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.
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.
Like green spokes, the fairways of Mimosa Hills Golf and Country Club spread radially from a gleaming white clubhouse—the course's stately and welcoming hub. The layout is the work of the famous Donald Ross, one of the few course architects to achieve something approaching household-name status. His magnum opus, Pinehurst No. 2, had already been around for a good 30 years before he started in on Mimosa Hills in 1929. The architect was drawn to the site's natural layout as well as the Blue Ridge Mountains skyline that rises up dramatically above the treetops. Much like Pinehurst, the course has survived the test of time: the North Carolina Golf Panel—an association of industry professionals and critics—placed the course 69th on its 2009 list of the top 100 courses in the state.
Horses may spend most of their day standing, but at Mimosa Hills Farm, they rarely just stand around. Crosby, the farm's owner, keeps the steeds constantly occupied, making them available casual trail rides across the farm as well as regular riding and driving lessons. But just as with a ten-gallon hat with a built-in spigot never loses its usefulness, the mounts' duties extend beyond the saddle. They also help teach husbandry lessons during educational farm days and provide the natural materials for making horsehair jewelry—a popular activity at Mimosa Hills. Perhaps most importantly, the animals serve as vital companions during the regional shows in which Crosby regularly participates.
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.
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.