Are you eager to travel in the US? Are you looking to see some sites but avoid the big cities? Whether you’d prefer high adventure in the mountains or prefer to squeeze a few more lazy days at the beach out of this summer, we have the answer. North Carolina offers a lot of different choices. Here are 23 of them.
23 Top Things to Do in North Carolina
1. Visit Biltmore Estate
This National Historic Landmark is the largest privately-owned residence in the US. It is found in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville and took six years to build. George Vanderbilt funded its construction in 1889. He hired famous architect Richard Morris Hunt to design this 250-room French Renaissance estate. It includes 43 bathrooms, 35 bedrooms, 65 fireplaces, a banquet hall, and a bowling alley. The 8000-acre property also features a 15-acre Azalea Garden, a vineyard, and even a winery.
2. Drive On The Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is reported to be one of the best parts of America’s Favorite Scenic Drive. The parkway stretches for a total of 469 miles. It provides scenic views of the mountains and parks along the route. More specifically, it joins stunning Shenandoah National Park to the great Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Drivers can access the parkway for free at a number of different entry points in both northern North Carolina and southern Virginia.
3. See The NASCAR Hall of Fame
NASCAR fans will love this interesting interactive museum in Charlotte. Here you can see a number of different NASCAR vehicles including Wendell Scott’s well-known 1962 Chevrolet Impala, and Jack Ingram’s famous 1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. This high-fueled “hall of fame” also includes racing simulators, augmented reality exhibits of race car engines, a 300-person theater, a broadcast studio, a gear shop, and the ever-popular Pit Crew Challenge, where visitors become members of an active pit crew.
4. Go To Grandfather Mountain State Park
You will find the great Grandfather Mountain State Park situated in the northwestern section of the state. It is roughly 70 miles northeast of the city of Asheville and an exceptional spot for adrenaline junkies. This pretty park’s namesake, Grandfather Mountain, is almost 6,000 feet high and is, therefore, the official “highest peak” in the entire Blue Ridge mountain range. There are more than 13 miles of hiking trails here. The most popular trail is the challenging Grandfather Trail.
5. Visit The Wright Brothers National Memorial
This is the place on Outer Banks where Wilbur and Orville Wright first took flight and the places where they landed as well. See the reconstructed living quarters and hangar which offer travelers a sense of what life for the brothers Wright was like back in 1903. Additional attractions include the Wright Brothers Monument, on Big Kill Devil Hill, where they conducted experiments, and interactive exhibits in the visitor center. You can stop at nearby Jockey’s Ridge State Park too.
6. Rock The Rapids At The U.S. National Whitewater Center
The whitewater center spans an area of more than 1,300 acres. Here you can take part in 30+ recreational activities. The most popular one is riding the rapids in the world’s largest man-made whitewater river.
You can also visit the Deep Water Solo Complex. It features rock climbing walls up to 45 feet above a deep pool so if you fall, it’s fun! They also offer yoga, zip lines, hiking, and biking here too.
7. Scale The Sand Dunes In Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Visit this 426-acre state park and see the Atlantic Coast’s tallest sand dune in Nags Head in the previously-mentioned Outer Banks. The dunes here are over 60 feet high. To explore them, you can hike two of the trails here or use the boardwalk which is 360 feet in length.
You might also spot such wildlife as brown pelicans, coyotes, foxes, and ospreys. Keep an eye out for fulgurites too. (Fulgurites are glass tubes created by lightning striking the sand. It’s also the perfect place for kite flying and hang gliding.
8. Explore The North Carolina Museum of Art
This museum is located in Raleigh. It spans an area of almost 130,000 square feet and was originally built to house a collection of almost 150 American and European sculptures and paintings purchased by the state for one million dollars in 1947. Today, the collection covers a period of over 5,000 years. Highlights here include a large collection of Rodin sculptures, Egyptian funerary art, and the attractive Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park.
9. Check Out Cape Hatteras National Seashore
This place in the Outer Banks includes goes from the edge of the Ocracoke inlet to the Oregon Inlet’s borders. While many travelers travel here to simply sit on the soft sands, there are other things to see here too. For example, there is a trio of historic lighthouses.
You can visit two of them. Both the Bodie Island Lighthouse and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are seasonally open to the public. They both offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, Bodie Island, and Pamlico Sound.
10. North Carolina Arboretum
This exceptional arboretum encompasses 434 acres. It was founded in 1986 and is nestled in the verdant Bent Creek Experimental Forest south of Asheville, adjacent to the previously mentioned Blue Ridge Parkway. The arboretum was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed the landscape around the Biltmore Estate. It includes 65 acres of beautiful, cultivated gardens. Highlights include bonsai trees, various indoor and outdoor events and exhibitions, sculpture displays, and more than 10 miles of scenic hiking trails.
11. See The Sights At Chimney Rock State Park
Situated less than 25 miles out of Asheville, you can get a glimpse of some of the state’s most majestic mountain scenery at this state park. On a clear day, you can take in awesome 75-mile views from the top of the 315-foot-high Chimney Rock which overlooks Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. Those not willing to climb the 500 steps to the top, can actually ride up on the elevator there.
12. Experience Sliding Rock
Sliding Rock is located under an hour out of Asheville. It’s a 60-foot long mountain “Slip ’N Slide” found in the Pisgah National Forest that will send you sliding down into a pool of almost eight feet of water. The slide is open daily. 10 am to 6 pm, to the public. Unfortunately, the water is never more than 60 degrees Fahrenheit so your best bet is between May and September. Lifeguards are on duty. Admission is $2.00.
13. Enjoy Outer Banks
This striking string of barrier islands just off the coast is quite a popular place for both travel groups and families due to the many beachfront vacation rentals available there. It is arguably most famous for its 100+ miles of welcoming beaches. Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk have huge waves that surfers and skimboarders love. Frisco is favored by folks into four-wheel-drive beach adventures. Hatteras is for fishing and Nags Head is great for anyone looking to relax.
14. Get Into The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The popular Great Smoky Mountain National Park topped our “Top 10” national parks list this year. It covers more than 520,000 acres and is officially known as the “most visited park” in the US. It spans both North Carolina and Tennessee. The park is known around the world for its variety of both plants and wildlife. Millions of people visit each year for the hiking trails, the scenic, mountain-hugging highway, and famous Clingman’s Dome.
15. Hang Out In Highlands
Highlands is located 4,118 feet above sea level. This mountain town, near the border of Georgia, is the highest town east of the famous Mississippi River. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or outdoor adventures, this place, surrounded by the verdant Nantahala National Forest, doesn’t disappoint.
Hike up Whiteside Mountain and take in the view. Check out the numerous waterfalls there. Too athletic? Then book a room at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa and relax.
16. Look Into Cape Lookout National Seashore
Located in the southern Outer Banks along the Crystal Coast, this place is accessible only via boat from Beaufort and Harkers Island. It includes almost 60 miles of undeveloped beachfront. Cape Lookout is famous for its distinct lighthouse and herds of wild horses roaming Shackleford Banks. This is also an exceptional place for birdwatching as over 250 species have been seen here. There are also 112 miles of raw, uninhabited shoreline perfect for canoeing and kayaking.
17. Learn The History Of Battleship North Carolina
While in Wilmington, history lovers will enjoy seeing the famous Battleship, North Carolina. Once known as “the world’s greatest sea weapon,” this sea vessel was commissioned back in 1941 and earned its reputation in World War II as a part of every significant naval offensive in the Pacific. It garnered 15 battle stars. Today, this decorated ship is an official National Historic Landmark and memorial to those who lost their lives in the war.
18. Sample Some Suds At Asheville’s Breweries
Asheville is ensconced in the western part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is reportedly home to more breweries per capita than any other place in the nation. Discriminating drinkers can find anything from a fruit-forward sour to a hoppy India pale ale here.
Not only will you find such craft brewing biggies as New Belgium and Sierra Nevada here, but a surprising group of local producers as well. At last count, there were a total of 50 breweries here. Veteran visitors recommend stops at Burial Beer Co, Green Man Brewery, the Highland Brewing Company, and Wicked Weed Brewing.
19. Enjoy Nature At Bald Head Island
This car-free coastal island is nestled in the very mouth of the famous Cape Fear River. You can only get there via ferry from Southport which is less than 35 miles from Wilmington. This paradise includes 14 miles of wide, warm, white sand beaches and nature preserves that span more than 80 percent of the isle. Take a tour to find out about the island’s various habitats and wildlife.
20. Get Into Linville Gorge
This gorgeous gorge can be found within the popular Pisgah National Forest roughly 60 miles out of Asheville. It is bisected by the Linville River. Feeling athletic? Take what is arguably the most popular hike to North Carolina’s “most popular waterfall,” Linville Falls. You can also hike to Hawksbill Mountain and Table Rock Mountain. Those who have already been can confirm that the views are worth the effort.
21. Monkey Around At North Carolina Zoo
This zoo is situated in Asheboro, less than 40 miles from Greensboro. This attraction stretches across an area of 2,600 acres although only 500 are presently developed. It is home to over 1,800 animals and is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world. There are two separate areas here, Africa and North America. There is also a tropical and desert free-flight aviary with 100 exotic birds.
22. Brave The Rapids And Go Whitewater Rafting
If the U.S. National Whitewater Center wasn’t enough for you, try testing your whitewater rafting skills on some real rivers. There are numerous outfitters headquartered in the Asheville area so it’s easy. Perhaps the most popular and therefore the busiest river is the dam-controlled Nantahala River. There’s also the French Broad River which is heavily impacted by recent rainfall. You can even try the Nolichucky River, which starts in North Carolina but ends in Tennessee.
23. Soak Up The Sun At Wrightsville Beach
This town, east of Wilmington, offers travelers the quintessential beach holiday. Here you can go kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, surfing, and wakeboarding. If you’re feeling less athletic, climb aboard a boat. Sailing cruises at sunset are especially popular. If you’re a landlubber, you can go biking, running, and walking. Other highlights include the Banks Channel, the salt marshes, and the 10-acre Airlie Gardens complete with a 500-year-old oak tree.