From the scenic Smoky Mountains in the west to the serene Outer Banks in the east, the state of North Carolina boasts plenty of lovely destinations to escape to, especially if you’re starting from Charlotte. In five hours or less, you can drive to Boone, where even little kids ride zip lines; as well as Brevard to experience the fun of mining for gemstones; or to Beaufort, where wild horses run free along the coast. If you’re considering a Charlotte vacation rental as a home base, take a look at these nearby weekend getaway locations. With these adventure-filled cities and towns, you’ll have another reason to say, “Thank goodness it’s Friday!”

1. Lake Lure

cruising under blue sky

A town named Lake Lure should offer a lot to draw visitors in, and it does. Drive 1.5 hours, 92 miles west of Charlotte, to reach this quiet North Carolina hamlet famous for its role in the 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing.” Nestled in the center of Hickory Nut Gorge, the community features an island for family beach fun, wooded hills for hiking enthusiasts, and lake access for activities including fishing, boating, and swimming. Rent a kayak, boat, or canoe at Washburn Marina, or take a tour with Lake Lure Tours to see the area. Duffers tee off at the scenic Lake Lure Municipal Golf Course, or at Bald Mountain and Apple Valley, two private courses. End your weekend getaway with a relaxing brunch at the Veranda Restaurant in the historic Lake Lure Inn.

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2. Boone

a mossy creek at the smokey mountains

Boone gives you another great getaway that’s not far away. It’s just a 1.75-hour drive 95 miles northwest of Charlotte to the High Country and home of Appalachian State University. Before checking into your vacation rental, stop at Dan’l Boone Inn, the town’s oldest restaurant. The family-style dining, country ham, biscuits, and sweet tea have been putting smiles on visitors’ faces for generations. During your stay, see the historic outdoor drama, Horn in the West, which recounts a story about Daniel Boone and the Battle of King’s Mountain during the American Revolution. Satisfy your spirit of adventure at Sky Valley Zip Tours, featuring Whistle Pig Adventure Park, where children from four years old enjoy zip line fun. For a different adventure, try gem mining at Foggy Mountain Gem Mine, where visitors of all ages sift through buckets of soil and find real gems.

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3. Banner Elk

a mountain rock peak

Banner Elk, another High Country getaway, is a perfect location for year-round fun. Sandwiched between two ski resorts, Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain, the community offers plenty of winter outdoor activities. If water sports attract your family, check out the beach and pier in town at Wildcat Lake. Drive 117-miles northwest from Charlotte and arrive at this peaceful North Carolina town in about 2.25 hours. For a taste of life during the 1860s, visit the Banner House Museum. Numerous restaurants satisfy various culinary tastes, from the Mexican dishes, homemade salsas, and vegan options at Puerto Nuevo Restaurant, to classic Southern comfort foods at The Pedalin’ Pig BBQ.

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4. Brevard

crabtree falls

Part of the area called “Land of the Waterfalls,” Brevard lies 130 miles west of Charlotte. A 2.5-hour drive puts you in the midst of its scenic beauty and near DuPont Recreational Forest, featured in movies including “The Hunger Games.” Brevard is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with plenty of places to fish, climb, hike, and bike. Crystal Mountain Gem Mine gives your family the experience of miners striking it rich, and O.P. Taylor’s, an awesome toy store, makes it easy to spend. On hot days, refresh with a trip down Sliding Rock, a natural rock slide and waterfall that ends with a splashdown into a pool. When it’s time to eat, enjoy breakfast, brunch, or sandwiches like spicy barbecue with apple slaw at Mayberry’s Soups & Sandwiches.

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5. Cherokee

great smokey mountains

Further west of Brevard lies Cherokee, which is part of the ancestral homeland of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Oconaluftee Indian Village shows you how the Cherokee lived in the 1760s. From Charlotte, drive three hours west, about 165 miles, to the southern entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Before entering the park for fly fishing or hiking, have a hearty breakfast at Peter’s Pancakes. Shops are plentiful, including Medicine Man Craft Shop, featuring handmade Cherokee pottery and baskets. Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, the state’s only full-scale casino, is the sole place on the Cherokee reservation that sells alcoholic beverages.

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6. Edenton

outer banks vacation

Drive about 300 miles northeast from Charlotte to Edenton, on the North Carolina coast. A 4.5-hour drive puts you in one of the state’s oldest towns. The staff at Edenton Bay Cruises makes learning fun for your family, with a cruise around Edenton Bay on the Liber-Tea, a six-passenger electric tour boat. Back on land, visit the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse, one of the few remaining screw-pile lighthouses in the United States. The first floor of the two-story wooden building is handicapped-accessible. Before returning to your Edenton, North Carolina, vacation home, let the kids stretch their legs at the Queen Anne Park playground on the waterfront, and enjoy a picnic lunch with sandwiches and subs from Westover General Store. If you have time before heading back to Charlotte, play a round of golf at the Chowan Golf and Country Club.

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7. Beaufort

wild spanish mustang

When visiting Beaufort, take a ferry to Shackleford Banks, a barrier island, where you can watch the wild horses believed to be descendants of Spanish mustangs run along the Cape Lookout National Seashore. A 322-mile drive east from Charlotte takes about 5 hours to reach the state’s southern Outer Banks and third oldest town. Don’t miss the North Carolina Maritime Museum, which houses pieces of Queen Anne’s Revenge, the pirate Blackbeard’s ship from the early 1700s. A guided bike tour with Hungry Town Tours helps satisfy your appetite for knowledge about this fascinating historic community. At lunch or dinnertime fill up at Blackbeard’s Grill and Steam Bar, with shrimp and clam strips, or try Front Street Grill at Stillwater for tuna tacos, soft shell crab, and relaxing waterfront views.

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