In 40 years, Hinnant Family Vineyards has had time to grow 87 acres of muscadine grapes that have been turned into succulent wines, some as old as the vineyard itself. While the wines are the specialty, the team also opens its gate to visitors seeking to learn about winemaking, picnic on the wraparound porch, celebrate their weddings, or attend a summer music festival.
You slide into the starting position, gripping the rope. For a moment, your eyes wander, surveying the white sand beaches and clear waters that surround you. High on a mast above, a cable carrier hooks the other end of your rope—with a tug, you launch into the water. Without the hum of a boat's outboard motor, you're free to concentrate on the sound of your wakeboard cutting the water's surface as you prepare to lift out of the rippling waves and off the first jump.
This is the introduction wake-boarders and wake-skaters at Hexagon Wake Park receive when they set out on the flexible cable that winds through the Tucker Lake obstacle course at high speeds. In this controlled environment, instructors help riders of all ages master the particulars of extreme water sports, such as how to stand and when to give ducks the right of way. Beside the cable park, other visitors explore the open water aboard stand-up paddleboats and kayaks. Visitors can also explore beachside attractions such as water slides, rope swings, and inflatable climbing structures.
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Tim Langdon and his wife, Renee, founded Camp Flintlock 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.
Nestled on sprawling, tree-lined terrain, Black Creek Hill Farms cultivates horse-human friendships with lessons for students of all experience levels and guided trail rides through local landscapes. The full-service stable is owned and operated by experienced horsewoman Brenda Jernigan, whose love of and dedication to horses has been evident since she was born with one in her hand.
Her experienced guides, both equestrians since childhood, spearhead expeditions into the pond-spotted wilderness, starting with basic equine etiquette for those who have never ridden a horse. They also conduct lessons at the homestead, tailoring each session to individual skill and comfort level and teaching fundamentals such as grooming and affixing saddles onto steeds or little brothers. Therapeutic rides can accommodate special needs, varying in length based on riders' attention spans, and summer camps enthrall kids with crafts, companions, and the nurturing presence of horses.
Within Tag Ur It’s family-owned indoor play center, youngsters glide down slides, rock atop spring horses, and leap about in bounce houses. After emerging from the inflatable obstacle course, kids scamper off to the arcade to battle fictional opponents or challenge their less-pixilated playmates to rounds on the mini-golf course, bouts in the laser-tag arena, and bean-bag flinging at the corn-hole station. Along with open-play sessions, Tag Ur It accommodates guests with a trio of birthday-party packages where up 20 children can enjoy a two-hour party block.
Ava Gardner was studying to be a secretary at the Atlantic Christian College when 12-year-old Thomas Banks met her while playing at the school's campus in 1940. A year later, the young boy learned his friend had signed a movie contract with MGM to become a movie star. From then on, he collected newspaper clippings and memorabilia tracing her film career, from her breakout role in 1946's The Killers to her lauded work in 1953's Mogambo with Clark Gable. Tom and Ava remained friends over the years, and, at her request, he unveiled his collection—more than 50 years in the making—in 1979 in Smithfield, her birthplace and eventual resting place.
Tom amassed more than 20,000 artifacts from Ava's career and private life, which now, among other pieces, fill the 6,400-square-foot Ava Gardner Museum. Among movie posters and awards stand the silk satin cape that Ava wore in publicity shots for The Barefoot Contessa and the black dress she donned in The Great Sinner. Her personal items include china, jewelry, 40 portraits of her by Bert Pfeiffer, and the engraved watch she gave to her third husband, Frank Sinatra. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum celebrates the starlet with its annual Ava Gardner Festival, which includes screenings of her classic films and heritage tours.