Hands holding a starfish to illustrate the South Carolina Aquarium
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Friday, June 21, 2019

Top 5 summer activities — and ways to give back — in the Carolinas

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Hands holding a starfish to illustrate the South Carolina Aquarium

Let the summer travels begin! Coming from New Bern, we know that the very best destinations are often right here in the Carolinas. Check out these five local adventure options — plus ways to give back in our communities along the way.

Explore a Carolina aquarium

Planning a trip to Charleston? Open your eyes to the natural world through a curated aquatic experience at the South Carolina Aquarium. The staff here is committed to conservation in many forms, from water, to habitats, to wildlife. Don’t overlook the Touch Tank, where you can reach in and feel species of invertebrates including sea urchins and Atlantic stingrays.

How to give back while you visit: If you leave inspired to support the aquarium’s conservation efforts, you can learn how to donate here.

Relish a beach week on the coast

We’re lucky to have so many beautiful beaches to choose from in the Carolinas. Arrive at Hilton Head for a family-friendly stay in an area that’s busy with activity. Or perhaps Bald Head Island, if its quiet, serene atmosphere (no gas-powered cars are allowed here!) is more your vibe.

How to give back while you visit: Yes, pack that picnic and fill up that drink cooler. But don’t forget to pick up your trash and recycle any beverage containers. When possible, pack reusable containers for both drinks and snacks. Maybe even pick up after a stranger.

Bonus: If it’s available to you, consider renting an Airbnb. What easier way to support local residents and economies, particularly those recovering from recent hurricane damage?

Immerse yourselves in wildlife

One word: Zoo. Occupy the family for hours with educational opportunities and plenty of walking. Try the Greenville Zoo’s Safari Adventure Packs, featuring games and activities to add excitement to your journey through the exhibits. Opt for the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro if you prefer hiking trails (dogs are allowed here!) or a digital experience — Expedition AFRICA offers a virtual reality adventure.

How to give back while you visit: Did you know you can adopt an animal at the Greenville Zoo? (Don’t worry — your animal stays at the zoo while you support him.) Join the Adopt-an-Animal Program to help fund animal care and enrichment, as well as exhibit improvements and training for zookeepers. Learn more here.

Meanwhile, at the North Carolina Zoo, onsite purchases can help protect endangered species. All you have to do is round up your payment. Get details here.

Embark on a day trip

We have no shortage of interesting cities to spend a day exploring. Raleigh is home to the North Carolina State Capitol, Charlotte is a hotspot for museums and breweries, Charleston is ripe with history and beautiful architecture, and Asheville is never lacking in good food and outdoor activities.

How to give back while you visit: In any of these cities, you can park your car to reduce pollution. You’re here to wander. Enjoy the walkability and bikeability of your surroundings. (Charlotte even has “scooterability,” with electric scooters for rent through your smartphone.)

When you do stop, shop around at local farmers markets and small businesses to stock up on supplies and souvenirs. More into arts and culture? Support the local history and culture scene by visiting museums and galleries. For starters, there’s the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, the Charleston Museum, the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, and Asheville’s River Arts District.

Go a step further and honor veterans by walking through Memorial Waterfront Park in Mount Pleasant, SC, near Charleston, or visit the American Military Museum of Gastonia near Charlotte.

Set out on a hike

Have you ever set foot on the Carolina Thread Trail? This trail network, led by the Catawba Lands Conservancy, runs through 15 counties in North and South Carolina and is blueprinted for 1,610 miles of greenways, trails and blueways. Its purpose is to link communities and to connect people with the natural elements around them.

How to give back while you visit: Keep it simple. Bring trash with you in your backpack or bag. Stay on trails and public footpaths and absolutely do not remove plants or feed animals. Never litter. Want to make a bigger impact? Give a donation here to help maintain trails and contribute to the planning and building of more trails.

Which adventure speaks to you most? Take your pick — and let your summer in the Carolinas begin.

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