Reasons to Love NC

I’m preaching to the choir here, but isn’t North Carolina just the best? We’ve got laid-back beaches, stunning mountains, thriving cities, quaint small towns, artisans, entrepreneurs, fine dining, and down-home cooking. I could keep talking for pages, but we’d rather just show you. Take a trip with Main & Broad’s Chief Photographer Jonathan Fredin and discover dozens of reasons to love the Old North State.

Spectacular Sunsets

Nature knows how to put on a show, be it over the Appalachian Mountains to the west or the Atlantic Ocean to the east. NC residents enjoy the best of both worlds, including this picturesque evening on Bald Head Island.

Also visit:

  • Wayah Bald Lookout Tower, Nantahala National Forest, near Franklin
  • Fahrenheit restaurant’s rooftop terrace, Charlotte
  • Queens Landing dinner cruise, Lake Norman

Water, Water Everywhere

Jackson County is home to the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, 4,600 miles of streams dotted with natural waterfalls, like Schoolhouse Falls near Cashiers, and opportunities for rafting.

Also visit:

  • Lake Lure, near Chimney Rock State Park
  • Jordan Lake, near Apex
  • The Crystal Coast, NC’s southern Outer Banks

Mountain Hikes

Find panoramic views and engaging hikes at Chimney Rock State Park, headlined by a trek to the top of iconic Chimney Rock via the Outcroppings Trail. Climbers who summit the 494 steps will be rewarded with breathtaking views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. (An elevator also provides access to Chimney Rock, bypassing most of the stairs.)

Also try:

  • Grandfather Mountain Swing Bridge and State Park, near Linville
  • Craggy Pinnacle Hike, near Black Mountain

Gorgeous Gardens

55 acres, 4,500 varieties of plants, and 5 miles of walking trails comprise Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, open 365 days a year in the middle of Duke University.

Also visit:

  • The Biltmore House Gardens & Grounds, Asheville
  • JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh
  • Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, Lake Lure

So Much BBQ

The Eastern- versus Western-style debate never ends, and thankfully, neither does the list of barbecue joints entering the competition. Classic spot B’s Barbecue in Greenville sells between five and six pit-cooked hogs a day — takeout and cash only.

Also try:

  • Lexington Barbecue, Lexington
  • Longleaf Swine, Raleigh
  • Parker’s Barbecue, Wilson
  • Skylight Inn, Ayden

We’re Crazy for Craft Beer

Southern Wake knows a thing or two about craft beer, and lucky for us, plenty of other NC towns do, too. Hugger Mugger Brewing, in Sanford, offers 18 beers brewed onsite and displays gothic tapestries by local artist Craig Gillooly.

Also visit:

  • Highland Brewing, Asheville
  • Bond Brothers Beer Company, Cary
  • Deep River Brewing Company, Clayton

Historic Sites

Witness a dramatic retelling of the story of The Lost Colony at the Waterside Theater in Manteo, featuring Sir Walter Raleigh’s attempts to establish an English settlement in the New World and the mysterious disappearance of the settlers on Roanoke Island.

Also visit:

  • Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills
  • Duke Homestead, Durham
  • Tryon Palace, New Bern

Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurants

Inconspicuous and unassuming, like 4 Corners Diner in Atlantic Beach, longstanding diners, grills and cafes, often family run with grandma’s recipes, attract loyal customers day in and day out.

Also try:

  • Flo’s Kitchen, Wilson
  • The Roast Grill, Raleigh
  • El’s Drive-In, Morehead City
  • Cosmic Cantina, Chapel Hill

World-Class Golf

Pinehurst No. 2 tops the charts of best and best-known NC golf courses, but the state’s mild winters mean golf enthusiasts can find open fairways and manicured greens nearly year-round.

Also visit:

  • Wade Hampton Golf Club, Cashiers
  • Old Town Club, Winston-Salem
  • Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte

Fun for Families

Enjoy Tweetsie Railroad’s amusement rides, Wild West-themed entertainment, live animals, and train rides behind a historic narrow-gauge steam locomotive, located in Blowing Rock.

Also visit:

  • Greensboro Science Center, Greensboro
  • Discovery Place, Charlotte
  • Carowinds, Charlotte
  • Marbles Kids Museum, Raleigh

Serious Sweet Tooth

Chef Robert Reynaud traded the Chicago culinary scene for a 14-table neighborhood eatery on Maynard Road in Cary, La Grassa Pastificio, with a lineup of showstopping “Dolces.” Gorgeously plated tiramisu is classic; other dessert offerings include gelato, sorbetto, cannoli, and budino, a decadent dark chocolate mousse crowned with toasted pistachios.

Also try:

  • Hayes Barton Cafe & Dessertery, Raleigh
  • Mama Bird’s Ice Cream, Holly Springs
  • Amelie’s French Bakery, Charlotte
  • Britt’s Donut Shop, Carolina Beach

Creative Cuisine

North Carolina’s roots in agriculture, rural/urban dichotomy, and growing population combine to create a vibrant culinary scene that continues to impress. Last year in Cary alone, Top Chef alum Katsuji Tanabe opened a’Verde Cocina & Tequila Library, and the Fenton development welcomed eight new eateries, with more on the way, including a steakhouse from notable Raleigh chef Scott Crawford.

Also try:

  • Manna, Wilmington
  • Supperland, Charlotte
  • The Fearrington House Restaurant, Pittsboro
  • Print Works Bistro, Greensboro

Scenic Drives

An iconic NC attraction, the Linn Cove Viaduct is a 7-mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway that hugs the face of Grandfather Mountain without disrupting the natural habitat. The Parkway winds through the southern and central Appalachians, showcasing beautiful vegetation, wildlife, and natural attractions such as Mount Mitchell, Linville Gorge, and Whitewater Falls.

Also visit:

  • Outer Banks National Scenic Byway

Delightful Downtowns

Bordering the Cape Fear riverfront, downtown New Bern boasts historic architecture, art galleries, unique boutiques, and the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola. During the warm months, downtown restaurants spill outdoors for popular al fresco dining, called the Street Cafe.

Also visit:

  • Blowing Rock
  • Wilmington Riverwalk
  • Pinehurst

Inspiring Entrepreneurs

Creativity and passion are welcome neighbors throughout NC, fueling business owners like Alisha Ramsey, owner of Glam Soldier boutique in Apex, which sells upcycled military clothing and one-of-a-kind boho apparel. Ramsey, a US Army veteran, earmarks a portion of sales to benefit Advocates 4 Vets, a local nonprofit that helps and houses veterans.

Others to inspire:

  • Cary Heise, Designed for Joy
  • Jasmine Brown, FACTS for Youth
  • Justin Senkbeil, CompostNow

Family Farms

Many small NC farmers, like Michael Phillips of Phillips Farms in Cary, have worked hard to preserve North Carolina’s agricultural heritage by transitioning to agritourism, inviting guests to pick-your-own fruit and pumpkins, wander a corn maze, feed farm animals, and celebrate farm life with a healthy dose of family fun.

Also visit:

  • DJs Berry Patch, Apex
  • Willow Oak Farms, Fuquay-Varina
  • Millstone Creek Orchards, Ramseur
  • Farmer Mac’s Berries, Hampstead

Wildlife Sightings

A visit to the Shallotte River Swamp Park & Outdoor Center combines adventure and ecological education. See more than a dozen American alligators in the reptile sanctuary, then hop on the Swamp Boat Eco Tour to wind through the waters of the Shallotte River Swamp.

Also visit:

  • Bald Head Island Conservancy, Bald Head Island
  • Corolla Wild Horse Tours, Corolla
  • North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro

Public Art

The popularization of outdoor murals has added vibrant color and personality to NC’s cities and towns over recent years, often highlighting local artists. Town of Sanford historic preservation planner Liz Whitmore dreamed up a mural project to transform boring brick walls into artistic representations of the town’s important historical figures and events, including the Fairview Dairy mural, at Yarborough’s Homemade Ice Cream & Grill in Sanford, one of 12 murals completed for the project.

Also visit:

  • White Oak Greenway Tunnel, Cary
  • NC Museum of Art Museum Park, Raleigh
  • Outdoor sculptures and murals, Uptown Charlotte

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