Beach in Outer Banks

15 FUN Things to Do in North Carolina with Kids

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North Carolina is one perfect place to hang out with your family. The city is packed with so many outdoor fun activities for you and your loved ones. If you can think of an outdoor fun activity, then believe that you can find it in the state of North Carolina.

One of the things that makes this state a focal point for family excitement is its favorable climate conditions. All year round, your family will have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful parks, museums, and organized outdoor events.

Let’s explore some of the fun things to do in North Carolina with kids.

1. North Carolina Zoo

Located in Asheboro, the North Carolina Zoo is one of the largest natural-habitat zoos in the world. This magnificent zoo features more than 1800 animals from different species and habitats. Your kids will be amazed at the variety of animals they can see up close, including giant gorillas, lions, snakes, monkeys, Addra Gazelle, alligators, and over 200 animals from Africa and South America.

The zoo also offers educational programs and fun activities for children of all ages.

It’s a must-visit attraction for any family trip to North Carolina.

2. North Carolina Aquariums

The North Carolina coast is home to three state aquariums in Roanoke Island, Pine Knoll Shores, and Fort Fisher. These aquariums offer a fun and educational experience for kids with interactive exhibits, live animal encounters, and behind-the-scenes tours.

Your family can also explore the local beaches and nature trails surrounding the aquariums.

3. Unwind at the Outer Banks

Beach in Outer Banks
Beach in Outer Banks.

The Outer Banks is a 200-mile-long string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, known for its beautiful beaches and charming seaside towns. Families can enjoy various activities here, such as swimming, surfing, kayaking, and even horseback riding on the beach.

The Outer Banks is also rich in history, with landmarks like the Wright Brothers National Memorial, where the pioneers of aviation took their first flight, and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Don’t forget to take a boat tour to see the famous Wild Horses of Corolla — a sight that will delight kids and adults alike.

With its picturesque landscapes and diverse range of activities, the Outer Banks makes for a perfect family getaway in North Carolina.

4. Discover the museums in Raleigh

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
(Photo by North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences)

Raleigh, fondly known as the “Smithsonian of the South,” offers an incredible variety of museums that are engaging and educational for kids.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is a must-visit, home to a stunning array of exhibits on everything from dinosaurs to DNA, while the North Carolina Museum of History provides a captivating journey into the state’s past. For budding artists, the North Carolina Museum of Art offers an expansive collection and an outdoor park filled with monumental works.

Lastly, there’s the Marbles Kids Museum, a playful learning center filled with interactive exhibits that encourage inventive thinking.

5. Wet ‘N Wild Water Park

Wet n' Wild Emerald Pointe - one of the best family activities in NC
(Photo by Wet n’ Wild Emerald Pointe)

Your visit to North Carolina is incomplete without stopping by the ever-fun Wet ‘n Wild Emerald Pointe Water Park. This water park is one of the most exciting places in North Carolina. It’s a place where every member of the family, big or small, gets their fair share of unlimited fun and happiness. With over 1.8 million gallons of water, five pools, drop slides, and tide rides, the Wet N Wild water park is ranked among the biggest and best water parks in the United States.

This water park offers a diverse range of attractions suitable for all ages. Thrill-seekers can brave the Daredevil Drop, one of the tallest water slides on the east coast, while younger kids will have a blast exploring Happy Harbor, a play area full of mini slides and water sprays. Don’t miss out on the wave pool and lazy river, perfect for some relaxing fun.

With plenty of food options and shaded areas, it’s an ideal location for a family day out in the North Carolina summer.

6. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is another must-visit destination for those looking for things to do in North Carolina with kids. Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, this national park is renowned for its diverse plant and animal life, as well as its beautiful ancient mountains.

The park offers over 800 miles of hiking trails — some leading to cascading waterfalls like the kid-friendly Laurel Falls trail, while others lead to historic structures or stunning overlooks. Families can also go camping, fishing, and wildlife watching in this beautiful natural setting. In addition, the park offers ranger-led programs that are both educational and entertaining, providing insights into the park’s rich biodiversity and history.

Don’t forget to drive along the scenic Newfound Gap Road, which offers breathtaking views of the mountains and valleys.

With so much to see and do, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is indeed a treasure trove of fun, educational experiences for families.

7. Pisgah National Forest

Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest
Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest.

Spamming across 500,000 acres of land in North Carolina is the Pisgah National Forest. This wildlife habitat is home to some of the world’s most beautiful wildflowers, birds, insects, and animals. It’s a peaceful place where families can go camping and enjoy the beautiful works of nature.

In the Pisgah forest, there are lots of family-friendly camping locations. These locations are safe and perfectly set up to accommodate your family. If you are a person who likes fishing, you can decide to set up your family camp near Lake Powhatan or the Davidson River.

You can also choose to take your family on a hiking exercise through the forest to have a close-up view of the forest’s natural habitat.

8. Grandfather Mountain State Park

Standing over 5000 ft above sea level, the Mile-High Swinging Bridge is a perfect place for you and your family to touch the clouds. This beautiful art of architecture and engineering was built in the late 1800s for the people of North Carolina to access the Godfather Mountain easily.

Today, thousands of visitors from across the world come to walk across this bridge to taste what it means to be on top of the world. Holding the record of the highest suspension bridge in the United States, the mile-high bridge spans across an 80-foot gap in the mountains. In this short distance, your family can have an impressive 360° view of North Carolina.

Aside from walking the mile-high swinging bridge, you can also take your family hiking in the mountains. Located near the bridge, hiking trails lead you beneath the bridge into the mountain forest. In this forest, you will encounter different forms of beautiful wildlife peculiar to the Godfather Mountain.

To have access to this beautiful bridge, you need to buy tickets, which are cheaper when you are with your family. Note: it is an ideal location for families with older kids who are preteens or teens due to the nature of the bridge.

9. Nantahala National Forest

Upper Whitewater Falls in Nantahala National Forest
Upper Whitewater Falls in Nantahala National Forest.

Enveloping over half a million acres of primal woodland, the Nantahala National Forest is one of the best family-friendly spots in North Carolina.

The forest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers. From hiking and camping to biking and fishing, there’s something for everyone in this natural playground. Kids will be awestruck by the towering trees, gushing waterfalls, and abundant wildlife.

One of the highlights is a whitewater rafting trip down the Nantahala River, suitable for children as young as 7 years. With a certified guide, families can navigate the river’s exciting rapids in a safe and controlled environment. Wrap up your visit with a scenic picnic amidst the forest’s stunning vistas.

A trip to the Nantahala National Forest is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in North Carolina with kids.

10. Carowinds Amusement Park

Carowinds Amusement Park - one of the best things to do in North Carolina with kids
(Photo by Carowinds)

No family trip is complete without a visit to an amusement park, and Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a top choice for families with kids.

This theme park offers over 60 rides, including thrilling roller coasters and water rides, as well as live entertainment and delicious food options. With a dedicated kids’ area and family-friendly activities, there’s something for everyone at Carowinds.

11. Tweetsie Railroad

Established in 1957, Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock is North Carolina’s first theme park. This Wild West-themed park is a perfect kid-friendly destination that combines history, adventure, and fun.

The centerpiece of the park is the historic steam locomotive, where families can take an enchanting 3-mile ride through the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. Children can enjoy a variety of rides, from a classic carousel to the exciting “Tweetsie Twister.” Meet friendly animals at the Deer Park Zoo, or catch a live show at the Tweetsie Palace Saloon. Don’t forget to stop by Miner’s Mountain, where kids can pan for gold and precious gemstones.

Tweetsie Railroad provides an entertaining and educational day out, making it a must-visit when looking for things to do in North Carolina with kids.

12. Carolina Beach State Park

Carolina Beach State Park is a must-visit destination for families seeking a blend of nature, adventure, and relaxation. Situated on the Atlantic coast, this 761-acre park is a nature lover’s paradise, boasting a rich diversity of ecosystems, ranging from maritime forests and sand dunes to salt marshes and freshwater wetlands.

The park is well-known for its carnivorous plants, including the Venus flytrap, which is native to the region. Kids will love the hiking trails offering magnificent views of the Cape Fear River and the chance to spot various wildlife animals.

The park also offers exceptional camping facilities, including family campsites and picnic areas, perfect for a fun-filled family outing. Other fun activities include fishing or boating in the vast river or simply soaking up the sun on the sandy beaches.

Carolina Beach State Park offers an enriching and enjoyable outdoor experience, making it a top choice for outdoor family activities in NC.

13. Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg - one of the unique family activities in NC
(Photo by Colonial Williamsburg)

For a unique experience that combines history and fun, head to Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia, just across the state border from North Carolina.

This living-history museum showcases what life was like during colonial times and offers interactive activities for kids to participate in, such as candle making, tin smithing, and more. Your family can also enjoy carriage rides, live performances, and delicious traditional meals.

14. Old Salem, Winston-Salem

Experience a vivid slice of history with your kids at Old Salem in Winston-Salem. This restored Moravian settlement from the 18th and 19th centuries offers an immersive, hands-on history lesson.

As you stroll down the streets of Old Salem, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Children can gain insight into early American life as they tour historic buildings, explore heritage gardens, and watch costumed interpreters demonstrate early trades such as blacksmithing, candle making, and baking in a traditional brick oven.

There’s also the Winkler Bakery, where the aroma of fresh, wood-fired Moravian sugar cakes and cookies will surely entice your senses. For younger children, the Miksch Gardens and House offers a delightful hands-on garden program.

Visiting Old Salem is unquestionably one of the most educational and engaging things to do in North Carolina with kids.

15. Take a trip to the beach

Kure Beach in North Carolina
Kure Beach.

With over 300 miles of coastline, North Carolina is known for its beautiful beaches. A family trip to the beach is always a fun experience, whether it’s building sandcastles, playing in the waves, or just relaxing on the shore.

Some popular family-friendly beaches include Wrightsville Beach, Topsail Beach, and Nags Head. Families can also visit the North Carolina Aquariums at Kure Beach and Pine Knoll Shores for an up-close experience with marine life.

From interesting animal sanctuaries and museums to the exciting wildlife and beautiful landscapes of its 40 state parks, North Carolina offers an array of activities that are both fun and educational for families. With this list, we’re just scratching the surface of family-friendly activities in NC. At the end, the places you can visit depend largely on your family’s interests and how far you are willing to go.

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, exploring these sights and experiences is a fulfilling adventure.

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