Awe-Inspiring North Carolina
From the snowy mountains to the temperate coast in winter, a North Carolina travel experience offers endless dimensions of natural beauty, urban vitality, history, arts and culture, outdoor adventure, culinary craft and artisan drink.
North Carolina has the highest mountain peaks in the eastern U.S. and 482 kilometers of shoreline. It’s home to hundreds of waterfalls, two national forests and dozens of lakes, rivers and streams. A true four-season state, six weeks’ worth of foliage dapples the mountain region each year. And now is the time to head to the western part of the state to discover the best snowy slopes the South can offer in winter. Drive the Blue Ridge parkway, sample the state’s famous barbecue, or spend some quality time in an off-the-beaten-path town. Explore the breathtaking views the mountains offer, surround yourself with scenic beauty while picnicking, hiking, golfing, or whitewater rafting and rock climbing. In the winter, ride the slopes on skis, tubes or snowboards and find serenity on snowshoes.
Explore the barrier islands of the Outer Banks or go hang-gliding just a stone’s throw from the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Along the coast, make time to relax or find adventure. Climb historic lighthouses or board a historic battleship. Savor Calabash seafood, fresh from the sea and fried to golden perfection in a style all its own. And get your camera ready: wild horses roam over the sands of two separate banks here.
With all there is to do on land and by sea, save time for all that’s happening within North Carolina’s vibrant cities and eclectic college towns. Here the dynamic natural landscape gives way to vineyards and valleys, as well as premiere golf and stock car courses, historic sites, plentiful shopping and restaurants that carry on the state’s distinct culinary tradition. Foodies can indulge in delights from James Beard nominees and barbecue pit masters alike. And those looking for nightlife will find the cities filled with a booming music scene, bustling breweries and enough entertainment to last for several lifetimes. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, mountains or beaches, the rhythm of city life or the tranquility of nature, your stay in North Carolina will definitely stay with you.
In central North Carolina, find one-of-a-kind shopping, tee off on one of the state's more than 400 golf courses and experience the "home" of NASCAR. Sample wine at one of North Carolina's wineries or step back in time at a Civil War battlefield. Covering nearly one-half of North Carolina in the central part of the state, the Piedmont is an area of gently rolling foothills with the occasional boulder or unexpected rock outcropping. The Piedmont region boasts of one of the most dynamic economies in the United States and is home to the state's largest cities and biggest financial institutions. Renowned research universities, textile and furniture factories, tobacco farms, shopping meccas, top golf courses and abundant historic sites are also part of the makeup of the North Carolina Piedmont.
- Biltmore - America's largest privately owned home, Biltmore rises from 8,000 acres in the mountains near Asheville. George Vanderbilt, son of industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt, saw his 250-room French-Renaissance chateau completed in 1895. This National Historic Landmark is among the nation's most visited historic residences with shops, a four-star hotel, lush gardens, serene walking trails and an award-winning winery.
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore - The popular National Seashore, which preserves and protects 75 miles of North Carolina's Outer Banks, includes the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse area plus visitor centers at Buxton, Bodie Island and Ocracoke Island. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. In 1999, the landmark was relocated 2,900 feet away from the ocean to protect it from beach erosion. It now stands 1,600 feet from the shore, as it did at the time it was built.
- Blue Ridge Parkway - The Blue Ridge Parkway, nicknamed "America's Favorite Drive," is a 469-mile scenic route connecting the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. North Carolina is home to 252 parkway miles, which meander through two national forests and offer campgrounds, picnic areas, lodges, restaurants and countless scenic overlooks.
- Qualla Boundary (Cherokee Reservation) - Home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, the Qualla Boundary welcomes thousands of visitors each year. Popular attractions include Harrah's Cherokee Casino, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Oconaluftee Indian Village, the outdoor drama "Unto These Hills," Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutuals, shopping and more.
- Wright Brothers National Memorial - The site of man's first powered flight by Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1903, the Wright Brothers National Memorial is in Kill Devil Hills on North Carolina's Outer Banks. The memorial features a 60-foot-high granite pylon atop a 90-foot hill to commemorate the visionary brothers and also boasts a museum, a reconstructed hangar and daily presentations on the Wright brothers' historic first flight.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the largest protected land area east of the Rocky Mountains, is the nation's most visited national park. Although it straddles the Tennessee line, the majority of the park lies within North Carolina: 276,000 acres of forest and trails for hikers, bikers and equestrians. Rivers, streams and lakes offer some of the best canoeing, kayaking and whitewater rafting in the country.
- The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, the first state-owned art museum in the United States, contains one of the most distinguished collections of Old Masters in the South. As the museum is publicly owned, this collection belongs to the residents of North Carolina.
- Old Salem is a restored 18th-century Moravian congregation town that depicts life in the original town of Salem, N.C. Founded in 1753, Salem was among the first towns in America to have a public water system, a fire department and a school for girls.
- The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh is the largest museum of its kind in the Southeast.
- The North Carolina Transportation Museum, located at Historic Spencer Shops in Salisbury, is the South's largest transportation museum, with exhibits of all means of transportation, from dugout canoes to massive steam locomotives.
- The North Carolina Zoo near Asheboro is the nation's largest walk-through, natural-habitat zoo and was the first American zoo designed from its inception around the natural-habitat philosophy.
- Putt-Putt Golf was invented in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
- North Carolina is home to nearly 200 wineries. The industry has two focuses - native muscadine grapes and European-style vinifera grapes.
- Commonly planted vinifera grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Viognier. They are planted in the western and Piedmont regions of the state.
- Scuppernong is the first grape cultivated in the United States and is the official fruit of North Carolina. The Mother Vine in Manteo on Roanoke Island, a 400-year-old scuppernong vine, is the oldest known cultivated grapevine in the nation.
- More than 400 individually owned grape vineyards are spread across the state. North Carolina ranks 10th in the nation in grape production.
- More than 1,500 kinds of flowering plants grow in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That diversity tops every other North American national park. Flowers bloom from late winter to late fall, but spring is prime time for flower-watching.
- Spring training brought George Herman Ruth to Fayetteville, in 1914. There, he hit the first professional run of his career and acquired the nickname “Babe.”
- The town of Weldon bills itself as the “rockfish capital of the world” because of the striped bass that fill the Roanoke River during the spring migration.
- The May full moon marks the traditional start of soft-shell crab season, when blue crabs begin to molt. Watermen harvest them in the short window before a new shell grows.
- North Carolina has three spring steeplechases: Stoneybrook, Queen’s Cup and the Block House.
- From spring until fall, lighthouse lovers can head to the top of all six of the state’s climbable lighthouses. The Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout towers are open seasonally; the Currituck Beach, Oak Island and Bald Head Island lighthouses can be climbed year-round. Total number of steps: 1,131.
As they say, “the proof is in the pudding,” and the facts don’t lie. North Carolina is a fascinating choice for your travels. Get planning and make your visit a truly unique experience by exploring all that North Carolina has to offer.