North Carolina has so much to offer travelers well beyond the mountains and cities. Whether you’re looking for the great outdoors or swanky restaurants, important history, or quirky experiences, you’ll find it here.
These six destinations are our picks for the places you can’t miss when visiting North Carolina.
Asheville, North Carolina is one of the South’s most popular weekend destinations, located a short drive from major cities like Atlanta and Charlotte. It’s also off the Blue Ridge Parkway, an incredible scenic drive.
Biltmore Estate is the largest private home in America, where the Vanderbilts once spent their summers. It’s also one of the city’s top attractions.
The Grove Park Inn is by far the most well-known hotel in Asheville, hosting countless celebrities and politicians over the years. If you’re traveling on a budget, Sweet Peas Hostel is in the heart of downtown.
Bryson City and Cherokee
Bryson City is home to the majority of the area’s restaurants. The High Test Deli is an automotive-themed restaurant with hearty sandwiches and foot-long hot dogs with toppings piled high. Nabers Drive In has carhop service, homemade barbecue, and classic milkshakes.
Charlotte is an essential stop for visitors to the state, located in the middle of everything. Start your visit at the Levine Museum of the New South, an interactive museum focusing on the history and culture of the South.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame showcases the sport with virtual reality experiences and exhibits from racing’s most famous names.
Halcyon Flavors From the Earth at the Mint Museum incorporates Southern ingredients in artfully prepared dishes. Optimist Hall is a food hall with stalls selling Japanese, Italian, and Indian cuisines.
There are plenty of Charlotte hotels, with new ones opening every year. The Westin Charlotte is convenient to Uptown while Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel has perks like daily happy hour. The Ballantyne is a luxurious resort.
Durham is the Triangle’s most underrated destination, home to Duke University. Here you’ll find a number of unique attractions like the Duke Basketball Museum and Sports Hall of Fame, Duke Lemur Center, Nasher Museum of Art, and Sarah P. Duke Gardens.
During the spring, catch a Durham Bulls game, the beloved minor league baseball team is best associated with the film Bull Durham. Get outside and explore the Eno Rock Quarry, a popular spot for swimming, hiking, and biking.
Visitors have endless choices for a good meal. Start at Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter, which has midcentury diner decor and a menu of breakfast all day.
Dashi serves both ramen or izakaya small plates with Japanese and American beers, sakes, and whiskeys. Open since 1998, Guglhupf serves authentic bratwursts, potato dumplings, and schnitzel with German beers.
Spend the night at Durham’s trendy hotels, including Unscripted Durham and The Durham Hotel. Morehead Manor is a bed and breakfast that has been operating in a Colonial Revival home for over two decades.
The area has a number of longtime attractions like Tweetsie Railroad, Grandfather Mountain, Linville Caverns, and Mast General Store. The Land of Oz is a seasonal theme park inspired by the classic tale.
College students love the large portions at Black Cat Burrito and Boone Bagelry. Woodlands Barbeque Restaurant in Blowing Rock and Famous Louise’s Rock House Restaurant in Linville Falls have been around for years.
The Outer Banks is certainly an incredible stretch of coastline but Onslow County to the South is also worth exploring, including Jacksonville, Camp Lejeune, Topsail Island, and Swansboro.
Learn about the history of the area at Onslow County Museum, which has exhibits on Native American dugout canoes, venus flytraps, and the military ties in Onslow.
Lejeune Memorial Gardens on the Marines base honor the sacrifice of the members of the armed forces, including the Montford Point Marines.
Hammocks Beach State Park and Bear Island are as close you can get to a private island, accessible by ferry. There are also kayaking outfitters in town.
Among them is Airlie Gardens, a 67-acre former private home dotted with sculptures. Battleship North Carolina is another popular stop, a World War II battleship that now permanently resides in the Cape Fear River.
The Cape Fear Museum of History features exhibits on the region in the prehistoric age, a simulated space station, and artifacts from basketball legend Michael Jordan.
The Caribbean flavors at Savorez include dishes like tuna tostadas, sancocho, and jerk shrimp tacos. Benny’s Big Time, from chef Vivian Howard, serves Italian-inspired dishes like wood-fired pizzas, risotto, and ravioli.
Tour the home of RJ and Katharine Reynolds at Reynolda House Museum of American Art, which features the works of some of America’s most notable artists, from Mary Cassatt to Georgia O’Keefe. There’s also an adjacent botanical garden.
The Katharine Brasserie is named for the matriarch of the Reynolds family. The French-inspired eatery serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as cocktails and brunch.
The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in the historic Reynolds Building has been carefully restored with perks like daily happy hour and morning coffee.
The Yadkin Valley, located north of the Triad, is home to the state’s best wineries, set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Most of the hotels in this area are chains near the highway, but have all the desired amenities. Choose from Hampton Inn Wilkesboro, Days Inn Yadkinville, Holiday Inn Express Mount Airy, and Holiday Inn Express Lexington.