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The 15 Best Things to Do in North Carolina in 2023

The 15 Best Things to Do in North Carolina in 2023

Are you planning a visit to the Tar Heel State and are trying to find the best attractions and activities to make the most of your trip? Look no further than this guide.

This southern state has so much to offer, so we’ve created this guide to help you decide where to visit. Read to the end to learn about the 15 best places to visit in North Carolina!

15 of the Best Places to Visit in North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the most diverse states in the country. For this reason, there is some of nearly anything a person might want to experience. There are large urban areas chock full of museums, restaurants, galleries, and other activities.

If you want to get away from the city, there is a vast coast where you can enjoy beaches, boating, and all kinds of wildlife. If you want to get away to the mountains, drive a few hours west to see some of the most stunning mountain ranges on the east coast.

There, you’ll be able to hike, rock climb, and enjoy the stunning scenery. Ready to dive in and learn more about the best places to visit in North Carolina? Keep reading to discover your next destination!

1. Asheville

People walking down the street in the quaint little downtown area of Asheville, one of the best places to visit in North Carolina

ASHEVILLE, NC, USA-13 MAY 2018:Diners relaxing on Page Ave. in downtown Asheville, NC, USA on a warm, sunny spring day/Nolichuckyjake/Shutterstock

Asheville is a small, quirky city surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains that is the perfect vacation destination. There are almost endless activities you could engage in, from Asheville, from rock climbing to white water kayaking to simple nature walks.

Additionally, Asheville is known for its excellent food and beer scene. The famous Biltmore estate, the largest home in the United States, is also located in Asheville and is open to the public for tours.

Read Next: The Best Time to Visit Asheville and Where to Stay in Asheville

2. Raleigh

Image of the downtown area in Raleigh, a top pick for must-visit places in North Carolina


Raleigh is the capital city of North Carolina, and in addition to being the location of the state government, it is a great place to visit.

Raleigh is home to dozens of delicious restaurants and craft breweries, which makes it a perfect spot for foodies to visit. It also has some of the best museums in the state, including the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

3. Charlotte

Modern skyscraper pictured in the background of a splash pad or fountain in a artsy part of downtown Charlotte


Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and has something that will interest everyone, whether your interests are in art, history, food, or nature.

One of the most popular attractions in Charlotte is the United States National Whitewater Center, which in addition to whitewater rafting, offers mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, and ropes courses.

Charlotte is also home to Carowinds, an amusement park that is fun for the whole family.

4. Wilmington

Ferry and the wooden boardwalk in the downtown area of Wilmington, one of the best places to visit in North Carolina

WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA/USA – OCTOBER 19, 2014: The River Walk along the Cape Fear River. The River Walk is a tourist attraction boardwalk along the historic town/JSvideos/Shutterstock

Wilmington, NC, is a quintessential southern beach town. It is a port city known for being the gateway from the landlocked part of the state to the ocean. It has a thriving downtown riverwalk that features appealing restaurants, shops, and galleries.

One of the unique attractions Wilmington has to offer is a real battleship from World War II that you can board and tour!

5. Outer Banks

Aerial image of the beachfront homes in one of North Carolina's best places to visit, the Outer Banks, pictured on a summer day

Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock

The Outer Banks is a chain of islands on the east coast of the state. In total, there are 130 islands, each with its unique charm and attractions to offer. This region is known for its seaside activities and some of the most beautiful natural scenery and wildlife in the entire state.

Read Next: The Best Time to Visit the Outer Banks and Where to Stay in the Outer Banks

6. Chapel Hill

Neat view of the giant metal sundial in Chapel Hill on the UNC Campus

Chapel Hill, North Carolina – November 2019: Morehead (Planetarium) Sundial and UNC Campus/KAD Photo/Shutterstock

Chapel Hill is so much more than the famous UNC campus! This quaint college town has plenty of shops, art exhibits, and nature trails to enjoy. If you are a sports fan, check out a UNC basketball game in the legendary Dean Smith arena.

Lodging tends to be inexpensive here, and it’s located in close proximity to the bigger cities of Durham and Raleigh, which have even more culture!

7. Durham

Cool view of a fountain in the middle of a park in Durham, a top pick for North Carolina's best places to visit, as seen on a clear day

KAD Photo/Shutterstock

Located in what’s known as the Research Triangle (along with Raleigh and Chapel Hill), Durham is a relatively small but up-and-coming city that is chock-full of activities for your next vacation.

It is home to the historic American Tobacco Campus and old tobacco factories in the city’s downtown area, which has been transformed into a highly walkable shopping, restaurant, and entertainment district.

A trip to Durham wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the iconic Duke University campus. The gothic architecture is reminiscent of Harry Potter’s castle, and its grandeur is a must-see.

8. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Shaft of golden sunlight illuminates the ridges of one of North Carolina's best places to visit, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Dean Fikar/Shutterstock

Located in western North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular tourist attraction in the state, and for good reasons. Its beautiful scenery makes it the ideal spot for your next hiking, camping, or fishing trip.

Read Next: The Best & Worst Times to Visit the Smoky Mountains

9. Boone

Steam train making its way down the tracks of a well-manicured park in Boone, North Carolina, a top attraction in the state

Boone, North Carolina / USA – 07/14/2018: The big toy train at Tweetsie Railroad theme park for kids up in the smokey mountains with black smoke and tourist passengers having a good run time/

Home to Appalachian State University, Boone is so much more than your average college town. It is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is the perfect spot for outdoor adventures.

Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain are two of the most famous attractions that Boone claims.

Additionally, Boone is one of the best places to ski in the winter in North Carolina! Even if you don’t like the snow, there’s nothing cozier than sipping hot chocolate in a ski lodge.

10. Blue Ridge Parkway

Vibrant autumn leaves on the trees on either side of the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooking the Smoky Mountains

Anton Ermachkov/Shutterstock

The Blue Ridge Parkway may be an expansive highway, but it is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in North Carolina. Take a drive through the mountains on this winding, scenic road to view stellar scenery for miles.

The fall is the most popular time of year to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway. In October, the colors of the trees along the highway start to change, amplifying the beautiful views.

11. Kitty Hawk

Gorgeous beach meeting the ocean at Kitty Hawk, one of the best places to visit in North Carolina

Danita Delimont/Shutterstock

Kitty Hawk is located on the Outer Banks and has a singular claim to fame that makes it worth a visit: it is the former home of the Wright Brothers and, thus, the birthplace of aviation!

When you visit, you’ll take a tour of Kill Devil Hills, the location of William and Orville’s first successful flight. The National Memorial dedicated to the brothers is also worth a visit.

12. Pisgah National Forest

Hiking trail at the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina, one of the state's best places to visit

Patrick Jennings/Shutterstock

Pisgah National Forest is an ideal spot for anyone who enjoys spending time and adventuring outdoors. This expansive forest is perfect for various activities, including hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing, and birdwatching.

Pisgah National Forest is home to many stunning waterfalls and other breathtaking views!

13. Bald Head Island

For a roundup of the best places to visit in North Carolina, a few homes are located on the edge of the green space


Bald Head is the southernmost island of the chain that is the Outer Banks. What makes this locale special is that there is not a single car on the island, and it can only be reached by ferry. Relax and take a break from modern technology with a slowed-down island visit!

14. Cape Lookout National Seashore

Black and white diamond lighthouse in Cape Lookout pictured at dusk with its expansive beach spanning the entire coastline


Cape Lookout is famous for its population of wild horses — some of the only undomesticated horses left in the country. This island is only accessible by ferry and is one of the most special attractions in the entire state.

15. Mount Mitchell

Amazing hilltop view as seen from the winding brick path at the top of Mount Mitchell, one of the best places to visit in North Carolina

Clayton Townsend/Shutterstock

This list would not be complete without mentioning Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi River!

If you’re looking for an intense hike with the most rewarding mountain views once you’ve reached the summit, you can’t miss Mount Mitchell.

Things to Consider

When planning your trip to North Carolina and choosing from this list of the best places to visit, there are a few things you will need to consider:

Check the Weather Forecast

North Carolina is known for having a relatively mild climate during most parts of the year. The weather is part of what makes the state so appealing to visitors from all over the country.

However, there are a few times of the year when temperatures can reach high and low extremes. Summers in North Carolina is known for being hot and humid.

If you’re packing for a trip in June, July, and August, be sure to include items of clothing that are lightweight and breathable. Sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30 and a water bottle are also essentials to help you stay cool and hydrated.

Consider Travel Time

North Carolina is one of the larger states in the Southern United States, so you should take into consideration the time it will take to get from one place to another.

It is very unlikely that you will be able to visit each place on this list in a short period. Thus, pick a few that are geographically close together to visit.

Consider the Season

Overall, the most popular times of the year to visit North Carolina are the months of May and October. Consequently, these are also the most expensive times

During the time, travel and hotel accommodations will be pricier and more crowded. Consider weighing your budget with your priorities — if you want to see fall foliage, you will have to go in October.

Frequently Asked Questions

Unique wooden structure next to a waterfall and water mill in Raleigh

Paul Brady Photography/Shutterstock

In this section, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the best places to visit in North Carolina:

What is the number 1 attraction in North Carolina?

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is visited by more people each year than any other attraction in the state. Not only is it the most popular attraction in North Carolina, but more tourists also visit it than any other national park.

What is the prettiest place in North Carolina?

While “pretty” is a subjective adjective, and there are many different kinds of beauty, we think the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall is the prettiest place in North Carolina. Each autumn, leaf-peeping tourists from all over the world flock to this location to admire the stunning colors.

Where do people go on vacation in North Carolina?

People vacation to all parts of this diverse southern state! Some of the most popular vacation spots in North Carolina are the Outer Banks, Charlotte, Asheville, Boone, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

What is the number one beach in North Carolina?

Atlantic Beach is consistently rated among the top beaches in North Carolina. It is located on the state’s crystal coast and is unique because it faces south rather than east.

The small gulf is protected from the harsh winds and cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, making it ideal for swimming, boating, and other water activities.

What month is best to go to North Carolina?

Although most parts of North Carolina don’t get much annual snowfall, winter is still a chilly time of year. On the other hand, summers in the south can be sweltering and sticky.

As a result, the best times of year to visit North Carolina are either spring or fall, when the temperatures are milder, and the weather is ideal for outdoor activities.

So, What are the Best Places to Visit in North Carolina?

As you now know, there is no shortage of amazing and unique places to visit in North Carolina. Whether you want to see a city, relax on a beach, admire breathtaking foliage, or go for an epic hiking trip in the mountains, North Carolina has a destination for you!

With so many activities to do and unique places to explore, there’s no reason to delay. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!