Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Are you looking for day trips in NC for kids? If so, we’ve got a great list for you!
Spending quality family time together is amazing, but doing the same things over and over can get boring.
Sure, your kids might be fine spending every weekend at Chuck E. Cheese, but you’re undoubtedly ready to call it quits. But what if there were all sorts of new ways to have fun together as a family?
No matter where you are in the Tar Heel State of North Carolina, there are tons of kid-friendly activities and attractions.
Check out these fantastic, anything-but-boring day trips in NC for kids and parents to enjoy (no large pizza-eating rodents necessary).
North Carolina Zoos and Aquariums
Typically, a family favorite is to visit zoos and aquariums. Here are a few that kids of all ages would enjoy! Check out the website for up to date general admission prices.
1. Western North Carolina Nature Center
Take the kids to see 60 domestic and wild animal species and 100 plant species in Asheville, NC.
The WNC Nature Center focuses on showcasing flora and fauna of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
2. North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
This top-notch aquarium has frequent sell-outs, so make sure to make your reservations far in advance.
Kids will love seeing sharks, eels, stingrays, baby sea turtles, an albino alligator, and more.
3. North Carolina Zoo
The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro holds the title of the world’s largest natural habitat zoo; quite the sight to behold.
In addition to providing a great way to see more than 1,800 animals, kids can also learn about conservation efforts and ways to protect endangered species across the globe.
4. North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island
A member of the nonprofit North Carolina Aquarium Society, this NC delightful aquarium is home to many sea creatures.
You can also see river otters and visit the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation Center.
5. North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
Besides seeing beautiful sea life, you can also take a behind-the-scenes tour or attend one of many special events.
Upcoming events. at the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium, includes a family paint night for ages 6 and up. Check out the website for up to date general admission prices.
Easy North Carolina Biking and Hiking Trails for Kids
Get your kids outside to enjoy these nature trails. They are short and perfect for the whole family to enjoy! Our favorite place is the Pisgah National Forest, but there are many other parks to appreciate North Carolina’s natural beauty.
1. Mount Mitchell Summit Trail
Located near Montreat, NC, in Mount Mitchell State Park, this easy out-and-back trail is an excellent diversion for young hikers.
It’s a paved trail that takes only 12 minutes to complete, but you can stop along the way to enjoy the birds and view.
2. Juney Whank Falls Trail
This loop trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is 0.6 miles and takes about 20 to 25 minutes to complete. It’s near Bryson City. (Note: This trail isn’t pet-friendly.)
3. Linville Falls Trail
This trail takes about 21 minutes to complete, hiking in and back out, and is a popular walking spot.
It’s near Jonas Ridge, in the Linville Gorge Wilderness, and is roughly 0.9 miles.
4. Pisgah Covered Bridge Loop
Although only a 0.2-mile loop, this trail near Seagrove in the Pisgah Natural Area is a fun place to explore and picnic.
Kids will love to see the historic covered bridge, which is only of only two covered bridges left in the state.
5. Cascades Trail
This 0.8-mile trail takes you into wooded areas and has fun sights, including waterfalls and a wooden bridge. It takes about 21 minutes to complete and is an overall easy hike for the kids to enjoy.
6. Earth Mountain Bike Rental
If your kids love riding bikes or mountain biking, then check out the awesome bike rentals at Earth Mountain Bicycle located in downtown Brevard, NC.
This mountain town is surrounded by national and state parks. It’s one of the best places for bike riding.
Ride to one of the picnic shelters, stop and see the waterfalls, or just enjoy a ride through town.
There’s so many great things about the Brevard, Pisgah Forest, and Dupont areas.
Family-Friendly North Carolina Beaches
1. Fort Fisher State Park Beach
This beach is part of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, offering 6 miles of beach and lots of wildlife. Also in the area are a Civil War historic site, the aquarium, and a boating ramp.
2. Carolina Beach
Pack your bathing suits and head to the Cape Fear shoreline to enjoy lots of sand and sun.
Kids can also enjoy shelling, fishing, surfing, and more among the 44 public access points.
3. Nags Head Beach
Spend a day on the beach or explore the rest of this popular tourist destination in Nags Head.
You’ll find lots of shops, restaurants, and historical attractions, and go dolphin watching on a pontoon boat.
4. Cape Hatteras National Seashore
During this beach trip to Cape Hatteras, make sure to save some time to explore the lighthouse. Although undergoing restoration, it’s still an impressive sight, standing 197 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.
5. Wrightsville Beach
Build sand castles, fly a kite, or ride the waves on a boogie board. Or see the beach from a whole new angle on a scenic beach cruise.
North Carolina Historic Districts
1. Bath Historic District
Bath is the first town in North Carolina, established in 1705, and today it remains a small village with historical significance. It’s a great look back into history for the kids.
2. Oakwood Historic District
This area features impressive examples of various architectural styles from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
You can take a self-guided walking tour through the charming streets and learn about the prominent former residents that once called the neighborhood home.
3. National Register Historic District
This historic district is one of the largest in the south and features an array of fine mansions and gardens.
You can explore on foot, but kids would likely love to take a horse-drawn carriage through the streets.
4. Historic Biltmore Village
Home to the famous Biltmore Estate, the Biltmore Village was also home to the area’s first train station.
Biltmore Village mimics a small English Village and features lots of charm, hosting fairs and festivals throughout the year.
5. Old Salem
Visit unique shops and a charming bakery, and explore a living history museum. The museum provides a glimpse into the Moravian community that settled the area in 1766.
North Carolina Kids Museums
1. Marbles Kids Museum
This fun-filled children’s museum features interactive exhibits, IMAX movies, and more in downtown Raleigh. It gets its name from the marble-filled wall that holds over one million marbles and wraps around the museum.
2. Fascinate-U Children’s Museum
This museum in Fayetteville features a mini city and interactive exhibits that let kids role play to their heart’s content.
3. Greensboro Children’s Museum
The Greensboro Children’s Museum features over 20 exhibits. Kids can explore the world through various Interactive activities and an outdoor play plaza.
Exhibits include a construction zone, health center, main street, water exploration, and transportation center.
4. Asheville Pinball Museum
This pinball museum is a must for your kids and your inner pinball wizard.
For just $15, you and your kids can play over 35 classic video games and pinball machines for as long as you want.
5. Children’s Museum of Wilmington
It’s all about fun in this multilevel children’s museum, where kids can engage with the world in imaginative ways.
North Carolina Science Centers
1. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
This museum in downtown Raleigh is packed wth three floors of amazing exhibits that teach about the natural world. It also hosts special exhibits throughout the year.
2. Greensboro Science Center
This comprehensive science center features a museum, zoo, and aquarium. There’s also a Discovery Center where kids can have hands-on encounters with small mammals.
3. Museum of Life and Science
Stand-out features of this science center include a sandstone cave with a 20-ft waterfall and a mist-filled playsacape.
Other highlights include a butterfly house, a dinosaur trail, and multiple animal species.
4. Discovery Place Science
Located in Charlotte, this Discovery science center is all about hands-on, interactive ways to engage with the world of science. You can also visit the Discovery Place Nature Center, located next to Freedom Park.
5. Catawba Science Center
Hickory, NC, is home to this 35,000-square-foot technology and science museum.
Kids will love the many hand-on exhibits, aquarium galleries, and a digital planetarium.
North Carolina Family Train Rides
1. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
A Great Smoky Mountains train ride through fantastic scenery is a great way to spend some family time together, especially if your kids are train enthusiasts.
The railroad offers several passenger trips, departing from the historic station in Bryson City.
2. New Hope Valley Railway
This railroad museum in New Hill, NC, aims to preserve and teach the history of the NC Railways. Visitors can also enjoy train rides at various times throughout each month.
3. Craggy Mountain Line
Guests can enjoy a 7-mile roundtrip train ride in Asheville, NC, on the Craggy Mountain Line. it offers an open-air ride experience that provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains and river.
4. North Carolina Transportation Museum
Learn about all types of transportation through the years at this museum in Spencer, NC. A highlight for sure is the train ride.
They also provide special occasion experiences, like the Polar Express during the holidays.
5. Tweetsie Railroad
Let kids imagine life in the wild west at this theme park featuring rides, gem mining, and the Deer Park Zoo. The star of the park though is Tweetsie, the historic steam locomotive that offers 3-mile rides through Blowing Rock, NC.
North Carolina Amusement Parks
This Carowinds amusement and entertainment center has been providing non-stop thrills and fun to families for over 45 years.
You can splash around in the waterpark, experience over 60 rides, and enjoy great food and live entertainment.
2. Wet ‘n Wild Emerald Pointe
This expansive water park has over 40 rides and attractions, including Shipwreck Cove and a two million gallon wave pool.
3. Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park
Back to Wilmington for this amusuement center featuring mini golf, a rock climbing wall, and a water park. There’s also mini bowling, go-karts, and much more.
4. Santa’s Land
It’s Christmas all year long at this wonderland-themed amusement park and zoo. It’s also in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so kids can spend time hiking, exploring, and enjoying the great outdoors.
Near Williamston, NC, this wild west theme park has all the fixings for fun. Play mini-golf, ride the roller coaster, enjoy a picnic lunch, and play in the arcade.
NC History Trips Kids Will Love
1. North Carolina Battleship
A trip to Wilmington can become a unique history lesson with a visit to this restored WWII battleship.
Explore nine levels, imagine how it would have been living life at sea, and see if you can spot the resident alligator from the ship’s bow.
2. 82d Airborne Division War Memorial Museum
Located at the famous Fort Bragg, this museum celebrates the active-duty 82d Airborne Division. It’s an excellent way to give kids a firsthand glimpse into army life.
3. Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
This maritime museum in Hatteras, NC, features exhibits with nautical themes and historic significance to the area.
There are also scavenger hunts for kids to enjoy and other special events.
4. Wright Brothers National Memorial
The famous Wright brothers and their legendary first flight in Kittyhawk are honored at this memorial and museum.
Visitors can see the spot of that iconic first flight and where the brothers landed, along with reconstructed camp buildings.
5. Fort Dobbs
Througut the year visitors can witness reenactments of key moments in history at this replica of the 18th-century fort in Statesville, NC.
The North Carolina colony completed the original fort during the French and Indian War.
North Carolina Gem Mines
There are many gem mines throughout the state of North Carolina. It’s the perfect little adventure that makes for a great day trip with kids. Many of these gem mines have free admission to browse, but you have to purchase a bucket if you choose to mine.
1. Crystal Mountain Gem Mine
The Crystal Mountain Gem Mine is located in the heard of Brevard, NC. Spend the day strolling through downtown, catching some live music, and shopping in Western Carolina.
Then, bring the kids to sift through buckets of beautiful crystals. Crystal Mountain Gem Mine has the best staff in town!
2. Elijah Mountain Gem Mine
Take a step back into the 1800s as you mine for gems and gold in Hendersonville.
Kids will have a blast, and they get to keep anything they find. Make sure to say hello to the friendly goats in the petting zoo, too.
3. Pisgah Forest Gem Mine
Go mining for gems in the Pisgah Forest. You never know what you migt find!
4. Doc’s Rocks Gem Mine
In Blowing Rock, NC, this gem mining experience also showcases a fossil dig and dinosaur-themed putt-putt.
5. Chimney Rock Gemstone Mine
You’ll find this gem mine in the historic Chimney Rock Village along the Rocky Broad River. They guarantee a gem mine find with every bucket.
6. Asheville’s Best Gem Mine
Go mining and then learn about your finds from the knowledgeable staff. There are indoor and outdoor sluicing opportunities, but you need to reserve time slots in advance.
Now you have tons of ideas to keep the kids busy and spend some quality family time together. Which will you do first?
Before you go, here are more posts you’ll enjoy: