22 Summer Activities in NC That Don’t Involve A Lot Of Planning (or Money)

A weekly fireworks show caps off the Boardwalk Blast Thursdays at Carolina Beach.

By Vanessa Infanzon

June 8, 2023

Need something to do for the day or weekend? Head to one of these activities for summer fun in North Carolina.

When a friend or family member asks me during the winter months to plan a trip in the summer, I have a hard time thinking that far in advance. My brain can’t always make the mental leap from winter to summer planning. And sometimes, I don’t want to be tied down to plans I made six months prior. I like to have the freedom to wake up and plan my day based on how I feel. 

Here are 22 ways to spend a day or a weekend, with little to no planning – and still have loads of fun:

4th Annual Brushy Mountain Peach Festival

Wilkesboro — Free

The Brushy Mountain Peach Festival in Wilkesboro NC Image via Altman Media Group

On July 28-29, downtown Wilkesboro will host its annual Brushy Mountain Peach Festival. Expect a “peach jam” local live music on Friday evening at the Carolina West Community Commons Stage. Find peaches and various peach products: butter, donuts, ice cream, jam, pies and more. Vendors featuring homemade crafts and goods will also be available. Cool off at the Heritage Square Splashpad next to the festival grounds.

The Beech Mountain Resort Summer Concert Series

Beech Mountain — Free

The Beech Mountain Summer Concert Series Image via Amelia Winchester

The annual summer music series features The Revivalists with Son Little, Amos Lee with Langhorne Slim and Grace Potter with Morgan Wade. $

While you’re in town, stop by Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria for live music every Friday night from Memorial Day until mid-August. Fred’s General Mercantile hosts concerts on Sundays from July 9 through August 6.

Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show

Blowing Rock — Tickets required, but kids 12 and under free

The Blowing Rock Horse Show Image via Lonnie Webster

Celebrate 100 years of the Hunter/Jumper Shows over three weeks in July and August. The event is held at the Broyhill Equestrian Preserve.

Carnivorous Plant Hikes

Carolina Beach — Free

The Carolina Beach Carnivorous Plant Hike Image via Wilmington CVB

The rangers at Carolina State Park lead a weekly hike on Saturday mornings along the Venus Flytrap nature trail and bird walks on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Look for monthly astronomy programs.

Cookout Summer Shootout Series

Concord — Tickets required, but kids 13 and under are free

The Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway Image via Explore Cabarrus

Every week from June 12 to August 1, the Charlotte Motor Speedway opens for the Summer Shootout Series, an eight-week auto racing series for up-and-coming drivers.

Elevated Wake Park

Lexington — Tickets Required

Elevated Wake Park Image via Jeff Mathis

If you’ve thought about trying wakeboarding but didn’t have the boat or equipment, head to Elevated Wake Park. Beginners and advanced riders are able to build and work on skills. An inflatable aqua park is open to kids. Spectators, picnics, dogs and families are welcome.


Durham — Tickets Required


Each year, since 1980, the nonprofit Eno River Association has hosted EnoFest to support its mission to “protect the natural, cultural and historic resources of the Eno River basin in northern Durham and Orange counties.” Head to West Point on the Eno on July 1 and July 4 for live music, a juried craft event, and food from local trucks and restaurants.

Fireworks by the Sea & Boardwalk Blast

Carolina Beach — Free

Set up on Carolina Beach Boardwalk, on Thursday nights (weather permitting) for an outdoor concert at 6:30 p.m. and fireworks at 9 p.m.

Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

Kure Beach — Free


Fish or swim at the lifeguard-protected beach and hike along the one-mile Basin Trail through marshes to the WWII bunker.

Hammock Beach State Park Visitor Center

Swansboro — Tickets Required

Hammocks Beach State Park Image via Visit Jacksonville NC

View the water from rocking chairs on the visitor center’s porch, which overlooks Bear Island and the marsh. Walk 2.3 miles of natural dirt paths near the visitor center. Free

Book a ferry ride to Bear Island for miles of beach and a kayak launch. Check the ferry schedule before heading out – it’s seasonal.

Hickory Aviation Museum

Hickory — Free

Hickory Aviation Museum

The museum highlights almost two dozen Korean, Vietnam and Cold War aircraft including the SH-3H Sea King, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet and the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star. Refuel at the Crosswind Café, inside the airport terminal. 

North Carolina Zoo

Asheboro — Tickets Required

The NC Zoos lions Image via Credit HeartofNorthCarolinacom

Asheboro, known as Zoo City, is home to the largest natural habitat zoo in the world. Look for more than 250 species of animals including giraffes, bears, lions, polar bears, sea lions and otters. Zoo Trekker is a new free activity designed for 6 to 12-year-olds. Explore and observe animals while earning a free souvenir pin. Weekday visits will have smaller crowds.

Robertson Millpond Preserve

Wendell — Free

Robertson Millpond Preserve Image via Michael Robson at VisitRaleighcom

This 85-acre refuge offers nature enthusiasts, canoeists and kayakers a unique opportunity to see the bald cypress habitat. The preserve’s paddling trail, a 1.15-mile loop, is marked by more than 70 buoys. Tar River Life rents kayaks on Saturdays only. Visitors are welcome to bring their own canoe or kayak, an ADA-accessible boat dock is available.


Holden Beach — Free

Holden Beach in NC Image via NC Brunswick Islands

While Holden Beach gets a makeover – a barge is digging up sand from the ocean and bringing it to the shoreline to combat erosion – you have the chance to find unique shells from the deep sea. It’s been called a “shell hunter’s paradise” where fossilized sea urchins and other rare shells are being uncovered.

Shindig on the Green 

Asheville — Free

Shindig on the Green in Asheville Image via Asheville Credit Destination by Design

Now you can tell your friends you’ve been to a proper shindig — bluegrass music and dancing on Saturdays at Pack Square Park in July and August. Check the website for specific dates. Shindig on the Green is a site on the Blue Ridge Music Trails.

Sliding Rock

Cashiers — Free

Cashiers Sliding Rock Image via VisitJacksonville

Just outside Cashiers, along Whiteside Cove Road, a natural waterslide pours visitors into a mountain swimming hole. Families with young children will enjoy the small crowds and shallow water.

Sounds of Summer

Edenton — Free

Edenton in northeastern North Carolina Image via Chowan County

It’s an all-day party on Edenton Bay: Crafts, dancing, food and music. Join the party on July 22 from the water or the waterfront park.

Summer Movies at the Lake

Carolina Beach — Free

Watch “The Goonies;” “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile;” “Lightyear” and other family-friendly movies at the Carolina Beach Lake Amphitheater on Sundays at dusk.

Trolley Tour

Edenton — Tickets Required

Head to the Penelope Barker House Welcome Center to board a restored antique trolley. The narrated tour guides visitors through 300 years of history.

Tube on Deep Creek

Bryson City — Tickets Required

Deep Creek Tubing Image via Bryson City TDA Chamber

Float through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Deep Creek. Bring your own tube or rent one from a local shop, just outside the park entrance.

Uproar Festival of Public Art

Orange County — Free

Be the first of your friends to experience the newest arts festival in Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. Sixty works of art will be displayed outside from July 14 through August 12. Audio descriptions will be available for individuals with low vision and transportation options will be available on Saturdays for those who need assistance moving from each location.

ZipQuest Waterfall & Treetop Adventure

Fayetteville — Tickets Required

ZipQuest Waterfall and Tree Adventure in Fayetteville Image via DistinctlyFayettevilleNCcom

Adrenaline junkies will go for the Waterfall Expedition – traverse eight tree-to-tree zip lines, three suspension bridges and three spiral staircases. The Treetop Excursion features five tree-to-tree zip lines, one suspension bridge and two spiral staircases. The NightQuest is an after-hours tour in the moonlight.


  • Vanessa Infanzon

    Vanessa Infanzon moved from New York to NC for college and never left. When she’s not writing, she’s paddle boarding at the Whitewater Center.

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