Enjoy the beach along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast; tap your feet to Cajun tunes in Louisiana; navigate secret caverns in Alabama; sing-a-long at a cowboy bonfire in Tennessee; walk across a swinging at Grand Father Mountain in North Carolina. Take a look, better yet take a trip and see if you agree that fun factor is high, the crowd level low and vacationing is easy. North Carolina: the Crystal Coast – Fishing, Surfing, and Family Beach Time.
From the family friendly beaches of Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle and Pine Knoll Shores to the quaint communities of Beaufort, and Morehead City the Southern Outer Banks coast offers high values, low cost and no crowds. Vacation activities include fishing, kayaking, surfing, sailing and sailing lessons, boat building, SCUBA diving, shelling, and beach time. The North Carolina Aquarium on Atlantic Beach offers unique interactive children and parent programs each month. The obvious benefit of the area is Cape Lookout National Seashore and its wild beauty. The remarkable series of barrier islands provides homes to many endangered and threatened species of plants and animals including the Seabeach Amaranth, Piping Plover, and Loggerhead sea turtle. Within the federal lands more than 100 wild horses, living in groups called harems or bands, roam free along the entire length and width of Shackleford Banks Island. Bonus points:
Visit Cape Lookout National Seashore with its awesome light house and take part in Maritime Museum family discovery programs and overnight classes - Cape Lookout for Families, and Surfari for Girls. Family vacation base:
The best bet for families is a vacation rental house or condo. The choices span the gamut from quaint cottages that are low key and budget sensitive to grand beach houses known locally as “sand castles,” with descriptive names like Bedazzled and Anna Victoria. Area realty companies, including Emerald Isle Realty, Bluewater GMAC Vacation Rentals, and Century 21 Coastal Properties are the best sources. Location on the planet:
The Crystal Coast CVB 3409 Arendell Street, Morehead City, NC Toll-free 1-800-786-6962, (252)726-8148 or www.crystalcoastnc.org North Carolina: Boone - Cherokee Footpaths, a Swinging Bridge, and Mountain Music.
The Blue Ridge Mountains embrace each season with dozens of vacation options. Play golf or tennis, go fly-fishing, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, mountain bicycling or just hike to a ridge and enjoy the cool fresh air. The area around Cherokee and Boone remains delightfully quiet and still a bit of a secret. Flower baskets adorn streets and fresh markets abound with seasonal delights. Enjoy theatre under the stars and music from the mountain tops. Ride a narrow gauge railway or watch artisans weave baskets. Bonus points:
Grandfather Mountain is not-to-be-missed. It is the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Range and has a high swinging bridge, native animal habitats, nature museum; picnicking area and awesome views. Family vacation base:
Yonahlossee Resort & Club is located between Boone and Blowing Rock. The 300-acre property is bordered by Moses Cone Memorial Park and needless to say offers visitors splendid views of nearby mountain ranges and the lush green valley. It is an earth friendly resort and an ideal spot to enjoy the mountains. The resort offers lodge rooms, cozy cottages, and luxurious homes. Amenities include indoor tennis, indoor pool, sauna, two fitness centers, and fine dining at the Gamekeeper Restaurant. Location on the planet:
Yonahlossee Resort Shull Mills Road, Blowing Rock, North Carolina 28605. Toll-free 1-800-962-1986, 1(828) 963-6400 or www.yonahlossee.com Louisiana: Breaux Bridge - Cajun/Zydeco Music, Southern Hospitality, and Hot Sauce.
If your family tends to be adventurous, take a swamp or hunting preserve tour, rent a canoe and travel down the Atchafalaya Basin. Or if you prefer a cultural experience, there are art museums, studios, and historic attractions which embrace the Old South. You can always find some local music in the evenings and there is usually a Cajun/Zydeco festival or trail ride at a neighboring town most weekends throughout the year. Family vacation base:
Maison des Amis Caribbean/Creole residence overlooking the legendary Bayou Teche is located in the downtown historic district of Breaux Bridge; one block from antique stores, gift shops, restaurants, and cafes. Built around 1870/1880 and known as the Boudier house, it is the oldest historic structure along with the City Hotel. Restored and now on the National Register of Historic Places, it is petit in size yet grand in charm and family friendly. Bonus points:
Of unusual interest is the Saturday morning Zydeco breakfast at the Café des Amis, where locals and tourists come to dance from 8:30 -11:30 am. Location on the planet:
Maison Des Amis Bed and Breakfast Inn 111 Washington Street, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517. (337) 507-3399 or www.maisondesamis.com Alabama: Leesburg- Drive-in Movies, Secret Caverns, and a Water Flume.
The mountains of Northeastern Alabama have been discovered by those an off-the beaten-path, stress free family vacation. Leesburg has an original 1957 drive-in theater and Cherokee Rock Village (formally known as Little Rock City) was the location in 2006 for the movie, Failure to Launch, starring Matthew McConaughey & Sarah Jessica Parker. The area offers many miles of hiking and biking trails with scenic waterfalls and majestic overlooks. Take a pontoon boat under the old railway bridge to the huge rocks forming the Yellow River Waterfall. Explore underground in a cave, rappel sheer rock cliffs, kayak a raging river, and fly fish from nearby streams and lakes. Go horseback riding, kayak the Little River or go underground to the "Looking Glass Lakes" of Sequoyah Caverns. Family vacation base:
Perched on the shores of mirror-like Weiss Lake, Chesnut Bay Resort provides families comfortable lake houses and poolside villas outfitted to create a home-away-from–home atmosphere. The resort offers guests an easy-paced vacation complete with lake toys, and fishing poles. They also have kayaks and paddleboats perfect for enjoying 32,000-acre Weiss Lake. Bonus points:
For families the action is lake side where a 120-foot water flume allows those with energy to slide, glide and topple into the water. Huge rubber raft/ trampolines mark the shore line and provide younger guests bounce pads. Location on the planet:
Chesnut Bay Resort 4480 County Road 44, Leesburg, Alabama 35983. 1(256)526-7778 or www.chesnutbayresort.com Tennessee: Del Rio - Mountain Trails, Starry Nights, and Guitar Picking.
Cool, green and secretly fun, The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee offer quiet getaways with no long lines and no traffic jams. Miles of hiking, biking and riding trails weave through emerald-blue forests and along grayed ridgeline. Folk music is popular and plentiful; every corner market has a story about the last century. During the summer season the French Broad River provides river rafting thrills. Family vacation base:
French Broad Outpost Ranch, about 45-minutes from Gatlinburg, is all-inclusive and family friendly, the wranglers and staff create a near perfect ranch holiday for all ages. Sleeping choices include chalet type units as well as four cabins. Naturally on a dude ranch horseback riding is at the top of the list. During the summer months young guests may engage in horse painting, enjoy arts and crafts, and try their skills at treasure hunting. Each week the wranglers conduct several team-penning events and every evening there is live entertainment that often includes bluegrass band, guitar picking, sing-a-longs, bonfires, or line dancing. Friday night is the great square dance and hoedown. Bonus points:
Plenty of time in the saddle because each guest is assigned a horse for the week. The ranch has access to thousands of acres so trail rides are different each day. They include rafting trips in the price of the stay. Location on the planet:
French Broad Outpost Ranch 461 Old River Road, Del Rio, 37727. Toll-free 1-800-995-7678 or www.frenchbroadriver.com