Summer vacation is officially in full swing, and the kids are full of energy, but where can families journey to that doesn’t require extensive travel filled with the sounds of “Are we there yet?” If you’re in North or South Carolina, Tennessee, or Georgia, your ultimate activities destination is only a short car ride away. Welcome to the family-friendly paradise of Rutherford county.
Where to Stay
Rutherford county boasts so many kid-friendly options for families and travelers, that there are honestly too many to list. Simply searching under accommodations at https://www.visitncsmalltowns.com/places-to-stay brings up everything from houses and lodges, to resorts and campgrounds throughout the region. A couple highly rated favorites include:
Rumbling Bald Resort
This award winning resort is considered one of the jewels of the NC foothills. Located on over 3000 acres in Lake Lure, accommodations include on & off property cabins and home rentals in addition to resort hotel lodging. Resort amenities include access to their pool and lakeside beach area, wellness center classes, lake tours and activities, multiple onsite dining options, a renowned golf course, and even a couple scenic hiking trails so there's something for everyone within easy access. They also have a daily Kids Adventure camp available Monday through Friday that offers supervised activities like ziplining, horseback riding, gem mining, swimming and speed tubing for ages 6 to 18. Perfect if, as a parent, you’re looking to divide and conquer with multiple age kids that enjoy completely different outings.
4 Paws Kingdom Campground & Dog Retreat
If your 'kids' are more of the four-legged and furry variety, this unique Rutherfordton, NC campground offers onsite amenities that will thrill every family member. Accommodation options include cabins, log cabins, trailers, and even yurts if you and the kids prefer to sleep with a starry view of the night sky. All come equipped with kitchenettes, covered patios or decks, and some even have the option of fenced yards. The campground also offers multiple RV area options including back in or pull through sites that can include paved pads, decks, and fenced yard areas if desired. 4 Paws hosts family friendly onsite events every Friday through Sunday including games, contests, dinners, doggie parties, and live music. Be sure to check the website events calendar to see what's upcoming. A fantastic accommodation option, especially if your furry family members want to join in the vacation fun.
What To Do
Hiking is always a wonderful activity in this area of NC. Scenic woodlands, waterfalls, and posted local folklore are only a few of the draws that make a variety of these family-friendly hikes special.
Chimney Rock State Park
The climb to the top of this granite 315 foot monolith is one that’s sure to be a memorable experience for hikers of any age and level. The stairway hike is lined with safety rails so it’s safe for all ages, and the views from the top of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge take the word ‘spectacular’ to a whole new level. If your kids are too small to make the big hike worth your while, be sure to check out Chimney Rock State Park’s Great Woodland Adventure Trail. It’s specially designed for young hikers, boasts an educational animal discovery den with live park animals, and the trail itself is lined with multiple discovery stations that include locally made sculptures to entertain and educate along the way. Before beginning any of the park’s hiking journeys, make sure to grab a TRACK brochure. It’s designed for kids and highlights points of interest along each of the hiking trails, plus allows them to register and log their hikes on the park’s website to earn prizes.
Dittmer-Watts Nature Trail Park
This free hiking mecca is rated one of the top hiking destinations around Lake Lure. It has multiple well-maintained trails that range between a ½ mile to 3 miles, but they all connect so your family's hike can be as long or as short as you wish. The park also boasts a couple of wide open fields for the kids (both human and furry!) to romp through. The trails are considered an ‘easy to moderate’ rating, and additionally have benches and picnic areas throughout so they’re perfect for even the youngest of hikers. A wonderful option in the Lake Lure area if you have a family looking to expend some outdoor energy.
If your family loves water activities, then you’ll find fantastic aquatic options in Rutherford county. Always wanted to learn to waterski? How about wakesurf, wakeboard, tube, or kneeboard? The pros at Lake Lure Adventure Company offer lessons in all that and more including boat, kayak, and paddleboard rentals. They’re a one stop shop for every form of water-bound fun for people of all ages! Is simply cruising the lake while enjoying the sights more your crew’s style? Make sure to contact Lake Lure Tours. They offer guided pontoon boat tours, box lunch cruises, and even dinner cruises around the lake daily. Do you have an aspiring fishing afficionado in your family? The Fly-n-Hook Fishing Club in Rutherfordton will rent you everything you need to snag a catfish in their fully stocked lake. They even have Saturday night competitions for the serious fanatics. Maybe you and the kids just want to splash through a cool, clear river. Be sure to check out the Rocky Broad Riverwalk in Chimney Rock Village. It’s an ⅛ mile natural walkway located behind the village shops that’s safe for even the youngest of kids to enjoy with adult supervision.
If you're feeling the need for some activities indoors, Rutherford county has you covered there too. Check out the Kidsenses Interactive Museum in Rutherfordton. It’s a 10,000 square foot children’s museum that offers 12 different interactive exhibit areas and a huge children’s garden. They even have special programming throughout the year, so be sure to check the website before visiting to take advantage of it during your stay. Got kids that need to get some serious energy out? Visit Bubba’s Fun Park in Forest City. It’s a 1200 square foot indoor playcenter that includes slides, tracks, a web crawl, outdoor batting cages, and even a toddler play area for kids 4 and under. Have an aspiring young sleuth on your hands? Make sure to visit the Bostic Lincoln Center to delve into their local 250 year old mystery. This museum is devoted to proving the belief of some historians that Abraham Lincoln was actually born on Puzzle Creek in Rutherford county.
Where to Eat
Rutherford county offers many family friendly eatery options when it comes to cuisine, that blow the standard chicken fingers and fries out of the water! Places like the Esmerelda Inn have incredible bison sliders, or everyone will love their 3 Little Pigs sandwich made with Hickory Nut Gap sausage. The Lake Lure LaStrada restaurant’s combination of hearty Italian options - like pizza and lasagna - and traditional American fare - like burgers and steaks - are sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. The Riverwatch Bar & Grill in Chimney Rock Village offers a great kid-friendly menu with some of the region’s best burgers and onion rings, complete with an incredible scenic view. The Shake Shop in Spindale claims to be ‘Rutherford County’s Oldest Eatery’, and its truly incredible cheeseburger specials and (of course) crazy thick and delicious shakes prove why it’s consistently a local favorite. One of our favorite family friendly restaurant options is Larkin’s on the Lake. Its views are amazing, its menu is casually sublime, and their ‘Hubba Bubba Brownie’ is the ultimate craving for any sweet tooth. Larkins even offers a video game area in the restaurant’s back room that’s a mecca for kids and a godsend for weary parents.
Making Memories - Enjoy the Journey!
We’ve highlighted a number of family and kid-friendly options, but these only scrape the surface of places to stay, eat, and enjoy in this beautiful, NC foothills area. Check out Rutherford County’s website at https://www.visitncsmalltowns.com/ and discover your family’s best memory making vacation ever! You’ll thank us later.