Sitting here thoroughly enjoying these 20-below-average temperatures, as I’m sure many of you are, got me thinking “What in the world are we supposed to do around here when it is THIS COLD?!”
Now, I am a native of Carteret County, but this is the first winter I’ve lived here since I was in high school, so I have found myself struggling a bit with just what to do for entertainment now that our pleasant weather has been so savagely torn away from our loving tender arms. And yes, I feel that poetic and personally victimized by a 39-degree high.
That being said, I took the liberty of digging around to find out just what exactly there is to do around here in the wintertime since lying on the beach would be ill advised and likely result in at least a doctor’s visit if not the amputation of a much-loved digit. Keep reading to see what I found out.
1. Hiking Trails
So, raise your hand if you had no clue there were hiking trails in Carteret County? Neither did I! I would see pictures on social media of people on these alleged hiking trails, but I guess it never really clicked that they were all around our neighborhoods. Though you’ll have to bundle up this time of year, fall and winter are some of the best times to observe nature undisturbed. Please click here to find information on all of the trails in the area – there are around 13 in all and I have picked three to discuss.
According to the website, this trail is moderate-to-difficult and approximately 22 miles long. It is located off Cherry Branch Road which is off Highway 101. It is said to boast fantastic views of both the Neuse and Newport rivers and contain a myriad of wildlife and plant life including the Venus Fly Trap which is native to our area.
Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge:
This trail is also rated easy in some spots but very difficult in others and totals 16 miles in length. This trail is only open during daylight hours (so go early!) and will give you a view of the largest marsh on the eastern seaboard (3480 acres). To get to this one you basically go like you’re getting on the ferry to head to Ocracoke – the Wildlife Refuge area is a bit before you get to the ferry.
This one is located at the NC Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores and is an easy 1.25-mile trail that anyone can enjoy. You can see numerous birds, insects, etc. on this trail as well as pristine views of the dunes and marshes surrounding the property.
2. Museums and Such
If you’re one who loves learning like I am, then hitting up a museum or some kind of exhibit on a frigid afternoon will be right up your alley. Luckily, we have a few right here in our area that house some valuable information on this place we call home.
At the maritime museum you’ll find dozens upon dozens of artifacts from Blackbeard’s ship Queen Anne’s Revenge – no better place to start if you’re interested in learning about the history of Beaufort, it’s ties to piracy and Edward Teach himself than right here. The museum has somewhat recently added a whale skeleton to their display which provides a rare opportunity for one to truly see the size of these creatures with whom we share the seas. You can also learn tons about lighthouses, marine life, ecology and even take a boat building class!
As mentioned in the hiking section, we have a fantastic aquarium in our area. Completely renovated in 2006, this aquarium truly has it all. Perhaps it’s biggest attraction is a tank featuring exact replica of the Queen Anne’s Revenge wreckage complete with sharks and other creatures that are found lurking near the real thing! The aquarium also has dozens of other fish as well as some snakes, frogs, turtles, etc. It is a great place to get out of the cold and take a peaceful stroll through looking at all of the beautiful creatures or a place to take the kids so they can have fun and learn something at the same time.
The History Place boasts a one-of-a-kind research library where anyone who is interested can go through countless volumes of information should they be seeking out historical facts regarding people, places or events in Carteret County. They also have changing exhibits – the current one is entitled “Beach Town in a Forest – Pine Knoll Shores”. Once you’ve finished perusing the shelves of the library and looked through the exhibit, you don’t even have to go outside to get a hot cup of tea (they have tons of options) and a snack – The Infusion Cafe is connected to The History Place and is a unique place to relax for a bit. If you catch them on the right day you may even get to enjoy one of their many themed tea servings!
3. Night Life
Perhaps one of the most-loved ways to escape the cold in the winter is crowding into a bar with your closest friends and letting a drink help warm you up. Carteret County has dozens of fantastic bars, lounges and pubs (far too many to name) so I am just going to list three of my personal favorites.
This is still fairly new to our area but since moving back has quickly become one of my most-frequented spots. The front area facing the street is the pinnacle of coziness (rumor has it they just installed a new bar-style seating area in the front window!) if you want to grab a glass of wine or an appetizer and have a chat with a close friend and actually be able to hear them. You feel right at home surrounded by all the beautiful decorations and the various kinds of wine bottles for sale. The wood floors and shelves create such a warm feeling that you’ll easily forget it’s 25 degrees outside. The back area is fantastic too – much larger and a wonderful place to mingle. I love a place where you can go from one atmosphere to the other without having to leave and Promise Land is the place to find that.
The draw of the Arendell Room for me is part atmosphere, part cocktail. Atmosphere wise, you can step inside and almost forget you’re in Morehead City (in a good way). The narrow layout of the building and the natural brick walls have a very “New York City” feel to them which can be great if you’re truly looking to just escape after a long day.
All the cocktails are handmade – you won’t find store-bought mixers in this place. They change their menu every so often, so you never know when you might find a new favorite drink. If you keep an eye on their social media pages, be on the lookout for one of their tastings where you’ll get to try some things they’re considering putting on the menu and you even get to vote at the end!
This one makes the list because it is without a doubt the most “chill” spot around in my opinion. Backstreet is a place that you can throw on some jeans and a sweatshirt and go get a beer and chill by the fire and just relax. Most of the time they have some awesome live music playing and this time of year the fact that the room upstairs gets hot is fantastic! Crowd in with some friends and jam out to whoever is playing that weekend, I can promise you won’t find a better time!
4. Kid Friendly
Whether you’re local or just visiting, with the option of playing on the beach all day being taken away, the children are probably getting a little antsy. Carteret County does have a few indoor entertainment areas for children and thankfully they’re evenly spread around the area so regardless of where you’re staying there should be something close by.
This is in the same shopping center as Dairy Queen in Morehead City. Escape Rooms basically require that a group use teamwork and reasoning skills to figure out clues, riddles, puzzles etc. to get out of a room. According to their website, there are a few different rooms you can choose from and you’ll also have the opportunity to make some new friends unless you book an entire room for your group. Not only is it exciting for both kids and adults, but it also teaches them teamwork and the value of listening and critical thinking in high-stress situations.
Located in Cape Carteret, Mac Daddy’s offers bowling, arcade games, billiards, food and fun for the whole family. Mac Daddy’s is unique in that it can provide fun for adults and children – the adults could bowl a few rounds and enjoy some beers while the children could have fun playing arcade games – indoor fun for the whole family! Neighboring Mac Daddy’s is the Golfin’ Dolphin – while not all of their attractions are open in the winter time, the batting cages and mini golf are still available for those who are willing to brave the cold or go out on milder days.
This laser tag facility is in Atlantic Station and is open from 11 am – 11 pm most days even through the winter. Keep in mind you must be 12 or older to pay, but this facility offers several different missions and areas for you and your team (or other players) to battle it out. They even have fright nights which are essentially laser tag with a zombie apocalypse twist.
There you have it folks, a somewhat exhaustive list of things you can do instead of staring out the window at the beach and crying about how cold it is. Not to say that you still won’t do that some because I know that I probably will but regardless of the temperatures, we are still lucky to live in an area with tons to offer and our mild weather will come back soon enough, it always does.
Have a great weekend!