6 Best Family-Friendly Vacation Spots in North Carolina

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North Carolina is a state that is packed with things to do from the mountains in the west to the beautiful beaches in the east and charming small towns. And if you’re a family traveling with kids, there are plenty of fun, family-friendly options to check out. Whether you’re into sports and adventure, arts and culture, or rest and relaxation, you’re sure to find something in the Tarheel State that will make the whole group happy.

North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro
North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro

North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro

Located in Asheboro, the North Carolina Zoo is the world’s largest natural habitat zoo. That means you and your family will have the chance to see animals up close and personal, while they are at home in their natural surroundings. You’ll journey through the African plain where you’ll feel like you’re on a safari, through the R.J. Reynolds Forest Aviary where you’ll observe over 3,000 types of tropical plants and dozens of wild birds, and then travel into the North American exhibit where you’ll see the animals that make their home in the hot desert and the icy coastal region. With so much to see, you will feel like you took a trip around the world, all in one day! But that’s not where the fun ends, because there are also paddle boats, hiking trails, rides, rope courses and much more to check out.

Carowinds, Charlotte
Carowinds in Charlotte

Carowinds, Charlotte

What could be more family-friendly than a trip to an amusement park? And Carowinds in Charlotte has something for everyone from exciting thrill rides, to a wide variety of shows and of course, plenty of delicious food. If you’re feeling brave, there’s the popular Intimidator roller coaster, named for NASCAR driver, Dale Earnhardt Sr., or the Windseeker – a 301-foot swing ride that allows passengers to experience a sense of weightlessness while taking in an amazing panoramic view of the city. There are also plenty of kid-friendly rides at this top-rated amusement park in North Carolina, a full water park, puppet shows and costumed characters who are always happy to stop and pose for photos.

Battleship North Carolina, Wilmington
Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington

Battleship North Carolina, Wilmington

If you’ve got any history buffs in your family, the Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington should be at the top of your list. Opened to the public in 1961, the Battleship is a fully-restored World War II battleship that now serves as a memorial to the 11,000 North Carolinians who lost their lives in World War II. Visitors can imagine what life aboard the ship must’ve been like as they wander through nine levels including the mess decks, engine room, bridge, berthing areas and the Combat Information Center. You can even take a seat on one of the beds in the mess decks or play with one of the guns, just don’t forget to stop by the XO’s Office before you leave so you can get your very own Liberty Card to take home!

Tweetsie Railroad, Blowing Rock
Tweetsie Railraod in Blowing Rock

Tweetsie Railroad, Blowing Rock

Located in the alluring town of Blocking Rock, Tweetsie Railroad is a theme park like no other. You may not find towering roller coasters here, but you will still find plenty of family-friendly fun and excitement. The main attraction, of course, is the Wild West Train Adventure, where your family will take an action-packed three-mile train ride through the mountains on a train pulled by an authentic coal-fired engine. But beware, you may run into a bandit or two while you’re out there! Once you make it back safely, there’s plenty more to explore including plenty of rides, musical shows, a petting zoo, games and shops. Then, once you’ve worked up an appetite, you can stop for a bite at the Cowboy Cantina, the Miner’s Diner, Sparky’s Barbecue or one of the other concession stands throughout the park.

Ocracoke Island
Ocracoke Island

Ocracoke Island

Located in the southern tip of the Outer Banks in North Carolina, Ocracoke Island is the perfect spot for a laid-back and relaxing family vacation. You can spend time lounging together on one of the island’s beautifully pristine beaches, take a bike ride through the quaint town, visit a historic lighthouse, fly a kite, go fishing or try to catch a glimpse of the island’s famous wild ponies. The little ones will also be excited to learn all about Blackbeard the Pirate at the Teach’s Hole Blackbeard Exhibit.

Lake Lure
Picturesque Lake Lure served as the backdrop for the 1980's hit movie, Dirty Dancing.

Lake Lure

Lake Lure may be best known as the location for the movie Dirty Dancing, but it’s also a great spot for a family-friendly vacation. In the summertime, you can swim in the lake and lounge on the private beach, try out a watersport or fly through the trees on a zipline. Or in the fall, go on a horseback ride, climb a rock face, take in the beautiful colors of the leaves from a kayak or even try out extreme skiing. You can also mine for gems, pick up a souvenir at the local shops, visit a local farm or take your own private tour of the area’s many famous film locations.

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