Things to Do in North Carolina Bucket List

Welcome to our things to do in North Carolina bucket list.

This is your hub for all the best places to visit in NC, including top North Carolina attractions, cool cities and small towns, unique outdoor adventures, beautiful beaches and mountain getaways.

Things to do in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Wrightsville Beachone of the best things to do in North Carolina

In this post down below, you’ll find links to our content on each region.

That includes things to do, best tips, recommended hotels, tours and deals. We’re adding to this the more we explore North Carolina, so keep checking back.

All of our content is based upon personal travel experience, not desk research. We walk our talk so can give you the most relevant and personal recommendations and stories.

We live in Raleigh, and have finally stopped full time travel, so be prepared for loads of North Carolina content.

Be sure to check all of our USA travel tips, as we’ve been exploring the country in-depth for the past year on short breaks, getaways, road trips, and a year long RV trip of the American West.

Our North Carolina Bucket List ideas (so far)

This is what we’ve personally experienced in North Carolina so far:

The Lodge on Lake Lure, North Carolina

North Carolina Mountains

A mountain getaway is easy in North Carolina with the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s also home to my favorite lake in the US

Book Car Rental for NC

Booking North Carolina Accommodation

Each of the posts below have accommodation recommendations specific to the destination and from our personal experiences + ones we have thoroughly reviewed. We recommend the following two booking sites:


North Carolina Video Playlist

What Are Your Favorite Things to do in NC?

As you can see from the comments, we already have so many wonderful tips on places to visit in NC. Please shares yours as well.

We absolutely love living in North Carolina, it’s one of our favorite US states, and we are huge North Carolina Tar Heels fans and love getting among the college sports scene.

We know there are so many places we have yet to see and places we need to explore more of in NC.

So, when we visit again we still want to experience the popular attractions in North Carolina, but can you suggest other places to visit? What are your best tips for a vacation in NC? 

Some experiences on our North Carolina bucket list that we have not done include:

  • Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Explore the Outer Banks
  • Eat BBQ – NC is famous for it
  • Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington (content coming soon)
  • Carolina basketball game – we’ve been to loads! No content yet.

Please share your tips in the comments section down below.

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What are the best places to visit in North Carolina? Help us create our NC bucket list.

30 thoughts on “Things to Do in North Carolina Bucket List”

  1. Visit NC has an incredible website that I use for all my travel planning. And though I know personal tips are best, it is a great resource. I’m a huge Outer Banks fan – we’ve stayed at the very low-key Cape Hatteras Motel right on the ocean. You dare not miss Duck Donuts – several locations in the Outer Banks – and Jockeys Ridge State Park is awesome for the kids to run and slide on the dunes. I live close to Asheville and I would recommend Nine Mile and Plant restaurants. If you like your desserts, you must visit The Chocolate Lounge – but be prepared for a line during peak times. If you’re there on a Saturday night in the summer, then don’t miss Shindig on the Green for some typical NC bluegrass music and dancing. As for breweries, Asheville Brewing has outdoor dining and games for the kids but my favorite is Wicked Weed and their rooftop seating. So much more – North Carolina has so much to offer – I hope you enjoy it!

    1. Hey Jill, will be sure to check out the Visit NC website for their tips on things to do in North Carolina. But like you said, I love personal tips so thanks for sharing your advice on the Outer Banks firstly, ha ha Duck Donuts it is.

      And appreciate the tips for Asheville as well. We plan on eating and drinking and exploring our way through all of North Carolina. Can’t wait.

    2. I 2nd the call to Duck Donuts. I’ve never had anything else like it. Rent a surfboard while you are in OBX. It is a good time of year there for surfing.

      1. OK, Duck Donuts it is, lol. And our daughter has been learning how to surf, sounds good. Thanks for sharing your tips on things to do in North Carolina Zach.

  2. Few suggestions for you guys while in NC
    1. While spending time in Asheville, take a trip South/SW of asheville to Dupont Forest and Gorges State Park. Great places to be in the Fall, especially if you love the fall foliage all along blue ridge. Check out Mount Pisgah campground along blue ridge and Linville gorge should provide you with some excellend hikes.
    2. Hanging Rock state park and Pilot Mountain are close to each other and offers decent hiking trails near Greensboro/Winston-Salem area
    3. I assume you guys will be visiting your old stomping grounds in the triangle, visit downtown durham and plan a dinner at Counting House restaurant within the 21c museum hotel or if you are interested in some southern food fare, check out Dame’s chicken and waffles. While you are in downtown Durham, if you guys are interested in visiting distillery, you can take a tour at Durham Distillery. They make excellent Gin and amazing Liqueurs (my fav is chocolate liqueur).
    I hope this helps.

    1. Hey Sen,

      Appreciate the tips for around Asheville. Definitely hoping to take in those fall colors along Blue Ridge Parkway.

      Sounds good about those hiking trails around Greensboro/Winston-Salem.

      And yes, absolutely visiting our old stomping grounds, but always new things to see and do and eat. So great tips for Durham thanks!

  3. I lived in Wilmington for two years and still have family there. Top experiences in/around Wilmington are: Wrightsville Beach, Carnivorous Plant Hike in Carolina Beach State Park (if you come in the summer go on a thursday for fireworks in CB), Airlie Gardens, Riverboat Cruise, Cape Fear Riverboat Cruise, visiting Southport (which closes up early) and the USS North Carolina Battleship. There’s high turnover in restaurants, but the George off the Cape Fear River (Downtown Wilmington) and Bluewater in Wrightsville Beach (great crab cakes) have been there since at least the late 90s. Be sure to visit the Blue Mountains when visiting Asheville, we went zip lining with Navitat and had a great time.

  4. I’m a little late to the post but if you’ve never visited Cape Lookout National Seashore and Lighthouse on the Southern Outer Banks, you are missing out on a secluded little treasure. It’s a barrier island only accessible by boat. The lighthouse sits on the southern end with great beach areas. The spring and fall seasons are prime surf fishing while the summer months are perfect for a relaxing beach get away (if you like rustic) where you have miles of beach to yourself. The National Park Service operates the cabin rentals, Great Island Cabin Camps, through the recreation.gov website. You can take a private ferry, Davis Shore Ferry Service, if you’d like to take your four wheel drive vehicle to the island to explore. The ferry business is a small family owned operation, now on it’s 4th generation ferry boat Captain. Reservations are required to get your vehicle over but often the summer is a slower time for the island if you want to stay a few nights in the cabins. Be warned you have to bring pretty much everything you would need but if you are looking for an affordable, secluded beach vacation you can’t beat it.

    1. Never too late Samantha. And grateful for you taking the time to share your tips on things to do in North Carolina. Excited to explore the Outer Banks!

  5. I’m from Virginia but have spent a lot of enjoyable time in my neighbor state of North Carolina. To a bucket list I would add: ride the ferry to Okacroke Island, see the Hattress lighthouse, visit the Folk Art Center at milepost 382 of the Blue Ridge Parkway (near Asheville), see the Biltmore, visit the Smokey Montains National Park, of course hike somewhere in the mountains.

  6. Wow, so many helpful comments! I started following you guys when ibwas an American in Canberra, now living in Craven County, NC towards the coast.. if you need anything out this way let me know.. even if it’s just for some snores and trampoline fun! Also Fort Macon is a fun and free spot

  7. Paula Harrington

    Cherokee Indian Reservation near Ashville is great. They have reintroduced elk up there and they can be seen out around the pioneer village as you are heading toward Gatlinburg. Mingo Falls is also out that way, along with a old time gristmill. If you are in the Wilmington/Wrightsville beach a good place coffee is Bitty and Beau’s and Hang Ten for burgers if you at Carolina Beach. Weymouth Woods is a good hiking and nature spot.

      1. Swan Days Festival is in Dec. The Tundra swans start migrating in late October, peaking in December. Check out their Facebook page!

  8. One of the gems in the ENC area that I highly recommend is a stay at the Big Mill Bed & Breakfast in Williamston NC. It is a historic town on the Roanoke River which is also a 20 minute drive from the beautiful Washington waterfront. Also on Windsor NC is on the Cashie river which has recently built treehouses you can stay in. In Jamesville NC you can visit Mackeys Ferry peanuts, and it wouldn’t be trip if you didn’t stop at Deadwood for a bite to eat in Beargrass!

    1. Hey Gina, thanks for your tip to have a stay at the Big Mill Bed & Breakfast in Williamston. Love historic areas and rivers. And those tree houses sound like fun. Appreciate your other tips too on things to do in North Carolina.

  9. The Duke Lemur Center in Durham is amazing. Its the largest lemur reservation in the world. They try to resemble the lemurs natural habitat so they have a huge forest for them to roam freely. When you walk through the lemurs are swinging right above you and sometimes they even come right up to you.

  10. I’m not sure when you’re taking this trip or if you’ve already visited, but I would definitely considering adding these things:

    – Walk the Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain State Park. This is close to Boone and Blowing Rock, which are also really popular destinations.
    – Clingmans Dome is a great mountain viewpoint with 100 miles visible on clear days, although it’s on the NC / TN state line (here’s my post on it; http://www.mymeenalife.com/clingmans-dome-north-carolina/)
    – Drive the Tail of the Dragon.
    – If you’ve lived in Raleigh then perhaps you already know about New Bern on the coast, it’s a beautiful European inspired city.
    – Carowinds in Charlotte if you’re into theme parks, they have a lovely new coaster Fury 325 that is one of the worlds best steel coasters.

    I’m a NC native and I live in Charlotte so I love to see people exploring this state, it’s definitely an underrated destination in my opinion!

  11. Stay at Blue Bear Mountain Camp in Boone, NC and you can stay in one of their amazing teepees. Look them up on facebook to see the awesome pics. Not what you would imagine a tepee to look like inside! Here is their website with info and you can probably talk them into a free stay if you write a story about them! http://www.bluebearmountain.com/tepee.php

  12. Come visit us in Hickory. We are located along Interstate 40 so we are a great stop over point when you are crossing the state! We have the states second oldest brewery – Olde Hickory Brewery and also have a great mix of Farm to Table restaurants that are locally owned and sourced from our many local farms! Highland Avenue, Boca (Authentic Moroccan cuisine) and many others! Hickory is known for its well crafted and fine tailored furniture so if you’re in the market for some new items for your home we invite you to stop in at our 1 million square foot Furniture Mart – its discounted well below retail! Its definitely worth the trip – they ship all around the world too! 🙂 Depending on the time of year we have many festivals including one of the East Coasts largest Oktoberfest’s – we have a huge German heritage here and we love Beer! 🙂 Happy to offer a lot more fun things to do and also happy to talk with you guys! Safe travels!

    -Sarah 🙂

  13. Wild horses on Corolla, NC
    Visit all lighthouses in the Outer Banks
    Go Shelling at Shakleford Island and while there see the wild ponies on that island
    Walk the park of Linville Gorge
    Sit in the natural hot springs in HOt Springs,NC

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