2024 North Carolina Visitors Guide
Offering a diversity of landscape ranging from mountains to expansive white beaches, North Carolina is one of the nation’s most charming vacation destinations. The Crystal Coast, Cape Fear Coast, and Outer Banks regions prove to be popular areas for those seeking a relaxing coastal getaway. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a natural park that spreads for over 70 miles, offers recreational adventure in the Outer Banks. Communities such as Nags Head, Atlantic Beach, and Wilmington have frequented beach destinations along North Carolina’s sizable coast. The North Carolina Mountains offer a startling contrast to the coastal areas, like downhill skiing, hiking and biking are common activities in the renowned Blue Ridge Mountains. Asheville, situated amongst the peaks, is home to the Biltmore Estate, a luxurious home located on 8,000 acres. The capital city of Raleigh, as well as Durham, Charlotte, and Chapel Hill, are major cultural and business centers, each offering an array of enriching attractions.
Cape Fear Coast Visitors Guide
Renowned for its expansive, uncrowded beaches, the southern beaches of North Carolina and Cape Fear Coast is an ideal holiday destination. From recreational activities to historic attractions to a relaxing vacation getaway, visitors easily find a reason to flock to this picturesque region throughout the year. The seaside communities of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach and the city of Wilmington, prove to be the most popular destinations in the region, but smaller fishing villages dot the shore and make ideal hideaways. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Carolina Beach State Park, where boating, picnicking and camping are popular pastimes. History buffs love exploring the region’s rich history at venues like the Latimer House Museum in Wilmington, where furniture, jewelry, and other historic artifacts are on display. For those wishing to take it easy, the Cape Fear Coast is home to many charming villages that offer unique accommodations, unhurried atmospheres, and peaceful seaside walkways.
Central Carolina is a haven for golfers. The area surrounding Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen boasts over 40 golf courses—including some of the most prestigious golf clubs in the state—all located within a 15 mi (24 km) radius. Central North Carolina’s golf facilities have played host to the U.S. Open Championship and a wealth of other tournaments, attracting professional golfers from around the world. But golf is not the only reason visitors travel to this region. Fayetteville, the area’s largest city, is home to several historic sites, including Fort Bragg, one of the largest and most important military installations in the United States. Singletary Lake State Park is a recreational area designed especially for group camping. Located north of Elizabethtown, Jones Lake State Park affords hiking, swimming, camping, and fishing amidst North Carolina’s wilds.
Participate in the plethora of activities that are offered to visitors in the North Carolina Mountains. Activities, such as hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and downhill skiing can be enjoyed along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is located near Asheville. The parkway spans across both North Carolina and Virginia. The city of Asheville not only features extraordinary scenic attractions but also architectural wonders. Pack Square in Asheville is the site of many restaurants, shops, and other attractions. Biltmore Estate is the largest attraction in the region, featuring accommodations, restaurants, tours, activities and more. Banner Elk is one of the great ski locations in the North Carolina Mountains and is recognized for having two nearby ski resorts, the Hawknest Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort. Blowing Rock offers a number of attractions, among them Mystery Hill, which features illusions, puzzles, and science.
Crystal Coast Visitors Guide
The Crystal Coast of North Carolina is home to some of the best beaches on the east coast of the United States, making it a popular vacation destination. Not only does the region boast beauty, but it also features a number of landmark attractions, entertaining events, and prime recreational areas. Atlantic Beach, Beaufort and Morehead City are the main centers in the Crystal Coast region, each offering a variety of accommodations and a relaxing seaside atmosphere. For those interested in the rich history of the region, the Beaufort Historic Site offers guided tours of a restored historic district in a seaport village setting. Morehead City is abuzz every October during the North Carolina Seafood Festival. This three-day event celebrates the region’s seafood while also offering musical entertainment, fishing and surfing competitions. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Fort Macon State Park near Atlantic Beach, where swimming, suntanning and fishing are popular diversions.
Eastern North Carolina
Nestled between the Raleigh-Durham area and the Outer Banks coastal region, Eastern North Carolina offers an array of parks, recreational activities, and interesting attractions. At Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, visitors enjoy camping, fishing, hiking, and an educational museum providing exhibits and displays about the geological history of the park’s cliffs. Southeast of Washington lies Goose Creek State Park, another popular recreation site offering hiking and canoeing trails, a swimming beach and exceptional scenery on the Pamlico River. Greenville is the largest city in the area, boasting a massive convention center, an art museum and May Museum and Park, a historic site highlighting the history of Pitt County. Washington’s North Carolina Estuarium, another impressive attraction, features living aquariums, environmental artworks and historic artifacts from the region. A favorite tourist site just west of Windsor is Historic Hope Plantation, where visitors have the chance to tour the Federal-era home of former North Carolina governor David Stone.
The Greater Charlotte area, situated in southwestern North Carolina, is a hotbed of commerce, culture and entertainment. Charlotte is characterized by modern skyscrapers, vibrant nightlife and an array of attractions and activities ranging from sporting events to theme parks to hands-on science museums. Several points of interest surround the city, including Huntersville’s Latta Plantation Park, where visitors have the chance to explore 18 miles of hiking trails, take a guided horseback ride and visit a living history museum representing life on a 19th-century farm. Just south of Concord is Lowe’s Motor Speedway, which features car shows as well as NASCAR and dirt track racing. The 11th president of the United States, James K. Polk, was born near Pineville, and the historic site features a museum and reconstructions of homestead buildings.
The Outer Banks region is known for its beautiful beaches, historic sites, and abundant natural areas, making it a popular vacation destination. Made up of a string of barrier islands, the Outer Banks area is located off North Carolina’s Atlantic coast and is the first place in America that England attempted to colonize hundreds of years ago. Visitors enjoy exploring the many lighthouses that dot the shores of the Outer Banks beaches, including the 208-foot-tall Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton, which is considered the tallest in the United States. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a park that stretches more than 70 miles from Nags Head to Ocracoke Inlet, is one of the best spots for surfing and fishing on the East Coast. For those seeking a romantic getaway or relaxing retreat, the Outer Banks offers a number of historic bed and breakfasts, resorts and unique lodgings along its expansive coast.
Located in north-central North Carolina, the Piedmont Triad is anchored by the bustling centers of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point. Greensboro is a city of education and culture, boasting five colleges and universities, a summer music festival and several art galleries. A host of cultural attractions and arts groups are located in Winston-Salem, including the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, the Piedmont Opera Theater and the Winston-Salem Symphony. High Point is known for its wealth of furniture retailers and the bi-annual International Home Furnishings Market, which attracts visitors from around the world. The southern part of the region is dominated by Uwharrie National Forest, a park teeming with recreational possibilities that include fishing in Badin Lake, hiking on several trails and hunting for deer and wild turkey.
Situated in north-central North Carolina, the Raleigh-Durham area is the heart of North Carolina and a location of significant intellectual and technological prestige. Raleigh, the state capital, is recognized for its high-tech industry and renowned research facility, Triangle Research Park. Three major state museums located in Raleigh explore the history, art, and natural science: the North Carolina Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of History and the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences. Another major commercial center in the region, Durham is the home of Duke and North Carolina Central Universities, several scenic parks and an array of golf courses. Visitors interested in railroad history have the chance to take a historic train ride at New Hill’s North Carolina Railroad Museum. A number of historic points of interest are located in Hillsborough, including several churches and an early 19th-century town hall. Falls Lake State Recreation Area, just north of Raleigh, affords a host of recreational activities including fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, and biking.
Top Destinations in North Carolina
Asheville is large enough to offer many amenities, yet small enough to retain its small-town friendliness and charm. The Blue Ridge Mountains that embrace the city command magnificent panoramas, with the rocky landscape providing whitewater rafting, fishing, llama trekking, and mountain biking. In fact, the area around Asheville is like a natural theme park. In nearby Pisgah National Forest, a sloping boulder creates a 150-foot natural waterslide into a clear pool below. Choose from hundreds of trails that weave within nature, or take a stroll on the Urban Trail that meanders throughout the city past sculptures, historical sights, and architecture that earned it the name —Paris to the South—. In the same tradition is Biltmore Estate, a magnificent French Chateau built over a century ago. Visitors are welcome to tour America—s largest private residence and explore its 8,000 acres (3238 hectares) of gardens and trails or the award-winning winery, the nation—s most visited vineyard.
Atlantic Beach, NC Visitors Guide
Stunning beaches, an abundance of outdoor activities and a charming small-town atmosphere are just a few of the reasons Atlantic Beach is a popular vacation destination. Located along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, the Atlantic Beach area is known as a recreational haven, like fishing, boating, hiking and picnicking are popular pastimes. One much-visited recreation area is Fort Macon State Park, which is also home to a Civil War fort. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores proves to be another popular attraction, as it features a 300,000-gallon ocean tank, as well as numerous animals from across the state. Every September Atlantic Beach is abuzz during the four-day King Mackerel Tournament, one of the nation’s largest all-cash fishing competitions. For those looking for a peaceful, oceanside retreat, Atlantic Beach offers plenty of charming accommodation options and a number of romantic eateries.
Charlotte is a booming metropolis. The skyline is littered with skyscrapers, most famously the Hearst Tower, which houses Hearst Publishing, and Bank of America Plaza – once the tallest skyscraper in the state. Charlotte has numerous outdoor pursuits available. At Latta Plantation Park, visitors can hike or horseback ride over seven miles of trails. This 2,500-acre park provides an exceptional look at area waterfowl.
Chapel Hill Visitors Guide
Chapel Hill is where the University of North Carolina houses one of its campuses. The campus spans approximately 730 acres and is considered one of the most attractive in the nation. The university’s Morehead Planetarium is a fascinating attraction with informative exhibits for all ages and a star theater that offers regular presentations. The North Carolina Botanical Garden features themed gardens and walking trails. Numerous activities and attractions are around the university including street-side cafes and other similar establishments, which are always filled with crowds of students and a youthful atmosphere.
Located roughly 12 miles south of the Tennessee border in southwestern North Carolina, the town of Cherokee boasts a popular casino that brings visitors from far and wide to try their hand at blackjack, video poker and more. Accommodations, shops, and restaurants can also all be found at the casino. For background on the local people, visitors can enjoy Unto These Hills, a live performance chronicling the history of the Cherokee people through dance, song, and stories. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is also located in town, offering a comprehensive look at the last 11,000 years of Cherokee culture. The North Carolina outdoors can be experienced at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a recreation area divided between Tennessee and North Carolina that features hiking, biking and more among over 100 different species of native trees.
Durham Visitors Guide
Durham is an intellectual city fraught with academic institutions including Duke University and North Carolina Central University. Duke University is one point in Virginia’s Research Triangle, the others being nearby the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Durham was once closely associated with the tobacco industry, and the Duke Homestead Historic Site is an interesting attraction that outlines the history of the industry and the contributions made by the Duke family. The beauty of the city is enhanced by many urban parks including Durham Central Park, West Point on the Eno and the Sarah Duke Gardens.
Fayetteville, situated along the scenic Cape Fear Valley, is a cosmopolitan city that still offers a small-town aura. Rich in military tradition, Fayetteville is home to one of the largest military installations in the United States. Fort Bragg features museums, statues, battle simulations, and other displays. The Pope Air Force Base boasts flight simulators and aircraft displays. Fayetteville offers many other attractions and forms of entertainment throughout the city. Shopping for antiques, visiting artists’ studios, taking in an off-Broadway production, or playing golf at one of the many area golf courses are all recommended activities while in Fayetteville.
There are a variety of local legends that float around Goldsboro, everything from being the birthplace of barbeque to Andy Griffith once teaching in a high school here. What cannot be denied is that Goldsboro is a pleasant vacation spot with numerous activities and attractions. Downtown Goldsboro is the best place to start a tour as the Wayne County Museum is located here, as is the Paramount Theatre. It is also a great place for shopping and dining, with unique stores, cafÃ©s, and tea rooms in abundance. For those wishing to get more in tune with the great outdoors, canoe excursions on the Neuse River are available.
Part of the Piedmont Triad with Winston-Salem and High Point, Greensboro has a history linked with higher education. Five colleges and universities are located within the city, helping to encourage the city’s cultural identity. The Greensboro Cultural Center at Festival Park houses galleries, rehearsal halls and more in a four-level complex. As well, the Eastern Music Festival brings world-class musicians and performers to Greensboro for one month each June and July. For the sports-minded, the Greensboro Coliseum Complex is host to both professional and amateur sport. Also linked with the city is the American Civil Rights movement. At the Greensboro Historical Museum, learn about the 1960 Greensboro Sit-ins that helped change the community and, eventually, the rest of the United States.
Located in Pitt County, Greenville is within easy access of over 20 parks. River Park North is over 300 acres of bottomland forest, grassland, and lakes with picnic areas and year-round fishing. At the Greenville Museum of Art, visitors will be impressed by one of the largest collections of North Carolina Jugtown Pottery. The May Museum and Park is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the exhibits here present life in Pitt County from colonial times through to the present day. Those looking to improve their handicap can partake in one of the many area golf courses.
The majority of furniture within the United States (some figures state as much as 60%) is produced within a 200-mile (320-kilometer) radius of Hickory. Outlet stores and retail showrooms within Hickory allow visitors to check for furniture bargains. For a wide selection in one area, visitors should visit 20 Miles of Furniture, a shopping area that has over 35 furniture stores. The Hickory Motor Speedway has been bringing car racing to Hickory since 1950. Today, the Speedway hosts weekly NASCAR races. For baseball fans, the Hickory Crawdads of the South Atlantic League play regular home games at L.P. Frans Stadium from April through September. Other local attractions include the Hickory Museum of Art and the Catawba Science Center.
High Point, NC
Known as the Home Furnishings Capital of the World, High Point is located in the middle of North Carolina, roughly 60 miles north of Charlotte. No visit to High Point is complete without a snapshot in front of the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers, a four-story building circa 1926 that is now home to the local Jaycees. Furniture shops are well represented in High Point, with over 70 stores boasting home furnishings and decor. Aside from furniture, High Point also boasts several historical attractions such as the Museum of Old Domestic Life, a museum that speaks to the area’s past and regales visitors with a variety of both permanent exhibits and rotating displays. The town of High Point is also known to jazz aficionados as the boyhood home of the acclaimed 20th-century saxophonist John Coltrane, a fact that is honored at the John Coltrane Commemorative Marker on Underhill Street.
Located just inland from the Atlantic Ocean along the New River, Jacksonville is a major destination for visitors to the east coast of North Carolina. Nearby beaches and waterfront parks, including Hammocks Beach State Park, make the city an ocean playground. Golfers can find a challenging course among the many in the region. The abundant and varied wilderness habitats, including forests, marshes, and ocean, make Jacksonville a rewarding area for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. Camp Lejeune Marine Base, one the largest United States Marine Corps bases, is located next to Jacksonville and has a major influence on the city’s fortunes.
Kill Devil Hills
Though the stories on how this North Carolina town got its lyrical name are varied, the generally accepted origin refers to a bottle of rum named Kill Devil that washed ashore in the colonial period. The area later became famous as the proving ground for the Wright Brothers’ first heavier-than-air test flights. The monument to Orville and Wilbur was erected in the 1930s and is still visible for miles around. Today, visitors make their way to Kill Devil Hills for the wealth of vacation amenities available, from restaurants to accommodations to shops. Kill Devil Hills is also home to Nags Head Woods, a 640-acre preserve that represents one of the most diverse maritime forests in North Carolina. The Outer Banks area is also easily accessible from Kill Devil Hills, offering a host of fishing, boating, and other aquatic activities.
Kure Beach, NC
Kure Beach, on the Cape Fear Coast, is most popular in the summer months of July and August with visitors seeking seafood and aquatic activities, however, guests are welcomed to this resort community year-round. Visitors in October are invited to the annual seafood, jazz and blues festival which is held at the Recreation Area at Kure Beach. Nearby, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is set on 22 oceanfront acres and features 84,000 square feet of marine exhibits, observation decks and other displays that explore the local marine flora and fauna. While sportfishing dominates most itineraries, Kure Beach also beckons families with Pleasure Island adventures and other family-friendly events. Visitors will find a variety of lodging available in Kure Beach as well, ranging from campgrounds to resort accommodation.
The Outer Banks coastal town of Manteo is characterized by aquatic activities, historical attractions, and intrigue. The original 116 English settlers at Manteo disappeared mysteriously in 1585, setting in motion a mystery for the ages. This historical event is recreated every year at Waterside Theatre through The Lost Colony, a play depicting the disappearance. Local history is also reflected at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site where visitors have the opportunity to witness the preservation of American Indian culture and the American Civil War. For those who enjoy nature and animals, there are attractions such as the North Carolina Aquarium and the Elizabeth Gardens to entertain and educate people of all ages. The Manteo waterfront also attracts visitors seeking a relaxing atmosphere for fishing and sightseeing.
The center of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, Morehead City is a popular resort town and seaport. The city’s boardwalk area hosts a fashionable shopping district including boutiques and antique shops. The ocean-side beaches and miles of sand are the real highlight however, drawing tourists for swimming and relaxing in the sun. Boating and sailing are popular in the Intercontinental Waterway, which runs past Morehead City. Chartered fishing trips and ocean tours skirt the many nearby islands and parks, including Cape Lookout National Seashore. As would be expected for a coastal city, seafood dining is prominent with fresh clams a specialty of the area. Numerous golf courses add to the recreational opportunities of the Morehead City area.
Nags Head, NC Visitors Guide
Found on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Nags Head offers a wealth of aquatic activities, accommodations, and attractions for the entire family. Nags Head is also famous for the shipwrecks that dot the coastline, some a result of pirate deception and plunder. The 400-acre Jockey’s Ridge State Park is popular with kite enthusiasts and hang gliders due to strong local winds and offers visitors a chance to see one of the largest living sand dunes on the East Coast. A visitor center and picnic facilities are at this park. Fishing charters are in abundance in Nags Head as well, providing anglers with a host of boat choices.
Raleigh, NC Visitors Guide
Raleigh is North Carolina’s capital city and is home to the largest research park in the country, Research Triangle Park. Business travelers recognize the park for its research and high-tech industry. Over 45,000 full-time employees pass through the park on a daily basis. Many universities and parks surround the city of Raleigh, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park. Four blocks of Raleigh’s downtown buildings have been remodeled into a fashionable pedestrian mall. Visit some of Raleigh’s many museums and galleries, including the North Carolina Museum of History and the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Rocky Mount, NC
The roots of Rocky Mount extend back to the early 1800s when settlers built a cotton mill and established the town. Today this Raleigh-Durham area city has grown to include some interesting sites and activities for visitors to take in. Surrounded by vast forests and a river, Rocky Mount provides an ideal backdrop for hiking, trail riding, and kayaking. One such area which boasts hiking trails is Battle Park. Included in this pack are several historic buildings, Civil War monuments, and picnic areas. After spending time outdoors, families can visit the children’s museum and science center, featuring an array of interactive and educational exhibits to promote environmental awareness and appreciation for science in kids. Rocky Mount is home to several historic mansions, which reflect the architecture and society of the town’s early days. An 18-hole golf course and numerous restaurants add to the city’s entertainment facilities.
Wilmington Visitors Guide
An interesting history coupled with majestic scenery makes Wilmington a dynamic city with a variety of attractions. Wedged between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean, the city was founded as a major shipping port in 1732. Wilmington—s history, including its part in the Revolutionary and Civil War, is recorded at the Cape Fear Museum, North Carolina’s oldest history museum. African American settlement in the region is recorded through several attractions such as the Bellamy Mansion. The historic downtown features well-preserved buildings, old-fashioned carriage rides, and trolley car tours. Charming cafes, restaurants, and shops make a walk through the area of delight. Wilmington—s relaxed environment welcomes guests while its friendliness, charm, and array of attractions keep them coming back.
Winston-Salem was founded in 1913 with the merging of Winston, an industrial, textile and tobacco center, and Salem, a town settled in 1766 by German Moravians (Protestants). The area’s early history can be experienced by visiting Old Salem, a living history museum, and Historic Bethabara Park, North Carolina’s first Moravian settlement. From May to August each year, the streets of Winston-Salem are filled with music from the Downtown Summer Music Series. Biennially, the city hosts the National Black Theatre Festival. Other Winston-Salem attractions include Tanglewood Park, the Reynolda House Museum of American Art and Korners Folley.
Wrightsville Beach, NC
Much of life in the Cape Fear coastal town of Wrightsville Beach revolves around the ocean, providing visitors with a host of attractions and vacation opportunities. Cottage rentals and beachfront motels make up the bulk of accommodation, ensuring that guests have unfettered access to beach activities. Wrightsville is home to the annual Wahine Surfing Championship, an event focused on female surfers and their prowess on the waves. Two surf shops in town also cater to visiting surfers with wave reports, accessories and more. Several boat regattas are also featured on Wrightsville Beach’s annual event calendar, including the Atlantic 500 Sailboat Race and the Bruce Dorman Memorial Regatta. For local nightlife, King Neptune’s Pirate Bar features 19 different kinds of rum and a number of pirate flag replicas on the walls.