Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies should venture to North Carolina’s amusement parks. Whether you want to ride the biggest roller coaster in the state or float down a lazy river in the sunshine, it’s a breeze to find the perfect attraction in this stunning state. As you plan your getaway, look for North Carolina vacation rentals near these great amusement parks, which are scattered from the Outer Banks to the Great Smoky Mountains.

1. Carowinds, Charlotte

carolina cobra roller coaster in carowinds
Source: carowinds.com

One of North Carolina’s most popular amusement parks, Charlotte’s Carowinds has something for everyone in the family. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, head straight for Fury 325; this intense ride reaches speeds of up to 95 miles per hour, and treats you to heart-stopping drops, a 190-foot barrel turn, and an incredible 81-degree drop. On the Carolina Cyclone, brace yourself for multiple full loops and a crazy uphill helix maneuver. For little ones, the park offers gentle thrills on the Lucy’s Crabbie Cabbie and the Woodstock Express. Between rides, check out one of Carowinds’ live musical extravaganzas or fill up on a classic funnel cake. The park is open full-time from June through August, with select weekend hours in the spring and fall. For the easiest access, look for vacation rentals in southwest Charlotte.

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2. Deadwood, Williamston

nature train tracks
Source: Flickr/thesleepyloris

Pack up your little ones for an afternoon at Deadwood, a Western-themed amusement park in eastern North Carolina. Compact and easy to navigate, this charming park is ideal for families with small children. Start your visit with a ride on the Dinosaur Canyon Kiddie Coaster, which rolls through old mining buildings and past fantastic dinosaur displays. Next, head to the park’s star attraction: the Iron Horse Express train. Load up the whole family for the half-mile ride through the forest, and be sure to keep an eye out for the animal statues hiding among the trees. Deadwood also features a fun mini-golf course and a restaurant, where you might just see a Wild-West-style showdown during dinner. The park and restaurant are open year-round, with special themed train rides during the holidays. Stay in nearby Williamston, or make the two-hour drive in from the coast.

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3. Santa’s Land Fun Park and Zoo, Cherokee

great smoky mountains
Source: Flickr/dconvertini

It’s Christmas year-round at Santa’s Land, a family-friendly amusement park in zoo located near the Great Smoky Mountains in the far western part of North Carolina; consider staying in Asheville, which is about an hour to the east. Soar through the trees on a reindeer-themed roller coaster, or hop into a Ferris wheel for a leisurely spin. The whole family can board the theme park’s train, which chugs through the forest. Don’t worry about the mid-summer heat; the train has shaded, open-air cars for a breezy ride. Elsewhere in the park, kids can feed baby black bears, pet animals in the zoo, and take part in a lively magic show. Santa’s land is open from May through the end of October each year.

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4. Tweetsie Railroad, Blowing Rock

tweetsie railroad
Source: tweetsie.com

Tucked away in the hills near Blowing Rock, Tweetsie Railroad is a beloved North Carolina treasure that’s open from April through October. Each summer, join families that flock to the park to try classic carnival rides in the stunning scenery. Don’t miss the Turnpike Cruisers, where you can drive a mini classic car over a rolling track, or the Free Fall, which lifts you above the trees and sends you plummeting down. Hop on a coal-fired steam train for the Wild West Train Adventure, and be sure to watch out for bandits on horseback. Little ones love the Mouse Mine Train, which rolls through the charming Cheese Mine. For a fun family weekend, stay in Blowing Rock to enjoy the scenery and fantastic local hiking.

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5. Wet ‘n Wild Emerald Pointe, Greensboro

wet 'n wild emerald pointe
Source: emeraldpointe.com

Cool off during a hot North Carolina summer at Wet ‘n Wild, a water park in Greensboro. With a mix of high-speed adult water slides and gentle, kid-friendly rides, the park is fun for families and groups. Fall 76 feet in an open slide on the Daredevil Drop, or race a friend on the Double Barrel Blast. Little ones can explore half-sunken boat in Shipwreck Cove, play in the Soak Zone, or float down the Lazee River. Book a vacation rental in southwestern Greensboro to enjoy a quick drive to the park, which is open from late May through early September.

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6. H2OBX, Powells Point

h2obx water park
Source: h2obxwaterpark.com

Take your Outer Banks vacation to the next level at the H2OBX water park in Powells Point. If you’re a thrill seeker, head right for Riptide, a zero-gravity slide that zig-zags wildly, or Paradise Plunge, which drops nine stories in an intense free-fall. Load the family into a huge inner tube for a six-story slide down the Rogue Wave. For a more relaxed day, hang out in the wave pool or ride the kid-friendly slides at Sand Pail Beach. If you’re planning to stay the weekend, look for oceanfront vacation rentals in Nags Head or Kitty Hawk, which are just a short drive away. H2OBX is open from late June to early September.

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7. Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park, Wilmington

jungle rapids family fun park
Source: junglerapids.com

Enjoy a relaxing day in the sun with the family at Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park in Wilmington. Drift down the Lazy River in a tube, or kick back in the heated Warm Springs Spa if the sun goes behind the clouds. The park has plenty for thrill-seekers, including the wild Sidewinder and the enormous Superbowl. Toddlers love the Kids Splash area, and the whole family can stay fueled up at the Big Splash Cafe. ALso onsite, you can play mini golf, tackle the climbing wall, or ride go-karts. Jungle Rapids is open from early June through late August; for a fun getaway, stay by the ocean in nearby Wrightsville Beach.

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