As the school year comes to a close and the weather warms up, it’s time to start thinking of summer vacation destinations. Whether you’re craving a week at the beach or an extended weekend retreat in the mountains, North Carolina has something exciting for everyone. Book a stay at one of numerous North Carolina vacation rentals for your upcoming getaway. Check out the 10 best places for a summer vacation in North Carolina.

1. Nags Head

the atlantic ocean at nags head
Source: Flickr/Ken Lund

During the summer months, the Outer Banks area wakes up after a long winter. Find a vacation rental on the beach and wake up each morning to a cup of coffee on the deck, listening to the waves crash. One evening, head over to Jockey’s Ridge State Park for the Sunset on the Ridge program. Sit on one of the sand dunes and watch while the sun goes down. A park ranger leads the walk to the best viewing spot and provides you all the cool facts about the Southeast’s largest sand dune. Afterward, stop by Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant for dinner on the patio and a little live music.

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2. Raleigh

a train at pullen park
Source: Flickr/-ted

As the capital city, Raleigh always has something fun to do but in the summer months, the college students return to their homes, and the city feels a little roomier. Pullen Park is the place to take the kids for a day of fun. This public park has a pool for kids of all ages. Kids love taking the paddleboats out on the small lake and riding the carousel and train. In early June, attend the Raleigh’s International Food Festival to sample foods from around the world and enjoy family-friendly activities.

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3. Ashevile

biltmore estate
Source: Flickr/Smart Destinations

Tucked away in the mountains, Asheville provides an urban feel and easy access to hiking and exploring the great outdoors. Start your trip with the Asheville Urban Trail, a 1.7-mile trail through the downtown area that tells the story of the town, and there are 30 sculptures to mark the way. Take the kids to Biltmore House for a tour of this American castle. Afterward, make the most of the gorgeous summer weather by exploring the grounds.

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4. Ocracoke Island

ocracoke island lighthouse
Source: Flickr/bobistraveling

Only accessible by ferry, boat or small plane, Ocracoke Island is a great spot to unwind and relax with long days on the beach or riding on a bike around the island with rentals from the Slushy Stand – they make tasty cool drinks too. Arrive in early June to take part in the Ocrafolk Music and Storytelling Festival with great music, kid’s events, local vendors, and food from local hot spots. While on the island, climb the Ocracoke Lighthouse and see for miles around.

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5. Cherokee

oconaluftee mountain farm museum
Source: Flickr/Robert Lz

With easy access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee is a popular summer destination for outdoor lovers. One evening, head up to Clingmans Dome for amazing views of the sun setting over the mountain and valley below. Mountain Farm Museum helps your family learn what life was like in the past with this living museum. In the summer months, the staff offers many demonstrations of life on a farm in the 1800s. Take older family member for an evening of gambling to Harrah’s Cherokee.

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6. Charlotte

the yankees in a civil war reenactment
Source: Flickr/Katjusa Cisar

Home to 13 roller coasters, Carowinds in the place for families with teens and tweens to go while visiting Charlotte in the summer months. Spend an entire day, and take smaller kids to the kiddie section of the park. You can take in a show and grab some carnival grub, including corndogs, funnel cakes, and nachos. In the summer, Historic Latta Plantation offers frequent reenactments and tours of the home and gardens.

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7. Chapel Hill

the coker arboretum
Source: Flickr/Lee Coursey

Another college town that clears out in the summer months, Chapel Hill makes a great summer destination. Located on the UNC campus, the North Carolina Botanical Garden is a green oasis to enjoy the warm temperatures and see all the flowers in bloom. Also on campus, the Coker Arboretum opens daily, and you can see native and non-native plants and trees. One night a week at Wallace Plaza in the summertime, Movies Under the Stars welcomes everyone to come toss out a blanket and watch a family-friendly movie.

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8. Wilmington

lily pads on a pond in wilmington
Source: Flickr/Becky Snyder

Along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Wilmington offers a unique combination of beach vacation and urban life. Arrive in the early part of the summer to take advantage of the Annual Carolina Beach Music Festival. Find toe-tapping tunes, family-fun activities, and amazing food from local vendors so you can find a new place for dinner. Your family can take advantage of the gorgeous weather with an afternoon at Airlie Gardens. Meander along the walking trails and past the freshwater lake.

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9. Chimney Rock

chimney rock
Source: Flickr/Doug Letterman

Named after a unique landmark, Chimney Rock is a small mountain surrounded by popular hiking trails. Go hiking in the Chimney Rock State Park and see the stunning 315-foot boulder that gives the town and park its name. Grab some takeout from Old Rock Cafe and have a family picnic close to the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge. Once a bridge that dated back to 1025, the bridge now serves as a flower garden.

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10. Winston-Salem

winston-salem houses
Source: Flickr/Nicolas Henderson

Winston-Salem is a popular summer destination. Take the kids to Old Salem Museum and Gardens to wander among the 1800s buildings, watch demonstrations, and enjoy reenactments of daily life. During the summer months, this living museum provides a true glimpse of the past. Escape the heat at SciWorks with many interactive exhibits for kids. The location also offers a planetarium. There are nature trails and several animal habitats to explore.

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