The Very Best of North Carolina

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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.

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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!

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Greensboro

  • 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.

High Point

Winston Salem

The Triangle

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.  

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Raleigh

  • 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.

Durham

Chapel Hill

The Coast

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!

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Wilmington Area

  • 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.

Outer Banks

  • 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!

Mountain Towns

Boone

  • 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.

Asheville

  • 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:

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!

Author Bio

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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.  

You can follow her on the following social channels:

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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.

Follow me at any of these places:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loveinjune16/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrenfro99

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The Very Best of Mississippi

The Very Best of Mississippi

Mississippi Gulf Coast

First of all, you can fly into Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. I’d suggest renting a car, so you can drive down the coast and see all that it has to offer. It’s actually very easy to get up and down the coast by taking Highway 90 (also known as Beach Blvd.). It runs right along the coast, and you can see the beach and the beautiful houses, so it’s a very scenic route.

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Area Attractions and Points of Interest

There are several hurricane memorials, two of which are in Biloxi. One is devoted to Hurricane Camille victims and the other is devoted to Hurricane Katrina victims. In Pascagoula, MS, there is a Katrina Memorial and Walking Trail that actually shows some of the wave action that occurred during the hurricane.

I’ve also heard a lot about Ship Island, and it’s something I would strongly recommend that you see. From Gulfport, there is a ferry that takes passengers to Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts (1858). The ferry ride to the island takes about an hour one way, but once you get there, you can enjoy swimming, shelling, birding, and sunbathing. Once on the island, you are able to rent chairs and umbrellas, and there is food service. For more information, visit this website: https://www.gulfcoast.org/listings/ship-island-excursions-gulfport/2715/

In Biloxi, you can also find Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’s old home. We toured it, and it was very interesting! Here’s the website for more information: https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductDetail-g43686-d15098095-Beauvoir_General_Admission_Ticket-Biloxi_Mississippi.html

There is a waterpark in Gulfport, MS, and you can find more information at this website: https://www.gulfislandswaterpark.com/. There are also several places with splash pads for the kids. For example, there is one in Long Beach (https://www.gulfcoast.org/listings/long-beach-splash-pad/4710/) and Bay St. Louis (https://www.gulfcoast.org/listings/mcdonald-park-%26-splash-pad/4759/).

If you want to see casinos, there are lots! I would strongly recommend visiting the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi (https://www.hrhcbiloxi.com/). We have been there and have enjoyed it. Also, if you walk along one side of the casino, we were able to see the boats docked alongside it and some were selling fresh shrimp straight from the boat!

In terms of music and nightlife, there is plenty of it! Here’s a list of bars and breweries along the coast: https://www.gulfcoast.org/things-to-do/music-nightlife/. Also, there’s plenty of restaurants, and you can find a list of those here: https://www.gulfcoast.org/things-to-do/restaurants/.

Honestly, we spent more time at the beach rather than doing much of anything else. We most definitely enjoyed the beaches, and you can find more information about the beaches along the coast at this website: https://www.gulfcoast.org/things-to-do/beach-water-activities/beach-information/

Hattiesburg, MS

Hattiesburg is about 90 miles from the gulf coast. It’s definitely a college town, as the University of Southern Mississippi is here (Jimmy Buffett was a student here!). There are some interesting things to do and places to eat.

If you love Southern BBQ, then the place to go is Leatha’s BBQ Inn. It is the best! This restaurant has been featured on an episode of Man Food Fire on the Cooking Channel. The other place to visit is Coney Island Café. We always get their hotdogs and french fries, and it’s the best! They don’t have a website, but they do have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ConeyIslandCafe1923/).

One major attraction in Hattiesburg, MS is the Rails to Trails or Longleaf Trace. It is a running, biking, and equestrian trail that is 41 miles long. It extends from Hattiesburg, MS all the way to Prentiss, MS. Here’s the website for more information: http://www.longleaftrace.org/

In addition, the Hattiesburg zoo is an attraction here. Here’s the website: https://hattiesburgzoo.com/. They do have fun events throughout the year such as trick or treating at the zoo and the Sloth Experience. The Sloth Experience includes helping the zookeeper prepare the sloth diets for the day, as well as the opportunity to feed the sloth and be up close.

Tupelo, MS

Here, you can find Elvis Presley’s place of birth. You are able to tour his home, museum, and church. Here’s the website information: https://elvispresleybirthplace.com/

Baldwyn, MS

Here, you can find some of the last battlegrounds during the Civil War- The Battle of Brice’s Crossroads and the Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg. The website for more information is here: https://www.finalstands.com/

Vicksburg, MS

If you are interested in the history of the Civil War, one must see is Vicksburg National Military Park. Vicksburg played a significant role in the war, and at the Military Park, you can find memorials, historic bridges, cannons, carriages, a visitor center, as well as 20 miles of trenches and earthwork.

The USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum is also in the Park. Here’s the website for the Park: https://www.nps.gov/vick/index.htm.

About the Author:

me

I am a mother of a 3 year old girl, and I am married to a football coach. I am a professor that teaches a lot of child development classes. Thus, I blog about parenting and how to enhance development. I hope to share my knowledge of child development in order to help parents along their journey!
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Thank you for sharing Mississippi with us! The Gulf is a beautiful place! I totally want to go to the sloth experience at the zoo!
Follow me at any of these places:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loveinjune16/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrenfro99
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