A beautiful summer morning along the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina

Things to do in  North Carolina

From mountains to sea

With three regions—mountain, Piedmont, and coastal plain—North Carolina soars from Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern US, to the crashing Atlantic. The cities and towns mirror that natural diversity, ranging from cultural hot spots like Asheville to beach getaways like Corolla to mountain gems like Boone. With mild temps across the seasons, the Tar Heel State is a year-round destination, though perhaps fall shines brightest with its vivid autumn hues. Of note: Basketball and barbecue are big here.

Top 15 attractions in North Carolina

Bank of America Stadium

Located in the heart of Uptown Charlotte, the Bank of America Stadium is home to the Carolina Panthers football team. Opened in 1996, the open-air, natural grass stadium was designed specifically for football. In addition to football games, the stadium also hosts concerts and other big events year-round.More

Old Settlers’ Cemetery

Located in Charlotte’s Fourth Ward neighborhood next to the First Presbyterian Church, the Old Settlers’ Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Charlotte and one of the oldest in North Carolina. The cemetery operated between 1774 and 1878 and is the final burial place of many of Charlotte’s early settlers and prominent families.More

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s most scenic road trips—a slow-paced drive through the connecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south to Shenandoah National Park in the north. Along the way, find stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the parkway’s namesake: the rugged Blue Ridge Mountains.More

Fourth Ward

Victorian mansions line the shady streets of Charlotte’s historic Fourth Ward, among the city’s most prosperous neighborhoods during the mid-19th century. Today, it remains one of the most charming, with shopping boutiques and restaurants filling out many of the lovingly restored homes.More

Discovery Place Science

Located in Uptown Charlotte, Discovery Place Science is one of the most popular hands-on science centers in the region. The museum brings science, technology, math, and nature to life through fun and educational interactive exhibits, activities, and programs. It also features the largest IMAX screen in the Carolinas.More

Mint Museum of Art

The Mint Museum is the oldest art museum in North Carolina, and houses one of the largest collections in the Southeast, with more than 35,000 objects. Explore its permanent collection spanning Ancient American, Native American, American, European, and Contemporary art at its two branches: Mint Museum Randolph and Mint Museum Uptown.More

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Located in Uptown Charlotte, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is part of the Levine Center for the Arts. The museum is small, but houses an impressive collection of more than 1,400 pieces by some of the most influential artists of the mid-20th century. See works by artists such as Picasso, Calder, Miró, Giacometti, and Warhol.More

Biltmore Estate

Built by American magnate George Washington Vanderbilt II, the Biltmore Estate was modeled after the mansions of Europe when it was constructed in the late 19th century. The Biltmore House is the largest home in the United States—a staggering 178,926 square feet (16,623 square meters) sitting on more than 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares)—and a prominent symbol of America’s Gilded Age.More

Museum of the Cherokee Indian

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is home to vibrant displays that tell the story of the Cherokee people, from their paleo ancestry to their current lifestyles. Far more than an exhibit of artifacts, the museum keeps the tribe’s culture alive through education, events, and traditional gatherings.More

River Arts District

Once an abandoned track of warehouses along a destitute stretch of Asheville’s French Broad River, the River Arts District (RAD) has transformed into a hotbed for artists and budding businesses. There is a vast array of studios where you can see artists working on creative projects ranging from photography and painting to basketry and pottery.More
US National Whitewater Center

US National Whitewater Center

Located in Charlotte, the US National Whitewater Center is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream playground. In addition to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, the outdoor recreation mega-complex offers hiking and biking trails, a rock climbing wall, ropes course, ziplining, and more. It’s also a popular spot for outdoor festivals.More

Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture

Celebrate African and African-American culture at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture. In addition to a permanent collection of inspiring works by notable African-American artists, the center also offers a diverse cultural program of music, dance, and theater performances, film screenings, lecures, and workshops.More
Oak Island

Oak Island

This privately owned island is one of several hundred forested islands scattered around Nova Scotia’s Mahone Bay. According to local legend, Oak Island is the site of buried treasure—some speculate that loot was hidden by plundering pirates such as Captain Kidd and Blackbeard. Treasure hunters are still drawn here in search of booty.More

The Green

Spanning just 1.5 acres (0.6 hectares, the Green is a pocket-sized, literary-themed park in Uptown Charlotte. A lovely little oasis in the heart of the Second Ward, the Green features lush landscaping, grassy areas, shady paths, benches, fountains, and whimsical sculptures. It is popular with locals and visitors alike.More


Enjoy a day of thrilling rides and fun at Carowinds, the only amusement park to straddle two states. Sitting across the border in both North and South Carolina, Carowinds features more than 60 rides and attractions, including the largest water park in the region, making it an ideal destination for families and thrill seekers alike.More

Top activities in North Carolina

Asheville Historic Downtown Guided Electric Bike Tour with Scenic Views
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Historical city tour on eco-friendly cart
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Waterfalls and Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking Tour with Expert Naturalist
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90 Minute Historic Uptown Neighborhood Segway Tour of Charlotte
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Beginner Hang Gliding Lesson

Beginner Hang Gliding Lesson

Sunset Sail Tour
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Sunset Sail Tour

Sunset E-Bike Ride

Sunset E-Bike Ride

Mountaintop Yoga & Meditation Hike in Asheville
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All about North Carolina

When to visit

North Carolina may not be the biggest state on the US map, but with 6,000-plus feet (1,800-plus meters) of elevation, your “when and why to visit” can be just about anytime for any reason. If you’re headed to the mountains, follow the leaf-peeping flocks and visit to overlap with the state’s riotous fall color. If you’re heading toward the Outer Banks and the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll have 60ºF (15°C) days most of the year—avoid crowds coming in winter.

Getting around

As with any US state, North Carolina was built for highways. It does make for a fantastic road trip—you can go for a mountain hike in the morning and still catch an ocean sunset. If you’re in Greensboro or what's known as the Research Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill), you can take the bus, but most trips and destinations require a car.

Traveler tips

If you’re looking for a destination-worthy scenic drive, look no further than the Blue Ridge Parkway, bordering both the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah national parks. The Linn Cove Viaduct, one of the parkway's most famous views, is at mile marker 304, about 90 minutes northeast of Asheville by car. As one of the original 13 colonies, North Carolina has history around every corner. You'll also find loads of great barbecue—Lexington is the home of the state’s traditional spice-and-vinegar mop.

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People Also Ask

What is the number 1 attraction in North Carolina?

Most agree that the number one attraction in North Carolina is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—the most popular US national park, with some 14 million annual visitors. That being said, the Blue Ridge Parkway, called America’s prettiest drive, attracts nearly 16 million visitors a year. Neither disappoints.

What is North Carolina known best for?

North Carolina has many claims to fame. Certainly it’s famous for the Appalachian Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's also well-known for its college basketball rivalries—specifically UNC and Duke. History buffs know it for its pirate (Blackbeard) and aviation (Wright Brothers) history and for Asheville’s Biltmore Estate.

What is the prettiest place in North Carolina?

North Carolina has many pretty spots. Beach lovers may find Cape Hatteras National Seashore takes the prettiest title—its seascapes stretches for 70 miles (113 kilometers). Mountaineers enjoy spots such as Grandfather Mountain and Chimney Rock State Park, a mountain about 30 miles from Asheville that's topped with a US flag.

Is North or South Carolina better for visiting?

Which Carolina is better depends on what you want to do. North Carolina has more mountains (and they're taller), more pro sports teams, and typically bigger crowds at tourist attractions. South Carolina teems with historic spots from the Colonial era, quieter natural areas like marshes, and small towns like Greenville.

Is Charlotte NC worth visiting?

Yes, Charlotte, a city of nearly 1 million in North Carolina, is worth visiting. It weaves together history—at spots like the Levine Museum of the New South—with modern attractions, everything from the NASCAR Hall of Fame to eclectic restaurants serving everything from down-home barbecue to modern takes on Southern cuisine.

Why is Charlotte so famous?

Charlotte is famous for many reasons—including its pro sports teams, US National Whitewater Center, NASCAR Hall of Fame, and UNC-Charlotte. It's also the country's second-largest banking hub. There are loads of hip neighborhoods like NoDa (North Davidson), which come chock-full of restaurants, museums, and things to do.

Frequently Asked Questions
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