One of the most highly anticipated times of the year for fun-lovers of all ages is definitely Spring Break. From parents to students, the young to the old, an opportunity to heed the call of the oncoming warmth of the spring season by taking a step away from life’s daily grind is hard to resist. If you’re searching for something a bit higher-altitude exciting than the sea-level beachfront norm, the North Carolina foothills just may turn out to be your favorite spring break vacay of all time. You can hike and rock climb to high peaks with spectacular views, splash your way through lakeside adventures, explore museums filled with history and shops filled with local artisan wares, or even just sit back and enjoy some of the local brews and cuisine while admiring the panoramic landscape. To help plan your perfect getaway, here are 10 of our favorite activity picks to have the time of your life this spring break.
Goof Off Kid-Style
Rain or shine, if you’ve got kids, some of the best spring break memories are made when you’re watching them have the time of their lives! For a kid-riffic day of fun there’s nothing quite like Forest City’s Kidz Play & Ooh La La Kidz Spa. This place is 8000 square feet of giant inflatable slides, jumps, structures, obstacle courses, games, and equipment that’s perfect for goofing off and even better for anyone with a little too much rambunctious energy. If the kiddos feel the need for a bit of pampering after a day of fun and games, be sure to check out their Kidz Spa for a mani-pedi or even a facial or a new hairdo! The kids will be talking about the experience for years to come and you’ll look like the coolest adult ever. Everybody wins!
Walk A Golden Mile
In case you didn’t know, the North Carolina gold rush pre-dated the California gold rush, and the very first gold $1 coin was minted in Rutherfordton almost 17 years before the U.S. Mint made one of their own. These historical golden nuggets and many more can be discovered along Rutherfordton’s Gold Mile. This walking tour begins at the Bechtler House where you can view Bechtler’s original coin press and learn more about the gold trail, then journey the 1-mile loop through the streets of historic downtown Rutherfordton. Follow the sidewalk commemorative coins past historic homes and buildings, galleries, boutiques, and many more points of interest. Stopping and shopping at these gems of local artisan wares is always encouraged! Once you’re all blinged out on historically-charged adventure, take a break at the town’s Main Street Coffee and Ice Cream or Bee Happy Eats & Sweets for a cup of joe and a decadent snack to create a delectable ending to a perfectly golden day.
Bring In Some Bling
Gold mines aren’t just for historic study! Rutherfordton, Chimney Rock, and Union Mills all have fantastic gold and gem mines where you can pan for bling, view some of the area’s unearthed fossils, and even shop for beautiful locally mined rocks, crystals, and gems. Chimney Rock Gemstone Mine is located along the banks of the Rocky Broad River in Chimney Rock Village and offers gem and fossil mining in addition to their showroom of incredible sterling silver jewelry, rare fossils, minerals, rock decor, and crystals. Rutherfordton’s Broad River Gems & Mining offers gem mining, as well as a shop that features unique jewelry, minerals, meteorites, and fossils. Thermal City Gold Mine in Union Mills, NC boasts an incredible gem and mineral mine and even riverside campsites so you can enjoy quests for glitz even longer. Nothing like a little spring bling to keep your vacay shining bright!
Fly Like An Eagle
If you’ve ever wanted to revel in the beauty of Hickory Nut Gorge from a bird’s eye view, then ziplining is sure to thrill. Boulderline Zip has 6 incredible zip lines and even 4 mini-zip lines for the little spring-breakers in your group. Packages can include everything from their zip lines, climbing tower, and giant hillside swing, to Night Flights for those who want the eerie excitement of ziplining at night with headlamps and glow paint. Canopy Ridge Farms offers guided zip line tours across 60 acres of forests, gorges, hillsides, and water that are perfect for thrill-seekers of all ages. Their Outdoor Adventure Park additionally features UTV tours for those that prefer to fly closer to ground-level. Both groups are located in Lake Lure, so no matter which experience you choose it’s sure to make the fun level of your spring break soar to new heights!
Stop And Smell The Roses
Walt Whitman once wrote, “Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.” No matter what time of day you meander through this incredible garden walkway, you’re sure to be inspired. The Lake Lure Flowering Bridge was built as a highway bridge in 1925 and transformed in 2011 when a new bridge took its place for automobile traffic. Hailed as the largest Sensory Garden for the Blind and Visually Impaired in North Carolina, this incredibly beautiful, volunteer-upkeeped oasis is part of Lake Lure’s 3⁄4 mile Town Center Walkway that continues past Morse Park to Lake Lure Beach and is considered a Living 3D Mural on the Appalachian Mural Trail. It’s a scenic walk for the senses that will live fragrantly in your memories for years to come.
’Rock’ the Great Outdoors
Chimney Rock State Park is more than just a natural giant rock monolith. The park's variety of trails, each with its own spectacular views are some of the area's most incredible nature-filled inspirations for young and old alike. Hike along the magical Hickory Nut Falls Trail to the base of a 404-foot natural waterfall. Visit Gneiss Cave, the Grotto, and Pulpit Rock as you brave the 494-step stairway climb of the Outcroppings Trail that ends atop awe-inspiring Chimney Rock. Wander along the Great Woodland Adventure Trail and learn about the region's many animal friends at their discovery stations along the way, then explore the Animal Discovery Den full of local 'wildlife ambassadors'. Rock climbing, live local dulcimer music, and even an elevator to the top of the mammoth rock all combine to make Chimney Rock Park a must-do activity on your spring break itinerary. It's an outdoor adventure not to be missed!
Explore The Mysteries Of The Past
For those who hold what Maya Angelou referred to as “a great respect for the past,” Rutherford county’s variety of folklore and museums will definitely be a fan favorite. Take a stop through the Bostic Lincoln Center in Bostic, North Carolina. This museum and learning center is dedicated to proving the belief of many historians that Abraham Lincoln was actually born in a cabin above Rutherford county’s Puzzle Creek, not in Kentucky. If you’re fascinated by the history and roots of agricultural America, the Rutherford County Farm Museum is sure to enthrall. Located along the railroad tracks at the edge of historic downtown Forest City, the museum exhibits hundreds of antiques including farm, home, and textile equipment, in addition to murals depicting the area’s cultivation of cotton and early development of the textile industry.
If you’re captivated by classic cars and the history of the automobile, be sure to visit the Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum. Also located in Forest City, the museum showcases automobile beauties from unrestored originals like Model Ts, Mustangs, and Mack Trucks, to pristine antique autos and firetrucks. If gaming is your thing you’ll appreciate the opportunity to experience how it all started at the Carolina Arcade Museum. This immersive vintage arcade boasts classic arcade and pinball machines all on freeplay.
Looking for a truly kid-friendly exploratory museum experience? Check out the KidSenses Children’s Interactive Museum in Rutherfordton. It’s 10,000 square feet filled with a variety of interactive exhibit areas and an enormous children’s garden. Afterward (or on the way!) follow the Kid’s Main Street Safari through the historic downtown to learn even more about the area’s history and nature. Any way you look at it, these activity favorites are guaranteed to make learning about the past a fun and fulfilling experience!
Traverse A Trail
The foothills are not without a wide variety of trails for hikers and cyclists of every level to enjoy. One of our favorites is the Thermal Belt Rail Trail. This recently completed 13.5-mile trail is actually the original railroad track line linking the towns of Ruth, Spindale, Rutherfordton, and Forest City converted into a scenic travel path that’s perfect for walkers, hikers, runners, and cyclists. Marvel at the rustic landscape of forests and farmlands flanked by distant mountains as you travel the tree-canopied path, then savor the refreshing flavors of local sustenance as the trail winds through more urbanized areas of the towns. Bicycle rentals for the trail are easily available at Spindale’s OpenBox Bikes & Fitness if you prefer cycling to hiking but don’t want the worry of bringing your own wheels. Whatever your mode of travel, this trail’s unique experience is one you won’t soon forget.
If you prefer your trail riding to be more of the equine variety, then canter on over to Riverside Riding Stables or Cedar Creek Stables. Both are located in Lake Lure and both offer multiple guided trail ride options for equestrians of every age and ability level. Riverside even offers a 3-day, 2-night pack trip full of riding, fishing, and camping adventures. Either way, it’s a foothills trail experience that’ll saddle up your spring break for a whole new level of fun!
Splash It Up
For the perfect balance of water sports and mountainous beauty, check out the Lake Lure Adventure Company. This family-owned group offers more lakeside water activities than you could ever hope to cram into a single spring break vacation. From pontoon boat, kayak, and paddleboard rentals, to wakeboarding, wakesurfing, tubing, kneeboarding, waterskiing, and even guided fishing outings; this operation really knows how to make playing lakeside your ideal version of fun! Spring Break timing is considered “off-season”, so be sure to contact them and reserve your perfect package of activities in advance.
If fishing is your favorite version of water play, then definitely check out Lake Lure Fishing Excursions. Captain Steve and his crew offer private morning and twilight excursions, and you can even bring your furry family member along for the ride if they’re well behaved. Be sure to purchase a NC Fishing License for anyone in your group that’s 16 or older, and book your trip in advance. This is definitely a vacation outing that’s baited with delight!
Shop It Off
Ever wanted to spend a day exploring quaint shops and boutiques flanked by historic inns, corner cafes, and mountain vistas? Chimney Rock Village is well known as one of the most picturesque, idyllic small towns in western North Carolina and the town’s Main Street is no exception. Transport yourself far away from the modern bustle of e-commerce to a place that offers locally-owned stores that entice all 5 senses. Lose yourself in the local artisan wares of Native’s Rest, Willow Creek, Chimney Sweeps, and Featherheads. Find a myriad of fashionable trinkets and baubles at April’s Boutique, Gayle’s Chimney Rock Shop, and John Bull Trading, or fill up on old-time hospitality with a side of homemade preserves at Bubba O’Leary’s General Store. You can even take a break with a scenic cup of joe or pint of locally-crafted brew at one of the cafes and eateries along the village’s Riverwalk that runs along the Rocky Broad parallel to Main Street. It’s a timeless shopper’s paradise that’s guaranteed to bring home charming memories of a day well spent.
From outdoor adventures to indoor finds, the towns of Rutherford county in the North Carolina foothills are sure take your spring break vacation to new altitudes of fantastic. To create your perfect springtime adventure go to VisitNCSmallTowns.com and begin making memories that will last for a lifetime.