North Carolina

North Carolina is a beautiful place featuring waterfalls, mountains, and beaches. In between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Outer Banks, the big cities are active and exciting. Still, the small-town main streets are quaint and welcoming.  All of this makes North Carolina a great place to visit.

There aren’t many states where you can visit the mountains one weekend and drive to the beach the next. North Carolina fits that description, which just scratches the surface regarding all the adventures that the state holds.

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Pictures of North Carolina

Visit North Carolina

The largest cities in North Carolina are situated in the state’s central region, also known as the Piedmont region. This is convenient for the residents of cities like Charlotte and Raleigh. Those living in the largest cities can enjoy the big city amenities while only living a few hours from the mountains and beaches.

As a result, the same residents with access to Broadway musicals and high culture can spend their weekends hiking, surfing, and kayaking.

North Carolina is also popular because of the moderate climate that generously offers all four seasons. The fall foliage is epic in the western part of the state along the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the weather is often near-perfect during the spring. 

The mountains collect most of the snow, as you might expect, but even Charlotte routinely sees snowfalls.  For those who don’t already know, Charlotte is situated just north of the South Carolina border. It’s one of the many reasons that Charlotte serves as the de facto capital of the collective Carolinas.

North Carolina is a great place to live, work, and play. If you don’t live in North Carolina, it is a fantastic place to visit.

Charlotte, NC

Charlotte is the biggest city in the Carolina region and has the skyline to match. The Queen City is an important financial center in the United States. Bank of America and Truist are headquartered in Charlotte, and Wells Fargo employs more than 20,000 people.

On the other hand, Charlotte is synonymous with NASCAR, which is also headquartered in Uptown. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is a must-visit attraction, and the Charlotte Motor Speedway sits just north of the city. 

Banking and NASCAR represent a unique combination demonstrating how eclectic The Queen City is. And even this stark combination only barely alludes to how much the city has to offer. Perhaps this is why around 100 people move to Charlotte every day.

The light rail and accompanying Rail Trail connects the city’s most urban neighborhoods, making it easy to get around. You can stay at a hotel in Uptown, visit a museum or sporting event in Uptown, and eat at Optimist Hall or somewhere in NODA without needing a car. 

The Carolina Panthers play in Uptown Charlotte, where they share a home with Charlotte FC. The Spectrum Center is home to the Charlotte Hornets, just one mile away. The city also offers minor league baseball, hockey, and professional golf tournaments.

You can go whitewater rafting, rock climbing, or mountain biking at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.  When you are ready to wind down, enjoy the free concert series during the summer, or go for a hike through the trails.

As you have time to explore Charlotte, you will find more than we could ever summarize in a few paragraphs. It is truly a great place to live, work, play – and visit!

Picture Collage of Charlotte, NC

Raleigh & Durham, NC

Raleigh and Durham serve as two corners of North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Chapel Hill is the third corner. The area is home to several technology and biotech companies and three major research universities. Crazily enough, Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, and NC State are within a 30-minute drive of each other.

Raleigh also serves as the state capital for North Carolina, which means there are some awesome museums in the Raleigh area. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is incredible to visit.  This is especially true if you have kids. 

The museum has four floors of exhibits, including live animals. While we are not too fond of touching reptiles, seeing life-size dinosaurs is worth the price of admission. The North Carolina Museum of Art and the North Carolina Museum of History are also both in Raleigh.

If you are a fan of old sports movies, you must attend a Durham Bulls game. Kevin Costner made the team famous, starring in Bull Durham in the late 80s. Movies aside, the stadium and surrounding district are really neat places to explore. 

Men’s Health once named Raleigh the #3 Sportiest City in America, so you have to spend some time outdoors. Aside from the local college athletics, the area boasts 180 miles of greenway trails, great locations for kayaking, and plenty more. 

We recommend visiting the Morgan Street Food Hall in Raleigh’s Warehouse District for good food and fun times. It was voted one of the country’s ten best new food halls.

Blue Ridge Mountains

Asheville, NC, is likely the most famous city along the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a wonderful place to visit because you can go hiking one day and then visit the Biltmore Estate the next day. The Biltmore Estate includes over 135,000 square feet of living area, making it the largest privately owned house in the entire United States.

Aside from the massive size, the Estate is well kept and stunningly beautiful. The grounds are a park-like setting in the shadows of the mountains.  

Asheville is likely the best-known city in the North Carolina mountains, but our family is partial to Blowing Rock and Boone. The two towns are less than eight miles apart, so we consider the overall area one region. Blowing Rock features a beautiful downtown area with many shops and restaurants. 

The two towns serve as home base for several attractions within a 30 minutes drive, including the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, Beech Mountain Ski Resort, and Hawksnest Snowtubing and Zipline.

If hiking along the Appalachian trail is not your thing, rent a convertible and go for a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The National Parkway is America’s longest linear park, stretching 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia. 

The views along the Blue Ridge Parkway are breathtaking. There are places where you can see the road ahead, and all you can do is wonder how they built a bridge along the side of the mountain. The foliage is bright and colorful if you can visit during the fall. And there are plenty of places to pull over to enjoy a quick hike and mountaintop view.

Mountains in North Carolina

Outer Banks & Beaches

Across the state, the Outer Banks feature an entirely different experience. Incredibly, the Great Smoky Mountains and Outer Banks are both in North Carolina. One of the reasons we love the state is that you are within a few hours’ drive of the beaches and the mountains. 

If you’ve heard anything about the Outer Banks, you’ve likely heard of the Corolla Wild Horses. Most people believe the horses arrived in the Carolinas due to a shipwreck hundreds of years ago. The idea that wild horses live along the beaches is a little hard to believe, which is why it is so awesome.

There are several tours available to see wild horses. Still, if you visit the Corolla area, just south of the Virginia border, you can see the horses roaming the sand dunes.

Once you have seen the wild horses, we recommend that you navigate to one of the lighthouses in the Outer Banks or along the beaches. The tallest brick lighthouse in America is found at Cape Hatteras. You’ve likely seen pictures of the iconic lighthouse.

You can visit lighthouses in the Outer Banks or the rest of the North Carolina coastline. There are seven lighthouses, with the southernmost lighthouse near Oak Island. You can still climb five of those lighthouses.

Indeed, there are plenty of beaches along the North Carolina coast, but the Wilmington area is one of the most popular to visit. The beautiful river district features entertainment and places to eat, and three island beach towns are only 10 miles from historic downtown Wilmington.

Favorite Places To Visit In North Carolina

We’ve lived in the Charlotte area for over a decade, so we are naturally fond of almost everything in the Charlotte region. We take our kids to the Whitewater Center often and watch the Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers almost every time they grace the TV.  

We’ve made great memories at the Spectrum Center (where the Hornets play) and at Bank of America Stadium (where the Panthers play).

We also love to visit the South End community and go for walks along the Rail Trail while we eat ice cream.  We’ve even been known to take our kids for rides on the light rail or street car just for fun. 

Outside of Charlotte, Asheville is great to visit, but the Biltmore might be too expensive for some people. Our family loves to visit the Blowing Rock and Boone regions.  Within 30 minutes of Boone, you will find the Wilderness Alpine Coaster and Hawksnest snow tubing. 

Beech Mountain Ski Resort isn’t far from Boone, either. 

One fun fact for you is that the South Carolina beaches are closer to Charlotte than most of the North Carolina beaches, but we have visited beach communities along both coastlines. You can’t go wrong in North Carolina with the beaches near Wilmington. And the Outer Banks offer a one-of-a-kind experience.