18 Things To Do In North Carolina
North Carolina is a state with a diverse landscape and rich history. From the mountains to the coast, there are plenty of things to see and do in the Tar Heel State. Here are 18 things to do in North Carolina to add to your itinerary:
1. Visit the Biltmore Estate
Biltmore Estate is a grand and opulent mansion located in Asheville, North Carolina. Built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s, this impressive estate boasts over 8,000 acres of lush gardens, forests, and farmland, making it one of the largest privately owned homes in the United States.
The Biltmore Estate is a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world to admire its grandeur and beauty. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the mansion, which features 250 rooms, including a banquet hall, a library, and a grand staircase. The estate also features several shops, restaurants, and outdoor activities, including hiking trails, horseback riding, and fishing.
One of the highlights of the Biltmore Estate is its extensive gardens, which feature a variety of plant species, including roses, azaleas, and dahlias. Visitors can take a guided tour of the gardens or simply explore on their own, taking in the beauty and tranquility of this magnificent setting.
Whether you’re a history buff, a lover of architecture, or simply looking for a unique and memorable experience, the Biltmore Estate is a must-visit destination in North Carolina. Its stunning beauty, rich history, and impressive scale make it an unforgettable attraction that will leave you in awe.
2. Go hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a stunning natural treasure located in the southern Appalachian Mountains on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. Covering over 500,000 acres, it is the most visited national park in the United States, drawing millions of visitors each year.
The park features an abundance of natural beauty, including breathtaking waterfalls, scenic mountain vistas, and diverse wildlife. Visitors can explore over 800 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy nature walks to strenuous backcountry treks. The park also offers opportunities for fishing, horseback riding, camping, and wildlife viewing.
One of the most popular attractions in the park is Cades Cove, a historic settlement that features several well-preserved buildings and homes from the 1800s. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the cove and learn about the early settlers who called this area home.
Another highlight of the park is the Clingmans Dome, which is the highest point in the park and offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Visitors can hike to the observation tower and take in the stunning vistas, especially during sunrise and sunset.
3. Explore the Outer Banks
This chain of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina offers some of the state’s best beaches, lighthouses, and fresh seafood. The Outer Banks in North Carolina is a long stretch of barrier islands along the Atlantic Coast. Known for its picturesque beaches, the area offers a perfect getaway for those seeking a relaxing vacation. The Outer Banks is a place of natural beauty, with sand dunes, rolling waves, and stunning sunsets. Visitors can explore the area’s many attractions, including the Wright Brothers National Memorial, which honors the first powered flight that took place here in 1903. The region is also home to several historic lighthouses, including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is a must-see for anyone interested in maritime history. The Outer Banks is also known for its excellent seafood, including fresh shrimp and oysters, as well as local specialties like clam chowder and she-crab soup. Whether you’re interested in exploring the history and culture of the region or simply soaking up the sun on the beach, the Outer Banks is a unique and unforgettable destination.
4. Check out the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
This museum in Raleigh is one of the largest natural history museums in the Southeast and features exhibits on dinosaurs, wildlife, and more. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, located in downtown Raleigh, is a world-class museum that showcases the natural history of the state and beyond. The museum boasts several floors of exhibits, including a massive skeleton of a prehistoric whale, interactive displays on the planets and the universe, and a live animal exhibit that features a variety of reptiles, amphibians, and insects. The museum is also home to a state-of-the-art research facility, where scientists study everything from insects to marine life to fossils. Visitors can participate in a variety of educational programs and events, including lectures, workshops, and family-friendly activities. Admission to the museum is free, making it accessible to everyone who wants to explore the wonders of the natural world. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in science and nature, and it offers a unique and engaging experience for visitors of all ages.
5. Take a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic road that winds through the Appalachian Mountains, stretching over 469 miles from Virginia to North Carolina. This stunning parkway is known for its breathtaking vistas, natural beauty, and rich cultural heritage.
The parkway offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking, camping, and scenic drives. Visitors can explore the parkway’s many overlooks and hiking trails, which offer stunning views of the mountains and valleys below. The parkway is also home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and wild turkeys.
In addition to its natural beauty, the Blue Ridge Parkway also features several historic and cultural attractions. Visitors can explore historic sites and learn about the region’s rich cultural heritage at places like the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and the Folk Art Center.
6. Visit the North Carolina Zoo
The North Carolina Zoo, located in Asheboro, is one of the largest and most respected zoos in the world. The zoo spans over 2,000 acres and features a diverse array of animals from all over the globe, including elephants, lions, tigers, gorillas, and polar bears. The zoo is divided into two distinct areas, the North America region and the Africa region, and each section features habitats that closely mimic the animals’ natural environments.
In addition to its impressive collection of animals, the North Carolina Zoo is also known for its conservation efforts, which aim to protect endangered species and preserve natural habitats around the world. The zoo also offers a variety of educational programs and activities for visitors of all ages, including behind-the-scenes tours, animal encounters, and overnight camping experiences.
The North Carolina Zoo is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in wildlife and conservation, and it offers a unique and engaging experience for visitors of all ages. With its commitment to conservation and education, the North Carolina Zoo is not only a fun and exciting place to visit but also an important institution that helps protect and preserve the natural world for future generations.
7. Attend the North Carolina State Fair
The North Carolina State Fair is an annual event held in Raleigh, celebrating the state’s agricultural heritage and offering a wide variety of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages. The fairgrounds span over 200 acres and feature a bustling midway with carnival rides and games, as well as numerous exhibition halls showcasing livestock, farm equipment, and homemade crafts.
One of the main draws of the fair is its food offerings, which include classic fair fare like funnel cakes and corn dogs, as well as unique creations like deep-fried Oreos and bacon-wrapped everything. The fair also features live music performances, stunt shows, and a fireworks display on the final night.
The North Carolina State Fair is a beloved tradition that brings together people from all over the state to celebrate agriculture, community, and fun. The fair is a great way to experience the culture and traditions of North Carolina and is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a good time. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking for a ride on the Ferris wheel or a foodie looking for the latest deep-fried creation, the North Carolina State Fair is sure to have something for everyone.
8. Explore the Asheville River Arts District
The Asheville River Arts District is a vibrant and eclectic neighborhood located in Asheville, North Carolina. The district is home to over 200 artists and craftsmen who work in a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, pottery, and jewelry-making. Visitors to the district can explore the artists’ studios and galleries, watching them work and purchasing unique handmade pieces.
In addition to its thriving art scene, the Asheville River Arts District also boasts a number of restaurants, bars, and shops that reflect the area’s creative and bohemian vibe. Visitors can grab a bite to eat at one of the district’s many farm-to-table restaurants or sip on a craft beer at a local brewery.
The Asheville River Arts District is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in art, culture, and creativity. The district offers a unique and immersive experience, allowing visitors to connect with artists and artisans and to take home one-of-a-kind pieces of art. With its lively energy and artistic spirit, the Asheville River Arts District is sure to inspire and delight visitors of all ages.
9. Go fishing in the mountains
Fishing in the North Carolina mountains is a popular activity for both locals and visitors alike. The area is home to numerous rivers, streams, and lakes that offer a diverse range of fishing experiences, from trout fishing in the crystal-clear waters of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to fly fishing in the Tuckasegee River.
One of the best places to fish in the North Carolina mountains is the Davidson River, which is widely regarded as one of the top trout streams in the southeastern United States. The river is stocked with both rainbow and brown trout and features several miles of prime fishing spots.
Another popular fishing destination in the North Carolina mountains is Lake Lure, which is known for its crystal-clear waters and scenic beauty. The lake is home to a variety of fish species, including bass, catfish, and crappie, and offers opportunities for both boat and shore fishing.
Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice looking to try your hand at fishing, the North Carolina mountains offer a wealth of opportunities for a memorable fishing experience. With its scenic beauty and diverse range of fishing experiences, the area is sure to be a hit with anyone looking to enjoy the great outdoors and catch some fish.
10. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial
The Wright Brothers National Memorial is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the history of aviation. Located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, the memorial honors the achievements of Orville and Wilbur Wright, who made the first successful powered flight in 1903.
The memorial features several exhibits that showcase the Wright Brothers’ life and work, including a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer and a reconstruction of their campsite where they worked on their aircraft. Visitors can also climb the 90-foot-tall granite monument that stands at the site of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, offering panoramic views of the surrounding area.
In addition to its historical significance, the Wright Brothers National Memorial is also a great place to enjoy the great outdoors. The park features several hiking trails that wind through the sand dunes and offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in aviation history, engineering, or the great outdoors. The site is a testament to the ingenuity and perseverance of Orville and Wilbur Wright, whose pioneering work paved the way for modern aviation. Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking for a beautiful place to explore, the Wright Brothers National Memorial is well worth a visit.
11. Tour the USS North Carolina
The USS North Carolina is a World War II battleship that is now a museum ship located in Wilmington, North Carolina. The ship served in the Pacific theater of the war and participated in several major battles, including the Battle of the Eastern Solomons and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. After the war, the USS North Carolina was decommissioned and eventually opened to the public as a museum in 1961. Visitors can explore the ship’s interior, including the engine room, galley, and crew quarters, and learn about the ship’s history through interactive exhibits and displays. The USS North Carolina is a fascinating piece of American military history and a must-visit destination for anyone interested in naval history or World War II.
12. Visit the North Carolina Museum of Art
The North Carolina Museum of Art is a world-class museum located in Raleigh, North Carolina. The museum’s permanent collection includes over 40,000 works of art spanning over 5,000 years of history, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary art installations.
One of the highlights of the museum is the Rodin Garden, which features several sculptures by the French artist Auguste Rodin. The museum also boasts an extensive collection of European and American paintings, including works by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
In addition to its permanent collection, the North Carolina Museum of Art also hosts several temporary exhibitions throughout the year, featuring works by both emerging and established artists.
The museum is also home to an outdoor park, which features several large-scale art installations and sculptures, as well as walking trails and a bike path.
The North Carolina Museum of Art is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in art and culture. With its diverse collection and engaging exhibitions, the museum offers a unique and immersive experience that is sure to inspire and delight visitors of all ages.
13. Go rafting on the Nantahala River
Nantahala River is a popular destination for whitewater rafting in North Carolina. Located in the Nantahala National Forest, the river features a variety of rapids, from Class I to Class IV, making it suitable for both experienced rafters and beginners.
The 8-mile stretch of the river used for rafting offers stunning views of the surrounding forest and mountains, making it a beautiful and exhilarating outdoor adventure. The river is also known for its crystal-clear water, which allows for excellent visibility of the riverbed and the many fish that call the river home.
Several rafting companies offer guided trips down the Nantahala River, providing all the necessary equipment and safety instruction. Some companies also offer additional activities, such as ziplining and kayaking, making for a full day of outdoor fun.
Rafting on the Nantahala River is a great way to experience the natural beauty of North Carolina while also getting an adrenaline rush. With its stunning scenery and exciting rapids, the Nantahala River is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for an unforgettable outdoor adventure.
14. Explore the historic town of New Bern
Historic New Bern is a charming town located in eastern North Carolina, situated at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers. The town is known for its rich history, dating back to colonial times, and features a wide range of historic sites and landmarks. Visitors can explore the Tryon Palace, which served as the first permanent capitol of North Carolina and is now a living history museum. The town also features several other historic buildings, including the New Bern Academy, the Athens Theatre, and the John Wright Stanly House. In addition to its historic sites, New Bern is home to a vibrant downtown area, which features unique shops, restaurants, and galleries. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or just a charming Southern town, New Bern has something to offer everyone.
15. Go kayaking on the Cape Fear River
Kayaking on the Cape Fear River is a popular outdoor activity in North Carolina. The river, which stretches over 200 miles from the Piedmont to the Atlantic Ocean, offers a variety of experiences for kayakers of all levels.
The upper portion of the river, which is slower-moving and more peaceful, is perfect for beginners or those looking for a leisurely paddle. The lower portion of the river, closer to the coast, offers more challenging rapids and faster currents for more experienced kayakers.
Along the way, kayakers can take in the stunning natural scenery of the Cape Fear River, including the lush forests, towering bluffs, and diverse wildlife. The river is home to a variety of fish, birds, and other aquatic animals, making it a great destination for nature enthusiasts.
Several outfitters offer guided tours and equipment rentals for those looking to explore the Cape Fear River by kayak. Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or just starting out, kayaking on the Cape Fear River is a unique and memorable way to experience the natural beauty of North Carolina.
16. Visit the North Carolina Arboretum
Located in Asheville, North Carolina, the North Carolina Arboretum is a stunning 434-acre public garden and research facility. The arboretum features an extensive collection of plants, including over 600 species of native plants, and boasts several beautifully landscaped gardens and trails.
One of the most popular attractions at the arboretum is the Bonsai Exhibition Garden, which features over 100 bonsai trees on display. The Arboretum also includes a variety of other gardens, including the Heritage Garden, the Stream Garden, and the Quilt Garden, each showcasing unique collections of plants and flowers.
The Arboretum’s trails offer visitors the opportunity to explore the surrounding forests and meadows, with over 10 miles of hiking and biking trails to choose from. In addition, the arboretum offers a variety of educational programs, workshops, and events throughout the year, including guided hikes, plant sales, and workshops on topics such as gardening, plant propagation, and landscape design.
Whether you’re a nature lover, a plant enthusiast, or just looking for a peaceful place to relax, the North Carolina Arboretum is a must-visit destination in North Carolina. With its stunning natural beauty and diverse collection of plants and gardens, the arboretum offers a unique and memorable experience for visitors of all ages.
17. See the wild horses of Corolla
The wild horses of Corolla, North Carolina, are a fascinating and iconic attraction that draws visitors from all over the world. These majestic animals roam freely along the beaches and dunes of the Currituck Outer Banks, living in their natural habitat and providing a glimpse into the state’s rich history.
Believed to have descended from Spanish mustangs that arrived in the area over 400 years ago, the wild horses of Corolla are a unique and important part of North Carolina’s heritage. These horses have adapted to their environment, surviving on the vegetation and fresh water sources found on the island.
Visitors can see the wild horses up close by taking a guided tour or by driving on the designated off-road areas of the beach. However, it’s important to remember that these horses are wild and should not be approached or fed. It’s also important to respect their habitat and help protect their natural environment by disposing of trash properly and staying on designated paths.
Whether you’re a nature lover or history enthusiast, the wild horses of Corolla offer a unique and unforgettable experience. Their beauty and strength serve as a reminder of the resilience and adaptability of North Carolina’s wildlife.
18. Take a brewery tour
North Carolina is home to a thriving craft beer industry, with over 300 breweries scattered throughout the state. One of the best ways to experience this burgeoning scene is by taking a brewery tour.
Brewery tours in North Carolina offer a unique opportunity to learn about the brewing process, sample different types of beer, and discover the history and culture of the state’s craft beer industry. Many tours are led by knowledgeable guides who are passionate about beer and eager to share their knowledge with visitors.
There are several different types of brewery tours available in North Carolina, ranging from self-guided tours to group tours that include transportation and tastings. Some tours even offer behind-the-scenes access to the brewing facilities, giving visitors a first-hand look at the process of creating their favorite brews.
In addition to the breweries themselves, many tours also stop at local restaurants and bars, giving visitors a chance to taste a variety of beers and experience the local cuisine. Whether you’re a beer connoisseur or simply looking for a fun and unique way to explore North Carolina’s vibrant culture, a brewery tour is a must-do activity.
Whether you’re interested in history, outdoor activities, or simply relaxing on the beach, North Carolina has something to offer everyone.