Log in Newsletter

Great Escapes

By: Michael Jaenicke

Ok, you may have to book most of these for the weekend, but there are many available options easily within driving distance from the Fayetteville area.

Family fare on tap includes kaleidoscopic views from the land, sea and the Carolina skies. On these journeys your family, which could include an SUV-loaded mixture of toddlers, teens, wannabe grownups, adults and seniors can enjoy scary pirates tales, spooky rides, finger prints from
the bottom of the sea and outer space and historical Civil War footprints, all of which are painted on the colorful cornucopia canvas of autumn. All things that grow green in nature, wildlife odysseys and man-made wonders abound as trips that flip the switch directly on fall fun.

Here are seven super destinations suggestions. If nothing else, it should awaken your inner travel agent with fresh and stimulating ideas.

Location: Asheboro
Miles from Fayetteville: 80
Must see: N.C. Zoo
With more than 1,600 individual species, namedropping any of the 223 species at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro is nearly an impossible task.  But here’s to the bison, elk, bears, giraffes, turtles, seals, alligators, monkeys, chimpanzee, gorillas, meerkat, foxes, cougars, elephants, antelopes, ostriches, waterfowl and their animal kingdom friends that call the 500-acre habitat
their home.

Located at 4401 Zoo Parkway in Asheboro, the facility is one of the most unique attractions in the state, no matter when you visit it. Things get particularly lively in the fall when the zoo puts on its annual festivities centered around Halloween.

Boo at the Zoo, Batology and Howl-O-Ween are a trifecta of popular events that include games, face painting, musicians and magicians along with other unusual and interesting entertainment. Native American dance and storytelling is the focus during Howl-O-Ween, which is October 12. Red Wolf conversations enlighten and bring a refreshing seasonal delight to the event.  Batology, which screeches and flies with reckless abandon on October 19-20, won’t be a letdown for visitors either
if the past is any indication.  Boo at the Zoo, which plays out on October 26-27, provides a fitting fall climate to the unofficial “holiday” season. The grand finale event has a costume contest where competitors display wildly creative attire.

Another program, Great Apes, is slated for September 14-15. It focuses on all things gorilla and chimpanzee.  A visit to the Asheboro facility is a daylong event because of the many sights and sounds that can be found at every turn.

Going into the African Pavilion, Sonora Desert and Prairie Land brings more smiles, oohs and ahhs than watching a National Geographic weekend marathon. “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” is a 4-D theater presentation that provides perspective on the prehistoric creatures and their effect on the environment.

Finally, the Kidz Zone, geyser exhibit and many paved pathways make both fun and safe for children.

Location: Charlotte
Miles from Fayetteville: 140 miles
Must see: Carowinds’ Scare-O-Winds and Charlotte Children’s Theater

Halloween is celebrated for nearly two months at Carowinds’ Scare-O-Winds extravaganza.
After taking a few fast, frightful and thrilling rides before the regular park closes at 6:30 p.m., prepare for a scare fest that is perhaps the best all-around in the state. The 7 p.m. to midnight event has a PG-13 rating. There are four scare zones and eight mazes, each with costumed ghouls,
vampires, zombies and creatures of the night. Get your picture with a character, but be prepared to have them quickly and somewhat quietly rattle your senses. The park is filled with special lighting, smoke and many other special affects. Most notable attractions are the Asylum, Corn Stalker and
Slaughter House mazes. Halloween Haunt XII opens September 14 and runs September 20-21, 27-28 and every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October.
The park is located at 14523 Carowinds Blvd. For information, call (704) 588-2600 or visit www.carowinds.com

Younger children will enjoy a trip to the Charlotte Children’s Theater, perhaps the best of its kind in the Tar Heel State. It is attached to a wonderful hands-on learning center.

Location: Wilmington
Miles from Fayetteville: 90
Must see: Haunted Pub Tour, Luminary Tour, Carolina Beach State Park

If you have college-aged children at least 21 years of age, venturing to Wilmington for a Haunted Pub Tour could be your ticket to a great after hours for adults.

For those with a paranormal persona, a guided walk through the historic Luminary Tour at Oakdale Cemetery is a must. More than 600 luminaries provide the ambiance.

Just a few miles away in Wrightsville Beach is Airlie Gardens, perhaps the most unique garden in the state. Their bottle house is a treasure that blends everything good about nature connected to the nurturing and manicuring of man.

There are other Halloween-related ghost tours and the Cape Fear Serpentarium on the riverfront. The newest and most popular way to cruise down the boardwalk and past historical building is via a segway tour. For information, visit www.capefearsegway.com. The Fort Fisher Aquarium
isn’t far from there and also noteworthy for its estuary tours.

Carolina Beach State Park is the home to a Venus flytrap trail. A trip there will suck you into its seductive power, although not in the style of fictional people eater Seymour from “Little Shop of Horrors.”

The best source of information for the plethora of activities Wilmington has to offer can be best found through the Cape Fear Visitor’s Bureau. For information, call (800) 222-4757 or visit www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com.