JC Raulston Arboretum
Sure, the trees – JC Raulston Arboretum’s main draw – are outside, but they also offer plenty of shade. Part of N.C. State University, the arboretum is a working research and teaching facility, so expect to see students and faculty at work while you stroll; they’re a great source of interesting facts and information. The Lath House is designed to keep delicate plants cool (and visitors can benefit, too!). The Japanese garden next door always seems peaceful and protected from the glaring sun – though maybe it’s just the Zen garden that makes it seem that way. If you can stand the heat, take a few minutes to check out the dwarf loblolly pine collection – it’s the only one in the world!
Info: Free. Open daily 8 a.m.-8 p.m. April through October; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. November through March. 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh. 919-515-3132 or ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
The Outer Banks might be a swell vacation spot, but it has spelled doom for centuries of seafaring visitors who strayed too close to shore. The museum recovers, researches and displays shipwreck artifacts from pirate vessels, warships (including the USS Monitor, a Civil War ironclad) and more. “This museum is our family’s favorite when visiting the OBX. It has something for everyone,” Michelle Henderson of Sturgeon, Pa., told us, adding that it’s “rich in history and curators as well as volunteers with a wealth of knowledge.” When the beach sand gets too hot, cool off here and learn about what lies beneath the waters you just swam in.
Info: Free. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 59200 Museum Drive, Hatteras. 252-986-2995 or graveyardoftheatlantic.com
Eno River State Park, Durham
You’ll get a little toasty getting there, but the reward will be worth it. Locals know that shady, serene Bobbitt’s Hole, in the Eno River, is the best swimming hole around. “It’s a gem for the kids to explore, climb, swim and slide through the rushing water between the rocks,” said Laura Dunko of Cary. “We even saw a young couple bring their wedding party there for a swim and create memories.”
Info: About a 20-minute hike from the Cole Mill Parking Area, Eno River State Park, 6101 Cole Mill Road, Durham. 919-383-1686 or ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/enri/main.php or enotrails.com/bobbitt-hole-trail.htm
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Bryson City
A short walk through forest trails will reward you with views of three sets of waterfalls. Or you can get a more adventurous view on the mountain bike trail, one of the parts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park where bikes are allowed. Tubing is another favorite activity at Deep Creek, but do your homework: The park itself discourages tubing and swimming, and doing so in the wrong location can be deadly. Several nearby businesses rent tubes and can point you in the right direction.
Info: Three miles outside Bryson City, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 865-436-1200 or nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/deepcreek.htm
ToolsMeasureOptionsg is a great way to beat the heat, but who wants to go to the mall? Support local artists directly (and maybe even meet some) by shopping at Womancraft, a co-op managed and stocked by the artists themselves. Items on offer include pottery, woodwork, home goods, jewelry, clothing, wall art and more. “The friendliness of the staff in helping customers enhances the experience, and the items in the store are constantly changing as new, unique items are brought in,” said Susan Kopkind of Cary, one of many readers who told us about Womancraft. “… If you visit the store I am sure you will agree that the store is a gem.”
Info: Open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The Shops at Eastgate, 1800 E. Franklin St., Suite 18B, Chapel Hill. 919-929-8362 or womancraftgifts.com