Family-Friendly Campgrounds from the Mountains to the Coast


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There's nothing like being cocooned in a sleeping bag with your loved ones, far from televisions and handheld game chargers, to encourage family bonding. Camping with your children creates memories they'll treasure for years,  even if they grumble about having to help pitch the tent or gather kindling. Even "RV-ing," while offering more comforts of home, builds family togetherness.
But even the most well-intentioned camping trip can be disastrous if you set off without a specific destination or, worse, the place you think will be great reeks like a sewer or is full of rowdy, partying college students. Whether you're into the mountains, on the coast or somewhere in between, here are five camping destinations with good reputations for families:

MOUNTAINS

Black Mountain Campground and Briar Bottom Group Campground
Approximately 20 miles east of Burnsville, N.C., off State Road 80 South
fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recreation/camping-cabins (search for campsite names)
These two side-by-side campgrounds in the Pisgah National Forest are booked and maintained separately.
With its spacious, shady campsites, riverside location and laid-back atmosphere, Black Mountain campground has attracted return visitors for generations. Each of the 43 sites offers a picnic table, fire ring with grill and lantern post. RVs are welcome but no hookups are available. Sparkling bathrooms with separate shower facilities are a hallmark, thanks to the attentive and industrious volunteer hosts, who also sell firewood, ice and ice cream.
Take plenty of towels for after your kids cool off in hit the swimming hole in the South Toe River and take advantage of catch-and-release trout fishing opportunities, especially if you don't mind hiking away from the busy camping area.
Want to go higher than the 3,000 feet altitude where Black Mountain sits? Visit Mount Mitchell - the highest peak east of the Mississippi. It's about a half hour's drive away on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
There are also plenty of biking and hiking trails - some with waterfall viewing - leading from the campground or nearby, and the campground's circular layout and gravel drive make bike riding a top kid activity. Reservations are strongly recommended, especially on weekends. Call 828-675-5616.
Briar Bottom, a group campground with shelters, a playing field and easy access to the South Toe, shares the same entrance
as Black Mountain. Families qualify since a group is anything more than two people.
For reservations, call 877-444-6777.

Julian Price Memorial Parkpriceparkrangerprogram.jpg
5580 Shulls Mill Rd., Blowing Rock, N.C.
828-963-5911
blueridgeheritage.com or recreation.gov (search for Julian Price)
Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, Julian Price Memorial Park boasts the largest campground on the parkway as well as a well-trafficked picnic site. It offers serenity for nature lovers, in part due to the 47-acre Price Lake, where you can canoe, fish or swim.
The campground's 197 sites welcome RVs and tents, and there are more than 30 small sites for tents only. All have fire rings, and firewood is available upon request. (Campers can't bring their own wood due to non-native invasive insects that could damage the trees.) The campground is open late May to October.
Kids of all ages can enjoy park ranger-interpreted programs at the amphitheater or along a hiking trail. (Check with the park to see if the programs are available.)
Take a side trip to Blowing Rock - just 20 miles away - for restaurants, antique shops and other amenities. Grandfather Mountain isn't far, either, and offers native animal exhibits, a nature museum and its famous mile-high swinging bridge. (Pictured above: Children participate in a ranger-led program at Julian Price Memorial Park.)

FOOTHILLS

Stone Mountain State Park
3042 Frank Pkwy., Roaring Gap, N.C.
336-957-8185
ncparks.gov
Thanks to its imposing 600-foot granite dome, Stone Mountain is popular with intrepid rock climbers and wild mountain goats. It's also a go-to vacation destination for family campers.
When you're not sleeping in your tent or RV in one of the park's 80-plus sites (some have electric and water hookups), stake out the perfect family hike from among more than 16 miles of trails. Don't be surprised to find horses at the crossroads of hiking and bridle trails.
For fishing fans, Stone Mountain is a highly regarded trout destination with more than 17 miles of designated trout streams, including The East Prong of Roaring River, a stocked stream classified as delayed harvest, which means campers can only fish there four months out of the year using single-hook, artificial lures. Bullhead and Rich Mountain creeks offer catch-and-release fishing year-round.
Want to give your kids a small dose of history? Check out the mid-1800s-era Hutchinson Homestead, complete with a log cabin, barn, blacksmith shop, corncrib, meat house and original furnishings.

TRIANGLE

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area
280 State Park Rd., Apex, N.C.
919-362-0586
ncparks.gov
If you're a water-loving family craving a "staycation," Jordan Lake may be just the ticket. For Triangle families, it's a few minutes away, but you'll feel miles from home. This 14,000-acre lake is ringed by nine recreation areas featuring 1,000 campsites of varying sizes, amenities and facilities, so whether you're RV-ing, car camping or backpacking to your site, you'll find something suitable.
Many people go to Jordan Lake for the clean beaches and boating opportunities, whether you take your own kayak, canoe or a pontoon boat. The lake's marina, just north of U.S. 64, is privately operated and offers ethanol-free gasoline, boat storage, boat rentals, access to boat ramps and a convenience center.
Jordan Lake is also a mecca for bird watchers because it supports the largest
concentration of bald eagles in the eastern U.S. For the best viewing, seek out areas that
afford a wide view of the lake, including Vista Point, Ebenezer and Seaforth recreation areas.

COAST

Cape Hatteras National Seashore
1401 National Park Drive, Avon, N.C. 27915
252-473-2111
nps.gov/caha
If you don't mind sand in your sleeping bag, camping is the best way to fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves breaking. And if pristine is what prefer, the four public campgrounds along Cape Hatteras National Seashore fit the bill. Established in 1937 as the country's first national seashore, Cape Hatteras National Seashore preserves more than 70 miles of Outer Banks coastline.
Each campground - Oregon Inlet in Nag's Head, Cape Point in Avon, Frisco in Frisco and Ocracoke on Ocracoke Island - offers more than 100 sites for both tent and RV-camping. Only the facility at Ocracoke accepts reservations, due to its remote, boat-only access; the rest are rented on a first-come, first-serve basis. Toilets and a bathhouse are available, but cold water is on tap in the showers and it's strictly BYOS - bring your own soap.
Serious fishermen can try some of the best surf fishing on the East Coast. When the kids get tired of collecting shells, body surfing, making sand castles or flying kites, visit some of the more famous lighthouses on the Outer Banks: Cape Hatteras, Bodie Island and Ocracoke lighthouses. Each of these communities has its own character and attractions, including seafood restaurants, historical societies and surf/tackle shops.

Hunting Island State Park
2555 Sea Island Pkwy., Hunting Island, S.C.
843-838-2011
southcarolinaparks.com/huntingisland/introduction.aspx
For those who want their beach camping experience punctuated by palm trees, Spanish moss and subtropical breezes, consider Hunting Island State Park near Beaufort, S.C. The state's most popular park offers 5 miles of undeveloped beach, marshes, maritime forests and a saltwater lagoon, as well as 200-plus campsites on the northern end of the island near the ocean. (It also has a cabin with central air.)
Keep the kids active - and harder for mosquitoes to find - with a visit to the playground. Stroll along the marsh boardwalk, hike or bike on the 8-mile island trail, or take it easy 1-mile campground walk. Surf and marsh fishing are popular, as is trekking to the Hunting Island Lighthouse, one of the only publicly accessible lighthouses in South Carolina. The viewing area at 130 feet affords a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. On the way back to North Carolina, take in the Low Country's many attractions and eateries (southcarolinalowcountry.com).

Suzanne Wood is a Raleigh-based freelance writer and mother of three who has enjoyed a half-dozen week-long camping trips with her family.

Also see Family Camping Tips: Checklist for Supplies, Equipment

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Calendar

June 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

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The summer heat is back, and so are the insects! Join us in the Finley Center exhibit hall to do some fun insect-themed crafts. We will make butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and other insect...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Website »

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Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  17560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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Learn more about Earth's amazing star, the sun. Safely view the sun through a solar telescope, hear about unusual space weather and current solar research, and more. International SUNday...

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Research Center
121 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919.707.8239
Contact Name: Rachel Smith
Website »

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Discover Historic Yates Mill - a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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The Eno River Farmers Market celebrates its 10th anniversary. Take a blanket and dish to share.

Cost: Free

Where:
Eno River Farmers Market
144 E. Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC
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Website »

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The summer heat is back, and so are the insects! Join us in the Finley Center exhibit hall to do some fun insect-themed crafts. We will make butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and other insect...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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The Art Therapy Institute has been working in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools with the Exceptional Children's Program for the past ten years. Enjoy a summer art therapy groups in June and...

Cost: $20 per session

Where:
Art Therapy Institute of NC
200 N Greensboro St. Suite D-6 (2nd Floor Carr Mill Mall)
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Telephone: 919-381-6068
Website »

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Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Weekly basic skills cooking class offered for children ages 5-10 at Whole Foods North Raleigh.  This free class meets at the cafe each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is offered by registering...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Enjoy "They Say Blue."

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Children's author Darren Farrell reads from his book, "Letter Town: A Seek-and-Find Alphabet Adventure." From Avenue A to Zoo Z, there's always something to spot and see in Letter...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Join us at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro every Thursday at 10 a.m. for a casual storytime on the porch or even out in the yard. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Chatham Marketplace
480 Hillsboro St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Sponsor: Chatham Marketplace
Telephone: 919-542-2643
Contact Name: Craig Kolman
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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Take part in a 5K on a USATF certified course hosted by Inter Development Futbol Club. Enjoy post-race refreshments and prizes for winners. Register online. 

Cost: $25/advance registration; $30/day of race

Where:
WakeMed Soccer Park
201 Soccer Park Dr.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Inter Development Futbol
Contact Name: Lydia Matombo
Website »

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Summerfest Celebration features an autograph session, inflatables, games, free giveaways, guest speakers from the Hurricanes, appearances by Stormy and the Pepsi Storm Squad, discounted...

Cost: Free

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Celebrate the wonderful world of exotic animals and reptiles. Enjoy live specimens, presentations, raffles, vendors and much more. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds, Kerr Scott Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Before he was the beloved Pete the Cat, he was Pete the Kitty. Join Pete on a cat-tastic playdate as he learns a lesson about sharing with his friend, Grumpy Toad. Activities to follow. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Ride the train in a Hawaiian setting complete with craft beer, barbecue and music. Iconic Productions’ DJ Harry will host games prizes and giveaways, including limbo, hula hoop and dance...

Cost: $10-$12

Where:
New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Rd.
Bonsal, NC  27562
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Website »

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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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The Children’s Saturday Matinee series presents performances by three of the acclaimed professional dance companies that perform during the season. These one-hour performances are specially...

Cost: $17.25/person

Where:
Reynolds Industries Theater
Duke University
125 Science Dr.
Durham, NC
View map »


Sponsor: American Dance Festival
Telephone: 919-684-6402
Contact Name: Sarah Tondu
Website »

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Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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