When rock-climbing couple Christy and Scott Thrift got engaged, Christy was dangling off the side of Stone Mountain. The same adventurous spirit that elevated their engagement informs their married life, which they spend running their wilderness guiding service, Thrifty Adventures. While some of the duo’s trips require previous outdoor experience, most welcome all participants, and range from ice climbing adventures to rock climbing and backpacking trips. Along the way, Scott and Christy teach safety basics, climbing techniques, and strategies for preserving natural surroundings, such as refraining from nibbling on the mountain.
The first time Jon Walker climbed into a saddle, he was a mere 5 years old. More than 35 years later, he and his wife, Carolyn—also an avid equestrian from a young age—share their passion for riding with students at Jon Walker Stables & Riding Academy Inc. Largely focused on English riding, the trainers lead private and group lessons for eager equestrians aged 3 and up. Across their more than 15-acre parcel, two barns, indoor and outdoor arenas, and trails welcome horses and their riders to trot, canter, and gallop year-round.
Located just a short distance from Charlotte and Winston-Salem, The Spa at Rock Barn is considered a "hidden treasure." The Spa offers a variety a spa treatments along with an unforgettable state-of-the-art spa area including a heated indoor mineral pool, therapeutic waterfall whirlpool, Jacuzzi's, sauns and steam rooms.
At first glance, All American Dance Studio may seem bare. Wood floors stretch out across the empty space, and chairs are pushed up against the walls. But once the students start arriving, the wide, empty space is full of twirling, hopping, and happy stepping. Expert instructors lead students of all levels through a variety of styles such as swing, mambo, and waltz.
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.