You’ll find the best places to visit in North Carolina depending on what kind of vacation you want. North Carolina has so many places I love, so it’s hard to decide where to go for a weekend getaway. Every trip comes down to what I want out of it and what each place has to offer.
Where do you want to go out, or back in the woods where you won’t see a soul? To the beach or a fancy spa? Mountains or a breeze blowing your hair?
We’ve got it all here in North Carolina.
You’ll find something different in every city and town you visit. Here are some of the things that make each destination unique so you can decide where to go. Or maybe not when you see all the cool places to see.
This is the “Big City” of North Carolina. Raleigh has almost double the population of Charlotte. It’s not quite, but it’s close. Here’s a fun fact: Charlotte is the largest metro area in the US without a zoo.
We only have two major league sports teams there. Bank of America Stadium is home to our NFL team, the Carolina Panthers. The Spectrum Center is home to our NBA team, the Charlotte Hornets.
Charlotte is also home to NASCAR. If you don’t know the sport, it’s stock car racing, although the cars aren’t really stock. You can watch the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Hall of Fame here.
I’ll leave you with one last thing about Charlotte: the US National Whitewater Center. Besides white water rafting, you can zip line, go mountain biking, climb a rock wall, and kayak on flatwater. This place has it all!
If you’re looking for history or anything related to government in North Carolina, this is the place. The NC Museum of History, the NC Executive Mansion, and the Capitol and Legislative buildings are some of the places you can see. You can also check out the North Carolina Museum of Art, which was the first state-funded art museum in the U.S.
However, state history isn’t the only reason to visit Charlotte. Most weekends in Raleigh, except in the winter, you can find a festival happening downtown. You can also get seafood right from the NC coast at the State Farmer’s Market, which is open all year.
Wilmington is the place to go if you want ocean waves and bright city lights. Right next door to Wrightsville Beach, you’ve got the best of both worlds. In Wrightsville, you’ll find Johnnie Mercer’s Pier and The Wrightsville Beach Mailbox. This mailbox has pens and notebooks where you can leave a note for the next travelers.
Downtown Wilmington has a Riverwalk with restaurants, boutiques, and other shops. There’s a great view of the Cape Fear River and the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge while you’re having dinner.
In Wilmington, you can also tour the USS North Carolina, either on your own or with a guide. The flagship store of Bitty & Beau’s Coffee is here. All the workers are people with disabilities. In Wilmington, there’s plenty to keep you busy for a long weekend or longer.
4. Blowing Rock
Boone’s my favorite mountain town. Well, I guess I say that about many of them. You’ll love the North Carolina mountains if you’re a fan of the outdoors. Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park has some great mountain biking and hiking to keep you busy for weeks.
There are some good hikes in the area, like Rough Ridge, Linville Falls, and Glen Burney Trail. Glen Burney isn’t as well-known, but it’s right in the middle of Blowing Rock. Though don’t be fooled, it’s a tough hike. You’ll get three gorgeous waterfalls at the end.
The Appalachian State University is in Boone, but Blowing Rock is a quieter luxury getaway about 15 minutes away. Shopping and fine dining are available in downtown Blowing Rock. In high season, Chetola Resort can be expensive.
5. Black Mountain
This little town is almost like a second home to me. Right outside of downtown Black Mountain, my husband’s family has a cozy little cabin tucked away in the woods. It’s quiet, but it’s just outside of Asheville (about a 20-minute drive) where you get the best of both worlds.
The town has three breweries, and they’re all worth a look. One of the biggest ones, Pisgah Brewing, has live music all year. You have to pay cash though at Pisgah! Mellie Mac’s is also cool. It’s a wine bar and garden shop. Buy some pretty flowers and have a drink.
If you can, stay for longer than a weekend for all the good food and cute shops. In this mountain town, you can hike and do other outdoor stuff.
I’ve only been here one night, but I’m desperate to come back. I went with Tyler to see an outdoor drama about the Cherokee Indians called “Unto These Hills.”. I would strongly recommend it, but maybe not for kids younger than middle school or high school.
You’ve got Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel & Casino. I’ve never been to a casino since I’m not much of a gambler. Their event center also hosts comedy shows and concerts. Visit the Oconaluftee Indian Village to see what life was like for the Cherokees in the 1760s.
If you’re a motorcycle fan, check out Wheels Through Time Museum. They have a huge collection of motorcycles and unique cars. I got this recommendation from my parents who ride Harleys all over North Carolina.