Looking for adventure, but your budget says otherwise? No worries, there are actually a lot of (relatively) free things to do in North Carolina. Yes, nothing in life is free, but this list will get you pretty close!
1. UNCC Botanical Gardens
It's hard to find the right pictures to do this 10-acre botanical garden justice, so I'll just say...you should see it for yourself! Located on the UNC Charlotte campus, there is the Susie Harwood Garden with Asian plantings and a water garden. The Van Landingham Glen, filled with native wildflowers and rhododendrons. Bonus, inside the greenhouse you'll find carnivorous plants and orchids. The UNCC botanical gardens are a popular destination for photoshoots, picnics, even first dates. The gardens are open during daylight hours seven days a week. The greenhouse is open Monday-Saturday 10AM-3PM and Sunday 1PM-4PM.
2. Gallery hop in Asheville
As one of the top art destinations in the world, Asheville has some awesome galleries to occupy your whole day or weekend. The River Arts District is home to several studios where you can watch the artists work. Learn about southern appalachian artists at the Folk Art Center, with three galleries and daily demonstrations. Check out Romantic Asheville's guide to galleries here...http://www.romanticasheville.com/galleries.html
3. Explore where the first commercial gold find happened in America
Reed Gold Mine is just a short drive outside of Charlotte. For free you can take a 30-minute underground tunnel tour. For just $2 you can try and get lucky yourself, by mining for gold. The gold mine is open Tuesday-Saturday 9AM-5PM.
4. James K. Polk Memorial in Pineville
You can visit the birthplace of the 11th president of the United States, James K. Polk, just south of Charlotte in Pineville. Located off of Lancaster Highway, its a great mini-trip for the kids or for history buffs on a budget. Open Tuesday-Saturday 9AM-5PM.
5. DO go chasin' waterfalls
With over 250 waterfalls in North Carolina you could fill a whole day, weekend, or week, just checking out each one. There is nothing like natural beauty, and yeah, you can't put a price on that! Summer is the perfect time to explore...you might even discover a new favorite swimming hole.
6. Catch a train with the kiddos at Pullen Park
Located in Raleigh, this cute, small park is very popular for families. Parents and kiddos can spend a whole day here with multiple playgrounds, walking trails, and a fully functioning miniature train built in 1950. The park is open seven days a week during daylight hours.
7. Soak up some sun at Carolina Beach
Get a group of friends to split gas, snacks, and beverages and hop in the car for a sunny beach day! Luckily, no matter where you're located...a beach day is feasible...you might just have to wake up a bit early.
8. Tap your feet to some awesome live music.
No matter your location in the state, you're guaranteed to find live music. One to mark on your calendar is Shindig on the Green in Asheville. On Saturday nights in July and August you'll be treated to some free, authentic, southern Appalachia music!
9. Take a drive, then a hike!
You might have to rustle your pockets or lift the couch cushions for gas money...but trust me, it is totally worth it! Named one of the ten best drives in America, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great way to spend a Sunday. With breathtaking views, impressive overlooks, and hiking trails right off the parkway...it's a perfect weekend trip for those looking to get action and adventure on the low! Oh and those waterfalls we were talking about? A lot can be found right off the parkway. This is becoming a real three-for-one.
10. Make a wish on a star!
One of the best things about North Carolina is that no matter how close you are to the city, a gorgeous rolling country side is usually only twenty minutes away. Take a night drive, with a warm blanket and your beverage of choice. Cozy up under a blanket and lay on the hood of your car. Usually once you get out to the country..the stars are super impressive and gorgeous. This is a great alternative to going out or even staying in on a Friday night...also, it's a great date idea! Romantic, thoughtful, and relatively free!