Quaint mountain town. Hipster haven. Beer City USA. Outdoorsman's retreat. College town. Bluegrass home. Culinary destination. Try as you might, it's impossible to give Asheville just one label. Located in western North Carolina just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, the city is an unexpected gem, where a vibrant arts scene intertwines with Southern traditions and beautiful scenery. It's safe to say, no matter what your interests, Asheville has something to offer you.
Tucked in the Piedmont region's sleepy rolling hills, this bustling metropolis is anything but a quiet Southern belle. Charlotte, North Carolina, explodes with growing businesses, burgeoning sports franchises and an evolving culinary scene. Though the Queen City is known for the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it's much more than a haven for those with a need for speed. Uptown Charlotte – be sure not to call it downtown – is crawling with suits and tourists, while art aficionados and culture hounds flood the Plaza Midwood and NoDa (or North Davidson) neighborhoods. Meanwhile, those in search of a pint of local beer won't want to miss South End, home to a handful of the city's top breweries.
History drips from the Outer Banks: Here, aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright took their famous first flight (at Kill Devil Hills), the pirate Blackbeard fought his last battle (at Ocracoke) and the mysterious Lost Colony disappeared (exactly where is anyone's guess, but last seen on Roanoke Island near Manteo). But this chain of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina – affectionately dubbed OBX – isn't just for history buffs. Fishing, windsurfing and wildlife watching attract adventurous types, not to mention the roughly 3,000 shipwrecks you can explore by snorkel and scuba diving. Families gravitate toward the beaches, mini-golf courses and the North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island.
Raleigh is proof that the South will rise again. First, it's a smart city. A handful of colleges and universities are spread out on campuses throughout the Greater Raleigh area. And Raleigh is also part of the Research Triangle, a geographical area that includes Durham and Chapel Hill, and a region that's filled with tech jobs and techie people.
Wilmington, North Carolina, is one of the South's best kept secrets. Founded in the 1730s, Wilmington's past tells a story of ascension and decline: It was a major shipping port and the state's largest city by the mid-19th century. And as such, its historic center brims with gorgeous old homes and gardens. After a period of decline, Wilmington has risen again, thanks in part to the University of North Carolina Wilmington's youthful energy and the burgeoning film and TV industry: In fact, the city is known as "Hollywood East" for its large production studio and the number of movies and shows that have been filmed here, including "Dawson's Creek," "One Tree Hill" and "Iron Man 3." But along with its historic attractions and Hollywood appeal, Wilmington is beloved by visitors for its relaxed beachy vibe, its slow Southern gait and its swelling foodie scene.
Best Places to Visit in the USA