guides

Your Guide to Nature Encounters in Hickory and Surrounding Areas

May 31, 2019


Ready to get back to nature?  This guide is a great place to start!

We strive to keep our guides up-to-date and accurate; please call ahead to the location if you have any questions.  

Do you have a suggestion for a great indoor fun location?  Email us


Linville Caverns
 Explore an underground labyrinth of tunnels and caves at Linville Caverns. This is a fun experience for kids of all ages (adults too!). The caverns have been open for public viewing since 1937. You'll learn the history and science behind the tourist destination, hear a spooky real-life story of lost boys, and you might even see a real-life bat! 



South Mountains State Park 
South Mountain State Park offers a lot of fun outdoor activities for families: Hiking, fishing, camping, horseback riding, biking, and more. Bringing small kids? Try the River Trail! 



Lake James State Park
Lake James State Park offers hiking, biking, camping, and boating but my favorite part of this park is the swimming. Paddy's Creek Area is open for swimming from May-Sept, there is a fee when there is a lifeguard on duty. There also concessions, restrooms, and showers.  



Lake Norman State Park
Over 30 miles of hiking and biking trails to explore as well as pedal boats, kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes available for rent or bring your own. You can also fish, picnic and swim. 



Rocky Face Mountain Recreation Area
Enjoy hiking, camping, and rock climbing as well as a wonderful natural playground with a slide, zip line, sandbox and tons to climb on. 



Lazy 5 Ranch
Home to over 700 animals - drive-through or ride in the wagon (I recommend the wagon) for an up-close animal experience.



Zootastic Park
Zootastic Park is a walk-through or Drive-Through zoo- encounter animals like kangaroos, sloths, and lions- even kiss a giraffe! 



North Carolina Zoo
The NC Zoo has it's habitats broken up by region. In North America, you will encounter animals like the Grizzly Bear, the black bear, the honey bee, and a variety of prairie animals. In the African region see lions, zebras, giraffes, and elephants. Coming in 2023- a new region: Asia! Expect to see red pandas, tigers, and kimono dragons!



Grandfather Mountain
Visit the Mile-high swinging bridge, animal encounters (in their environmental habitats), visit the Nature Museum with over two dozen exhibits all about Grandfather Mountain's History and the surrounding region. 



Chimney Rock State Park
 Enjoy several child-friendly hiking trails, visit the Animal Discovery Den, climb the rock tower for some amazing views (reservations required). 



Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
110 acres of spectacular gardens including a children’s garden, a conservatory dedicated to the display of tropical plants and orchids, a Dry Piedmont Prairie, annual and perennial displays, sparkling fountains, walking trails, and more.




Carolina Raptor Center
Walk the Raptor Trail, a 3/4 mile walking trail with over 30 birds of prey on display. 



The North Carolina Arboretum
Walkthrough acres of cultivated gardens and trails. Youth and family educational programs available.  



Western NC Nature Center
 42 acres of animal habitat where you will encounter animals like the black bear, the red wolf, the river otter, and more. 



SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium
Take a self-guided tour through the only aquarium in the area with an underwater sea tunnel. Stop and enjoy a craft, and visit the gift shop on the way out. 



Tiger World
Tiger World is a nonprofit animal conservation and educational center dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and preservation of exotic animals. Go on an educational tour or a self-guided tour. Not only will you see tigers but you'll see other animals such as bears, cougars, leopards, birds, kangaroos, bobcats, and more.




Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
 You'll see all kinds of animals at Riverbanks Zoo, plus visit the botanical gardens, rides, playgrounds and more. 












Go on a color scavenger hunt

Explore a kid-friendly TRACK Trail

Go on a family bike ride 

Check out our FREE Events Calendar for more fun in the Hickory - W Piedmont and subscribe to our FREE newsletter to get all the latest info for family fun!