The Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken 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 number of folks who call it home, making it an urban state.
North Carolina, a member of the 13 original colonies, became a state on On April 12, 1776. That is the date the fledgling North Carolinians told their Continental Congress delegates to vote for independence from the Crown.
North Carolina was a somewhat reluctant Confederate state. It didn’t secede from the Union until President Lincoln called on it to invade South Carolina. North Carolinians considered their neighbor Carolina a sister state and left the Union rather than comply.
The capital of North Carolina is Raleigh. The largest city is Charlotte. The two are joined by Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Durham, Fayetteville, Cary, Wilmington, and High Point on a list of cities exceeding a population of 100,000.
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 other 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 tall. Sea level along North Carolina’s shoreline is the lowest point in the state. The geographic center of North Carolina is found in Chatham County, 10 miles northwest of Sanford.
Top Airports in North Carolina:
Wilmington International serves almost 400,000 flyers annually. Charlotte and Atlanta receive about equal traffic from there.
Piedmont Triad International serves more than 800,000 people from the Greensboro area. Many of them go to Atlanta.
Charlotte Douglas International is the state’s major airport. Over 21 million people are enplaned at CLT. The favorite destination is Atlanta.
Top Movies Filmed in North Carolina:
A Walk to Remember (2002)
The Descent (2005)
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
Cape Fear (1991)
Famous North Carolinians:
Presidents: Andrew Johnson and James Polk, and First Lady Dolley Madison.
Military/Politics: Baxter Bragg, Robert Byrd, Jesse Helms, and Elizabeth Dole.
Actors: Ava Gardner, Andy Griffith, Madisyn Shipman, Ian Nelson, Britt Robertson, Sierra McCormick, Kathryn Grayson.
Entertainers: Earl Scruggs, Randy Travis, Soupy Sales, Jermaine Dupri, Dahvie Vanity, Thelonious Monk, Ronnie Millsap, Donna Fargo, Fantasia Barrino, Scotty McCreery, Britt Nicole, Vince McMahon, Alec Bailey, B.o.B., Anna Clendening, and Roberta Flack.
Authors: O. Henry, Billy Graham, Thomas Wolfe, and William Sydney Porter.
Athletes: Richard Petty, Jeff Hardy, Seth Curry, A.J. Styles, John Wall, Chris Paul, Matt Hardy, and Floyd Patterson.
Weird and Wonderful Facts About North Carolina:
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the oldest state University in America.
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.
Pepsi was invented and first served in New Bern in 1898.
More furniture is built in North Carolina than any other state.
Let’s Take a Trip Through North Carolina:
Stretching over 550 miles west to east, North Carolina is best traveled in that direction. We are going to start in Charlotte with fast times in fast cars, ending with a leisurely stroll across the sands of the Outer Banks.
We will start 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. Here we find interactive simulators, graphic imaging, and the historical timeline of what is a religion to many. It is well worth the stop, regardless of your fan level of “racin.’” (That’s the way you have to say it in Charlotte). We will stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Charlotte North for $79 a night.
The next morning’s plan includes a trip to Carowinds. It is smaller than a Six Flags trademarked park but filled with all the roller coaster fun you can want. Fifty bucks gets you in, but discounts are available through any number of travel clubs. Food is not an afterthought here. Harmony Hall inside Carowinds offers some amazing Carolina ‘cue. Just what we need after a good two days in Charlotte.
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 O.C.D. among us may want to put the socks hanging off it into one of the drawers. Three minutes tops, and back in the car.
Just outside Raleigh, we find Shelley Lake Sertoma Park. This lovely spot is a 53-acre lake and parkland with two miles of paved, scenic greenway trails. Here we find many opportunities to enjoy nature. These include beautiful and serene woods, views of the lake, and abundant wildlife. Sertoma 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 we want a slightly longer hike, we’ll try Umstead State Park. Beautiful, secluded and meditative, Umstead doesn’t offer the interpretive part that Lake Sertoma gave us, but the trails are longer and beautifully 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 Raleigh’s is our choice as the best. We get a half dozen food stops, featuring everything from fine wine to hot dogs. Our guide will tell us stories of the thriving foodie scene in The Research Triangle, which consists of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Sated, full and well satisfied we retire at Hampton Inn and Suites Raleigh/Cary-I-40 (PNC Arena) for $95 a night.
We leave the Raleigh-Durham area noting with a sense of admiration aspects of living here that these folks cherish. Let’s list them.
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Duke University in Durham
- North Carolina State University in Raleigh
- Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh
- Shepherds Theological Seminary in Cary
- Strayer University in Raleigh
They call it the Research Triangle for the pure brainpower attending school and staying to live in the area. We take our hats off to the students and faculty in every school.
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.
We begin at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a beautifully long stretch of beach. This is a place to pull off the road a few feet onto the hard sand, just to look around. We 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.
We turn north and continue leisurely along NC-12, cross the Bonner Bridge and stop for a meal in Nags Head. Nag’s Head boasts only 2,916 people, but it feels larger, and we mean that in a good way. After lunch, we stop at one of the many kite shops. We can pick up a kite, a hammock, or maybe a nice gazebo for the yard. We’ll wander at our will, knowing this is a day to put the lax in relax.
Why don’t we put in for the night at Comfort Inn South Oceanfront? The rooms is $87 a night. We will be here for a second night.
The next morning we are headed further north to Kill Devil Hills. We have two tasks this afternoon. First, lunch at Kill Devil’s Frozen Custard & Beach Fries, after which we visit the spot where the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk. The Wright Brothers National Memorial is small, but thorough, with a fabulous portrait gallery of important aviators in history. The grounds are impressive. We will walk through a part of the grounds to see where the Wrights took off and landed. It wasn’t a long distance, but it changed travel forever.
The views from the Wright Brothers’ monument are great, but anywhere along the road today we can stop and see breathtaking vistas of seascapes here since time began. Not a skyscraper to be seen, it is just a lovely day in a lovely spot.
We hope you enjoyed our visit to North Carolina. It’s a place of lush scenery, bustling commerce, a deep love of higher education, and an abiding yen for moments of leisure. From the hills in the northwest part of the state to the dunes and beaches of the Outer Banks we love it all.