15 Best Places To Visit In North Carolina (+ Unique Vacation Spots)
If you’re looking for the best places to visit in North Carolina, you’ve come to the right place! North Carolina is a beautiful state with a fantastic variety in its landscape. Starting in the western part of the Tarheel State, you will have many opportunities to chase waterfalls, hike, and see breathtaking views. Meanwhile, there are fun cities, hiking, wineries, and more in central North Carolina. Then as you move to the coast, you will find saltwater marshes, The Graveyard of The Atlantic, and a rich history complete with pirate treasure!
With the beautiful variety in the state, you will be sure to find unique, beautiful, and exciting places to visit. No matter your travel style, you will find a city, site, or activity that will make for a unique and memorable vacation. While you’re in North Carolina, you should take the opportunity to try some of the food in the area. In towns across the state, you can find yummy foods like pimento cheese, seafood, fried green tomatoes, barbecue, and more!
As you plan your trip to North Carolina, you will find that there is such an abundance of beautiful towns and sites to choose from, it can be hard to decide what to see first. This list of places to visit in North Carolina will help you determine what sites in the state are must-visits for you. So, get your bathing suits and hiking boots, and get ready to explore the beautiful state of North Carolina!
15 Best Places To Visit In North Carolina
When looking for places to visit in North Carolina, you won’t want to miss Little Switzerland! Little Switzerland is an unincorporated community in both the McDowell and Mitchell counties, just an hour northeast of Asheville, NC. You could easily spend a few hours here enjoying the views and the atmosphere of the area.
Little Switzerland is truly one of the best Mountain Towns In North Carolina!
Make sure you take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Little Switzerland so you can drive through the Little Switzerland Tunnel. Located at milepost 333.1 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the tunnel is one of the most incredible things to do in the area. Keep in mind that if you follow directions to Little Switzerland that have you coming in on a road that isn’t the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will end up driving over the tunnel instead of through it.
There’s a lot to do in the area, including hiking, shopping, and eating delicious food! The Switzerland Inn Chalet Restaurant has a beautiful stone terrace where you can eat outside and take in the surrounding views. After you eat, you can grab sweets from The Swiss Shoppe. Here, you can try ice creams, candies, and fudge, and more. This is an excellent opportunity to buy a souvenir to take back home. (The Little Switzerland General Store is another great option!) There is also a church, museum, and the famous road known as the Dragons Backbone nearby.
Boone is one of the most beautiful places in North Carolina and is easily one of the best places to visit in North Carolina as well. Boone, North Carolina, is known for its beauty and outdoor adventures. The town is an excellent place for winter sports during the winter months. Appalachian Ski Mountain is the perfect place to be for winter sports enthusiasts and beginners alike. Of course, visiting for the views and atmosphere is just as great!
Just a few minutes outside of Boone, you will find the Grandfather Vineyard & Winery. Get a taste of the local delicacies while enjoying the spectacular views! From the mountain overhead to the river that flows alongside the vineyard, this winery and vineyard is the perfect place to be to enjoy the beauty of the town of Boone.
Arguably the most popular thing to do in Boone is to visit Grandfather Mountain. The mountain stands at 5,945 feet and has eleven trails for you to explore the area from. Black bears, otters, cougars, eagles, and more can be seen around Grandfather Mountain. Of course, you can’t miss the Mile High Swinging Bridge. The bridge will give you 360-degree views of the area. The path to and through the bridge is wheelchair accessible, and the bridge itself is 228 feet long. You will love this North Carolina vacation spot!
Where to stay: Alpine Log Cabin
Rough Ridge Overlook
There are tons of natural wonders to see and experience in North Carolina. The natural beauty of the state is hard to beat! The Rough Ridge overlook is a perfect addition to any North Carolina road trip when deciding on places to go in North Carolina. Rough Ridge is a stunning natural feature in the Blue Ridge Mountains that has been an inspiration and a spot of solace for millions of people each and every year.
There are three viewpoints along the Rough Ridge Trail, each offering a different view of this popular Ridge. The Rough Ridge Trail is actually a part of the Tanawha Trail, which is 13.5 miles in total. However, the Rough Ridge trail is just a 0.8-mile stint of the Tanawha Trail. This is a great trail for those who aren’t interested in hiking long distances, as you can hike less than a mile and still take in some of the most awe-inspiring views in the state.
With that being said, you do not have to walk the full 0.8 miles of the trail to get to see the views of the Ridge. If you don’t want to walk the full length of the trail, that’s no problem at all! The first viewpoint on the trail is actually the most popular, and it is very easy to get to, even for inexperienced hikers, making it one of the best places to visit in North Carolina! The first Rough Ridge overlook has a series of wooden boardwalks built along the mountain, and they act as viewing platforms for the overlook. You will see for miles, catch a glimpse of the viaduct and the Blue Ridge Parkway that is built into the mountainsides.
Catawba Falls is a beautiful waterfall is around 25 miles east of Asheville, North Carolina, near Old Fort. This waterfall in the Pisgah National Forest is just three miles off of I-40. You can reach the falls via a 1.5-mile hiking trail. This trail is ranked moderate and is great for kids, dogs, and hikers of various experience levels, making it one of the best places to visit in North Carolina!
The Catawba Falls Trail takes you through a relaxing and serene wooded area where you will make several small water crossings and see several smaller waterfalls before reaching Catawba Falls. The waterfall is 100 feet tall, has multiple tiers, and is surrounded by large rocks and a moss-covered cliff. The area around the waterfall and the waterfall itself are both stunning and make for a perfect place to enjoy nature, with the sounds of the waterfall helping you to feel relaxed and renewed.
For adventurers and experienced hikers, you may want to belong gate your hike past Catawba Falls and take the strenuous hike to the beautiful Upper Falls. Upper Falls is 50 feet tall, and the hike, although strenuous, is only half a mile long. Whether you choose to only go to Catawba Falls or if you take it a step further and visit Upper Falls, you will be sure to have an amazing time exploring the beautiful North Carolina woods.
Where To Stay: Jarret Creek Cottage
The city of Charlotte is one of the coolest places to see in North Carolina! There is so much to see and do that all types of travelers will be satisfied. Art-lovers, history buffs, foodies, and nature enthusiasts can all find the activities in Charlotte that they will be excited about. During the summer months, a visit to Carowinds may be right up your alley! Carowinds has all sorts of roller coasters and other rides for adrenaline junkies, and a waterpark as well.
For those who like to check out museums when traveling, Charlotte has plenty for you to choose from! The Nascar Hall of Fame, Mint Museum Uptown, and the Levine Museum of the New South are all great options. Another exciting thing to do in Charlotte, North Carolina is the Whitewater Center where you can go rafting and kayaking along with other activities out of the water. There are many popular activities including ziplines and ropes courses, outdoor yoga, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and more!
Charlotte is one of the best places to visit in North Carolina for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is the food. Southern delicacies like fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, fried chicken, and seafood can all be found in Charlotte. Good Food On Montford, Sea Level NC, Haymaker, and Brick Top’s are all restaurants where you can get a taste of some North Carolina goodness.
If you are a nature lover, there are many places in North Carolina that will pique your interest, one of the best of those is Chimney Rock State Park. The state park is located twenty-five miles southeast of Asheville. Chimney Rock is an outdoor enthusiast paradise. The rock is one of the most iconic sites in the state. It stands at more than a thousand feet high and draws in around a whopping 17 million each year.
For hiking, you have a choice of ten hiking trails in the park. For those traveling with kids and for non-experienced hikers, you will be happy to know that you can find several trails in the park that are less than one mile. These shorter trails still offer views and serenity in the park despite their short length.
For those who love to hike, the Weed Patch Mountain Trail is the longest trail in the park and is a great way to explore the remote wilderness of the park. The trail is 8.5 miles long and will take you over rough and rugged mountain terrain and you may find yourself sharing the trail with rock climbers and mountain bikers. These activities along with fishing are all possible in the park as well. There’s also a concession stand and a restaurant in the park that is open year-round near the front gate of the park.
Drive The Blue Ridge Parkway
A drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a must-add to any North Carolina road trip bucket list! The Blue Ridge Parkway starts in Northern Virginia, just south of the Shenandoah Valley and it crosses through 29 counties in both Virginia and North Carolina. The parkway runs for 469 miles and showcases one of the most beautiful areas of the United States.
You could easily spend days exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway and the surrounding areas. The ideal time to drive the parkway is either the summer or fall months. Fall foliage along the Blue Ridge Parkway is legendary. The fall colors typically pop sometime in October and millions of visitors come from around the world to see their splendor.
There are many popular stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway. You will find Mount Mitchell at milepost 355.4. Mount Mitchell is at 6,684 feet and is the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a great stop along the parkway where you can get incredible 360-degree views from the observation deck. Some other great options for your drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway include Craggy Gardens at milepost 364.1, the Folk Art Center at milepost 382, and Sliding Rock at milepost 411.8. The Blue Ridge Parkway is by far one of the best places to visit in North Carolina!
When looking for North Carolina vacation spots it’s only natural that beach towns come to your mind. Nags Head is one of the best beaches in the Outer Banks and one of the most pristine beaches in the South. The Outer Banks are a beautiful part of the state of North Carolina that has a vast and interesting history as it pertains to the state and the country as a whole.
Nags Head is beautiful and had many exciting things to do. One of the most iconic and exciting things to do is to visit the Bodie Island Lighthouse. At this lighthouse, there is a long wooden boardwalk and viewing deck where you can get truly awe-inspiring views over the marshlands and the lighthouse which are particularly wonderful at sunset. Don’t forget to check out some of the best things to do in Nags Head.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head is another must-see in town. The state park is home to the largest living sand dune along the east coast of the United States. The park is free and is perfect for travelers of all ages. The park is perfect for hang gliding, flying kites, hiking, or watching the sunrise or sunset. If you have never hang glided before, no worries! You can take lessons and try your hand at it yourself with help from experienced hang gliders. Nags Head is a fun and beautiful town along the east coast and is one of the best places to visit in North Carolina!
Where To Stay: Oasis Suites Hotel
Visit The Biltmore
The Biltmore Estate is a private home located in Asheville, North Carolina. The home was built in the late 1800s. The home is massive and has 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 unique fireplaces. Given the size of this estate, you could spend hours at the estate exploring the rooms and grounds. The estate is quite iconic in the state of North Carolina and has found its way onto many North Carolina Bucket Lists as it’s one of many cool places to visit in North Carolina.
At the estate, you can take an audio tour of the house which is included in your ticket price. (The audio tour lasts for 40 minutes.) You can also explore the gardens around the home. The estate has an Italian Garden, an Herbal Garden, and a Walled Garden. The most popular of the three is the Walled Garden as it has something blooming year-round, depending on the season.
One of the coolest things about the Biltmore is that has a Christmas Store that is open all year long. It’s there that you can find turn-of-the-century style decorations and ornaments. This is a great place to get souvenirs while in North Carolina. The Biltmore Estate also has a well-loved conservatory. It’s a large greenhouse building that is warm year-round, making it a favorite place to visit during the winter months. The conservatory is full of exotic plants and has great views of the terrace Butterfly Garden and the Walled Garden. These are just a few of the exciting things to do at Biltmore that all add up to making the estate one of the best places to visit in North Carolina.
Blowing Rock is one of the cutest small towns in North Carolina and one of the best places to visit in North Carolina as well. Blowing Rock has amazing shopping in the historic downtown. Walking around and shopping at the shops is a lot of fun when in town. There are jewelry shops, antique shops, galleries, and more for you to check out while you’re there. You may also want to check out the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum while you’re there as well as it is a super informative museum that teaches about local culture and traditions in the area. Plus, it’s free!
You will find many beautiful churches in town that play an important role in the history of the area. They are great places to take pictures and learn a little about the history of the town. During non-service hours you can usually take a step inside the buildings to see the beautiful interiors. If you find yourself running on fumes, head to Bald Guy Brew for an eco-friendly and socially responsible cup of Joe!
Make sure to check out our list of the best Breweries In North Carolina to find some of your favorite local craft beer.
The Linn Cove Viaduct near Blowing Rock is a huge attraction in the area. It’s situated on the face of Grandfather Mountain. It’s a beautiful feature that is built into the mountain and is a popular place for photographers. Last, but not least, you may want to also check out the Tweetsie Railroad. (especially if traveling with kids) The Tweetsie Railroad has amusement rides, entertainment, and two historic trains. You can ride the trains during regular park hours or during special events. There are holiday events each year that add extra fun to a visit to Tweetsie.
Carolina Beach is a coastal town along the central portion of the North Carolina coast. The town is a popular vacation spot for those living in central North Carolina and people from visiting out of state as well. The town is known for its boardwalk. The Carolina Beach Boardwalk has restaurants, amusement rides, and more fun waiting for its visitors. If you are traveling with kids, a short drive to the Aquarium and Fort Fisher is a great option to add to your itinerary.
Fort Fisher State Historic Site is a site near Carolina Beach that has indoor exhibits and the remains of an old Civil War fort. For history lovers, this is one of the best places to visit near Carolina Beach. If you are looking for a place to hike in the area, picnic, or maybe just have a piece of sandy beach to yourself, then Carolina Beach State Park is the place to be! You can find small beach accesses near trails and picnic areas within the park that make for a great way to get away from any crowds that might be in the area during the summer months. Carolina Beach is one of the best places to visit in North Carolina!
Where To Stay: Carolina Beach Inn
Asheville is easily one of the best vacation spots in North Carolina! This town in N.C. has a plethora of sites, trails, and attractions to keep every type of traveler happy during their stay. Asheville is known for many things. One of those is its art scene. That art scene is so vibrant and healthy that it is overflowing onto the streets of Asheville, make sure to check out the street art during your visit.
For outdoor lovers, you will find many hiking trails in and around Asheville. The easy to moderate Craggy Pinnacle Trail is one of the most popular ones trail around Asheville. The trail typically takes about 20 minutes to hike and offers hikers 360-degree views of the valley below. There are also many waterfalls in Asheville that nature lovers will love.
There’s also an amazing food scene in Asheville. Restaurants in Asheville are plentiful and they serve a variety of palates. You can find international cuisine, fine dining, and local-focused menus in town. There are also plenty of breweries in Asheville to visit as well, like the Bhramari Brewing Co. You may also be interested in checking out some of the coffee shops in town, like the Liberty Cafe. You’re sure to fall in love with Asheville, as it is one of the best places to visit in North Carolina!
If you ask around about where to visit in North Carolina, you will definitely hear people recommending the beautiful waterfalls in the Tar Heel State! Of all the waterfalls you have to choose from, Crabtree Falls should be a top contender! Crabtree Falls is simply one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in North Carolina! Thanks to the cool mist that comes from the waterfall, the surrounding area is full of thriving greenery, including moss, ferns, and wildflowers galore. This makes for spectacular mystic vibes at the base of the waterfall!
There are two ways for you to get to Crabtree Falls. You can take a 3-mile out and back trail that has a steady slope you will need to ascend on your return from the waterfall. Your second option is to take the more strenuous 3.5-mile loop trail that climbs rocky terrain up a steep ridge over the falls. Both will allow you to experience this fantastic North Carolina waterfall!
Climb Clingmans Dome
When looking for North Carolina attractions, take a look at the North Carolina and Tennessee border. At the border, you will find the Clingmans Dome. At 6,643 feet, Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The observation tower at the top is a highlight of any trip to this mountain range. From the parking lot, you will walk up a very steep half-mile trail before you reach the observation tower. With how steep this trail is, you will want to make sure you leave enough time for breaks on the way up to the tower.
The observation tower provides jaw-dropping, 360-degree views of the mountains. On a clear day, you can see for a hundred miles and into all seven states of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. Clingman’s Dome is one of the best things to do in the Smoky Mountains and also one of the best places to visit in North Carolina as a whole. Make sure not to miss this cool North Carolina attraction!
Where To Stay: Stonebrook Lodge
Raleigh is easily one of the best places in North Carolina to visit! Raleigh is a lively city that is full of history, delicious food, and other fun things to do! Due to the central location and cool attractions, the city welcomes millions of visitors every year. Whether you are a foodie, history buff, or love outdoor activities when traveling, you will find tons of cool things to do in Raleigh!
There are many cool museums in Raleigh, many of them free. First, you want to make sure you don’t pass up the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The museum is the largest natural history museum in the southeast. It spans more than two city blocks and has four levels of interactive exhibits to entertain people of all ages.
The North Carolina Museum of History shouldn’t be overlooked either. The museum is next door to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the capitol building, making it a great place to visit if you are walking around downtown Raleigh. Other fun things to do in Raleigh include visiting the Raleigh Farmer’s Market, Pullen Park where family travelers can have fun at the 5th oldest amusement park in the country, and the Raleigh Brewing Company where you can enjoy food trucks and local brews.
North Carolina is a wonderfully diverse state with loads of memorable activities to participate in and beautiful sites to see. Without a doubt, the state caters to all types of travelers. From coastal wetlands and pirate history to mountain views and bustling cities, get ready for your exciting and memorable trip to North Carolina! Which of these best places to visit in North Carolina will you visit first?
25 Best Places to Visit in North Carolina
Let the seasons guide your vacation in North Carolina. Spring is an appealing time to hike the Appalachian Trail or bike at Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park. North Carolina’s coast boasts more than 300 miles of barrier island beaches, romantic lighthouses, idyllic small towns, and national seashores. Fall lures travelers to the spectacular colors along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Cities like Raleigh, Durham, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte are some of the best places to go in North Carolina for city explorers.
We recommend that you call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.
Must-see attractions in Asheville include the Western North Carolina Nature Center, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial and the beautiful 434-acre North Carolina Arboretum. The surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains provide many outdoor adventures for the active traveler. Biltmore Estate, built by George Vanderbilt in 1895 as a retreat after he acquired the land, is another great place to visit. Vanderbilt loved the mountains of North Carolina, and this prompted family friend Frederick Law Olmsted to create a landscaped masterpiece – from naturalist forest to formal gardens. Things to Do in Asheville
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2. Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, home of UNC-Chapel Hill, is a hip town that is rapidly becoming a top destination for American culinary delights. The town itself is full of sounds, sights, and tastes, and is home to musicians, authors, and artists. Franklin Street, named after Benjamin Franklin, is the focus of downtown life. Here, visitors will leisurely come upon coffee shops, restaurants, bookshops, museums, bars, and music stores. Chapel Hill was originally created to serve the University, for when the UNC Board of Trustees selected the area in 1793 around New Hope Chapel for its first State University, they gave a committee the goal of creating a town adjacent to the site. Things to Do in Chapel Hill
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3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the country’s most visited National Park and one of the best places to visit in North Carolina. It is renowned the world over for its variety of animal and plant life, its stunning ancient mountains, and visible remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. In Cades Cove, visitors will partake in viewing wildlife, seeing gorgeous mountain scenery, and exploring historic homes and churches. There are wildflowers galore – from early hepaticas in late winter to the asters in late fall.
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Raleigh is a beautiful city, filled with unique attractions, green parks and a diverse choice of things to see and do. Spend a day at the North Carolina Museum of Art which houses over 40 galleries, an outdoor amphitheater, and a 164-acre park. Visit the largest natural history museum in the Southeast, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences where you can learn through an amazing array of fun exhibits. Other must-see attractions include the North Carolina Museum of History, the Joel Lane Museum House and the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University. Things to Do in Raleigh
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Boone’s thriving community is surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Named after Daniel Boone, the American pioneer, Boone is true to its roots in adventure. Seek out the past at Tweetsie Railroad, travel to Grandfather Mountain to cross the Mile High Swinging Bridge, or enjoy some 200 miles of unique mountain bike trails through Pisgah National Forest. Boone also offers more than adventures for the outdoor-minded. From theatre to shopping to sports at Appalachian State University, visitors will find unforgettable experiences no matter what their preference. Steeped in the Blue Ridge Mountains area, Boone is the ideal destination for weekend getaways and lengthier vacations. Things to Do in Boone
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Charlotte is a great city to visit on a romantic getaway or a family vacation. Visitors have a choice of diverse restaurants, cafes, music venues, theaters and fun tours perfect for getting to know this unique city. Charlotte is home to the Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary, the Carolinas Aviation Museum, Discovery Place and the Charlotte Museum of History. The Mint Museum, North Carolina’s oldest art museum, houses an impressive art collection and is a must-see for art lovers. Things to Do in Charlotte
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7. Elizabeth City
Whether visitors seek a weekend getaway or a stop on an extended tour of North Carolina, Elizabeth City is ideal. Its six historic districts bring to mind the time of Blackbeard, when trains were still a prominent form of travel, and the Wright brothers stopped for goods as they were passing through. Situated on the Pasquotank River, the city was incorporated in 1793. Its current “Harbor of Hospitality” is an inviting waterfront location with everything a tourist could want. A comprehensive list of galleries, theatre performances, and museums can all be found on the community’s website.
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8. Blue Ridge Parkway
The uniqueness of the Blue Ridge Parkway is evident, offering a slow-paced drive revealing gorgeous vistas and up-close views of the Appalachian Highlands. This special road is one of the top places to visit in NC and winds for 469 miles, protecting animals and plants, and special attractions. On the website, visitors can find basic information about weather, operating hours, road status, reservations, and permits. Learn about the nature you will encounter on the drive and plan to join rangers for tidbits about the history and nature along the Parkway. There are more than 300 miles of trails along the Parkway, plus popular destinations. There are also concerts and music to be enjoyed along the journey.
If you have just two days in Greenville, here is the perfect itinerary. Begin Day One with a walk or run, and then sit down to a sumptuous breakfast at The Scullery, Courtside Café, or another eatery. Immerse yourself in some beautiful artwork at the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge, Greenville Museum of Art, Art Avenue, ECU’s Wellington B. Gray Gallery, City Art Gallery, or the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center. Browse the Uptown Greenville District’s antique stores and shops, locate the latest fashions at the Lynndale Shoppes and Arlington Village, and satisfy your urge for handmade products at Artisans. On Day Two, let your appetite lead the way by following the North Carolina Barbecue Trail. Things to Do in Greenville
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Davidson is a small college town – home to Davidson College – committed to providing residents with a high quality of life. The town is pedestrian and bicycle-friendly. Its walking trails and greenways connect neighborhoods, giving residents alternate ways to buzz around town and access nature. In fact, the town believes heartily in open space, and in the last decade, Davidson has acquired almost 600 acres of preserved land. There’s a thriving business district, a range of community events, and a historic downtown. In 2013, the town won the “Great Main Street” Award from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association.
11. Cape Hatteras National Seashore
At the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, visitors will find that the landscape has been shaped by wind, water, and storms, and the islands are constantly changing. Visitors may kayak the sound, enjoy the beach or climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to see the area’s significant highlights. Each summer, birds and sea turtles find local beaches, and off-road vehicle use is most definitely allowed in certain areas. There are four campgrounds located across Cape Hatteras National Seashore which offer a unique experience of the barrier islands.
12. Cape Lookout National Seashore
A boat ride just off-shore brings visitors to the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Consult the ferry schedule, which is available on the website, and get ready for horse watching, fishing, shelling, birding, lighthouse climbing, camping, and touring historic villages. First, visitors may want to climb the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Then there’s nighttime at the cape, where visitors are encouraged to bring their flashlights to experience the Cape Lookout Lighthouse and its beaches as the lighthouse keepers once did. Visitors may want to join a Park Ranger to see into the world of the wild horses of Shackleford Banks. There are even beach cabins to rent.
Winston-Salem is called the ‘City of Arts and Innovation’ because residents have a history of creating. The city’s lively nightlife makes it a nationally ranked downtown full of wonderful music venues, bars and restaurants. The city’s gardens present visitors with beauty in all directions, as they capture the history of the area. One can trace the roots of the region through the gardens. One key attraction is the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, and don’t forget that some of the most well-preserved colonial heritage sites in the nation are found here. Things to Do in Winston-Salem
14. New Bern
The city of New Bern waits to welcome visitors to Craven County, North Carolina. Those who seek the sun and history will find a refreshing respite here. Two rivers meet in New Bern, where guests will find Tryon Palace, homes laden with history, stunning gardens, shops, outstanding restaurants, and entertainment. Just south, visitors will enjoy the 157,000-acre Croatan National Forest, known for its trails and numerous outdoor opportunities. Among the best reasons to visit New Bern are The North Carolina History Center and the downtown area, which is the birthplace of Pepsi.
15. North Carolina attractions: High Point
High Point offers a variety of outstanding activities for every type of visitor. Experience everything from outdoor excitement and scenic trails to seeing sculptures and art galleries. The High Point Museum is where guests can see first-hand the individual stories of those who worked, lived, and worshiped in this area of North Carolina. Known widely for its haunted “appeal,” Kersey Valley Attractions also hosts outdoor laser tag, a zipline tour, and Kersey Valley High Ropes throughout the year. Individual ticket prices vary depending on the attraction, and reservations are required for laser tag, High Ropes, and the zipline.
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“Visit North Carolina” recently released visitor numbers and Hickory Metro and Catawba County saw an increase in all areas, which is a testament to how well the area is doing. Among the reasons for this are its attractions. For one, the Hickory Metro Convention Center is one of the newest convention centers near Charlotte, and home to events such as the Sports & NASCAR Show, the Pottery & Antiques Festival, and the Carolina Home & Garden Show. Another attraction, The Harper House/Hickory History Center, was built in 1887 by Daniel Webster and possesses Queen Anne Interior styling that is second to none in the state. Next read: 10 Most Beautiful North Carolina Lighthouses
17. Outer Banks
The Outer Banks is made up of 130 miles of barrier islands, dotted with fishing villages and quaint towns. Despite hosting visitors by the millions, each town maintains its individual character. Outdoor experiences are amazing throughout the Outer Banks and there are definitely attractions for each style of adventurer. To a certain degree, each has water, wind, and sand to its credit. These elements form the landscape and the culture. There are air, land, and sea experiences – including being a top the East Coast’s highest sand dune, climbing the tallest brick lighthouse in America at Cape Hatteras, or catching a great meal at one of more than 100 restaurants.
18. The American Tobacco Historic District
The American Tobacco Historic District preserves 17 historic buildings and structures related to Durham’s American Tobacco Company, which operated in the city between the 1870s and 1950s. The National Register of Historic Places-listed district has been converted into one of the city’s premiere downtown entertainment and retail districts, converting historic buildings such as the Italianate-style W.T. Blackwell and Company Building and the Romanesque Revival-style Hill Warehouse into modern shopping, dining, and entertainment experiences. Notable district attractions include the Durham Performing Arts Center, the historic Carolina Theater, and the S.H. Kress & Co. building, which served a seminal role as the site of lunch counter sit-ins during the American Civil Rights Movement. A plethora of dining options are offered, ranging from national chain favorites such as Mellow Mushroom and Moe’s Southwest Grill to Cuban tapas joints, acclaimed steakhouses, and taphouses showcasing more than 60 craft beers on draft.
300 Blackwell St #104, Durham, NC 27701, Phone: 919-433-1566
19. Kitty Hawk
Kitty Hawk offers a choice of unique vacation activities. Visitors will find hiking trails throughout town, and Kitty Hawk Woods are big for biking. There are paddling trails which are perfect for kayaking, an immensely popular activity here. Experienced surfers will want to head out to the ocean to catch some great waves, and those looking to take lessons can do so at Kitty Hawk Kayak and Surf School. The town is some 20 miles away from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Bodie Island Lighthouse is about 25 miles away. Fishermen may find themselves at the oceanfront beaches or Kitty Hawk Pier for surf fishing. Kitty Hawk swimming beaches are outstanding.
20. North Carolina attractions: Grandfather Mountain
Grandfather Mountain inspires awe through natural wonders. Visitors may see an owl one day and rare wildflowers in bloom the next. Naturalists are available to guide visitors on their journeys. One of the mountain’s highlights is the Mile High Swinging Bridge, from which visitors can have 360-degree panoramic views. It is America’s highest suspension footbridge. Another highlight is The Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum – home to exhibits about the Grandfather Mountain region. There is a display of North Carolina minerals and gems and the birds of North Carolina, plus early explorers of the area – including Daniel Boone.
A highlight of any visit to Southport is The North Carolina Maritime Museum, with its focus on the maritime heritage of the area. It contains a fascinating and detailed collection that covers piracy, shipwrecks, the Civil War, hurricanes, commercial fishing, and other events that have left their mark on the coast. While there is plenty of time for relaxing in downtown, with its ample supply of porches, other visitors prefer a sojourn at the Southport Waterfront Park. Downtown is also host to the Historic Riverwalk, which introduces newcomers to the waterfront milieu.
Bakersville is a charming small Appalachian mountain town in Mitchell County, North Carolina, located approximately one hour from the cities of Asheville and Johnson City. The town, which was originally incorporated in 1870, serves as a popular gateway to the nearby Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway, with excellent fishing and watersport opportunities offered due to the town’s designation as a Mountain Heritage Trout City. Though the town is home to a population of less than 500, it is known as a world-class art community, with top regional galleries showcasing the works of hundreds of local artists. Other attractions include the beautiful Rhododendron Gardens and the picturesque heights of nearby Roan Mountain.
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23. Blue Ridge National Heritage Area
The state’s foothills and mountains are so rich in history and culture that they have been designated a National Heritage Area. The Blue Ridge Heritage Trail offers travelers keen insight into the natural and cultural heritage sites throughout the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. The Trail consists of certain places throughout where photographs and words on interpretive signs at each site tell a story. Some of the topics covered are the Cherokee, agriculture, traditional music, and crafts. Signs are posted at walkways to cultural, historic, and scenic sites, towns, cities and attractions as well as in state parks, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and at the state’s five Welcome Centers within the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.
24. Linville Gorge and Falls
Near the hamlet of Linville Falls is the dramatic Linville Gorge – one of the most stunning vistas in the eastern part of the country. Linville Gorge encloses the Linville River for 12 miles. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a great way to get to Linville Falls, which can be seen from overlooks on two trails from the Linville Falls Visitors Center. The entire Wilderness Area is quite a draw for rock climbers, backpackers, and hikers. Linville Gorge is home to bear, deer, raccoon, ruffled grouse, and turkeys. Fishing and hunting are allowed with permits.
25. Cherohala Skyway
The Cherohala Skyway winds its way through 5,400-foot mountains in North Carolina for 18 miles and descends another 23 miles into Tennessee. The road crosses through the Nantahala and Cherokee National Forests, creating its namesake. It begins at Santeetlah Gap on the North Carolina side and then the road climbs to Santeetlah, which is an overlook at the highest elevation. Travelers follow the mountain tops along this highest section for another several miles, taking them to the state line of Tennessee. The Skyway is well known for its gorgeous mountain views, overlooks, and hiking trails. The Skyway has been featured as a “Top 10 Motorcycle Ride in North America” on the Discovery Channel.
25 Best Places to Visit in North Carolina
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Wake Forest is a charming small town in North Carolina’s Franklin and Wake counties, not far from the state capital, Raleigh. The lovely historic downtown is a delight to explore with its shops and restaurants as well as the famous Sugar Magnolia Café or the very popular Shorty’s Famous Hot Dogs, which has been around since 1916. The Wake Forest Historical Museum is a great source of information about the city’s past. Learn about what grows in the area at the Wake Forest Farmers Market, stretch your legs at Factory Skateboard Park on skates, on the football field, or on a go-cart track. Check out what local artists are doing at the Art After Hours gallery or enjoy some fresh air on the lake at the Falls Lake Recreation Area.
Chimney Rock State Park
So much of the state’s most stunning mountain scenery can be found at Chimney Rock State Park. For starters, its 315-foot spire overlooking Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge offers dramatic views. There is admission to be paid at the main access to Chimney Rock, although it is admission-free at Rumbling Bald, plus it has one of the park’s six trails. At Chimney Rock Access, there is ample opportunity for hiking and picnicking. Trail difficulty ranges from easy-going nature explorations to moderately strenuous treks to the summit of Chimney Rock Mountain, for example. Gift shops and concessions are available, and a must-see for trout fishermen exists at Rocky Broad River.
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Hanging Rock State Park
Since it was created as a 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps project, Hanging Rock State Park offers hikers and campers a terrific outdoor experience. It is complete with a 73-site campground, a lake for swimming and canoe rentals, grounds for picnicking, plus more than 20 miles of hiking trails. These trails wind their way to spectacular views and weave alongside waterfalls and streams. Paddle on the Dan River or bike 8.4 miles of mountain trails. With a permit, rock climbing opportunities abound. Vacation cabins are available for long visits, and there are free interpretive programs that complement the educational offerings of a park museum, which explores the cultural and natural history of the Sauratown Mountains.
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27 Wonderful Places to Visit in North Carolina in 2022
North Carolina offers some of the East Coast’s most diverse scenery. We have selected several of the best places to visit in North Carolina for this round-up of some of the best the state has to offer!
All of these places (and heaps more!) should be on every North Carolina bucket list. From natural destinations in North Carolina to some of the most exciting cities, you really can find everything in the state!
What are your favorite places to visit in NC? Let us know in the comments!
Best Places to Visit in North Carolina
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
One of the most beautiful national parks on the East Coast (and in the entire US), Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the US and is shared with Tennessee. It is home to ancient mountains and deep-rooted Appalachian culture.
The Smokies are renowned for their diverse wildlife and plant life – including many black bears and wildflowers which come to life during spring in North Carolina.
Some of the most popular activities in the North Carolina Smokies are hiking and camping. The legendary Appalachian Trail also passes through the park and you can enjoy the scenery any time of the year!
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is one of the most popular places to visit in North Carolina. The city is famous for its historic architectural landmarks like the Basilica of Saint Lawrence as well as its vibrant art life.
Built in the 19th-century, the famous Biltmore Estate is one of the icons of North Carolina and is the home to colorful gardens and even Renoir artwork. It also is home to one of North Carolina’s most romantic hotels.
Another remarkable area worth visiting in Asheville is the Downtown Art District. It has many galleries, hip cafes, and museums where you can also see repurposed factories that now are home to creative centers and art galleries.
The rugged and majestic Outer Banks is one of the best places to visit on the North Carolina coastline.
These barrier islands in North Carolina are truly one of my favorite places in the world and the towns in the Outer Banks are insanely charming!
You will find everything along OBX from mysterious Roanoke Island to shipwrecks off the coast, and some of the most iconic lighthouses in North Carolina.
Some of the most popular attractions and things to do in the Outer Banks are to visit Corolla’s wild horses, check out the Currituck and Hatteras Lighthouses, see the 21,000 square foot Whalehead in Corolla, and go to the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
In 1903, they tested the first engine-powered airplane in Kitty Hawk.
Chimney Rock State Park
Located in Rutherford County in Chimney Rock, North Carolina, Chimney Rock State Park is a beautiful 8,014-acre state park that is located merely 4 minutes away from Asheville.
The North Carolina state park offers visitors to check out several attractions within it such as Chimney Rock, hike along many trails such as the Hickory Nut Falls Trail, discover the Rocky Broad Riverwalk, play golf at Chimney Rock Adventure Golf, and learn about the history of mining at the Chimney Rock Gemstone Mine.
Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and is a fantastic place that you can’t miss on your travels in the state! Youʻll find plenty of amazing things to do in Raleigh to keep occupied for weeks!
The city is famous for its beautiful North Carolina State University and being part of the ‘Research Triangle’ that includes Chapel Hill and Durham (and their universities – Duke and the University of North Carolina).
North Carolina’s capital city is also home to many interesting museums like the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences where you can see dinosaur skeletons, the North Carolina Museum of Art which dates back to 1956, and more!
Nature lovers will enjoy William B. Umstead State Park where you can go hiking, boating, and camping. There are also small parks, such as Pullen Park, where you can enjoy a picnic under the NC sun.
Another perk is that there are some fantastic day trips from Raleigh that you can enjoy for a quick getaway.
There are many places I have visited in North Carolina over and over like Rocky Mount, but Raleigh is right up there and it feels like such a familiar place to me no matter how many years pass between visits.
Be sure to spend some time in the city so you can take advantage of the really amazing day trips from Raleigh!
Merchant’s Millpond State Park
Take your time exploring this enchanting state park, which has a unique ecosystem combining mossy swamps with hardwood forests. Hiking trails wind through forests of trees dripping with Spanish moss.
Canoe rentals are available (or bring your own) which you can take out for an interesting day paddling through the cypress swamps at Merchantʻs Millpond State Park.
A visitor center, picnic grounds, restrooms, and campsites are available at the park, giving you the option of going for just an afternoon or multiple days.
Close to Raleigh and part of the Research Triangle is the city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is renowned because it is home to the University of North Carolina… and, naturally, made famous many decades ago by Michael Jordan and coach Dean Smith.
However, there is a lot more to Chapel Hill than just basketball and UNC – you will find some of the most famous artworks in the state such at the Ackland Art Museum – which also contains many Asian and European artworks on its walls.
Visitors to Chapel Hill can also stroll along the many nature trails and greenways in the surrounding areas. You can also take a trip to the North Carolina Botanical Garden to witness rare and colorful plant life. The gardens date back to the early 1900s.
Another fascinating place to visit in Chapel Hill is the Morehead Planetarium & Science Center which just so happens to be one of the United States’ largest and oldest planetariums.
The port city of Wilmington, NC is another one of my favorite places in North Carolina. Known for its Cape Fear Coast, it is a gateway to beautiful Wrightsville Beach and many other famous attractions.
One of the best things to do in Wilmington NC is to take a stroll along the Riverwalk that is a part of the Historic District. You will find plenty of galleries, restaurants, and cafes situated nearby and it is a can’t-miss place in the city!
History lovers will enjoy visiting the Battleship BB-55 North Carolina Museum on the Cape Fear River where they can learn more about the history of WWII’s naval combat, including the battle at Pearl Harbor.
Durham is part of the Research Triangle which is a well-known hub for scholarly institutions and tech companies.
Also, Durham has rich art landmarks and museums like the Nasher Museum of Art and the Neo-Gothic Duke Chapel which is located on the Duke University campus where visitors and art enthusiasts can admire the artworks of Ai Weiwei and Christian Marclay (both contemporary artists).
There are so many exciting things to do in Durham from enjoying its calming cafe scene and delicious restaurants to heading to the Museum of Life and Science, an 84-acre indoor and outdoor museum with treehouse bridges.
You can also check out the Farmyard, Sprout Cafe Butterfly House, Hideaway Woods, and other constructions dating back to the early 20th-century there.
Also, be sure not to miss out on Sarah P. Duke Gardens which contain colorful flowers and diverse plant species.
The most populous city in North Carolina is Charlotte and it is the state’s commercial hub and one of the most beautiful places to visit in NC.
There are many things to do in Charlotte and you can start by visiting the city’s museums, such as the Civil War Levine Museum which may appeal to history buffs as well as the family science museum at Discovery Place.
Charlotte is also known for being home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame where travelers can view the interactive exhibits dedicated to the exciting sport. There are many incredible hikes near Charlotte that you can venture off to on a sunny day.
You will also find several fantastic weekend trips from Charlotte that will take you to many nature spots in Western North Carolina and even down into Georgia and beyond.
Blue Ridge Parkway
While part of the Blue Ridge Parkway is located in Virginia, a large portion of it is in North Carolina and it truly is one of the most beautiful drives in the United States.
It runs through 29 counties throughout the two states and connects Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One of the best things about the Blue Ridge Parkway is the many hikes and waterfalls along the way.
You can find some of the best waterfalls near Asheville there and so much more! Some of the main highlights of the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC are Linn Cove Viaduct, Mount Pisgah, Looking Glass Rock, the Pisgah National Forest, and so much more. It truly is spectacular.
Hanging Rock State Park
This 9,011-acre state park should be on every North Carolina bucket list. Located about 30 miles north of Winston-Salem, Hanging Rock State Park is situated in the Sauratown Mountain Range (one of NC’s easternmost ranges).
Inside the North Carolina state park, you will find over 18 miles of hiking trails and even some waterfalls and peaks. There is also a large campground inside. You are also permitted to rock climb at Cook’s Wall and Moore’s Wall. The park is free to enter.
If you’re visiting the Crystal Coast and looking for one of my favorite towns to visit there, look no further than Emerald Isle. Located in Carteret County, it may only have around 3,700 permanent residents, but it increases significantly during the summer months.
Emerald Isle is a family-friendly destination in North Carolina and you’ll find waterparks, safe beaches, and a lot more in the town.
The beaches are also a nesting ground for sea turtles and are protected by federal law. You will find many things to do in Emerald Isle – from delicious restaurants and beyond.
Pisgah National Forest
The gorgeous and colorful Pisgah National Forest is located in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains. There are local ranger districts in three areas around it – Nebo, Pisgah Forest, and Mars Hill.
Established in 1916, the forest was one of the first designated in the eastern US. The North Carolina forest spans over 512,758 acres and parts of it are over 6,000 feet tall. It is known for hiking, cool mountain towns (I absolutely love Brevard), mountain biking, and much more.
Bald Head Island
Bald Head Island provides stunning scenery on the East coast of North Carolina all year round. In order to reach the island, you’ll board the ferry at Deep Point Marina for a 20-minute ride to the harbor.
The island spans over two miles and contains North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse from 1817, the Old Baldy Lighthouse.
There are so many things to do on the secluded island, including spending the day at one of the best North Carolina beaches, discovering the old lighthouse, exploring the protected creeks and maritime forests, shopping, dining, some time at the spa, and so much more.
The island even offers plenty of activities just for kids!
Linville Gorge & Falls
The Linville Gorge & Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Linville Falls, North Carolina. Visitors will be able to see the stunning views provided by the three-tiered waterfall, which is accessible via the many trails for hikers.
It is an especially great destination for hikers as the area offers several different trails ranging in difficulty that you can take to access the falls.
Both of the trails will still offer stunning views of the Linville Gorge and Falls no matter what the season is. Many people especially love to visit in the fall because of the beautiful colors.
Located in Linville, North Carolina, Grandfather Mountain is another popular destination for all nature-lovers.
There are so many things to do during a visit to Grandfather Mountain, including taking a walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, walking, hiking, checking out the wildlife habitats, birdwatching, visiting the Nature Museum, and many special events offered by the state park.
Visitors must purchase tickets, which will include access to the museums, animal habitat, and everything else the mountain has to offer. Be sure to take a walk across the bridge to check out the stunning 360-degree views of the region.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a beautiful beach in Nags Head, North Carolina. Have fun with the entire family and relax on the beach. There is so much to do at Cape Hatteras, including swimming, surfing, crabbing, sightseeing, lighthouse-climbing, kiteboarding, and more.
You can even rent a bicycle and take a trip around the beach. In addition, you can check out the campgrounds, museums, and lighthouses depending on the season.
Be sure to double-check the calendar for specific activities available during the season. There are also special passes for children to learn more about the history of the park, too.
Located in Watauga County, North Carolina, Boone is an adventure town that you should add to your itinerary when visiting the state. It offers everything from mountain sports and cabins to the Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park.
You could check out many different festivals and art galleries, go fishing, canoeing, zip-lining, skiing, and so much more during your visit. In addition, many people enjoy hiking the trails in the mountains.
Another popular activity is the Boone Area Wine Trail, which is one of the loftiest vineyards on the East Coast. You can also take a ride on an authentic steam train on the Tweetsie Railroad.
Declared one of the 100 Best Small Towns in America, Elizabeth City is located west of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. The town has a rich history and many cultural traditions that make it a popular site to visit for tourists.
There are plenty of hotels, breweries, wineries, and restaurants featuring authentic Southern cuisine in the town. Be sure to check out the museums, self-guided tours, and other historical sites, including the very streets that the Wright brothers walked on.
The waterfront community also provides stunning views and activities, such as kayaking and more.
Located in Pitt County, North Carolina, Greenville is another spot to visit during your trip to the state. It was considered one of the top 100 Best Communities for Young People, meaning that there’s so much you can do during your visit.
The Greenville Museum of Art is one of the most popular spots in the town, featuring many exhibitions and programs for people of all ages.
Theater and dance are widespread activities, and the town boasts many restaurants and nightclubs that offer live entertainment on the weekends. You can also check out the Umbrella Market every Wednesday in the warmer months, which features local producers.
Known for Davidson College, Davidson is one of the most popular college towns in North Carolina.
You can check out the wide variety of restaurants and eateries in the town, play outdoors, explore the town’s parks and greenways, enjoy the art galleries, and participate in lots of activities that are fun for the whole family.
You can check out the Farmer’s Market featuring local producers and farmers, go to the beautiful Davidson College campus, grab a book to read at the independent Main Street Books and go to the Belk Visual Arts Center to see the art galleries.
Cape Lookout National Seashore
Cape Lookout National Seashore is a fun, year-round destination on the coast of North Carolina. Here, you will be able to go shelling, fishing, lighthouse climbing, camping, birding, and so much more.
You can enjoy the stunning views right on the beach and camp in a tent for the night. Many visitors also enjoy touring the historic villages of the barrier islands.
Since these are remote beaches, visitors are reminded to bring food, water, and important supplies. There are also plenty of guided tours and special events that guests are encouraged to check out depending on the season.
Explore the first state capital of North Carolina is New Bern, which has tons of history to check out. It’s also the birthplace of Pepsi Cola, featuring a signature Pepsi Store where you can get all kinds of Pepsi merchandise while enjoying a large glass of traditional Pepsi.
You can also visit the Civil War Battlefield Park, the New Bern Firemen’s Museum, Union Point Park, and the Tryon Palace, which is one of the most popular sites in the town. It was a symbol of the first capital and the home of the town’s royal governor during colonial times.
There are many things to do in New Bern and many reasons to make a stop if you’re in this part of North Carolina.
One of the best places to visit in North Carolina is Winston-Salem, a large city that is the administrative center of Forsyth County and NC’s fifth-largest city.
In recent years, Winston-Salem has undergone a lot of revitalization and many new hotels, restaurants, cafes, and cool establishments have opened.
There are several things to do in Winston-Salem including visiting the Bethabara Historic District (where Moravians first settled NC), Old Salem, the New Winston Museum, and Wake Forest University.
The city was named the ‘City of Arts and Innovation’ in 2014 and there are many cultural sights, murals, and more.
High Point, located in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, is often called North Carolina’s International City because of the High Point Furniture Market, which attracts hundreds of thousands of people from around the world every year.
High Point University is another site the city is known for. You can also visit the High Point City Lake Park, which is a popular recreational and amusement park filled with fun activities like boating, fishing, canoeing, picnicking, trains, and even the largest outdoor swimming pool in all of North Carolina.
The High Point Community Theater is another fun site to check out performances by local actors.
Although Hickory, North Carolina is also known for its furniture manufacturing, there are still plenty of fun activities to do there that people of all ages will enjoy.
Outdoor exploring, lake adventures, and local restaurants are among the town’s most popular activities. Explore the waterfront and check out the parks and trails if nature is your vibe.
You can also check out the special events and many seasonal things to do in Hickory, as well as arts, culture, museums, and shopping centers. Some of the most fun activities that people enjoy include race cars and Crawdads Baseball- all of which are offered in this Southern town.
What are your favorite places to visit in North Carolina? Let us know the best North Carolina destinations… especially the ones we missed!
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Hi! We’re Megan & Aram!
We are friends and travelers who decided to start this site to inspire people to travel to Virginia, Megan’s home state!
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