North Carolina is majestic, serene and gorgeous!
It has mountains, lakes, oceans and forests. Big cities and country lanes can also be found. There are rushing rivers to kayak down and lazy lakes to nap on.
North Carolina is a destination state for all of the reasons listed. It’s also a four season state, which means there is always something to do whatever the season.
So, if you have a week or two and want to get some serious R&R, consider North Carolina for your next vacation.
What is there to do in this great state? I’m glad you asked! Here is my list of the best things to do in this wonderful southern state.
Looking for more US travel inspiration?
Check out these guides on the best places to visit in…
Great Smokey Mountain National Park
The Great Smokey Mountain National Park is the first national park I ever experienced. I have a memory at the age of five, rolling down the road under the canopy of changing fall leaves as I rode in the overhead cab of the RV we had rented. Even at that tender young age I knew this place was special. Yes, I know this is illegal now, but it was the seventies, man!
Driving down Cades Cove Loop, picnicking on Andrews Bald and swimming in “The Sinks” are some of the best times of my life. Exploring and finding the fabulous nooks and crannies of this park is what adventuring is all about and you won’t have any problem finding it here.
If you are a waterfall lover like I am, you are definitely in the right place. With over 100 waterfalls to stand in, gaze at and photograph, you won’t have too far to go. So, take a break and make your next vacation destination Great Smokey Mountain National Park, one of the best places to visit in North Carolina.
If you are in the South, one of the most beautiful and historic places to visit in North Carolina is Biltmore Estate. It has all the trappings of a mysterious 16th century European castle with all the “modern” conveniences, like electricity and running water.
On Christmas Eve in 1895, George Vanderbilt was able to open the doors to his country home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to his friends and family. They would be able to wake up Christmas morning enjoying the 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces sprawled out in the 4 acres of floor space contained in the home.
Today, the public can also enjoy wandering the home and imagining what life must have been like for one so wealthy, famous and privileged. The tour of the home is magnificent and the grounds are heavenly. You can combine your tour with a stay at one of the Vanderbilt’s three properties and make a mini vacation out of your visit.
I’ve toured this home in the spring when everything is in bloom and at Christmas. Believe me, you will never see a more beautifully decorated home than the Biltmore at Christmastime! For these reasons the Biltmore House is one of North Carolina’s gem’s and needs to be on everyone’s list of things to do.
If you are at the Biltmore Estate then you are in Asheville, too. Easily my favorite city in North Carolina, the beauty and recreational opportunities are endless. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can have your pick of hiking, perusing the shops, bouncing around the breweries or just taking a lazy drive down Blue Ridge Parkway.
Cool in the summer and just enough snow in the winter, Asheville ticks a lot of boxes for every season. In summer, there are music festivals, exhibitions and pub crawls. In the winter, enjoy holiday parades, winter celebrations and frozen waterfall hikes. Asheville is teeming with all the fun of life and is there for the taking any time of year. Book your visit and enjoy what others know about one of the best vacation spots in North Carolina.
If you are looking for an action packed thrill, look no further than Sliding Rock. This natural waterslide is, literally, one of the coolest places to visit in North Carolina.
Once at the top of this giant boulder, you will slide down it’s 60 foot rock face and plummet into the 50 degree rushing water below. Talk about exhilerating!
When my family and I conquered this activity a couple of years ago, I almost chickened out. However, after I watched my son have the time of his life, I knew I must conquer my fears. What a blast it was and I couldn’t get enough.
Life guards are on duty in summer and if ever in Asheville, this is something you won’t want to miss. Combine your visit with nearby Looking Glass Falls for a perfect day in Blue Ridge Mountains.
Wright Brothers National Memorial
It really is amazing to think of. If it weren’t for two brothers that had a vision and the determination to see their dream to reality, the cruise industry would be A LOT busier and getting across the country would still take days.
However, the dream of flying became a reality on December 17, 1903, when Orville Wright was able to get the “Wright Machine” to take flight, changing the way the world travels forever.
Today, you can visit Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, located in the beautiful Outer Banks to see the spot where all of this aeronautical magic happened so long ago. Peruse the visitor’s center and enjoy the history and wonder of this unique place to visit in North Carolina.
The Outer Banks
Nature Enthusiasts and adventurers and those who just like a good beach vacation will love the Outer Banks of North Carolina, one of the state’s best places to go anytime of year.
Whether its summer, spring, fall or winter, the Outer Banks has its own unique selection of activities. Climb America’s tallest light house at Cape Hatteras, see the wild ponies of Ocracoke Island or tour the historic sites all over the Outer Banks. There’s so much to do.
My family’s favorite thing to do in the Outer Banks was the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. In addition to a state of the art visitor center, we loved the 15 miles of color coded paddling trails that wind through the refuge that we kayaked through looking for bears, fox, river otter and of course, alligator!
Blue Ridge Parkway
The mountains of North Carolina are magnificent any time of year, but there really isn’t a better place to see the colors of fall than the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Come visit in October and you will be wowed by the stunning show of the yellows, reds, oranges and purple tones of the diverse array of hardwood flora ready to dazzle you. In fact, there are 429 miles of parkway for you to explore that link two great National Parks, Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Stop at places along the way like Crabtree Falls to catch a gorgeous waterfall or Richland Balsam, the highest point on the parkway at over 6,000 feet. But, whatever you do, take some time and just be in nature and the beauty it has to offer.
Chimney Rock State Park
Who likes ancient geologic history and 400 foot waterfalls? Well, if you’re that type, then Chimney Rock State Park is a unique and beautiful part of North Carolina that you will want to put on your list.
Start at the centerpiece of the park and walk out on to a narrow ledge which will lead you to Chimney Rock and a panoramic 75 mile view of the Hickory Nut Gorge. Bring your stamina and a water bottle for this 500 stair step climb, but the view points are outstanding. If you aren’t quite up to the climb, you’re in luck. There is an elevator that can take you to the summit and you can save your knees!
You also can’t miss Hickory Nut Falls and its 404 foot drop. Take the easy 3/4 mile trail to the falls and gaze at its beauty. Keep in mind that you are in the midst of a celebrity. Hickory Nut Falls was a location for the shooting of the movie, “The Last of the Mohicans”.
Rated one of the best small towns in America to live and the best place to retire, Hendersonville, NC is definitely a place you should check out. Located south of Asheville, nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains, this locale is gorgeous.
Come and visit one of the apple orchards that put Hendersonville on the map and taste one of their fuji, gala, or my favorite, the honey crisp apple. Every Labor Day, the North Carolina Apple Festival is held to celebrate that year’s crops and to ring in the beginning of fall.
The small town, Mayberry feel this city gives you among some of the most beautiful mountains in the country is a reason to visit alone. Walk down Main Street and the avenue of historic homes and you’ll see why this place oozes charm and is one of the best cities to visit in North Carolina.
I’ve been down the Nantahala as a single person, as a couple and as a family. It never ceases to amaze me how thrilling it is every single time. So many memories provided by this natural feat of nature. Bone chilling cold water, hair-raising rapids and so much fun, that I always want to do it again.
Nantahala, meaning “land of the noonday sun”, by the Cherokee Nation is a gorge that lies deep in the Smoky Mountains in southwestern North Carolina. A dam was built across the Nantahala River allowing the authority to control water flow for hydroelectric purposes. However, this also means the flow can be controlled for recreational purposes as well. Thousands take advantage of this by kayaking, canoeing or rafting down the river in the warmer months where class three rapids give a thrill to all that seek it.
Choose from ten different outfitters situated along the river and book a guided trip with your friends or family and see the amazing recreational opportunities North Carolina has to offer.
Known for quality, handcrafted furniture, craft beer and Nascar, this vibrant city in North Carolina has a lot going for it. Walk down the streets of Charlotte and you might even find a movie being filmed.
Its no wonder Charlotte is touted as the fastest growing city in America, being headquarter to some of the biggest named banks in the world. Likewise, if you’re a “baller”, Charlotte will make any sports loving fanatic happy. Along with Nascar, it is home to an NBA, an NFL and an MLS ball club.
Visitors needing to take a dip or that have a penchant for all things water will love the centerpiece of the city, Lake Norman. If you are a fisherman, the striped bass will keep you happy or any one of the other 11 sporting fish you might be able to catch.
Did we miss any of your favorite places in
Let us know in the comments if there are any more places in North Carolina that you would add to our list!