Where are the best places to take kids in North Carolina? If you’re looking for ideas for your upcoming NC trip with your kids, you’ve come to the right place.
Fun Places to Take Kids in North Carolina for a Memorable Time
North Carolina is brimming with wonderful sights, lush sceneries, and enjoyable attractions. There’s something for everyone here. But, if you plan to take your kids on a vacation to the Tar Heel State, it can difficult to determine which points of interest to include on your trip.
Here are the best places to take kids in NC.
1. Battleship North Carolina
Located in Wilmington, Battleship North Carolina is a refurbished WWII battleship that is sure to wow your kids. You can go on a self-guided tour that takes you from the Observation Deck through nine levels of living spaces, gun turrets, sick bays, mess decks, powder storage, and more. It functions as a memorial for the thousands of North Carolinians who perished during the war.
2. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
If you’re looking for things to do with kids in NC, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse should definitely be on your list. Located inside the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, this lighthouse is instantly distinct thanks to its unique pattern. Many consider it one of the most iconic lighthouses in the United States. It is the tallest lighthouse in North Carolina and the tallest brick lighthouse in the country.
It takes 257 steps to reach the top of the lighthouse. And while the lighthouse welcomes an estimated 175,000 visitors each year, it is still one of the less crowded attractions in the state. Efforts are underway to restore this lighthouse, though families can still enjoy its towering beauty from the outside.
When it comes to kid-friendly attractions in NC, you can’t go wrong with Carowinds. Carowinds is an amusement park overflowing with entertainment, including over 60 rides and a waterpark. There are also special events and live entertainment that appeals to both kids and adults. Make your commute an easy one by staying at the on-site hotel or campground.
4. Horses of Shackleford Banks
Situated on Cape Lookout, Shackleford Banks offers the unique experience of watching wild horses in their natural habitat. Kids can learn everything from how horses socialize to how they live without the interference of man. Of course, kids and adults alike are advised to stay a good distance from the horses for everyone’s safety.
Shackleford Banks is only a boat ride away from the North Carolina mainland. Make sure to book your tickets ahead of time to secure transportation, especially during the peak months.
5. Lake Mattamuskeet
Fishing at Lake Mattamuskeet is truly one of the most unforgettable North Carolina activities for families. Located inside the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Mattamuskeet is the largest natural lake in the state. Anglers flock to this lake to take a shot at hooking large mouth bass, bream, catfish, and striped bass. Sport fishing, though, is only open from March to November.
In addition to fishing, visitors can also do a bit of bird watching. The fall and winter seasons, in particular, see flocks of swans, ducks, and geese. The elusive and endangered bald eagle also makes an appearance every once in a while.
6. Linville Caverns
Situated in Marion, the Linville Caverns are the state’s only show caverns. If you’re looking for places to take kids in North Carolina, this is definitely a good choice.
The limestone caverns feature mesmerizing mineral colors and distinct formations. There’s also a “Bottomless Pool” as well as an underground stream. During the guided tour, visitors can also experience a brief peek into absolute darkness, which is chilling yet calming at the same time. While not a conventional attraction for kids, a walk through the caverns certainly makes for an educational and memorable time.
7. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Located in downtown Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences features both permanent and special exhibits that will surely pique your kids’ interest. There are tons of dioramas, theaters, and interactive exhibits, ranging from coastal and mountain themes to underground and prehistoric themes. The museum also showcases animal feeding, including gar feeding, snake feeding, and lobster feeding.
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh measures 300,000 square feet. There are also satellite facilities in Greenville, Whiteville, and Contentnea Creek. As an attraction dedicated to both fun and learning, it’s one of the best kid friendly places in North Carolina.
8. North Carolina Zoo
There’s just something about animals that kids find interesting. So, if they just can’t get enough, take your kids for a visit to the North Carolina Zoo. Located in Asheboro, the NC Zoo is home to more than 250 species of animals. It is one of the only two zoos that receive state support in the United States – the other being the Minnesota Zoo.
The zoo features a diverse collection of habitats, with animals from North America, Africa, and the desert. In addition to viewing animals, kids and adults alike can enjoy plenty of fun activities. These include riding on the carousel, climbing the air hike ropes, taking a hike, or going on a safari adventure.
9. Tweetsie Railroad
If you’re looking for places to visit in NC with kids, add Tweetsie Railroad to your itinerary. For some reason, trains and kids just go together.
Tweetsie Railroad is a wild west theme park featuring trains, rides, and shows. There’s also a deer park within the premises. And, of course, no wild west adventure would be complete without gem mining and gold panning. If you want a taste of the modern world, there are also arcade games to enjoy.
While Tweetsie Railroad is currently closed, it’s set to open its doors once again in April 2023.
10. Uwharrie National Forest
Uwharrie National Forest is one of the best kid friendly vacations North Carolina has to offer. Families can set up camp at the developed campgrounds. You can sit around a campfire and toast marshmallows before doing some stargazing under a blanket.
If camping isn’t your thing, you can always do a day trip and go on a hike, a bike ride, or a horseback ride. There are also plenty of water activities in the area. Feeling more daring? Take the kids on an off-road adventure through one of the ATV trails.
Make Memories With Your Kids
As you can see, there are many places to take kids in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State boasts a wide variety of family-friendly spots and activities – all ripe for the taking. Whether you’re looking for something exciting or educational, you won’t run out of things to do.