights and speeds. They even have their own water park called Carolina Harbor.

  • North Carolina Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo, located in Asheboro, is one of the largest habitat zoos in the country. There are so many exhibits, and the animals have plenty of room to roam. Most of the habitats mimic the animals natural homes. Families love that the zoo offers so many extra activities if you check their website. This is another amazing N.C. attraction for families. The zoo is enormous so bring comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen to make a day of it!

  • White Lake N.C.

White Lake is a crystal clear lake with a white sandy bottom. The lake is so clear, many tourists have compared it to the Caribbean. There is plenty of family fun to be found at White Lake because not only can you swim and jet-ski, there is also a water-park, an amusement park, and many affordable cabins.

Even though White Lake is North Carolina’s little secret oasis, families have been vacationing on it’s white sandy beaches for decades.

  • Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge is located in Concord, North Carolina. It is the ultimate indoor water-park! It is an entire resort based around family fun!

After spending the day enjoying the water-park, then there are many other entertainment options available. Some family favorites are character story times, arcade games, bowling, a kiddie spa, and magic-quest adventures. Book your stay on a weekday if you are looking to cut your room rate in half.

Related: 5 Howling Good Reasons To Stay At The Great Wolf Lodge During the Holidays

  • Marbles Kids Museum

If you are looking to spend hours in a fun educational place, Marbles Kids Museum will fit the bill. Located in Raleigh, Marbles is a family favorite because there are so many activities available. Yes, this is a museum for kids, but parents will enjoy all the exhibits and activities as well.

  • North Carolina Coast Attractions

From the Outer Banks to little islands, the N.C. coast has great attractions. It is filled with many laid-back beach towns and beautiful historical sites.

  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is probably one of the most recognizable sites of North Carolina. It is a fantastic place to visit with your entire family. Wear your walking shoes, because you can climb this historical lighthouse to see the most magnificent view! There is also a museum and rangers station full of artifacts and information.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina

  • Corolla’s Wild Horses

Many families enjoy taking tours to see the wild horses of Corolla. These wild mustangs are descendants of the Spanish Mustangs who were brought here by explorers many years ago. There are a few different tour companies who will take you in their open 4-wheel-drive hummers to watch the horses in their natural habitats. Kids love the adventure of the ride, and parents love the history lesson that is given during the tour.

  • Ocean Isle’s Beach Scavenger Hunt

Ocean Isle offers a series of beach scavenger hunts for the summer season. Kids love to look for prizes around the island. On the plus side, this activity is FREE. Check their calendar to see the days it is offered.

Things To Do In N.C.

As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in North Carolina. If you are looking for things to do on a budget, many activities are free or discounted. Since N.C. supports home-schooling, some activities listed offers free or discounted admission to homeschoolers.

Time passes so fast and your children grow up in a blink of an eye! Make memories with your family that last a lifetime. Instead of birthday gifts, we always give our kids an “experience” because experiences are the gifts that keep giving. Hopefully, this list has given you some great ideas for experiences that your family will never forget!

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