It’s easy to write North Carolina off as just another state between the Mid-Atlantic states and the South, but it’s actually a really unique place to visit. No matter what your travel style is, there’s a perfect weekend getaway just waiting for you in North Carolina.
For a romantic getaway, you can head to the Great Smoky Mountain region for beautiful hikes, waterfalls, and top-notch accommodations. Outdoor adventure is plentiful here, from the mountains to the beaches, so it’s easy to get outside and active with kayaking and mountain biking trips. Arts and culture lovers will absolutely adore the local galleries, museums, and festivals taking place in small towns and big cities here. Meanwhile, history buffs and families with kids can learn a lot about American history while touring this state. And if you visit in winter, there are even ski resorts in North Carolina for a little fun in the snow. The craft beer and winery scenes are thriving here, which makes for a fun way to relax and enjoy good times with family and friends.
Here are our top picks for the best weekend getaway destinations in North Carolina. We’ll highlight some of the most recommended things to do in each town and places to stay that are comfortable and convenient.
YOU'RE ALL SET!
Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.
Raleigh is a Southern metropolis that is packed with tons of things to do and see, from top-notch science and technology institutions, art and culinary scenes to its historic capital city heritage. You’ll often find emerging local bands playing here, as well as bluegrass festivals, craft beer events, and art exhibitions. This is a place where history meets modern life. Top attractions are the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the North Carolina Museum of Art, Pullen Park, and the Marbles Kids Museum. Also, make sure to check out the Neuse River Trail and William B. Umstead State Park to get outdoors. Highly rated places to stay include the Hyatt House Raleigh North Hills, the Hilton Garden Inn Raleigh/Crabtree Valley, and the Courtyard Raleigh North/Triangle Town Center.
Asheville is a favorite destination among outdoor enthusiasts and craft beer fans. It’s become known as a hipster spot that’s all about organic and natural living. You’ll find lots of local shops, street performers, and festivals as you walk around downtown. Come here for a quirky vibe and really unique stops like the Pinball Museum and Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café. Of course, the big and famous attraction here is the Biltmore Estate, which you can tour and visit the winery. There are lots of lovely B&Bs in Asheville, such as the 1899 Wright Inn and Carriage House, Pinecrest Bed and Breakfast, and Chestnut Street Inn. There are also some nice hotels downtown to choose from, like the Windsor Boutique Hotel and Hotel Indigo.
One of the largest and most exciting cities to visit in North Carolina is Charlotte, which is a great weekend destination for the whole family. Top attractions here are Freedom Park, Discovery Place, the Levine Museum of the New South, and the Carolinas Aviation Museum. The Carowinds theme park is fun for kids and the young-at-heart because it has some of the best roller coasters in the region. It’s also fun to watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup or NASCAR All-Star races while you’re in the city. Sports fans will enjoy a trip to Charlotte because the Carolina Panthers NFL team and the Charlotte Hornets NBA team play here. Consider staying at the Fairfield Inn Charlotte Northlake, Holiday Inn Charlotte-University Place, or the Homewood Suites by Hilton Charlotte/Ayrsley when you visit Charlotte.
For incredible mountain views, quaint shops, and vibrant college town culture don’t miss out on visiting Boone, North Carolina. This small town is named after the famous Daniel Boone, and it’s conveniently located near the epic Blue Ridge Parkway. Boone is near the Tennessee Border as well and home to Appalachian State University. It has a population of around 14,000 people and is lovely to visit in the fall when the leaves change colors. Take a walk down King Street to stop into the local shops and restaurants. When you venture outside of the town limits, you can enjoy its mountain setting at Elk Knob State Park and Grandfather Mountain. Top-rated hotels to stay at in Boone include LaQuinta Inn and Suites, Comfort Suites, Country Inn & Suites, and Sleep Inn.
North Carolina made world history when the Wright Brothers took flight and first controlled a powered airplane. This is an important historic site in North Carolina to visit, and you can also enjoy a relaxing beach community in Kitty Hawk. It’s located on North Carolina’s Outer Banks islands and is refreshingly under-developed. Visit the Kitty Hawk Wood to view diverse plant and animal life in a beautiful maritime forest. This is a place to visit to relax and enjoy the smell of seawater, feeling of the Atlantic Ocean breeze, and sights of iconic lighthouses along the shore. You can stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks/Kitty Hawk or Baymont Inn & Suites when you visit this area.
The North Carolina town of Wilmington is known for being a beach destination with waterfront attractions for the whole family. Wilmington is a port city that has a lovely riverfront area that’s perfect for walking. The town was established by colonists in the 18th century and still has many historic buildings standing today. Cultural events are also common here because there’s a university in Wilmington that brings in young and energetic crowds. Hampton Inn Wilmington Medical Park and Homewood Suites by Hilton Wilmington/Mayfaire are nice places to stay here.
Chapel Hill is a college town that’s famous for its basketball team, but there’s much more to see here than just the University of North Carolina. There’s also a vibrant arts and culture scene, concerts by local bands, and the Morehead Planetarium. When you visit, make sure to check out Franklin Street, the North Carolina Botanical Garden, and the Carolina Basketball Museum. The Dean E. Smith Center is the sports arena that is home to the basketball team, and you can visit the venue even if there’s not a game going on. If you’re traveling with kids, take them to the Kidzu Children’s Museum. Recommended places to stay in Chapel Hill include the Sienna Hotel, The Carolina Inn, Rizzo Center, and The Franklin.
Anyone interested in history and culture will love a trip to New Bern, North Carolina. This is a coastal town with a history that dates back to the early 1700s, and top historic attractions are the Athens Theatre and the Masonic Temple. Swiss immigrants founded this town and named it after the capital of Switzerland. There are a couple of different historic districts to tour here that have buildings on the state historic register. Another interesting trivia fact about New Bern is that it is the birthplace of Pepsi! The Courtyard Marriott and Hampton Inn are nice places to stay here.
North Carolina has a mix of mountain towns and Southern towns, and Pinehurst is one of the latter. This is a small town in the middle of the state that has a population of around 13,000 people. It’s known as a top golfing destination and has around nine golf courses to choose from. One of them is a stop on the PGA tour. Aside from golf, there are also historic buildings to see and learn about and green spaces to help you enjoy the natural beauty of the state. Stay at the Carolina Hotel – Pinehurst Resort or the Holly Inn – Pinehurst Resort.
This is a gateway town to the Great Smoky Mountains and one of the oldest settlements in the state. Native Americans called this region home for long before that as well. The town enjoys stunning mountain scenery and is famous for river rafting. Book a rafting trip with a local guide company, or take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad for an activity with a slower pace. You can learn more about trains at the museum and check out Cooper Creek Trout Farm & Pond as well for a lovely day out in the town. Lakeview at Fontana is a nice place to stay here.