North Carolina has lots of fun things to do, most of which include jaw-dropping outdoor experiences. If you love forests, waterfalls, and mountains, you can see it all in this coastal state. So, this is the perfect vacation destination for you to stretch your legs, explore, and enjoy the peacefulness of nature.
Here are 15 exciting things to do in North Carolina, which will make your trip fun and unique.
#1 – Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville is the largest private home in the United States. The mansion was built in 1895 and it sits on 8,000 acres of land. It has about 250 rooms inside, which are filled with antiques, paintings, and other extravagant furnishings. The estate also has massive garden spaces outside with several miles of trails to walk through. You can take tours of the estate, try the on-site dining option, see holiday displays, and even partake in a wine tasting event.
#2 – Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is often referred to as “America’s Favorite Drive.” It’s a 469-mile road that travels from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park all the way to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This road is one of the most fun things to do in North Carolina because it has some of the country’s most breathtaking scenic views. It has great views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it has many scenic hiking and biking trails along the way. You can even choose to stay at a campsite in this area too.
#3 – USS North Carolina Battleship
The USS North Carolina in Wilmington is a historical battleship that tourists can see in real life. This ship was one of the first battleships that joined the American fleet in WWII. Even though it’s now retired, it’s open for tours, making it a popular attraction. Visitors can see the different areas of the ship, including its 29 guns, the deck, the mess hall, and the officer’s quarters.
#4 – Morehead Planetarium and Science Center
If the battleship seems exciting for your family, you might also be interested in the planetarium. It’s located at the University of North Carolina, and it’s the perfect opportunity for all ages to learn about space and similar topics. This Chapel Hill attraction has at least 15 planetarium shows, which occur on a rotating schedule. It has 240 seats, and it projects beautiful images of space onto the dome-like roof. Since it opened in 1949, it’s had over 7 million people attend.
#5 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park
If you’re driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway, you might as well stop at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This park has over 500,000 acres, which are in both North Carolina and Tennessee. It’s covered in lots of forests and trails, which look especially beautiful when the leaves change colors in the fall. There are also many waterfalls to look at. And if you’re looking for exciting things to do, you can go horseback riding, fishing, biking, or camping.
#6 – North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of museums during vacations, but this one is certainly worth a visit. This Raleigh attraction is the state’s oldest museum, and it has exhibits in two separate buildings. You’ll find information and displays about fossils, gemstones, rainforests, the ocean, human bodies, and more! It’s one of the most fun things to do in North Carolina for families because it has such a wide range of things to look at, so all ages can have a great time.
#7 – Linville Gorge and Falls
The Linville Gorge is where the Linville River flows to, creating a majestic waterfall. It can be found near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Burke County. The water drops from up to 150 feet, and it makes the ideal photo opportunity for visitors. There are also hiking trails around the falls, which will give visitors a chance to explore the surrounding area. Make sure you check the maps to avoid getting lost, and keep in mind that swimming isn’t allowed near the waterfall.
#8 – Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock State Park is another stunning nature spot in North Carolina. It’s located in Asheville, and it takes up over 8,000 acres. The park is most well-known for Chimney Rock, which is a 315-foot lookout point where you can see miles of trees, water, and hills. You can hike all the way to the top, but there’s also an elevator built into the mountain for those feeling a little less adventurous. While exploring the park, you’ll come across other notable landmarks, including a 400-foot waterfall.
#9 – North Carolina Zoo
The North Carolina Zoo is one of the most fun things to do in the state for animal lovers and families. It was first built in 1976, and it’s now known as the largest natural habitat zoo in the world. This means that it has larger, more suitable habitats for the animals, so you should be prepared for lots of walking during your trip. It’s 2,600 acres, and it’s divided up by different types of habitats: grasslands, swamps, forests, deserts, and mountains. You’ll witness over 1,800 animals from 250 different species.
#10 – Grandfather Mountain
Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll find the Grandfather Mountain. But if you’re afraid of heights, this might not be the attraction for you. This mountain reaches up to 6,000 feet, and it has a skinny bridge in between two mountain peaks. Walking across this bridge is a must for visitors, but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. The mountain is surrounded by 720 acres of natural attractions, so even without the bridge, there’s plenty to see. There are lots of intense hiking trails and some opportunities to see wildlife.
#11 – North Carolina Aquariums
The outdoors are incredible, but sometimes visitors just need a break from nature sights. The North Carolina Aquarium is the perfect opportunity to get inside and appreciate some air conditioning. The aquarium has four locations: Roanoke Island, Pine Knoll Shores, Fort Fisher, and Jennette’s Pier. However, Jennette’s Pier is unique from the others because it showcases marine animals in their natural habitats. Each location has its own special attractions. For example, the Roanoke Island location has the largest number of sharks in the state. So, consider all four locations to decide which one is the most interesting to you.
#12 – Outer Banks
Outer Banks is a chain of barrier islands that’s known for its many beaches and other outdoor activities. It’s a popular area for tourists to explore or simply relax on the beach. You’ll see historic lighthouses, shipwrecks, and even wild horses when in this space. But unfortunately, this attraction might not be around for much longer due to erosion and damage to the shore. So, visit it while you can!
#13 – NASCAR Hall of Fame
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is located in Charlotte, and it gives you the opportunity to learn everything about racing. It’s a more modern attraction, which first opened in 2010. It has several floors of exhibits, where you’ll see former racing cars and other historic items related to racing. You can even try out a racing simulator, watch informational films, and experience other interactive exhibits. You’ll also find specific exhibits on 58 famous people in the industry, so if you’re a race car enthusiast, you won’t want to miss it.
#14 – Discovery Place
Discovery Place is another indoor, educational attraction that’s excellent for families with kids. It’s located in Charlotte, and it’s the perfect place for all ages to learn about science and technology. Visitors can learn new things by witnessing displays, interactive exhibits, and live experiments. One popular exhibit is a rainforest simulation where guests can interact with animals. On top of the many permanent exhibits, this attraction also has temporary exhibits, classes, camps, and other events.
#15 – Carowinds
Finally, every good vacation needs an amusement park option. Carowinds has been open since 1973, and it now has over 50 rides, including at least 14 roller coasters. It also has a water park space, which is perfect for hot summer days. Of course, it also has other attractions, including dining, shopping, and carnival games. So, there’s no shortage of things to do, and your entire family will find something to enjoy. It’s located in Charlotte, so there are lots of hotels and other attractions nearby.
Are you ready to explore nature and have a blast doing it? Then you should plan your next trip to North Carolina. Like in every state, North Carolina has lots of fun things to do, all of which are unique to surrounding areas. So, consider adding these 15 attractions to your next family adventure.