Schools are out, Mother Nature is filling the days with warm sunshine and nights with cooler breezes, gas prices are lower than most recent summers and the urge to hit the road for a little adventure is filling your thoughts to the brim.
According to WalletHub, in 2014, domestic and international travelers collectively spent $644.9 billion on leisure travel. And they’re at it again this year: About 85 percent of Americans — up 13 percent since 2014 — are planning a summer vacation, and nearly 90 percent of them will be on the road.
But where to take that extended road trip is the first challenge to solve.
Rather than hang up a map of the United States and toss a dart, WalletHub has conducted a survey of all 50 states using 20 key metrics — including driving and lodging costs, road conditions and safety, fun and scenic conditions, and weather — to help determine the best destinations. And the worst.
North Carolina fared well in the survey, coming in at No. 9 overall. The Tar Heel state was No. 2 in the Most Scenic Byways category; No. 10 in the Lowest Price for Camping category; No. 11 in the Driving Laws Rating category; No. 12 in the Fun and Scenic Attractions category; No. 13 in the Lowest Price of a Three-Star Hotel category; No. 14 in the Driving and Lodging Costs category; and No. 15 in the Average Gas Prices category.
The state faltered slightly in the Road Conditions and Safety category, finishing at No. 31, but was far better than its neighbor to the south, where South Carolina finished No. 48. Overall, however, the Gamecock state was No. 12. North Carolina was also No. 30 in the Number of Nightlife Options (per 100,000 residents) category.
To the north, Virginia’s roads came in at No. 5, but the Cavalier state was No. 24 overall in the study.
Bladen County can boast of a number of areas that attract travelers for one-day or extended visits from throughout the region and out of state.
Dawn Maynard, executive director for the Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, said there is plenty to do and see in the county.
“I usually tell people to visit the Bay Lakes, Elwell Ferry and Black River (which is known for having tress dating back to Jesus) to name a few of my favorites,” she said.
“I also like to encourage people to inquire about our history dating back to the Revolutionary War and send them for a visit to Harmony Hall,” Maynard added. “Of course, I promote White Lake as the gem of the county by explaining its history as well as the other Bay Lakes. I always mention that White Lake is known as an affordable vacation destination offering various water sports and clear waters for safe swimming.”
Of course, Tory Hole Park ties directly into the county’s history, as does the number of iconic churches around the county — including Trinity Methodist Church in Elizabethtown, Carver’s Creek Methodist Church and Purdie Methodist Church.
And one interesting tidbit about the original Bladen County is the fact that it was divided up into 52 of the state’s 100 counties during the formation of North Carolina, giving credibility to its moniker as the “Mother County.”
— W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.