Most Popular “Things To Do Near Me” In North Carolina

North Carolina is big, so depending on where you are, ‘near me’ can bring up wildly diverse choices. We’ve put together 11 of the most popular ‘near me’ things to do that cover a good portion of the state. Whether you are near the Outer Banks, the heart of Charlotte, or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll find something to fit your style.

1. Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway is a spectacular drive through the Appalachian Mountains. Go with a friend so you can take turns absorbing the incredible scenery. Don’t rush, as there are many scenic stops along the route. Take the time to stop at them all.

Driving the full length of Blue Ridge Parkway takes about 10 to 12 hours if you do not stop. We suggest planning a 3+ day trip so you can stop and explore as many places as possible. When you are the designated driver, keep your eyes on the road—there is an abundance of wildlife.

2. Outer Banks beaches

The Outer Banks beaches are on the barrier islands of the Atlantic coast. You can drive to the islands and then spend time on the beaches.

Here, you will find more than typical beach activities. Wild Spanish Mustangs roam several of the islands. These exotic horses are descendants from the 1500s when the Spanish imported them. You can also visit several important historical sites, including Kitty Hawk, where Wilbur and Orville Wright took their first flight in 1903.

3. The historic battleship USS North Carolina

You can explore the USS North Carolina close to downtown Wilmington. This first-of-its-kind battleship was completed in 1941. She participated in both the Atlantic and Pacific campaigns during World War II, including the battle for Guadalcanal. A Japanese submarine torpedoed the North Carolina shortly after, but she survived. After the war, she was restored and opened to the public in 1961.

4. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

This is the oldest museum in North Carolina, which opened in 1879. The museum has five campuses:

  • The main campus in downtown Raleigh.
  • Prairie Ridge Ecostation is located 6 miles from downtown Raleigh. Its mission is to create an understanding and appreciation for the natural environment through outdoor learning.
  • Whiteville. Its mission is to celebrate North Carolina’s forests’ natural history and cultural heritage.
  • Contentnea Creek. It features hiking and paddling trails in and around Contentnea Creek. It also has an observatory and outdoor classroom.
  • Greenville. Its mission is to explore life on Earth from the age of the Dinosaurs to today.

5. Biltmore Estate

This fairytale castle/estate is located in Ashville in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is the largest estate in the U.S., formerly the home of George and Edith Vanderbilt.

Now open to the public, the property features impeccably manicured lawns and gardens. Inside, you will find beautiful, original furniture and household items. It’s like taking a step back in time.

6. Chimney Rock State Park

You must be in moderate shape to climb the 500 stairs to this 500-million-year-old monolith (or you can take the elevator). The 315-foot (96 m) Chimney Rock is the star of this national park. You will also find easy to difficult hiking trails, Devil’s Head balancing rock, and Hickory Nut Falls, a 404-foot (123 m) waterfall among a beautiful wooded landscape.

7. North Carolina Aquariums

These three must-visit aquariums are located in Kure Beach, Roanoke Island, and Pine Knoll Shores. You can get up close to exotic fish (including sharks), turtles, and marine mammals from both freshwater and saltwater habitats.

If you live near one of the aquariums, you can volunteer for a hands-on, feet-wet experience. You will help with marine animal conservation and are sure to make friends as well.

8. NASCAR Hall of Fame

Whether you are a NASCAR fan or not, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is worth a visit. You will find exhibits of some of NASCAR’s greatest legends and some of the most iconic race cars.

The exhibits change regularly. We suggest taking the two-hour guided tour your first time through.

9. Carowinds

Carowinds is an amusement park 20 minutes from Charlotte with more than 60 rides. It includes a waterpark, live entertainment venues, and many costumed characters. Kids will love the rides, including some intense rollercoasters that the adults will want to ride. You can also enjoy a cold beer on a hot day between rides or as you send the kids off on their own. If you are traveling through, Carowinds offers a campground and hotel.

10. North Carolina Museum of Art

The museum began collecting art with a $1 million award in 1947 (when $1 million was much more money than it is today). Now, the museum has a collection that spans 5,000 years of history through art. The museum exhibits sculptures, paintings, period furniture, and much more. The collection includes pieces such as “The Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius” by the French artist Pierre-Jacque Volaire.

11. Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain in the north of NC is a 15-minute drive from Linville. It is a popular place to hike and watch wildlife. You can cross the Mile High Swinging Bridge, the highest suspension footbridge in the U.S. Constructed in 1952, it is 228 feet long. You will also find a Nature Museum about halfway to Grandfather Mountain’s summit. Look for cougars, bears, bald eagles, river otters, and elk along the way.

More things to see and do in North Carolina

These eleven popular Tar Heel State stops just scratch the surface. North Carolina is wonderfully full of fun and interesting things to do and explore. Enjoy!

About the Author

Walter Yuhl

Walter (Way) Yuhl is a freelance writer and business professor. Way has written for the Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff Business News, Bangkok University, and Shandong University of Science and Technology as well as edited content for the U.N., Thailand International airports, and other organizations. He has worked with Cantena Media since 2019.