All Elon University students chose to enroll for some special reason. Maybe the renowned theatre program drew them here, or the esteemed business school. Maybe they fell in love with the brick walkways and immaculate lawns, or maybe they followed best friends or older siblings to the Elon family. They love their school, but sometimes, as in all relationships, they need their alone time.
Because the school is located essentially in the center of the state, Elon students can easily make a day trip to many unique attractions and return in time to sleep in their familiar dorms. With the eco-friendly Zip-Car system, the relationship with the university can be kept “open.”
There are also opportunities for day trips off the beaten path — exploring small towns like Saxapahaw (25 minutes from Elon,) or touring Greensboro’s eccentric downtown. Whatever the preference, Elon’s central location allows students to take a refreshing break from campus — even if the year has just started.
Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham
ESTIMATED DRIVE TIME: 30m – 1h
Doing a day trip from one college to another seems a bit on the silly side, but it’s nice every now and then to go get lost on a bigger college campus. Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC Greensboro and North Carolina State University all have vibrant campus life and are very visitor friendly. Franklin Street in Chapel Hill is home to great music and food, sometimes at the same time and place. Hillsborough Street in Raleigh (N.C. State campus) has the famed Schoolkids Records and Sadlack’s Heroes (pictured above), not to mention easy access to other downtown attractions. UNC-G always has quality stage, visual and vocal productions going on, while Duke is famed for its beauty and campus life.
COST: $39.99 online, $49.99 at the gate
PARKING: 5,000 spots
ESTIMATED DRIVE TIME: 2h 10m
Eight intense roller coasters with other smaller coasters and thrill rides make Carowinds worth a trip for any adventure-seeker. There’s also a water park included with admission. The park is big enough for a full-day of fun, but small enough that every ride can be ridden at least once, maybe twice in a day. Not to mention its location in Charlotte makes staying the night or going to do another ‘big city’ activity as easy as leaving the park and driving down the street.
MARBLES KIDS MUSEUM
LOCATION: Downtown Raleigh
COST: $5 per person
PARKING: public lots and street
parking are available
ESTIMATED DRIVE TIME: 1h 15m
Just because it says “kids” in the name doesn’t mean it’s just for children. It may be one of the only times a college student can look at bugs under a microscope and build a miniature car — for science. The pirate ship may be a little too young and of course the dress-up clothes won’t fit, but feeling 7 years old again can be refreshing. There’s also an IMAX theater that shows both documentaries and feature films, for additional fees.
FANTASY LAKE SCUBA DIVING
LOCATION: Wake Forest
COST: $15 to dive, $5 non-dive entry,
$5 overnight camping
PARKING: free at the site
ESTIMATED DRIVE TIME: 1h 30m
Yes, scuba diving is possible in central North Carolina, in the small town of Wake Forest. There are resources at Fantasy Lake for both the novice and the pro diver, with equipment rental and a full-service dive shop. There are also scenic trails around the lake if just going under the water isn’t enough. If scuba is really enticing, there are also camp sites.
WET ‘N WILD EMERALD POINTE
COST: $32.99 per person
PARKING: $7 per car
ESTIMATED DRIVE TIME: 30m
Even on its tagline “your daycation destination!” Emerald Pointe in Greensboro shows that it is aware of its status as the most convenient water park in the Carolinas, not to mention the biggest. Thirty-six rides with 3 million gallons of water are sure to squash the heat even on a sweltering September day. Why only September? The park closes for the season at 5 p.m. Sept. 6, so make the trip while you still can.