EXPLORE NORTH CAROLINA

Explore North Carolina During TWS 2016!

While you’re here for TWS, plan a little extra time before or after TWS to explore more of North Carolina! Don’t worry if you don’t have a car; rental car agencies are plentiful in Raleigh. Our state is divided into three primary areas including mountains, piedmont, and the coast. For great ideas including inspirations for trips, special events, travel deals, and other planning resources see http://www.visitnc.com/trip-ideas.

Some of our favorites include:

Coastal Adventure – NC Aquarium/Carolina Beach

NC AquariumGet your feet wet with an adventure to the North Carolina coast. Learn about the marine and freshwater fauna of our area during your visit to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The Aquarium, located on a narrow peninsula of sand separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Cape Fear River, features over 3,000 animals in 455,000 aquarium gallons. Learn more about the Aquarium, its operation, research and conservation projects with a special behind the scenes tour just for our group. End your Aquarium visit with a lunch there or at picturesque Kure Beach before heading on.

After lunch, take a leisurely walk on the beach to explore a unique coquina rock outcrop near the Fort Fisher State Historic Site, then head on to Carolina Beach State Park. In the park you can hike the nature trails to learn about the pocosin and longleaf pine plant communities. Be sure to search for the Venus fly-trap and other carnivorous plants native to the area. The rare and spectacular Venus fly-trap is found naturally only within a 60-76 radius of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Mountain Adventure – Hanging Rock State Park

Visit one of the most easterly mountain ranges in the state and get a taste of our mountain geology and ecology at Hanging Rock State Park. Hanging Rock is part of the Sauratown Mountains, often called “the mountains away from the mountains” because they are separated from the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. Hanging Rock at 2,100 feet stands in bold contrast to the surrounding countryside, which averages only 800 feet in elevation.

Hanging RockNamed for the Saura Indians who were early inhabitants of the region, the Sauratown Mountains are the remnants of a once-mighty range of peaks. Over many millions of years, wind, water, and other forces wore down the lofty peaks. What remains of these ancient mountains is the erosion-resistant quartzite, which now supports scenic ridges and knobs, including Hanging Rock.
More than 300 species of mountain flora are found in the park. The most abundant plants are rhododendron, azalea, galax, mountain laurel, and a wide variety of ferns. The majority of the park is forested by oak and pine, but in moist locations hemlock provides a canopy. Hanging Rock is one of the few places where Canadian and Carolina hemlock grow side by side.

The park’s forests are home to many animals typical of the piedmont and mountain foothills. Mammal species include white-tailed deer, raccoon and gray fox. Birds are abundant in all seasons, especially in spring and fall when migrating species add to the resident population and the otherwise quiet mountain air is filled with the melodies of songbirds. The moist forests and streams of Hanging Rock are home to a variety of salamanders.

Be sure to include a morning hike to the summit of Hanging Rock for its spectacular view of the surrounding countryside below. The 1.3 mile trail has an elevation gain of 588 feet from the parking lot to the 2,100 foot summit and can be easily made by most people with average physical ability. After a hike, you could have lunch in the picnic area before you continue your exploration of the park with a short hike to nearby waterfalls.

Asheville, Charlotte, and the Triangle Brew Tours

If you’re a connoisseur of craft beers, consider the facts: North Carolina is home to 100 local breweries, celebrates and annual Beer Month throughout April, and has a town voted “Beer City USA” for four straight years. Our state just might be your “brewtopia,” which makes it ideal for a three-day tasting tour. Take a look at plans for 3 full days of brew exploring here.