North Carolina reflects the warm hospitality and rich history of the south. In the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains, North Carolina is known for its wide range of outdoor activities. Venture into the big cities like Charlotte and Raleigh and you’ll have a chance to explore the historic neighborhoods and bustling downtown business areas. Along the coast and the secluded barrier islands, North Carolina is known for kite surfing, fishing, and excellent beaches.
North Carolina’s most visited tourist attraction is also the country’s most visited National Park, Great Smokey Mountains National Park and no trip to the state is complete without passing through the park by car or foot. Among North Carolina’s other popular attractions are the scenic drive of Blueridge Parkway and the Outer Banks.
North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is well-known for its large aquatic animals native to the North Carolina waters. Some of the most famous species that live at the aquarium in the 306,000 gallon centerpiece tank in which sits a replica of a German submarine, include sand sharks, a green moray eel which measures six feet in length, a four foot long goliath grouper, several large nurse sharks, sandbar sharks, and a variety of game fish.
Pisgah National Forest
This National Forest, located in the Appalachian Mountains, is one of North Carolina’s popular outdoor recreation hot spots. The forest was named a National Forest in 1916, making it one of the east coast’s first National Forests. Popular activities at the forest include hiking and camping, but a wide variety of recreational opportunities exist including climbing, fishing, horseback riding, picnicking, water sports, and participating in ranger-led programs.
Great Smokey Mountains National Park
This National Park is considered the most visited National Park in the entire nation as it stretches from the state of Maine to Georgia. One of the two main entrances to the park is located in Cherokee, North Carolina. The park is comprised of diverse geological and natural features, with elevations ranging from 876 feet to more than 6,000 feet. Due to the varied elevation, more than 10,000 species of plants and animals are able to thrive in the different ecosystems of the park.
The most popular activity for visitors to the park is hiking as a wide selection of trail lengths and difficulties are found in the park.
Carowinds Amusement Park
Carowinds is an amusement park located adjacent to Interstate 77 on the border between North and South Carolina. Carowinds is one of the most popular family entertainment attractions in the Carolinas. The park offers more than 100 state-of-the-art rides, including roller coasters, shows and experiences for all ages. The park is home to the World’s tallest and fastest giga coaster, Fury 325 and the Carolina Harbor waterpark featuring a variety of wave pools, slides and a lazy river.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the city of Asheville is the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned house in the entire country. The house covers 178,926 feet and contains 250 rooms. Besides its massive size, the house is also noted for its stunning French Renaissance architecture and beautiful English landscaping. Visitors to the estate can tour the house and grounds, or participate in one of many special events hosted at the Biltmore Estate. Some of the most fascinating features of the house are a 70,000 gallon indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, a two-level library, 19th century elevators, and famous artworks.
Top Things to Do in North Carolina
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the state’s most famous routes and it is considered a National Parkway and an All-American Road. The route is famous for its breathtaking scenic vistas, visible along the 469 mile route through Virginia and North Carolina. The road skirts the edges of the Blue Ridge mountain chain, ending at the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina.
Cape Lookout National Seashore
This 56-mile shoreline that stretches from the Ocracoke Inlet to the Beaufort Inlet was created to preserve the shoreline and the undeveloped barrier islands of North Core Banks, South Core Banks, and Shackleford. The seashore is also the location of two historic villages, and the Cape Lookout lighthouse. A favorite sight at the seashore is the Shackleford wild horses.
Wright Brothers National Memorial
In Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina is the memorial to celebrate the first successful sustained powered flight by a machine, accomplished by the legendary Wright Brothers. At the national memorial visitors can see the field where the four flights were made and view markers of the starting and finishing points. Also in the fields are recreations of the sheds in which the brothers stayed during their time in North Carolina.
The Outer Banks is a 200-mile span of barrier islands along the North Carolina coastline and part of Virginia. The area is a major tourist destination, known for a mild climate and welcoming beachfront. The islands are home to several small towns and communities, state parks, and other sites of historic interest. A popular destination in the Outer Banks is the Cape Hatteras National Seashore which has four campgrounds.
Discovery Place is a science and technology museum for visitors located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Discovery Place Science brings science to life through hands-on interactive exhibits, thrilling activities and experiments, an IMAX Dome Theatre, and boundless other educational opportunities and programs. Discovery Place Science also operates an IMAX Dome Theatre that offers an immersive up close movie experience in the largest IMAX Dome Theatre in the Carolinas.
Things to Do in North Carolina
A trip to North Carolina is a chance to explore the best of the New South and old Dixie. Whether you’re interested in visiting the quickly growing cosmopolitan cities, the historic Civil War era towns, or you just want to get out of the city and explore the great outdoors, North Carolina has a variety of destinations and tourist attractions for every type of traveler.