The summer heat shouldn’t keep you trapped inside.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of 10 North Carolina travel destinations that will reward you with a breeze and a chance to cool off when you arrive.
The list covers places from the mountains to the coast. So wherever you’re heading this summer, at least a few of these places to cool off should fit in your itinerary.
10 places to cool off in North Carolina
1. Take a dip in one of our mountain creeks and water holes. Bear Creek Lake is a secluded swimming hole deep in the Nantahala National Forest. You’ll find this sandy beach near the Bear Creek Lake boat launch. Another spot that offers family-friendly hiking and a place to swim is Big Laurel Creek. Located in the Pisgah National Forest, this creek flows off of the French Broad River near the town of Hot Springs. Both of these swimming holes are easy day trips from Asheville. Find more information and directions to these spots here.
2. Stand under a beautiful mountain waterfall. If you’re not interested in getting completely soaked, this is the next best option. There are three waterfalls along the 19-mile section of Waterfall Byway, a section of US Highway 64, between Franklin and Highlands. Learn more about the section here.
5. You’re guaranteed to see stars at the Cline Observatory in Jamestown or Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill. With a variety of shows each day, you can spend hours inside learning about the frontiers of scientific discovery. Plus, you’ll be in good company. Nearly every astronaut until 1975 trained at Morehead Planetarium.
6. You can’t go wrong with ice cream. North Carolina is home to some of the best creameries and ice cream parlors. Cool off from the inside out at one of these 10 sweet spots:
- Cabarrus Creamery in Concord
- Homeland Creamery in Julian
- Spinning Spider Creamery in Marshall
- The Parlour in Durham
- OakMoon Farm and Creamery in Bakersville
- Calabash Creamery
- Spring Ridge Creamery in Otto
- Sunni Skys Homemade Ice Cream in Angier
- Olde Towne Creamery in Manteo
- Spike’s Dairy Bar in Southport
7. Learn something new while staying cool. We recommend The Mint Museum in Charlotte and the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville. Whether you’re interested in modern art or the history of paratroopers, these two museums will not disappoint.
8. Splash around at the Lions Water Adventure in Kinston. The park features three water slides, a shallow water pool, and a lap and therapeutic pool.
9. Explore the lower Cape Fear River on a stand up paddleboard. Wrightsville SUP offers stand up paddleboarding lessons and tours in the Wilmington area. If you’re up for a little adventure with your summer breeze, this might be the perfect spot for you.
10. Journey to the birdwatchers’ paradise. Take the air-conditioned ferry from Currituck to Knott’s Island. Spend the day exploring the Mackay Island Wildlife Refuge with your best pair of binoculars and a long-focus lens camera. Keep your eyes locked to spot the American Bittern, Glossy Ibis, sandpipers, and hundreds of other species on the marshy island. Read more about the ever-evolving Currituck Sound.