Last updated: 03:36 PM ET, Mon August 08 2022
Sunset from Cowee Mountains Overlook, on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. (AppalachianViews / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

North Carolina

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Autumn colors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina ((c) Sean Board / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Autumn colors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina. (photo via (c) Sean Board/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

From beautiful natural destinations like the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains and numerous botanical gardens, to the world’s largest concentration of NASCAR attractions, North Carolina has a wonderfully eclectic mix of sights to see and places to go. The sunny, temperate climate paired with the tranquil shores of its pristine beaches makes this southeastern coastal state a true “antidote to civilization.”

North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh, is the second-largest city next to Charlotte, and is a cultural epicenter for the state. With over a dozen museums, including the famous North Carolina Museum of Art and numerous visual and performing arts venues and centers, Raleigh offers an intellectual and entertaining aspect to North Carolina travel. Also located in this central section of the state (called Piedmont) are large metro areas and buzzing college towns like Durham, Chapel Hill and Winston-Salem. The Outer Banks are a chain of islands that lie just off the coast, and have become a popular tourist destination for spring and summertime vacations.

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA uptown skyline panorama. (SeanPavonePhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA uptown skyline panorama. (SeanPavonePhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

In addition to the many beaches and racing events within North Carolina, the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte is the world’s largest artificial whitewater river. The complex, which brings in locals and tourists from all corners of the globe, not only offers rafting, but kayaking, river tours, climbing, zip-lines and biking throughout the region. The Yadkin Valley in the northwestern part of North Carolina is the wine region of the state. The award-winning wineries, located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, produce some of the best local grapes that make several varieties of wine including pinot noir, sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay.

North Carolina is world-renown for its diverse culinary prowess. Between Low Country cooking, up-market gourmet and famous Carolina barbecue, diners leave happy. For a serious dive bar in Charlotte serving up the American classics, Penguin Drive-In is beloved by all who’ve had a taste. The Pit is a Raleigh legend, with their whole hog, pit-cooked barbecue and Eastern-style vinegar and hot red pepper-based sauces. Chapel Hill is not only home to the drive-ins and fast-food joints that fuel the hungry college crowd, but some authentic international restaurants. Il Palio serves up legit Italian fare like tomato braised mussels and homemade pastas. Crook’s Corner offers excellent Southern cuisine, including Cajun, Creole and Low Country favorites like shrimp and grits and black pepper cornbread.

Raleigh, North Carolina, USA downtown as viewed from the Capitol Building grounds. (Sean Pavone / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
PHOTO: Downtown Raleigh as viewed from the Capitol Building grounds. (Photo via Sean Pavone / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

North Carolina has four international airports -- Charlotte Douglas International (CLT), Piedmont Triad International (GSO) in Greensboro, Raleigh-Durham International (RDU) and Wilmington International (ILM). These, as well as several smaller, less commercial airports serve both domestic and international flights throughout the state. For getting around throughout the state, renting a car is recommended, as most areas are spread out and roads are easily navigable. Largest cities will have public transportation, as well as the large ferry system that operates along the coast.

Most of the state has a humid subtropical climate with the exception of the higher elevations, which has a subtropical highland climate. Summers can get extremely hot and humid, with most of the state averaging a July high temperature of 90° F (32° C). Winters tend to be mild, with average temperatures in January near 50° F (10° C). The rainy season hits during late summer through early autumn, occasionally bringing in hurricanes and tornadoes. The best time to visit North Carolina depends on the region being visited. For most areas, springtime through the autumn months tend to be the best weather-wise, and bring out the best in the natural Carolina beauty.