Five Best Cities to Visit in North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the most geographically diverse states. North Carolina enjoys serenely soft beaches, gently rolling hills, plush forests, and majestic mountains that grace Carolina blue skies. The state’s lively cities and sleepy towns are intertwined with its distinctly lavish natural atmosphere. Since 1789, North Carolina has blossomed into the state that it is today.

In this article, I am going to step back from politics and instead tell you my top 5 cities in North Carolina for any NC traveler. Whether you are traveling from out of the country, out of the state, or even within the state, these 5 cities are sure to impress.

5 - Pinehurst

Pinehurst is home to one of the most elegant golf resorts in the United States, the famed Pinehurst Golf Resort. The resort is open to the public, allowing you to enjoy drinks at the bar or by the fire pit. The town is built around this golfing atmosphere, providing a peaceful, quiet, getaway, even for those who do not enjoy playing golf.

The Pinehurst Spa is well-known in the area and a relaxing way to start a vacation. The village of Pinehurst has a European vibe with large oak trees, small shops, restaurants, pubs, and public gardens.

There are plenty of hotels in the area with most of them having a free shuttle to take you from place to place. The Holly Inn, built in 1895, is walking distance from the Pinehurst village making it a perfect place for safe drinking and dining while perusing the town.

Pinehurst is about two hours' driving distance east of Charlotte (2hr) and about an hour and fifteen minutes from Raleigh (1hr 15min).

If you are flying into North Carolina from out of state, you may have an easier trip flying into the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Although, flight rates may be cheaper to fly into the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

If you are looking for a tranquil vacation with the possibilities of golf, enjoying an old-world sleepy town, and relaxation, Pinehurst is a great place to visit.

4 - Raleigh

Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, so it enjoys an elaborate mix of North Carolina charm, wilderness, and lively city life. There are plenty of forests, trails for hiking and walking, colonial architecture, rolling hills, metropolitan cityscapes, and outdoor adventures to be had. For those well-traveled, Raleigh may remind you of Nashville, Tennessee, for all of the good reasons and then some.

If you are looking for bar hopping, live music, progressive dining experiences, and award-winning restaurants, this is a wonderful place to visit. Raleigh used to be more of a sleepy town, but over the years it has seen major growth in the technology sector, banking, and real estate, establishing it as one of the wealthier cities in North Carolina.

One of the nicest hotels near the downtown area is the AC Hotel by Marriott Raleigh Downtown. This modern yet comfortable hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of the booming downtown, but the rooms remain quiet and safe throughout the night. There is a rooftop restaurant and bar in the hotel overlooking parts of the city where even locals enjoy gathering.

Suppose you want to visit a fun city in North Carolina. In that case, I recommend visiting Raleigh in late Spring to early summer to enjoy a peaceful morning brunch, green vegetation on your comfortable afternoon hike, an easy breezy rooftop diner with a view, and perfect weather for nightlife adventures.

3 - Charlotte

Charlotte is one of the most diverse cities in North Carolina. It is diverse geographically, culturally, and experientially. I don’t say that just because Charlotte is my hometown, but also because it is the truth. Charlotte is the most populated city in North Carolina and the fifteenth-largest city in the U.S.

Charlotte has plenty of adventures for almost everyone. Charlotte is home to NASCAR, the Carolina Panthers football team, the Charlotte Hornets basketball team, the U.S. National Whitewater Center, The Discovery Place Science Museum, and the Accenture IMAX Dome Theatre.

Charlotte also benefits from classical and modern museums, world-class chefs, international cuisine, country cooking, microbreweries, plush hiking trails for easy walks, ballets, operas, theatrical productions, shopping, a live music scene, a hilarious comedy scene, and classical and modern architecture.

An extra aspect of what makes Charlotte a unique city in North Carolina is how spread out it is. While the previous two cities mentioned are more convenient to the inner city region, Charlotte has plenty to do in and on the city's outskirts.

If you are looking to take in the majestic old world while being conveniently located for outdoor or indoor fun in the downtown area, check out The Duke Mansion for your stay. This hotel blends Southern charm with modern comforts and was a home owned by James Buchanan Duke who helped start Duke Energy and Duke University.

2 - Nags Head

Nags Head, North Carolina, is located along the northeastern part of the Outer Banks which is a long strip of land and islands on the coast of NC. It is a prime spot to enjoy clean, calm, public beaches graced by wild beach grass, a prime spot for watching the sunrise and sunset over the ocean, a unique location for moonrises and moonsets, and convenient to tour other famous attractions in the area. The Nags Head Pier is a great location for fishing and enjoying a walk. Nags Head is also home to the tallest active sand dune system in the eastern United States - Jockey’s Ridge State Park - a great place to watch the sunset with a lifted view.

Nags Head is about 20 minutes south of Kitty Hawk, which is the site of the first airplane flight by the Wright Brothers (NC is First in Flight). Nags Head is about 15 minutes north of Bodie Island Lighthouse, about 20 minutes east of Manns Harbor Alligator River Kayak Tour, 15 minutes east of Roanoke Island where the famous Lost Colony was located, and about 50 minutes south of Corolla where wild Spanish horses freely roam the beaches.

When visiting Nags Head, I found that it is much more peaceful to stay off the beaten path. Check out the bed and breakfast historic Outer Banks inn called the White Doe Inn. It is an old home converted into a luxurious inn located in the village of Manteo on Roanoke Island fifteen minutes west of Nags Head.

Nags Head is the perfect balance of sleepy beach town life, calming views, relaxing beaches, historical sightseeing, and outdoor adventure. The Atlantic Ocean is warmer than the Pacific Ocean, so it is also more conducive for swimming, seashell and sharktooth hunting, and temperately warm nights.

1- Asheville

Asheville is a city located in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. It is a little over two hours west of Charlotte, almost four hours west of Raleigh, two hours south of Boone, about an hour east of Cherokee, and about four and a half hours east of Nashville.

Asheville is a perfect mountain getaway for those seeking mountain and valley views, plush green forests, river kayaking, easy-to-difficult hiking options, progressive dining experiences, award-winning bars, tasty inebriants, and old-world allure.

This Carolina town has a perfect medley of NC country style, outdoor escapades, natural hippy vibes, sophisticated intellectuals, laid-back craft breweries, old-money luxury, artistically forward-thinking individuals, and musical artists for every genre. The downtown is easily accessible and offers a variety of restaurants and bars. There are a ton of artists, so there are plenty of museums, art shops, and pop-up shows to enjoy.

Asheville is home to the largest private residence in the United States - The Biltmore Estate. This chateau has around 178,926 sq ft (16,622.8 m2) of floor space and 135,280 sq ft (12,568 m2) of living area sitting on 8,000 acres (12.5 sq miles). There are horseback riding trails nearby, and plenty to see outdoors.

When staying in Asheville, I recommend staying at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville. This place is more than an ordinary hotel. It offers a blend of cabin luxury with metropolitan artistic touches. If Bell and Gaston from The Beauty And The Beast had a home together, this hotel would have to be the center of their story in all of the best ways.

If you want to visit North Carolina and enjoy a true North Carolina city that encompasses a countryside and city atmosphere, Asheville is the place to tour. You will surely find more in this town than mentioned, as it is a true treasure trove of opportunities.

Joshua D. Glawson is Content Manager for and a writer and speaker in the Liberty Movement. He has been active with the Libertarian Party of California since 2015. He now resides in his home state of North Carolina. Check him out at Home - Joshua D. Glawson (

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