In early October, Columbus Day weekend gives families a reason to take a break from the daily grind and get away for a weekend of idyllic weather and family fun. North Carolina has it all, from major cities and small towns to the mountains and the beach. Take long walks in the woods, or wander along the beach looking for seashells. With a North Carolina vacation rental, your family can enjoy privacy and nature. Check out this list of the 11 best Columbus Day weekend getaways in North Carolina.
A full range of autumn colors awaits you in the mountain town of Boone over the holiday weekend. After taking a tour of the old estate home at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, wander along the more than 25 miles of trails or enjoy a picnic in the green spaces. Take the kids to Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West theme park with a daily shootout, rides, and a train that travels through the mountains and offers great views of the leaves changing colors.
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2. Ocracoke Island
Kids love the brief ferry ride over to Ocracoke Island from Cape Hatteras. In the fall, you can avoid the summer crowds and take advantage of the cooler weather. Rent bikes from Beach Outfitters, and ride around the island. If you’re traveling with older kids, ride out to the pony barn to see the wild horses. Stop by the Ocracoke Light that dates back to the 1800s and learn all about its history.
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3. Chapel Hill
A fall getaway in a college town gives you an opportunity to enjoy a hip, young vibe. Book tickets to see the North Carolina Tar Heels play on their home turf, and then meander around the North Carolina Botanical Garden to see the colorful trees and the art sculptures around the gardens. On a cool afternoon, take a tour of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center to learn more about the natural world and outer space.
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The small, charming town of Linville sits in the mountains and offers easy access to the Pisgah National Forest for a weekend filled with gorgeous autumn colors, hiking, climbing, and family fun. Hike up to the Grandfather Mountain Overlook for amazing views that seem to go on for miles. Test your creativity and try out a new skill at the Crossnore Weavers and Gallery. Skip cooking dinner in your vacation rental, and get your fingers dirty at Old Hampton Store and Barbeque.
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Sink your toes in the sand one last time this year with a weekend away in Corolla on the Outer Banks. Historic Corolla Park provides a wealth of activities. Enjoy a tour of an art nouveau mansion and picnic on the grounds, or learn all about the local wildlife at the education center. Take a packed lunch from your vacation rental, and eat in the shade of the Currituck Beach Light. Gasp in awe as you see the Colonial Spanish Mustangs racing along the beach at the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
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Visit the state’s capital, Raleigh, for your Columbus Day weekend vacation. Take photos in front of the capitol building, and then enjoy a tour of the Videri Chocolate Factory. Don’t leave the factory without enjoying a delectable cup of hot chocolate from the gift shop. Pullen Park is a great green space in the city, and kids love riding on the antique carousel. Breathe in the crisp air at the Rose Garden, a public garden that features varieties of roses.
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Stay close to the coast and chow down on some amazing seafood in the town of Calabash, which has its own style of frying seafood of all types. Pack your binoculars, and take a tour of Bird Island. Learn more about the night sky with a visit to the Ingram Planetarium and its Sky Theater, showing live star shows. Older family members can take a tour and sample some wine at the Silver Coast Winery.
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Asheville is a hip art community tucked away in the mountains with cool, crisp days in the fall months. To get acquainted with the town, wander along the Urban Trail, a 1.8-mile path through downtown with gorgeous sculptures to admire along the way. While in the area, take a tour of Biltmore House, one of the largest private home in the United States. For mouthwatering BBQ, head to Luella’s Bar-B-Que, and be sure to order a basket of their delicious hush puppies.
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9. Winston Salem
Step back in time when you head to Winston Salem and visit the Old Salem Historic District. In this district, there’s a living museum that lets your family explore life in the area in the 1800s, and the cooler fall weather makes it more enjoyable. Reynolda Gardens sits behind the university and offers spectacular views of the fall colors you associate with the autumn season. Tee off at the golf course at Tanglewood Park while the rest of the family takes a horseback ride or races their BMX bikes on the dedicated track.
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10. Bryson City
North Carolina’s western border shares the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Tennessee, and Bryson City sits close to the entrance of the park. Drive up to Clingsman Dome, an observation deck that extends over the mountain, to see the trees awash in shades of reds, golds, and oranges. Chug through the mountains on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for an afternoon your kids will talk about forever.
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Enjoy the best of both worlds in Wilmington, a coastal community and thriving city. Stroll through Airlie Gardens to take in the fall foliage and sit by one of the lakes to enjoy the beautiful weather. Kids love touring the USS North Carolina (BB-55), a World War II battleship. Riverfront Park is a great place for an evening stroll, with its fountains, wonderful views, and benches for people watching.
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