You might not think of North Carolina first when you look for vacation spots, but the state has a lot to offer. You can find warm barrier islands to the east, rolling hills with picturesque farms in the center, gorgeous mountains and forests in the west, and even one of the biggest cities in the American South. With so much to offer, you can visit every one of the cities on this list and get a completely different experience.

Charlotte

Might as well start with the biggest name (and city) in North Carolina. Charlotte is among the fastest-growing cities in the United States, so it has a very modern feel even as it holds onto its Southern roots. The city holds over a dozen galleries and major modern art museums, but it also has plenty of Southern-style restaurants, a busy NASCAR track, and Carowinds, one of the best family amusement parks in the Carolinas. Since Charlotte is so big, it also has places to stay in every price range: affordable motels, national hotel chains, and bed-and-breakfasts.

Asheville

Asheville is the unofficial capital of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains region, also known as the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains. As a result, the town is a major vacation spot for romantic getaways and home to plenty of resort hotels and rental cabins, including the famous Inn on Biltmore Estate. You don’t have to look far to find breweries and wineries that offer tours and tastings, plus the shopping opportunities are amazing. And if you want to experience the best the Blue Ridge Mountains has to offer, the Blue Ridge Parkway passes right through town.

Raleigh

Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and the state’s second-biggest city. Thanks to that, you can find plenty of places to stay in town, or you can look at nearby Cary or Durham to find a hotel that’s less expensive. In Raleigh, you can find some major museums — including the biggest and kid-friendliest natural history museum in the Southeast.

The city is also right next to the Piedmont region. If you’re willing to go out into the countryside you can find quiet country inns, camping opportunities, and Civil War battlefields.

Wilmington

Wilmington is the biggest coastal city in North Carolina. It has a long boardwalk along Cape Fear River, and you won’t have to walk far from the river to find the city’s best restaurants, hotels, and attractions. And if you’d rather sit on the Atlantic shore, Carolina Beach is a short drive south. The beach has great opportunities for solo travelers to find friendly locals and fellow vacationers. Check out HotelPlanner to find a good deal on Carolina Beach hotels.

North Carolina has plenty of wonderful towns and cities, and each one has its own character and history. The state may not be a major tourist destination like Florida or New York, but that just means you’ll find lower prices and smaller crowds as you appreciate the amazing mountains, sandy beaches, and wonderful food that North Carolina has to offer.

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