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The treetops are traditionally the playground of winged beasts and tiny, furry climbers. So it's not unnatural to do a double take upon seeing humans flying from tree to tree?at heights of up to 50 feet?with all the grace of a forest native. Today, 15 treehouses peek through the leaves of the sprawling wooded area, serving as resting points and educational outposts for visitors soaring on ziplines. The Beanstalk Journey at Catawba Meadows came to fruition to fulfill its builders? goal of providing fun and physical activities for families to enjoy. Now the park is open year-round, supplying adrenaline-pumping recreation to all who seek it.

Like veins coursing through the forest, swinging rope bridges and covered rope tunnels run through the foliage alongside ziplines of varying difficulty levels, enabling visitors to soar from tree to tree and finally assuage any regrets about not being born with hollow bird bones. For an extra challenge, the 32-foot beanstalk climbing tower and a massive multidirectional climbing web put upper- and lower-body strength to the test, and educational stations at each treehouse challenge minds with lessons on nature and local history. In addition to the standard attractions, outings can also be catered to visitors with special needs.

Combining the park's adventure opportunities with educational pursuits, the staff occasionally runs an adventure-photography workshop, nighttime zipline tours, and Birds of Prey Journeys. Continuing the mission to foster outdoor education and physical activity, the beanstalk's building team continuously erects new courses at other locales, ensuring that all are family friendly and none require hand braking.

220 Catawaba Meadows Dr.
Morganton,
NC
US

At the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park surrounds a 5-acre lake with a constellation of camping stations and activity centers. The Garcia family graciously plays host to guests who careen down the twists and turns of the park's 300-foot waterslide, play mini golf, or cast lines into the lake to catch waiting fish. Along with opportunities to connect with nature and name every tree after their fathers, the Garcias furnish visitors with space to set up tents, pop-ups, and RVs, or stay in the ground's own rough-hewn cabins. They also provide showers and laundry facilities to help campers maintain ties with civilization. The family becomes especially excited when pointing guests in the direction of North Carolina's Chimney Rock or Grandfather Mountain for hikes and breathless sightseeing adventures.

1210 Deacon Drive
Marion,
NC
US

The eighth-annual Red White and Bluegrass Festival unites ears at Catawba Meadows Park with the floating notes of 40 different bluegrass acts over five days (including the free "Fan Appreciation Day" acts on June 30). Bring a blue lawn chair and delight in the high, lonesome sound of such headliners as Larry Sparks & the Lonesome Ramblers, JD Crowe & The New South, and Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, which will close out the festival just before the fireworks. Half of the bands in the 2011 lineup have never performed at the festival, while the other half have been playing a collaborative art piece together since the festival's inception eight years ago.

701 Sanford Drive
Morganton,
NC
US

Cabin Rentals on The BLue Ridge Parkway with hot tubs under the stars, near Linville Falls and Grandfather Mountain, Tweetsie Railroad, Linville Caverns, Horseback riding, white water rafting, fishing, gem mining, mountain biking, cave exploration. Come make mountain memories!

The Blue Ridge Parkway
Newland,
NC
US

Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Gem mining and mine tours

Reservations/Appointments: Not offered

Established: 1980

Staff Size: 2?10 people

Average Duration of Services: 2?4 hours

Parking: Parking lot

Handicap Accessible: No

Recommended Age Group: All Ages

Pro Tip: Wear comfortable clothes and allow plenty of time to see all our attractions, activities, and shops.

Q&A with Alan Schabilion, Owner

What is one fun, unusual fact about your business?

We are the only recreational gemstone mine in the area that also has a real underground mine tour on premise.

As the old adage says, "Stuff happens." What training do you and your staff have to stay ahead of the unexpected?

All of our staff have been with us for years and are highly experienced in handling any unforeseen situations. Experience is the best teacher, but our management team is always available for backup support.

What?s your favorite part of your job?

This is not a job, it's a passion. Preserving and sharing mining history is important in our mineral-rich area. Particularly enjoyable is the chance to conduct guided mine tours for many school and church groups.

Is there anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?

Did we mention REAL mines? We have a list of 58 things to do at Emerald Village. The activities include mine tours, gemstone mining, mineral collecting, gold panning, the free Company store museum, free educational exhibits, and unique shopping. See why we've recently been featured on the National Geographic Channel, Travel Channel, and UNC Public TV.

331 McKinney Mine Road
Spruce Pine,
NC
US

Each of YMCA of Western North Carolina's five branches and 19 childcare sites remains true to its lasting mission of physical and social enrichment for men, women, and kids of all ages. Staff members uphold the YMCA’s core values of honesty, caring, responsibility, and respect as they invest in their community’s children and strengthen family bonds critically weakened by overzealous games of Monopoly. They pump up adult fitness regimens with aquatic fitness and boot-camp classes, basketball courts, and personal-training sessions. They’ve also filled their fitness centers with free weights, cardio equipment, and weight machines. When they’re not helping adults trim down waistlines during cardio-dance and aerobics classes, staff members are getting back in touch with their inner children. They stimulate imagination, mental development, and growth as they lead more than 200 programs, including children’s day camps, after-school programs, and dance classes.

348 Grace Corpening Drive
Marion,
NC
US