Standing on a platform, eco-tourists pause to admire the view before stepping from their perch to soar across a high wire and admire the complex ecosystem of animals, plants, and Swiss Family Robinsons that lives in the scenic canopy. This moment—both tranquil and adrenaline-filled—occurs every day at Carolina Ziplines Canopy Tours, where experienced guides lead safely harnessed visitors on excursions through the verdant treetops of the Carolina forests nestled in the shadow of Pilot Mountain, near Hanging Rock State Park. The zipline course weaves from platform to platform, culminating in a 1,000-foot-long uninterrupted soar. After tours, guests can linger to have a picnic on the historic grounds, enjoy a bonfire when the weather’s cool, or even stay overnight in a cozy inn.
Found right on the cusp of the scenic Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Vineyard opens up its family farm during the warm weather months for musical and social gatherings. Melody mavens can park on the plush lawn or in the cozy barn, where they'll swim in the eighth notes of a lineup of lively acoustic bands, with styles ranging from the blues, country, and classic-rock tunes of Exit 162 (April 2, September 4, and October 15) to the rousing fiddles of the Blinky Moon Boys (May 21 and October 22).
Nestled on 225 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain foothills and operated by two passionate winemaking families, Grassy Creek Vineyard produces and bottles high-quality Yadkin Valley wines. Vineyard visitors, adorned with a pair of matching logo hats, peruse the wide selection of wines, selecting red or white to match gustatory preference or seasonal color coordination. An aromatically complex cabernet sauvignon from 2006 blossoms with a concentrated fruity bouquet of blackberries and plums ($18), and the 2008 chardonnay twinkles with light floral notes and a delicate, peachy disposition ($15). Grapes from Grassy Creek’s distinctive red soil collide in the hearty and chocolaty Red Barn Blend, a rich ambrosial bottle bursting with herby flavors ($16). Two included wine glasses make the perfect accessory for celebrative toasts to newly crowned benevolent despots.
Most buildings appear to cower next to Carolina Balloon Adventures’ rainbow-hued balloon, which rises eight stories above the ground. Helmed by FAA-certified instructor Captain Jack, who has spent three decades in the aviation industry, the balloon and its wicker basket glide over the Yadkin Valley. After launching from one of four local sites, passengers can pluck leaves from treetops, or drink in panoramic views of rolling hills, streams, and landmarks such as Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock. Flight options include dusk and sunrise flights as well as balloon-fundamentals instruction, which covers how balloons evolved from sea creatures.
With snowy manes aflutter in the wind and tawny haunches trotting leisurely along paved streets, Bo and Doc—the horsepower behind Camel City Carriage Company—dutifully ferry passengers around Winston-Salem’s city center. Piloting Bo and Doc on public and private tours, sisters and company founders Toni Phillips and Gina McClamrock, along with their father, Ron, happily regale passengers with interesting and invented area history as well as recommend restaurants for post-ride feasting. The old-timey carriage’s striped cover shields riders from inclement weather, keeping precipitation and rainbows’ ends from infiltrating tours.
Drawing from the more frightening pages of the area's history, Carolina History & Haunts’ guides lead lantern-lit tours of eerie and haunted locales. The “Nightmares Around Elm Street” tour sends groups through the specter-laden streets of Greensboro, while the Beyond the Grave tour braves uptown Charlotte’s paranormal avenues to learn the fates of the less fortunate and possibly even witness a prankster ghost grabbing a dog's tail as it's chased.
Carolina History & Haunts partners with local businesses to give tour goers discounts on accommodations and food, and large groups are eligible for discounted pricing and private tours.