Trade Your Vacation for a Staycation

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By Madeline Taylor

While no one wants to jinx their vacation plans in 2021 by mentioning taboo words like “pandemic,” “canceled” or “quarantine,” it is a reality that many people will opt for a staycation instead of full-fledged traveling. Thankfully, there is plenty to do in and around the area to satiate the wanderlust that inevitably kicked in months ago. Discover these local opportunities for adventure, dining and entertainment that will make everyone feel like they’ve finally gotten over their cabin fever.

If you are dreaming of afternoon rituals across the pond …

Dress up and take tea like the British at three local establishments. Step into the world of high society at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, which offers a traditional tea where guests can enjoy finger sandwiches, sweets and scones surrounded by the accoutrements of fine dining. Elevate your teatime by upgrading to the Tea Royale served with a glass of Champagne, mimosa or Kir Royale. In Chapel Hill, The Carolina Inn provides a traditional menu with a twist served in its Piedmont Dining Room. Southern ingredients make the sweet and savory treats, and homemade scones with jam, lemon curd and clotted cream feel closer to home. The Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro blends influences in its afternoon tea, combining British fare with French- and Southern-inspired treats. Kids can also enjoy a fancy afternoon out, as the restaurant has an option for them as well. For those looking to observe the time-honored ritual at home, Takeout for Two afternoon tea is available on Saturdays with a new menu every week. Masks and reservations are required at all three.

Staycation: Afternoon tea at Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club

If you haven’t yet rescheduled your hiking trip out west …

Get outside, but up the ante with more extreme or unconventional adventures found in and around the area. Xtreme Park Adventures in Durham sends explorers across 3,000 feet through the canopies at 35 mph, and there’s a 60- foot free fall at the end. The 11 zip lines are just a few of the activities on the park’s campus – laser tag, paintball, gem mining, escape rooms and a high ropes course can keep you entertained any day of the week. Zip lining is available for kids as young as 3, and reservations are required. The Professional Disc Golf Association has a course at the UNC Outdoor Education Center that is open to the public. It features long fairways, water hazards and elevation changes, as the course was converted from an old golf course. If you’re more at home on the water, link up with Frog Hollow Outdoors, a Durham-based adventure company that offers both self-guided and guided tours, skills instruction and clinics for kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboard. Or take the bald eagle tour on Jordan Lake that launches from Farrington Point Boat Ramp in search of the national bird. Jordan Lake is one of the largest summertime nesting sites for bald eagles in the southeastern U.S., so paddlers can sometimes glimpse one in late March, April, May and June.

staycation ideas – frog hollow outdoors
Photo by Kristin Prelipp, KPO Photo

If you couldn’t get a ticket to watch the Masters in Augusta …

Book tee time at any of these local courses that each offer a unique golfing experience. Head out for a round of golf before or after your tea at Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, or visit Hillandale Golf Course, the oldest course in Durham, which was revamped in the ’60s by famous golf course designer George Cobb. The Occoneechee Golf Club in Hillsborough not only has 18 challenging holes, but also supplies a helpful tip for each hole on its website. The Occoneechee Women’s League has a weekly meetup for players of all levels. Finally, The Preserve at Jordan Lake, a Davis Love III signature course, hosts a pro-am tournament that encourages a day of competitive play on April 10 before a watch party for the Masters.

Staycation: Golf
Photo by Dick Cicone

If you canceled your 2020 trip to Disneyland …

Break out of your routine and take advantage of family-friendly activities to keep the kids busy while also learning something new. The Museum of Life and Science in Durham employs a reservation-only, timed entry system alongside a new check-in process to keep crowds at a minimum. While not every exhibit is open, more than 15 attractions are still available for both kids and parents to enjoy, including the Magic Wings Butterfly House, Dinosaur Trail and the Aerospace/Launch Lab. Kidzu Children’s Museum reopened in November 2020 with increased safety protocols, including members-only mornings with staggered check-in times and limited capacity. Kidzu advanced to a new phase of reopening in February, so nonmembers can get in on the in-person play. Farther south, M&M Alpaca Farm allows reservations for tour groups of no more than six people with sanitizing or hand washing required at certain points. Guests can explore the farm and meet the show-winning alpacas. A tour guide will explain how to raise and care for these animals, and guests have the opportunity to feed and pet them. Masks are required for all experiences.

Staycation: Museum of Life and Science
Photo courtesy of Museum of Life and Science

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