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Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

Glaziers Bay...
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31 posts
66 reviews
Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

We are 3 Australian adults that are going to be travelling to the USA in May 2013

Our flight will be landing in Dallas on 1st May 2013 and we are planning to stay 2 nights in Fort Worth before flying to New York.

We will be staying 10 nights in Brooklyn and 1 or 2 nights in Hummelstown (PA)  it's from here that we would appreciate any advice re where to go, what to do and see.

We have 3 weeks before we have to be back in Dallas. We are not committed to any single place, just wishing to drive and enjoy the sights, sounds and the foods that the country has to offer.

Our last trip - 2 years ago - took us to Camden (Maine) and the  main cities (Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas) we flew or caught a bus or train to most of these places.  This time we want to take our time and explode the South. 

We will be driving and want to stay away from the main highways.

We  hope to be able to experience the more local experiences. (preferably off the beaten track) and stay away from the 'cheesy' tourist attractions.

A rough outline of our route is: 

Brooklyn - Hummelstown (PA)

Hummelstown - Richmond (VA)

Richmond - Petersburg (VA)

Petersburg - Raleigh (NC)

Raleigh - Fayetteville (NC)

Fayetteville - Wilmington (NC)

Wilmington - Myrtle Beach (NC)

Myrtle Beach - Charleston (SC)

Charleston - Columbia (SC)

Columbia - Charlotte (NC)

Charlotte - Knoxville(TN)

Knoxville - Nashville (TN)

Nashville - Memphis (TN)

Memphis - Little Rock (AR) 

Little Rock - Dallas (TX)

Any advice re places to visit or things not to miss.

Chapel Hill, North...
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1. Re: Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

IMO, you're really not seeing the best of NC at all with this list.

Don't go to Fayetteville unless you're big military buffs. It's utterly without charm and certainly not worth including in any itinerary unless you want to see the 82nd Airborne Museum.

The main highways are really not a bad idea sometimes. The smaller roads, unless they are noticeably shorter in distance, are going to have traffic lights and usually are going to take a lot longer.

You said you wanted to avoid cheesy tourist attractions and yet you've got Myrtle Beach on your list. I can't imagine a bigger and cheesier tourist attraction in the US. You've also got all major cities on your list so by definition they're not very "off the beaten track".

Here's my advice, I would not worry about "main roads vs back roads" at all.

If you're looking for some out of the way places to explore I'll offer a list of small towns and interesting areas. Also check out http://www.ourstate.com . It's the website for a really nice magazine about North Carolina. Unfortunately I don't like the redesign for the official North Carolina tourist site, but you might find some good tips there, too http://www.visitnc.com as well as just exploring Trip Advisor.

Okay here's my list of places you might like to check out. I'll start with the coast. You can't include a stop to everywhere, but this is just a jumping off place for you. Take what interests you and go with it.

-The Outer Banks, including Corolla (wild horses), Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk (site of the Wright Bros flight), Nags Head, Manteo, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke (quaint small town accessible only by ferry), many lighthouses to see

- Edenton, Plymouth (historic small towns)

- New Bern (home of historic Tryon Palace http://www.tryonpalace.org/)

- Beaufort NC (home of Blackbeard's shipwreck "The Queen Anne's Revenge, and the Maritime Museum), Cape Lookout, beach towns like Emerald Isle

- Wilmington is a fine town, but Charleston does the Olde South thing better. We get some tourists posting here that they really want to go to Wilmington because it's where Dawson's Creek and One Tree Hill were filmed. If that's a draw for you then keep it on your list, but if not you might not need it since you've got Charleston. Lots of beautiful beaches south of Wilmington in Brunswick county, too.

- Southport NC, very quaint historic coastal town. You can catch the ferry from Ft Fisher (Civil War site) and the Aquarium.

- Going further inland, if you find yourself near Goldsboro you can stop at Wilber's for some BBQ. North of Goldsboro and south of Wilson is the tiny town of Lucama, home to outsider artist Vollis Simpson and his whiligigs (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/814). The town of Wilson is planning on opening a whirligig park (http://www.wilsonwhirligigpark.org) with his sculptures Nov 2013 but as far as I know they are still at his home in Lucama right now. I haven't been down there, though, so couldn't say for certain.

- Greenville NC is home to East Carolina University if you want to stop there

- Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill comprise the "Triangle" region of North Carolina. Lots of interesting stuff going on in this area, but certainly not "off the beaten path". It's one of the most populous parts of the state. Home to Duke University, NC State University, and the University of North Carolina (at Chapel Hill). Chapel Hill (and sister town Carrboro) is by far the smallest of the three points and there are many other towns and small cities in the region. If you're looking for small towns in this part of the state you might also check out Hillsborough (historic), Pittsboro, and teeny Saxapahaw. If you're in Saxy on a Saturday afternoon/evening you can catch some free music at their weekly farmer's market. If you liked the outsider art idea, check out Bynum between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro and home to Clyde Jones (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11595).

- Avoid Fayetteville unless you're interested in the military

- But in the Sandhills region, you might be interested in Southern Pines and Pinehurst, especially if you're a golfer. Pinehurst has been home to many of the major golf tournaments over the years.

- The Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem region is known as the Triad (not to be confused with the Triangle) and has some interesting stuff going on. Home to several universities, many museums, and also Old Salem if you're into history (http://www.oldsalem.org) .

- Asheboro, south of the Triad, is home to the NC Zoo, which is a large expansive natural habitat zoo and generally regarded as one of the best natural habitat zoos around. http://nczoo.org You can get some good BBQ here too at the Blue Mist. The Uwharrie mountains, some of the oldest (and consequently smallest, having been most eroded over time) in the world are here. Take a hike if you've a mind, or head up to the bigger mts in the western part of the state.

- Another BBQ mecca in NC is Lexington. We really take BBQ seriously in NC and there's quite a division of thought over which is best Eastern style or Western style. It's all pork, though, slow cooked and pulled. http://www.ncbbqsociety.com/trail.html

- The Charlotte metro area is highly populated. I'm not sure if the Charlotte Metro area or the Triangle region is more populous. The city of Charlotte, itself, is the biggest city in the state. Many museums, etc, here. Big NASCAR hub if you're into that. Pro sports, basketball (Bobcats) and football (Panthers).

- Heading North out of Charlotte, you could stop at Davidson, home of Davidson College (small, elite, liberal arts school).

- You could make a detour to Love Valley NC, NW of Statesville. It's a cowboy-themed town (http://www.lovevalleync.com) and site of the Love Valley Rock Festival in 1970 (…news-record.com/content/2010/07/14/article/…)

- Heading slightly back east and north, there's Mt Airy, home of Andy Griffith, and the original inspiration for Mayberry. Nearby are Pilot Mountain state park and Hanging Rock State Park.

- In the mountains, there are so many interesting small towns that I can't possibly name them all, so I'll just hit the highlights and let some other folks mention all the ones I leave out. You can catch the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt Airy, but my personal favorite section is the part between Blowing Rock and Asheville. Many other folks like the part south of Asheville. Staying in the NW corner of NC, though, we love the Boone and Blowing Rock area. Tons to see around here. Hike Grandfather Mountain if you're up for the challenge, or you can go 'round to the "attraction" side and get a wonderful view from the Mile High Swinging Bridge (http://www.boonencmagazine.com/blueridgeparkway.html , tarheelcamper.com/2011/09/boone-nc-and-grand… ).

- Other great places to check out in the mts are Valle Crucis ( http://www.vallecrucis.com home of the Mast General Store), tiny Todd NC, Burnsville, Little Switzerland, Marshall, etc

- Asheville is a fantastic city and well worth including on your travels. Can't say enough good things about it, but you might like to explore the TA forum dedicated to Asheville. http://www.exploreasheville.com

- In the Asheville area are Black Mountain , Swannanoa, Montreat, Hendersonville, Chimney Rock, Waynesville, Brevard, Cherokee, Bryson City, Cullowhee, and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Hope that helps!

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1,302 posts
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2. Re: Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

Pancho, I could not have said that better. Great post and good info! I hope you don't mind my repeating a few things, but they might bear repeating.

3Aussies, is there a reason you want to go to Raleigh? As Pancho said, there are some nice small towns in that area, but I would not make Raleigh a destination unless there was something in particular you wanted to see. Ditto for Fayetteville. Check out the North Carolina Outer Banks and Beaufort, NC area instead. Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Cape Lookout National Seashore are absolutely beautiful.

I visit Wilmington-Wrightsville Beach-Southport and enjoy them. But, Charleston was named Conde Nast #1 city in the USA and the #3 city in the world for good reason. Spend your time in Charleston. If there is something you want to check out in the Wilmington area, use your time judiciously.

Remove Myrtle Beach from your list. As Pancho said, it is the ultimate tourist attraction city (lots of things to do) but truly, it will not be your cup of tea. Someone may mention Gatlinburg, TN in the Great Smoky Mountains to you at some point--ditto there.

Again, is there a reason you want to visit Columbia, SC and Charlotte, NC? Asheville/ Blue Ridge Parkway/Appalachian Mountains is where you want to spend your time. If you want to spend a day or so in a small town in South Carolina, Greenville in upstate South Carolina is lovely.

If you don't mind the extra driving, I would substitute Chattanooga, TN for Knoxville, TN. Chattanooga is a wonderful city to visit.

Substitute Hot Springs, AR for Little Rock, AR. Hot Springs is lovely. On a final note, if you love to swim in a beautiful lake, check out Lake Ouchita outside Hot Springs. You can even rent a houseboat on Lake Ouchita.

Glaziers Bay...
Level Contributor
31 posts
66 reviews
3. Re: Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

Thank you all for your fantastic advice,

We will definitely have to reconsider our route with all this wonderfull advice.

We are planning to plot all of the places recommended on a map and then reassess. We would love to see everything, but that is just not realistic.

Our interests definitely relate to the food, the culture, sport (my husband wants to catch a baseball game if possible), shopping as well as the scenery.

Whilst we are not specifically wanting to see where certain movies or TV shows were filmed, we do love the look of some of the locations used in movies such as "The Help" "Forrest Gump" and "Bull Durham" to name but a few

For those of you who asked why we chose the towns/cities that we did, this relates mainly to the maps we were using - they did not drill down to the smaller locations, and websites such as the local tourist information sites can be very overwhelming at times.

Re the distances we are travelling - we dont mind this, its common place in Australia to be driving these distances.

Thank you again to all. We will update this forum of our plans once we have plan no. 2 in draft form.


3 Aussies

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1,302 posts
68 reviews
4. Re: Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

That makes sense, 3Aussies. And I wasn't trying to be negative when I asked you why you chose places. :) Sometimes, people have particular reasons (like the movies you mentioned, seeing friends, or attending an event). The mountains and coast are definitely the big draws in both North Carolina and South Carolina, though.

If you decide to to visit the central part of the state of North Carolina and you like pottery, check out Seagrove, North Carolina.


I guess you could say this is the town that pottery built! You will find over 100 potters in Seagrove.

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497 posts
5. Re: Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

I won't post an " epistle" - I could not match the quality of the previous. :) BUT - if you do find yourself in the Myrtle beach area....there are some nice places ( or it wouldn't be the second most popular destination in the country behind Orlando). I'll recommend one - Brookgreen Gardens .... south of Myrtle. It';s delightful. Best wishes.

Chapel Hill, North...
Level Contributor
10,037 posts
39 reviews
6. Re: Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

3Aussies, Durham (not Raleigh) is a great place to catch a baseball game. The Bulls have a new stadium now, but they still have the snorting Bull up on the outfield wall. baseballpilgrimages.com/snorting-bull-durham…

For Forrest Gump, you might like to check out Grandfather Mountain near Linville, Boone, Blowing Rock. There's a curve on the drive up to the top named the "Forrest Gump" curve. filminglocationsdetectives.com/films/images/… filminglocationsdetectives.com/films/forrest…

But Forrest Gump was filmed all across the US so there are lots of locations you could go to for that one: movie-locations.com/movies/f/ForrestGump.html

"The Help" was filmed in Mississippi so you'd need to adjust your route if you want to see those locations: reel-scout.com/blog/… but I think there are lots of places like that in SC, and SE NC.

Lots of movies and TV shows have been filmed in NC, though. They're currently filmed "Iron Man 3" down near Wilmington and the big hit "The Hunger Games" was filmed in NC. This site might be of interest: http://www.ncfilm.com/film-archives.html .


Glaziers Bay...
Level Contributor
31 posts
66 reviews
7. Re: Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

Thank you all for your fantastic advice,

We have reconsidered our route based on a lot of the fantastic advice received from this website and all of the forum advisors.

So following is draft version 2. 

We recognise that we have just 5 weeks, and there is only so much you can pack into that time and still call it a holiday.

So here goes:

Day 1 - fly Sydney to Dallas stay Dallas (2 days)

Day 3 - Fly Dallas to new York (staying in Brooklyn for 10 days)

Day 13- Drive to Hummelstown PA (2 days)

Day 15- Drive to  Charlottsville VA  (2 days)

Day 17- Drive to Durham NC (3 days)

Day 20 - Drive to Edenton NC (2 days)

Day 22- Drive to Wilmington NC (1 day)

Day 23- Drive to Beaufort SC (3 days)

Day 26 - Drive to Asheville NC (2 days)

Day 28- Drive to Nashville TN (4 days)

Day 32- Drive down 'Natches parkway' to Tupelo MS (1 day)

Day 33- Drive to Memphis TN (3 days)

Day 36- It's time to go home - flight Dallas to Sydney.

In each of these area's there appears to be so much to explore, and we thank you for all of your advice.

PS.  Departure date from Sydney is not till May 2013, so our next plan is to identify our accommodation and where to catch a baseball game.

We have discovered a website - Select Registry - (www.selectregistry.com) that provides for some amazing B&B's and similar style accommodation.

Please feel free to comment and advise further


3 Aussies

Destination Expert
for Chattanooga, Blowing Rock, North Carolina Mountains
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152 reviews
8. Re: Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

Hello 3 Aussies,

I agree with so much already said, but still think there could be fine tuning for your itinerary. I do not know what is in Edenton, NC for 2 days, maybe you can clarify. If you are only staying in Wilmington for 1 day, stay near the beach. It is a shame that you omitted the Blowing Rock area from your holiday. The area is just beautiful and quaint and you would be missing a large section of North Carolina. You could also drive the Blue Ridge Parkway from Blowing Rock to Asheville and enjoy some of the best of the best.

Now, onto Tennessee. Eastern Tennessee is beautiful. The further west you do, the less interesting the land topography becomes. When we drive from Asheville to Chattanooga, we do come the back roads, through Waynesville, Murphy NC, Nantahala Gorge and Ocoee George and into Chattanooga. Beautiful countryside!! The drive from Chattanooga to Nashville is 2.5 hours and Nashville is one hour behind in time.

Chattanooga is a beautiful town, with a vibrant downtown area. We are mostly surrounded by mountains and the Tennessee River flows through the heart of the city. Very user-friendly and has a welcoming personality for visitors from all over the world. I think you may want to reconsider the 7 days combined between Nashville and Memphis and come to Chattanooga also.

Below are some suggestions that might help you.

1) Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum www.tvrail.com

The largest operating railroad museum in the state.

2) Coolidge Park. This beautiful park features the antique carousel that has been restored and your child has a choice of 52 beautiful carved animals to ride. Docked on the Tennessee River at the park is the Delta Queen that has become a hotel.

Along the river on the south shore is the Riverwalk, that follows the Tennessee with beautiful scenery and interesting sights along the way. Walk across the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge from the South Shore to the North Shore

3) Reflection Riding Arboretum & Botanical Garden www.reflectionriding.org

4) Tennessee Aquarium World's largest fresh water aquarium. Absolutely fabulous!!! www.tnaqua.org

5) Rock City Gardens Lookout Mountain. For the young and the old! www.seerockcity.com

6) Bluff View Art District www.bluffviewartdistrict.com

7) Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge


1-800-322-3344 www.chattanoogafun.com










Linville Falls and Gorge





Craggy Gardens

Chimney Rock


Chapel Hill, North...
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10,037 posts
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9. Re: Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

3Aussies, I think 3 days in Durham may be a bit much. I mean, there are definitely things to see and do around here, but I'd take one of those days and add it to Wilmington, myself. The beach is a big draw.

Queenie, Edenton is a historic port city, so I think there are things to do there, but I haven't been so couldn't say if there are two days worth.

3Aussies, you might consider New Bern (http://www.visitnewbern.com) instead. It's also a historic port city with colonial Tryon Palace (http://www.tryonpalace.org) right there and would put you a little closer to Wilmington. Beaufort, NC (http://www.beaufortnc.org) is also a very nice little historic port town.

I agree with Queenie that Boone and Blowing Rock are nice destinations, but I'm glad you're going to Asheville. It's a wonderful town, too. It's hard to do both the coast and the mts in NC on a road trip, but you've got a pretty good route planned.

Raleigh, North...
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10. Re: Visiting North Carolina - Any advice re places to explore

Hi, you all, haha....Michigan born transplant to North Carolina typing.... Super big ditto for staying less time in Durham. Add New Bern for a day, great tours of historic houses and the Tryon Palace. All along the way to Edenton; another lovely city on the inland water as New Bern.

We travel for summer vacations north to visit friends and family and we love the Virginia area. You can't go wrong with any area along HWY 81 / Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge parkway are both a little bit of heaven.

The topography in the distance along both roads is layered in tree adorned mountain ridges and valleys.

Yes, the mountains near Asheville are a must!

While in Raleigh / Durham area visit a little community of Pittsboro ( small quaint antique type town- bedroom community to Chapel Hill ) the Pittsboro Roadhouse has great light meals also plug in Fearrington NC. Pulled pork, or as they say here, BBQ pork and slaw, is definitely on your list for taste buds. In the north BBQ was made with beef, so I too enjoyed a new flavor to my BBQ sandwiches.

I would enjoy the drive through Virginia to NC. Look up cities: South Boston VA, Clarksville VA ( on the lakeshore of Kerr Lake, along HWY 58 towards Boydton VA and then south into North Carolina towards: Warrenton, Henderson, Oxford, all rich in Plantation history. It is depleted from it's original wealth, at one time early 1900's it was the wealthiest area of NC. You will notice on the map HWY 1 at this point you will be traveling south directly towards Raleigh. Durham and Chapel Hill will be to the west via HWY 40 or going into Durham first you might take HWY 85. Kerr Lake is beautiful. Coming from Michigan, I had no idea until moving here how green the state is overall and lots of lakes and ponds.

I need to look up some specifics to suggest up in Virginia.

I wrote this rather impulsively, hope it is helpful.

Greetings from the States, Enjoy! Sue B