North Carolina

The US state of North Carolina belongs to the southern states of the USA but combines the diversity of all US states. Join us on a trip through monumental mountains, dreamlike island settings, and wild, unspoiled nature.

North Carolina facts

Capital: Raleigh
Area: 139,389 km²
Population: about 10.6 million
Location: Southeast USA
Nickname: The Tar Heel State
State animal: Cardianl
Time zone: Eastern: UTC−5/−4

North Carolina: location & population

North Carolina is located in the east of the USA but officially belongs to the southern states. The eastern side of the beautiful "Tar Heel State" (North Carolina probably got this nickname because of its tar production during colonial times) consists entirely of the Atlantic coastline. On the land side, North Carolina borders South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia.

The inhabitants of North Carolina are often referred to as "Tar Heels." About 95% of them are American citizens, and about 8% were born outside the United States.

Immigrants most commonly come from Mexico, India, and Honduras. There are also large groups of movers from the northeastern USA, Florida, and California, and a rapidly growing Vietnamese population.

Approximately 110,000 Native Americans remain in North Carolina today. The eight recognized tribes include the Coharie, the Eastern Band of Cherokee, the Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, and Meherrin, the Occaneechi Band of Saponi Nation, the Sappony, and the Waccamaw-Siouan.

The biggest cities in North Carolina

In addition to the capital city of Raleigh, there are many other significant places in North Carolina. The largest cities in terms of population are:

City population
Charlotte 886,000
Raleigh 474,000
Greensboro 297,000
Durham 279,000
Winston-Salem 248,000


North Carolina hides many small towns worth seeing between these larger cities that should not go unmentioned here. These include the surfers' town of Wrightsville Beach, the picturesque mountain village of Banner Elk, historic Little Washington, and romantic Sylva with its breathtaking mountain panorama and legendary food and craft beer scene.

Climate and nature in North Carolina

Most of the US state of North Carolina has a humid subtropical climate. However, North Carolina is divided into three regions, which also have different climatic conditions.

The coastal region

To the far east stretches the beautiful Atlantic coastal plain of North Carolina. Climatically, this region is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, it gets just over 30 °C in the summer and just under 5 °C cold in the winter.

Every few years, you have to expect a hurricane or other tropical storm in the coastal region. Otherwise, nature here is idyllic to spectacularly beautiful, for example, around the island paradise of "Outer Banks" or in the swampy alligator sanctuaries.

The Piedmont region

In the Piedmont area, the high plateau in central North Carolina, summers are warmer and winters colder than in the coastal region. Temperatures of up to 37 °C are not uncommon. Winter nights are cold, and temperatures often drop below freezing. Sometimes the eastern side of the plateau gets some of the coastal storms. To the west, however, the Piedmont region is well protected from storms by the Appalachian Mountains. The Piedmont region is dominated primarily by flat to rolling grasslands, forests, and rushing rivers.

The mountain region

The coldest area of North Carolina is the Appalachian Mountains in the western part of the state. Summers here are rarely warmer than 26 °C, and winter temperatures often drop below -9 °C.

With abundant snowfall, the Blue Ridge Mountains region is a skier's El Dorado. Some peaks are more than 1,600 m above sea level. Exceptionally numerous and beautiful waterfalls await your discovery.

The best time to travel in North Carolina

The best time to travel to North Carolina is from April to October. With warm temperatures and little rain, you can enjoy the fantastic diversity of nature in this exciting and beautiful US state.

North Carolina in spring and summer

Have a cuppa on the boardwalk in Wilmington, a hike through the rustic mountain forests, or a day at the beach for swimming, surfing, and paddling are the most fun things to do in spring and summer.

But beware: North Carolina's mid-high plains can get very hot in the summer. Also, the peak tourist season with its crowds can quickly spoil your outdoor fun. If you want to marvel at huge herds of wild horses or stand by lonely waterfalls in peace, come to North Carolina as early as April or as late as October.

North Carolina during fall and winter

When the leaves turn, you can't help but be amazed in North Carolina. You'll be blown away by the sweeping views of the glowing Blue Ridge Mountains or a drive through the wooded mountainside roads!

Two special highlights for your fall vacation in North Carolina are the Caroline BalloonFest, where you can view Indian summer from above in a hot air balloon, and the PNC Wide Open Bluegrass Festival in Raleigh in October.

If you find yourself in North Carolina in the winter, be sure to head to the mountain region for great skiing and frozen waterfalls!

How to get to North Carolina

Major airports in North Carolina include:

  • Charlotte/Douglas International Airport
  • Raleigh–Durham International Airport
  • Piedmont Triad International Airport

Flights to North Carolina are operated by American Airlines, Air Canada, Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa, and United. If you depart from Europe, in most cases, your travel time will be between 15 and 19 hours, and you will pay €500 - €700 for the flight.

Travelers from the African region or, e.g., from Vietnam and Thailand will need at least 24 hours to reach their destination and pay between €600 and €1000.

You can avoid the two stopovers, for example, by booking a ticket for a direct flight from Munich, Frankfurt am Main, Canada, London, or Mexico.

North Carolina entry permit

If you do not have a Green Card and are not a US citizen, you will need to apply for an ESTA or US visa for your trip to North Carolina.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

North Carolina airport transfer

If you took one of the affordable flights to Charlotte, then the following transfer options are available at the airport in North Carolina:


At the arrivals/baggage claim level, cab service is available to you at the roadside. A variety of safety-approved cab companies, including City Cap, Crown Cap, Green Cab, and Yellow Cab, are waiting for you in the cab queue here almost around the clock.

Shuttle bus

On the information boards in baggage claim, you will find the phone numbers of the shuttle services currently available at Charlotte Airport. After making a brief reservation, you can head to the shuttle service pick-up point. You may not even need to arrange a shuttle service yourself, as many hotels offer airport shuttles for their guests. To find out if your hotel has a shuttle, give them a call.

Public transport

Airport Sprinter buses operated by CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System) will take you from the airport to downtown Charlotte. The bus runs every 20 minutes during the week and every 30 minutes on weekends and at night. The Sprinter also stops at several hotels and provides direct service to other CATS routes and the LYNX Blue Line.

Other options

You'll find the "stop" for Lyft and Uber ride-sharing services on the same level as the baggage claim area (lower level, Zone 4).

National parks and natural wonders in North Carolina

In North Carolina, outdoor adventures are possible almost everywhere. If you can't decide between the many gorgeous landscapes, mountains, islands, and beaches, maybe our summary of the most beautiful places in North Carolina will help you:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a perfect place for hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and camping. In spring, you'll walk through fields of fragrant wildflowers, and in fall, you'll see a blaze of colorful leaves. Sleep in a tent among herds of elk, camp beside bubbling trout streams and waterfalls, or enjoy the cool, clear night air on remote Balsam Mountain at 1,600 m above sea level. For those who don't like camping, there are also comfortable hotels. In addition to one of the largest contiguous ancient forest areas in the eastern United States, you'll also find 90 historic sites and buildings here.

Tip: Treat yourself to a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad along the historic route that takes you through forests, valleys, canyons, and tunnels.

Pisgah National Forest

The majestic Pisgah National Forest is waiting to be explored on fairytale hiking trails. You'll be rewarded with peaceful solitude by gorgeous waterfalls, breathtaking views, and fragrant greenery. The hiking trails are also well suited for beginners and even easily passable by bike. Are you tired of all the hiking? Then stay in a tiny house at the foot of the mountain, in a comfortable hotel, or pitch your tent on one of the campsites amid nature.

Chimney Rock State Park

We hope you don't suffer from vertigo because Chimney Rock State Park is the place to be! From $13 per person, you'll get an absolutely stunning view of the landscape by elevator or on gorgeous hiking trails. From the strangely shaped rock "Devils Head" to great hiking trails and waterfalls, there is also much more to discover here.

Tip: Even better than the view from the upper "Chimney" rock is, according to many visitors, the view from the fenced "Opera Box", a walk-in inlet in the rock.

Grandfather Mountain State Park

Grandfather Mountain on the Tennessee border has one of the highest peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It has been designated an international biosphere reserve, although the state park is privately owned. The Mile High Swinging Bridge, a suspension bridge that swings at dizzying heights, is infamous. At the end of the bridge awaits a granite boulder that only the bravest and vertigo-free visitors climb. In the park - on safe ground - you will also find a wild animal enclosure and a café.

Tip: Take clothes for all weather conditions and sturdy shoes.

Outer Banks und Cape Hatteras National Seashore

The "Outer Banks" group of islands has achieved world fame thanks to its own TV series. With their fantastic beaches, large herds of wild horses, and spectacular dive sites with many shipwrecks, the islands are still a mysterious and enchanted place. For a particularly idyllic beach experience, head to Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Here, you can pitch your tent or camper directly behind a dune. You can reach the islands via the Wright Memorial Bridge (U.S. Route 158) or by ferry.

Tip: Come here at night to see the starry sky, almost free of light pollution.

Top 10 sightseeing highlights in North Carolina

The following places in North Carolina are must-sees and should totally be on your travel list:

  • Biltmore
  • Clingmans Dome
  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
  • Pisgah National Forest
  • Wright Brothers National Memorial
  • Carolina Beach State Park
  • Cape Hatteras Light
  • Battleship North Carolina
  • Mingo Falls
  • International Civil Rights Center & Museum

North Carolina city trips

In addition to its spectacular nature, the US state of North Carolina is also known for exciting and unique cities. Here are our top city highlights:

City highlights Charlotte

If you want to see real skyscrapers in North Carolina, pay a visit to Charlotte. The city is one of the most economically important places in the USA and is home to the Bank of America headquarters. You'll also find many historic buildings and museums.

These are the places you should see in Charlotte:

  • NASCAR Hall of Fame
  • Discovery Place Science
  • Billy Graham Library
  • U.S. National Whitewater Center
  • Carowinds Amusement Park

City highlights Raleigh

A trip to the capital city of Raleigh is a dream come true, especially for fans of art, history, and natural sciences. Admission to the many museums here is free. The city also has a lot to offer in terms of scenery:

There are over 150 parks and many lakes for swimming and boating. You should see the following things in Raleigh:

  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
  • North Carolina Museum of Art
  • Pullen Park
  • Marbles Kids Museum
  • North Carolina Museum of History

City highlights Durham

The university city of Durham in upstate North Carolina is now known as the "City of Medicine" because of its famous medical school (Duke University). Art and science fans get their money's worth here thanks to the great museums. Beautiful parks, theaters, and restaurants round out the city trip experience.

Visit these places in Durham:

  • Sarah P. Duke Gardens
  • Museum of Life + Science
  • Duke University Chapel
  • Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC)
  • Eno River State Park

City highlights Wilmington

You may know the pretty historic downtown or the promenade of Wilmington from TV, because series and films like Matlock, Cape Fear, Sleepy Hollow, and Dawson's Creek were shot here. However, you can fall in love with the city even if you don't know any movies.

These are the places you should see in Wilmington:

  • Nemours Estate
  • Hagley Museum And Library
  • Wilmington Riverwalk
  • Wilmington and Western Railroad
  • Grand Opera House

North Carolina road trip

If you say "road trip," you have to say "North Carolina!" After all, the famous Blue Ridge Parkway is considered one of the greatest panoramic roads in the entire USA.

On 755 km, you drive along the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Shenandoah River (catchy tune? You're welcome!) to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. On your journey, you'll pass so many sights and campgrounds that you won't even have to leave the highway.

Your road trip through North Carolina will be outstanding in the fall when the trees glow in the most beautiful colors.

Instagram hotspots in North Carolina

North Carolina is of stunning beauty! You have to show this to your friends! Here are our top 5 Instagram hotspots in North Carolina:

  • Rough Ridge (Blue Ridge Parkway)
  • Caney Fork Overlook (Blue Ridge Mountains)
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Mile High Swinging Bridge (Grandfather Mountain)
  • Surf City Ocean Pier

North Carolina food highlights

Whenever you travel in North Carolina, you'll always find a fish market somewhere. Freshly caught fish and seafood are a must on every plate here.

Just as important is the famous Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored soft drink native to North Carolina. Speaking of sugar: the world-famous Krispy Kreme donuts also originated in North Carolina.

We can't forget one crucial element of classic Southern cuisine here: Barbecue. In North Carolina, it's mostly pork that goes on the grill. It's often served as "pulled pork" in a sandwich.

Try these dishes on your North Carolina vacation:

  • BBQ sandwich - Pulled pork with a variety of sauces on a baguette.
  • Fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese
  • Krispy Kreme Cheerwine Doughnut - Sugar-fried dough ring with a special cherry-flavored filling
  • Cajun filet biscuit from Bojangles - Special snack from the fast-food restaurant Bojangles: baked fish roll
  • Deviled eggs
  • Shrimp n' grits - Polenta with prawns

Culinary travel tip: Every October, Morehead City on North Carolina's east coast hosts the North Carolina Seafood Festival.

North Carolina fun facts

Useless knowledge is the best conversation starter when you're traveling. We bet you haven't heard these North Carolina fun facts:

  • The Venus flytrap is native to North Carolina and grows in many places here.
  • The Biltmore Estate in Asheville is the largest private home in the world, with 250 rooms.
  • North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the nation. There has even been a petition to make the sweet potato the official state vegetable.
  • If North Carolina ever runs out of sweet potatoes, the US state still has its Christmas tree industry. There are about 1,300 growers in the state, and the North Carolina Fraser Tree is a world-famous breed.

Moving to North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the most beautiful US states to live in, and it's not that difficult to make a new life here. Learn about living and working in North Carolina:

Working in North Carolina

North Carolina's strongest industries have historically included furniture, tobacco, brick, and textile manufacturing.

However, other industries have recently established themselves, including "Fortune 500" financial services and technology companies. Aerospace, automotive, heavy machinery, and food processing/manufacturing are also prominent in North Carolina.

Managers, drivers, salespeople, financial professionals, and employees in food service, construction, and schools are in constant demand.

You'll get the highest salaries in the IT industry and as a doctor or financial expert. If you're into medicine, Durham will interest you. It has one of the best hospitals in the USA and five times as many doctors per capita as other states.

Low tax rates and excellent access to transportation and logistics channels through road, rail, air, and sea connections keep North Carolina's economy moving forward.

Living in North Carolina

North Carolina attracts people from all corners of the USA and the rest of the world. This is mainly due to the comparatively low cost of living (including rents), low taxes, breathtaking landscapes, rich culture, and delightful climate.

Charlotte is considered a family-friendly city with rising incomes and a high quality of life. The capital, Raleigh, is known as a bustling center of the technology industry. Here, Cary and Apex's quieter "satellite towns" are great places to escape and live in small-town charm. Also quaint, affordable, and convenient are Durham's suburbs, such as Holly Springs, Morrisville, and Wake Forest. For college students, Chapel Hill is worth a look, in addition to Charlotte.

As you can see, North Carolina is a dream place to live. The only minuses for you might be the lack of seasons and the hurricane risk in the coastal areas.

Move to North Carolina with a Green Card

A Green Card allows you to live and work in the USA permanently. However, getting the desired US immigrant visa is not that easy.

That's why we recommend you try your luck with the Green Card Lottery. Every year, the US government gives away 55,000 Green Cards. Sign up directly - it's just a few clicks!

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