Ah, summer. It's my absolute favorite season. Some of my best memories have been made going to outdoor concerts, the food truck rodeo in downtown, chilling by the pool...wait.
Summer 2020 is definitely going to be different from any other summer. North Carolina, especially in comparison with neighboring states, is re-opening slowly. Bars, gyms, and movie theaters are still shut down. Most kids won't be going to summer camps and for the first summer in memory, Walnut Creek and Red Hat amphitheaters will be completely silent.
But Raleigh and the state of North Carolina still have many adventures to offer. Here are 5 local activities and five day trips that can still be done during the 2020 pandemic.
Head outside to the museum park to discover Chris Drury's outside exhibit "Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky." If you were taking a stroll in the woods, you would probably walk by the structure without noticing. It looks like the kind of place a secretive hobbit might live.
This chamber is a camera obscura, which displays an inverted image of the outside world onto the hut's white walls. Inside the light-tight structure, you get to sit back and watch a projection of the surrounding nature. You'll get to experience the clouds, trees, and sunlight in a new way.
2. Day trip: Hang out at Hanging Rock
Hanging Rock State Park, about two hours west of Raleigh, is filled with stunning views of rolling mountains, more than 20 miles of hiking trails, a scenic lake for swimming and boating, and campsites.
3. Kayak on one of the local lakes
Raleigh and surrounding areas has many lakes where you can paddle board, canoe, fish, or kayak. You can also find hiking trails and biking trails at various parks in the city.
4. Day trip: Find peacefulness at Hammocks Beach State Park
Two and half hours east of Raleigh, Hammocks Beach State Park is a 4-mile-long undeveloped barrier island off the coast of Swansboro that can only be reached by ferry, canoe, kayak, or boat. Here you can swim, camp, boat, fish, sunbathe, hike, relax, collect shells; really whatever you desire! Hammock Beach on Bear Island is stress-free bliss.
5. Learn to scuba dive
There are quite a few dive shops in and around Raleigh and some offer classes! Fantasy Lake Scuba Park in Wake Forest offers camping, as well as day and night scuba diving in a lake quarry. Learn a new skill that you can use on your next vacation or year-round at Fantasy Lake.
6. Day trip: Cool off on a natural water slide tucked away in the mountains
Four and a half hours west, the 60-foot Sliding Rock is actually a waterfall with a really gentle grade, ending in a 6-7 foot natural pool.
7. Support your local restaurants!
There were so many businesses planning to open in spring and summer 2020. With the pandemic putting some plans on hold, this is the best time to support your favorite or a new local business.
Check out Lady Luck, a new tapas style restaurant in downtown Raleigh that is offering take-out and limited dine-in service.
8. Day trip: Get lost in the Jockey's Ridge sand dunes
Three hours east of Raleigh, Jockey's Ridge is a 100 ft. high shifting sand dune brings a swath of desert to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. While the sand dunes are certainly the biggest and most noticeable attraction in Jockey's Ridge State Park, there are actually acres of outdoor activities to explore in this diverse recreational area, from kayaking to kiteboarding, hiking to just soaking up the sun. With extensive nature trails, an easily accessible sound side beach, and virtually every type of sport an Outer Banks vacationer can enjoy on the water or the land,
There are so many talented artists in Raleigh and sure enough, there are many murals and art displays all around the city and the surrounding towns. Spend a day with friends, your pup, or your love and snap some cute pics at all the murals that inspire you. This list by Visit Raleigh is a great place to start: https://www.visitraleigh.com/plan-a-trip/visitraleigh-insider-blog/post/outdoor-murals-worth-finding-in-raleigh-nc/
Banner Elk, three and a half hours west of Raleigh, is close to Boone, Blowing Rock, and Grandfather Mountain. Here, there is a new alpine coaster that is worth checking out. You might not make it to your favorite theme park this summer, but you can find plenty of new heights in the mountains of North Carolina.