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20 Amazing Day Trips in North Carolina

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on April 18, 2024.

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North Carolina is a destination full of bucket-list-worthy travel plans! Our assortment of small towns and cities, along with picturesque beaches and mountains, means there is always something to explore. From family travel, girlfriend getaways, or romantic excursions, day trips in North Carolina will never disappoint!

This list of unique day trips in North Carolina will have you ready to fill up your tank and explore. We have organized this article to include:

  • Day Trips in North Carolina from Specific Places
  • Day Trips in Western North Carolina
  • Day Trips in Central North Carolina
  • Day Trips in Eastern North Carolina

We’ve also included some accommodation ideas in case you want to turn your North Carolina day trip into a weekend!

Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in North Carolina and are wondering, “What are the best day trips near me?” we think this NC travel guide will help you out!

Read More: Unique Things to Do in North Carolina

Day Trips in North Carolina from Specific Places

In case you’re seeking day trips in North Carolina from a specific place, here are some guides we’ve already created:

Day Trips in North Carolina (Western)

We first focus on our favorite day trips in North Carolina’s mountains and in the surrounding foothills.

  • Asheville
  • Blowing Rock
  • Boone
  • Burke County
  • Wilkes County
  • Yancey County

Asheville

Great for an NC Day Trip from Banner Elk, Blowing Rock, Boone, Charlotte, and Statesville.

A band playing live Music at the Chow Chow Festival in Asheville.
Live music at Asheville’s ChowChow Festival

Experience: One could definitely spend an entire day just at Biltmore (especially during Christmas at Biltmore), but there are so many different ways to enjoy Asheville. You can hike the many trails here and explore waterfalls or dive into the arts in the River Arts District.

There are plenty of places to enjoy live music as well. Soak up some culture at the Asheville Art Museum and make a plan to brewery hop throughout the town.

Our favorites include the South Slope Brewing District’s Twin Leaf and Bhramari, the OG of Asheville beer also known as Highland (near the WNC Nature Center), and Wedge over by the River Arts District.

Eat: You can’t go to Asheville without a visit to Hole for some fresh doughnuts, a sweet treat from French Broad Chocolates, and a biscuit from Biscuit Head.

And that’s just for quick bites! We’ve covered more Asheville restaurants to cover nearly every other time to eat! 

Stay: Keep yourself central by checking into Hotel Arras or bathing in luxury at The Omni Grove Park Inn. For more affordable and private options, we’ve curated a list of cabins near Asheville.

Read More: 30+ Great Things to Do in Downtown Asheville

Blowing Rock

Great for an NC Day Trip from Asheville, Banner Elk, Boone, Greensboro, Hickory, Statesville, and Winston-Salem.

a beautiful waterfall at Glen Burney Trail
Glen Burney Trail.

Experience: For some of the most epic views in North Carolina, look no further than the top of The Blowing Rock! Pan for gems and learn about the oddity of gravity at Mystery Hill before hiking to the beautiful Glen Burney.

Complete your day with an afternoon at Tweetsie Railroad (home to Tweetsie Christmas) or shopping at the adorable shops of downtown Blowing Rock. 

Eat: Some of the best food in town is found at The Speckled Trout or Town Tavern. Two options, Bistro Roca and Timberlake’s at Chetola Resort, also make for a great date night outing. 

Stay: Our top choices for accommodations in Blowing Rock are Chetola Resort and the Green Park Inn.

Read More: Wonderful Places to Visit in the High Country

Boone

Great for an NC Day Trip from Asheville, Banner Elk, Blowing Rock, Greensboro, Hickory, Statesville, and Winston-Salem.

Experience: Boone is one of our favorite small towns in North Carolina, mainly because of all the hiking and waterfalls found here. Truly a four-season destination, Boone offers skiing and snow tubing, hikes to awesome spots like Otter Falls and Rough Ridge, the opportunity to drink some great beer, and more things to do.  

Eat: From incredible pasta at Basil’s and unique meats at The Cardinal, there are just so many delicious restaurants in Boone. Make sure to carve out a couple of hours to spend at Booneshine for a pint and some beer cheese. 

Stay: The best way to turn this North Carolina day trip into a weekend stay is by booking the Horton Hotel downtown or one of these Airbnbs near Boone.

Read More: Winter in Boone (20 Great Activities, Snow Tubing, and More!)

Burke County

Great for an NC Day Trip from Asheville, Banner Elk, Blowing Rock, Boone, Charlotte, and Hickory.

The view from Linville Falls overlook near Morganton, NC
Linville Falls.

Experience: Morganton is a North Carolina mountain town and is one of the best day trips in NC mountains and perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. As the gateway to Linville Gorge Wilderness, Morganton boasts premium hiking trails.

Easier hikes include Linville Falls for those looking for an adventure (including a bumpy ride!).

Also, make your way out to Wiseman’s View for some epic mountain views. Across the Linville Gorge from there, Table Rock and Hawksbill offer an opposite perspective of the Linville River, Linville Falls, the Chimneys, and other beautiful spots.

For a flatter road, check out the Catawba River Greenway. It’s great for a ride or walk and just outside downtown!

Another great reason to visit Morganton is for all the surrounding towns in Burke County. They include Valdese, Connelly Springs, and Rutherford College. If you are a movie buff, you must check out the Henry River Mill Village in Hildebran, a film location for The Hunger Games!

Drink: Morganton is home to several incredible restaurants and breweries that should be at the top of the list for day trips in North Carolina!

Fonta Flora is a brewery located in downtown Morganton, but their dreamy Whippoorwill Farm location is perfect for relaxing in the beauty of Burke County.

Read More: 25 of the Most Amazing Winter Hikes in North Carolina

Wilkes County

Great for an NC Day Trip from Boone, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, Statesville, and Winston-Salem and Statesville.

Experience: Grab a mocha latte from Anchor Coffee in North Wilkesboro before clipping into your mountain bike and hitting the trails at W Kerr Scott Lake. After banking the curves and enjoying the view, head into downtown Wilkesboro for a frosty pint at TwoBoros Brewery.

Skip over to Stardust Cellars for some handcrafted mead or Call Family Distillers for a sip of moonshine history to expand your taste buds.

Eat: Head downtown in Wilkesboro to Dooley’s Tavern for fresh food and good company. 

Stay: Make it a weekend in Wilkes County by staying on a horse ranch! Leatherwood Mountains in Ferguson have beautiful cabins for every traveler. Bring your horse or hitch a saddle with one of theirs for a memorable experience.

Read More: The Best NC Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

Yancey County

Great for an NC Day Trip from Asheville, Boone, Charlotte, and Statesville.

North Carolina Road Trips Mount Mitchell Scenic Byway

Experience: Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi and the highest in the Black Mountains, sits in Yancey County.

Crabtree Falls straddles the Yancey and McDowell county lines, and, as the former comes first in this list, we’ll include it here. Roaring Fork Falls and Setrock Creek Falls are a couple of more waterfalls in the area that you have to visit!

Eat and Drink: Burnsville is the biggest town and county seat. The downtown is nice to walk through, especially after a meal at Snap Dragon and Homeplace Beer Company.

Stay: There are quite a few rentals in the area and some locally owned inns and hotels, including the Nu Wray Hotel.

Read More: 13 Amazing Restaurants in Burnsville (Best of the Best!)

Day Trips in North Carolina (Central)

These day trips in North Carolina’s center feature a mix of smaller towns and our biggest cities.

  • Charlotte
  • Durham
  • Moore County
  • Raleigh
  • Randolph County
  • Surry County
  • Winston-Salem

Charlotte

Great for an NC Day Trip from Asheville, Boone, Durham, Greensboro, Statesville, and Winston-Salem and Statesville.

Experience: Charlotte is the ultimate day-trip destination in North Carolina. Learn all about North Carolina’s favorite sport at The NASCAR Hall of Fame, walk through an urban rainforest at Discovery Place, or catch a show at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. These are just a few of the amazing museums in Charlotte.

Eat: After a day of exploring, eat through all of the vendors at Optimist Hall. Be sure to leave room for some delicious North Carolina barbecue at Noble Smoke and an epic meal from The Goodyear House.

These are just a few of our Charlotte restaurant recommendations.

Stay: If you’re looking to stay in the heart of the city, then check into The Dunhill, the only historic hotel in Charlotte! Many of our travelers also love to escape to The Carolina Treehouse–you’ll understand why after seeing it!

Read More: 25+ Great Lakes in North Carolina (+ Our Top 5 Picks)

Durham

Great for an NC Day Trip from Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem.

A bird's eye view of Durham, one of the best day trips in North Carolina

Experience: Adventure starts at the Museum of Life and Science where everyone from infants to grown kids and adults can enjoy interactive science exhibits.

Have lunch at Picnic where they serve farm-to-table barbecue before hitting the hiking trails at Eno River State Park. This is one of our favorite state parks for more than a few reasons!

Eat: Start by picking up a dozen donuts at Monuts, one of our favorite donut shops in North Carolina. After a day of outdoor adventures, clean up and enjoy the best restaurants in Durham.

Devour melt-in-your-mouth fish at M Sushi, farm-fresh Cuban tapas at Copa, or small bites and fancy cocktails at Alley Twenty Six. Grab a pint at Fullsteam or one of the other great breweries in Durham that you must visit at least once!

Stay: There are so many options on places to stay in Durham. Check into the mid-century and local The Durham Hotel for stylish rooms and convenient access to downtown.

If you’d like something more private, there are some adorable Airbnbs in Durham that will fit your travel needs. 

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)

Moore County

Great for an NC Day Trip from Chapel Hill, Durham, Fayetteville, and Raleigh.

North Carolina State Parks Weymouth Woods Moore County NC

One of our favorite NC day trips is to the Sandhills and the lovely towns of Southern Pines and Pinehurst, just to start with Moore County’s two most prominent names.

It’s closest to Fayetteville but also within a short drive from Raleigh and Durham (also Greensboro).

Experience: A frequent host of major golf tournaments like the US Open, Moore Co. has long been known as a year-round retreat. Thanks to the abundance of pines throughout the area, the towns and surrounding natural spaces like Weymouth Woods (pictured above) stay green throughout the year.

Eat: Get to Betsy’s Crepes in Southern Pines as early as possible or you’ll be waiting. Chapman’s Food and Spirits is another wonderful restaurant in SoPi. We’ve also thoroughly enjoyed meals at the Village Cafe in Pinehurst and Mason’s Restaurant & Grocery in Aberdeen.

Stay: Many people start with the Pinehurst Golf Resort, which is beautiful both inside and out. The Jefferson Inn in Southern Pines is within walking distance of downtown shops and restaurants like The Country Bookstore, Betsy’s Crepes, and more!

Read More: The Best Independent Bookstores in North Carolina

Raleigh

Great for an NC Day Trip from Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro, Greenville, and Winston-Salem.

Experience: Start your morning away from downtown at the North Carolina Museum of Art. The Art Park and Art to Heart Trail are perfect for a relaxing stroll, followed by a look at the exquisite exhibits. If you’re making your day trip in the summer, then definitely head to Dorothea Dix for the famous Raleigh sunflowers!

Drink: Raleigh’s breweries are worth making a highlight of! From Crank Arm Brewing to Trophy Brewing, there is something hoppy for everyone. 

Eat: In downtown Raleigh, take part in a Taste Carolina Food tour or hop around by yourself to some of these Raleigh restaurants. Get epic views of the city from Wye Hill Brewing or kick it downtown at Whiskey Kitchen.

Make sure to check out Morgan Street Food Hall and Transfer Co Food Hall for fun food vendors.

Stay: For a comfortable stay in the heart of downtown Raleigh, we recommend checking into the Longleaf Hotel. Raleigh makes up a lot of ground in Wake County, resulting in plenty of adorable Airbnbs in the area!

From downtown lofts to charming cottages, Raleigh makes for one of the most perfect quick NC day trips. 

Read More: The NC Museum of History in Raleigh (+7 Things We Love About It!)

Randolph County

Great for an NC Day Trip from Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem.

The sights and sounds of the NC Zoo make Randolph County tops among our favorite day trips in North Carolina!

Experience: Home to the world’s largest zoological park, Asheboro is literally in the heart of North Carolina. It’s also one of the best day trips in NC for families, as parents with small children flock to the North Carolina Zoo all year long, but the rest of Asheboro has fun for everyone!

Check out the Richard Petty Museum in Randleman, apple picking at Millstone Creek Orchards in Ramseur, or hop around the pottery trails of Seagrove.

Eat: Start your morning off with a cinnamon roll and latte at The Table, and get the best fried chicken in North Carolina at Magnolia 23.

Read More: 20 Awesome Wineries Near Charlotte (Vineyards Within 2 Hours)

Surry County

Great for an NC Day Trip from Boone, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, Statesville, and Winston-Salem.

Surry County Pilot Mountain Vineyards
Pilot Mountain Vineyards.

Experience: Mayberry is Mount Airy’s nickname and for good reason, since the town is Andy Griffith’s hometown and is believed to be the inspiration for Mount Pilot on TV. Speaking of Pilot, Surry County is also known for Pilot Mountain. The flyer-shaped peak stands out among neighboring mountains.

The Overmountain Victory Trail and Carter Falls are perfect for some outdoor fun!

Drink (responsibly): Surry County also hosts Elkin, one of a few towns in the heart of the Yadkin Valley wine region. It’s where you’ll find many of the best North Carolina wineries and vineyards.

Many are featured on the Surry County Wine Trail. Some are even kid-friendly if you brought the whole family.

Shop and Eat: Of course, there is so much more to do here. Check out Downtown Elkin, home to the Reeves Theater, wonderful shops, and great places to eat.

Winston-Salem

Great for an NC Day Trip from Asheville, Boone, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, Statesville, and Statesville.

Winston-Salem houses and a fun tea kettle sculpture among the gardens.

Experience: We think Winston-Salem has the makings of many memorable day trips in NC. Step back in time inside the historic town of Old Salem and wander the gardens and former home of RJ and Katharine Reynolds, now known as Reynolda House.

Beyond those fun museums that double as wonderful outdoor activities. You’ll also find an impressive beer scene here. Foothills and Wiseman are a couple of great breweries in Winston-Salem.

Eat: If you’re in the mood for a fancy meal, there are plenty of restaurants in Winston-Salem to dig into! Definitely make a reservation at The Katharine.

The Spring House and Quanto Basta are also great for a date night. Village Juice for a light meal and Earl’s for Southern are perfect for more casual meals.

Winston-Salem is also an excellent base location for exploring North Carolina wineries, especially some kid-friendly ones!

Stay: There are four historic hotels in Winston-Salem that make for unique stays, but there are also plenty of cute Airbnbs.

Read More: 18 Unique Luxury Resorts in North Carolina

Day Trips in North Carolina (Eastern)

Eastern North Carolina is where you’ll find amazing day trip options for much of our state’s population.

  • Beaufort County
  • Camden County
  • The Crystal Coast
  • Fayetteville
  • New Bern
  • Onslow County
  • Wilmington

Beaufort County

Great for an NC Day Trip from Durham, Greenville, Raleigh, New Bern, and Wilmington.

Small Towns in North Carolina Washington

Experience: Washington is also known as the Heart of the Inner Banks. Take a stroll along the river and check out the North Carolina Estuarium. Also in town is the Underground Railroad Museum, housed in a caboose and one of the most important ways to learn about Black history in North Carolina.

Take a trip to the surrounding town of Bath, North Carolina’s oldest town, where Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard) stayed between raids.

Stop off at Goose Creek State Park on the way, and you can enjoy some nice walking trails, a fun road for walking and biking, and various boating options.

Camden County

Great for an NC Day Trip from Greenville and the Outer Banks (Duck).

Dismal Swamp State Park Camden County North Carolina

Experience: Camden County is filled with small towns and protected lands like its far-eastern counterparts. A part of Elizabeth City is within the county limits, and Camden, the county seat, sits across the river.

Camden County is the first of three counties that contains the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. It’s also the only one where you’ll find Dismal Swamp State Park.

The Crystal Coast

Great for an NC Day Trip from Greenville, Jacksonville, New Bern, and Wilmington.

The Atlantis Lodge Bridge leading out to the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantis Lodge.

Experience: Morehead City is what we like to think of as the town encompassing North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, and Beaufort here are perfect destinations for a summer beach trip.

See the wild horses at the Rachel Carson Nature Reserve, walk the waterfront, or learn about maritime history at Fort Macon State Park.

Eat: Definitely enjoy a meal along the waterfront at Moonrakers in Beaufort! If you are in the mood for a more classic experience, El’s Drive-In in Morehead City is known for its unique burgers.

Stay: We’ve said it more times than we probably should, but our favorite place to stay in Atlantic Beach is Atlantis Lodge. This retro lodge is family-owned, pet-friendly, and our annual beach trip location!

Read More: 4 National Forests in NC (Things to Do + Why We Love Them!)

Fayetteville

Great for an NC Day Trip from Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Wilmington.

beautiful street art in Fayettville NC

Experience: Fayetteville is America’s hometown, and you’ll find that there are plenty of fun things to do! Explore the outdoors at Carvers Creek State Park, wander among the flowers at Cape Fear Botanical Garden, and learn about our military history at the US Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum.

If you’re traveling as a family, there are lots of fun kid-friendly activities in Fayetteville as well!

Pro-tip: Visit our friends at Hummingbird Candle Company to make your own candles for a unique experience!

Eat: Gobble down a delicious brunch from Circa 1800 or our favorite savory and sweet combo at Uptown’s Chicken and Waffles before starting your exploring. Fuel up with barbecue at Fowler’s or enjoy some of the best international food in North Carolina at Grilled Ginger or Taqueria Las Delicias.

We’ve dug into quite a few Fayetteville restaurants and think our favorites will take care of you. Don’t forget to add breweries like Dirtbag to your itinerary too!

Read More: Outstanding Things to Do in Fayetteville

New Bern

Great for an NC Day Trip from Fayetteville, Greenville, Jacksonville, Raleigh, and Wilmington.

a historic street clock and storefront in New Bern, North Carolina

Experience: New Bern is a delightful river town that is extremely worthy of a day trip. While visiting, search for their famed bear statues, learn about North Carolina history at Tryon Palace, and take a look at the birthplace of Pepsi.

Head out to Croatan National Forest for a hike, hang out by the water at Flanners Beach, or extend your day trip into a full weekend of camping.

Eat: Stop by Baker’s Kitchen for an old-fashioned breakfast followed by a waterfront meal at Persimmons. There are plenty more New Bern restaurants to try, but those two are a great start. End your day with a fountain soda from the Pepsi Museum!

Read More: 15+ Awesome Things to Do in New Bern

Onslow County

Great for an NC Day Trip from Fayetteville, Greenville, and Wilmington.

Experience: We love Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville. It’s filled with powerful representations of those who’ve served and many who died while serving our nation.

Swansboro is a delightful small town outside of Jacksonville in Onslow County. While the downtown may be small, it sure is mighty!

Shop ’til you drop at charming shops like Lovely’s Boutique and fill your nostalgic sweet tooth at Candy Edventure. Sip wine dockside at Bake, Bottle, and Brew. No matter how you spend it, we guarantee a wonderful day trip to Swansboro!

Take a boat over to Bear Island (part of Hammocks Beach State Park) or rent a kayak and paddle around Queen’s Creek.

Eat: Grab a bite from Jeff’s Burgers, Dogs, and Shakes in Jacksonville. It’s one of our favorite restaurants in the area and one you must visit.

It’s definitely worth a trip into Beulaville (shared but Onslow and Duplin counties) for a meal at Mike’s Farm, on the other side of Jacksonville from Swansboro. Not only is the farm a seasonal destination for their annual events, but the food is certainly worth writing home about!

I mean… look at that mac-n-cheese above!

Wilmington

Great for an NC Day Trip from Fayetteville, Jacksonville, and Raleigh.

Experience: Wilmington and its beaches are one of the most popular day trips in North Carolina, especially for people in the Triangle. The beaches with their beautiful sands and crashing waves are the epitome of relaxation.

If you’re looking for things to do in Wilmington, there are plenty of ways to explore at the beach and away from it. Start at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher and head over to Fort Fisher State Historic Site to learn some Civil War history. 

We also love exploring Airlie Gardens, the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area nearby, and Carolina Beach State Park, too!

After all that walking, you’ll undoubtedly want a frosty pint and these breweries in Wilmington are here to help! We recommend Wrightsville Beach Brewing or Flying Machine. If you are still looking for things to do, then the Wilmington Railroad Museum is one of our favorite kid-friendly activities!

Eat: There are so many delicious places to eat in Wilmington! Whether you’re slamming burritos at Flaming Amy’s or hanging out by the Riverwalk downtown at Elijah’s, you’re bound to have a delicious experience.

Stay: Stay right along the river at The Ballast Hotel. Ask for a waterfront room to ensure you wake to views of Battleship North Carolina. If you’d like a more secluded stay, we’ve compiled a list of some of the Airbnbs in Wilmington

Read More: 20+ Great Things to Do in Carolina Beach (and Nearby!)

Which of These Day Trips in North Carolina is Your Favorite?

We hope these incredible day trips in North Carolina give you ideas for your next quick getaway. If you’re familiar with some of the options we picked, we’d love to know your thoughts about them. If there are day trip spots you think we should add, let us know, and tell us why!

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