As you plan for your next trip, you may be looking for a fantastic location to visit that's not one of the big, more well-known cities in North Carolina. There are many smaller towns in the state to explore that offer various activities for all types of interests and for everyone in the family. So check out the best small towns to visit in North Carolina when you want to do something exciting but different.
Edenton is one of the best locations for a romantic getaway. Located in the Inner Banks, this small town is noted for its numerous historic buildings, including the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse and the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse. Also, consider a walk along the Edenton Museum Trail, where you can take a self-guided tour of locations like the Old Colonial Wharf, Hugh Williamson Monument, and the Old Jail.
Nags Head, located in the Outer Banks, is a beautiful oceanfront city noted for its beaches and family-friendly amenities. It's also a fun place for sandboarding, which is much like snowboarding but on the massive sand dunes located here. You may also want to try out hang gliding. Make some time to take some photos on the Outer Banks Fishing Pier, where the huge waves crash into the rocks below, swaying the pier just a bit but creating the perfect backdrop for the sunset.
Located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway is Blowing Rock, a town known as the oldest vacation destination in the state. A few things make this an interesting place to visit, including Mystery Hill, a fun site for science lovers to explore the natural gravitational anomaly that has you standing at an angle when standing up straight because gravity doesn't work as expected. Check out the Sky Valley Zip Tours for a canopy tour at night and tour the gemstone mines to find hidden treasures.
With the Sugar Mountain Resort and Beech Mountain Resort within 10 minutes of Banner Elk, it's quite the popular option for skiing. You can also ride the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, a two-person cart that zooms down the mountain at 27 miles per hour. Banner Elk is also an excellent location for biking, horseback riding, and river tubing fun during the warmer months. You can also explore the Linville Caverns and Tweetsie Railroad while visiting.
For adventure seekers who love to kayak, the salt marshes in Southport are a fabulous experience. The estuaries, which comprise some 220,000 acres of land in the state, are grassy, muddy, and fun to paddle through. If you don't want the workout, consider taking a boat tour along the Cape Fear River instead. Stop at the Museum of Coastal Carolina to learn about natural history or the Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park for go-karts, laser tag, and more.
With 250 waterfalls, Brevard is a hiker's and mountain biker's paradise, with its densely wooded 100,000 acres of public lands. Many people bike along the mountain paths or down the rocky paths. The streams are perfect for fly fishing, and the trees are great for birding. After a long day, enjoy the live music, breweries, and galleries in downtown Brevard.
Hillsborough has a number of notable buildings for history lovers to explore, including the Burwell School Historic Site, which was a young ladies' school in the 1840s, and the Orange County Historical Museum, which has numerous interactive exhibits depicting the region's history. Also, stop in at Eno Arts Mill or the Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery and Gift Shop to find local artisan treasures.
Home to the Deep Creek Recreation Area—part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—Bryson City is a beautiful outdoor location noted for three waterfalls. You can go tubing, horseback riding, and splash in the creeks. Also, make the trek up to the Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Smokies, to catch an incredible view.
Mount Airy is said to be the town that inspired Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show, "one of television's classic comedies. You can walk along the Main Street area, visit Floyd's City Barber Shop, check out the Old Mayberry Jail, and see the Andy Griffith Museum. You can also check out the Mayberry squad cars, visit the Aunt Bee's Room, and stop in for a meal at the Snappy Lunch.
Hiking, fishing, and biking are popular activities in Morganton, but one of the best experiences is a visit to Thermal Valley Hang Gliding. Learn how to fly solo or make one of the tandem trips with instructors. You can also check out the zip line along the tree canopy or explore the scenic rural backcountry along the Catawba River.
A small village in Moore County, Pinehurst is home to one of the most celebrated golf courses in the world. In the downtown area, you'll also find beautiful storefronts for window shopping and many small cafes to while away an afternoon. Tour the Golf Pride Global Innovation Center, where you can bring your favorite clubs for regripping.
Manteo is an Outer Banks community noted for its simple lifestyle. Bring along a fishing rod to sit along the waterfront boardwalk to fish. There's a full marina where you can book a charter to head out into deeper waters. You can tour the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse and the Pioneer Theater, a one-room theater established in 1918.
Highlands is the type of mountain getaway that takes you back in time to stunning views, a small town center, and local diners. It's also an excellent choice for a spa and massage-filled weekend. If you want a bit more to do, visit the Highlands Botanical Gardens to walk along a garden path or find out what is playing at the Highlands Playhouse. A romantic dinner at Madison's Restaurant and Wine Garden will round out your trip.
Franklin's historic trails take you on a tour of the region's history. The Cherokee Heritage Trails and North Carolina Civil War Trails allow you to learn about the Thomas Legion, the surrender at Dixie Hall, and the Nikwasi Village. You may also wish to explore the Macon County Historical Museum and Scottish Tartans Museum, both of which provide added historical insights.
Lake Lure is also the home of Chimney Rock State Park. Climb to the top of Chimney Rock for a spectacular view of the mountains surrounding the region. To learn a bit more about the area, book a hike with a local naturalist and do some birdwatching. There are rock climbing opportunities here, too. Enjoy the leaves changing in the fall as well as the small shops and restaurants.