North Carolina is a state of vast diversity, stretching from the purple ridges of the Appalachian Mountains in the west to the Atlantic seashore in the east. A trip here can involve the best of the East Coast's beaches, American history, scenic rides through farmland and mountains, and award-winning golf courses. Wilmington draws attention with its naval ships and oceanfront dining. Nature lovers will want to head to Asheville to explore the Appalachian's mountains and rivers, while Winston-Salem preserves an Old World, colonial feel with its 18th-century Moravian buildings.
Raleigh centers on the stately copper dome of the State Capitol, with a pleasant downtown pedestrian district of shade trees, fountains and sidewalk cafes. On the Atlantic coast, antebellum homes and a prominent shipping port occupy Wilmington, including the battleship USS North Carolina. To the west, Asheville lies within the Appalachians and preserves the state's rugged mountain heritage while Winston-Salem gives a nod to North Carolina's Moravian roots in its cobblestoned 18th-century streets.
Reserve a spot on a river raft and splash through miles of Appalachian river rapids. A springtime forest of newly-green hardwoods and airy white dogwoods makes for memorable hikes in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Along the Atlantic Coast, North Carolina's storied barrier islands, the Outer Banks, draw summertime visitors with cool ocean breezes, towering black-and-white lighthouses and miles of sandy beaches.
Eating and Drinking
Hearty Moravian dishes fill tables in Winston-Salem. Try meatloaf fortified with oatmeal or gravy-rich Moravian chicken pie and top it off with a dessert of warm gingerbread or baked apples. Freshly-caught shrimp sit on a bed of cheesy grits, and catfish is fried until crispy at Wilmington's oceanfront restaurants. American standards like prime rib and chops satisfy customers in Asheville, where guests dine over breathtaking Appalachian vistas. A glass of cold sweet tea pairs well with any North Carolina meal.
Mountains and Lakes
Thousands have trekked part of the legendary Appalachian Trail, which passes through western North Carolina. The footpath leads hikers through a tunnel of trees past gurgling brooks, vibrant redbuds and rocky granite outcroppings. America's most-visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains, crosses North Carolina's border with Tennessee, and can be accessed on foot or via car. A broad expanse of North Carolina's mountains reveals itself along the lavender peaks of the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of America's most scenic drives.