15 of the Best Day Trips in North Carolina

Last Updated on October 22, 2021

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If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.

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 that 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!

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 

Asheville Day Trips in North Carolina
Live music at Asheville’s ChowChow Festival

Experience: One could definitely spend an entire day just 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 bathe 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: The Best NC Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

Boone

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 snow tubing, hikes to awesome spots like Otter Falls and Rough Ridge, and the opportunity to drink some good beer. 

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.

Blowing Rock 

Blowing Rock Day Trips in North Carolina
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 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, 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

Burke County

Morganton Day Trips in North Carolina
Linville Falls.

Experience: Morganton is a North Carolina mountain town 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!), 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 walks 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 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.

Wilkes County

Experience: Grab a mocha latte from Anchor Coffee in North Wilkesboro before clipping into your mountain bike and hitting the trails at W Kerr Smith 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 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.

Day Trips in North Carolina (Central)

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

Randolph County

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. Families 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.

Winston-Salem 

Winston Salem Day Trips in North Carolina

Experience: We think Winston-Salem has the makings of many memorable day trips in North Carolina. 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.

Durham 

Durham 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. 

Raleigh

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 day trips in North Carolina. 

Charlotte

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.

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!

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.

Fayetteville

Fayetteville Day Trips in North Carolina

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 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!

New Bern

Day Trips in North Carolina New Bern

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. End your day with a fountain soda from the Pepsi Museum!

Crystal Coast

Atlantis Day Trips in North Carolina
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!

Onslow County

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 

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. 

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

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 these 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!

More Things to Do in North Carolina

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