Like its sister states Virginia and Maryland, North Carolina stretches from the Atlantic’s beaches and tidal wetlands through the rolling Piedmont to the foothills and mountains in the west. The varied landscape offers a bounty of different experiences to enjoy.
The Outer Banks’ beaches have long attracted families and couples from the Mid-Atlantic. Today, there are new tools for planning your getaway or vacation. The new website outerbanks.org offers some of the best peak- and shoulder-season savings in years. The offers and specials page directs you to discounts, free nights, and value-added bundles.
“This is the centennial of the National Park Service, as well as the North Carolina State Park system,” said Aaron Tuell, who promotes the area. “There are special programs this year at the Wright Brothers National Monument, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, as well as our state parks, like Jockey Ridge.”
The Outer Banks National Scenic Byway is another relatively new addition to the Outer Banks experience, encompassing 138 driving miles and 25 ferry-riding miles through 21 maritime villages. There is signage noting points of interest and you can access an itinerary at outerbanksbyway.com.
Historic Leland is near the southeast North Carolina beaches and lively Wilmington with access to attractions like the USS North Carolina, Airlie Gardens, and the North Carolina Aquarium. Visitors will find lots of golf with stay and play packages offering two nights at a Leland hotel and one round at each of two local courses.
Edenton, long known as a quaint historic village on Albemarle Sound, now offers a self-guided, mobile-friendly tour, “Edenton is a Museum.” You can walk to ten of the town’s historic sites, which have beautifully illustrated and informative signs to explain each site’s significance.
Pinehurst is called The Home of American Golf, including the legendary Pinehurst Resort. There are 40 world-class courses within a 15-mile radius of this southeastern North Carolina destination. For non-golfers, spas offer signature treatments and there are plenty of shops offering the works of local artists. Visit the site of a Revolutionary War battle or take a zip line over Carver’s Falls.
Burlington and Alamance County sit toward the middle of the state in the Research Triangle and offer historical walking tours, canoeing on the flat waters of the Haw River, sampling the vintages along the Haw River Wine Trail, and the shopping experiences at the Burlington Outlet Village, Tanger Outlets, and others.
High Point has long been synonymous with furniture and the industry’s Furniture Mart still takes place there. The website directs you to 50 furniture stores and outlets open to the public. You can visit the All-A-Flutter Farm, a real working butterfly farm; see the rare tractors and industrial equipment at the Neal John Deere Tractor and Industrial Museum; and check out Mendenhall Plantation, which preserves the legacy of Quaker tradespeople who opposed slavery. There are five vineyards and six breweries to tempt your taste buds as well.
Surry County, in the northern end of the Yadkin Valley and near the Blue Ridge Parkway, offers lots of interesting itineraries. Choose from horseback riding, hiking, history, golf, or paddling on any of four pristine rivers.
The four towns include Elkton, with its festivals and shops; Dobson, with its premiere wineries and shops; Pilot Mountain, with its view of the distinctive mountain and its namesake state park, which offers rock climbing and mountain biking; and Mount Airy, the hometown of actor Andy Griffith.
You find yourself in the fictional Mayberry from Griffith’s TV series as you walk the streets or attend the annual Mayberry Days, Sept. 21–25. But Mount Airy also hosts an Autumn Leaves Festival, Oct. 14–16, which showcases both the rich musical heritage of old-time, bluegrass, and gospel, as well as the arts and crafts of 200 craftsmen who line the streets and demonstrate their talents. The festival also features “food for the soul,” ranging from ham biscuits to barbeque, collards, and cornbread.
Franklin is among the towns scattered throughout the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a destination for antiquing, but it also preserves its cultural past with a Cherokee Heritage Trail, including the Nikwasi Mound, and a Civil War Trail that recalls the final surrender of Confederate troops who did not hear of the surrender of Lee and Johnston’s armies until early May. The town boasts three museums, including the local historical museum, the Scottish Tartans Museum — the only one of its kind in the United States — and the Gem and Mineral Museum, which recalls the area’s gem-mining history.