North Carolina is a fantastic place to visit with family and friends. It’s common to want to know which are the best day trips in NC for kids.
What are the best day trip destinations in North Carolina for kids?
When visiting North Carolina, you can participate in loads of day trips in different directions. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and Dismal Swamp are among the most popular places to visit.
We spoke with expert tour guides working in North Carolina and they gave us a comprehensive breakdown of indoor and outdoor places to visit. This information can help you plan the most epic day trips with the kids.
The Best Places To Bring Kids In North Carolina
Tour the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Kids love visiting new and fun places. When in North Carolina, one place to explore during a day trip is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Plan a trip and drive to Buxton in North Carolina. You can take a boat trip to Hatteras Island when you get there. This is the home of the majestic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The best part of this trip is that the lighthouse is open for visitors to climb.
This is a 75-foot-tall lighthouse with solid brick walls. The outside is all-white, and the structure does light up at night. Spend the day on the island exploring with the kids. The lighthouse is open daily for visitors.
Visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Do you want to spend a day touring the largest museum in North Carolina? Play a day trip with the kids and visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
The natural world comes alive when you step foot into this national museum. This is a 300 000 sq. ft. building located in central Raleigh. There are diverse temporary and permanent exhibits that fill this vast structure.
On top of that, kids and adults enjoy the numerous programs at the museum. Take kids to ‘Meet the Animals’ at the Living Conservatory. You can share the experience with family and friends who are away via the amazing virtual tours.
Enjoy Canoeing in the Dismal Swamp
If outdoor activities are what you seek in a day trip, then head over to Dismal Swamp State Park. This place, full of fun adventure, is in Camden County, NC. And it’s the best place to be if you want to access the Dismal Swamp.
Did you know that the Dismal Swamp is the only remaining great swamp in the eastern United States? This makes it an essential habitat and a great place to visit. During the day trip, kids will enjoy watching all the animals that call this place home.
Plus, you can get on a canoe and tour this great swamp. Many visitors and locals enjoy canoeing and boating through the swamp. You can also bring your paddle board or kayak for maximum fun.
Tour the Catawba Science Center
Science centers are a perfect place to visit on a day trip. Another excellent place to check out in North Carolina is the Catawba Science Center.
The center is located in Hickory and has numerous attractions. There are permanent exhibits, an aquarium, and even events. Kids will love the interactive classes and hands-on display of a vast authentic collection.
At the Catawba Science Center, you can walk and experience 35000 sq. ft. They even have a planetarium, naturalist center, and science shop. Step inside the science shop and take home amazing items that inspire your kids.
Always check the official website to know the different events at the planetarium and other programs or events.
Have Fun at Carowinds Amusement and Entertainment Center
After spending a day at the Catawba Science Center, it’s time to have fun. You can slot the following day for a trip to the Carowinds Amusement and Entertainment Center. This is where fun and entertainment merge for the best North Carolina experience.
The Carowinds Amusement and Entertainment Center is in Charlotte. This venue has been around for over 40 years and is a hit with locals and visitors. Kids, families, and friends are in for a treat since the park features 60 rides.
On top of that, there’s live entertainment, and special events take place daily. This park is a hit, especially during summer, so it’s better to get there early for the best experience. However, if you happen to be touring North Carolina during winter, you can also attend their Winterfest.
Marvel at the Magnificent Linville Falls
Do you want to spend a day in the great outdoors? Plan a day trip to the magnificent Linville Falls. Start at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, then begin a short hike to the falls.
This is a moderate hike, so little kids may need help getting to the falls. Along the way, you’ll see the gorge dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians.
Thousands of visitors enjoy touring Linville Falls and the surrounding parks each year. There’s so much flora surrounding the area that makes it quite beautiful. If you want to spend the night, the park has a campsite and an RV park.
Fishing and picnicking are permitted near the falls. Watch out for the designated picnic area during your hike.
Spend a Day at the North Carolina Zoo
Kids of all ages love the zoo. So, don’t hesitate to plan a day trip with them and their buddies to the North Carolina Zoo.
The North Carolina Zoo is set on 2600 acres of wooded area. This is home to a wide variety of species from different parts of the world. Always head to the official site to know the operating hours before planning a day trip to the zoo.
Come face to face with the king of the Savannah, the mighty lion! This vast zoo is also home to the American Alligator, African Elephant, African Pancake Tortoise, Bongo, Chimpanzee, Giraffe, Polar Bear, Sand Cat, Red Wolf, Waterbuck, Zebra, and Gorilla.
Bike or Hike the Cascades Trail
Outdoor lovers will enjoy a hike with the kids up the Cascade Trail. This is a simple and popular hike that even children will enjoy.
The Cascade Trail is located at the Blue Ridge Parkway. Many people enjoy this scenic hike that leads to a treasure. Be sure to look out for the Blue Ridge Parkway waterfall.
This is a paved pathway with a restroom for hikers. You can rest on the benches along this 1-mile trail when tired. When you get to the falls, keep an eye on the kids during the descent to have a better look at the falls.
Build Sand Castles at Wrightsville Beach
North Carolina is a beautiful place to tour with friends and family. Another excellent day trip you won’t want to miss is a trip to Wrightsville Beach.
Wrightsville Beach is a hotspot for vacationers and locals. It’s large because there are numerous things to do when you get there. Start by allowing the kids to run to the beach and build sandcastles.
After that, you can all engage in watersports permitted at Wrightsville Beach. There’s scuba diving, kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming. It’s also a great place to visit if you want to shop or enjoy good food.
Enjoy a Train Ride on the Craggy Mountain Line
Do your kids love everything to do with trains? Imagine their sheer excitement when they get to ride a real train.
The Craggy Mountain Line has a train that takes visitors on an amazing ride. This is a great ride through history on a line that dates back to 1904. It’s a total of 7 miles, and you can accompany your kids and make amazing memories.
Pack and bring your picnic basket when you embark on this historic train ride. You can have something to eat as you view the Craggy Dome. It’s a fun experience for kids, and you can even catch the fabulous Christmas decorations in December.
Meet Santa and his Elves at Santa’s Land
Christmas isn’t only in December. At Santa’s Land, you can enjoy the Christmas experience over and over with your kids.
Santa’s Land runs throughout the year and receives thousands of visitors. This is a park and a zoo where fun is the order of the day. Let your kids spend time with Santa telling him about their experiences and what they want for Christmas.
Additionally, they can explore the zoo that’s home to different animals. Monkeys, kangaroos, deer, porcupines, bears, and exotic birds exist. There’s also a live magic show and lots of fun rides that the whole family can enjoy.
Go Gem Hunting at the Crystal Mountain Gem Mine
Mining isn’t all about dark tunnels and hard work. It can also be loads of fun for the entire family. At the Crystal Mountain Gem Mine, kids can have a blast hunting for rare gems.
The best part of this experience is they keep what they find. This is a memorable gem mining adventure in Brevard, North Carolina. Private mine shafts allow you to mine your gems for an hour or two.
At the mine, you’ll find guides who will take you through the mining process. After that, you can hike around Brevard and take in the most spectacular views.
- You can visit many special places with the kids in North Carolina.
- Day trips can include both indoor and outdoor experiences.
- Folks who love water sports activities will love Wrightsville Beach.
- Kids can mine for their own gems at Crystal Mountain Gem Mine
- Some places open during winter can feature on your day trip plans.