There are so many reasons to visit the beautiful state of North Carolina. This southern state has four distinct seasons, and knowing what you can expect from the weather, activities, and prices during each time of year is one of the best ways to enjoy an exciting vacation.
That’s where we come in. In this article, you’ll learn what time of year you should plan your upcoming trip to North Carolina so that you can make the most out of your visit.
Whether you are looking for empty beaches in the Outer Banks, stunning hikes through the colorful Appalachian mountains, or affordable hotel rooms in any region of the state, we’ll share the best time to plan your trip.
While North Carolina is beautiful any time of year, certain months are better than others for certain types of trips.
We’ll also tell you about the worst times of year to visit North Carolina and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about travel to this state. This guide is a must-read for anyone looking to visit North Carolina.
Why You Should Visit North Carolina
North Carolina is chock-full of stunning scenery, mild weather, adventurous activities, and enriching culture. It is a larger state than some might think, and different regions have different highlights to offer.
Eastern North Carolina is home to some of the most magnificent beaches on the East Coast of the United States. The Outer Banks is a coastal chain of islands where you can find extraordinary wildlife, state parks, and white beaches, as well as diving, surfing, boating, fishing, and snorkeling activities.
But if you prefer the mountains to the beach, in Western North Carolina, you can find magnificent mountains that are perfect for sightseeing, hiking, backpacking, and climbing.
If your ideal vacation is in a city rather than nature, North Carolina can also be the perfect state for you to visit. Central North Carolina is home to the city’s capitol, Raleigh, as well as other cultural hubs of Durham and Charlotte.
These cities are chock-full of museums, art galleries, and markets, as well as award-winning restaurants and bars to keep your hunger satiated. With such a great variety of experiences to offer, it is no wonder that tourists visit North Carolina every month of the year.
But to make the most out of your stay, we’ll reveal the overall best time to visit this underrated southern state. Read onto the next section to learn the best months of the year to plan your trip.
Overall Best Time to Visit North Carolina
The overall best time to visit North Carolina is either October or May. Of these two months, the one that will be better depends on the region you will be visiting and your goals for your trip.
If you are visiting Asheville, Boone, or other cities in the mountains of Western North Carolina, we recommend planning your trip for October. The western region of the state experiences a true fall, with leaves on the trees changing colors to beautiful hues of red, yellow, and orange.
The weather in North Carolina is usually mild in October, and you will be able to see the fall foliage at its most beautiful. On the other hand, early summer is the best time of year to visit the eastern part of the state.
The busiest month for tourism in North Carolina is June, so planning your visit ahead of the busy season means you’ll find lower travel prices and less crowded attractions. Additionally, May in North Carolina is likely to have excellent weather.
By May, rainfall lessens significantly from the higher precipitation rates in the spring. Temperatures can range anywhere between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is ideal for walking around the downtown of a city or for relaxing on a beach in the Outer Banks.
Cheapest Time to Visit North Carolina
The cheapest time to visit North Carolina is in early September. If you can tolerate the inconvenience of luggage restrictions, layovers, and inconvenient times, you can score a cheap flight to North Carolina.
It will allow you more room in your budget to splurge on food, drinks, tours, and souvenirs once you arrive at your destination. The cheapest time to visit North Carolina is not far off from the best time. In early September, the weather is still quite hot in North Carolina, as autumn does not set in until October.
There will not be foliage to marvel at in September, but you can still enjoy almost every other tourist activity in the major cities and even enjoy cooling off at a beach on the east coast.
If keeping the cost of your trip at a minimum is an important factor for you, be sure to plan your visit for early September. And even though travel will be less expensive, you won’t be sacrificing the quality or fun of your visit.
Least Busy Time to Visit North Carolina
The least busy time to visit North Carolina is January-February. These months make up the slow tourism season for several reasons.
Northerners who want a break from winter typically head further south to Florida. Additionally, not many people want to vacation immediately after the stress and frenzy of the holiday season.
The weather is quite cold this time of year, with temperatures dipping into the 20s. January is also one of the rainiest months in North Carolina. However, if you are willing to brave the chilly climate, North Carolina in late winter has a lot to offer.
The mountains of the west will be snowy, and you’ll be able to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, and do other winter activities at a relatively comfortable temperature. And as long as you bundle up, you’ll be able to explore cities like Charlotte and Raleigh without the typical crowds.
Worst Time to Visit North Carolina
The worst time to visit North Carolina is in the dead of summer, between July and August. In addition to tourism being very high these months (meaning crowds and more expensive travel,) the summer in North Carolina can be brutally hot, with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees.
However, you can still enjoy a vacation to North Carolina during the summer, as long as you don’t mind getting a little bit sweaty.
If you dare plan a trip to North Carolina in the summer, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your visit:
- Make your destination either the mountains (west) or the beach (east). The climate will be cooler at higher elevations and along the coast, where the ocean breeze is strong.
- Wear light materials, and be sure to stay hydrated.
- The hottest months also have the most daylight, so you’ll have longer days to sightsee and enjoy indoor and outdoor activities.
Things to Consider
This section will cover some key travel tips you will want to consider during your trip to North Carolina.
Be Sure to Bring Layers
North Carolina natives know that no matter what season you’re in, the weather can be unpredictable and change dramatically from day to day and even from hour to hour.
You might leave your hotel in the morning being able to see your breath in the cold air, only to find yourself sweating and overheating on your afternoon stroll through the city. Be sure to pack a variety of clothes and layering options for your trip.
In the summer, you will want clothes that are lightweight and breathable but will also protect your skin from the rays of the sun. Rain gear and comfortable walking shoes are also essentials.
Pack Sunscreen and a Water Bottle
While it is always annoying to empty your reusable water bottle before going through airport security, it is worth the hassle of doing so to make sure that you can stay hydrated throughout your visit. The heat and humidity in the summer in North Carolina are no joke.
And an easy way to ruin your vacation is to get sunburned and have to sit in a bath of aloe vera back at the hotel. Wearing sunscreen (even when it is cloudy) is also crucial for protecting your skin against various cancers.
Don’t Forget the Bug Spray
Whether you are backpacking in the rugged mountains as far away as possible from society or staying in an urban metropolis like Charlotte or Raleigh, if you are visiting North Carolina in the spring, summer, or fall, you are almost guaranteed to come across insects, including mosquitos, ants, flies, various beetles, and spiders.
While most of these insects are relatively harmless, it’s essential to bring along bug spray if you want to avoid the hassle of itchy, painful mosquito bites.
Take Your Time
North Carolina is a large and diverse state, with many options for places to see and things to do. Be sure to take your time planning to ensure you get to the attractions that mean the most to you. Know that you won’t be able to see and do everything in just one visit.
Trying to jam too many activities into your itinerary will just make you feel rushed. Give yourself enough time to enjoy the attractions you select. Maybe you won’t get to visit the mountains in Asheville and the dunes in Kitty Hawk on the same trip.
Picking a few attractions in the same general region will help you reduce the stress and cost of travel and make the most out of your visit. And be sure to keep a list of the things you didn’t get to but still want to see. They’ll be all the more reasons to start planning your next trip to come back.
Frequently Asked Questions
This section will cover some of the most frequently asked questions about travel to the state of North Carolina. Read on to learn the answers.
What are the best places to visit in North Carolina?
North Carolina is home to some of the best natural and urban attractions in the country. No matter what kind of vacation you are looking for, you’ll be able to find something in North Carolina that you will love. Here are some of the most popular places to visit in the state.
- Bald Head Island is located off the eastern shore of mainland North Carolina and can be only accessed by ferry ride. There are no cars on the entire island, making it perfect for people who want to slow down and inhabit a more relaxed atmosphere. The island is home to beautiful beaches and protected turtles.
- Asheville is a small city in the Blue Ridge Mountains that’s known for its quirky and hippie population. It is also famous for having a vibrant music and arts scene, as well as amazing restaurants and breweries. It also is home to the Biltmore Estate. This estate is the largest owned by any individual in the US.
- The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most scenic roads in the entire country. It winds through the mountains of Western North Carolina and, in the fall, boasts stunning fall foliage. Every year, thousands of leaf peepers flock to this parkway to admire the changing tree colors.
- Charlotte is not the capital, but is the largest city in North Carolina, with plenty to offer its thousands of yearly tourists. It is home to the amusement park Carowinds, the National Whitewater Center, the Discovery Place (a cross between a science museum and an aquarium), and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to incredible wildlife and is the most visited national park in the United States.
- The Outer Banks is the name for the string of islands along the eastern coast of North Carolina. They are famous for welcoming vacationers seeking escapes to the beach. The northern section of the islands is home to some of the last horses that can be found in the wild.
What month has the most snow in North Carolina?
January is the snowiest month on average in North Carolina. It’s ideal for a skiing trip in the mountains.
What is the hottest month of the year in North Carolina?
July is typically the hottest month of the year in North Carolina, with an average daily temperature of nearly 80 degrees.
What is the best time to visit Charlotte, NC?
Spring and fall are the best times of year to make a trip to Charlotte, NC.
What months are rainy in North Carolina?
The months with the most rain in North Carolina are July and August.
Which is better to visit NC or SC?
North Carolina and South Carolina share a state border but offer very different travel experiences. North Carolina is more diverse ecologically, with regions in the mountains, the plains, urban areas, and the ocean.
South Carolina, on the other hand, is mostly known for its beaches. Neither one is inherently better–it all depends on what you’re looking for or in a destination.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit North Carolina?
The months of May and October are the best times to plan your trip to North Carolina. However, no matter whether you visit in the summer, fall, winter, or spring, there is an abundance of attractions and activities that you will be able to enjoy. Happy travels!