The endless debate regarding which is the better state between North and South Carolina remains highly competitive to this day. Each of the state has its own good points and bad points but you know what our solution is? Why not visit both states on two separate occasions, or even during one long trip? That’s what we’re hoping to do and we’re going to start that journey with the Old North State, North Carolina.
The state of North Carolina is located in the southeastern region of the U.S. and it is the 28th largest with landmass and 9th most populous state in the US. It is located south of Virginia, and west of the Atlantic Ocean. As a coastal state, there’s a lot to enjoy in North Carolina including pristine beaches and historic sites.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in North Carolina is the Appalachian Mountains which attracts around several million tourists to the western region of the state per year. When it comes to its National Parks, the most visited are the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains which also get millions of visitors annually.
If you want to experience what the city-life is like in North Carolina, then you may want to head on over to the city of Asheville. This city is a consistent placer as one of the top places to visit not only in North Carolina but in the US in general. It is known for its architecture, scenery, and a long list of outdoor activities.
Another great city to visit in North Carolina is Raleigh. This city is home to numerous amazing museums such as the African-American Cultural Complex, Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh, Gregg Museum of Art & Design at NCSU, the Haywood Hall House & Gardens, and the North Carolina Museum of History.
If you want to explore amazing beaches, then we suggest heading on to the Outer Banks. These beaches that border North Carolina form the ocean attracts millions of people annually. Nothing beats watching the Atlantic scenery while basking under the warm heat of the sun during the summer.
These are just some of the amazing places you can visit in North Carolina and trust us when we say that there’s a lot more to go around and get to in the city. Before we dive deeper into what those attractions and experiences are, it’s important for you to check out some traveling tips you need to know.
- 1 How to Get to North Carolina
- 2 Getting Around North Carolina
- 3 Best Time to Visit North Carolina
- 4 Activities in North Carolina for Nature Lovers
- 4.1 Sarah P. Duke Gardens
- 4.2 Sliding Rock
- 4.3 Elijah Mountain Gem Mine
- 4.4 The Mountains-to-Sea Trail
- 4.5 Museum of Life and Science
- 4.6 Good Karma Ranch
- 4.7 Marbles Kids Museum
- 4.8 Banner Elk Winery and Villa
- 4.9 Morehead Planetarium and Science Center
- 4.10 North Carolina Zoo
- 4.11 Blue Ridge Parkway
- 4.12 Linville Gorge and Falls
- 4.13 Outer Banks
- 4.14 Cape Hatteras
How to Get to North Carolina
As it is one of the most populous states in the US, it should not be surprising that getting to and from, and around North Carolina is easy. The city is well-planned and developed to accommodate newcomers to the state as well as tourists. Here are the major international airports you can opt to get to if you are headed to North Carolina.
- Charlotte-Douglas International Airport – It is located a few minutes away from Charlotte and it offers a variety of flight options. It also serves as a hub for American Airlines. In fact, this is the second-largest hub for American Airlines after Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. It is currently the busiest airport in the state and it accommodates over 40 million passengers annually.
- Piedmont Triad International Airport – It is located west of Greensboro and despite its size, the airport is not all too crowded. It also offers reasonable fares to and from major US cities. From the airport, you can get to Downtown Greensboro with a 20-minute taxi ride.
- Wilmington International Airport – Located around 15 minutes away from Downtown Willsboro and it operates a handful of daily flights from major airlines such as American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines. Another advantage with the Wilmington International Airport is that there are 24-hour U.S. Customs and Border Protection ramp which makes traveling to North Carolina from international locations relatively easy.
Getting Around North Carolina
Depending on where you are, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are readily available in North Carolina. In major cities like Asheville, Raleigh, Willsboro, and Greensboro, these services are sure to be available along with taxis and shuttle services. Of course, these are the more expensive traveling options within North Carolina’s cities.
If you want to fully explore cities and their surrounding areas, we suggest renting a car. There are many car rental companies located right at the airport or within the cities so you’ll have plenty to choose from as well.
In terms of public transportation options, Greyhound buses are available all throughout North Carolina so regardless of which city you are in, you can get from one place to the other via public commute. If you are on a budget and are traveling alone, this will be the best option for you.
Best Time to Visit North Carolina
Of course, the best time to visit will depend on which part of North Carolina you’d like to visit. If you want to enjoy the beaches of North Carolina, visiting during spring or summer might not be a great idea. Aside from the beaches being overcrowded, you’ll also have to contend with higher rates at hotels. If you want to enjoy the beaches at their best, visit from the months of January to March. At this time, rates are still reasonable, the weather is bearably warm, and the flock of tourists has yet to arrive.
For the cities, we suggest visiting during spring as this is when North Carolina’s cities truly come to life. Before you visit the state, be sure to check out the weather advisory as the city is frequented by storms coming in from the south.
Activities in North Carolina for Nature Lovers
The sight of nature will never bore you. Aside from the fact that it is a peaceful thing to see, the views of nature will not make you grow tired of it – literally and figuratively – compared to other man-made attractions like theme parks, horror houses, etc. And you will surely want to come back time and again because of the tranquility and peace that it gives even just by looking at it.
Luckily, North Carolina has plenty of places where you can get to enjoy nature more. In case you’re traveling to North Carolina for such sites, here are some of the things to do in North Carolina that will give you the most beautiful views of nature.
1Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Located at the Duke University in Durham, Sarah P. Duke Gardens is surely not to be missed if you want to see some of the gorgeous views that North Carolina has to offer. Here, you can get to enjoy approximately 555 acres of landscaped gardens filled with beautiful and colorful flowers and trees that will shade you as you explore the area. What makes visiting the Sarah P. Duke gardens all the more one of the best things to do in North Carolina for nature lovers is that you won’t even have to pay even a penny to enjoy this place. Plus, it’s open throughout the days of the year from 8 AM until the sun sets. If you wish to tour the place with a guide, you can do so but if you’re planning to bring your friends and/or family here, note that if you’re more than 15, you will need to register for tours in advance for scheduling purposes.
If you’re looking for some adventure as you enjoy nature and the views of it, trying the Sliding Rock is one of the best things to do in North Carolina for Nature lovers.
Located in the Pisgah National Forest, this place is actually a natural rock water slide that is 60 feet tall. And at the end of it, of course, you can dip into 6-7 feet deep water that can get as cold as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the weather. Plus, it’s safe as there are always lifeguards on duty. For just $2 for an admission fee, this place is really something that we’re sure everyone will enjoy.
However, since it’s one of the unique natural attractions in North Carolina, the place often fills up with visitors. So prepare for the crowd if you’re planning to visit this place.
3Elijah Mountain Gem Mine
Elijah Mountain Gem Mine may not be the type of place that offers gorgeous sunset views, colorful flowers, or whatnot but this place has gemstones that visitors and gold that visitors can even bring home; just choose from the variety of mining packages that they offer. What’s even better is that the general admission costs zero. On top of that, this place boasts of the world’s largest gem mine bucket that you can visit. Elijah Mountain Hem Mine also has a rock shop where you can buy some more unique rocks to take home with you as a remembrance of your trip or as a gift to your loved ones back in your home town. This place is also a place where you can spend special occasions like birthday parties with your family and friends. It’s not to be missed as well.
4The Mountains-to-Sea Trail
Hiking is also one of the best things to do in North Carolina for nature lovers. And if you want to enjoy some more outdoor activities, hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is one of the things that you should not miss. Aside from the beautiful views of nature (you can actually get to see the majestic mountain vistas, tobacco barns, pine and hardwood forest areas, coastal terrain, miles of seashore, plus historic towns) and the tranquil atmosphere that you can get to enjoy as you hike, this place is also the official hiking trail of North Carolina. Here, you can have more than 1,000 miles of trail to hike and bike. On top of that, you can also get to paddle along the Neuse River. With all of these views and activities in just one place, it sure is not be missed.
5Museum of Life and Science
The Museum of Life and Science is also one of the top attractions in North Carolina that you shouldn’t miss as aside from the 60 species of live animals, it also boasts of its butterfly conservatory, one of the largest in the East Coast and exploring it is definitely one of the best things to do in North Carolina for nature lovers too. Aside from this, the museum also has a two-story building filled with interactive displays that kids, as well as kids at heart, will surely enjoy. It’s not just a place for seeing and appreciating the beauty of nature, it is also a place where you can learn more about it.
6Good Karma Ranch
Who doesn’t love alpacas? Whether you haven’t seen one of if you want to see these cute creatures up close, visiting the Good Karma Ranch is one of the best things to do in North Carolina for nature lovers. Originally established in 2009 to provide a solution for environmentally-friendly livestock farming, this place focuses on scientifically-forward methods for breeding Huacaya alpacas. Hence, you can surely get to see a lot of them at the Good Karma Ranch with the weekend farm tours being offered. On top of that, the ranch also offers camps for both adults and children. You can also purchase various luxury goods and other alpaca products so you can take home some high-quality products as memorabilia for this unique trip and to remember these cute furry animals.
7Marbles Kids Museum
You might wonder why another museum is included on this list of things to do in North Carolina when we’re talking about the activities that fit nature lovers. Well apparently, this place also has an outdoor gardening space that you can enjoy whether you want to get closer to nature or not. It has a number of garden beds that you can get to see. And what will make your visit all the more unique is that you can get to see a flower that is 22 feet tall. Cool, right? So even if you’re not a kid anymore, you’ll still enjoy this place. Aside from the gardening space that it has, Marbles Kids Museum also has interactive hands-on displays that kids will surely love and enjoy. They will not just have fun but, needless to say, they will learn too.
8Banner Elk Winery and Villa
Whether you are a wine lover or not, you’ll love this place too, especially if you’re looking for the best things to do in North Carolina that best fit nature lovers. Here, you can get to enjoy every sip of wine that you sample as you enjoy the views of nature – and we’re not just talking some grapevines. Rather, Banner Elk Winery and Villa also lets you enjoy the majestic landscape of the state’s Blue Ridge Mountains. And if you want to enjoy such views more, fret not as the winery, as its name suggests, also has some luxury accommodation to offer. Take in this one of the gorgeous views of nature that North Carolina has to offer as you get surrounded by the warm hospitality of their staff, this place is really not to be missed, especially if you want to relax.
9Morehead Planetarium and Science Center
If you are fascinated with the beauty of the sky, why not get a closer look at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center? It’s one of the best things to do in North Carolina, especially if you enjoy nature as this place has plenty of exhibits to offer where you can also get to learn more about the things in the sky. And the best part of it is that you can get to see them all for free. The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center also holds shows. However, to see them, an admission fee is required. Still, every penny spent is worth it. And if you’re traveling in a group composed of more than 10 people, you can get to score special pricing wherein you can get to watch the regularly scheduled shows in the planetarium for free.
10North Carolina Zoo
If you’re traveling with kids, don’t miss out on the North Carolina Zoo too. Wait, a zoo in a list of things to do in North Carolina for people looking to enjoy nature more? Yes, it is included on this list as this zoo is quite unique. This is because instead of cages, the animals in this zoo are placed in exhibits that actually recreate their natural habitats. Hence, you’ll not just get to see animals from around the world but you can also get to see and maybe even experience their habitat that includes North America, Africa, and tropical rainforests. The best part of it is that North Carolina Zoo also has more attractions such as a carousel, giraffe viewing deck where you can get to see these tall animals eye to eye), and a ropes course that you and your kids will surely love.
11Blue Ridge Parkway
Also one of the things to do in North Carolina if you’re looking for the best views of nature is to drive around the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here, you’ll see an endless view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and its surrounding landscape as you drive. It’s so beautiful that even the local motorcyclists and bicyclists never miss a chance to see this place. If you’re looking for the best time to go here, set your trip to any day of the month of October if you want to avoid the crowd. But if you want the most Instagram-worthy scenery, visit this place during the summer season so you can get to enjoy seeing the colors of flaming rhododendrons, as well as azaleas that serve as the nicest backdrop for your Instagram or travel photos.
12Linville Gorge and Falls
If you haven’t seen the Grand Canyon, fret not as North Carolina has a substitute for that you will love too and that is the Linville Gorge. It is so beautiful that it is even named as the Grand Canyon of the east. Also, it is known as one of the most scenic gorges in the eastern part of the US. And what makes it even more scenic is the Linville River that enters the Linville Falls and drops 90 feet. Moreover, another thing that you will love about it is that you can easily traverse the area to see this beauty. Linville Gorge and Falls are located near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Thus, if ever you’re already at the Blue Ridge Parkway, don’t miss a chance seeing this too.
Exploring the Outer Banks is also one of the best things to do in North Carolina that nature lovers should not pass on. This is because this place offers natural beauty, lovely towns, and rich history. However, due to the erosion that the beach is currently experiencing plus the shore damage, no one knows what the future holds for the Outer Banks. So before the damage gets worse and before its natural beauty disappears, might as well plan your trip as soon as possible.
Cape Hatteras is also not to be missed when you’re traveling to North Carolina. Known as the country’s first coastal preservation area, this place doesn’t just boast of some of the beautiful sights to see in the country but it is also home to some of the top North Carolina beaches. On top of that, this place’s unique wildlife and rich history are worth talking about as well. It’s really worthy of that spot in your travel itinerary too.