Your Weekend: Don’t procrastinate — get out!

Cliffs of the Neuse flotilla
Cliffs of the Neuse flotilla

By Josh Hancock

GetGoingNC Intern

With only two weeks until the holidays, this is the time when you confirm which of two types of people you are. You are either the person who has their shopping done (or mostly done) and are taking in the holidays season, appreciating it for the special time it is. Or, you’re like me, wondering if even one gift is going to happen — and if it doesn’t, how are you going to spin this year’s story. Both types of people could benefit from this weekend’s highlights.


Isn’t some of what makes the holiday season so magical being forced to take the time to appreciate the ones closest to you, to acknowledge what they mean in your life?

Friday, you can spend some quality time with those loved ones at Cliff of the Neuse State Park’s Annual Christmas Flotilla and Tree Lighting. With the event starting at 5:30 p.m., come and enjoy food and beverages as you watch performances by the Hitmen, the Bullard family, The Mount Olive University collegiate choir, and SJAFB Irish River Dancers. From there, shift your attention to the flotilla on the lake that will start at 7:30 p.m. with an appearance from Santa himself at 8 p.m.

Logistics: Annual Christmas Flotilla and Tree Lightening, Friday, 5:30 p.m., $1 donations accepted for entry; Cliff of the Neuse State Park, Seven Springs. Learn more, here.

Friday forecast: Clear with a late day temperature in the upper 30s.

Looking ahead: Discovery Hike, Dec. 17, 10 a.m., Jones Lake State Park. More info, here.

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Don’t we all love traditions, especially ones that involve friends and good treats to eat. That’s what has landed GetHiking’s 3rd annual holiday hike and baked good jamboree on our radar! (That, and the fact we’re sponsoring it!)

This has become one of our favorites: burn a few calories on the hike, replace them afterward as we socialize and swap trail tales. So get out Grandma’s or favorite cookie/bars/candy recipe and let others enjoy something you would like to share. And we know everyone is busy, so store-bought is just fine. You don’t even need to “disguise” it.

So leave the maddening mall or the whole shopping scene for a couple hours, and hike the Sycamore Trail which is a 7.2-mile lollipop loop (there’s also a four-mile option) and then enjoy fellowship, sweets, and hot chocolate. You will want to bring a mug and dress for the weather (see Saturday forecast, below).

Logistics: GetHiking! Holiday Hike and Baked Goods Jamboree, Sycamore Trail at Umstead State Park, Raleigh. Saturday, 10 a.m., 7.2 miles and 4 miles. More info, here.

Saturday forecast: Bright skies and a high in the low 40s.

Looking ahead: Hike For Your Health, Dec. 13, 9:45 a.m., Umstead State Park, Raleigh. Find out more, here.



Photo courtesy
Photo courtesy

This time of year brings all types of gifts. Saturday, come find an especially special gift at Lake James State Park.

It’s the gift of a dozen different common loons having nested in their wintering spot and their iconic cries echoing across the water. Come aboard the park patrol’s boat in search of these graceful waterbirds and experience the serenity brought on by being on the water.

Logistics: Loons of Lake James Boat Tour, Saturday, 12:45 p.m., Lake James State Park, Nebo. Find out more, here.

Saturday forecast: Sunny, high of 44.

Looking ahead: Hiking Safety, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2 p.m., Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap. Learn more here.

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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below. 

Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.

Coastal Guide
Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of coastal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.

Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.
Comprehensive calendar including programs for the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast.

North Carolina Coast Host
Comprehensive calendar for the entire coast that lets you search for events by day, by region, by county, by city or by event (based on key word).

This Week Magazine
Primary focus is the Crystal Coast (North Carolina’s coastal midsection).


Asheville Citizen-Times
From the main page, click on “Outdoors,” then WNC Outdoors calendar.

Blue Ridge Outdoors
Searchable calendar lets you extend your reach to events throughout the mid-Atlantic and Southeast (or you can just limit it to North Carolina). Also lets you search a boatload of categories, ranging from Hiking, Mountain Biking and Climbing to Trail Running, Triathlon and Road Walking.

The Mountain Times
From the main page, click on “Calendars,” then Main Events.

Todd’s Calendar



Charlotte Observer events calendar
Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including Nature, Recreation, Recreation & Wellness, Running

Charlotte Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Comprehensive calendar includes a Sports & Recreation category.

Piedmont Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including: Birding, Boating, Cycling, Nature, Rec & Wellness, Recreation, Running, Swimming, Tennis, Yoga.

Carolina Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.


Great Outdoor Provision Co. 
Calendar includes three weekly events for each of its seven markets: Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem. Search by market.

Office of Environmental Education
One calendar for the numerous Environmental Education Centers statewide.

North Carolina State Parks
Lets you search for programs at the state’s parks, recreation areas and natural areas by location, by month, by topic. To reach the calendar from the home page, click on “Education,” then “Fun & Free Programs at Parks.”

National Forests in North Carolina
From the home page, click on Carolina Connections for news updates on the state’s four national forests as well as hints on recreational opportunities and a detailed rundown of recreation areas and the amenities at each.

U.S. National Wildlife Refuges
Rundown, by month, of regular activities at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuges in North Carolina.

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