6 Family Trips to Make Your Day
Whether it's a trip to the beach for fun in the sun or a jaunt to a nearby state park, several popular destinations are just a short drive from the Triangle and offer families a chance to sneak away for a fun - or relaxing - day trip.
1. North Carolina Zoo
Less than 2 hours from the Triangle
The 500-acre North Carolina Zoo is home to 1,600 animals, including elephants, zebras, giraffes, baboons and birds. A 36-foot carousel is popular with families. Other activities include the Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs 4-D Experience, a 1-mile public hiking trail and a giraffe deck that offers a birds-eye view. Children younger than 2 are free.
TIPS: Consider weather and dress appropriately.
2½ hours from the Triangle
Head to the beach for some sand and sun, or take in historic sites. Climb aboard the decorated warship, the USS North Carolina battleship, complete with gun turrets and crew quarters. A self-guided tour brings history to life. For civil war buffs, Fort Fisher in Kure Beach is not far from Wilmington and can be combined with a trip to the nearby North Carolina Aquarium.
TIPS: Go early to the battleship; it can get warm and crowded. In March, consider the annual Cape Fear Wildlife Expo. The Kids Gone Wild workshop includes activities such as a scavenger hunt, wildlife programs, archery and a duck-calling contest. Public fishing piers are available at area beaches.
INFO: battleshipnc.com, wilmingtonandbeaches.com, wrightsvillebeachscenictours.com, ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher, capefearwildlifeexpo.com
3. Raven Rock State Park
1 hour from the Triangle
Connect with nature at this 4,667-acre park that features hiking, canoeing, fishing, picnicking and trails. Educational programs (for grades 5-8) are correlated to North Carolina's curriculum. Many events are free and kids can participate in the Junior Ranger program.
TIPS: Trails may have stairs. Take sunscreen and bug repellant.
4. Saxapahaw Rivermill
About 15 miles from Chapel Hill
This restored cotton mill along the Haw River is perfect for a day of touring shops in a quaint village or fishing and paddling on the river.
TIPS: Saturday activities in Saxapahaw May-August feature a farmers market, local wines, music and activities for children.
5. Wet 'n Wild
Emerald Pointe Water Park
1½ hours from the Triangle
Beat the heat at Wet 'n Wild, the largest water park in the Carolinas. With more than 36 rides and attractions, and a new Soak Zone for 2013 that includes a water spray and waterfall, this promises to be a fun, wet adventure for all ages.
TIPS: Locker rentals available. Some rides may have height requirements.
6. Hanging Rock State Park
2½ hours from the Triangle
Enjoy spectacular views of stone cliffs and waterfalls while hiking, picnicking, fishing or boating. The park features a mountain lake and educational programs such as wildflower identification and a workshop on the Saura Native Americans that inhabited the area until the early 1700s.
TIPS: Be prepared for cool weather and dress appropriately.
INFO: ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/haro/main.php, ncparks.gov/Education/training.php