Looking for a town to explore on a day trip? Just an hour from the Upstate is Gastonia, NC. We discovered this town is full of things to do. There is a fabulous museum, parks, and some of the best milkshakes in the country according to USA Today. Since Gastonia is so close to the Upstate it makes a great day trip!
Have you visited the Schiele Museum of Natural History & Planetarium? Located in Gastonia, North Carolina the museum makes a great day trip. Expect to have a spectacular time exploring exhibits on dinosaurs, minerals, animals, critters, nature and so much more! If you haven’t been yet, you should definitely add it to your museum bucket list.
Thank you to the Schiele Museum for providing admission to the museum so we could bring this review to our readers! The words and opinions in this article are those of the writer.
Fall is just about here! Time for corn mazes, fall festivals, and apple picking! One of the local favorites is Sky Top Orchard near Flat Rock, NC. Read on for local mom Jackie Vest’s tips and things to expect when you visit Sky Top Orchard, so you can make the most of your visit!
The Sky Top apple season starts in August and runs through the Sunday after Thanksgiving, giving families plenty of opportunities to seek out their favorite varieties of apples. This orchard has over 22 different kinds of apples to choose from! They also churn out a regional sensation: apple cider donuts!
As soon as you pull up to the orchard and open your car door, you are drawn in with the delicious fried cidery-sugary smell wafting through the air. Plan on buying at LEAST a dozen. If you come on a busy weekend, you’ll need to wait in line for them, but don’t let that stop you!
Apple picking is an enjoyable activity for kids of all ages. While you may need to walk a bit to the row of choice, the picking is quick and easy work. Many apples are available low to the ground, easy picking for even the smallest kiddos. My boys (ages 5 & 7) hopped off the hayride, took off down a row, and filled up their bags before I even caught up with the little stinkers!
The orchard also offers plenty of play structures, Bee Train, a Gold Rush Gem Mine, a honeybee hive (in which kids can usually spot the queen bee behind the glass), a bamboo forest, some farm animals like sheep, chickens, goats, and peacocks, and plenty of delectable goodies in addition to the apples and cider donuts.
Pies, jellies, hot cider, fudges, and frozen apple cider slushies, to name a few! Outside food is acceptable and there are plenty of picnic tables or areas to spread a blanket – just be mindful of bees and limit sugary foods.
The orchard also does a great job accommodating large groups with hayride tours, apple picking, and educational programs which teach kiddos everything they could want to know about how apples grow through the seasons. This is a favorite field trip destination!
Bring cash or check – while they do accept credit cards, their wifi can be spotty so their credit card processing system isn’t always working.
Try to go on a Monday or early week. The weekends can get pretty busy.
Wear sneakers or other walking shoes that are okay to get dirty.
Bring quarters for feeding the farm animals.
Sky Top has real bathrooms now. No more having to use a port-a-potty.
Apple varieties are planted in accordance of when they are in season. They plant the earliest apples closest to the entrance and it progresses further away as the season goes on. In other words, the later in the season you visit the orchard, the further you will need to plan on walking to pick apples.
There are plenty of already-picked apples to choose from if you want all the fresh flavor without the work.
You must pre-pay for apples and you are required to pay for at least one peck per 6 people (around 10 pounds). A basket is provided.
Have you heard of iFly in Concord, NC? If you’re looking for something totally amazing to do with your family, and you’ve ever thought that it would be cool to fly (not in a plane) but like a bird, this is a place you’ll want to check out.
Your flight dreams can be a reality now at iFLY Indoor Skydiving in Concord, NC. Not only will we give you all the details, but we tried it ourselves so we also have the inside scoop on what to expect and how to prepare your kids.
Thank you to Explore Cabarrus for hosting us and iFLY for providing us with this experience.
What is iFLY?
iFLY is an indoor skydiving simulator where you enter a wind tunnel that is strong enough to allow you to float in the air. In fact, experienced flyers can even perform tricks such as flips.
How does iFLY work?
To fly, you reserve a time online and sign a waiver. Kids 3 and up with a parent are allowed to fly, but it may be a little frightening for some children (more on that later).
Once it’s your turn, you will be suited up in a protective suit, protective eyewear, and helmet. Be prepared to remove all jewelry (including rings) and anything that could come off of your person. You also will not be able to take your phone or camera into the wind tunnel area (this is a safety precaution).
Your flight instructor will then go over basic safety instructions with you and you will watch a short orientation video followed by a review with your instructor. This time mostly focuses on teaching you how to position your body and what hand signals your instructor will use to communicate with you.
After you are ready, you will be escorted into the wind tunnel lobby. This area is sealed off for safety and has a bench where your group can watch the flight. Your instructor will then demonstrate how to enter and exit the tunnel.
Your instructor then allows you to go in the tunnel one at a time. He will hold you and keep you in position until you are steady enough to float. The first flight is often focused on helping you figure out how to position your body. Many people fly more than once in order to gain confidence and the ability to move around in the chamber.
We each had one minute in the tunnel. It did seem really short but it was a neat experience.
Will kids enjoy iFLY?
Our children were 11 and 8. Our 11-year-old really enjoyed it but our 8-year-old became frightened during the experience. The instructor noticed that she was distressed and removed her from the tunnel.
The air does blow extremely hard, and my 8-year-old felt like she couldn’t breathe. It was just the sensation of the air but it was frightening for her.
The instructor did convince her to go back in after our family had finished. They turned down the fans so that she could walk around the chamber and so that she wasn’t frightened. I was glad that they did this so that she could finish with a positive experience.
Pricing and Location
iFLY is not cheap, but it is an interesting and unique experience and we were impressed by the knowledge and care of the staff.
We only had one flight each, and I would recommend purchasing at least two so that you have a chance to get familiar with the process first and then can utilize those skills.
Have you visited Grandad’s Apples? Fall is just around the corner and your family might be hunting for the perfect apple orchard! We checked out Grandad’s Apples ‘N Such and had so much fun. You’ll find activities for kids at Grandad’s Apples ‘N Such, with beautiful views, and, of course, apples.
U-PICK: U-pick is TBD. Grandad’s asked that you follow their Facebook page for the latest updates.
Hendersonville, North Carolina is known for its delicious apples and it’s easy to see why on the drive up to Grandad’s Apples ‘N Such. There are a handful of orchards within a few-mile radius and several farm stands all selling the delicious fruit. On my quest to find the perfect apple orchard experience, I headed on over to Grandad’s, which I heard was pretty awesome.
Looking for a mountain vacation rental to witness the colors of fall pour over the mountainside? It may seem early, but the time is NOW to book vacation rentals in the mountains for the fall season. The mountains of North Carolina are famous for their dramatic shows during fall when the leaves change. There’s no better way to enjoy it, than with a hot cup of coffee in your jammies at sunrise. Here’s a list of vacation rentals where you can enjoy the fall colors.
Are you thinking about a trip to Carowinds? There is so much family fun waiting for you at this amusement park near Charlotte, NC, but there’s also a lot to know. We’re telling you here how to save money on tickets and food, plus our tips on rides, visiting with small children, special events, and even what to pack. If you are wondering how much is parking at Carowinds, we know that too! Enjoy a day trip to Carowinds with the family any time of year at the Carolina’s best theme park.
Have you visited the Lake Lure beach and water park? The combination of a mountain lake with a sandy beach along with waterslides that run right into the cool mountain water is spectacular! Plus, you only have to pay one admission fee at this famous lake in North Carolina.
A local mom visited Lake Lure with her family. They had a blast! Read about their trip and catch all the tips so you’ll know just what to expect when you visit.
Find a place to stay in Lake Lure, NC. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.
Getting to Lake Lure
After reading all about Lake Lure and its nostalgic filming of the movie “Dirty Dancing”, I was intrigued to make a day visit. From Greenville, Lake Lure is a little over an hour but well worth the beautiful scenic drive up into Chimney Rock State Park. From Greenville, you will use 25 North to I26 West to 2724 Memorial Hwy, Lake Lure, NC 28746 (I also recommend using Google Maps for directions).
Also, don’t forget to bring a packed lunch as well as buckets and shovels for the kids, as the sand beach is ideal for sandcastle building. Once you get close to the Chimney Rock area, you will drive through a quaint little town and see an array of restaurants, shops, and gem mine stores for the kids. It has an old Western-type feel with the picturesque backdrop of Chimney Rock in the background.
Having arrived at the lake around noon, we noticed that parking was filling up quickly but luckily there seemed to be several spots across the street in front of the historic Lake Lure Inn. Once we parked and gathered our beach gear, we headed through the main entrance where we were banded after paying the daily fee.
The admission for adults is $10 and kids 4 to 12 was $8, with under 4 free. You can find pricing and information on the Lake Lure website. The price of admission includes the water park and beach access.
Lake Lure: Beach and Water Park!
The kids spotted the water slides right as we entered and sped off. I noticed a lifeguard at the bottom of the slides in the water as well as a lifeguard standing by the swimming area in the lake. In addition to the slides and swimming is a splash pad, as well as a water balloon zone. You can purchase water balloons for an additional cost at the ticket counter. There are also restroom facilities and showers.
The water is roped for designated swimming and there were many people with rafts and water toys. You can easily spend all day at the beach with plenty to do for kids and adults. And of course, no trip to Lake Lure is complete without doing “the lift” from the movie Dirty Dancing, which was filmed here.
Lake Lure Boat Rentals
If you’d like to cruise around the lake in a kayak, paddleboard, or hydro bike, you can rent one on site. Stand-up paddleboards, canoes, and two-person kayaks are $20/hour or $85/all day while single kayaks are $18/hour or $70/all day. Hydro bikes are $12/hour. Rentals are available at the beach from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
If you want to bring your own non-motorized watercraft, you will have to pay a daily fee of $25, a weekly fee of $50, or a yearly fee of $100.
The Flowering Bridge at Lake Lure
Having swam, slid, and sunned our day away, it was time to head back, but not before uncovering an enchanting (and free) roadside attraction.
On the way out from the resort area, there was a nice little surprise awaiting us, called The Flowering Bridge. It is free to walk the bridge and is filled with gardens of all types of flowers, plants, and scenery. We all enjoyed reading about the bridge’s history and learning about the various flowers.
There were little cutouts of secret gardens and sitting areas. Each section of the garden has cute facts pertaining to plant life with a list of every type of plant and flower. You may even spot a few butterflies! It was the perfect ending to a perfect day trip from Greenville.
If you love to travel, North Carolina has so much adventure to offer! North Carolina is a popular place for both day trips, vacations, and backcountry exploration. From the lush and adventurous mountains of the west to the stunning coastline and Outer Banks of the east, there is so much to do in North Carolina.
If you’re planning a trip up to North Carolina, we’ve got some great information on places to stay, where to eat, and things to do.
If you’re traveling to WNC for a day trip or weekend getaway, you’ll find this information handy. We’ve organized some helpful content by city, so you’ll be able to easily find reader-recommended things to do, places to eat, and lodging advice. Enjoy your trip!
Asheville is a popular destination for many of our readers and is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. With a thriving art scene, delicious and unique food options, and a beautiful downtown to explore, no wonder Asheville is consistently named on top travel lists throughout the country. Our helpful guides below offer information to make planning your trip to Asheville a breeze.
Check out our Guide to Asheville for reviews on our favorite things to do in the area, plus some really fantastic places to eat. Lots of these places are recommended by our readers and we’ve included their quotes, so you know what to expect!
Though Flat Rock, NC has become heavily associated with the famous poet Carl Sandburg, there is so much natural beauty, food, and exploration to enjoy. For more great things to do, check out A Day in Flat Rock or look over our reviews of popular places in Flat Rock below.
Brevard, North Carolina is a cozy little area of NC tucked away at the entrance of the Pisgah National Forest near the SC border. Dining, river tubing, waterfalls, and a hunt for the white squirrels that populate much of the city make Brevard, NC a perfect day trip destination.
Check out our reviews of some of the fun things to do in Brevard below.
Hendersonville is a gem of WNC destinations, and it’s less than an hour’s drive from Greenville! Home to many u-pick orchards, snow tubing centers, and vineyards, activities in Hendersonville will pill your entire day’s itinerary. Don’t miss our list of Free Things to Do in Hendersonville, NC! You can find reviews of some of the best Hendersonville has to offer below.
Cherokee, North Carolina is rich in both history and culture while complemented by spectacular views of the Great Smoky Mountains! If you haven’t visited national parks in a while, Cherokee makes for a easy day trip to one.
This is the place to go if you are looking for a mountain adventure where you can delve into the history of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Maybe you will even see some Elk crossing the Oconaluftee River during your visit!
Check out some of our reviews of Cherokee, North Carolina below.
Blowing Rock is home to Tweetsie Railroad, one of North Carolina’s oldest wild-west themed amusement parks. You can find out all about Tweetsie Railroad in our review below. You can also visit a mile high swinging bridge while you are in Highlands of North Carolina at Grandfather Mountain!
Considered the “Jewel on the Blue Ridge Parkway”, Little Switzerland, North Carolina is the perfect stopping place when traveling between North Carolina and Tennessee. Check out our review of Emerald Village in Little Switzerland below.
If you love to travel, North Carolina has in gem hidden in the mountains called Cashiers, NC. Loaded with Waterfalls, river tubing, and beachy lakes, the Highlands area is the perfect place to unwind while taking in spectacular views. We have reviews of some of the best things to do in Cashiers below.
Bryson City is an adorable little getaway town in Western North Carolina that is home to the Smoky Mountain Railroad! The downtown area offers shopping, dining, and the rich history of WNC without the touristy vibes of some of the larger cities. Plus, you are right at the door of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so you know it’s gorgeous there.
Tryon, North Carolina is a small town that borders South Carolina just above Landrum and is home to one of the country’s largest Equestrian centers. You can check out more information in our review below!
Saluda, North Carolina offers an abundance of spectaular wilderness and is only 50 minutes from Greenville. You can check out our review of one of Saluda’s most popular hikes (with a spectacular waterfall as a prize). If you love river tubing, be sure to check out the excellent tubing adventure on the Green River!
You can explore the picturesque historic downtown of Rutherfordton North Carolina during your visit to Hendersonville, its neighboring city. While you’re there, be sure to visit their amazing interactive children’s museum! You can find our review below.
If you love a mountain adventure that also involves hiking, a gorgeous mountain lake, and a sandy beach with waterslides, then the Chimney Rock and Lake Lure area of Western North Carolina is where to go!
Looking for places to hike throughout the Upstate and Western North Carolina? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Hiking to find that perfect trail to spend the day!
Central North Carolina
For those who love to explore and travel, North Carolina offer the central region with big cities and lots to do. The Central region of North Carolina includes cities such as Charlotte and Concord. With big cities comes lots of adventures to behold! Below you will find organized content that will help you plan the perfect trip to the Queen City and cities surrounding the Charlotte Metro area, including places to eat, things to do, and awesome places to stay.
Charlotte / Concord
The Queen City is the largest city in North Carolina. With excellent dining experiences, sporting events, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and one of the largest amusement parks on the east coast, Charlotte is a world-renowned destination. There are also epic places like the U.S. National Whitewater Center to take your older kids for an amazing day trip!
You will find tons of information in our Ultimate Guide to Charlotte, as well as reviews of Charlotte and Concord area adventures below.
Gastonia, North Carolina is just south of Charlotte and offers a great day trip destination for those looking to get away for a few hours without burning through an entire tank of gas. Check out our list of Top 10 Things to do in Gastonia, NC, and find reviews of a natural history museum in Gastonia that’s worth the trip below.
When you are looking to travel, North Carolina has beaches galore! Plus, many of the beaches offer excellent things to do, tons of history, and even some unique qualities you may not find anywhere else (I am looking at your Outer Banks).
Located near Wilmington on Topsail Island off the coast of North Carolina, Surf City is a quaint and quiet beach town perfect for families with small children. The town is walkable, with small shops and local restaurants to enjoy after a day at the beach. There is even a turtle rehabilitation center you can visit. You can read our review of Surf City, North Carolina to see some of what this beach town has to offer!
Carolina Beach, North Carolina is an excellent option for a family-friendly beach vacation. This beach is less crowded than some other beaches but offers fun entertainment such as an amusement park on the boardwalk. You can read our Carolina Beach review to find some great ideas for dining and entertainment to plan the perfect beach getaway!
The Outer Banks is absolutely stunning! Located off the northern coast of North Carolina, this 175-mile-long strip of barrier island offers quaint beach towns, humongous sand dunes (including the tallest living sand dune!), wild horses, watersports, historical lighthouses, and so much more!
Plus, Outer Banks beaches are wonderful for an adventure, including the stunning beaches in the Cape Lookout National Seashore on the southern park of the barrier islands.
Check out our review of the Outer Banks, including popular destinations along the island’s coast such as Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hill.
What is your favorite destination in the spectacular state of North Carolina?
Always up for an adventure?
Check out our KA Travel Guide, with dozens of ideas for the best kid-friendly places to visit during your next trip!
Some More Places to Visit in North Carolina
10 Fabulous Things to Do in Gastonia, North Carolina
See Dinosaurs, Critters, Minerals, and More At The Schiele Museum of Natural History In Gastonia, North Carolina
Get into the Fall Spirit with a Visit to Sky Top Orchard
Looking for one more swimming hole to try this summer? The Quarry at Carrigan Farms in Mooresville, NC might be just the place. Here’s everything you need to plan a fun, family day swimming at Carrigan Farms.
If you have an adventurous spirit and are not afraid to jump into a 25-foot deep natural spring quarry, then this is the place for you. The Quarry at Carrigan Farms is not only a beautiful sight to behold, but also a full day of water activities including several rock jump-off points, rope swings, swimming areas, and a sand beach volleyball area. It’s hard to believe that this natural playground was the result of an accidental discovery.