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23 Top Things to Do in North Carolina | Travel


A trip in North Carolina guarantees a uncommon mixture of thrilling mountain adventures and lazy days spent on the seashore. Whether you need to scale the tallest residing sand dune on the Atlantic coast, go to the location of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first flight or meander alongside America’s Favorite Scenic Drive, North Carolina has you coated. To get pleasure from each the mountains and the coast in your North Carolina go to, you will have to be strategic in your planning. This information of the highest issues to do in North Carolina will enable you take advantage of your journey. (Note: Some excursions and excursions could also be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. New insurance policies could also be in place, together with capability restrictions and parking reservation necessities. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State and native tourism boards earlier than touring.)

Biltmore Estate

Did you already know that America’s largest privately owned house is positioned in North Carolina? Biltmore Estate, a National Historic Landmark, is nestled among the many Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville. Spanning 8,000 acres, the French-Renaissance property boasts 250 rooms, together with 35 bedrooms and 43 loos, and 65 fireplaces. Dreamed up by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s, the house served as Vanderbilt’s nation retreat. Today, elements of the extravagant residence are open to the general public. When you are not marveling on the mansion’s 10,000-volume library, its centuries-old tapestries or the indoor swimming pool, stroll the grounds, which had been designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who additionally designed Central Park in New York City), or indulge in a tasting on the on-site vineyard. Many vacationers name this a must-visit attraction when in Asheville however warn that it could possibly get fairly crowded. Visitors additionally advise reserving your tickets nicely in advance to safe your most well-liked time. Additionally, many counsel upgrading your ticket to the “Exclusive Experience” to view areas of the house not featured in the fundamental tour (such because the visitor and servant quarters), in addition to have the chance to be led round the home by an professional information. If you may’t get sufficient of the spectacular setting, contemplate reserving a keep at one of many on-site lodging, together with the Inn on Biltmore Estate.

Enjoy a scenic drive alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway


Things to do in North Carolina

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Part of America’s Favorite Scenic Drive winds its manner via North Carolina. The 469-mile-long Blue Ridge Parkway connects Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are quite a few entry factors to the parkway (which is free to entry) in southern Virginia and northern North Carolina, however in order for you to admire among the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River, you will need to traverse the parkway close to Asheville. Popular stops alongside the parkway embody Craggy Gardens (identified for its 360-degree views and abundance of rhododendrons), Mount Mitchell (the best peak in the japanese United States) and Linville Falls (a three-tiered waterfall that cascades into the Linville Gorge). When you are prepared to stretch your legs, there are a number of mountain climbing trails simply accessed off of the parkway, together with the family-friendly Graveyard Fields. This practically 3-mile-long loop path takes hikers to two waterfalls. If you are up for the problem, there’s additionally the extra strenuous 2.6-mile out and again Mount Pisgah Trail, which options views of Cold Mountain from its 5,721-foot summit. After a day marveling on the parkway’s surroundings, retire to one of many high resorts in Asheville.

NASCAR Hall of Fame


If you are a fan of NASCAR, you will need to cease by this interactive museum in Charlotte. Along with a powerful show of legendary automobiles, akin to Jack Ingram’s 1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Wendell Scott’s 1962 Chevrolet Impala, the corridor of fame additionally boasts racing simulators and displays that permit guests to see inside a race automobile engine via augmented actuality. The attraction additionally gives the favored Pit Crew Challenge, in which guests are tasked with finishing the duties of a pit crew, together with jacking up a automobile, altering a tire with an actual air gun and filling up the gasoline tank. What’s extra, the NASCAR Hall of Fame homes an almost 300-person theater, a gear store and a broadcast studio, amongst different facilities. Visitors guarantee that you do not have to be a NASCAR aficionado to get pleasure from a cease right here thanks to the welcoming workers and enjoyable displays. Plus, its location in Uptown means guests will discover themselves inside strolling distance of quite a lot of high resorts and points of interest, together with Discovery Place and Mint Museum Uptown.

Grandfather Mountain State Park

Things to do in North Carolina

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Situated in northwestern North Carolina, about 70 miles northeast of Asheville, Grandfather Mountain State Park is a playground for adrenaline junkies. The park’s namesake stands tall at practically 6,000 ft, making it the best peak in the Blue Ridge mountain vary. Along with its towering mountain, the park is thought for experiencing the South’s most extreme climate. So, should you plan on exploring the park’s 13-plus miles of trails, keep watch over the forecast. If you are up for the problem, contemplate trekking the two.5-mile out and again Grandfather Trail, which is likely one of the most arduous trails in the Southeast thanks to a collection of 18 ladders positioned to assist hikers climb the various cliffs and crags. Less skilled hikers might want to strive the 1.2-mile out and again Nuwati Trail, which follows the observe of an previous logging street and gives breathtaking views of the Boone Bowl and Calloway Peak from Storyteller’s Rock. When it is time to mattress down, arrange a tent at one of many park’s 13 primitive hike-in campsites, which should be reserved in advance (for a payment).

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Visit the location the place Orville and Wilbur Wright first took flight and the places the place they landed at Wright Brothers National Memorial in the Outer Banks. Among the points of interest listed here are reconstructed buildings like a hangar and residing quarters that supply guests a glimpse of what life was like for the Wrights in 1903. The space additionally options the Wright Brothers Monument, which sits atop Big Kill Devil Hill, the place the brothers first examined their gliding experiments. To be taught extra in regards to the brothers and their mission to fly, you will need to cease by the customer middle – a National Historic Landmark that is filled with interactive displays. After you’ve got explored the memorial, head about 5 miles south to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Visiting the state park, which is thought for towering sand dunes and robust winds, offers you a greater thought of why the Wright Brothers selected the Outer Banks when looking for optimum circumstances for his or her flying experiments.

Ride the rapids on the U.S. National Whitewater Center

One of the highest issues to do in Charlotte, the U.S. National Whitewater Center gives greater than 30 totally different leisure actions throughout its 1,300-plus acres. The star attraction is the middle’s human-made whitewater river – the world’s largest – which gives Class II to Class IV rapids. When you are not driving the rapids, discover the middle’s number of different actions, together with its Deep Water Solo complicated. This construction consists of 5 mountain climbing partitions ranging in peak from 20 to 45 ft which might be positioned over a deep pool of water. So, as a substitute of carrying conventional climbing tools, you will climb with out harnesses or ropes and fall into the pool. Seasonal yoga, zip traces, a ropes course and greater than 50 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers and path runners spherical out the actions obtainable right here. To take advantage of your time, heed the recommendation of reviewers and choose only one or two actions to get pleasure from as a substitute of making an attempt your hand at the entire middle’s choices. Time your go to throughout one of many middle’s annual festivals to see the venue come alive with music, competitions and exhibitions.

Scale the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

You can go to the tallest residing sand dune on the Atlantic coast with a visit to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Located in Nags Head in the Outer Banks, the park spans 426 acres and options dunes standing greater than 60 ft tall. To discover the dunes, you may traverse a 360-foot-long boardwalk or hike the park’s two trails. While mountain climbing, maintain your eyes peeled for wildlife like ospreys, foxes, brown pelicans and coyotes. You’ll additionally need to search for fulgurites, or glass tubes shaped when lightning strikes the sand. Thanks to the park’s year-round prevailing winds, this is a perfect location to strive your hand at kite and mannequin aircraft flying, in addition to cling gliding. Hang gliding classes are provided via Kitty Hawk Kites, which is positioned close to the park’s customer middle. Plus, the park sits lower than 5 miles south of Wright Brothers National Monument, that means you may go to each of those high points of interest in the identical day. Try to time your go to for sundown, when guests say the park is especially magical. When it is time to mattress down, cling your hat at one of many many beachfront trip leases that dot the Outer Banks.

North Carolina Museum of Art

Located in Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Art has a novel origin story. In 1947, North Carolina turned the primary state in the nation to use public funds to purchase artwork when the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated $1 million for the acquisition of artwork. The assortment began with the acquisition of practically 150 European and American work and sculptures. Today, the museum’s assortment, which is housed in an almost 130,000-square-foot house, spans greater than 5,000 years. Among its highlights are Egyptian funerary artwork, the biggest assemblage of Rodin sculptures in the American South and the 164-acre Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park, which incorporates gardens, fields and woodlands interspersed with sculptures. After you’ve got toured the artwork museum, contemplate exploring the opposite state museums positioned in Raleigh, together with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the North Carolina Museum of History. And if you want a break from town’s indoor points of interest, websites like Pullen Park and William B. Umstead State Park can provide a dose of contemporary air.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Things to do in North Carolina

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One of the highest issues to do in the Outer Banks, Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches for greater than 70 miles from the borders of the Oregon Inlet to the sting of the Ocracoke Inlet. Lounging on the tender golden sands is the principle exercise right here, however this protected space can also be residence to three historic lighthouses, two of which guests can climb. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Bodie Island Lighthouse are each open seasonally for lighthouse climbs, a preferred (although barely strenuous) exercise that yields spectacular views of Bodie Island, the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound. There are additionally loads of alternatives for wildlife viewing thanks to the 400-plus species of birds that decision the world residence. Though there are many lodging choices throughout the Outer Banks, together with beachfront resorts and trip leases, you might have considered trying to contemplate roughing it at one of many 4 campgrounds alongside the Cape Hatteras shoreline, because it offers you the prospect to view among the nation’s darkest evening skies east of the Mississippi River.

North Carolina Arboretum

The 434-acre North Carolina Arboretum has ties to close by Biltmore Estate. Before his dying, Frederick Law Olmsted (“the father of American landscape architecture”) designed the panorama surrounding Biltmore. Olmsted’s designs included plans for an arboretum that was by no means created. Nearly 100 years after Olmsted first envisioned the arboretum, it was lastly established in 1986 throughout the Bent Creek Experimental Forest simply south of Asheville and adjoining to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Today, the arboretum welcomes guests with greater than 65 acres of cultivated gardens, together with a world-renowned assortment of bonsai bushes. Beyond its lovely flora, the arboretum boasts 10-plus miles of mountain climbing trails that join to scenic areas like Lake Powhatan, the Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. What’s extra, the arboretum hosts quite a lot of indoor and outside exhibitions and occasions, akin to sculpture shows by native and nationwide artists. Many guests describe the gardens as peaceable, although they counsel grabbing a map on the entrance to keep away from getting misplaced.

Take in the view from Chimney Rock State Park

For a glimpse at a few of North Carolina’s most awe-inspiring mountain surroundings, head about 25 miles southeast of Asheville to Chimney Rock State Park. From the highest of the park’s 315-foot-tall namesake, you may admire 75-mile views overlooking Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge (on a transparent day). To attain the highest of Chimney Rock, you may both climb 500 steps or trip the elevator up. More adventurous vacationers may also need to discover the park’s six marked mountain climbing trails, which vary from the kid-friendly Great Woodland Adventure, which options interactive shows and sculptures in regards to the park’s animal residents, to the extra strenuous 1.9-mile out and again Four Seasons Trail, which features a 400-foot elevation acquire all through the hardwood forest. After marveling on the mountain surroundings atop Chimney Rock, you will need to make a cease at Hickory Nut Falls, which additionally sits throughout the state park. At 404 ft, it is one of many highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River.

Sliding Rock

Things to do in North Carolina

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Nestled in the Pisgah National Forest close to Brevard and Asheville, Sliding Rock is a 60-foot mountain waterslide that ends in an 8-foot-deep pool of water. Approximately 11,000 gallons of water course down the rock every minute. The water temperature is brisk (between 50 and 60 levels), which is why this pure attraction is especially well-liked throughout the summer season months. If you are not up for careening down the rock face, you may watch sliders from two statement decks. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the location is staffed with lifeguards; in the offseason, you may nonetheless go to, however know that lifeguards aren’t on patrol. After you’ve got cooled off, discover among the different close by trails and waterfalls that dot U.S. Route 276, referred to as the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway. The family-friendly, 1.4-mile Moore Cove Falls Trail sits only a mile away, whereas the photogenic Looking Glass Falls is positioned 2 miles away alongside the freeway and is well accessed by way of an statement deck on the base of the falls.

Outer Banks

A preferred retreat for households and touring teams thanks to its abundance of beachfront trip leases, this string of barrier islands off the coast is probably finest identified for its 100-plus miles of seashores. Each stretch of sand gives a bit of one thing totally different for vacationers. Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills are identified for having among the greatest waves on the world’s northern seashores, making these spots significantly well-liked with surfers and skimboarders. Meanwhile, Frisco supplies optimum circumstances for four-wheel-drive seashore excursions. But should you merely need to chill out, head to Nags Head, which gives loads of room to unfold out. Or, seize a fishing rod and arrange camp in Hatteras, which is a premier fishing vacation spot. If you encounter a uncommon wet day whereas visiting the islands, contemplate escaping the climate in one of many space’s indoor points of interest, such because the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island or the Whalehead Club mansion on Corolla.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Things to do in North Carolina

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One of the most-visited nationwide parks, this protected space spans greater than 520,000 acres alongside North Carolina’s western border. Straddling North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts greater than 850 mountain climbing trails and is taken into account essentially the most biodiverse park in the nationwide park system. What’s extra, it is residence to among the tallest peaks in the japanese United States. One of these peaks is 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome, which wows guests with 360-degree views of the Smokies (on a transparent day, guests can see for 100 miles). For extra spectacular mountain vistas, intrepid vacationers ought to hike the three.6-mile round-trip Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald, which begins from the car parking zone at Clingmans Dome. Boasting an elevation of practically 6,000 ft, Andrews Bald is the best grassy bald in the park. Along the path, hikers could spot patches of blackberries and raspberries, Fraser firs and wildflowers, relying on the time of yr. For vacationers who don’t desire to tough it in one of many park’s campsites, there are extra conventional lodging choices, akin to resorts and bed-and-breakfast lodging, in Bryson City and Cherokee. Entry to the nationwide park is free.


If you are searching for an enthralling weekend getaway that guarantees luxurious lodging, delectable meals and loads of outside adventures, contemplate Highlands, a mountain city in southwestern North Carolina close to the Georgia border. Surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest at an elevation of 4,118 ft, Highlands is likely one of the highest cities east of the Mississippi River. Make the a lot of the city’s elevation with a hike up Whiteside Mountain – appropriately named for its sheer white cliffs. To attain the mountain’s summit, you will have to hike a 2-mile loop path bordered by wildflowers. At the height, you will get pleasure from unimaginable views to the east, south and west. Highlands can also be identified for its number of waterfalls. Many are simply accessed off of U.S. Route 64, together with Dry Falls, which cascades 75 ft over a cliff and has a built-in walkway behind it (therefore the “dry” a part of its title). When you are prepared to pamper your self after a day of journey, Highlands has you coated there, too, thanks to some luxurious digs just like the Old Edwards Inn and Spa and its sister property, Half Mile Farm.

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Things to do in North Carolina

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Accessible solely by boat from Beaufort and Harkers Island, Cape Lookout National Seashore is a must-visit cease for the intrepid traveler. Located alongside North Carolina’s Crystal Coast in the southern Outer Banks, Cape Lookout gives 56 miles of undeveloped beachfront. Along with its distinct lighthouse, referred to as the “Diamond Lady” thanks to the diamond sample painted on its exterior, Cape Lookout can also be identified for the herds of untamed horses that roam the barrier island of Shackleford Banks. You can observe this herd of greater than 100 horses grazing in the grasslands or on the dunes. Along with its assortment of horses, Cape Lookout is taken into account a main birding spot (greater than 250 species have been noticed right here). It’s additionally one of many premier kayaking and canoeing locations on the mid-Atlantic coast, boasting 112 miles of uninhabited shoreline. Water sports activities tools leases can be found on the mainland with outfitters like Down East Kayaks. Though there are not any established campgrounds at Cape Lookout, tenting is permitted year-round. You may hire rustic wood cabins.

Battleship North Carolina

History buffs will need to cease by the Battleship North Carolina whereas visiting Wilmington. At the time of its commissioning in 1941, the ship was thought of “the world’s greatest sea weapon.” It proved a formidable foe throughout World War II when it was concerned in each main naval offensive in the Pacific space of operations and earned 15 battle stars. Today, the ship is a National Historic Landmark and serves because the state’s memorial to its WWII veterans and the 11,000 North Carolinians who died throughout the conflict. On the self-guided tour, guests can discover 9 ranges of the ship, together with the mess decks, berthing areas, engine room and bridge, amongst different must-sees. According to vacationers, the self-guided tour is nicely marked however does require climbing up and down some slim stairs, so maintain that in thoughts when you have restricted mobility. Visitors additionally advise bringing water and carrying sunscreen, because the ship can get heat, particularly in summer season. When on the ship’s bow, maintain your eyes peeled for Charlie, the alligator that is often seen sunbathing in the waters of the Cape Fear River the place the ship resides. After your ship go to, plan to stroll alongside Wilmington’s Riverwalk, which is lined with well-liked eating places and bars, and sits simply throughout the river from the battleship.

Sample a pint or two at Asheville’s breweries

This metropolis in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains is residence to extra breweries per capita than some other U.S. metropolis. Whether you like a hoppy India pale ale or a fruit-forward bitter, you will discover it in Asheville. Though among the greatest names in craft brewing, akin to Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, do have outposts right here, Asheville is residence to a powerful assortment of native producers. There are greater than 50 breweries in Asheville, so narrowing down your private record may be difficult, however perennial favorites embody Wicked Weed Brewing, Green Man Brewery, Highland Brewing Company and Burial Beer Co. If you’d moderately let another person information you thru town’s beer scene, contemplate signing up for the Asheville Brews Cruise bus tour, which takes guests to up to 4 breweries throughout the roughly three-hour tour. When you want a break from sampling town’s suds, take advantage of Asheville’s perch among the many Blue Ridge Mountains by mountain climbing the Appalachian Trail or floating down the French Broad River.

Bald Head Island

Located in the mouth of the Cape Fear River, this car-free coastal island is simply accessible by ferry from Southport (about 35 miles south of Wilmington). A getaway in each sense of the phrase, Bald Head Island is a nature lover’s paradise with 14 miles of vast white sand seashores and verdant nature preserves protecting greater than 80% of the island. To be taught extra in regards to the island’s seashore, marsh and maritime forest habitats, in addition to its ample wildlife, join a tour with the Bald Head Island Conservancy, which gives excursions by way of golf cart (the popular methodology of transportation on the island). You may discover the creeks across the island by way of kayak or canoe. The conservancy gives guided journeys, as does native clothes shop The Sail Shop. And for a spectacular 360-degree view of the state’s southernmost barrier island, climb the 108 steps to the highest of the Bald Head Lighthouse – the oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina. When it is time to flip in for the evening, you will have your choose of beachfront trip leases, some with house for up to 18 individuals.

Linville Gorge

Part of the Pisgah National Forest and about 60 miles northeast of Asheville, the Linville Gorge is taken into account one among japanese America’s most rugged gorges. The gorge is shaped by Jonas Ridge to the east and Linville Mountain to the west; the Linville River bisects the gorge and runs into the valleys under. Several hikes permit guests to marvel on the spectacular mountain surroundings. Perhaps the preferred is the hike to Linville Falls, believed to be essentially the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina. You can hike to 5 viewpoints from two trails that depart from the Linville Falls Visitor Center, which is positioned simply off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 316. More well-liked hikes embody Table Rock Mountain and Hawksbill Mountain. The 2.2-mile climb up Table Rock Mountain guarantees much more photogenic views from its 3,930-foot peak. Many hikers mix a trek up Table Rock Mountain with a climb up Hawksbill Mountain since they’re inside a number of miles of one another. The 1.5-mile round-trip Hawksbill Mountain hike requires an elevation acquire of about 700 ft, however the views of the gorge, the river and, on a transparent day, the Charlotte skyline are definitely worth the effort.

North Carolina Zoo

Located in the center of North Carolina in Asheboro, about 40 miles south of Greensboro, the North Carolina Zoo sprawls throughout 2,600 acres, 500 of that are developed. Its declare to fame is that it is the world’s largest pure habitat zoo, with greater than 1,800 animals. The animals are dispersed throughout two areas, North America and Africa, in addition to a desert and a tropical, free-flight aviary. Among the zoo’s standout animals are African lions, grizzly bears, ocelots and polar bears. Plus, the aviary homes greater than 100 unique birds and three,000 tropical crops. Beyond the animals, the zoo boasts quite a lot of points of interest, akin to a carousel, a butterfly backyard and a ropes course, amongst different diversions. Visitors warn that you’re going to do plenty of strolling, so put on snug footwear. When you’ve got had your fill of the animals, peruse downtown Asheboro, which is residence to a group of charming retailers and eating places.

Go whitewater rafting

After you’ve got gotten your ft moist on the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, why not check your rafting abilities on among the state’s rivers? Many outfitters are positioned close to Asheville, making it simple to tack on a day of rafting to your journey. The Nantahala River is taken into account the state’s busiest and most well-known whitewater rafting river. A dam-controlled river, it boasts 20 Class II and III rapids, in addition to scenic sections of calm water. Meanwhile, the depth of the French Broad River is set by current rainfall. Half-day journeys that includes Class II or III rapids can be found, as are full-day journeys that promise Class IV rapids. Whichever kind of journey you guide on the French Broad River, you will benefit from the surrounding surroundings of the Pisgah National Forest. For a novel expertise, contemplate rafting down the Nolichucky River, which permits you to begin your journey in North Carolina and finish in Tennessee. And if peaceable waters are what you are after, contemplate the Tuckasegee River, which gives superb circumstances for scenic rafting and tubing. Depending on which firm you select, there are single-day or multiday rafting journey choices obtainable. Check out U.S. News’ roundup of the most effective whitewater rafting excursions in North Carolina to plan your journey.

Wrightsville Beach

A quintessential seashore trip, this city simply east of Wilmington is a magnet for households and energetic vacationers thanks to its number of water sports activities, parks, gardens, kid-friendly playgrounds and surf faculties. Popular water actions embody browsing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and wakeboarding. A wide range of water sports activities tools leases are conveniently positioned close to the seashore, together with traveler favourite Wrightsville SUP. If you’d moderately admire the water from aboard a ship, crusing cruises are equally well-liked, particularly at sundown. Back on land, the favored 2.5-mile Loop path gives guests a paved strolling, operating and biking path that meanders previous the Intracoastal Waterway, Banks Channel and photogenic salt marshes. Meanwhile, 67-acre Airlie Gardens boasts 10 acres of lakes, a 500-year-old oak tree and quite a lot of native natural world. Though there are quite a few resorts in Wrightsville Beach, there’s a bigger provide of trip leases. Many of the rental residence properties are positioned simply steps from the seashore and provide loads of room for touring teams of all sizes.

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