The story of The Vault of Horror revolves around the legend of Raymond Hunt III. Bullied by his peers and spurned by his parents, Raymond was a natural outcast early in life, until a violent exchange with his father culminated in a vile act: patricide. Raymond was sent to an insane asylum after the murder, but at the age of 21, he escaped, joined the circus, and put together a live freak show of humanity’s most odd and unsettling creatures. The pariah's eerie parade eventually earned him the title of Ringmaster, and Raymond—it seemed—had finally put his troubled background behind him and found a new, peaceful calling.
Soon afterward, a man came looking every night for his son, whom he'd lost while attending Raymond's show. Giving up hope, the man left one evening, sneaking a final glance at one of the cages and the twisted, snarling creature inside—a boy staring back at him with familiar eyes. The man confronted Raymond, whose repressed trauma reemerged as he killed the father in cold blood—the final spectacle of a tormented son. Raymond escaped from police custody, vanishing into a world in which he didn't belong, and the members of his freak show were never seen again. Until, that is, someone opened The Vault of Horror.
The spine-tingling brainchild of Samhain Production Company, The Vault of Horror immerses brazen guests in a hellish complex filled with blood-splattered fiends and tortured spirits. The Vault eschews familiar scares such as horror-film homages, animatronic ghouls, and undead telemarketers in favor of unique brutes played by a live cast, making the dark venue's bone-chilling scenes more authentic, immersive, and surprising.
Diamond Hill Mine sets visitors loose on 5 to 6 acres of dumps and spoil piles, challenging them to unearth the property's cache of quartz crystals and pieces of amethyst. During outings, explorers use their own rakes, shovels, and tools while excavating the land, or while trying to find un-dug veins, where some crystals have gone undisturbed for more than 400 million years. Every piece found on the property is authentic, meaning the mine hasn't been planted with artificial crystals or with forgotten hidden engagement rings.
Falls Park Golf & Games beckons to putt-putt protégés with an 18-hole mini golf course that runs through the center of its cozy, family-friendly space. With topsy-turvy slopes that make for perplexing breaking putts, the course promotes lively competition between siblings, friends, or rival dentists. A stationary golf cart sits in the middle of the course, surrounded by walls decorated with golf-themed festoons—including a caddyshack facade—that help set the scene. Along with more subtle undulations, the course requires players to putt through a tricky loopty-loop and explain the principles of centripetal force to any toddlers within a five-mile radius. After their round, guests can decompress in one of the space's various booths or tables, enjoy a refreshment, and tune in to the flickering images on a flat-panel TV.
As they await the opening credits of The Goonies, The Birds, or perhaps the newest blockbuster release, moviegoers peruse a menu of hot wings, personalized pizzas, and oven-hot brownies topped with ice cream. Upon making a decision, the guest scrawls their chosen meal or snack onto an order card, and places that card in the designated spot on his or her table. A server stealthily delivers the requested soda, breadsticks, or honey chipotle wings while the film plays. Audience members can keep ordering food for the duration of the film, especially if an emotional scene demands an bowl of ice cream to catch stray tears. Just before the credits start to roll, the server silently deposits the check, and patrons digest as the tale winds to a close.
Kim Warner’s daughter, Clare, was riding whitewater by age 3, and had advanced to doing it dressage style the following season. The owner of Rafting With My Kids, Warner has safely launched families since 1988, when she and her outfitters turned their condo in Asheville into a base camp for trips down the Tuckasegee, Green, and French Broad rivers. Now in its 24th season, a group of CPR- and first-aid-certified guides lead exhilarating two-hour voyages exclusively on the Tuckasegee River. Their gear includes lifejackets designed specifically for kids, enabling adventurers as young as 4 to pile into inflatable rafts with a guardian and older kids the freedom to venture out in two-person duckies. The water is only 3–5 feet deep on average and, as Warner puts it on the business’s website, the rapids are not “too hardcore.” Each guide carries a cell phone and a first-aid kit, as well as light snacks of cookies and peanut-butter or cheese crackers to keep rafters energized.
The Pavilion cultivates every species of physical activity within its 66,000-square-foot indoor complex and adjacent outdoor fields. The eclectic indoor space hosts soccer, volleyball, and curling face-offs, as well as a year-round ice-skating facility, bounce house, and inline-skating space. Fledgling ice skaters slip and slide during public skating sessions or take part in the U.S. Figure Skating Association's basic skills program to grease their triple axels. As the temperature rises, members make a mad dash outdoors to one of six tennis courts and three soccer fields, or hail a ride on George, The Pavilion's historic miniature passenger train. The complex's Boundless Playground offers a space where children with disabilities can be included in play thanks to accessible slides, swings, and climbing structures.