Scenic Views Meet Endless Adventures: Best Places to Visit in North Carolina

Scenic Views Meet Endless Adventures: Best Places to Visit in North Carolina


North Carolina is a true treasure trove of unique experiences where majestic mountains give way to pristine beaches, and historic towns mingle with the infectious energy of modern cities.

Whether you dream of conquering mountain trails with sweeping vistas or sinking your toes into the sand of idyllic barrier islands, North Carolina has it all.

From the breathtaking wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the captivating streets of Charlotte and Raleigh, the Tar Heel State promises adventure, relaxation, and a whole lot of Southern charm.

Book your flight to North Carolina with Skyscanner and explore the majestic Blue Ridge Parkway, offering breathtaking views and unforgettable hiking trails.

Quick Hits: Essential North Carolina Facts

Welcome to North Carolina, I-85 Northbound

  • Nickname: The Tar Heel State. North Carolina became known as the “Tar Heel State” due to its production of tar, pitch, and turpentine from its rich pine forests. These materials were essential for the construction and maintenance of wooden ships.
  • Population (2023 Estimate): Around 10.8 million
  • Capital: Raleigh
  • Biggest City: Charlotte
  • Abbreviation: NC
North Carolina’s Geography and Landforms
  • The Appalachian Mountains: This majestic range covers the western part of the state, with some peaks exceeding a mile in height.
  • The Piedmont: A plateau in the central region, known for rolling hills, rivers, and waterfalls.
  • The Coastal Plain: This eastern region features flatlands, beaches, swamps, and longleaf pine forests before meeting the Atlantic Ocean.
North Carolina’s Neighbors:

North Carolina shares its borders with four distinct states, each offering its own unique flavor:

  • Virginia: North Carolina’s northern neighbor boasts historic sites like Jamestown and stunning scenery in the Shenandoah Valley.
  • Tennessee: Bordering the west, Tennessee is known for its rich musical heritage, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (shared with North Carolina), and vibrant cities like Nashville.
  • South Carolina: To the south, South Carolina offers beautiful beaches, historic Charleston, and a distinct Southern charm.
  • Georgia: North Carolina’s southernmost neighbor is known for its rolling hills, vibrant Atlanta, and delicious peaches.

👉Stay in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where cozy cabins and luxury resorts offer panoramic views and direct access to nature’s wonders.

Mountain Adventures

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, Tennessee, USA

North Carolina’s mountains offer stunning views, cascading waterfalls, and ancient forests.

You can choose to go on a long hike or have a picnic with a view.

The western part of the Tar Heel State is perfect for outdoor adventures.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Smoky Mountains Sunrise (Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a vast wilderness that spans across the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.

This beautiful park offers misty peaks, lush valleys, and the remains of ancient Appalachian culture.

It is no surprise that this magnificent park is the most visited in the nation.

With a multitude of trails, waterfalls, and scenic overlooks, there is an adventure for everyone’s style.

👉Let Skyscanner guide you to the Outer Banks, where wild horses roam and lighthouses stand guard over the Atlantic, for a quintessential beach getaway.

What Makes the Great Smoky Mountains so special:
  • A Hiker’s Paradise: Whether you dream of a leg-burning challenge on the Appalachian Trail or a leisurely stroll amidst wildflowers, the park’s extensive trail system delivers.
  • Chasing Waterfalls: Hike to hidden gems like the enchanting Grotto Falls, where you can walk behind the cascading water, or marvel at the powerful beauty of Abrams Falls.
  • The Call of the Open Road: Scenic routes like Newfound Gap Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway wind through the mountains, offering breathtaking panoramas at every turn.
  • Wildlife Encounters: The Smokies are a haven for biodiversity. Watch for playful salamanders, majestic elk, and the iconic black bears that call this landscape home.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Milepost 303

The Blue Ridge Parkway, also known as “America’s Favorite Drive,” is not just a road but a 469-mile engineering masterpiece.

It is a tribute to the unyielding beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.

The parkway offers an escape from the fast-paced life of everyday living, with its meandering curves, awe-inspiring views, and constant connection to nature.

👉Book your beachfront retreat in the Outer Banks and wake up to the sound of the waves, with accommodations perfect for every traveler, from families to solo adventurers.

Why Visit & Things to Do

The Blue Ridge Parkway promises an unforgettable experience, whether you’re a seasoned hiker, a casual sightseer, or simply someone seeking a tranquil escape.

Here’s what awaits you:

  • Scenic Overlooks: With countless places to pull over and marvel at the landscape, you’ll be reaching for your camera constantly. Panoramic views showcase endless layers of mountains painted in soft blues and greens, while valleys carpeted in vibrant foliage stretch for miles.
  • Hiking Adventures: Trails suitable for all abilities intersect the parkway, promising incredible rewards. Explore cascading waterfalls tucked away in ancient forests, challenge yourself with a climb to a peak for a 360-degree view, or enjoy a leisurely stroll surrounded by wildflowers.
  • Historic & Cultural Touchpoints: Discover remnants of Appalachian life along the way, from preserved cabins and homesteads to charming mountain towns overflowing with Southern hospitality and unique crafts.
  • Wildlife Encounters: The diverse ecosystems along the parkway teem with life. Be on the lookout for black bears, majestic elk, soaring hawks, and countless other creatures who call these mountains home.
  • Stargazing Haven: As night falls, the parkway offers a dazzling celestial display. Unpolluted by city lights, the stars appear with unmatched brilliance, making it an ideal spot for stargazing enthusiasts.


City of Asheville, North Carolina (Infrared)

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers a unique blend of bohemian spirit and mountain charm.

The city is well-known for its lively arts scene, award-winning breweries, and stunning architectural treasures, which make it a pleasant surprise at every turn.

Imagine strolling through a downtown district brimming with galleries, enjoying locally-sourced cuisine, and then catching an open-air music performance, all with the breathtaking backdrop of the mountains.

👉Discover Asheville’s vibrant arts scene and historic architecture with Skyscanner, and dive into the city’s renowned craft beer culture.

Why Visit & Things to Do

Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or simply seeking a fun getaway, Asheville delivers something special:

  • Biltmore Estate: Step into American opulence at this grand mansion, with its manicured gardens, renowned art collection, and sprawling winery.
  • Explore Downtown & the River Arts District: Discover eclectic galleries, quirky shops, and lively street performers in the walkable downtown. The nearby River Arts District bursts with working studios and galleries housed in former warehouses.
  • Craft Brewery Scene: Embark on a tasting tour of Asheville’s numerous award-winning breweries, known for their creativity and welcoming taproom vibes.
  • Outdoor Adventures: Hike scenic mountain trails, take a thrilling whitewater rafting trip on the French Broad River, or go ziplining through the forest canopy.

Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina, USA

Chimney Rock State Park is a magnificent destination for those seeking natural beauty and outdoor activities.

Its main attraction is the impressive Chimney Rock, a 315-foot granite monolith that offers stunning panoramic views of the Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure.

This iconic park welcomes visitors to hike challenging trails, admire stunning waterfalls, and enjoy the thrill of standing atop one of North Carolina’s most renowned peaks.

👉Experience Asheville’s eclectic charm by staying in boutique hotels or historic B&Bs, nestled among art galleries, shops, and farm-to-table restaurants.

Why Visit & Things to Do

Chimney Rock State Park is a must-visit for those seeking stunning scenery and mountain adventures within easy reach:

  • The Views from Chimney Rock: Take the elevator or conquer the stairs to reach the summit. From this vantage point, you’ll be treated to a 75-mile panorama of lush forests and distant peaks.
  • Hickory Nut Falls: One of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River, the 404-foot cascade is accessible via a moderately challenging trail.
  • Adventure Options: Rock climbing enthusiasts will find plenty of routes to challenge their skills, while families can enjoy gentler trails and nature walks.
  • Explore the Village: Stop by the charming village of Chimney Rock with its quaint shops, inviting restaurants, and delightful local flavor.

Coastal Charms

Escape to North Carolina’s Coastal Charms, where the rhythm of the waves provides a soundtrack for both relaxation and adventure.

From windswept barrier islands with their unique ecology to historic port cities that brim with maritime heritage, the North Carolina coast invites you to trade your everyday routine for sun-kissed beaches, fresh coastal cuisine, and a slower pace of life.

The Outer Banks

Outer Banks, NC

The Outer Banks, also known as OBX, is a collection of barrier islands located along the coast of North Carolina.

It’s a place where unspoiled nature meets timeless charm.

You can find wild horses roaming sandy dunes, historic lighthouses standing sentinel over the Atlantic, and miles of pristine coastline inviting carefree days of sun and surf.

Towns such as Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills, where the Wright Brothers made their first flight, add a layer of history and excitement to this coastal paradise.

👉Fly into Charlotte with Skyscanner and experience the thrill of NASCAR, the tranquility of the Botanical Gardens, and the city’s bustling Uptown district.

Why Visit & Things to Do

North Carolina’s Outer Banks offers an escape from the ordinary, with experiences tailored to any traveler:

  • Encounter Wild Horses: Spot majestic herds of Colonial Spanish Mustangs, descendants of shipwrecked horses, roaming freely on the beaches.
  • Climb Historic Lighthouses: Ascend structures like the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse for sweeping ocean views and a glimpse into maritime history.
  • Hit the Beach: Dig your toes into the soft sand, swim the Atlantic waves, or try your hand at surfing, fishing, or kayaking.
  • Explore Aviation History: Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills to learn about the pioneers of flight and their groundbreaking achievement.
  • Savor Fresh Seafood: Indulge in the local bounty of the sea at restaurants serving up everything from steamed shrimp to creative coastal dishes.

Wilmington’s Historic Charm & Coastal Access

Wilmington, NC

Wilmington is a charming port city that exudes a rich history through its cobblestone streets.

Its lively riverfront is a source of fresh coastal breezes and is lined with various establishments such as shops and restaurants that offer beautiful views of the Cape Fear River.

The city is known for its significant contributions to maritime and military history, and it is highly recommended to visit the iconic Battleship North Carolina to discover more about this aspect of Wilmington’s history.

👉Discover Charlotte’s vibrant heart by choosing stays in the city center, offering easy access to sports events, cultural attractions, and gourmet dining.

Why Visit & Things to Do

Wilmington offers a delightful mix of historical exploration and seaside escapes:

  • Step Back in Time: Explore the Battleship North Carolina and gain fascinating insights into WWII naval combat. Wander the city’s well-preserved historic district and admire beautiful antebellum architecture.
  • Riverfront Delights: Dine on fresh seafood at a riverside restaurant, take a scenic river cruise, or simply soak up the vibrant atmosphere.
  • Gateway to the Beach: Use Wilmington as your base to explore nearby beaches like Carolina Beach with its vintage boardwalk charm, or Wrightsville Beach, known for its watersports.
  • Arts & Entertainment: Check out the city’s thriving arts scene with galleries, performing arts venues, and the renowned Cucalorus Film Festival.

Carolina Beach, Bald Head Island, and more:

Boardwalk to the beach !

North Carolina boasts a beautiful coastline dotted with relaxed beach towns, making it the perfect destination for those seeking a slow-paced getaway under the sun.

From the classic boardwalk fun of Carolina Beach to the serene car-free atmosphere of Bald Head Island, there is a coastal retreat to suit every beach lover.

Whether you dream of lounging on pristine shores, playing golf on a scenic course, or exploring vibrant tide pools teeming with life, North Carolina’s coastline offers something for everyone.

👉With Skyscanner, the historic charm of Wilmington and its picturesque riverfront are just a flight away, offering a perfect blend of history, culture, and beach life.

Why Visit & Things to Do

Embrace the unhurried rhythm of these coastal havens and choose your own beach town adventure:

  • Family Beach Days: Build sandcastles, splash in the waves, and stroll along charming boardwalks in classic beach towns like Carolina Beach.
  • Island Getaway: Escape to vehicle-free Bald Head Island, accessible only by ferry, where natural beauty reigns supreme. Explore by golf cart, bicycle, or on foot – a perfect spot to unplug and unwind.
  • Golfers’ Paradise: Many of North Carolina’s coastal towns offer world-class golf courses with stunning oceanfront or marsh views.
  • Explore Coastal Ecosystems: Discover the unique marine life of tide pools, salt marshes, and maritime forests. Kayak through secluded waterways or embark on a guided eco-tour.

NC Cities, Towns, and History

North Carolina boasts a diverse urban landscape that is as captivating as its natural wonders.

Visitors can explore dynamic cities with world-class museums and thriving culinary scenes, uncover hidden gems brimming with Southern charm, or step back in time at historic settlements and Civil War battlefields.


Charlotte skyline

Charlotte, North Carolina is a lively and energetic metropolis that combines modern and Southern culture.

The city boasts numerous cultural attractions, top-notch museums, and a thriving culinary scene.

Charlotte caters to a wide range of interests, from racing enthusiasts to outdoor adventurers. Iconic spots like the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the thrilling U.S. National Whitewater Center offer exciting experiences for visitors.

👉Find your ideal NC escape, where accommodations provide a perfect base for exploring the city’s historic districts and nearby beaches.

Why Visit & Things to Do

Immerse yourself in the electrifying energy of Charlotte and explore its many offerings:

  • NASCAR Fanatic? Delve into the world of stock car racing at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a must-visit for any racing enthusiast.
  • Embrace the Outdoors: Get your adrenaline pumping at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, offering kayaking, rafting, and other adventures on the rapids. Explore beautiful parks like the expansive Freedom Park or take a stroll through the vibrant Levine Center for the Arts gardens.
  • Cultural Delights: Immerse yourself in art at museums like the Mint Museum or the Bechtler Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Catch a captivating performance at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center or explore the city’s thriving brewery scene.


Raleigh, the capital city of North Carolina, is a unique blend of historical significance, Southern hospitality, and a thriving arts and culture scene.

The city is a major center for research and technology, where innovation is embraced while preserving its historic charm.

Visitors can stroll through tree-lined streets, explore world-class museums such as the North Carolina Museum of Art, or immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Umstead State Park – a haven located within the city’s limits.

👉Secure your flight to North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains with Skyscanner for an adventure in one of America’s most visited national parks, teeming with wildlife and ancient forests.

Why Visit & Things To Do

Whether you’re a museum enthusiast, a nature lover, or a foodie, Raleigh has something for you:

  • Cultural Exploration: Discover masterpieces from across the globe at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Delve into the state’s history and natural wonders at the North Carolina Museum of History and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
  • Outdoor Oasis: Escape the urban bustle in Umstead State Park, a haven for hiking, biking, and tranquil lakeside relaxation. Explore Raleigh’s charming greenways for a leisurely walk or bike ride.
  • Foodie’s Delight: Raleigh’s culinary scene is on the rise. Savor innovative farm-to-table cuisine, sample the city’s vibrant food truck scene, or find classic Southern dishes with a modern twist.

Stepping Back in Time: Winston-Salem & Old Salem

Old Salem in the Fall

Explore the rich history of North Carolina by visiting Winston-Salem and immersing yourself in the well-preserved world of Old Salem.

The Moravians, a European Protestant group, established Salem in 1766, and their heritage still thrives today in the restored cobblestone streets, historical buildings, and skilled artisans who continue to practice traditional crafts.

👉Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the Smoky Mountains with stays that range from rustic lodges to elegant inns, all offering a gateway to outdoor adventures.

Why Visit & Things to Do

History buffs and those seeking a unique cultural experience will find plenty to explore:

  • Immerse Yourself in Old Salem: Wander the living history museum of Old Salem, where costumed interpreters bring the 18th and 19th centuries to life. Learn traditional trades, sample delicious Moravian baked goods, admire period architecture, and experience living history.
  • Beyond Old Salem: Winston-Salem offers more than just a glimpse into the past. Explore the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, catch a performance at the Stevens Center, or wander the vibrant arts districts of the modern city.
  • Taste of the Past & Present: Savor traditional Moravian sugar cake and other historical treats, then discover the eclectic flavors of Winston-Salem’s thriving modern culinary scene.

Small-Town North Carolina: Hidden Gems Beyond the Cities

Southport North Carolina

North Carolina is home to several smaller towns that are bursting with their own distinct character.

If you’re seeking thrilling outdoor adventures nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Boone is the place to be.

This lively mountain town offers hiking, skiing, and a vibrant, youthful energy. On the other hand, if you’re looking for coastal charm, Southport is the perfect destination.

Here, you’ll find a picturesque waterfront, historic homes, and a slower pace of life.

These are just a few examples of the many hidden gems that can be found throughout the state, each inviting visitors to experience North Carolina’s diverse allure.

👉Skyscanner takes you to the heart of Raleigh, where innovative museums, lush parks, and a dynamic culinary scene await your discovery.


A vibrant mountain town nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This outdoor lover’s paradise offers adventures year-round.

Hike to scenic waterfalls or explore Grandfather Mountain.

Hit the slopes for skiing and snowboarding in the winter.

Enjoy the lively downtown with shops, restaurants, and a youthful energy thanks to Appalachian State University.


This charming coastal town exudes a timeless atmosphere.

Stroll the waterfront, lined with historic homes and a picturesque lighthouse.

Dine on fresh seafood at a waterfront restaurant.

Take a ferry to explore nearby beaches and nature preserves.

👉Choose accommodations in Raleigh that place you close to the action, from modern downtown apartments to peaceful retreats near the city’s green spaces.

Other Noteworthy Small Towns:

Hendersonville: Located in the apple country of the Blue Ridge Mountains, known for its charming Main Street, wineries, and apple orchards.

Beaufort: A historic seaside town with maritime heritage, quaint shops, and opportunities to spot wild horses on the nearby barrier islands.

Banner Elk: A mountain getaway with cozy lodges, ski resorts, and access to hiking and outdoor adventure.

FAQS (Your North Carolina Travel Questions Answered)

Raleigh, North Carolina

When is the best time to visit North Carolina? (Seasons)

North Carolina shines year-round! Spring and fall offer mild weather ideal for hiking and outdoor adventures.

Summers are warm and perfect for beach getaways. Winters in the mountains bring snow sports, while coastal regions remain temperate.

How do I get around North Carolina? (Rental cars, road trips)

Renting a car provides maximum flexibility for exploring North Carolina’s scenic routes and small towns. Major cities have public transportation options available.

What are some unique things to do in North Carolina? (Quirky attractions, outdoor activities specific to the state)

Get ready for the unexpected! Search for wild horses on the Outer Banks, descend into a ruby mine, explore quirky roadside attractions, or go whitewater rafting on mountain rivers.

👉Find your flight to North Carolina with Skyscanner and immerse yourself in the rich heritage and natural beauty of the Tar Heel State, from the Piedmont to the coast.

Is North Carolina family-friendly? (Beaches, museums, etc.)

Absolutely! Beaches are perfect for sandcastle building. Kid-friendly museums abound, from science centers to the Battleship North Carolina. Theme parks and zoos add to the fun.

What should I know before visiting North Carolina? (Weather variations between regions, local tips)

When packing for your trip, keep in mind that mountain temperatures can be cooler, even in the summer, while the coast tends to stay humid.

If you plan to visit popular coastal destinations during peak seasons, be prepared for crowds.

And don’t forget to ask friendly locals for their recommendations, as they can often provide valuable insights and tips for making the most of your trip.

Your North Carolina Adventure Awaits

Dry Falls - Highlands, North Carolina

North Carolina is a beautiful state that offers a diverse range of landscapes and experiences.

From the misty Appalachians to the windswept Outer Banks, there is something for everyone.

Whether you enjoy the thrill of hiking, the tranquility of a peaceful beach, or the excitement of a bustling city filled with art and culture, North Carolina has it all.

History buffs can explore Civil War battlefields and follow in the footsteps of pioneers, while families can enjoy building sandcastles on pristine beaches or visiting interactive museums and aquariums.

The possibilities are endless, so let North Carolina’s charm and beauty inspire your wanderlust and start planning your dream adventure today!

👉Secure a stay in North Carolina that allows you to explore the state’s diverse attractions, from wineries in the Yadkin Valley to the historic sites of Greensboro.

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