RALEIGH — With schools and state universities down to the last three weeks before classes resume, families are drumming up last-ditch lists to make the most of any waning summer free time.
In the western part of the state, the adventurous are headed to waterfalls, hiking trails, tubing and rafting where the mountain weather is a bit less humid. Others are traveling to Biltmore Estate in Asheville to catch the summer sun glinting through hand-sculpted glass in the Chihuly art exhibit.
“Dale Chihuly did these blown glass — big, big pieces of glass art — and the pieces all fit together in a very intricate pattern and it’s very colorful, just really beautiful work,” said Will Tuttell, executive director of Visit NC. “When you put that in the backdrop of the Biltmore, it makes it even more exceptional.”
On the coast, revelers are gearing up for the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s death.
“There’s a lot of people now who think Blackbeard essentially was a N.C. pirate, that he was from here,” said Tuttell. “There’s some neat stuff going on throughout the coast, all the way into October. But in August is the Outer Banks Pirate Festival and the Beaufort Pirate Invasion.”
Closer to the capital, food halls are turning in towns around the Triangle, bringing a taste of the farm to the city. Food halls are generally in urban post-industrial buildings outfitted to be a mix of high-end grocery stores with small eateries inside. They are drawing crowds looking for lunch and the ingredients to create something fun at home.
“We are calling 2018 the year of the food hall for North Carolina,” said Tuttell. “A bunch of these food halls have opened up or are coming in, between the Morgan Street Food Hall in Raleigh or Chapel Hill’s got one too, Blue Dogwood Public Market, Transfer Food Company, there’s another food hall coming to Durham. These are just a neat way to find some stuff, get some great food.”
But if high-speed thrills are more your style, North Carolina’s newest waterpark on the Outer Banks is drawing big crowds this summer and will close for the season after Labor Day. Wet’n Wild Emerald Pointe in Greensboro is wrapping the season after Labor Day as well, but before that happens they are offering discounts for Home Educator’s Day on Aug. 7 and Christian Youth Day on Aug. 11.
Carowinds outside of Charlotte is offering discounted tickets and parking every Thursday in August to catch the last days of summer. The amusement park will be open weekends only after Labor Day until their Winterfest week in December.
As the summer starts to wrap and the first day of school looms, Tuttel said grab your camera to capture the moment. They’re launching a #FirststhatLast campaign on social media.
“North Carolina is a state of ‘firsts’; first flight, first call for independence. … We’re trying to get people to tell us their “N.C. firsts” they had that last, like the first time they see the ocean here, the first time they see a waterfall, see a mountain, have moonshine, or see their kids dig their toes in the sand for the first time,” said Tuttell. “N.C. offers all those special experiences and we are trying to get people to talk about them and share them with us.”
For more ideas go to VisitNC.com.