Summer getaways: 10 places to go this season


May 28, 2024

Summer travel destinations

Wondering where to head now that school’s out, temps are heating up, and we’re all ready for a summer slowdown? We’ve rounded up 10 destinations fit for family vacations, weekend escapes, even day trips. Pack your bags, and go! 

by Jay Ahuja, Krisha Chachra, Vanessa Infanzon and Cathy Martin


Cataloochee Ranch, Maggie Valley

Getting there: just under a 3-hour drive

If you’re looking for a western ranch experience that’s closer to home, this is it. Just three hours west of Charlotte is Cataloochee Ranch, a 91-year-old resort that’s undergone a luxe refresh and reopened in March.  

The sprawling property atop Fie Top Mountain was purchased in 2020 by David and Annie Colquitt, who also own The Swag in nearby Waynesville. They’ve spent the last four years renovating it, and they’re not done yet. Click here to continue reading. 


Mount LeConte, Sevierville, Tenn.

Getting there: just under a 4-hour drive

At an elevation of 6,400 feet, just below the summit of Mount LeConte in eastern Tennessee, LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains this year celebrates its 100th season. Owned by a local hospitality group and operated as a concession of the National Park system, the lodge is open March to November. But getting there is no easy task: The lodge is accessible only on foot, via one of six hiking trails ranging from 5 to 9.1 miles.

Even if you’re not an overnight guest, you can still enjoy a day hike to the lodge. It’s a full-day outing and a strenuous workout, but once you’ve arrived you can purchase a sack lunch to refuel and take a break from the steep climb — or simply take in the spectacular mountain views.

Overnight reservations fill up early each year, however last-minute cancellations do occur and interested parties are encouraged to call and check for openings. — C.M.


The Spa at Rock Barn, Conover

Getting there: just under a 4-hour drive

Drive a little over an hour north from Charlotte to Catawba County and you’ll uncover a rare find — an oasis of relaxation and respite. The Spa at Rock Barn, often referred to as a hidden gem by those who work there, can curate and customize your next girl’s getaway, couples date or personal self-care day. Visitors can indulge in a European-style hydrotherapy circuit, including the saltwater main pool with tranquil underwater music. Soothe your tired muscles in the waterfalls or jacuzzis, and restore ailing joints in the salt cave, sauna and steam rooms. Massages, body and beauty treatments are also available. After dining on a nourishing poolside lunch, guests may build up the courage to brave the cold plunge pool.

“We have all the amenities to create a memorable day-spa experience, complete with services that promote health and wellness,” says spa director Flame Deal. “But it is our staff and customer service that will keep you coming back.” Click here to continue reading.


The Hemlocks at Nantahala Outdoor

Center, Bryson City

Getting there: 3 hour and 15 minute drive

Renderings courtesy Nantahala Outdoor Center

The Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City gets a lodging upgrade this summer with the debut of eight new bungalow-style cabins in July. The Hemlocks, built on a natural slope along the ridgeline, offer views of the NOC’s 500-acre campus, the Nantahala River and the surrounding mountains. 

Spend the day in nature and return to the comfort of The Hemlocks. Each cabin sleeps four to six people, depending on the unit. A kitchen, a private deck, one or two king bedrooms, and one or two bathrooms are included. Dogs are welcome for an additional fee. Make s’mores at the community fire pit or enjoy a quiet evening inside in front of the cabin’s gas fireplace. Watch your favorite movie on TV, or sit on the deck and listen to the river flow. Two of the cabins are ADA-accessible. 

Guests can sign up for whitewater-rafting trips or kayaking and paddleboarding on Fontana Lake. Rent bicycles to tour the Tsali Trail or hike the Appalachian Trail — the AT crosses the NOC campus, with access steps away from The Hemlocks.  

River’s End Restaurant and Big Wesser Riverside Pub offer barbecue, burgers, salads and desserts to refuel, plus beer, wine and cocktails to settle the adrenaline after an adventure-filled day. Slow Joe’s Riverside Food Truck and Switchback Taps are open seasonally. Guests can also enjoy live entertainment and events by the Nantahala River from May through September.    — Vanessa Infanzon  


The George Hotel, Georgetown, S.C.

Getting there: 3.5-hour drive 

Right: The George Hotel double room. Photographs by Andrew Cebulka, courtesy The George Hotel.

The Indigo Road restaurant group (O-Ku, Mizu, OAK Steakhouse) made its first foray into the hotel business with the reimagined Skyline Lodge in Highlands in 2021. In March, it debuted The George Hotel, a boutique inn along the Sampit River in historic Georgetown, S.C., near Pawleys Island. Forty-two of the 56 rooms and suites have water views, and the hotel offers convenient marina access for boaters. There’s a waterfront bar, Eliza’s, and a seafood-focused restaurant, The Independent, led by Executive Chef Thomas Vance. If his name sounds familiar, Vance was a mainstay on Charlotte’s food and drink scene, with previous roles at Little Mama’s, Carpe Diem and George’s Brasserie. On the menu: a raw bar, steaks and elevated takes on southern classics like shrimp and grits, skillet cornbread and blackened flounder.    — C.M.


Las Vegas

Getting there: 4.5-hour nonstop flight from CLT

Las Vegas wasn’t at the top of our list of places to visit until friends reported back from U2’s Achtung Baby Live residency at The Sphere. The Irish rockers were the first to play at the new entertainment venue, which opened last September. My wife, Karen, and I went for Valentine’s Day, and our concert tickets were packaged with a stay at the adjacent Venetian hotel. Click here to continue reading.



Getting there: 4-hour nonstop flight from CLT

July through August is considered a shoulder season in Aruba, when temps are slightly warmer and crowds thinner. And unlike most Caribbean destinations, Aruba sits outside of the hurricane belt, meaning it’s less likely to experience severe storms.

At just 75 square miles, Aruba was economically reliant on a large oil refinery until the 1980s, when it became an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and pivoted to tourism as its main industry. Consequently, the island nation is a bit more developed than other tropical locales in terms of infrastructure and visitor amenities. Getting around is a cinch, all the beaches are public, and nearly everyone speaks English, along with Dutch and Papiamento, the Portuguese-based national language. Click here to continue reading.


Tulum, Mexico

Getting there: 3-hour flight from CLT

Getting to this popular Mexico destination got easier in March, when American Airlines debuted nonstop service to the new Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport. Tulum-bound travelers previously had to fly into Cancun, adding 2 hours to the trip. This month, CLT also debuts seasonal direct flights to Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Bozeman, Mont.; Spokane, Wash.; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


The Dunlin, Auberge Resorts Collection, Johns Island, S.C.

Getting there: 3.5-hour drive

The Dunlin, renderings courtesy The Dunlin.

Opening Aug. 1 and now accepting reservations, this new Lowcountry resort nestled in the Kiawah River community is sure to become a favorite getaway for Charlotteans. Set on 2,000 acres with 20 miles of waterfront and scenic trails, The Dunlin will boast 72 guest rooms and suites, two restaurants, a poolside cocktail bar, a spa, and a chic coastal design by Amanda Lindroth when it opens later this summer.


Euphoria, Greenville, S.C., Sept. 19-22

Close out the summer at Euphoria, a food and drink extravaganza that brings together chefs, food artisans, beverage experts and musicians from across the Southeast. Click here to continue reading.

Featured images courtesy Aruba Tourism Authority, courtesy The Sphere, and by Ben Finch courtesy Cataloochee Ranch

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