Stroll Along the Beach at Cape Hatteras
Summer races by faster than a thrill ride. Don't say good-bye yet. The fun's just getting started. There are still beaches to stroll, mountains to climb, and waters to splash.
Send the season off with a blast. Celebrate the end of summer with a quick getaway to one of these three cool destinations.
The famed lighthouse symbol of the Outer Banks rises over Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina.
Glide Over the Outer Banks
Slip into the harness of a bright red-and-white hang glider, and take a running leap off a North Carolina sand dune. Besides all the attractions of the seashore, many people come to the Outer Banks to fly. The Wright Brothers did it, and so can you.
Visitors solo with the help of a watchful instructor after a couple of hours of lessons. Most fly farther than the 120 feet Orville covered on his first attempt at powered flight. When you come back to Earth, tour the nearby Wright Brothers National Memorial to see replicas of the 1902 Wright Glider and the 1903 Wright Flyer. The memorial buzzes with activities on National Aviation Day, held on Orville's birthday, August 19.
left: Take off in a hang glider, with help from an instructor, atop the lofty North Carolina sand dunes.
Meet The Lost Colony Cast
On the night before Orville's birthday, the state's beloved outdoor drama, The Lost Colony, salutes the birth of Virginia Dare. It's the only time that real infants play the role of the first English child born in America.
Reserve a spot for a behind-the-scenes tour to meet the cast, see props, and view some of the 10,000 costume pieces used in each night's show. Queen Elizabeth's dresses each weigh 52 pounds and cost more than $25,000.
Book a room at the aptly named Tranquil House Inn, and make Manteo your base for visiting attractions such as Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the 16th-century-style formal gardens at The Elizabethan Gardens. Sit outside with tasty shrimp salad for lunch at the Full Moon Café. For dinner, dine on some of the freshest local seafood in the Outer Banks at Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe in Nags Head.
left: A ship reproduction anchors onstage for performances of The Lost Colony
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Attractions: Hang gliding lessons and flights by Kitty Hawk Kites start at $69 (toll-free 1-877-359-8447 or www.kittyhawk.com).
The Wright Brothers National Memorial opens 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily in summer. Admission is $4 adults, free ages 16 and under (  441-7430 or www.nps.gov/wrbr).
Performances of The Lost Colony go on Monday-Saturday nights. (  473-3414 or www.thelostcolony.org).
The Elizabethan Gardens open daily. (  473-3234 or www.elizabethangardens.org).
Lodging: The 14,000 rental homes outnumber the 3,000 hotel rooms on the Outer Banks, but many first-time visitors stay in hotels. Summer rates at The Tranquil House Inn range from $189 to $239 ( 1-800-458-7069 or www.tranquilhouseinn.com).
The Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks/Kitty Hawk is the area's newest chain lodging (toll-free 1-877-629-4586 or www.hilton.com).
For housing rental information, visit Hatteras Realty at www.hatterasrealty.com or Village Realty at www.villagerealtyobx.com.
Chill Out in the Hill Country
You haven't experienced summer in Texas until you float down the emerald-hued Guadalupe River or blast down a twisty slide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort, the world's largest water park. Pumped from the spring-fed Comal River, the water stays a cool 72 degrees all summer long.
Water attractions take center stage in New Braunfels and the neighboring riverside village of Gruene, a half-hour drive north of San Antonio, but there are plenty of other recreational activities. Hone your serve with a lesson at The John Newcombe Tennis Ranch. Cruise to see rhinos, giraffes, and 50 other species of wild critters at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, or step down into the cool air at Natural Bridge Caverns, where you can explore the largest public cave in Texas, with an underground chamber as large as a football field.
left: On summer days, the Guadalupe River turns into the state's biggest floating block party.
Mtn. Laurel Spa
Early in the morning, visitors are busy everywhere you look, golfing, hiking, bicycling, and splashing in the indoor/outdoor pool. By late afternoon, they're splayed out in the Mtn. Laurel Spa, getting rubdowns and facials.
I finish the day with a meal outdoors on the deck at Lightburn's, my favorite restaurant at the resort. I have the signature salad ($9) made with fresh baby greens, pickled baby beets, and candied pecans. The sun paints the golf course and the lake below me in golden light. So long, summer. Can't wait to see you again next year.
Two-step Over to Gruene
Have dinner at the Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar in Gruene. Try the local Polish wedding sausage ($9) and the grilled catfish topped with tequila butter and lime ($12). End the day with a dance next door at Gruene Hall. Colored lights twinkle in the cedar trees outside. Tickets for Robert Earl Keen, Charlie Robison, and other marquee performers cost only $22, and there isn't a bad seat in the house. Not a night owl? Make reservations for the Gospel Brunch on August 13, catered by the Gristmill restaurant.
New Braunfels, Texas
- Attractions: Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort shifts to a weekend-only schedule after August 20. Admission is $33.50 adults, $27.50 ages 3-11 (  625-2351 or www.schlitterbahn.com). For river trips, contact Rockin 'R' River Rides ( 1-800-553-5628 or www.rockinr.com) or the Gruene River Company (  625-2800 or www.gruenerivercompany.com). Natural Bridge Caverns (  651-6101 or www.naturalbridgecaverns.com) and Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch (  438-7400 or www.wildliferanchtexas.com) open daily. Contact Gruene Hall at (830) 606-1281 or www.gruenehall.com.
- Lodging: One-bedroom condos at The John Newcombe Tennis Ranch start at $105 ( 1-800-444-6204 or www.newktennis.com). Families like the cottages at The Other Place Resort. Rates start at $145 (  625-5114 or www.theotherplaceresort.com).
- Contact the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-572-2626 or www.nbjumpin.com.
left: Scale the wall at Natural Bridge Caverns in Texas.
Relax in West Virginia
I spent the morning cruising the waters of Stonewall Jackson Lake on a pontoon boat. Now I'm teeing it up on an Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course that careens like a roller coaster through the mountains of Stonewall Resort, a 90-minute drive from Charleston, West Virginia.
Ferris Bueller couldn't pack more fun in a day than you can enjoy here at the luxurious state resort set in the middle of 2,000-acre Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park. Book a room at the lodge on the lake's shore (request a water view).
left: Practice your swing before you tackle the challenging Arnold Palmer Signature course.
Cruise on the Lake
On the resort grounds, you'll find everything you need for an easy getaway. Rent a spacious pontoon boat from the marina ($130 for 2 hours); then cruise the winding channel of the lake framed by woodlands. Troll along a deep diving plug, and you might land a muskie, one of America's largest freshwater fish.
left: Board a boat for a sunset cruise on scenic Stonewall Jackson Lake.
Roanoke, West Virginia
"Two-Day Escapes" is from the August 2006 issue of Southern Living.