With museums, outdoor activities, and theme parks on offer, there are plenty of things to do in North Carolina no matter the season. Mountains in the High Country provide opportunities for great skiing and tubing during the winter months, hiking during the warm months, and amazing foliage in the fall. Beaches and coastal attractions invite relaxing weekends all year round. And the entire state has a history of its own, from the famous flying Wright Brothers to the sprawling Biltmore Estate and WWII-era Battleship North Carolina .
1 Blue Ridge Parkway
Nicknamed “America’s Favorite Drive,” the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway was designed by landscape architect Stanley Abbott, whose vision was to create a road that was much more than just a way to enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, with its scenic hiking trails. The drive itself has fantastic views of the Blue Ridge mountains and surrounding landscape, and the road is popular with motorcyclists and cyclists for its endless scenery. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails branching off from the many exits, picnic areas, and campgrounds along the way. Tourists find the most busy parkway in October during leaf season,
In addition to the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are also several visitor centers and museums, some of which are open seasonally. In the summer and fall, Mabry Mill (Milepost 176) has demonstrations that include grinding corn in the original mill, cutting boards in the sawmill, and the art of blacksmithing. The Folk Art Center (Milepost 382) is open year-round and contains a folk art gallery and demonstrations by local artisans, and the Museum of North Carolina Minerals (Milepost 331) has detailed exhibits that look at the region’s mineral resources and mining. Between the months of November and March, tourists should be sure to check for weather-related road closures before departing.
Location: Western North Carolina from Low Gap to Cherokee, North Carolina
Official site: https://www.nps.gov/blri/index.htm
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2 The Biltmore Estate
One of North Carolina’s must-see attractions is the Biltmore Estate, one of the top attractions in Asheville. At the center of an 8,000-acre property, the Vanderbilt Mansion is the largest private home in the United States. The mansion has 250 rooms featuring impressive artwork, antiques and architecture, as well as collections of vintage clothing and accessories. The estate’s gardens are expansive, including the Italian Garden with its ornate pools and sculpture, and the Rose Garden, with more than 250 varieties. The grounds also include the country’s first managed forest, a deer park, and miles of flat trails and hiking trails. There are many dining options throughout the estate and shopping and entertainment in Antler Hill Village.
Adres: 1 Lodge Street, Asheville, North Carolina
Official Site: https://www.biltmore.com/
3 Morehead Planetarium en Science Center
Located at the University of North Carolina in the heart of Chapel Hill, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center has been a stop for more than seven million guests since it first opened in 1949. The center presents more than 15 planetarium shows on a rotational schedule, including fun and educational topics such as black holes, Galileo, and astronauts. Permanent exhibits in the Science Center explore a variety of topics, including the planetarium’s proud history as an astronaut training center. From 1959 to 1975, more than 60 astronauts learned about ascension, including the majority of those who walked on the moon. Other exhibits include Water in Our World, which looks at the importance of clean and accessible water as the world’s most important resource,
Adres: 250 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Official site: https://moreheadplanetarium.org/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Chapel Hill
4 Linville Gorge and Falls
Also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Linville Gorge is the deepest and one of the most scenic gorges in the eastern United States. Located in the Pisgah National Forest, the Linville River enters the canyon at Linville Falls and drops 90 feet, continuing for 12 miles inside the bluffs. The trails are accessible at Milepost 316 on the Blue Ridge Parkway , offering a total of four overlooks on an easy-to-traverse 1.6-mile round trip. While visiting the Linville Falls Visitor Center, it’s worth taking the short (0.3 km) walk to the small but beautiful Duggers Creek Falls . Other nearby spots include Crabtree Fallsand incredible views from Table Rock Mountain and Hawksbill Mountain .
Official Site: https://www.blueridgeheritage.com/attractions-destinations/linville-gorge-and-falls
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Linville Gorge
5 Battleship North Carolina
Battleship North Carolina
Located in Wilmington, the USS North Carolina was the first of 10 warships to join the United States Fleet in World War II on April 9, 1941. The ship is well armed: there are nine 16-inch, 45-caliber guns in three turrets and 20 five-inch, 38-caliber guns in ten twin mounts. She was the world’s largest naval weapon, but today tourists can wander the ship to visit the mess hall, tour the sailors’ and officers’ quarters, and wander the expansive deck to see the intimidating weapons up close and personal.
Adres: 1 Battleship Road NE, Wilmington, North Carolina
Official Site: https://www.battleshipnc.com/
Lodging: Where to Stay in Wilmington
6 North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Dedicated to North Carolina’s natural history, this is the oldest museum in the state. The museum has two buildings: the Nature Research Center and the Nature Research Center, both of which are filled with exhibits, interactive learning opportunities, and educational presentations. Permanent exhibits at the Nature Exploration Center span topics from the coastal regions of North Carolina to an exhibit that explores the history of gemstones in the state. You can also find sections that explore the habitats of the tropics and rainforest, where you can hang out with the two-thousand sloth. This is also where you’ll find the “Terror of the South,” the only true Acrocanthosaurus skeleton on display in the world, which is the centerpiece of the North Carolina Prehistoric Exhibit. Next-door,Nature Research Center focuses on the science and exploration that are crucial to learning about the natural world. Exhibits here cover everything from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to deep space exploration and span the study of things as small as DNA to the vast science of weather patterns.
Adres: 11 West Jones Street, Raleigh, North Carolina
Official site: https://naturalsciences.org/
7 Aquarium van North Carolina
Aquarium van North Carolina
The North Carolina Aquarium has four coastal sites on Roanoke Island, Pine Knoll Shores, Fort Fisher, and Jennette’s Pier. While Jennette’s Pier is not an actual aquarium, it does offer views of marine life such as humpback whales in their natural habitat. (Check with the aquarium to find out what the marine life might be up to during your trip.) The Roanoke Island site, located near Jennette’s Pier, boasts the largest collection of sharks in the state. At Pine Knoll Shores , as visitors learn about the state’s diverse marine life, Fort Fisher introduces the freshwater streams, marshes, and open ocean of Cape Fear.
Official Site: https://www.ncaquariums.com/
8 North Carolina Zoo
North Carolina Zoo
Walking along five miles of shaded trails, tourists can see more than 1,600 animals and 52,000 plants at the North Carolina Zoo. (Wear comfortable shoes.) Located in Asheboro, the animals represent species from Africa (elephants, rhinoceroses, ostriches, lions, chimpanzees, zebras and giraffes) and North America (cougars, alligators, bobcats, red wolves, bison, moose, roadrunners and grizzly and black bears). Exhibits are designed to resemble the natural habitat.
Adres: 4401 Zoo Pkwy, Asheboro, North Carolina
Official site: https://www.nczoo.org/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Asheboro
9 Outer Banks
With beach erosion and shoreline damage, the future of the Outer Banks is unknown – which is why it’s an important area for visitors to explore now. These 200-mile barrier islands offer natural beauty, rich history and beautiful cities. Tourists can learn about the region at the Outer Banks History Center and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and enjoy a drive on the Outer Banks Scenic Byway . Visitors to Roanoke Island can learn about the lost colony, visit a living museum of farm life, and learn about the island’s importance in the Underground Railroad Network. Other attractions in the area include historic lighthouses, Elizabethan gardens in theFort Raleigh National Historic Site, en de Frisco Native American Museum.
Official Site: https://www.outerbanks.org/
Accommodation: Where to Stay near the Outer Banks
10 Cape Hatteras
Cape Hatteras National Seashore was the nation’s first coastal conservation area and includes the important barrier islands along the North Carolina coast in the Outer Banks region. Visitors to the area come for the beaches, as well as the unique flora and fauna and rich history. Birdwatchers can catch a glimpse of the endangered pipers that nest on the beach, as well as the American oystercatcher, gull-billed tern, and black skimmer. The beaches here are also the breeding ground for several species of sea turtles, including the endangered loggerhead sea turtle, and seals can be seen on the beach in the winter months. Another favorite activity is climbing historic lighthouses, such as the 1872 Bodie Island Light Station, who is on its third incarnation after the first became unstable and the second was destroyed in the Civil War. First built in 1803 and rebuilt in 1870, the Cape Hatteras Light Station served as a critical beacon on one of the most dangerous stretches of the Atlantic coast where the Gulf Stream meets the Virginia Drift, the site of hundreds of shipwrecks . Although not open to the public, the Ocracoke Light has been in operation on the island since 1823 and is also known for its unique breed of Ocracoke ponies.
Location: Manteo, North Carolina
11 Chimney Rock State Park
Twenty-five miles southeast of Asheville, a 315-foot granite spit rises to an elevation of over 2,280 feet in Chimney Rock State Park. There is a 26-story elevator built into the mountains, making the journey to the top an easy excursion for tourists. Also within the park, the Hickory Nut Falls Trail is a moderate, mostly-level trail to the base of the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls .
Adres: 431 Main Street, Chimney Rock, North Carolina
Official Site: https://www.chimneyrockpark.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Chimney Rock State Park
12 Grandfather Mountain
Hiking at Grandfather Mountain in Linville ranges from leisurely trails with scenic overlooks to challenging treks that can include ladders and rewards with expansive, mountainous panoramas. Visitors can also learn about the local flora or catch a glimpse of wildlife. Plan a walk through the park’s well-known Mile High Swinging Bridge , a highlight that’s been around since 1952 and offers 360-degree views.
Adres: 2050 Blowing Rock Hwy, Linville North Carolina
Official Site: https://www.grandfather.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Grandfather Mountain