The Short Version: If you’re tired of the typical dinner-movie routine on a date, you can dive into whitewater rafting or zip-lining at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in the mountains of North Carolina. The headquarters of this 500-acre adventure resort has breathtaking sights all around and is conveniently situated beside the Nantahala River and the Appalachian Trail. The Nantahala Outdoor Center is a leading outfitter for whitewater rafting in the U.S. Its outdoor equipment rentals, safety courses, and family-friendly events open visitors up to new experiences in a safe and gorgeous environment. The resort also has six locations across the Southeast, offering a nature escape near big cities such as Birmingham, Atlanta, Asheville, and Knoxville. Going canoeing, biking, or hiking together can keep you and your date intrigued and engaged as you explore the great outdoors side by side.
At North Carolina’s Nantahala Outdoor Center, a passionate team of nature lovers guide expeditions down the river and up the mountains, and many have found love along the way.
“Most of the stories of budding romance that come to mind are actually NOC employees,” said Steven Foy, General Manager of Outpost Ops at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. “This company seems to be a matchmaker’s paradise when it comes to our employees. I can’t begin to count the number of marriages that started on the banks of our rivers.”
One summer a few years back, the adventure resort saw four consecutive weekends of staff weddings. It seems the fresh air, sunshine, and cool water provides a perfect backdrop to flirtation and romance.
Co-Founders Payson and Aurelia Kennedy and Horace Holden Sr. recognized the Nantahala River’s potential when they took over the Tote ‘N’ Tarry Motel in 1972 and turned it into a premier outdoor destination for adventure seekers.
Today the resort has grown into one of the largest outdoor adventure providers in the US with more than 120 river- and land-based activities for people of all skill levels. You and your date can learn to kayak at NOC’s world-renowned Paddling School or go mountain biking down the Flint Ridge Trails to test your relationship on new terrain.
“I’d say that booking a day or two of kayak instruction would be the ultimate way to jump into the deep end together,” Steven said. “There’s just something special about going on an adventure with someone, especially a guided trip.”
Jan Wojasinski, Marketing Director, agreed, adding, “Anyone can go to a movie or go out to a bar. Taking the time to get out of your comfort zone and experience something new and exciting is a great way to take a relationship to the next level. The NOC guides are there to make sure you have a great time on the water and in the trees.”
Romantic Recreation on the Water & in the Mountains
People have been enjoying afternoons in nature in this remote spot for hundreds of years. “Nantahala” is Cherokee for “Land of Noonday Sun,” and the area is known for its stunning mountain views. Surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest, the Nantahala Outdoor Center showcases the best that this destination has to offer from whitewater rafting to mountain biking.
Each year, over 1 million guests come to the NOC and build lasting memories. If you want a unique date, you can’t beat the panoramic views at the top of a zip line or the heart-pumping adrenaline paddling down the river. Whether you’re looking for a day trip or for somewhere to escape to for a weeklong stay, this resort provides an excellent base camp for all your adventures.
You’re in for a treat when you sign up for whitewater rafting at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. The NOC employs some of the finest whitewater guides in the world and has produced 22 Olympians, including two gold medalists.
A dedicated and outdoorsy team help you have a good time while you’re exploring the wilderness. “We pride ourselves on having exceptional guides,” Jan said. “They are truly leaders in their industry.”
Couples can stay in deluxe cabins, motel rooms, bunkhouses, or tents in any of NOC’s six locations across the Southeast. The rustic lodging options suit a wide range of budgets, and NOC headquarters along the Nantahala River give couples an ideal space for a romantic getaway.
Note if you’re planning to propose on the water, the NOC recommends using a ring from a Cracker Jack box until safely on dry land again. Better safe than sorry!
Speaking of safety, you might want to sign up for the Solo Wilderness Medicine program to learn some survival skills. This course ensures guests take the proper precautions while participating in fast-paced and high-intensity outdoor activities. “We want our guests to be as safe as they can be on the water or in the trees,” Jan told us.
“On our raft trips, the guide can take care of the hard work and help push the conversation along while you paddle your way down the river,” Steven noted. “The memories that are created during our adventures last a lifetime.”
Adventure Pass: All-Day Access to Everything the NOC Has to Offer
With an array of scalable offerings at affordable prices, the Nantahala Outdoor Center encourages people to spend time in nature. Its newly released Adventure Pass offers visitors a phenomenal deal on a one-day outing. This pass gives you all-day access to NOC’s rental equipment and outdoor activities for one low price.
With the Adventure Pass, you can come to the resort when it opens at 8:30 a.m. and take advantage of its services until closing time.
The pass offers visitors a great opportunity to go whitewater rafting, mountain biking, Stand-Up Padding, and zip-lining — all in one day. Available from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Adventure Pass includes everything you need to enjoy a memorable outdoor excursion with someone special.
“The Adventure Pass shifts the mentality of how people spend their time at the NOC,” Jan said. “You can come and hang out all day with us, have unlimited access to our rentals, and explore the different aspects of being outside in the mountains at a really low price.”
Events Take Your Experience to the Next Level During Peak Season
On average, the Nantahala Outdoor Center hosts more than 300 annual events that range from music festivals to tough mudder courses. Most of their events occur between April and October when the weather is ideal and visitors crowd the riverbanks.
“We plan flexible events and adapt to what our customers want and need,” Jan said. “We’re located in an exceptionally beautiful spot so it’s a great opportunity for exploring the area and getting a taste for what the outdoors have to offer.”
Not all of the events involve working up a sweat; spectators often come to watch outdoor pros on the water or on the trail. If you visit the NOC on a Saturday over the summer, you’ll hear live music playing as people take in the scenery and gear up for an adventure.
At the NOC Trail Festival, a team of outdoor experts offers free gear repair, hiking-themed movies, and a bonfire to top off the evening. The center is also a great place for runners to participate in a family-friendly marathon or relay race. You can learn more about NOC’s upcoming events here. These gatherings welcome visitors of all ages and foster a lively atmosphere out of doors.
NOC’s largest event comes at the end of its peak season to thank everyone for an awesome summer. The Guest Appreciation Festival (GAF) is the resort’s last hurrah. The center’s retail store sells discounted gear and equipment while other vendors set up family-friendly games, crafts, and activities. You can challenge your date to a game of giant Jenga or jump for joy together in a bounce house as the resort says goodbye to summer fun in spectacular fashion.
“These friendly events are a great vector for exploration and for getting out of the norm,” Jan told us. “It’s a great way to get people into an unfamiliar environment — you learn a lot about your relationship and you have a lot of fun.”
The Nantahala Outdoor Center: A Leader In Outdoor Adventure
When your daily routine is sapping the romance from your life, you can plan a romantic getaway with your date by booking a trip to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Surrounded by mountains, trees, and freshwater rivers, daters (and staff) find many flirtatious activities to arouse the senses here.
“A couple could come out and stay in our cabins, go whitewater rafting, go zip-lining, enjoy one of our two on-site restaurants or enjoy the rich culture of the Bryson City area,” said Jan, “and really get the best of both worlds.”
At the NOC, you can unplug and unwind in a relaxing setting by the breathtaking Nantahala River. This environment encourages outdoorsy folks to share their passion for thrilling adventure on the water, through the trails, and in the mountains. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never set foot in a kayak before — the resort’s skilled guides can help you stay afloat and have a fun day in the sun.
Steven added, “Whether it’s a rafting trip, a zip line trip or getting on a mountain bike or SUP board, the activities really lay a great platform for spending quality time together.”