Back to Summer in the South Index…

There’s nothing quite like riding through the Carolina countryside. Friends and family piled in the car. Windows down. Breeze blowing through the car. Music playing on the radio.

We’ve got a special place here on earth, full of sights and sounds like no other. In between your longer summer vacations, steal a quick day trip getaway to some of these iconic attractions across the Carolinas. If you’re feeling particularly inspired, book a single overnight stay and extend your summer fun. Here’s our list of short-trip ideas to get your summer activity brainstorming started:

Love for the water

If you’re in the mood for a watery get-away, take a canoe trip down the New River. There are plenty of camp sites and more along the river and in New River State Park. In Brevard, take a trip to Sliding Rock, where nature has wonderfully crafted its own water slide. On the coast, take a trip to the beach at Wrightsville and in nearby Wilmington tour the Battleship North Carolina. On the Outer Banks, stop by some of the state’s iconic lighthouses.

Lake Lure and Chimney Rock State Park

Settle back into the days of “Dirty Dancing.” The cult-classic film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray used this spot for some of the scenes. You can picnic, hike, camp and more.

If you’re looking for more favorite hiking, rock climbing, camping or other outdoor adventures, consider Stone Mountain State Park and Grandfather Mountain.

Carolina zoos

The Carolinas are home to phenomenal zoos. In Asheboro, the North Carolina Zoo has attractions for every kind of person. Columbia’s Riverbanks Zoo offers its own special attractions, too.


North Carolina is home to a wide and varied history and our own unique traditions. Take a step back in time at Old Salem in Winston-Salem or visit some of the historic coastal towns like Bath and New Bern. While in New Bern, be sure to stop by the reconstructed Tryon Palace. : :

— Lainey Millen contributed

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.