With the throngs of cherry blossom tourists descending upon the District this time of year and your spring fever hot enough to melt a House of Cards binge-a-thon, an extended weekend road-trip is looking like a mighty fine go-to option about now.
While some like their getaways mild, nearby Charlotte's a great place for those who need it wild. Decades beyond the laid-back, staid and sleepy southern banking and mill town it once was, the Queen City is pure Nirvana for the adventurer who likes to play hard and thrill harder.
Springtime in the southeast is the season to revel in, especially if your idea of a good time is pulling five times the normal force of gravity while speeding into a banked oval at 165 miles per hour in a Sprint Car. But that's just one heart-pumping, adrenaline-filled experience Charlotte offers thrill seekers.
Six hours by car or a short one-hour flight, Charlotte is just the right fix when you're Jonesin' for some action.
Here are four of our favorite endorphin-escalating adventures:
U.S. National Whitewater Center
This one-of-a-kind Olympic training facility showcases the world's largest multiple channel re-circulating whitewater river and entertains rafting, canoe and kayak enthusiasts in up to Class IV rapids. Paddle boarding your thing? Use the Center's special access to the scenic Catawba River and have at it.
For those preferring land-based thrills, the Center has mountain biking, rock climbing, zip-lines, running trails, and a 40-foot freefall "Mega-Jump" (similar to bungee) as part of the fun. Navigate the mid-air ropes challenge course where rope and plank bridges suspended high above cargo nets protect wayward climbers. Great for couples and families, the facility is situated on more than 400 acres of woodlands.
Richard Petty Driving Experience
Buckle in and take the wheel of an authentic Sprint Cup style stock car choosing any number of drive/ride experiences at the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Petty, the "King" of NASCAR, has been delivering hands-on thrills for more than 15 years at programs operating at tracks across the country. Here, you'll drive on the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of the Coco-Cola 600, and the very same track attacked by NASCAR's best. If you can't trust yourself to drive a genuine NASCAR, perhaps a ride along is more your thing. Riding shotgun for several laps is always an option, but we say, YOLO! Just go for it, since your ride along instructor has an engine kill switch if the wall gets too close.
Billed as "The Thrill Capital of the Southeast," Carowinds more than lives up to the hype. Even the most ardent thrill seeker might lose their breath after a 325-foot drop at 95 miles per hour. That is exactly what greets riders on board the Fury 325, the world's tallest and fastest giga-coaster. It is just one of 13 roller coasters and over 50 thrill rides guaranteed to impress even the most consummate coaster aficionado. With coasters named Vortex, Cobra, Nighthawk, Cyclone, Intimidator and Afterburn, Carowinds might even boil cold hearted Claire Underwood's blood.
Crowders Mountain State Park
Carolina's Piedmont calls to adventurers with stunning panoramic views atop the second highest peak in nearby Gaston County. Miles of hiking trails cross through woods, scenic valleys and past rocky outcroppings at Crowders, a favorite weekend recreational destination for in-the-know Charlotteans. Get your thrill on Bouldering at Buzzard's Roost. Here, rock climbers ply their skills against the massive stones that have been in place for centuries. Hold on tight though, just like at the office, you'll be climbing without a net.