North Carolina is full of scenic views and vibrant cities, but that’s just scratching the surface. What is North Carolina Known For? We love living in the Carolinas because there is so much to do and see, and the mild climate allows you to explore year-round.
What Is North Carolina Known For?
North Carolina is known for scenic views, such as those at the Outer Banks and Great Smoky Mountains, vibrant cities and economies, delicious barbecue, Pepsi-Cola, and Krispy Kreme. And this is just the start. They were also First in Flight.
North Carolina has a very distinct vibe that we find both charming and adventurous. It’s also a very dynamic state. Consider this: The U.S. National Whitewater Center is only a few miles from one of the largest airports in the country and the headquarters for several of the largest companies in the country.
The dichotomy that Charlotte is home to both a mecca for outdoor adventures and banking is just one glimpse into the state’s rich heritage. Here are more of the things that North Carolina is known for.
1. Scenic Views: The Outer Banks & Blue Ridge Mountains
Only a handful of states can claim they are home to the mountains and the beach, and North Carolina is one of those states. Not only that, but The Outer Banks are among the most iconic beach destinations in the entire country.
The Outer Banks
Many people associate The Outer Banks (commonly abbreviated as OBX) with movies such as The Nights of Rodanthe. While beautiful in the movie, that’s only a small glimpse of how neat the barrier islands are. After all, the string of islands is more than 200 miles long.
We recommend you visit Corolla, known for wild horses living along the beach. Give the horses distance, though, because you shouldn’t get within 50 feet of them and definitely shouldn’t feed them.
Beyond the horses and miles of beaches, the Outer Banks is known for charming towns and adventurous outdoor activities. Make sure to check out the lighthouses too.
Blue Ridge Mountains
Some 500 miles to the west of The Outer Banks, you will find America’s most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains. 500 miles apart? Yes, North Carolina has an awkward and long shape, and these two scenic destinations are about as far apart as you can get from each other within the state of North Carolina.
The Great Smoky Mountains feature a diverse ecosystem on display across the mountains bordering North Carolina and Tennessee. The mountains get their name from the frequent fog that covers the mountains in the morning.
The Blue Ridge Mountains encompass the Great Smoky Mountains, and Mt. Mitchell within the Blue Ridge Mountains is the high peak in the Eastern United States. Mt. Mitchell rises 6,684 feet. You will also find fantastic waterfalls in the mountains.
The most prominent cities in The Blue Ridge Mountains include Asheville and Boone. You have to visit The Biltmore when you are in Asheville. Still, the Appalachian Trail also runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains, showcasing the North Carolina dichotomy of experiences.
The Biltmore in Asheville represents ultimate luxury, while the Appalachian Trail represents rugged resilience.
2. Vibrant Cities & Economy: Charlotte & the Research Triangle Park
While you will find rustic and outdoor experiences and the western and eastern borders, the big cities in the state’s center drive the economy. The financial sector drives Charlotte, while institutional leaders drive Raleigh. Both cities offer excellent healthcare systems that are also major employers.
Charlotte: The Unofficial Center of All Things Carolinas
While Raleigh is the state capital of North Carolina, Charlotte is the biggest city and economy in the Carolinas. Since it sits on the border of North and South Carolina, this big city serves as the defacto non-government center for the greater Carolinas.
In comparing Charlotte vs. Raleigh, two of the biggest differences are the number of Fortune 500 headquarters in Charlotte and the impressive skyline.
Charlotte is also known as the center of professional sports in the Carolinas. The Carolina Panthers of the NFL, the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA, Charlotte FC of the MLS, and NASCAR are all found in the Queen City.
Raleigh and Charlotte are both in the Piedmont region, so they don’t have beaches or mountains. Still, you can access the beaches or mountains within a few hours’ drive.
Research Triangle Park
The Research Triangle is an area between Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill anchored by three major research universities. N.C. State, Duke University, and U.N.C. Chapel Hill are all within mere miles of each other, and Wake Forest is nearby too.
When you combine well-respected universities with a concentration of government workers in Raleigh, you get an institutional powerhouse. As a result, the area has developed into an important hub for technology and biotech companies.
3. Barbecue: Eastern & Western NC-Style Barbecue
If you know anything about North Carolina, then you know that the state prides itself on its barbecue. You seriously wouldn’t believe how many side bets I’ve heard of in which the NC resident needs to ship barbecue cross country if their sporting team loses.
Two Styles of North Carolina Barbecue
Interestingly, North Carolina is known for not one but two types of barbecue. Lexington-style and Eastern-style barbecue are pork-based products, but they use very different sauces.
Eastern-style barbecue might be the most unique compared to other styles of barbecue because it is a vinegar and pepper-based sauce. The differentiator here is actually what’s not in the sauce. While most traditional barbecue sauces are either tomato or mustard base, Eastern-style barbecue sauce has neither.
As a result, some find Eastern-style barbecue sauce to be a bit runny. Interestingly, a mayonnaise-based coleslaw often accompanies Eastern-style barbecue to balance out the meal.
Lexington-style barbecue sauce also starts with vinegar and pepper and includes a tomato base. The other distinguishing factor is that Lexington barbecue is generally made just from the pork shoulder, whereas Eastern barbecue is a “whole-hog” style of barbecue.
Recipes for Lexington barbecue vary based on tradition and preference. Some recipes are hot and spicy, while others are a bit sweet.
4. First in Flight, Birthplace to Pepsi-Cola, Home to Krispy Kreme
Every state takes pride in things born in that state, and so is the case with North Carolina. While North Carolina has a distinguished tech, biotech, and financial sector (to name a few), most people take pride in more practical and universally-known creations.
First in Flight – The Wright Brothers & Kitty Hawk
The most common North Carolina license plate says “First in Flight” and has an image of the Wright Brothers’ first airborne plane. That’s because the first successful flight occurred in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December of 1903.
That first flight lasted a mere 12 seconds, and the longest flight on the infamous day of experimentation lasted 59 seconds.
Wilbur and Orville Wright were bicycle shop owners from Dayton, Ohio, and they originally built the first airplane in Ohio. As a result, Ohio and North Carolina have long disagreed over who deserves the “First in Flight” designation, but all agree the Wright brothers had their first successful flight in Kitty Hawk, NC.
Pepsi-Cola & Krispy Kreme
North Carolina’s other great creations include Pepsi-Cola and Krispy Kreme. The brands make sure they leverage their heritage in local advertising, too. For instance, Pepsi-Cola frequently advertises as “Born in the Carolinas” in an attempt to sway Coca-Cola loyalists to stick to their Carolina roots.
Pharmacist Caleb Bradham owned a spot in New Bern, North Carolina, with a jukebox and soda fountain. The earliest version of Pepsi-Cola was originally called Brad’s Drink, and Bradham’s original intention was for the drink to help customers digest food.
The Krispy Kreme “Hot Now” sign might be as famous in the Carolinas as the Pepsi logo. After all, it’s hard to deny how delicious the brand’s fresh donuts are. The first Krispy Kreme store opened in Winston-Salem in 1937.
While the brand still has a large presence in Winston-Salem, Krispy Kreme recently moved its headquarters to Charlotte. Still, state residents take pride in the brand’s heritage, the fact that the headquarters remains in the state (with a test kitchen!), and the delicious taste.
5. Warm & Welcoming People
Do you know what donuts and barbecue have in common? They’re both meant for sharing. After all, donuts are often sold by the dozen, and both are a staple at gatherings. Churchgoers undoubtedly have had donuts in class, and barbecue at a potluck dinner.
You will find that North Carolinians are warm and welcoming. So much so that the most famous foods in North Carolina are most often shared.
It’s a state in which you will often be greeted on the streets.
Cons Associated With North Carolina
While there are plenty of positive benefits to living in or visiting North Carolina, there are a few downsides. The weather is mostly mild, but it isn’t perfect. The summers are hot and humid, and the coastline is prone to hurricanes.
Favorite Things About North Carolina
There are plenty of reasons to love North Carolina, but what is North Carolina known for? Aside from barbecue, Pepsi-cola, and Krispy Kreme, North Carolina is known for its beautiful beaches and mountains. You will also find big cities and a vibrant economy.