The 25 Best Places to Visit in North Carolina for 2023

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[Updated September 12, 2023] My wife Emma and I have lived on our homestead near Elkin NC for years, and we traveled the state frequently for years before that. Yet still we’re constantly amazed by the sheer volume of exciting things to do in NC.

There’s such an abundance of great places to visit in North Carolina, visitors may find themselves wanting to stop every few miles down the road.

In my opinion, the best cities to visit in North Carolina– Asheville, Charlotte, and the Research Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill)– rival those found anywhere on the East Coast.

And of course the North Carolina mountains are home to an exceptional array of charming mountain towns, many of which are connected via the world-renowned Blue Ridge Parkway.

Some of our other favorite North Carolina vacation spots include national parks, national forests, state parks, and campgrounds that offer access to great hiking trails. 

Read on for our in-depth guide to the best places to visit in North Carolina to visit, from big cities and small towns to postcard-worthy mountaintop panoramas, stunning coastlines, and wondrous waterfalls .

READ MORE: The 15 Best North Carolina Mountain Towns to Visit

Best Places to Visit in North Carolina Guide

  1. Asheville
  2. Blowing Rock
  3. Brevard
  4. Bryson City
  5. Chapel Hill
  6. Elizabeth City
  7. Outer Banks NC
  8. Wilmington
  9. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  10. Blue Ridge Parkway
  11. Cape Hatteras National Seashore
  12. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  13. Nantahala National Forest
  14. Pisgah National Forest
  15. Carolina Beach State Park
  16. Dupont Recreational State Forest
  17. Grandfather Mountain State Park
  18. Hanging Rock State Park
  19. Jockeys Ridge State Park
  20. Stone Mountain State Park

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in North Carolina

Best North Carolina Cities & Towns

Best places to visit in North Carolina - Christmas at Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC
Christmas at Biltmore Estate, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Asheville NC

36 Montford Ave, Asheville NC • (828)258-6129 • Official Website

Over the last 15 years, Asheville has become nationally recognized as a desirable North Carolina vacation spot. But in reality, it’s been one of the coolest places to visit in NC for more than a century.

This rapidly growing city has first-class historical attractions like the Biltmore Estate and The Grove Park Inn, as well as the nearby Cradle of Forestry.

The diverse array of excellent Asheville Breweries has earned it the nickname “Beer City,” and the town is also a great destination for finding unique restaurants and locally produced NC wines.

For cultural funk, visit neighborhoods like the River Arts District, quirky West Asheville, and the historically grand Montford Area Historic District. 

Nature lovers will enjoy the fantastic hiking in Asheville, with mountains all around and the French Broad River running right through town. There’s also nearby opportunities for horseback riding and chasing waterfalls.

Christmas in Asheville NC is a magical time to visit the city, and there’s lots of fun things to do in winter.

Using Asheville as a hub, it’s easy to explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pisgah National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

READ MORE: The 35 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC

North Carolina Attractions - Mary at The Blowing Rock, in Blowing Rock NC
The Blowing Rock, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

2. Blowing Rock

132 Park Ave, Blowing Rock NC • (828)295-4636 • Official Website

If you’re looking for fun places in North Carolina for families to visit, check out the tourist town of Blowing Rock, which is located near Boone in the NC High Country. 

Downtown Blowing Rock has charming, walkable streets dotted with art galleries, chic boutiques, foodie-friendly restaurants, and gift shops.

The scenic geological attraction for which the town was named is one of the most famous places in North Carolina, and has been attracting visitors for centuries. There’s also a waterfall—Glen Burney Falls—right in town.

Popular Blowing Rock attractions include the Appalachian Fossil Museum, Tweetsie Railroad, Doc’s Rocks Gem Mine, and Mystery Hill. Grandfather Mountain and some of our favorite BRP overlooks are nearby.

Blowing Rock is 10 miles from Boone, less than 20 miles from Banner Elk, and 5 minutes from Blue Ridge Parkway hotspots like Julian Price Memorial Park and Moses H. Cone Memorial Park.

In addition to the highly rated Chetola Resort & Spa, there are lots of Blowing Rock Cabin Rentals if you’re looking for a place to stay in town.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Blowing Rock NC

North Carolina places -Transylvania County Courthouse in Downtown Brevard NC
Transylvania County Courthouse in Downtown Brevard, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

3. Brevard

175 E Main St., Brevard NC • (800)648-4523 • Official Website

The seat of Transylvania County (a.k.a. “Land of Waterfalls”), Brevard NC is beloved as a comfortable Blue Ridge mountain town with a primo location.

Transylvania County has approximately 250 named waterfalls within its boundaries, many of which are located within 15 minutes of Downtown Brevard.

Brevard has a tiny downtown area with a few blocks of boutiques, galleries, gift shops, and excellent restaurants in any direction.

You’ll also find an ageless toy store, a throwback theater, a gem mining attraction, a general store with a 1950s diner attached, and much more.

Arguably Brevard’s biggest draw is exploring Pisgah National Forest (which is just a few minutes north of it) and Dupont State Recreational Forest (which is just a few minutes south of it).

Brevard is also home to several great craft breweries and tasting rooms, with Oskar Blues being my personal favorite Brevard Brewery and a nationally recognized brand.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Brevard NC & Transylvania County

Places to go in North Carolina -Bret Love & Mary Gabbett riding the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City NC
Riding the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City NC

4. Bryson City

2 Everett St, Bryson City NC • (828)488-7857 • Official Website

Bryson City is located right outside of the Deep Creek section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Nantahala National Forest.

Despite the town’s small size, there are lots of great Bryson City restaurants and tourist attractions, including the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and Nantahala Outdoor Center, plus tons of cool shops.

The Tuckasegee River runs right through the heart of town. It’s a popular waterway for kayaking and white water rafting in North Carolina. Fontana Lake is just a short drive away.

You’ll find great B&Bs and Bryson City cabin rentals all around the area, and there are plenty of campgrounds available as well.

The town of Cherokee in the Qualla Boundary is just 10 miles away, offering additional restaurant and cabin rental options. The Oconaluftee Visitor Center in GSMNP is just a few minutes further.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Bryson City NC & Swain County

Places to visit in NC - Chapel Hill
Photo courtesy Visit Chapel Hill via Facebook

5. Chapel Hill

308 West Franklin St, Chapel Hill NC • (888)968-2060 • Official Website

Home of the famous UNC Tarheels, Chapel Hill is an awesome stop for those visiting the eastern side of the state. It’s one of the many great places to visit near Raleigh NC.

It has the feeling of a college town, with all the hip cultural offerings you’d expect. The town was actually created in the late 1700s to serve the university.

Chapel Hill has been named “America’s Foodiest Small Town” by Bon Apetit. There are several nice walking tours in town, including at UNC, Historic Hillsborough, the North Carolina Botanical Garden, etc.

Downtown Chapel Hill has Franklin Street at its heart, which is the spot for finding good restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.

Other fun things to do in Chapel Hill include checking out the street art murals, cycling on miles of bike trails, visiting  museums, tasting craft beers, and exploring the surrounding outdoor spaces.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Christmas Towns in North Carolina

North Carolina places to visit - Elizabeth City
Elizabeth City via Facebook

6. Elizabeth City

501 South Water St, Elizabeth City NC • (252)335-5330 • Official Website

In the northeastern reaches of North Carolina, Elizabeth City (est. 1793) is one of the most fun places in NC we’ve visited. It’s just out of reach of big cities, and just off the Atlantic Coast.

Elizabeth City is located between the Albermarle Sound and the Great Dismal Swamp, and it’s a beautiful 50-mile drive from Kitty Hawk (on the Outer Banks).

The most interesting things to do in Elizabeth City NC include visiting Underground Railroad locations and other historic sites (the Wright Brothers came through on their way to Kitty Hawk).

There’s also the Dismal Swamp Canal, the oldest continually operating constructed canal in the US, which is considered one of the most haunted places in North Carolina.

Elizabeth City is close to beaches as well as vast bodies of fresh water, so it’s great for water-based recreation activities such as boating, fishing, and kayaking.

The town also has some nice locally run restaurants, great microbreweries, and plenty of art, nature, and history to fill in the gaps.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Treehouse Rentals in the North Carolina Mountains

Sunset in the Outer Banks, one of the best places to visit in North Carolina
Sunset in the Outer Banks, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

7. Outer Banks

1 Visitors Center Circle, Manteo NC • (877)629-4386 • Official Website

A couple of hotspots in the Outer Banks of North Carolina– Jockeys Ridge State Park and Cape Hatteras National Seashore– will appear further down on this list.

But it would be a disservice to the rest of the Outer Banks to let the praise stop there.

The Outer Banks of NC are filled with interesting towns and villages, not to mention an eclectic collection of resorts, B&Bs, hotels, and campgrounds.

While visitors should definitely visit the area’s state parks and national parks, there are also museums and historic sites like Kitty Hawk and more.

The food scene on the Outer Banks is also stellar, especially the local breweries and seafood shacks serving up fresh catches from the Atlantic.

READ MORE:The 15 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hotels & Cabin Rentals in NC & VA

25 Bests Places NC - Wilmington NC
Downtown Wilmington NC, photo via Facebook

8. Wilmington

1 Estell Lee Place Suite 201, Wilmington NC • (877)406-2356 • Official Website

Located in the southeastern corner of the state, Wilmington has been a hotbed of North Carolina history for decades.

The city of 118,000 resident is bounded by the Cape Fear River, and the Riverwalk (which was voted America’s Best Riverfront) provides access to great restaurants, bars, and shops.

Wilmington NC is just a short drive away from several beaches, and 18 miles from the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher and the Fort Fisher State Historic Site.

Downtown Wilmington’s Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors will find moss-laden live oaks, horse-drawn carriages, brick-lined streets, and Victorian architecture there.

Families can find also more entertainment at the Port City Marina, Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park, and the Battleship North Carolina.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Winston Salem NC


North Carolina Forests & National Parks

Best places to visit in NC - Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cherokee NC
Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

9. Appalachian National Scenic Trail

No NC Address • (304)535-6278 • Official Website

There are nearly 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, which also shares an additional 220 miles of it with the bordering state of Tennessee.

So there’s a host of wonderful things to see on the AT in NC, whether you’re on a day hike or trying to complete the 2,194-mile trek from North Georgia to Maine.

Among the major points of interest in North Carolina is Clingmans Dome, the highest mountain in the Smoky Mountains, as well as several mountains over 6,000 feet (the tallest summits on the AT).

For day hikes on the Appalachian Trail, the Lemon Gap to Max Patch section is 10.5 miles, and I highly recommend the two 5-mile treks from Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge Bald or Roaring High Knob.

READ MORE: The 7 Best Hikes on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina

Places to see in North Carolina - Fall colors at the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

10. Blue Ridge Parkway

199 Hemphill Knob Rd, Asheville NC • (828)348-3400 • Official Website

Technically, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited National Park System unit in the United States, with nearly 16 million visitors in 2021.

The world-renowned scenic route stretches 469 miles in North Carolina and Virginia, stretching from Shenandoah National Park in VA to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in NC.

There are also great opportunities for Blue Ridge Parkway hikes and exploring nearby waterfalls.

Northeast of Asheville, BRP cruisers can visit highlights like Doughton Park (my stomping grounds), Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Julian Price Memorial Park, Linn Cove Viaduct, Linville Falls, and Craggy Gardens.

Southwest of Asheville, adventures include Mount Pisgah, Devil’s Courthouse, Richland Balsam (the BRP’s highest point), Waterrock Knob Visitor Center, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks in NC & VA

25 Best Places NC - Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Cape Hatteras National Seashore via Facebook

11. Cape Hatteras National Seashore

1401 National Park Dr, Manteo NC • (252)473-2111 • Official Website

One of our favorite fun places to go in North Carolina is Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the Outer Banks, a slip of coastal islands that follow the NC mainland.

Cape Hatteras NS protects three islands– Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke. Due to its currents, shoals, and unpredictable weather, the area is known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

Each island has its own visitor center and lighthouse to visit, and there are numerous campgrounds, beaches, hiking trails, and boat ramps for visitors to enjoy.

It’s also a great place for watching migrating birds in North Carolina and wildlife, including sea turtles (especially loggerhead and green), which nest on the area beaches.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Romantic Getaways in NC (Cabins, Inns & Resorts)

Newfound Gap in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee NC
Newfound Gap in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

12. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

1194 Newfound Gap Rd, Cherokee NC • (865)436-1200 • Official Website

You could argue that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the best place to visit in North Carolina, if not the entire country.

It is the most visited of all U.S. National Parks, with over 14 million visitors in 2021. 

Near Bryson City, visitors can check out the Deep Creek section of the park. It has stunning waterfalls, easy hiking trails, campgrounds and river tubing in the summer.

Located just outside of Cherokee NC, the Oconaluftee Visitor Center provides trip-planning info as well as quick access to the Mountain Farm Museum, the Oconaluftee River Trail, and Mingus Mill.

Other stellar spots to visit in NC include Clingmans Dome, Fontana Dam, and seeing the Cataloochee Valley Elk. In short, there are quite a lot of things to do here.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Things to do in North Carolina mountains - Cheoah Point Beach in the Nantahala National Forest
Cheoah Point Beach in the Nantahala National Forest, photo by Emma Gallagher

13. Nantahala National Forest

90 Sloan Rd, Franklin NC • (828) 524-6441 • Official Website

Sometimes overshadowed by Pisgah National Forest, the Nantahala National Forest is actually the larger of the two. At 830 square miles, it’s slightly larger than Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

The forest was established in 1920, and it offers visitors a wonderful collection of waterfalls, lakes, wildlands and campgrounds.

Within its boundaries, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest has one of the last sections of old-growth forest on the East Coast. I find its Upper Loop to be the most impressive stand of trees outside of the redwoods and sequoias. 

Other highlights include the Fontana Dam, Cherohala Skyway, Cullasaja Gorge, and Nantahala River.

There are also over 600 miles of hiking trails in the forest, lots of exciting white water rafting runs, and plenty of routes for horseback riding enthusiasts.

READ MORE: Fall in North Carolina: 25 Great Places to See Fall Colors in NC

Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest NC
Looking Glass Falls, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

14. Pisgah National Forest

1600 Pisgah Hwy, Pisgah Forest NC • (828) 877-3265 • Official Website

Covering over 500,000 acres, Pisgah National Forest is split into three distinct districts, with one below Asheville, one east of it, and one north of it.

Parts of the designated forest have been around since 1916, and much of the southern district was once part of the Biltmore Estate. It also absorbed the Boone National Forest in 1921, and much of Unaka National Forest in 1936.

The Pisgah Ranger District has a huge collection of incredible waterfalls, and it’s also home to the Cradle of Forestry, the nation’s first school of forestry.

Grandfather Ranger District has the tallest mountains, and also has popular waterfalls such as Linville Falls and Crabtree Falls.

Undoubtedly, Pisgah National Forest is one of the best places to visit for NC wilderness at its most pristine. I suggest camping and exploring smaller side roads to discover the lesser-known hidden gems.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Pisgah National Forest Hiking Trails in North Carolina


North Carolina State Parks & Forests to Visit

25 Best Places NC - Carolina Beach State Park
Carolina Beach State Park via Facebook

15. Carolina Beach State Park

1010 State Park Rd, Carolina Beach NC • (910)458-8206 • Official Website

Moving towards the most southern section of the North Carolina coastline, Carolina Beach State Park is located due south of Wilmington on the protected Cape Fear side of the shoreline.

This small NC State Park has 9 miles of hiking trails, a fitness trail that allows cyclists, several ponds, and three campsites as well as a rustic rental cabin.

Other fun things to do at Carolina Beach State Park include boating, fishing, and paddling, plus a visitor center with educational exhibits.

It’s home to lots of cool stuff, including Venus flytraps, Sugarloaf Dune, and Orton Point (for testing tidal currents).

READ MORE: The 20 Best North Carolina Music Festivals

Triple Falls in DuPont State Forest
Triple Falls in DuPont State Forest, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

16. Dupont State Recreational Forest

89 Buck Forest Rd, Cedar Mountain NC • (828) 877-6527

Official Website

Located in Transylvania County, the “Land of Waterfalls”, Dupont State Recreational Forest has what many believe to be some of the most beautiful cascades in the country.

It’s possible to take a long day hike that encompasses 5 marquee waterfalls in the forest, including Hooker Falls, Triple Falls (my personal favorite), High Falls, Grassy Creek Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.

Besides these impressive Western North Carolina waterfalls, the forest also has an amazing collection of NC mountain lakes, most of which can also be explored on a nice day hike.

The western edge of the forest offers renowned mountain biking routes, with stunning scenic views from the balds at the summits.

READ MORE: The 50 Best North Carolina Waterfalls to Visit

View from the Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain
View from Grandfather Mountain, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

17. Grandfather Mountain State Park

9872 N.C. 105 S Suite 6, Banner Elk NC • (828) 963-9522 • Official Website

Though it isn’t the highest mountain in North Carolina (Mt Mitchell in Burnsville is the tallest), Grandfather Mountain gets its due respect as an iconic behemoth.

This is the highest point in Caldwell and Watauga Counties, and the tallest peak on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Grandfather Mountain State Park has rugged, no-nonsense hiking trails that are absolutely splattered with beauty and unwaveringly challenging.

The hike up the Profile Trail and over to Calloway Peak was one of the most rewarding NC hikes my wife Emma and I have ever done.

The mountain also has a non-profit tourist attraction run by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, with the Mile High Swinging Bridge, wildlife exhibits, and hiking trails.

READ MORE:The 15 Best Things to Do in Banner Elk NC

Best Lakes NC - Hanging Rock State Park
Hanging Rock State Park, photo by xwest2 via CC BY 2.0.

18. Hanging Rock State Park

1790 Hanging Rock Park Rd, Danbury NC • (336)593-8480 • Official Website

Located in a lonely mountain range in the NC Piedmont, Hanging Rock State Park is a treasure trove of outdoor recreational activities.

It has miles and miles of hiking, biking, and bridle trails, including a great trek up to the actual Hanging Rock, another of North Carolina’s iconic geological formations.

The park also has great camping and vacation cabins, a lake with a beach, as well as paddling on the Dan River.

Other must-sees include the park’s wonderful collection of waterfalls, rock-climbing walls, and a mountain cave.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Campgrounds in the North Carolina Mountains

Learning to hang glide in Jockey's Ridge Outer Banks NC
Hang gliding at Jockey’s Ridge in the Outer Banks NC, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

19. Jockeys Ridge State Park

300 W. Carolista Dr, Nags Head NC • (252)441-7132 • Official Website

Located in the Outer Banks and home to the tallest living sand dunes on the East Coast, Jockeys Ridge State Park is one of the more unique places to visit in North Carolina.

This is the same area where the Wright Brothers took their famous “first flight” in 1903, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial is just up the road in Kill Devil Hills.

Popular activities at this state park on the NC coast include hang gliding, kiteboarding, windsurfing, and “sandboarding” down the massive dunes.

It’s also a great place for swimming, paddling, and catching brilliant sunsets. And while there are no camping facilities here, it is a great place for a picnic.

Jockeys Ridge State Park also has beach access on the Roanoke Sound side of the park.

READ MORE: 3 Great Places for Ziplining in Boone NC (and Other Aerial Adventures)

Stone Mountain Rock Face - Stone Mountain State Park
Stone Mountain Rock Face, photo by Emma Gallagher

20. Stone Mountain State Park

3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap NC • (336)957-8185 • Official Website

Stone Mountain State Park is one of the truly cool places to visit in NC because it encompasses so much of the natural beauty North Carolina is famous for.

As its centerpiece, Stone Mountain itself doesn’t disappoint. It’s a stunning rockface to see from below, and offers jaw-dropping panoramic views from the top.

Stone Mountain Falls teeters on 200 feet, and has a comfortable wading pool at the bottom. There are several other waterfalls in the park, including Widow’s Creek, which has a natural rock slide to play on.

The other cool feature at Stone Mountain State Park is the Hutchinson Homestead, a refurbished mid-1800s farm with all the historic buildings.

I hike here regularly and visit the homestead a couple of times a month, since it’s just right down the road from our property near Elkin NC.

READ MORE: 10 Wonderful Yadkin Valley Wineries Worth Visiting

North Carolina Historic Sites

places to go in North Carolina - Winston-Salem Attractions, Old Salem - Joinery Shop
Old Salem’s Blum House Joinery Shop, photo by Emma Gallagher

21. Old Salem Museums & Gardens

900 Old Salem Rd, Winston-Salem NC • 336-721-7350 • Official Website

Long before the town of Winston-Salem was founded, there was Salem, a Moravian settlement established in the mid-1700s.

Many of the original structures remain, despite the fact that they’re older than the United States of America. The neighborhood is still inhabited and has a thriving community, including a university.

Some of the important buildings function as living history museums, complete with guides and demonstrations. They include the Blum House Joinery, Timothy Volger Gun Shop, Single Brothers’ House, and Winkler Bakery.

There’s also the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, the Old Salem Visitor Center, and a beautiful North Carolina bridge connecting the two. God’s Acre is also something to behold.

In our experience this is a highly unique area with an exciting collection of architecture, a peculiar history, and a lesser-known culture to learn about.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Winston Salem NC

trips in North Carolina - National Parks near Raleigh NC - Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site photo courtesy of

22. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

1401 National Park Dr, Manteo NC • 252-473-2111 • Official Website

This National Historic Site preserves the location of the first English settlement in what is now the United States of America. The Roanoke Colony was established way back in 1587.

Initially supported by Sir Walter Raleigh, the colony mysteriously failed sometime before 1590. By the time it was visited again, the settlement was empty, without a single person to be found.

The site is on the north end of Roanoke Island, about 3 miles from the town of Manteo. There’s a visitor center/ museum to explain the area’s colonial history, as well as its involvement in the Civil War.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site was taken over by the National Park Service in 1941 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

A later addition to the outer Banks attraction is a 10-5-acre memorial Elizabethan garden, which is managed by the Garden Club of North Carolina. It’s right on the waterfront acres, with over 500 species of plants!

READ MORE: The 10 Best National Parks in North Carolina to Visit

25 Best Places NC - International Civil Rights Center & Museum
International Civil Rights Center & Museum, photo via Facebook

23. International Civil Rights Center & Museum

134 S. Elm St, Greensboro NC • 336-274-9199 • Official Website

North Carolina has some major sites for the Civil Rights Movement, including the Woolworth’s lunch counter where the famous sit-in took place.

Amazingly, the exact counter can still be seen when you visit Greensboro NC.

So the International Civil Rights Center & Museum being located in Greensboro makes perfect sense, and visiting this important museum is an emotional experience.

There are guided tours led by very knowledgeable guides, or you can take a self-guided tour with recorded information. It’s even possible to visit the permanent exhibits virtually!

Note that it’s important to book your tickets here before you visit. We barely made the cut because a large group had taken most of the limited spots on the tour the morning we visited.

READ MORE: 10 Great Train Rides in North Carolina

North Carolina tourist attractions - Wright Brothers National Memorial
Wright Brothers National Memorial via

24. The Wright Brothers National Memorial

1000 N. Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills NC • 252-473-2111 • Official Website

After 4 years of trial-and-error experimentation, Orville and Wilbur Wright finally achieved their dream with the first airplane flight in December, 1903.

Did you know that they were completely self-taught engineers?!

This Outer Banks memorial includes the First Flight Boulder & Flight Line, reconstructed camp buildings, a Wright Brothers Monument, and a representative sculpture commemorating the first flight.

There’s also a massive Wright Brothers Visitor Center (a National Historic Landmark) with information about the park, stories about the Wright Brothers, and interactive exhibits.

The Wright Brothers National Memorial is open every day from 9AM to 5PM, except for Christmas Day. Entrance is $10 for adults and free for children 15 and under.

READ MORE: 30 Fun Facts About Appalachian Scots-Irish History & Culture

places to go in NC - Carl Sandburg Historic Site in Flat Rock NC
Carl Sandburg’s home at the National Historic Site by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

25. Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

81 Carl Sandburg Ln, Flat Rock NC • 828-693-4178 • Official Website

Carl Sandburg was one of America’s great 20th century writers. He was remarkably unique, with a style all his own, and was an electric voice for social activism.

His amazing home is located in Flat Rock NC, which is close to the town of Hendersonville. It encompasses 270 acres and includes beautiful grounds, hiking trails, a working farm, and a small lake.

Entrance into the park, the first floor of the house, park store, hiking trails, and farm area is free.

There are guided tours of the Sandburg home available for $10 or less, and reservations are strongly encouraged.

Visiting this site is great for learning more about a great US artist, as well as enjoying a stunning setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina–by Jonathon Engels; featured image by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

After visiting North Carolina for the first time, Senior Writer Jonathon Engels and wife Emma spent 2 years exploring Western NC in search of a homestead property. They first lived in Brevard, where Jonathon taught writing at Blue Ridge Community College and extensively explored the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. For the last several years they have lived just off the BRP near Elkin, Southwest Virginia, and the NC High Country. The couple also volunteers with the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, the Elkin Valley Trail Association, and Reeves Downtown School of Music.