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Daydreamer Mar 10th, 2008 06:06 PM

Help? Don't know where to begin w/North Carolina! Could use advice...quick feedback first it goes.
I know I'll need to get library books, etc. and need to research.
But before I go that far...wondering if anyone would lend some quick opinions on the viability of a one week trip to
North Carolina shortly after the 4th of July.

I haven't been since I was 8 yrs old! (and only briefly then)
Live now far away on the West Coast. My mom's 85th is coming up this summer, and family is gathering for it. Just found out,
after thinking we'd just stay 'local' that my mom *really* hopes to get back to N. Carolina to see her early childhood stomping grounds. She lived in New Bern
only 'til she was 6.

Any tips/advice on how I could make such a trip special for her? I might be way too hard to undertake at this late date, planning a trip for 15-17 people in July! (or finding a suitable locale/resting spot)

I believe a brother of mine has stayed on the Outer Banks previously in homes, but not sure how far from New Bern, itself, this would be? Or how picturesque or comfortable, this time of year.
Too hot??

If so, and too hard to plan for a larger group, I'll consider going with her, maybe as a mother-daughter getaway. Please share your
do-not-miss list for this region.
The Smokies intrigue me! (barely remember them) But are they just a ZOO in July? Best to do in Spring or Autumn? Any fall colors there?

Also, my mom altho' having spirit now, is not too able-bodied. Primarily uses a walker & cane, so she herself, couldn't do much outdoors things, except maybe a picnic somewhere scenic. Others in the group, however, could maybe do some outings for fun, while she 'holds' down the fort, or roost,
and enjoys the comings & goings of her grandkids, etc. The kids are mostly now teens ranging from 13-17. But two are just 6 & 9.
Thanks so much for any tips/pointers to kick off my research with!! (as I don't even know where to begin) Best regards,
ever helpful Fodorites! :-)

Daydreamer Mar 10th, 2008 06:08 PM

Oh...and btw,
I'm 40 now!

And, also, if you know of any
quaint *historic* inns/B&B's or mom would LOVE that,
as would I. I know there are more modern homes sometimes along the coast...but anywhere more 'unique' in particular to stay?

Thanks again! :-)

Cassandra Mar 10th, 2008 06:24 PM

Daydreamer, it can be daunting to try to imagine a trip on the opposite coast that will please many people.

One problem you're facing is that it's a bit late to be booking places for mid-July; another is that it probablly IS going to be pretty beastly hot by then.

However, if you're closer to the ocean, it's often 10 degrees cooler (or more in fog or rain) than inland, however, and sometimes with very different weather. If you're thinking about the mountains, Asheville is nice enough but pretty far from New Bern, and the things that are fun for families with younger kids to do are much further north in the mountains. And although it would be cooler than down in the flatlands, it still can get pretty hot.

In summer in NC, you can pretty much figure everything's airconditioned AND you can pretty much plan on staying indoors in midday.

My first thought when I read "New Bern" is that you aren't far there from the ferry to Ocracoke. Ocracoke is a very low key island, with a very laid back rhythm. As a rule, it's a touch less expensive than the Outer Banks, so you might try Googling it to see what you think and what you can find.

From New Bern it's also not far to the Emerald Coast, which is pretty family oriented, too. (Emerald Isle and adjacent islands).

Getting further out the Outer Banks from New Bern is a hike, I'm afraid, and starts to get lots more expensive, too.

I'm sure others will have more useful info, but that was a start.

flit Mar 10th, 2008 06:37 PM

Beach houses are pretty expensive and you will find a lot of them will already be booked by now. What about a lake house? Try looking in the Western part of the state. There's lots of hiking for the kids, it will be a little cooler in the mountains. One fun place my kids enjoyed was sliding rock. It is literally a large rock that you slide down into a pool of water. Asheville area always has plenty to do too. We usually spend a week in Montreat and go to Asheville to the Farmers Market and outdoor shows. If you do decide you want a week at the beach, try to book it as soon as possible. Good luck.

Daydreamer Mar 10th, 2008 06:51 PM

Thanks, you guys!
So you'd say w/out exception that July 4th week is generally pretty darn hot?

Only ask as I grew up in Indiana,
and my mom has been back there in recent yrs, and miraculously,
things were pretty comfortable somehow in July. ;-) 'Course
August, I'm sure was a different matter.

Hmmm...that island sounds nice, but logistically speaking could be tougher too if ferries are involved. Also, which airport would you recommend since most flying in from the West Coast, altho' we'd also have a traveller from Europe. I wonder if he'd simply fly to Atlanta (as he's a Delta fan), and then drive. Time for this?

The mtns sound beautiful! Should I opt for a mini trip w/my mom, even if that necessitates making it a much shorter one, I wonder? (vs. the headaches of planning something
w/the whole crew?) (most esp. since I'm not knowledgeable on the area, and you just hate to catch complaints from others on such things, when trying so hard!)
Or, I would be, by *that* point,
anyway. ;-)

What is your fave time above all for exploring North Carolina...
fave month? April? (too early for the coast, but nice in the mtns, maybe?) October? Problem with DH & I have our 15th coming up, and I'm already committed for a trip on that. (and I work, too, so hard to carve out much time if adding a trip w/my mom into whatever other local gathering we might come up with...if I DO leave NC for later.)
Thanks again! :-)

Daydreamer Mar 10th, 2008 06:54 PM

Ooo...if doing October,
would have to be later Oct. I think
again based on plans w/my DH.

And April? mid-April, very impromptu trip if doing at all...
:-\ Wonder where the best
airline (last minute) deals are?

maj Mar 11th, 2008 04:14 AM

Wow. IMO I would go for the easiest (for both you and your Mom) place to plan for the family thing. If she lives by you, I would plan something near where you (or she) live for that. I think it would be exhausting for someone that age to travel across the country, stay someplace unfamiliar to her with all the confusion that will be around. Just thinking back to my parents as they got along in years -- although they enjoyed being with their family, it was sometimes too exhausting for them to enjoy it the way we thought they would. And yes, you're not going to please everyone -- wouldn't subject myself to that.

If she wants to get back to N.C. I would take her (maybe with a sibling or two) for a quieter trip where she can see what she wants.

As far as the mountains of NC -- my favorite time is late April through May. You can always hit rain during the spring, but the crowds are much less, flowers are starting to bloom and the waterfalls are at their best. We always try to go during the week (avoiding the crowded weekends). The fall is definitely the prettiest and probably best weather wise, therefore also the most crowded. Actually later October would probably be better as far as the crowds go.

Good luck with the airlines -- haven't figured that one out yet. There just aren't the deals they used to have since they are combining flights, etc.

Gretchen Mar 11th, 2008 06:12 AM

I'm not sure if you are still wanting the family gathering in NC or not. But before you take the advice that it is too late for reservations you should look at places like the Sunspree in Wrightsville Beach--big resort hotel on the beach. Maybe others will chime in. The outer Banks are 'way out there and will take a lot of travel and ferry arrangements/reservations to reach--just a thought. Also not close to an airport.
If you want to come in April, you'll find the azalea festival in Wilmington.
As for heat, it will be as hot as Indiana, but if you are on the beach you will have a breeze--probably.
You could fly to Wilmington, stay at one of the beaches there for a few days and then go to New Bern. Lots of history there for the kids of the group--first capital of the state.
Look for a resort with rooms for the various families.

ncgrrl Mar 11th, 2008 06:16 AM

I'd vote for April in New Bern. Azaleas and dogwoods (those that have survived) and other flowering plants are in full bloom.

Tryon Palace, the original Governor's mansion is available for tours. Not sure if your Mom could handle the house (not sure about stairs, it has been a few years since I was there) but there are lovely gardens.

New Bern is on a river and there should be hotel/inn with water views. I do remember a walkway by the water but don't remember if there are benches if your Mom needs to rest.

Cassandra's suggestion of the Emerald Coast is great! The aquarium around Morehead City has reopened and you could go visit Beaufort (Bo-fort in NC). It's quaint and I like it for a day, others would want to spend more time there. In Beaufort is a Maritime Museum with artifacts from what is probably the Queen Anne's Revenge -- Blackbeard's ship.

July will be hot and very crowded.

ncgrrl Mar 11th, 2008 06:19 AM

Oh, airports. If you go to New Bern area, fly into Raleigh-Durham. Though New Bern does have a small, airport, I don't know about connections/price compared to RDU.

shormk2 Mar 11th, 2008 06:38 AM

New Bern is such a pretty little town, that I would try and make it happen if possible. It will be hot- always is that time of year- but you'll be near the water and the breeze will be very nice. Look at renting a house/group of condos on Atlantic beach (you may be limited but you should still be able to find a place). Atlantic is VERY family oriented and a short drive from New Bern. Definitely fly into Raleigh-Durham (RDU)... ATL is not close at all.

As for the best time to explore NC, it really depends on what your interests are... there is no place prettier than Chapel HIll in the spring time (note: I am a UNC grad), Azaela festival in Wilmington is marvelous, Bele Chere festival in July in Asheville for live music and an escape from the heat, Blowing Rock in October for the changing of the leaves... there is such a diverse geography and lots to explore.

Depending on your family and whether the priority is to be close to New Bern or try to beat the heat-if the Eastern part of the State may be too hot for you in July, you may want to consider staying on Lake Lure or another mountain lake (I prefer the beach, but I have grown up here and am use to the heat)... no matter, you should definitely try to come sooner rather than later!

shormk2 Mar 11th, 2008 06:47 AM

And if you're going to fly into the mountains- Asheville has an airport- or you can fly into CLT and drive to the mountains...

Thomas6 Mar 11th, 2008 06:50 AM

If you decide to go to the mountains and are interested in a B&B, I can highly recommend the Inn at Iris Meadowns in Waynesville, NC, near the Smokies and about 35 miles from Asheville. It's a nice small town with some good restaurants and the Inn is lovely - big wraparound porch, well-equipped rooms, nice common areas for sitting, excellent breakfasts and very friendly and accommodating owners.

Tess Mar 11th, 2008 08:31 AM

Wilmington is one of my favorite places ever (I live in Nebraska but have relatives in NC) and is chock full of history. Your mom would love the trolley tour of historic homes and sites near downtown and everyone would love the amazing beach. Nearby are plantation homes that you can tour, too.

It really is an amazing small city.

Daydreamer Mar 11th, 2008 02:53 PM

Wow!! Thank you so *much* you guys!
You are a lifesaver.

I think due to the hassles of planning for such a large group...
esp. w/a few commitment-phobes in the mix...I'm better off seeing if I can't get my dear mom back there,
for either Spring or Fall, with either just me, or my hubby & me, if he'd consider.

Or maybe my sister & me, some time.
Problem w/Spring's fast approaching! :-\ So, not sure I can swing that or not. May end up having to be later Oct then. Wonder if far too late for best colors then? Indiana usually peaked in mid-October but NC is further south. But then again, it's got higher hills/mtns too!

Spring sounds SO lovely, I just wish I could make it happen.
Will see what I can do.
Appreciate the tips on lodging & fave towns/areas! Just feel utterly clueless thus far, since I'm now 40...and like I said, haven't been since 1975 or '76! Wanna blast to your past on that one? I recall Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" being played lots that summer trip/drive! ;-) Thanks again!

Gretchen Mar 11th, 2008 06:03 PM

The mountains are a "fer piece" from New Bern, if you want to have your mother visit there. And colors are pretty, but unpredictable--last year was a drought and it was brown. You don't exactly know 'when". The beach offers a lot, and getting to New Bern.

Ruff Mar 12th, 2008 06:52 AM

We usually spend two weeks in September in Emerald Isle, which is at the other end of Bogue Banks from Atlantic Beach. While Atlantic Beach would be closer to New Bern, it is kind of honky-tonk and not as nice in my opinion. Someone suggested Beaufort (NC, not SC), which might be a nice choice. Nice shops, good restaurants, on the water, etc.... More town-like than the beach resorts like Emerald Isle or Atlantic Beach.

Cassandra Mar 12th, 2008 07:15 AM

Think your plan to do it in the fall is an EXCELLENT idea -- in mid-Sept. it's still very warm but dryer, and nicely uncrowded at the beaches.

When you choose your destination area, come on back and ask for more suggestions.

Tess Mar 12th, 2008 07:25 AM

Fall is a great idea. We did our Wilmington trip in mid-October and still laid out on the beach. It wasn't the full-on heat and humidity of summer, though, and was very pleasant.

If you're a reader, Wilmington has the most awesome bookstore in their funky downtown area--think it's called Two Sisters.

We stayed at the Hilton downtown. It's right on the river and very nice. Heard they're remodeling so maybe they'll be done by fall.

travelhappyfamily Mar 12th, 2008 05:34 PM

I would second (or third!) a fall trip to New Bern with an excursion to Beaufort. It's quaint and charming (my 89 yr old grandmother adores it) - rich in maritime history and beautiful cottages. I'd opt for a small-group visit (you and her?) and stay at one of the B&B's there. Make time for a drive to Morehead City and the Sanitary Restaurant (classic NC institution). Think great seafood, wild ponies, pretty boats and the flash of the lighthouse in the night sky. Swansboro is a short drive away for nice shopping - set on the pretty shores of the White Oak River.

Best of luck! It's my favorite place on earth!

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