North Carolina Travel Guide

magine yourself soaring above the Great Smoky Mountains in a hot air balloon or gazing at the brilliant light show of the Charlotte skyline. Whatever direction you take in planning North Carolina vacations, you will be rewarded by a series of vistas, friendly people, and opportunities to enjoy nature at its peak. If you're looking for a new place to experience southern hospitality, you will find it everywhere throughout North Carolina!

Whether you bring your family to the heights of Chimney Rock State Park or the shores of the Outer Banks, you will discover why many travelers return to North Carolina again and again. This North Carolina travel guide will provide you with inspiration for a variety of vacations, from hiking adventures to lazy beach getaways. Whatever type strikes your fancy, has tempting choices from the beaches to the mountains to city condos!

What to Do in North Carolina

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Outdoor Adventure

Chimney Rock State Park is an outdoor paradise for people who don’t traditionally love the Great Outdoors. If you’ve never been into hiking or nature trails, give Chimney Rock State Park the opportunity to change your mind once and for all. Beyond the breathtaking views, meandering streams, and waterfalls, the striking geological formations of this state park continually impress visitors. Climb aboard the 26-story elevator that will lift you through the mountain to the top of the rock. The moment you emerge from the elevator is one you won’t soon forget!

Another outdoor playground is the Great Smoky Mountains, which features lots of North Carolina Rentals. Located in western North Carolina, this destination is perfect for hiking, biking, and hot air balloon rides. A good North Carolina travel guide will point you in the direction of Orton Plantation Gardens where your family can explore 20 acres of soaring oak trees and exotic flowers. From the early spring months through the crisp autumn days, your family can enjoy the fresh air and adventure activities of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Pack a picnic and plan a hike to Linville Falls in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. One of America’s most scenic gorges, this area is often called the "Grand Canyon of the East." Rock-climbing, fishing, and hiking are all available in this vast area. More outdoor fun is available at Pilot Mountain State Park including horseback riding, hiking, and kayaking or rafting on the Yadkin River.

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Kicking Back

Some travelers would rather skip the hiking trails in favor of sand and surf. North Carolina beach vacations are one of the biggest attractions to this state. Many visitors are surprised by the charm and beauty of the Outer Banks where seafood is always fresh and beaches are rarely crowded. These barrier islands have a range of quaint towns and villages to choose from. No matter which you choose, you’ll be glad to be kicking back on the pristine beaches!

Unspoiled scenery is part of what makes North Carolina cabin rentals and other rentals so special. Ocracoke Island is accessible only by ferry, private plane, or boat and is known for being especially untainted. From wild ponies to the Ocracoke Lighthouse, there will be plenty to see if you can tear yourself away from a good book and the sandy beaches. With 300 miles of coastline and barrier islands to choose from, it will be easy to see how some families plan North Carolina beach vacations every year!

The Outer Banks and northern coast are one of the most popular places in the state for North Carolina vacations. This doesn’t mean that you will experience crowds during your trip — the barrier islands stretch 130 miles and there’s room for everybody! From the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to Kitty Hawk and Nags Head, you are sure to enjoy digging your toes into the golden sand. Also, don't forget about more remote Topsail Island vacation rentals.

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Family Fun

North Carolina vacations will be full of family fun beyond the beaches and state parks. If your kids have always wanted to try zip-lining, North Carolina is the place to make their dream come true. From the fascinating animals of the zoo in Asheboro to the underwater creatures at North Carolina’s three coastal aquariums, your trip will be full of thrills and laughter. With plenty of ways to spend a rainy day, families will be surprised by the choices beyond beaches.

Do you want to bring some excitement to your kids’ faces? Look no further than the roller coasters of Carowinds or the waterslides at Emerald Pointe. Keeping the kids entertained will be simple no matter what type of North Carolina vacations you choose!

No North Carolina travel guide could ignore the opportunities to cheer for the home team. Pick up affordable tickets to a minor league baseball game and teach your kids the rules of the game. Major league teams include the NFL's Carolina Panthers, the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, and NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. From concerts to theaters to carnivals, North Carolina is full of fun to delight your kids.

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Where to Find Culture, Cuisine, and Nightlife

Many visitors are surprised by the cosmopolitan offerings of Charlotte. From theater to dining to nightlife, adults will find "grown up entertainment" during North Carolina vacations. Visit the North Davidson Arts District to see small galleries, intimate music venues, and a variety of restaurants and bars. To add some adrenaline to your trip, don’t miss the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a must for any NASCAR fan.

The Plaza-Midwood neighborhood is another arts district, where you can sample a variety of ethnic food or peruse the paintings of the Mint Museum of Art. Strolling on the tree-lined streets of Myers Park is sure to put a spark in your romance, and South Park offers upscale shopping. If you want your culture with a little southern hospitality, North Carolina vacations will be perfect for you!

Don’t discount North Carolina beach vacations for a little culture and nightlife as well. The Outer Banks comes alive in the summer with live music concerts, waterfront restaurants, and festivals. Enjoy historic lighthouses, take a ride on one of the many ferries, or enjoy the dining and galleries on offer in Wilmington.

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What to See in North Carolina

north carolina vacationsIf you want to infuse some education into North Carolina vacations, there are many museums to choose from. If you’re interested in art, visit the Mint Museum in Charlotte or the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Kids will love the science museums, including the Morehead Planetarium and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

For tales of pirates and shipwrecks, look no further than the Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Explore the history of aviation at the Wright Brothers National Monument or the Aviation Museum. Sports fans shouldn’t miss the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in Raleigh or the North Carolina Baseball Museum in Wilson.

It would be impossible for a North Carolina travel guide to leave out important moments in American history that took place on local soil. From the Civil War to the Revolutionary War, the Civil Rights Movement to the Gold Rush, North Carolina has been the site of many important moments in history. Visit Civil War forts, battlefields, and other historic monuments throughout the state.

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Where to Shop and Eat in North Carolina

north carolina vacations

North Carolina’s Best Shopping

Not all states in the south offer the variety of shopping that North Carolina does. A thorough North Carolina travel guide will suggest not only places to find crafts, unique souvenirs, and antiques, but also places to find top fashion. The shopping in North Carolina is just like the state itself: multifaceted.

The Tanger Outlet Center in Nags Head is very popular with discount shoppers. Carolina Premium Outlets in Smithfield offers bargains on a variety of designer fashions. A Southern Season in Chapel Hill is a gourmet emporium where you will find local products including wine, chocolates, and gift baskets. If you’re looking for designer fashions, don’t miss South Park in Charlotte.

Shoppers will be tempted by antiques throughout their trip. From the vintage jewelry and dolls of New Berne Antiques to Market Street Antiques in Hertford, almost every small town in North Carolina will be full of options for antiques and unique souvenirs.

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The Taste of Southern Hospitality

During North Carolina vacations you will discover there is much more to southern food than barbeque and seafood. Restaurants prepare these dishes with local flair but have also expanded their culinary horizons. From the home of Krispy Kreme donuts, a variety of restaurants will satisfy you throughout your trip.

In Charlotte, don’t miss the sophistication of the Bonterra Dining & Wine Room. Wilmington is home to great regional cuisine at Port Land Grille while Provision Company of Holden Beach offers great waterfront dining. For French-inspired cuisine, don’t miss the Left Bank located in the town of Duck. Bistro By the Sea in Morehead City is another local favorite.

A North Carolina travel guide focused on food couldn’t possibly ignore local vineyards. North Carolina is home to its own wine trails where you can visit wineries, sample the latest vintage, and pack up your car with cases of your new favorites. From Chateau Laurinda in Sparta to Cypress Bend Vineyards in Wagram, you will be impressed by the local wines.

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When to Visit North Carolina

North Carolina enjoys a mild year-round climate. Many visitors plan North Carolina beach vacations in the summer because this is the best time for swimming and water sports, but it is also possible to travel to North Carolina year-round. Hit the golf course, explore the state parks, and enjoy the quiet beaches of the Outer Banks off season for some real peace and quiet. If you’re looking for a place to avoid the northern harsh winters, North Carolina might be an ideal getaway!

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What to Bring to North Carolina

The laid-back atmosphere of North Carolina doesn’t require anything too formal. Pack comfortable clothes, walking shoes, and sunscreen for a family adventure. If you’re heading to the Outer Banks, remember all of your beach essentials including bathing suits, beach toys, and a good novel or two. If you’re planning a trip to Charlotte, the nightlife and theater could be an excuse to break out your high heels and a nice piece of jewelry. Family vacations will be enhanced by a good picnic set, some music for your car journeys, and a camera to capture all the memories!

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Local Services in North Carolina

Expect local services in North Carolina to be very seasonal. If you’re planning a trip to the Outer Banks beyond the summer months, it is possible that some shops and restaurants will be closed or will keep limited hours. On the other hand, bustling Charlotte will have all the local services you could need year-round. Banks, ATMs, grocery stores, and markets are available throughout the state. If you’re venturing into the state parks, remember to bring plenty of water and some snacks to keep your energy up during hikes!

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What to Know About North Carolina

Hopefully this North Carolina travel guide has proven that there is more to this state than beaches. While the Outer Banks are phenomenal, there is also more to discover in other regions of the state. Head west to the Great Smoky Mountains, dance the night away in Charlotte, or hit the designer outlets. The different faces of North Carolina will lure you back again and again!

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Getting to North Carolina

From North Carolina beach vacations to the Great Smoky Mountains, you will want to have the freedom of a car during your trip. Whether you make the journey to North Carolina on the efficient highways or fly and rent a car at the airport, this state begs to be discovered at your own pace.

Charlotte International Airport is the largest in the state, with Raleigh and Greensboro Airport following behind in size. Smaller regional airports in Asheville and Wilmington may also be options. From the mountains to the coastline, you will love hopping in your car, rolling down the windows, and enjoying the beauty of North Carolina!

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Why North Carolina Vacation Rentals?

The fresh air, sweeping views, and unspoiled beaches are the perfect match for vacation rentals. Throughout your vacation the environment will encourage you to unwind and relax. Whether you choose a beachfront house in the Outer Banks or a cottage high in the Smoky Mountains, you will revel in the extra space and privacy that vacation rentals provide. Once you try it, you’ll never go back to hotels again

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