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North Carolina

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Travel Guide North America USA Southern United States North Carolina

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Introduction

Red Rose sunset

Red Rose sunset

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North Carolina stretches from the heights of the Appalachian Mountains to the steamy Atlantic coastline. North Carolina is known as the Tar Heel State and the Old North State.

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History

The State has a long and interesting history and has been the location of many famous and historic events. This state was the location of the first English colony at Roanoke, which mysteriously disappeared in 1590. Then in the 1650s the Virginia colony expanded into present day North Carolina and in 1663 King Charles II of England granted a charter to found a new colony that he named Carolina making it one of the original 13 Colonies. By 1710 disputes over control formed with the southern part of the colony that resulted in the splitting of the colony and the creation of South Carolina in 1729. In 1903 the first powered and sustained heavier-than-air flight was held by the Wright brothers at Kill Devil Hill around 10 kilometres from Kitty Hawk. North Carolina is a great place to visit with great history, beaches and mountains to explore.

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Geography

North Carolina borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina is the 28th most extensive and the 10th most populous of the 50 United States. North Carolina is divided into some clear and distinct areas. The coastal plain, which is 45% of the state, dominates the eastern portions of the state. Then there is the Piedmont region that is the middle 35% of the state. The two most interesting areas of the states are the Appalachian Mountains and the Channel Islands that form the two edges of North Carolina. The Channel Islands create the two largest land lock sounds of the United States of Albermarle Sound in the north and Pamlico Sound in the south. North Carolina has a wide range of elevations, from sea level on the coast to 2,037 metres at Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the Eastern US.

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Cities

  • Charlotte is the state's largest city.
  • Raleigh is the state capital and a hub for Southwest Airlines.
  • Greensboro is home to a major branch of the University of North Carolina.
  • Durham
  • Winston-Salem
  • Fayetteville
  • Cary
  • Chapel Hill is home to the main branch of the University of North Carolina.

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Sights and Activities

Striking It Rich

Striking It Rich

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Emerald Hollow Mine

"Rock Hounds" and those who just love digging in the dirt will enjoy a visit to Hiddenite, North Carolina and Emerald Hollow Mine (Hiddenite Gems, Inc.). Emerald Hollow Mine is the only U.S. emerald mine open to the public. Visitors can choose from sluicing, creeking, digging or a combination to find those hidden treasures buried in the earth. Hiddenite (also known as Spodumene or Lithia Emerald) is only one of many gem stones and minerals found at the mine. Others include smokey quartz, sapphires, topaz, garnets, amethyst, tourmaline and several varieties of jasper. The mine is off the beaten path requiring personal transportation but there are several campgrounds around the area. It is located about 100 kilometres northwest of Charlotte, 100 klilometres and 250 kilometres east of Winston-Salem and Raleigh, respectively. Sluicing is the best value for your money though if you want a bit of exercise then creeking or digging is the way to go. You won't get much conversation from the employees but you will meet a lot of interesting people all out for a day of "hoping to strike it rich".

For the history buff: The town of Hiddenite was originally named White Plains. In the late 1870s, Thomas Edison enlisted the services of mineralologist, William Earl Hidden, to find platinum for his work. In 1879, Hidden discovered the new mineral, spodumene, in the caves surrounding White Plains. The mineral became known as hiddenite and the town's name change followed shortly thereafter. North Carolina held the only known deposits of hiddenite until recently. Within the last few decades, hiddenite has also been discovered in New Hampshire, South Dakota, China, Brazil and Madagascar.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

© All Rights Reserved martgina

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2009. Over 9 million people visit the park each year, making it the most visited park in the United States. There are 78 historic buildings in the Park, which is open year round. Spanning the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, the Park is a popular destination for hikers. The Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a lot to do and see in the park. The Appalachian Trail is a 3,500-kilometre-long hiking trail with a section in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park is home to 1,500 black bears who can often been seen in open areas such as Catalooche Valley and Cades Cove. Deer, wild turkeys and foxes are found at Cades Cove. Over 10,000 species have been identified as living in the Park, with the expectation that another 90,000 remain to be found.

Beaches

From the Outer Banks to Cape Fear and Sunset Beach North Carolina has beaches that stretch the entire coastline, mainly along the Barrier Islands. These beaches offer a great place to relax with a very different vibe then the beaches further south in Florida. Remember that many of these beaches can only be reached by cars. Although renting a house for a long weekend, or for a week, with some friends or family can be a great relaxing vacation. Outer Banks are close to the Virginia border and includes the towns of Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Corola and Roanoke. Top Sail is in the middle of the state and is in a more isolated area. Cape Fear is the in the southern area of state.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Hiking can be found along parts of the Appalachian Trail or on just for strolls along the beaches.
  • The Great Dismal Swamp, which crosses the border of Virginia and North Carolina, is an amazing natural site with swamps and trees merging together.

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Weather

North Carolina has pretty moderate winters and hot summers along the coastline. It is best to avoid the coastline during the hurricane season as these storms can be pretty deadly, though the state sees less hurricanes compared to places further south. In the mountains the winters can be very cold and during the summer the heat can be extreme or pretty mild. North Carolina averages fewer than 20 tornadoes per year. Many of these are produced by hurricanes or tropical storms along the coastal plain.

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Getting There

By Plane

1. Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (CLT) is one of the busiest airports in the USA and in the top 25 worldwide. It has numerous domestic connections and quite a few international flights as well.

To/from the airport

  • Bus: Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS)'s Sprinter Enhanced Bus Service connects the airport to the downtown Charlotte Transportation Center and it arrives and departs in front of Zone D Baggage Claim in the commercial lanes. The service operates from the airport every 20 minutes Monday-Friday from 5:50am to 7:00pm. After 7:00pm, service is offered every 30 minutes until 12:02am. On Saturday and Sunday, Sprinter operates from the airport every hour from 6:00am to 8:00am, every half hour from 8:00am to 9:00pm, and every hour from 9:00pm to 1:00am. It takes about 20 minutes and the one-way fare is $1.75.
  • Taxis, hotel shuttles and rental cars are all available at the airport as well.

2. Raleigh-Durham International Airport (IATA: RDU, ICAO:KRDU) is one of the major airports in the state operating more then 400 flights a day. This airport has pretty good domestic service and limited international service. One nice feature is that the budget airline Southwest operates in and out this airport making for cheaper flights to neighboring areas or across the country.

To/from the airport
Triangle Transit offers scheduled, fixed-route regional and commuter bus service between the airport and the principal cities of Raleigh, Durham and town of Chapel Hill (where TTA connects with the respective local urban transit systems), as well as to and from Research Triangle Park and several of the region's larger suburban communities. Taxis, shuttles and rental cars are all widely available at the airport as well.

By Train

A number of Amtrak trains operate to and from North Carolina, some of them originating and terminating in the state, others just en route going north or south mainly. The trains include:

  • The Carolinian/Piedmont between Charlotte and New York, also stopping in Washington DC and Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
  • The Crescent between New York and New Orleans, stopping in places like Greensboro and Charlotte.
  • The Silver Service/Palmetto between New York and Tampa/Miami, stopping in Rocky Mount and Raleigh, North Carolina.

By Car

The major intestates of 40, 95 and 85 cross the state. There are also interstate spurs connecting to major cities not on these routes.

By Bus

Greyhound connects most of the major towns and cities.

By Boat

If you own a boat it is possible to cruise or sail up the Barrier Islands, remember it is best to avoid hurricane season in the fall. Many boat insurance companies don't allow boats on the North Carolina coast during the hurricane season.

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Getting Around

By Plane

The state is small enough that flying between cities would not make logical sense.

By Car

The major intestates of 40, 95 and 85 cross the state. There are also interstate spurs connecting to major cities not on these routes. The county and state roads are pretty good although are broken up by small towns.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

North Carolina has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.

By Bus

Greyhound connects most of the major towns and cities.

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Eat

This pulled pork and seafood territory. Be prepared for deep fried seafood galore along the coast. Excellent deep fried oysters can be easily found along the Barrier Islands.

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Drink

Cheap beer dominates the bars in these parts although some micro brews are starting to pop up.

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Sleep

Chain hotels dominate the tourist areas although there are plenty of boutique and bed and breakfasts to found in the state. Along the coastline the popular thing to do is to rent a house for a couple of days in order to enjoy the beach,

Hotel and Motel Chains

There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:

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References

  1. 1 Mid-2008 estimate, U.S. Census Bureau

Quick Facts

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Capital
Raleigh
Population
9,222,414[1]

Contributors

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North Carolina Travel Helpers

This is version 27. Last edited at 11:14 on May 21, 13 by Sander. 18 articles link to this page.

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