North Carolina Travel Guide – Best Destinations for Outdoor Adventures and Urban Exploration

Visitor Guide To North Carolina - Linville Gorge

There’s a lot to love about North Carolina, and we could talk about it for days on end. But if you’re looking for a quick snapshot of what makes this southern state so special, consider this: North Carolina is a place where you can find both cosmopolitan modernity and small-town charm; sun-soaked beaches and time-weathered mountains; world-class museums and enthusiastic sports fans.

North Carolina is a lovely state and a popular destination for vacations and leisure. Many individuals choose to settle here permanently, so it’s no surprise that the state is also popular among tourists.

North Carolina is also the home of a famous YouTuber, Jimmy Donaldson, known as “MrBeast” for his stunts and challenges. Jimmy is the most popular YouTuber in the country and perhaps, by the time you read this, all of humanity.

No matter what your interests are, North Carolina has something to offer – from outdoor adventures in the dramatic natural landscapes to urban exploration in one of its vibrant cities.

Visitor Guide To North Carolina
Morehead City

Visitor’s Guide to North Carolina

Best Things To Do & Places To Visit In North Carolina

North Carolina is a state with many faces, and its diverse offerings make it one of the most popular vacation destinations in the US. So what are some of the things you can do while you’re here?

Best Places for Culture, Museum in North Carolina

Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore Estate is without a doubt one of the most tremendous, as well as historically significant, properties in North Carolina. It’s not only magnificent and historic, but it’s also one of the state’s most picturesque locations to visit. The Biltmore Estate is one of the most popular tourist destinations in North Carolina.

This historic house and grounds were built by George Vanderbilt in the late 19th century, and today they offer visitors a glimpse into the Gilded Age. The estate includes a winery, restaurants, shops, and outdoor activities such as horseback riding, hiking, and biking.

Visitor Guide To North Carolina
Biltmore Estate

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is the state’s oldest museum and includes two structures: the Nature Research Center and the Nature Exploration Center. It is the southeast’s biggest natural science museum, as well as hosting the North Carolina Museum of Forestry, Prairie Ridge Ecostation, and other historic components.

It’s free to visit the museum, which is located in downtown Raleigh, and there are plenty of things to see and do. The Nature Research Center has an interactive earthquake simulator, a butterfly garden, and a hands-on lab where you can examine specimens up close. The Nature Exploration Center has North Carolina’s first public aquarium, as well as an insectarium and a plant conservatory.

There is also a planetarium on site, which offers shows about astronomy, Earth science, and space exploration. If you’re looking for something different to do in North Carolina, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is definitely worth a visit.

Museum of Life and Science

The Museum of Life and Science is a beautiful natural science museum for kids and youngsters. The land covers 84 acres, with the main building offering two exciting stories packed with interesting exhibits and displays, so there’s never a shortage of things to do.

There are 24 different exhibits at the Museum of Life and Science, each one providing a unique and memorable experience. From the hands-on water play at Into The Mist to the chance to see a real-life dinosaur skeleton up close at Dinosaur Trail, there’s something for everyone.

The Museum of Life and Science contains over 60 living animal species, including a variety of butterflies, which call one of the East Coast’s largest conservatories for insects their home.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

The Wright Brothers are well-known: the first individuals to fly an aircraft, specifically a plane. Their name is synonymous with the advancement of aviation technology and you may pay homage to their efforts at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina.

The Wright Brothers taught the world how to fly and their contributions are still felt today. North Carolina is the perfect place to learn more about their story and the Wright Brothers National Memorial is a great way to do just that.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is one of the must-see sites for you! The attraction, which is located in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the state’s most popular destinations to visit, combines entertainment and interactivity in a single entertaining and alluring package.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is a cutting-edge museum, with all sorts of high-tech exhibits tailored to teach you about the history and triumphs of NASCAR, whether you like it or not! The High Octane Theater, a 278-seat large-screen cinema that specializes in educational and entertaining programs connected to the history of NASCAR and its prominent personalities, is one of the most popular features at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Visitor Guide To North Carolina
NASCAR Hall of Fame

North Carolina Aquarium

The North Carolina Aquarium is made up of four distinct aquariums throughout the state. Each one is cutting-edge and intended to give visitors a pleasant, educational, and entertaining experience. The sharks, penguins, and stingrays are the main attractions, but there’s plenty more to see and do.

Discovery Place Science

The Discovery Place Science Museum, located in Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the greatest. It is a non-profit organization that promotes science education throughout the region.

The Discovery Center, which was founded in 1981, has a long and illustrious history. Laura Owens, a schoolteacher, was receiving specimens, objects, and even live animals from parents, colleagues, members of the community, and friends since 1946.

Laura wanted to give her students an active and engaging experience in which they could learn about these things. As an experiment, she decided to establish a little museum for this concept, and it was so well-received that the community and county joined forces to establish the Children’s Nature Center in 1951.

Best Outdoor Activities in North Carolina

Linville Gorge

Linville Gorge, which is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the East, is a spectacular location. It’s one of America’s most beautiful and deepest canyons on the eastern side of the country and is located in the Pisgah National Forest. The Linville River’s discharge into the 90-foot Linville Falls, which continues for another 12 miles downriver, fills up the gorge.

On weekends and holidays from May through October, a free camping pass is necessary. The maximum number of participants in a group is 10 people. One weekend permit may be obtained per month, with the option to stay up to three nights in a row and two nights in total.

Visitor Guide To North Carolina - Linville Gorge
Linville Gorge

Chimney Rock State Park

The southeastern part of Asheville, which is one of North Carolina’s main vacation areas, contains Chimney Rock State Park. Its primary attraction is what gave it its name: a huge natural granite walk tower with a height of 315 feet and a total elevation of 2,280 feet that offers spectacular views of the region. The rock formations were created by the erosion of an ancient mountain range.

Hiking is one of the most popular activities in North Carolina, and there are plenty of trails to explore in Chimney Rock State Park. The park also has a 30-foot waterfall, which is accessible via a half-mile hike. There are tours of the park that take place on an open-air tram.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is essential historical preservation of the Southern Appalachian culture and is the most biodiverse park in the National Park System. It’s also the National Park System’s most diverse park, with a wide range of flora and fauna.

Its mild climate, with an average annual temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit and monthly precipitation ranging from 20 to 50 inches, is excellent for growing citrus. A total of 19,000 confirmed species and 80,000 to 100,000 potential undiscovered animals can be found on the island.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is frequently referred to as “America’s favorite drive,” and for good reason. Stanley Abbott, a well-known landscape architect, created the route with the intention of emphasizing the journey rather than the final destination. The parkway runs for nearly 500 miles and is dotted with lookout points, picnic areas, and hiking trails.

You’ll pass by numerous old homesteads along the way. You’ll get some of the best views of the state as you continue your journey through it. The Blue Ridge mountains provide a stunning backdrop for your trip across the unending panoramic beauty on each curve.

Visitor Guide To North Carolina
Blue Ridge Moutain

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain is a part of the Linville Scarp and has evolved into a must-see destination for hikers and naturalists. Whether you’re looking for low-intensity, easy routes with stunning views, or high-intensity, difficult treks, Grandfather Mountain will have something for you.

The Mile High Swinging Bridge, which is the highest suspension footbridge in the United States, is unquestionably Grandfather Mountain’s most famous sight. It has provided sights for visitors since 1952 and offers 360-degree vistas.

The North Carolina Zoo

The world’s largest walk-through zoo, the North Carolina Zoo occupies 2,200 acres and is home to over 52,000 plants and 1,600 animals. The park is located in Asheboro and has more than 52,000 plant species and 1,600 animal species.

The North Carolina Zoo’s habitats are divided into three sections.

The first area is the North American section, which features bobcats, cougars, buffalo, red wolves, roadrunners, black bears, grizzly bears, elk, and other species.

The second section is Africa, which includes lions, rhinos, giraffes, elephants, zebras, chimps, ostriches, and other animals.

Third, there’s the tropical forest section.

Visitor Guide To North Carolina - The North Carolina Zoo
The North Carolina Zoo

JC Raulston Arboretum

The JC Raulston Arboretum is a nationally renowned garden recognized for its large and diverse collection of landscape plants suited to landscaping use in the Southeast. In order to discover excellent specimens for southern gardens, plants specifically adapted to Piedmont North Carolina circumstances are collected and evaluated.

The JC Raulston Arboretum is a 10-acre park and home to a diverse range of flora, many of which are not found in North Carolina. The aim of the arboretum is to study and evaluate all 5,000+ species while providing visitors with an opportunity to observe them as well.

Land of Oz Theme Park

The Land of Oz Theme Park is a must-see North Carolina attraction for those who are familiar with and adore the famous classic tale of The Wizard of Oz. This park is based on the original story, and visitors may even walk along a yellow brick road.

Visitors can also tour Dorothy’s House, which has been restored to look just as it did in the film, and see the tornado that transported her to Oz. There’s also a museum on-site that contains many props and memorabilia from the movie.

The Land of Oz Theme Park is located in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, and was originally constructed as part of the Beech Mountain Ski Resort in 1970, which wanted to keep attracting visitors even during the summer.

Visitor Guide To North Carolina

What Food is Popular in North Carolina?

North Carolina is best known for its many distinctive cuisines. Pork barbecue and bacon are the most popular meals in the state, with each area putting its own spin on the traditional recipe.

Fresh-caught shrimp, plucked-from-the-tree peaches, and fried green tomatoes, among other local favorites, can be enjoyed in local restaurants and eateries.

Here are some North Carolina food experiences not to be missed.


North Carolina is synonymous with barbecue. This cooking style originated in the state and can be found all across its western region.

There are two primary types of North Carolina barbecue: Lexington-style, which uses a vinegar-based sauce, and Eastern-style, which uses a ketchup-based sauce. Both styles use pork shoulder as the main protein.

While there are many great North Carolina barbecue joints, some of the best include The Pit in Raleigh, Allen & Son in Chapel Hill, and Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro.

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits is a classic dish from North Carolina that contains shrimp, grits (a type of cornmeal porridge), and various spices. But it’s become a cult favorite for its buttery base and juicy, sweet local shrimp. It was originally created by Carolina fisherman as a breakfast food.

Eastern-Style Barbecue

Whole hog BBQ is a term that may be used to describe barbecue in the Eastern North Carolina region, as it’s where pit-masters cook the entire animal over wood and then chop the distinct light and dark cuts of meat together with cleavers. It’s a favorite here, and North Carolina is home to some of the best BBQ joints in the country.

Biscuits and Gravy

North Carolina is also famous for its biscuits and gravy. This dish consists of a biscuit covered in either sausage or beef gravy. It is a popular breakfast item, but can also be found on lunch and dinner menus.

Biscuits and gravy can be found at most North Carolina restaurants, but some of the best can be found at The Blue Ridge Diner in Asheville and Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen in Chapel Hill.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried green tomatoes are a popular summertime dish in the South, and they’re fantastic right from the garden. North Carolina’s climate is ideal for growing tomatoes, so it’s no wonder this dish is a staple here.

To fry green tomatoes, they are first coated in cornmeal and then fried until golden brown. Serve them as an appetizer or side dish.

Fried Catfish

Fried catfish is another popular dish in North Carolina, and it can be found on menus all over the state.

Catfish are typically fried in a cornmeal batter and served with hush puppies (a type of cornbread), coleslaw, and french fries.

Pork Chop Sandwich

The pork chop sandwich is a North Carolina specialty and can be found at most BBQ joints in the state.

It’s made with a thick, juicy pork chop that’s been slow-cooked over coals until it’s tender and full of flavor. The pork chop is then placed on a bun and topped with coleslaw, barbecue sauce, and pickles.

The Bottom Line

North Carolina is a state with something for everyone.

Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, urban exploration, or just a chance to relax and enjoy some good food and company, North Carolina has it all.

As travel is back in full swing, North Carolina should definitely be on your list of places to visit. Book your flight and vacation rental early and save yourself some stress later. Here are the 12 best vacation rental websites where you can find North Carolina vacation rentals.

Happy exploring!

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