Top: Raleigh, North Carolina, downtown city skyline
Gildshire’s America the Beautiful series continues up the Mid-Atlantic states today with a trip through North Carolina. Just the 28th largest state in the Union, North Carolina’s population total surprised us. It is the 9th largest state in terms of folks who call it home.
The capital of North Carolina is Raleigh. The largest city is Charlotte. North Carolina is bordered on the south by South Carolina. Virginia provides its northern border. Tennessee stands next to North Carolina on the west, and Georgia covers the southwest. The Atlantic Ocean borders North Carolina on the East and provides some of the state’s most spectacular natural scenery.
North Carolina is considered a “southern state” but it differs from its sister southerners in geographic topography. North Carolina is dotted with mountains, the highest being Mt. Mitchell, near the Georgia border. Mt. Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River, standing 6,684 feet.
Duke University Chapel is located on the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and seats 1,800 people
Famous North Carolinians:
Presidents: Andrew Johnson and James Polk
Military/Politicians: Baxter Bragg, Sen. Robert Byrd, Sen. Jesse Helms, Elizabeth Dole and First Lady Dolley Madison
Actors: Ava Gardner, Kathryn Grayson and Andy Griffith
Entertainers: Earl Scruggs, Randy Travis, Soupy Sales, Thelonious Monk, Ronnie Millsap, Donna Fargo and Roberta Flack
Broadcasters/Journalists: David Brinkley, Charles Kuralt, Edward R. Murrow and Howard Cosell
Authors: O. Henry, Billy Graham, Thomas Wolfe, and William Sydney Porter
Athletes: Richard Petty and Floyd Patterson
Movies in Which North Carolina Played a Prominent Role:
Bull Durham, Nights in Rodanthe, A Stoning in Fulham County and Cape Fear
Blue Ridge Parkway National Park Sunrise Scenic Mountains Autumn Landscape near Asheville in western North Carolina
Weird and Wonderful Facts About North Carolina:
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the oldest State University in the country.
Whitewater Falls in Transylvania County is the highest waterfall in the eastern United States.
North Carolina leads the nation in the production of tobacco and sweet potatoes.
A colony established on Roanoke Island by Sir Walter Raleigh mysteriously vanished with no trace except for the word “Croatoan” scrawled on a nearby tree.
Krispy Kreme Doughnut was founded in Winston-Salem, to Gildshire’s eternal gratitude.
Pepsi was invented and first served in New Bern in 1898.
More furniture is built in North Carolina than any other state.
Charlotte, North Carolina, Skyline
Let’s Take a Trip Through North Carolina!
Stretching over 550 miles from west to east, North Carolina is best traversed in that direction. We are going to start in Charlotte with some fast times with fast cars. We will end with a leisurely stroll across the sands of the Outer Banks.
Beginning in Charlotte at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This is a place where race fans will fall to their knees in homage to greatness, but non-race fans will enjoy it, as well. Interactive simulators, graphic imaging and the historical timeline of what is a religion to many Southerners is well worth the stop, regardless of your fan-ship level is to “racin’” (That’s the way you have to say it in Charlotte). Stay at the Comfort Suites Airport Charlotte for $79 a night.
The next morning plan a trip to Carowinds. Smaller than a 6 Flags trademarked park but filled with all the roller coaster fun you can want. $50 gets you in, but discounts are available through any number of travel clubs. Unlike many parks where the food is an afterthought, Harmony Hall inside Carowinds offers some amazing Carolina ‘cue. Just what you need after a good two days in The Queen City.
Headed across the state now, with a stop at an offbeat place near High Point. The world’s largest chest of drawers stands a full 32 feet high, and is known as the Bureau of Information. It was placed there to call attention to the furniture industry which is such a big part of the North Carolina economy. It’s free to look and take pictures. The more anal among you may want to put the socks hanging off it into one of the drawers. Three minutes tops, and back in the car.
Sunset over Wilmington waterfront in North Carolina
Just outside Raleigh, find Shelley Lake Sertoma Park. Shelley Lake Park consists of a 53-acre lake and parkland surrounding the lake with two miles of paved, scenic greenway trails. There are many opportunities to enjoy nature, including beautiful and serene woods, views of the lake, and abundant wildlife. The park also has three public play fields and an Arts Center. Stretch your legs and fling a Frisbee in the fresh air!
Raleigh is all about parks. If you want a slightly longer hike, try the Umstead State Park, after Lake Sertoma. Beautiful, secluded and meditative, Umstead doesn’t offer the interpretive stuff available at Lake Sertoma, but the trails are longer and well-maintained.
We can’t leave the South for good without doing a food tour. Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours operates in several North Carolina cities, but the one in Raleigh is our choice as the best. You get a half dozen food stops, featuring everything from fine wine to hot dogs. Your tour guide will tell you the history of the thriving Raleigh foodie scene was well as give recommendations. Sated, full and well satisfied we retire at Comfort Suites Arena for $93 a night.
The best part of our North Carolina trip is still to come. US-64 through some beautiful tobacco farms will take us to the Outer Banks.
Linked like a necklace of pearls on the Atlantic Coast the Outer Banks offer some of the most beautiful and unique scenery to be enjoyed anywhere in the United States. Stretching from Corolla in the north to Cape Hatteras in the south, the Outer Banks are connected by roads and bridges along a 93 mile stretch of scenic highway.
North Carolina State Capitol building
We are going to begin at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It is a beautiful long stretch of beach. Pull off the road and a few feet onto the hard sand. Look around. You will feel like the only people on Earth. Few other places offer the same chance to enjoy the sound of surf uninterrupted by the blast of diesel engines.
Turn north and continue leisurely along NC-12, cross the Bonner Bridge and stop for a meal in Nags Head. The largest town in the Outer Banks chain, Nag’s Head still boasts only 2,757 people. After lunch, stop at one of the many kite shops. Pick up a kite, a hammock, or maybe a nice gazebo for your yard. Wander at your will. This is a day to put the lax in relax.
Put in for the night at First Colony Inn. Rooms from $84 a night. You will be here for a second night.
The next morning we are headed further north to Kill Devil Hills. After lunch at Kill Devil’s Frozen Custard & Beach Fries, will visit the spot where the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk. The museum is small but thorough, with a fabulous portrait gallery of important aviators in history. The grounds are beautiful and impressive.
The views from the Wright Brothers’ monument are great. But anywhere along the road today you can stop and see clean, breathtaking vistas of seascapes there since time began. Not a skyscraper to be seen. Just a lovely day in a lovely place.