North Carolina is known for many things and people keep realizing that it’d be easier to discover it all by moving here. The state is home to many wonderful things to do, eat, and see. So, of course, it’s a given that so many people would choose to relocate here. But if you’re new to the area and want to learn more about it, where do you start? Well, that’s why we’ve created this guide to the largest North Carolina cities and what you should see and do in them.
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North Carolina Cities
This article was originally published on November 13, 2017. It has been expanded and revised (as of May 28, 2018) to stay current while also reflecting our opinions.
Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and is home to the largest airport, so many travelers have probably passed through the Queen City. In nearby Cabarrus County, Charlotte Motor Speedway gets busy each year when the big races come to town. Closer to the city, there are some interesting neighborhoods that have a good selection of restaurants and breweries. The US National Whitewater Center is another fun thing to do in Charlotte, and wildly popular during the warmer months. Of course, the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Hornets are a big deal and the Charlotte Knights play Minor League Baseball at the beautiful BB&T Ballpark.
Start enjoying these three North Carolina cities by spending time walking around the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh. Get outside and walk around Umstead State Park, the Neuse River Trail, or the Museum of Art Park. If you like a good brew, visit the Raleigh Beer Garden and search through their Guinness World Record-winning selection of drinks.
If you’re looking for a cool city that’s a bit lower key than Raleigh, then Durham is perfect for you! Sarah P. Duke Gardens and Durham’s quaint, historic downtown are great ways to enjoy the interior of the city, but it’s quite spread out. There are also quite a few ways to enjoy the outdoors in Durham. If you want more details on things to do in Durham, check out this guide by yours truly!
Chapel Hill is smaller than the other two, but still full of fun stuff to do. Franklin Street is filled with restaurants and things to do. Nearby Carrboro is one of our favorite small towns in the Triangle, definitely worth exploring!
Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point are referred to as “The Triad” and they work together to make a great cluster of cities.
Greensboro is a busy destination for conventions. There’s also the beautiful Carolina Theatre that you should check out for a show or just to stare at from the outside. However, even the most business-centric travelers have some pretty fun things to do in the city. Outdoor options include the Bog Garden and Bur-Mil Park. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, head to the Greensboro Science Center for the kids or even yourself. Finally, if you’re interested in digging into the Greensboro food scene, join a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour like we did!
Winston-Salem is an up-and-coming city that was once two separate cities (hence the hyphen), and you can visit Old Salem any time of the year to get a look at a previous era. Spend a weekend there, grab a room at The Cardinal Hotel, and you’ll realize that it’s more than a cool place to stay. Foothills Brewing Company makes some of our favorites. They also have a tasting room for visitors to come and try their special creations.
High Point is known as the “Furniture Capital of the World” and there are some interesting places to explore there. If you visit from mid-April to October, check out All-A-Flutter Farm, you can see a real working butterfly farm in person! For day trip options, I’d recommend traveling to nearby Hanging Rock State Park. It’s beautiful from the top!
Mention Western North Carolina and you’ll hear one word come out of people’s mouths—Asheville. There’s so much to do in Asheville, and we love it for almost too many reasons. Whether it’s the hikes, the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway, or the awesome Downtown itself, there’s just something about this part of the world. When you visit, plan to do as much as possible, but don’t worry if you can’t knock it all out. Settle in and walk around the famed Biltmore Estate, enjoying its accompanying gardens that amaze even the most seasoned visitors. You can spend even more time in the River Arts District and grab a beer at nearby New Belgium Brewing Company. Either way, you’re going to have a good time in Asheville, so sit back and let North Carolina’s coolest small town take the wheel.
Quick tip: You’re also within a short drive of Brevard, which we’re quite partial to as well!
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Wilmington is a popular port town with tons of fun things to do for all travelers. The big event that happens here is the annual Azalea Festival, though there’s a lot to do throughout the year. Wilmington has tons of outdoor options, from kayaking to scuba diving. Relax after the adventure with some locally caught seafood by the beach or venture into Wilmington’s historic downtown. One of North Carolina’s most popular coastal destinations—Carolina Beach—is right around the corner. For a scaled-down and more relaxing beach experience, I’d recommend visiting Kure Beach. Wrightsville Beach has the most beautiful water I’ve seen in North Carolina, and that’s a pretty tough list of challengers to top! Regardless of when you visit Wilmington, I’d recommend checking out all of these spots!
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Our Thoughts and Yours, Too!
We’re huge fans of North Carolina so if you ever want to know more about it, just ask us. No matter when you plan to visit the Tar Heel State, be ready for an absolutely fun and fulfilling trip. I guarantee that you’ll enjoy North Carolina so much that it could turn into your permanent home. Just wait and see after checking out everything that these North Carolina cities have to offer!