The final days of summer are more precious than gold, so pack your bags and take one of these seven last-minute NC trips.
Whether you’re burnt out by all the chaos of summer plans or want to squeeze every last ounce of outdoor fun into your calendar before the dreaded carpool schedules and homework begin, the clock is ticking.
We’ve curated a list of the ultimate ways to end the 2023 summer with a bang. Here are 7 last-minute NC trips to take before school’s back!
Learn to Kiteboard in the Outer Banks
Who says learning is just for school? Before your kids bury their heads into textbooks for the foreseeable future, enjoy the hands-on, experiential, genuinely fun kind of learning that summer is made for. Learning how to kiteboard in the OBX is one way to do just that.
The coast of North Carolina is a hotspot for watersports, so it’s basically a rite of passage for all North Carolinians to try out (and potentially master) them all. You may have had a surf lesson or two or even took a turn on a stand-up paddleboard, but have you ever given kiteboarding a try?
The Outer Banks has become known as the “Kiteboarding and Wind Surfing Capital of the East Coast,” and for good reason. According to the official Outer Banks website, “The steady and consistent winds, temperate weather, shallow sound waters and rolling ocean waves all provide great opportunities for both novices and extreme sport enthusiasts alike.”
There are multiple companies that provide rentals and lessons, but some of the highest-rated ones include:
- Cape Hatteras Kiteboarding
- Kite Club Hatteras
- Kitty Hawk Kiteboarding
- Kitty Hawk Kites
- Outer Banks Kiting
If you want to make it an overnight adventure, consider staying at Waves Village, a resort on Hatteras Island that’s dedicated to watersports. In fact, it’s the premier kiteboarding resort on the continent. There are multiple property rentals to choose from as well as onsite stores and a seafood restaurant with unbeatable views of the beach sunset.
Channel Your Inner Child in a Treehouse-Turned-Airbnb
Staying overnight in a treehouse sounds like a super niche experience, but there are actually quite a few options to choose from in North Carolina. Here are a few of our faves.
This two-story treehouse, just 10 minutes from downtown Asheville, has a whopping 630 reviews and an impressive average rating of 4.98 stars on Airbnb. For $390 a night, you can stargaze from a custom-made treehouse that’s suspended in white oaks. It’s even been featured on the DIY Network, HGTV, and the Travel Channel.
This luxurious and romantic treehouse in Old Fort is the perfect place to spend one more summer date night. The 4.99-star rating doesn’t lie, which is why the unique listing was voted Airbnb’s “Most wish-listed property in North Carolina” in 2020. For $346 a night, you get access to a swinging bridge, hot tub, LED fireplace, heat/AC, luxury bedding, microwave and cooktop, and more. Basically, it’s the bougiest—not to mention coolest—way to spend a night nestled in the woods.
Another fancy option is The Carolina Treehouse near Charlotte, which was built “for dreamers to reset, reflect, and create.” It’s got a private pond, a swing bed, tons of amenities, and an absolutely stunning “lodge-chic” design. Scroll through the photos and your jaw will drop.
Lastly, this tiny treehouse in Hendersonville is perfect for those who want the unique glamping experience without breaking the bank. You’ll still get a queen-sized bed, fire pit, outdoor shower, complimentary coffee, and private patio, which is more than enough to bring out your inner child. Even though the property is just minutes away from downtown Hendersonville, it’s close to hiking trails, fishing spots, and other outdoor activities in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains.
Pick Your Own Fruit and Make a Splash in the Swimming Hole at Carrigan Farms
Carrigan Farms in Mooresville might be one of the state’s best-kept secrets.
Situated just 30 minutes north of Charlotte, this magical place has a rock-quarry-turned-swimming-hole, fishing ponds, restaurant with yummy farm-to-table foods, strawberry fields, and apple orchards where you can pick your own fruits.
It’s the ideal place to soak up the best parts of summer while hanging by the water, bathing in the warm sun, biting into fresh and ripe foods, getting out in nature, and making memories with loved ones. Sign up for Open Swim, which typically costs around $25 per person, ASAP to reserve your spot.
Get That Last Bit of Rest and Relaxation at a Highlands Spa
On Vacayou’s list of The 5 Best Spas in North Carolina, two of the spots are in Highlands. The area’s remarkable and mountainous landscape, charming town, seven golf courses, and many waterfalls attract wealthy residents and visitors seeking the finer things in life. Additionally, there are a couple luxurious spas that are calling your name.
First, there’s Half Mile Farm, home to a Napa-style inn and spa that offers indulgent amenities and stunning, natural views. The site’s Serenity Suite offers a range of personalized and sustainable treatments, including a couple’s massage, herbal garden bath, and grapevine thai massage. Services range from $155 to $295.
Another fantastic option is the Old Edwards Inn and Spa, a European-style mountain resort in the heart of Highlands. There are numerous facial, body, massage, and nail treatments available ranging from $10 to $360.
Hop Aboard a Train in the Great Smoky Mountains
If you want a front-row seat to jaw-droppingly beautiful and remote scenes you can’t view by car, head to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad historic train depot in Bryson City. On the round-trip ride, you’ll pass by Fontana Lake, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala National Forest, the Tuckasegee River, multiple gorges, and so much more.
The service runs year-round, but taking the trip while the skies are clear blue and foliage is still lush and green is bound to be unforgettable.
There are multiple exciting excursions to choose from and a 52-mile ride on the steam train starts at just $18.
Explore Secret Islands and Sleep Under the Stars at Hammocks Beach State Park
Camping is the ideal way to soak up every last bit of summertime, and if you Google the best places to camp in North Carolina, Hammocks Beach State Park is bound to pop up on every roundup. Despite that fact, it’s still never overrun with tourists.
With three barrier islands, four miles of beach, and 2.3 miles of nearby paths, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. If you rent a canoe or hope aboard the $10 ferry service, you can make your way from the mainland over to Bear Island, which makes an ideal camping spot on a pristine, undeveloped beach.
There are tent sites and showers as well as a gazebo, picnic shelter, lifeguarded swimming area, rentals, and a visitor center on the island. But the best attractions aren’t man-made. You won’t come across better stargazing.
Drink Your Way Around Asheville
If you’re craving one last day or night on the town before the hectic school year starts, Asheville is just the place. According to Explore Asheville, the city boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the United States, making it the ideal spot for an end-of-summer beercation.
One way to go about the adventure is to book a specialty tour. City Brew Tours provides roundtrip transportation, so all you need to do is show up and be ready to sample up to 16 beer styles at four of the city’s trendiest breweries. The public tour costs $99 per person. Asheville Adventure Co. offers a party bus brewery crawl for the same price. You get a beer at every stop and the bus is BYOB … and S (snacks).
Alternatively, you can tour the breweries individually (the tours of Sierra Nevada and New Belgium are super legit) or create your own brewery crawl on your own time. If you want to stick to a small area, we recommend checking out the South Slope District, where a handful of hip breweries are within mere blocks of each other.
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