North Carolina’s Top Sports Vacations
From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Outer Banks, North Carolina is a great destination for sports vacations. The Tar Heel State offers many options for those seeking a mix of action and relaxation, from thrilling water sports and world-class golf to horsepower-fueled auto racing and high-flying thrills.
Get Into the Swing
North Carolina boasts one of the most famous golf courses in the world with Pinehurst Resort. Host of the USGA’s 2014 US Open and U.S. Women's Open, Pinehurst has 8 courses, many of which are consistently ranked among the world’s best, including the Donald Ross-designed Pinehurst No. 2. After a dramatic 5-month restoration, the course reopened in 2011, and it remains the resort’s centerpiece.
Get Your Motor Running
The Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) is ground zero for all things NASCAR in North Carolina. The 140,000-seat venue hosts some of the country’s most prominent races, and also offers special programs where fans can drive real Sprint Cup racecars. Across the street is the 30,000-seat zMax Dragway, the country’s only 4-lane, quarter-mile concrete dragway that’s home to events like the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
Get Into the Outer Banks
The Outer Banks have some of the country’s best kiteboarding and surfing conditions. Real Watersports, located at the Outer Banks’ most southeasterly point in Cape Hatteras, offers lessons that accommodate every skill level. Most of the kiteboarding is done along the Pamlico Sound, considered one of the best places in the country to kiteboard. Surfers head west, across Highway 12 to the Atlantic Ocean, where a short continental shelf and shallow sandbars help produce world-class waves.
For boat lovers, head to Oriental -- “the sailing capital of North Carolina.” Located on the shores of the Neuse River near the Pamlico Sound, the area offers great year-round boating. If interested in learning the ropes of sailing -- literally -- head to Oriental's School of Sailing, which offers 3-and 4-day courses. Afterwards, you can charter one of the school’s sailboats, including the luxurious, high-performance Beneteau 343, which accommodates 5 adults, then cruise the open seas.
If you prefer your thrills up in the trees, visit one of North Carolina’s newest zipline attractions, ZipQuest Waterfall and Treetop Adventure. The 2-and-a-half-hour course includes zip lines that pass over Carver’s Falls -- the largest waterfall in central and eastern North Carolina. Or take to the sky in a very different way at Paraclete XP SkyVenture, the most powerful wind tunnel on the planet. Inside a glass-walled, cylinder-shaped room, soar some 50 feet in the air as powerful fans create winds speeds of up to 185 mph.
Take a Fitness Vacation
For fitness lovers, western North Carolina’s mild temperatures and scenic mountainscapes are a great option. That’s where you’ll find Zap Fitness, in Lenoir, a small town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here, professional athletes host running vacations and camps (from June to September) for all fitness levels. Guests stay at a spacious lodge, and a full-service chef cooks all the meals, which lean toward the healthy side. And just a short walk away from the lodge is the cool headwaters of the Yadkin River.
The rivers and streams in the North Carolina mountains are legendary among anglers. You can see why with the help of companies like Asheville Drifters. Take either a half- day or full-day excursion down the French Broad, Tuckasegee, South Holston or Nolichucky rivers, all great for landing trout or smallmouth bass. Another great resource is the WNC Fly Fishing Trail, which highlights 15 different fishing spots.
No longer just a skiing destination, Beech Mountain in western North Carolina has carved out a new identity as a year-round sportsman’s paradise. During the spring and summer, grab a mountain bike and tackle the Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park. It features an 8-mile network of single track that ranges in elevation from 4,700 to 5,400 feet, providing unparalleled mountain vistas and overlooks. When winter rolls around, Beech Mountain Resort has some of the best skiing in the Southeast, with 17 trails varied enough to accommodate all levels.
North Carolina has many rich sports traditions, especially when it comes to basketball. Tar Heels and Blue Devils always draw diehard fans when they face off at either Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium or Carolina’s Dean E. Smith Center. Another member of the “Tobacco Road” schools is North Carolina State University, home to the NC State Wolfpack. Home games are at Raleigh's PNC Arena, not far from the bustling Hillsborough Street area. North Carolina's professional NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats, play out of Time Warner Cable Arena, conveniently located along the LYNX Blue Line light-rail system in the heart of uptown, close to other attractions such as the EpiCentre, a 3-story entertainment hub with dozens of bars, clubs and restaurants.