Greensboro’s Ten Best weekend getaways
I-40 West, roughly 170 miles.
Asheville is the funkiest place in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a Bohemian little city with a perfect mix of urban architecture and mountain vistas. Check out the Biltmore Estate (the Vanderbilt family’s little house in the hills), climb Grandfather Mountain or spelunk the Linville Caverns beneath. Or you can soak up the groovy vibe of the town, with its eclectic restaurants and shops, turn-of-the-century urban architecture and colorful locals.
I-40 East to US Highway 70, about 220 miles.
Man do I love Beaufort and its sister city of Morehead. They’re not really beach towns but more boating and fishing spots, with channels and flats, small islands populated by wild horses, terrific seafood restaurants and easy access to the Gulf Stream a mere 50 miles out to sea. Charter a boat at the waterfront districts in either town to catch your dinner ‘— hopefully a nice mahi mahi, which they call ‘“dolphin’” in these parts ‘— or hit the Stardust restaurant in Morehead City (252.726.0800) for one of the best meals on the coast.
I-40 East all the way, just over 200 miles.
You like the beach? You like to party with tanned twenty-somethings in bikinis and board shorts? How about sun-bleached locals who can walk barefoot across a parking lot littered with broken glass and cigarette cherries and drink bottled beer until the sky turns red? Well then head on down to the Cape Fear Coast. The beaches are vast and clean (if not exactly underpopulated) and the bars are fairly wild. There are also plenty of restaurants, museums and attractions, including the battleship North Carolina, which saw heavy action during World War II.
Myrtle Beach, SC
US Highway 220 South will get you on your way, just over 200 miles.
You should know what you’re getting into before you head to Myrtle. Although there are lots of family activities, the area is primarily known as a vacation spot for bikers, college-age partiers and teenagers with the year of their graduation class soaped onto their car windows. The Myrtle Beach Pavilion is a major amusement park, an 11-acre facility with rides, shops, attractions and games of skill.
Take the ferry from Hatteras, Swan Quarter or Cedar Island, unless you’ve got a plane (or you’re Aquaman), at least 250 miles.
Ocracoke hangs way out in the Atlantic, an isolated and mysterious isle where Blackbeard once holed up and where wild horses chewed sea oats on the shore. The horses look pretty scraggly these days, corralled in a pen on the island’s main road and they’ve pimped the Blackbeard thing for all it’s worth out here, but the village on the southern tip is still one of the coolest spots in the world, with tiny hotels, restaurants and shops on signless streets meant to be walked barefoot. You can spend an entire weekend looking out on Silver Lake eating fried clams, feeling like you’re on the edge of the Earth.
I-85 South will drop you right on the doorstep, less than 100 miles.
The beach is great, but sometimes there’s nothing like a couple of days in the city. Charlotte’s Center City fits the bill nicely, an entire district of museums, galleries, restaurants, theaters, attractions, public art and shops. And sometimes it feels good to get a hotel room in a tower on the highest floor and watch the city come to life as the sun dips low.
US Highway 220 South to I-95 South to I-26 East, 275 miles.
It’s pretty far but, damn, Charleston is a beautiful place, with beaches, B&Bs, historic homes and parks, world-class restaurants, tree-lined streets and lots and lots of steeples. Over the years the city has been besieged by fire, earthquake, hurricanes and the Civil War, so how much damage do you and a group of your buddies think you can possibly do?
I-40 East, 50 to 80 miles, depending on how far you’re going.
You probably know someone you can visit out in the Triangle, preferably someone with a pool, a country club membership or, at the very least, a refrigerator full of beer. It’s just far away enough to qualify as ‘out of town,’ but you’re close enough that you won’t blow the money for your electricity bill on gas.
Tweetsie Railroad/Mystery Hill, Blowing Rock
I-40 West to US Highway 321 North, 100 miles or so.
A little something for the short people up in the mountains, the Tweetsie Railroad is the place to be this summer for the ‘“Thomas the Tank Engine’” set, of which my three year old happens to be a card-carrying member. Thomas himself has already come and gone, but I’m not gonna tell my kid that. And Mystery Hill, just down the road is a place where tennis balls roll uphill and, presumably, the laws of physics are suspended.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino
I-40 West and keep going, 225 miles.
It’s the closest thing to a real casino in the whole state. This resort out in Cherokee may not have any alcohol (we’re not really sure why) or gaming tables (we hear they plan to add poker sometime in the future) but if you like nickel slots and Keno then gas it up and come on out. Though we’re not sure how we’re supposed to come out ahead if we don’t get free screwdrivers while we play.