A list of places worth checking out in the region
Whether you want to visit the mountains, the ocean, national forests, or experience high life in the big city, North Carolina has plenty of destinations for you to enjoy.
Travel tips: Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to really enjoy your destination. The mountains of North Carolina are a good 4- to 5-hour drive from Fayetteville, whereas it can take you anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to get to the closest beach.
BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS
If you haven't seen the beautiful spectacle that are the Blue Ridge Mountains in fall, then you're missing out. The mountain range is best enjoyed via the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway once the autumn leaves have changed color. You can also hike or camp in nearby Pisgah National Forest, known for its incredible waterfalls. Info: blueridgeparkway.org or ncblueridge.com.
Few cities in North Carolina are as gorgeous and inviting as Asheville, nestled against the mountains and home to a thriving arts and culture scene complete with unique local eateries, art galleries and music venues. Just outside of the scenic city is the palatial Biltmore Estate, featuring a 250-room mansion situated upon an immaculate 8,000 acres of land containing lush gardens, a vineyard and winery. Info: exploreasheville.com
Other western NC destinations: While you're out west in the mountains, you might want to check out a few spots such as: The Great Smoky Mountains National Forest and Park, the Nantahala National Forest, Stone Mountain, Grandfather Mountain and Chimney Rock.
Also known as the Queen City (in honor of German Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg), Charlotte is home to the NFL's Carolina Panthers, the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, as well as the U.S. National Whitewater Center.
And if you're still looking for fun, just south of the city lies the Carowinds Amusement Park.
The metropolitan city is also full of cultural opportunities, including the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and Opera Carolina, both which perform at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
There's also numerous museums to wile away the day in, such as the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Levine Museum of the New South, the Mint Museum of Art and many more. Charlotte also offers a lot of upscale dining and night-life experiences to round out your visit. Info: charlottesgotalot.com
Our state's capital is just an hour's drive north, and well worth the jaunt. Raleigh, known as the "City of Oaks," has many museums and cultural offerings, starting with the newly renovated N.C. Museum of Art, which maintains one of the premier art collections on the east coast. Other must-see museums include the Marbles Kids Museum, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, North Carolina Museum of History and North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
When it comes to the performing arts, Raleigh is second to none, with the Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek and Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts hosting numerous high-profile acts and touring Broadway productions.
And that's not including performances at other venues and theaters at N.C. State University.
Raleigh is also home to a number of professional arts organizations, such as the North Carolina Symphony, the Opera Company of North Carolina, Burning Coal Theatre Company, the North Carolina Theatre, Broadway Series South and the Carolina Ballet.
And let's not forget about the annual North Carolina State Fair, which brings several headlining acts to Dorton Arena, and the Carolina Hurricanes, whose season is played at the RBC Center. Info: visitraleigh.com.
While you're in the Triangle area, don't forget about Durham and the new Durham Performing Arts Center, which attracts high-profile musical acts and theatrical productions. You can also drop by Chapel Hill and Franklin Street, which borders UNC-Chapel Hill. Info: durham-nc.com.
Other central NC destinations: The middle of our state may not have mountains or be full of sandy beaches, but there's still plenty to do and see. Pay a visit to the Uwharrie National Forest, or head over to Emerald Pointe Water Park, just southwest of Greensboro, or even go to the N.C. Zoological Park in Asheboro - always a fun and educational time for the family.
If it's sand and surf you want, historic Wilmington offers plenty of both, along with high-end boutiques and gourmet restaurants.
Wilmington is also home to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, the North Carolina Azalea Festival, the USS North Carolina Battleship & Museum, the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, and a burgeoning music and film scene. You won't want to miss the quirky Cucalorus Film Festival if you can help it. Just south of Wilmington, you'll find Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure beaches - all prime summer sun destinations. Info: capefearcoast.com.
A trip to our state's scenic eastern boundary should be mandatory. The unspoiled beaches of the Outer Banks provide an intimate weekend getaway - or longer, if you can tear yourself away.
You'll especially want to take your time and visit Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Kitty Hawk, home to the Wright Brothers National Memorial - where Wilbur and Orville Wright made our state "First in Flight," despite what Ohio may think.
You'll also want to see the incredible lighthouses, including those at Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras, Currituck Beach, Ocracoke and the Roanoke Marshes.
And while you galavant across the Outer Banks, you'll want to catch a live performance of "The Lost Colony" (May through August), the nation's longest-running outdoor, symphonic drama at the Waterside Theatre on Roanoke Island in Manteo. Info: outerbanks.org.
Other eastern North Carolina destinations: You won't want to miss the Croatan National Forest or pass up a visit to Union Grove, home to the three-day Ole Time Fiddlers and Bluegrass Festival in May.