Planning a trip to North Carolina? Here is a list of our top 50 things to do in North Carolina!
Are you ready to lace up your boots and head out in exploration of the must-see spots in the Tar Heel State? We’re about to dive headfirst into a trove of things to do in North Carolina, a place where the charm of the South melds with the thrill of adventure to offer experiences that truly have something for everyone.
From western North Carolina’s majestic Appalachian Mountains to the windswept beaches and barrier islands of the Outer Banks in the east, North Carolina is a land of diverse landscapes and unique experiences waiting to be discovered.
Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, a foodie, or a die-hard sports fan, North Carolina has an abundance of activities that’ll have you reaching for your planner to schedule that trip ASAP.
Stick with us, and let’s embark on this exciting journey together!
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The Best Things to Do in North Carolina
North Carolina is a state rich in culture, history, and diverse natural beauty. Here are 50 things you might want to do on a visit to North Carolina:
1. Explore the Biltmore Estate in Asheville
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville – it’s an absolute must-see! This French Renaissance-inspired chateau, America’s largest privately-owned home, is more than just an architectural wonder.
Once the home of George Vanderbilt, the Biltmore Estate spans a whopping 8,000 acres and offers an immersive journey back to the Gilded Age. Stroll through the opulent 250-room mansion filled with original artwork and antiques.
Explore the stunning grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture, and don’t miss the breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. After you’ve had your fill of history and horticulture, you can indulge in a spot of wine tasting at the Biltmore Winery.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast or a nature lover, the Biltmore Estate is one of the best things to do in North Carolina.
2. Walk through the historic Riverwalk in Wilmington
Next stop on our North Carolina adventure: the historic Riverwalk in Wilmington. Nestled along the Cape Fear River, this nearly two-mile-long boardwalk is a haven for both relaxation and exploration.
As you meander down the Riverwalk, you’ll be treated to picturesque views of the river on one side, and a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants, and historic buildings on the other. It’s the perfect place to sip a cup of coffee while watching boats glide by, hunt for unique souvenirs, or delve into Wilmington’s rich history.
In the evening, the Riverwalk comes alive with the glow of lights reflecting off the water, making it a romantic spot for a leisurely stroll.
To view the stunning coastline of Wilmington from a new perspective, try a sunset sailboat cruise! This is a great way to cover more ground and admire the lovely coastal views.
3. Visit the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh
A cultural gem in the heart of the state, the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, is a creative powerhouse that art enthusiasts and casual visitors alike will find enchanting.
Housing an impressive collection that spans over 5,000 years, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary works, the museum is a testament to the universality and diversity of artistic expression.
But the allure of this museum doesn’t stop at its interior collections. Step outside, and you’ll find yourself in the midst of a 164-acre Museum Park, a unique fusion of art and nature with outdoor installations scattered amongst trails and a picturesque landscape.
Whether you’re an art connoisseur or simply someone who appreciates beauty, the North Carolina Museum of Art is a must-visit when exploring things to do in North Carolina.
4. Tour the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh is an immersive journey into the fascinating world of science and nature. The largest natural history museum in the Southeast, it’s an institution that sparks curiosity and wonders in visitors of all ages.
From exploring the prehistoric past in the Fossil Lab to interacting with live animals in the Living Conservatory, there’s a seemingly endless amount of learning and discovery to be had.
With a diverse array of exhibits, immersive dioramas, and a cutting-edge Nature Research Center where you can observe scientists at work, this museum is more than just a collection of specimens – it’s a celebration of our natural world.
A visit to this museum is unquestionably one of the most educational things to do in North Carolina.
5. Check out the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills
When you stand on the grounds of the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, you’re standing where history was made. This is where Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved the unthinkable in 1903, launching the era of powered flight with their successful airplane experiments.
A soaring granite monument atop Kill Devil Hill marks the spot of these transformative events, with inspiring inscriptions that capture the spirit of their achievement. The visitor center houses a full-scale reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer, a flight simulator, and fascinating exhibits that tell the story of the Wright brothers’ journey to flight.
For anyone with a passion for history, innovation, or the spirit of human achievement, a visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial is a must when visiting North Carolina.
Heading south next? Check out our list of the best things to do in Charleston, South Carolina.
6. Wander through the gardens at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham
Picture this: lush greenery, vibrant blooms, tranquil water features, and winding paths inviting you for a leisurely stroll. Welcome to Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, North Carolina!
This horticultural oasis is spread across 55 acres and is divided into four main areas: the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, the Doris Duke Center Gardens, the Historic Gardens, and the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants.
The meticulously maintained gardens and diverse plant life make this place a sanctuary for aspiring botanists, photographers, or travellers looking for some peace and quiet.
The Sarah P. Duke Gardens is one of those effortlessly enchanting spots that remind us of the simple beauty in nature, making it an essential addition to your visit to North Carolina.
7. Take a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway
For nature enthusiasts, taking a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a non-negotiable when considering things to do in North Carolina. Often referred to as “America’s Favorite Drive,” this 469-mile roadway winds through the heart of the southern Appalachian Mountains, offering an unparalleled feast for the eyes.
As you meander through the stunning landscapes of North Carolina and Virginia, you’ll encounter awe-inspiring panoramic views, cascading waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. Book a self-guided audio tour if you want some expert advice about where to go on your drive!
The Blue Ridge Parkway is not just for drivers, though. With numerous hiking trails, picnic spots, and national historic landmarks along the route, it’s a playground for outdoor lovers.
Whether you’re behind the wheel or on foot, the Blue Ridge Parkway promises an unforgettable experience of natural beauty.
8. Visit the historic Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem
Step back in time to the 18th and 19th centuries at Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem. This living history site offers an immersive experience of Moravian life in the early Southern United States.
As you wander through the meticulously preserved buildings and streets, you’ll encounter costumed interpreters demonstrating traditional crafts, cooking, and other aspects of daily life, giving you a genuine feel for the time period. Don’t miss the chance to explore the lush heirloom gardens or to try your hand at a Moravian craft.
With its unique blend of history, culture, and hands-on experiences, Old Salem Museums & Gardens provides an unforgettable journey into the past.
9. Explore the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro
Unleash your inner explorer at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, the world’s largest natural habitat zoo. Spanning over 2,600 acres, this incredible space is home to more than 1,800 animals from 250 species, including elephants, lions, and giraffes.
What sets this zoo apart is its dedication to recreating as closely as possible the natural habitats of its residents, giving visitors a unique opportunity to see animals in environments resembling their native homes.
Aside from the impressive animal exhibits, the zoo also features a beautiful collection of plants from North America and Africa. With its commitment to conservation, education, and a remarkable visitor experience, the North Carolina Zoo is a must-see for animal lovers.
10. Discover the vibrant food scene of the Durham Food Hall and indulge in a variety of culinary delights.
Indulge in a culinary adventure at the Durham Food Hall, a vibrant gastronomic destination in Durham. This bustling food hall brings together a diverse selection of local food vendors under one roof, creating a vibrant and eclectic dining experience.
From artisanal pizza and gourmet burgers to global flavors and sweet treats, the Durham Food Hall offers a tantalizing array of culinary delights to satisfy every craving. Sample a variety of dishes, savor craft beers and specialty cocktails, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of this communal dining space.
Whether you’re a food enthusiast, a connoisseur of flavors, or simply looking for a unique culinary experience, the Durham Food Hall celebrates the vibrant food scene and culinary talents of the region.
11. Visit the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh
Embark on a journey through time and immerse yourself in North Carolina’s rich history at the North Carolina Museum of History in downtown Raleigh. This captivating museum offers a comprehensive exploration of the state’s past, from its earliest inhabitants to modern times.
Engage with interactive exhibits that bring history to life, showcasing artifacts, photographs, and immersive displays that chronicle significant events and stories. Delve into the state’s Native American heritage, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and key moments of social and cultural change.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply curious about the state’s past, a visit to this museum is a must to truly understand and appreciate the rich tapestry of North Carolina’s history.
12. Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, is an outdoor lover’s dream. As America’s most visited national park, it boasts a stunning range of biodiversity, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, and breathtaking views from its many scenic overlooks.
Whether you’re hiking up to Clingmans Dome, the park’s highest point, taking a scenic drive along Newfound Gap Road, or exploring historic structures in Cades Cove, the Great Smoky Mountains offer an unrivaled immersion into nature’s splendor.
It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site and an International Biosphere Reserve, highlighting its significance and commitment to conservation. A trip to the Old North State wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the wonders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
13. Visit One of the Three North Carolina Aquariums
North Carolina is home to three exceptional aquariums that offer captivating underwater experiences for visitors of all ages. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, situated along the Crystal Coast, immerses guests in the wonders of marine life through its interactive exhibits, showcasing a diverse range of aquatic species and ecosystems.
The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, located near Wilmington, provides a unique coastal experience with exhibits highlighting the dynamic marine environments of the area. Visitors can explore a variety of habitats, from freshwater streams to saltwater marshes, and encounter fascinating creatures such as sharks, stingrays, and sea turtles.
Lastly, the Aquarium on Roanoke Island offers a blend of educational exhibits and outdoor adventures, allowing visitors to discover the diverse marine life of the Outer Banks region.
From playful river otters to mesmerizing jellyfish displays, these aquariums provide a window into the vibrant underwater world and foster an appreciation for the importance of conservation and ocean preservation.
14. Try local craft beer in Asheville, known as “Beer City USA”
Calling all beer enthusiasts! Asheville, known as “Beer City USA,” is an absolute must-visit when exploring North Carolina.
This vibrant city nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway boasts a thriving craft beer scene that’s second to none. With over 30 breweries in the city and its surrounding areas, there’s a brew for every palate.
From hoppy IPAs to smooth stouts and creative experimental brews, Asheville’s breweries offer a tantalizing array of flavors and styles. Take a brewery tour, join a tasting session, or simply sit back and relax in one of the many beer gardens while savoring the local craftsmanship.
With its rich beer culture, friendly atmosphere, and stunning mountain backdrop, Asheville is a haven for beer lovers and an essential stop on any beer-themed adventure in North Carolina.
Read Next: Check out our post on all the best things to do in Asheville!
15. Tour the USS North Carolina Battleship in Wilmington
Prepare to step aboard a living piece of history at the USS North Carolina Battleship in Wilmington. This mighty vessel, now a floating museum, serves as a captivating window into the past, allowing visitors to experience the life of sailors during World War II.
As you explore the ship’s many decks, you’ll gain insight into the challenges and triumphs faced by those who served aboard this iconic battleship. Marvel at the enormous gun turrets, venture through tight passageways, and imagine the daily routines of the crew.
With interactive exhibits, informative displays, and personal stories of bravery, the Battleship North Carolina offers a fascinating and immersive journey back in time.
Don’t miss the opportunity to pay homage to the brave men and women who served on this historic ship while delving into the rich naval history of the Old North State.
16. Visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte
Rev up your engines and get ready for a thrilling adventure at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. Racing enthusiasts and fans of high-speed excitement will find themselves in awe of this interactive museum dedicated to the sport of NASCAR.
Immerse yourself in the world of racing as you explore exhibits featuring iconic race cars, legendary drivers, and exhilarating racing moments. From simulators that put you behind the wheel to pit crew challenges that test your skills, the NASCAR Hall of Fame offers a hands-on experience like no other.
Dive into the history and culture of NASCAR, learn about the science behind the sport, and even witness the induction ceremonies of racing legends.
17. Explore the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill
Science lovers, prepare to be amazed at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill.
This iconic institution has been a beacon of scientific discovery and education for decades. Step inside and embark on a journey through the cosmos as you explore interactive exhibits, attend captivating planetarium shows, and engage in hands-on activities that bring the wonders of space and science to life.
Learn about the stars, planets, and galaxies that make up our universe, and delve into the mysteries of astronomy and space exploration. The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center offers an immersive and educational experience that will ignite your curiosity and leave you with a greater understanding of the vastness and beauty of the cosmos.
18. Wander through the Carolina Beach State Park
For beach lovers and nature enthusiasts looking for a nice beach vacation, Carolina Beach State Park is a coastal gem that offers a perfect blend of relaxation and outdoor adventure. Located near Wilmington on the Atlantic Coast, this beautiful park is a haven for beachgoers, hikers, and wildlife enthusiasts.
Stroll along the pristine sandy shores, take a refreshing dip in the Atlantic Ocean, or try your hand at fishing in the designated areas. Nature lovers will delight in the park’s diverse ecosystems, including lush maritime forests and scenic marshes, which can be explored through a network of trails.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the famous Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, known for its Venus flytrap sanctuary, where you can see this unique carnivorous plant up close.
With its natural beauty, recreational activities, and abundant wildlife, Carolina Beach State Park is a must-visit destination for those seeking a coastal escape in North Carolina.
19. Explore the Pisgah National Forest
If you’re seeking an unforgettable outdoor adventure in Western North Carolina, look no further than Pisgah National Forest. Covering over 500,000 acres, this expansive wilderness is a haven for hiking, camping, fishing, and simply soaking up the natural beauty.
Explore scenic trails, some leading to cascading waterfalls like Looking Glass and Moore Cove, or climb up to panoramic viewpoints such as the summit of Mount Pisgah. The forest is also home to the Cradle of Forestry, the birthplace of forestry in America.
Here, you can learn about the history of conservation while surrounded by the awe-inspiring wilderness that inspired it. Pisgah National Forest is a testament to North Carolina’s abundant natural beauty and a must-visit for any outdoor enthusiast exploring the state.
20. Visit the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, with Interactive Exhibits and a Butterfly Garden
Embark on a fascinating journey of scientific discovery at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. This interactive museum is a paradise for curious minds of all ages.
Explore exhibits that cover a wide range of scientific fields, from biology and chemistry to physics and astronomy. Get up close and personal with live animals, including lemurs, bears, and a variety of reptiles.
Step into the immersive Butterfly House, where you can observe the delicate beauty of these colorful creatures. Engage in hands-on experiments and demonstrations, or take a stroll through the beautifully landscaped outdoor exhibits, featuring a farmyard, dinosaur trail, and a mesmerizing sound garden.
The Museum of Life and Science offers an engaging and educational experience that will ignite your passion for science and leave you with a deeper understanding of the world around us.
21. Visit the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville
Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville. This expansive botanical garden showcases a stunning collection of plants and landscapes, making it a paradise for plant enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Explore the beautifully curated gardens, each with its own unique theme and plant species, from colorful blooms in the manicured gardens to native plants in the natural woodlands.
Take a leisurely stroll along the peaceful walking trails, and be sure to visit the tranquil bonsai exhibit, which features an impressive display of these miniature living works of art.
With its breathtaking beauty, educational programs, and peaceful ambiance, this arboretum is a perfect stop for anyone seeking tranquility and natural splendor in North Carolina.
Read Next: Be sure to read our post on the ultimate Asheville itinerary!
22. Tour the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh
History buffs, get ready to step back in time at the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh. This historic landmark serves as a testament to the Tar Heel state’s rich political history.
Take a guided tour through the majestic building, where you’ll explore the beautifully restored chambers, ornate architecture, and important artifacts that tell the story of the state’s government.
Learn about the significant role the Capitol played in shaping North Carolina’s history, from the early days of the American Revolution to the present. The State Capitol is not just a symbol of governance; it’s a window into the past and a tribute to the resilience and progress of the state.
A visit to the North Carolina State Capitol is a must for anyone interested in history and politics, providing a deeper understanding of the state’s heritage and a glimpse into the workings of its government.
23. Visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort
Embark on a captivating maritime adventure at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Situated along the picturesque Crystal Coast, this museum explores the state’s rich maritime history and coastal heritage.
Step inside and delve into exhibits that showcase the stories of shipwrecks, pirates, and the local seafaring communities. Discover artifacts recovered from sunken vessels, learn about the ecology of the surrounding marine environments, and gain insights into the life and culture of coastal North Carolina.
Don’t miss the opportunity to embark on a boat tour or participate in educational programs that provide hands-on experiences and an even deeper appreciation for the maritime world.
24. Take a hike in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area
Venture into the rugged wilderness of Linville Gorge Wilderness Area for an unforgettable outdoor experience in Western North Carolina. Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” this stunning natural gem is a haven for hikers, climbers, and nature enthusiasts.
Explore the vast network of trails that wind through the gorge, offering breathtaking views of towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and the majestic Linville River. With its challenging terrain and diverse ecosystems, the area provides ample opportunities for outdoor adventures, from backcountry camping to rock climbing on the rugged cliffs.
Immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of Linville Gorge Wilderness Area and let the awe-inspiring landscapes leave you in wonder and awe.
25. Explore the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee
Immerse yourself in the rich Native American history and culture at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee. This captivating museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the heritage and traditions of the Cherokee people, showcasing artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays that bring their stories to life.
Learn about the tribe’s ancient roots, their struggles during the Trail of Tears, and their enduring spirit of resilience and cultural preservation. From traditional crafts and artwork to immersive storytelling, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian offers a deeply educational and enriching experience for visitors of all backgrounds.
Gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Cherokee culture as you explore this remarkable museum and engage with the vibrant legacy of the Cherokee people in North Carolina.
26. Take a scenic drive on the Cherohala Skyway
Prepare for a breathtaking scenic drive along the Cherohala Skyway, a true gem nestled between North Carolina and Tennessee. This 43-mile stretch of highway winds its way through the stunning landscapes of the Nantahala and Cherokee National Forests, offering awe-inspiring views at every turn.
As you navigate the winding mountain roads, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and towering peaks. The Cherohala Skyway is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike, with numerous overlooks and hiking trails beckoning you to explore the natural beauty of the region.
Whether you’re a road trip enthusiast or a nature enthusiast, a drive along the Cherohala Skyway is a bucket-list experience that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Read next: The Best Things To Do In Memphis, Tennessee
27. Visit the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville
Experience the literary heritage of Asheville at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. This historic site, located in the childhood home of renowned author Thomas Wolfe just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and works of one of America’s literary giants.
Step into the preserved Victorian-style house and explore the rooms where Wolfe grew up, gaining insight into his upbringing and the inspiration behind his acclaimed novels. Delve into the museum exhibits, showcasing personal belongings, manuscripts, and photographs that shed light on his literary journey.
Stroll through the tranquil garden and reflect on the profound impact Wolfe’s writing had on American literature. Whether you’re a fan of Wolfe’s work or simply curious about the literary history of Asheville, a visit to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial is a captivating and enriching experience that transports you into the world of a literary legend.
28. Explore Grandfather Mountain near Linville
Embark on an awe-inspiring adventure at Grandfather Mountain near Linville. This iconic landmark offers a blend of natural beauty and thrilling experiences that will leave you breathless.
Hike along rugged trails that lead to breathtaking vistas, where you can marvel at the stunning panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Test your courage by crossing the famous Mile High Swinging Bridge, suspended 5,280 feet above sea level, and feel the exhilaration of being suspended in the sky.
Encounter wildlife such as black bears, otters, and cougars at the Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum, where you can learn about the diverse ecosystems that make this area so unique.
With its majestic peaks, stunning vistas, and unforgettable experiences, Grandfather Mountain is a top destination for travellers seeking to immerse themselves in the natural wonders of North Carolina.
29. Visit the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro
Embark on a journey through history and the Civil Rights Movement at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro. This powerful museum is housed in the historic Woolworth Building, the site of the famous sit-in protests in 1960.
Step inside and immerse yourself in the struggle for equality and justice as you explore exhibits that chronicle the Civil Rights Movement and its impact on American society.
From interactive displays to preserved artifacts, the museum offers a thought-provoking and educational experience that brings to life the stories of courage, resilience, and activism.
Walk the very same halls where history was made and gain a deeper understanding of the fight for civil rights in America. The International Civil Rights Center & Museum is a must-visit for those who wish to honor the past and be inspired by the ongoing pursuit of equality.
30. Wander through the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont
Indulge your senses in the beauty of nature at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont. This stunning 380-acre garden oasis offers a sanctuary of tranquility and natural splendor.
Meander through the meticulously manicured gardens, featuring a wide array of vibrant flowers, exotic plants, and serene water features. Take a peaceful stroll along the woodland trails and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of nature.
The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden also hosts seasonal events, such as the breathtaking Orchid Spectacular and the enchanting Holidays at the Garden, adding an extra touch of magic to your visit.
Whether you’re a gardening enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a serene escape, a trip to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden promises to rejuvenate your spirit and ignite your appreciation for the natural world.
31. Take a Ferry to the Outer Banks and Explore its Lighthouses
If there’s an image that comes to mind when thinking about North Carolina’s coastal charm, it’s likely the iconic lighthouses of the Outer Banks. To fully appreciate these historic structures and the breathtaking natural beauty surrounding them, take a ferry ride to the Outer Banks.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, known for its black and white spiral design, and the Bodie Island Lighthouse with its horizontal black and white stripes, are two of the most recognizable. Not only do these structures offer an insight into the area’s maritime history, but they also provide panoramic views of the stunning North Carolina Coast.
The Outer Banks, with its sandy beaches, maritime forests, and iconic lighthouses, is undoubtedly one of the top North Carolina attractions.
32. Cool off at Sliding Rock
Prepare for an exhilarating adventure at Sliding Rock, an iconic natural waterslide in Pisgah National Forest. Sliding Rock is a smooth, sloping rock formation carved by Mother Nature. As the chilly waters of Looking Glass Creek cascade down the slide, visitors can slide down the rock face, plunging into the deep pool at the base with excitement and laughter.
Surrounded by lush greenery and towering trees, the picturesque setting adds to the allure of this natural wonder. Whether you’re seeking a heart-pounding adventure or simply a unique way to cool off during the summer months, Sliding Rock is a must-visit destination that offers endless fun and memories for individuals and families alike.
33. Tour the North Carolina Railroad Museum in New Hill and Learn About the State’s Railroad History.
All aboard the nostalgia train! The North Carolina Railroad Museum in New Hill offers a delightful journey into the state’s rich railroad heritage. Step into the past as you explore the museum’s impressive collection of vintage locomotives, passenger cars, and historic artifacts.
Take a ride on a beautifully restored train and experience the thrill of chugging along the tracks, surrounded by the sights and sounds of classic rail travel. Engage with knowledgeable guides who share fascinating stories about the history and significance of the railroad in North Carolina.
From train enthusiasts to history buffs, this railroad museum is a captivating destination that offers a glimpse into a bygone era and allows visitors to appreciate the role of rail transportation in shaping the state’s development.
Read next: The Best Things To Do In Washington DC
34. Explore Chimney Rock State Park
Prepare for an awe-inspiring adventure amidst nature’s wonders at Chimney Rock State Park. Located near Asheville, this park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and offers breathtaking views that will leave you speechless.
Embark on a hike along the various hiking trails in Chimney Rock State Park, each offering its own unique charm and scenic vistas. Make your way up to the iconic Chimney Rock itself, a towering monolith that rewards you with panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountain Range and the sweeping valleys below.
A great way to see the true vastness of the area is from the air! Book a scenic helicopter tour of Chimney Rock State Park so you can enjoy some incredible aerial views.
Also don’t miss the chance to explore Hickory Nut Gorge, with its cascading waterfalls and lush foliage along the Hickory Nut Falls Trail.
35. Visit the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in Kannapolis
Step into the world of music legends at the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in Kannapolis. This captivating museum celebrates the rich musical heritage of the state, honoring the talented artists who have made significant contributions to the world of music.
Explore exhibits showcasing memorabilia, artifacts, and interactive displays that highlight the diverse genres and iconic musicians associated with North Carolina.
From bluegrass and country to rock and hip-hop, the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame pays tribute to the musicians who have left an indelible mark on the music industry.
Whether you’re a fan of classic hits or contemporary tunes, a visit to this museum is a harmonious journey that will leave you inspired by the incredible talent that hails from North Carolina.
Experience more music history with a visit to Nashville, Tennessee!
36. Explore the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Landmark in Flat Rock
Immerse yourself in the literary world at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Landmark in Flat Rock. This charming historic site was once the home of renowned American poet and writer, Carl Sandburg.
Take a guided tour through the beautifully preserved house and gain insight into Sandburg’s life and creative process. Explore the tranquil surroundings, including walking trails and picturesque gardens, where you can find inspiration just as Sandburg did.
The site also features a visitor center with exhibits that delve into Sandburg’s work, his influence on American literature, and the historical context of his writings. For poetry lovers and those with a passion for literature, the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Landmark is a hidden gem that offers a deep appreciation for one of America’s literary greats.
37. Visit the Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh
Spark the imagination and ignite the spirit of play at the Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh. Designed for children and families, this interactive museum offers a world of discovery and learning through hands-on exhibits and engaging activities.
Young minds can explore themed areas, including a mini city, a farm, a theater, and an art studio, where they can unleash their creativity and imagination. From climbing and sliding to building and experimenting, the Marbles Kids Museum encourages active exploration and fosters a love for learning.
Whether kids are role-playing in the grocery store, creating masterpieces with art supplies, or experimenting with water and physics, the museum provides a safe and exciting environment for children to learn, grow, and have fun.
38. Explore the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro
Step into the pages of American history at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro. This hallowed ground commemorates the pivotal Battle of Guilford Courthouse, a decisive engagement during the Revolutionary War.
As you explore the park’s meticulously preserved landscape, you’ll gain a deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by soldiers and the strategic significance of this historic site. Walk the trails that wind through the battlefield, passing monuments, markers, and reconstructed encampments.
Immerse yourself in the visitor center’s exhibits, which provide a detailed account of the battle and its impact on the war’s outcome. The park offers guided tours, educational programs, and special events that bring history to life.
Whether you’re a history buff, a patriot, or simply curious about the nation’s past, a visit to Guilford Courthouse National Military Park is a moving and enlightening experience that honors the legacy of those who fought for American independence.
39. Visit the Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Embark on a coastal adventure like no other at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Stretching along the Outer Banks on the Atlantic coast, this natural wonderland boasts miles of pristine sandy beaches, towering sand dunes, and stunning ocean vistas.
Feel the warm sun on your skin and the gentle breeze in your hair as you explore the untouched beauty of this protected coastal area. Go for a swim in the Atlantic, try your hand at fishing, or simply relax on the beach and soak in the natural splendor.
Don’t forget to visit the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in North America, and climb to the top for panoramic views of the seashore. Whether you’re seeking adventure, tranquility, or a blend of both, Cape Hatteras National Seashore promises unforgettable coastal experiences in North Carolina.
40. Visit the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove
Discover the enchanting world of pottery at the Seagrove Pottery of the Piedmont in Seagrove. Known as the “Pottery Capital of the United States,” this charming town is home to an incredible community of talented potters and artisans.
Immerse yourself in the artistry and craftsmanship as you explore the numerous pottery studios and galleries that line the streets. Witness skilled potters at work, shaping clay into stunning creations, and learn about the rich history and techniques of pottery-making in the region.
From functional pieces like plates and bowls to intricate decorative sculptures, Seagrove Pottery offers a diverse array of styles and designs to suit every taste.
Whether you’re an art enthusiast or simply appreciate the beauty of handcrafted objects, a visit to Seagrove Pottery is a lovely experience that celebrates the artistic spirit and cultural heritage of North Carolina.
41. Explore the cultural heritage of African Americans at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
Immerse yourself in the rich and vibrant world of African-American arts and culture at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte. Named in honor of Harvey B. Gantt, the first African-American student admitted to Clemson University, this cultural institution celebrates the artistic contributions, narratives, and experiences of African Americans.
Step inside the center and be captivated by thought-provoking exhibitions that showcase a diverse range of artistic mediums, including visual arts, music, dance, film, and more.
Complete with contemporary works by renowned African-American artists and exhibitions that delve into important social and cultural issues, the Gantt Center offers a space for dialogue, appreciation, and exploration of African-American art and history.
Engage in interactive programs, attend performances, and participate in community events that showcase the richness and depth of African-American creativity and contributions.
The Harvey B. Gantt Center is a cultural gem that fosters understanding, celebrates diversity, and highlights the transformative power of art in shaping society.
Read Next: Check out other great things to do in Charlotte.
42. Ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Embark on a scenic and nostalgic journey through the breathtaking landscapes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
This historic railway, with its meticulously restored vintage train cars, takes passengers on an enchanting ride through the picturesque valleys, towering mountains, and lush forests of western North Carolina.
As the train chugs along the tracks, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the region’s natural beauty, including cascading waterfalls, scenic river gorges, and charming rural towns. Choose from various excursions, such as the Nantahala Gorge or Tuckasegee River excursions, each offering a unique and unforgettable experience.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad promises a memorable journey filled with charm, nostalgia, and the wonders of the magnificent Smoky Mountains.
43. Visit the U.S. National Whitewater Center
For adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts, the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte is an adrenaline-filled haven. This premier outdoor recreational facility offers a wide range of thrilling activities, with whitewater rafting as its centerpiece.
Brave the rapids of the man-made whitewater river, navigating the twists and turns as you experience the rush of the rushing water. Beyond rafting, the center offers an array of other exciting pursuits, including kayaking, paddleboarding, rock climbing, zip-lining, and mountain biking.
With miles of scenic trails, visitors can hike or bike through the picturesque surroundings. The U.S. National Whitewater Center also hosts outdoor festivals and concerts, providing a vibrant atmosphere where you can relax and enjoy live music after an action-packed day.
The U.S. National Whitewater Center provides many opportunities for outdoor adventures!
44. Visit Pullen Park in Raleigh
Escape into a world of fun and relaxation at Pullen Park, a beloved recreational oasis nestled in the heart of Raleigh. As the first public park in the state, Pullen Park has been enchanting visitors of all ages for over a century.
The park offers a delightful mix of attractions, including beautifully landscaped gardens, serene ponds, and a picturesque carousel that adds a touch of nostalgia. Take a leisurely stroll along the scenic paths, rent a pedal boat to glide across the shimmering lake, or enjoy a picnic amidst the park’s lush green spaces.
Kids will have a blast at the playgrounds, climbing structures, and the train ride that circles the park. Pullen Park also features a charming historic carousel, complete with whimsical animals to ride.
45. Delve into the world of aviation at the North Carolina Aviation Museum and Hall of Fame
Immerse yourself in the thrilling world of aviation history at the North Carolina Aviation Museum and Hall of Fame. Located in Asheboro, this captivating museum pays homage to the state’s rich aviation heritage and the remarkable individuals who have contributed to the field.
Step inside the museum and be greeted by a collection of vintage aircraft, artifacts, and exhibits that showcase the evolution of aviation. From the early days of flight to modern-day advancements, the museum offers a comprehensive journey through the triumphs and innovations of North Carolina’s aviation pioneers.
Discover the stories of legendary pilots, explore interactive displays, and learn about the science and technology behind flight.
Explore more US history in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia!
46. See the stunning Blue Ghost Fireflies
Witness a magical natural phenomenon by experiencing the Blue Ghost Fireflies in North Carolina. In the enchanting forests of North Carolina’s mountains, these unique fireflies illuminate the night sky with their mesmerizing blue-green glow.
Unlike typical fireflies, the Blue Ghost Fireflies don’t flash but emit a steady, ethereal light that creates an otherworldly atmosphere. To witness this captivating spectacle, visitors can embark on guided tours or hikes through designated areas during the firefly season.
As darkness falls, the forest comes alive with these mystical creatures, creating a dreamlike ambiance. Walking amidst the twinkling lights, it feels as if you’ve stepped into a fairytale.
The Blue Ghost Fireflies offer a truly enchanting experience, immersing you in the beauty of nature and sparking a sense of wonder that stays with you long after the night has passed.
47. Check out the Charlotte Motor Speedway
Experience the thrill of racing and witness the adrenaline-fueled action at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. This iconic racing venue is a mecca for motorsports enthusiasts, hosting thrilling NASCAR races, speedway events, and other high-octane competitions.
Feel the rumble of the engines and the roar of the crowd as you witness drivers navigate the track at incredible speeds. From the prestigious Coca-Cola 600 to the exhilarating Bank of America ROVAL™ 400, the ]Speedway offers unforgettable racing experiences for fans of all ages.
Explore the interactive displays at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, located within the speedway complex, and learn about the rich history and legacy of NASCAR.
For race fans and thrill-seekers, a visit to the Charlotte Motor Speedway is an absolute must to witness the excitement and passion that fuels the world of motorsports.
48. Discover the Serenity of Lake Lure and Enjoy Boating, Swimming, and Picnicking
Nestled amidst the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains National Park, Lake Lure is a breathtaking destination that captivates visitors with its natural beauty and tranquil ambiance. This stunning man-made lake, formed by the damming of the Rocky Broad River, offers a picturesque setting for outdoor recreation and relaxation.
Surrounded by lush forests and rugged cliffs, the crystal-clear waters of Lake Lure beckon you to swim, kayak, paddleboard, or simply bask in the sun along its sandy shores. Take a boat tour and admire the towering cliffs known as Chimney Rock and Rumbling Bald, which provide a dramatic backdrop to the lake’s serene waters.
The town of Lake Lure itself exudes charm, with its quaint shops, cozy restaurants, and friendly atmosphere. If you’re seeking adventure on the water, peaceful moments in nature, or a romantic retreat, Lake Lure is a true gem that invites you to unwind, reconnect with the outdoors, and create lasting memories.
49. Explore the Underground Wonders of Linville Caverns
Explore the hidden wonders beneath the surface at Linville Caverns, a captivating natural attraction nestled in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Descend into the depths of these ancient limestone caverns and embark on a guided tour that unveils a subterranean world of awe-inspiring formations and underground rivers.
Marvel at the intricate stalactites and stalagmites that adorn the cavern walls, formed over thousands of years. As you traverse the well-maintained pathways, your knowledgeable guide will share fascinating stories and insights into the geological wonders surrounding you.
The Linville Caverns offer a unique opportunity to witness the mesmerizing beauty of the underground realm, providing an enchanting adventure for visitors of all ages. Step into this hidden realm and discover the captivating mysteries that lie beneath the surface of North Carolina’s picturesque landscapes.
50. See some live music
Located on the brink of the USA’s South, North Carolina has a melting pot of cultures and artistic influences. If you love live music, there are so many incredible places to go in the state where you can watch local and international bands showcase their talents.
From bluegrass and soul, to classic rock and roll or country, there is an abundance of mesmerizing music every night in North Carolina. From the Orange Peel in Asheville, to Slim’s Downton in Raleigh, to Riverfront Park in Wilmington, you can find incredible venues all over the state.
In conclusion, North Carolina offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to every traveler’s interests and desires. From the majestic beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains to the vibrant arts and culinary scenes of Asheville and Charlotte, there is no shortage of incredible things to do in North Carolina.
Whether you’re sliding down the exhilarating Sliding Rock or immersing yourself in the rich cultural heritage at museums and historic sites, North Carolina has tourist attractions for everyone.
With its picturesque beaches and barrier islands along the Outer Banks, charming coastal towns like Beaufort and Wilmington on the east coast, and the allure of cities like Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina has no shortage of natural beauty, history, and cultural richness.
So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready to embark on a memorable journey through the heart and soul of the Tar Heel State.
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