Shrouded in groves of leafless trees, Darkside Haunted Estates looms ominously. Dilapidated black shutters hang from the two-story house's white, weather-beaten siding, and behind its black door, nightmares have stirred to life for more than two decades. Throughout its eerie grounds, the staff has installed dynamic special effects on a collection of attractions that has ballooned to more than a dozen, including a quarter-mile haunted trail and a backwoods hayride. Unsettling sites tell the estate's sordid story through the Darkside Mortuary, Rottenkorr Cemetery, and The Manor. They’ve also installed a "Fame of Shame" board, which keeps track of visitors who bail early and of monsters who faint at the sight of their own fake blood.
Tim Langdon and his wife, Renee, founded Camp Flintlock, Inc. on a simple concept: people learn about history best if they live it. The Langdons know firsthand: they live on the property in an 18th-century-style log home that Tim and his friends built by hand. To immerse visitors in their colonial world, the Langdons host overnight camping trips where visitors can sleep in colonial-style tents, fire muskets, and string together Native American–inspired necklaces. At residential summer camps, guests even don colonial garb and participate in daily chores, such as splitting firewood and looking over their shoulder for the British. For those who just want a taste of colonial living, school field trips and day camps include activities like making beeswax candles and playing colonial games.
Last year's mazes celebrated the bygone era of majestic railroads, whereas this year, the designers at Hubb's Corn Maze are reaching even farther back into the past for inspiration. Shaped like a pair of fearsome dinosaurs, the 2013 edition of the farm's four mazes sends guests roaming through paths spread throughout 10+ acres. Though the design is new, the fun remains the same as years past; after sharpening their navigational skills in a pair of shorter mazes, guests and adult-accompanied kids can search for 12 checkpoints in two mazes that stretch more than 2 miles. During each trek, roaming staff ensure that nobody gets lost or elopes with scarecrows. All paid participants can register for prizes.
Upon mastering the mazes, youngsters can ascend a tire mountain, explore a wooden play structure, race down slides, and craft sculptures in the sandbox. Concession stands energize guests with water, popcorn, candy, and Hubb's Hot Doughnuts, and, when scheduled, live acts such as magicians and bands entice crowds.
Established in 2000, Ken's Korny Corn Maze presents an autumn playground where families converge every year for full days of exercise, learning, and fun. As the centerpiece of the property, the 6-acre corn maze snakes visitors through 2.5 miles of trails that take months to design and construct. Burrowed into the stalks are rest areas that provide trekkers with benches and water coolers, and checkpoints track how long groups spend in the maze so they aren't slowed by having to drag cumbersome grandfather clocks behind them. Hasty escapes from the maze's twisting paths leave plenty of time to check out other family-friendly attractions, including an 8,000-square-foot rope maze, a mini-golf course, and hayrides.
The mobile historians at Triangle Glides lead tours through the most exciting locations in Raleigh's past and present. They spin tales as groups glide past modern and historic landmarks on the Downtown Discovery tour or learn of riots, duels, and public hangings during a more macabre tour, aptly named Raleigh's Darkest Secrets. In other tours, groups travel into the 19th-century neighborhood of Oakwood and enjoy the lush grounds of Oakwood Cemetery, the final resting place of nearly 1,500 Confederate soldiers.
This sort of exploration is the foundation of Triangle Glides, but its Segways are restricted to land. To explore the area's waters, the company also sells and rents standup paddleboards. Resident instructors can help newbies master these watercraft during seasonal lessons on nearby Lake Wheeler, where paddlers find calm waters surrounded by leafy forests.