5 Unforgettable Places To Visit In North Carolina

North Carolina is rich with history, and its diverse landscapes and varied economy make for a wide range of regional distinctions. From miles of beaches and charming islands to the cultural attractions of the cities, there's something for every taste. In no particular order, this list highlights some of the best locations in the Tar Heel State.

For #1, we have Bryson City, a mountain town bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offering shops, galleries, lodging, and restaurants. There are numerous activities to enjoy, such as rafting and kayaking on the Nantahala River, boating and fishing on Fontana Lake, and railroad excursions.

For those looking to learn a new skill, there are many arts, crafts, and cooking classes at places like Southwestern Community College's Nantahala School and Dogwood Crafters. The area is home to several mines built during the 1800s, where visitors can try gem mining and gold panning to search for rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, and more.

Coming in at #2 is the Outer Banks, a 130-mile stretch of barrier islands just off the coast. The area is home to seaside villages and towns where guests have a wealth of lodging options like hotels, motels, cottage courts, or campgrounds.

Located within Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the Elizabethan Gardens encompasses ten acres of flowering plants, trees, and sculptures. In Buxton, visitors can climb the historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States. Those looking for water activities can enjoy kayaking and fishing.

Up next, at #3, we have the city of Charlotte. Known as the Queen City, it was named one of the top 10 best craft beer towns in America by Matador Network. It boasts dozens of breweries, such as Birdsong, Sugar Creek, Triple C, and Wooden Robot.

Charlotte is home to many attractions, such as the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, and City Art Room, a social painting studio. For those looking to experience the great outdoors, there are many parks to enjoy, as well as the U.S. National Whitewater Center, which offers rafting, rock climbing, and ziplines.

The #4 entry is Chapel Hill, a town that is home to the famous University of North Carolina campus. Hailed as “America’s Foodiest Small Town” by Bon Appetit Magazine, its downtown area has hundreds of restaurants, bars, retail shops, and other businesses. Diners can choose from a range of cuisines, including Asian fusion, traditional Southern fare, pit-cooked BBQ, fresh mesquite and charcoal grilled seafood, contemporary Italian, and more.

There are over 30 murals in the city, mostly in the downtown area. Local artist Michael Brown created the first, titled The Blue Mural, in 1989. The permanent collection of the Ackland Art Museum consists of more than 18,000 objects, featuring an array of works on paper as well as a significant number of European pieces.

Last but not least, at #5 we have the Brunswick Islands. The area has more than 30 championship golf courses and over 120 miles of fairways, including Oyster Bay, Crow Creek, and Compass Pointe. Birding is another popular activity on the islands, as they are home to species like Great Blue Herons and Wilson's Plovers. The Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve encompasses 175 acres and has seven miles of maintained trails.

The town of Southport has appeared in several films, including "Safe Haven," "Crimes of the Heart," "A Walk to Remember," and "I Know What You Did Last Summer," as well as TV shows like "Under the Dome" and "Sleepy Hollow." Boating enthusiasts can visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum, which shares the history of the area from the first indigenous mariners to commercial fisheries.