Growing up in North Carolina, I’ve always taken for granted everything it has to offer. That’s changed in the past couple of years, after finding out we were pregnant and having our first child. My wife, Vicki, and I now talk about all of the weekend trips we can take from Raleigh. While doing some research, I thought other families may want to know some of the family-friendly must do’s in North Carolina. Whether you are from this area or you’re just passing through, keep this post bookmarked for quick reference. It may just help you plan your next trip!
*Note: this list is in somewhat geographical order from west to east, not my personal ranking.
1. Biltmore, Asheville
Asheville is a great city and a place that everyone should have on their radar. Located just outside of downtown is Biltmore. Checking in at 178,000 square feet, Biltmore Estate is the nation’s largest privately owned home. Not only can you tour the historic house, but you can also spend some time dining, wine tasting, visiting their working farm, walking through the gardens, or shopping on the 8,000 acre estate. It’s easy to keep a family occupied here anytime of the year, but the holiday season is generally regarded as the best (and typically, the most expensive).
Children (10-16): $32.50
2. Old Salem, Winston-Salem
Old Salem is definitely a blast from the past and a great place for history families. Located in Winston-Salem, Old Salem is a Moravian settlement dating from the mid 1700s. You can drive or walk through the village or buy tickets to visit the restored shops and houses. Think Williamsburg, but on a smaller scale.
Children (4-18, 4 & under free): $13
3. U.S. National Whitewater Center, Charlotte
If you find yourself in Charlotte and have an adventurous family, this is the place for you. The U.S. National Whitewater Center has about every outdoor activity: ropes course, canopy tours, hiking trails, kayaking, canoeing, and of course whitewater rafting. Fun fact: it is an official Olympic Training Center.
Children (9 and under): $44-$49
4. Carowinds, Charlotte
If you are more of an amusement park family, head over to Carowinds. Just south of Charlotte, Carowinds is your typical large amusement park with about 10 roller coasters, a water park, shows, and more. It is a more pricey attraction, but well worth it. Tip: you can usually find discounted tickets in local grocery stores or on Coke cans in the Carolinas.
Children (under 48″ tall and/or under 3): $44
Adults: $65 (discounts available)
5. North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro
Almost every kid growing up in central North Carolina has taken a field trip to the North Carolina Zoo. Located in Asheboro, it’s centered in the state, so it’s easy to get to from just about anywhere. You can take in an educational show, see animals from all over the world, and treat your family to special exhibits.
Children (2-12, 2 & under free): $11
6. Wright Brothers Memorial, Kitty Hawk
As an aviation geek, I feel shame in saying this: regrettably, this is the only place on this list that I have not been. On the bright side, it is one of the first places we want to take our son. The Wright Brothers Memorial is a National Park located in Kitty Hawk in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is the home to one of the greatest achievements in our history, the first successful airplane flight. Tip: since you are in the area, you should consider visiting Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and seeing the wild horses that call the Outer Banks home.
Children (15 and under): FREE
7. USS North Carolina Battleship, Wilmington
Continuing with the history theme, if you find yourself in the southern North Carolina beach area (Wilmington to be exact), a trip to the USS North Carolina Battleship should be on your list. The feeling you get walking onto this warship used to fight in the Pacific Theatre of World War II is surreal. Your kids will have a blast walking through the bunks and seeing how life was spent on the ship in World War II.
Children (6-11 years old, 5 & under free): $6
North Carolina is no longer a sleepy southern state. There are many family-friendly things to do, no matter which part of the state you’re located/visiting. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it should give you a few things to do when you visit our great state!