Day Trips From Jacksonville, NC
Raleigh is home to Marbles Museum, a favorite destination for my littles! Learn-through-play
exhibits include art, STEM, music, and physical activities (I know my kiddos need that). Pullen
Park is a 66-acre Raleigh green space adjacent to NC State University. Pack a picnic and let the kids run among the many playground zones. Park admission is free, and tickets for the carousel, kiddie boats, and train are only $1 per rider. Paddle boats on the lake are available for rent. Older kids and adults will appreciate the Life and Science Museum in Durham, which is home to a two-story science center, 60+ species of endangered and rescued wild animals, and a butterfly conservatory. Side note this is where Ikea is!
Wilmington is home to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. In addition to aquatic life, it houses animatronic dinosaurs and a new butterfly house. Annual membership is free with all NC
Aquarium locations and the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. Airlie Gardens is a beautiful and peaceful destination for my fellow plant lovers. Multiple historic gardens, two chapels, a cemetery, and a mystery grave are among the sights to explore here.
TOPSAIL ISLAND—35 MINUTES
Make a day of the 26-mile long! Topsail Island which is home to three
separate towns: North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach. The
Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital in Surf City is open for tours on Thursday and Saturday afternoons. Surfboard and kayak rentals are available at 50 South Surf Shop for
those looking to get a workout in while they play. Topsail Island houses some of my favorite affordable oceanfront homes in all of Eastern NC. Photo Credit: Hannah Foulke Photography
MISSILES AND MORE
While you are down south, stop by Missiles and More Museum. Check out Operation Bumblebee, the Navy’s top secret missile program that operated on the island in the 1940s. Also, Topsail Skating Rink opens every evening for vintage-style family fun that looks to have come right out of the resort on “Dirty Dancing.” The owner, Ms. Doris, is in her 80s and still gets out on the rink in her skates.
The Wilmington Railroad Museum seeks to preserve the area’s railroading history. Enjoy model and life-sized engines and take a ride on a miniature Thomas the Tank Engine. The Museum also hosts toddler story time during the week. Birthday parties can be booked in their red caboose. The Cape Fear Serpentarium is the stuff dreams (or nightmares) are made of. It is home to snakes, snakes, and more snakes and some four-legged reptile friends. I will be avoiding that one.
CARTERET COUNTY—1 TO 1.5 HOURS
Less than 2 hours from Camp Lejeune is Fort Macon State Park. A favorite of my husband and father in law! Fort Macon appeals to history buffs and outdoor lovers alike. Completed in 1834 to fortify coastal vulnerabilities identified during the War of 1812, it was actively manned during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War II. Swimming, fishing, picnicking, and hiking are all permitted on site.
The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is a popular and manageable
destination for parents with smaller children. Enjoy the sea life indoors and the
large play area and nature trails outdoors. Cape Lookout National Seashore is a
collection of the southern barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks. Shackleford Banks has been home to the area’s wild horses for centuries. The horses are fabled
to have survived a European shipwreck offshore, but historians are still not certain how they got to the island. The Seashore also boasts Cape Lookout Lighthouse built in 1859. All guests over 44” tall are welcome to climb the 207 steps (12 stories) to the top. Both Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks are only accessible via passenger ferry or private boat.
MYRTLE BEACH, SC—2.5 HOURS
Myrtle Beach is full of high-intensity, touristy fun. The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is home to the Sky Wheel, carnival games, thrill rides and experiences, live entertainment, food, shopping, and
night life. Pirate Adventures takes little
mates aboard the 35’ Sea Gypsy for the
treasure hunt of a lifetime. Go Ape sends guests on zip lines through the tree tops. Wonderworks transforms learning into an amusement park. The area is home to
nearly 100 golf courses. Even if the weather is not nice, Myrtle Beach has plenty to offer indoors.