Though I’ll be sharing a huge variety of activities for you to enjoy in my beautiful state, I am an outdoor lover, so I’ll start with one of the best budget-friendly and family-friendly activities you can enjoy anywhere in North Carolina – our state parks! This year, NC State Parks have continued the NC 100 mile challenge where the goal is to log 100 miles of outdoor activity over the course of the year. This can be hiking, walking, running, biking, swimming, or kayaking and you can earn badges and prizes along the way. This is a wonderful initiative to encourage physical activity with the whole family (including furry friends) while exploring the 27 state parks. Fun fact – ask for a passport at any of the state parks and you can request a stamp at each park you visit. Once you have visited all 27 parks you will earn a reward, so it’s a fun challenge for those who are ambitious and want to hike portions of the Appalachian Trail and/or Mountains To Sea Trail.
One of my favorite parks is Hanging Rock State Park which is up near the Virginia border and offers a nice variety of trails as well as places to camp. We love bringing our Cattle Dog Mix (Sasha) along for our outdoor adventures.
Now that you’ve seen some of what the state parks have to offer, let’s delve into the major regions of North Carolina and what each one is famous for.
The Piedmont Triad
First, we’ll start with the Piedmont Triad, which is the north-central region where I live. The Triad is made up of Greensboro, High Point, and Winston Salem and has a lot of kid-friendly activities. Just north of us, you can visit the home of Andy Griffith in Mayberry!
- We boast a large variety of public artwork throughout the city as well as student-created Jeansboro sculptures due to the large influence of Wrangler in this city.
- Along with Charlotte and Raleigh, Greensboro was a resettlement city for Montagnards so you will notice many Lao and Vietnamese restaurants and markets due to this population. I love the ethnic diversity in Greensboro!
- Stop in for the best dessert of your life at Maxie B’s and be sure to grab a hot dog at Yum Yum.
- Take your pooch to The Barking Deck where you can enjoy some brews while they play with other dogs.
- Famous for its semi-annual furniture market and it has the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers. This is a must-see if you’re in the area!
- Nearby is Kersey Valley Adventure Park which is enjoyable year-round with both indoor and outdoor activities for all ages.
- High Point University is here and has a beautiful campus you will want to check out. Make sure to take a picture in the humongous chair!
- Drive by for a picture with The Last Shell Oil Clamshell Station
- Visit Wake Forest University and the Innovation Quarter
- Old Salem has a tasty Moravian influence (try the cookies!) and is a nice stop for an afternoon of history! Have a bite at The Tavern here. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
Next up is the Triangle which consists of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. You may be most familiar with this area of the state because it is basketball central.
- The beautiful State Capitol building is definitely worth a visit
- The train station was recently revamped and is quite modern and clean. We love traveling via train here for New Years and other holidays.
- Check out the NYE celebration here with the Acorn drop.
- The Eno River State Park is lovely and a great place to bring the family
- Visit the campus of Duke – stunning architecture, basketball history, gardens and they have a Lemur Center!
- Have fun with a goat yoga class at Hux Family Farm.
- Visit the UNC campus where Michael Jordan attended.
- Stop by for a tour of The Carolina Basketball Museum
Any beach lovers out there? If so, North Carolina has some gems for you in that category. When we were first married, my husband and I lived in Wilmington for a few months, which is right on the coast. Thankfully it is recovering from the recent hurricane damage and is starting to flourish once again. There are so many nice coastal cities, it was hard to narrow it down!
- Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Kure Beach, along with Topsail are all wonderful places to enjoy the sun and sand, as well as fishing. You can even stay in a shipping container for a unique accommodation just 2 blocks from the beach in Carolina Beach! We stayed here recently and it was a blast. It’s also pet-friendly!
- Visit the Riverwalk, Battleship NC, and enjoy some volleyball at Capt’n Bills or Dig and Dive.
- Visit Fort Fisher’s Aquarium.
- Check out the Venus Flytrap Trail to see some carnivorous plants.
- Try to locate all the Bear statues in nearby New Bern.
- Enjoy fresh sushi and home-made sake at Genki.
- This area has a less touristy and more untouched feel than most beach areas since it’s a little harder to get to, but it’s definitely worth the trip!
- Make sure to see the lighthouses – Hatteras, Bodie Island and Ocracoke are my favorites.
- Ocracoke Island is just a short ferry ride away from the mainland and is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway with your significant other. They have plenty of Inns and B&B’s on the island.
- Enjoy seeing wild horses in Corolla
- Visit the original Duck Donuts. Maple Bacon flavor is legit.
- Stop by the huge sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park and visit the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.
Maybe the beach isn’t really your thing and you’d rather spend time in a big city with plenty of options for shopping, professional sports, the arts, fine dining, etc. Charlotte has a lot of options for you if so!
Charlotte Area Attractions
- Pro sports – go watch NASCAR or see the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Knights or Charlotte Checkers play.
- IKEA – even if you don’t need to buy anything, it’s a fun activity to just walk through. Be sure to try the Swedish meatballs and chocolate cake.
- Indoor Skydiving at iFLY
- US National Whitewater Center – this place has EVERYTHING! Rafting, music festivals, SUP, ropes courses, mountain biking, trail races, rock climbing, kayaking and much more. It’s also pet-friendly and you can bring your own hammock to chill in.
- Enjoy a night out in NODA enjoying some shopping, music and the arts.
- South Park Mall – if you just want to shop at a posh mall that has all the top shelf stores, this is your place.
As you can tell, Charlotte isn’t lacking for things to do, but it can get rather hectic and congested with traffic. For a more relaxed setting, why not head to the mountains? I must admit, growing up I was a total beach girl, hated the cold and didn’t appreciate the mountains. Then, I married a mountain man who went to school in Boone, and he has slowly won me over and showed me just how much there is to love about the colder temperatures and stunning scenery. Some of our favorite mountain towns are below, but you can’t go wrong with any of them in NC!
- Named after the famous pioneer Daniel Boone, it is home to Appalachian State University, Appalachian Mountain Brewery and countless outdoor activities for both winter sports and water sports in the warmer months.
- Not far from Boone is Blowing Rock where kids will love the Tweetsie Railroad.
- Nearby Banner Elk is a fun stop and is famous for the Wooly Worm Festival.
- Probably most famous for The Biltmore Estate and the Blue Ridge Parkway, this eclectic hippie town is home to countless breweries and a huge selection of restaurants.
- Our favorite restaurant/brewery is Bhramari Brewing! Just around the corner from Wicked Weed and much less crowded.
- If you visit in warmer months, be sure to check out Sliding Rock and the many swimming holes and waterfalls in the Pisgah National Forest.
- You can save money by camping at Lake Powhatan which is a short drive to downtown Asheville or by staying at Airbnb’s just outside the city.
Chimney Rock, Pilot Mountain, and Grandfather Mountain
- These all deserve a visit as well, but beware of the crowds – it’s best to visit very early in the day or in the off-season in order to find parking and not be grouchy.
Other Unique Sites in NC:
- Deal’s Gap – Tail of the Dragon for motorcycle and car enthusiasts
- Mt Olive – Pickle drop for NYE
- Visit the Hunger Games Filming Locations.
- Visit Davidson College – Both Woodrow Wilson and basketball star Steph Curry attended school here. The city of Davidson has a charming downtown area and several good restaurants, including the original Famous Toastery.
- Try one of the first Bungee Fitness studios in the US. I had a blast at this studio in Cornelius, NC.
Lastly, don’t you dare leave North Carolina before trying our vinegar-based BBQ. You can find this in many cities, but my absolute favorite place for this is located between Charlotte and Greensboro in a famous restaurant called Lexington BBQ. No frills, just amazing flavor and friendly service. After having mustard based BBQ while living in South Carolina and tomato-based BBQ while living near Kansas City, I can confidently say vinegar based has won my heart, forever and always.
Thank you so much for reading about North Carolina, and please let me know if you have any questions or need any more information on any of the places I’ve mentioned. I’ll be glad to help if I can!
Emily is a nutrition and movement coach certified by The Institute for Integrative Nutrition who has made it her goal to plank in as many new places as possible. After struggling with serious health issues for several years, she learned the importance of embracing healthy living both at home and on her travels. She started her blog The Planking Traveler as a way to share her passion for wellness with others and offer them support in their own health and fitness journeys. Through sharing her planking adventures, non-toxic living tips, and free fitness opportunities, she hopes to inspire you to embrace enjoyable movement and optimal nutrition as a sustainable lifestyle instead of just a temporary fix to lose weight.
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Emily thank you for sharing North Carolina with us! I have been there to the Outer Banks and it is beautiful! I hope to visit again sometime.