City confines, while incredibly fun and vibrant, can sometimes start to feel a little claustrophobic. Luckily, Charlotte has no shortage of nearby day trips to help remind residents that there’s more to life than skyscrapers and heavy traffic. Here are 20 spontaneous day trips that are less than three hours from the Queen City.

Blowing Rock 

Time from Charlotte: 1 hour 45 minutes

Via @visitnc

Adventure meets relaxation in this charming yet exhilarating mountain town. Nicknamed the “Crown of the Blue Ridge,” Blowing Rock lives up to its regal reputation as one of the most breathtaking places in North Carolina. Outdoor enthusiasts gush over the plethora of scenic vistas Blowing Rock has to offer, including its most popular hiking trail: Rough Ridge Overlook Trail (pictured below).

For those seeking to unwind, Blowing Rock has plenty to offer. From The Blowing Rock shopping outlets and downtown shops to award-winning restaurants and relaxing spas, this town truly has something for everyone to enjoy.

Via @j_kreiss

Via @visitnc

Via @blowingrocknc

Biltmore Estate 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours 

Via @prettyinthepines

You don’t know fancy until you’ve seen the beautiful Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Opened to the public for the first time in 1895, George Vanderbilt’s famous 250-room estate is an exquisite testament to early Southern sophistication. The chateau is a preserved and sacred piece of history still family owned and operated by the original inhabitants’ modern lineage.

Unsurprisingly, a visit to the Biltmore Estate can cost a pretty penny. For those of us still saving up for a mansion of our own, the surrounding town of Asheville provides an excellent getaway, featuring plenty of quirky shops and local eateries to satisfy your spontaneous day trip needs.

@mandy.mathisembedded via  

Via @visitnc

Childress Vineyards

Time from Charlotte: 1 hour

Via @36dm_era

Don’t think NASCAR drivers can be fancy and sophisticated? Think again. Former driver, Richard Childress, opened Childress Vineyards in 2004, featuring 72 acres of gorgeous wine country. With more than 30 wines produced by the vineyards, you’ll need to take more than just one day trip to experience all that this California-style winery has to offer.

Via @childresswines

@jillian_mckayembedded via  


Catawba Falls 

Time from Charlotte: 1 hour 47 minutes

Via @ncoutdoor_inc

At the southern tip of the Pisgah National Forest’s Grandfather Ranger District are the ever-popular Catawba Falls. Nearly three miles of relatively moderate hiking trails lead visitors to the gorgeous falls where a natural pool awaits their weary gaze. It is a truly unforgettable sight to behold.

A word of caution: Be sure to thoroughly research the falls ahead of your trip. There are a few different paths with drastically varying difficulty levels, some of which may even require ropes for more experienced climbers. Stay safe!

Via @ncoutdoor_inc

Old Salem, Winston-Salem 

Time from Charlotte: 1 hour 17 minutes

Via @visitnc

Travel back in time as you enter Old Salem through the covered bridge separating this historic town from modern-day Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This site is one of America’s most comprehensive history attractions, immersing visitors in early Southern culture.

Explore the Historic Town of Salem, tour the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts or get lost in one of the award-winning heirloom gardens: The possibilities are endless in this charming corner of North Carolina.

Via @visitnc

@ajsimpkinsembedded via  

North Carolina Zoo

Time from Charlotte: 1 hour 36 minutes

Via @nczoo

The world’s largest natural habitat zoo sits just south of Asheboro in the center of North Carolina. With 2,600 wooded acres and 500 developed acres, this state-supported zoo is home to over 1,600 animals from more than 200 species—most of which are indigenous to Africa and North America.

Only an hour and 36 minutes from Charlotte, there’s no excuse for skipping out on the chance to experience this remarkable wildlife exhibit and rehabilitation center. Who wouldn’t want to get this personal with a giraffe this cute?

Via @kenleypope_

Via @nczoo

JOLO Winery and Vineyards 

Time from Charlotte: 1 hour 44 minutes 

Via @visitnc

North Carolina is making a comeback in wineries and JOLO Winery and Vineyards is making a lasting impression on the surrounding Pilot Mountain area. The grown-up grape juice entrepreneurs won three awards this year alone, including being named Platinum Medal Winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.

Besides making some of the state’s most impressive (and delicious) wines, the grounds have become a local favorite for wedding receptions. JOLO even has its own wine club, promising to deliver three hand-crafted wines four times per year.

Via @kellyepezley

Via @elizabethlarsonphotography

Grandfather Mountain

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours

Via @grandfathermtn

A little over two hours from Charlotte rests the old hunting grounds of Daniel Boone: The imposing Grandfather Mountain. With over 11 hiking trails, Grandfather Mountain offers everyone from the novice hiker to the expert climber an amazing adventure.

The massive Mile-High Swinging Bridge is perhaps the most iconic and memorable feature of the area, with plenty of trails leading visitors to its impressive architecture.

Via @grandfathermtn

Via @grandfathermtn

DuPont State Recreational Forest 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours

Via @victoriaonuf

Situated on over 10,000 acres of land, DuPont State Recreational Forest features some of North Carolina’s tallest waterfalls, including High Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

Although the forest itself is not currently available for camping, there are plenty of sites situated right outside of the forest so you can turn your day trip into a sleepover if the spirit moves you (and it will). With so much land to explore, you’ll never want to leave this tree-covered southern paradise.

Via @gianninamora

Via @megansalami

Elk Knob State Park 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours 10 minutes

Via @ricwilkinson

Home to one of North Carolina’s highest peaks, Elk Knob State Park is as awe-inspiring as they come. Despite a reputation for terrible winter weather, the park aims to remain open year-round—and for good reason. The grounds are particularly breathtaking in the winter twilight and Elk Knob State Park is the only one in the system to offer cross-country skiing.

@zack_howardembedded via  

Via @dobiesisters

Eno River State Park 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours 10 minutes

Via @lynee_be

Eno River State Park is the perfect destination for those seeking a more accessible outdoor experience. Located between Durham and Orange counties, Eno River offers visitors a scenic getaway just minutes from nearby creature comforts.

One look at these happy pups tells you everything you need to know about how beautiful and refreshing this mini escape is.

Via @lokithetricksterweim

Via @adventures_with_calia

Linville Gorge Wilderness 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours 21 minutes

Via @aerial_lotus

Known as the third largest wilderness area in North Carolina and one of only two wilderness gorges in the Southern United States, Linville Gorge is an astonishing 12,000-acre wild masterpiece that everyone should experience at least once.

With waterfalls, hiking trails, horseback riding, camping, water sports, OHV riding, fishing, outdoor education, hunting, nature viewing and so much more, Linville Gorge leaves nothing to be desired.

Via @ashevilletrails

Via @eamon_zayed12

Sliding Rock Waterfall 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours 22 minutes

@mariahkillembedded via  

Located in Pisgah National Forest, Sliding Rock Waterfall is some of the most fun Mother Nature has to offer her children. Each summer, thousands of Tar Heels flock to the falls to slip down this natural waterslide.

Fueled by 11,000 gallons of water flowing down the rock per minute, sliders charge towards the pool at the bottom for the ultimate adrenaline rush. Not only is this truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but at only $3 per person, it’s an extremely affordable (and dare we say preferable) alternative to the average water park.

@tiffdavsembedded via  

Via @jenny.everlasting

Looking Glass Falls 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours 23 minutes

Via @explorebrevardnc

Like something out of a fairytale, Looking Glass Falls in Brevard, North Carolina is a must-see destination that has grammers galore scrambling for the perfect shot. A perennial beauty, visitors seek out the falls year-round for a chance to glimpse the glistening water cascading down the rocks.

One of the most hauntingly beautiful images is that of Looking Glass in the winter. The frozen falls create the ultimate winter wonderland—even the North Pole is jealous of this Southern belle.

Via @visitnc

Via @ncoutdoor_inc

North Carolina Museum of Art 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours 28 minutes

Via @visitnc

The North Carolina Museum of Art first opened its doors in 1956 in the renovated State Highway Division Building on Morgan Street in Raleigh. The museum gained national attention as it was the first art museum in the country to be established using state funds. Locals nicknamed it the “Miracle on Morgan Street” after its opening.

The museum holds over 200 permanent works with its 164-acre Museum Park as the home to more than a dozen monumental works of art. Currently, the museum is holding a Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art Exhibit, which will continue through until January 2019.

@alli_fisherembedded via  

Via @wickedwiles

Beech Mountain Resort 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours 30 minutes

Via @beechmtn

The highest ski area in the Eastern United States, Beech Mountain Resort features 17 slopes on 98 skiable acres. With annual snowfall reaching up to 84 inches and vertical drops measuring more than 800 feet, it’s no wonder this mountain resort stands out as the South’s premier ski destination. Opening day for winter fun is set for November 17 of this year. Be sure to get your passes before the season hits!

@alexisjmorris_embedded via  

@beechmtnembedded via  

Blue Ridge Parkway 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours 33 minutes 

Via @ncoutdoor_inc

Known as “America’s Favorite Drive,” Blue Ridge Parkway boasts 469 miles of pure artistry. Along this historic route you’ll encounter some of the world’s oldest mountains, including Rocky Knob and Mabry Mill. The highest waterfall east of the Rockies—Whitewater Falls—is also located along Blue Ridge Parkway.

Locals drive in droves through this wild and wondrous landscape, capturing the most magnificent moments on film to share with the world. Just search “#NCFallofFame” on Insta for some of the more fantastic finds from this season—almost every picture hails from Blue Ridge.

Via @ncoutdoor_inc

Via @ncoutdoor_inc

Dorothea Dix Park 

Time from Charlotte: 2 hours 33 minutes

Via @ncoutdoor_inc

There’s still time to check out the sunflowers at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh! These fabulous fields of floral beauty are everyone’s favorite place in the area, with the park holding regular photo competitions online to see who can snap the perfect sunflower shot. Hurry up before the season ends to get your fill of these lovely yellow petals.

@courtneymnoelembedded via  

Via @visitnc

Cherokee 

Time from Charlotte: 3 hours 

Via @visitcherokeenc

The distance is well worth the trip for “North Carolina’s best vacation destination.” Located at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains, Cherokee, North Carolina is a mysterious and magical place filled with rich cultural experiences from the native Cherokee tribes and unforgettable wilderness that will leave you speechless.

Experience a powwow first-hand at the Oconaluftee Indian Village or explore nearby SoCo Falls. Enjoy the authenticity of hand-made crafts and Native American culture by day, and stargaze from your tent as you listen to the Cherokee Creation Story by the fire at night. Your spirit will come alive as you reconnect with the earth in this captivating and beautiful part of North Carolina.

Via @visitcherokeenc

Via @visitcherokeenc

GoPro Motorplex

Time from Charlotte: 44 minutes

Via @gopromotorplex

Just 44 minutes north of the city is the GoPro Motorplex, an extreme and exciting karting facility located in Mooresville, North Carolina. The track is modeled after Italy’s famous Kartdromo Parma racetrack and features 0.7 miles and 11 turns of pure, adrenaline-inducing fun.

Via @gopromotorplex

Via @gopromotorplex

A day trip is just around the corner from your Charlotte abode. Planning on going or have already visited somewhere on the list? Tell us all about your experience in the comments below.

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