Country: United States of America
Population: 9,222,414 (10th in the United States)
Major cities: Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Asheville, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, Wilmington, Jacksonville, Greenville
Currency: U.S. Dollar
Transportation: Air- Charlotte-Douglas International Airport; Raleigh-Durham International Airport; Wilmington International Airport; Piedmont-Triad International .
Train- Amtrak stations in Charlotte, Raleigh, Cary, Burlington, Kannapolis, Durham, Salisbury, Greensboro, High Point, Selma-Smithfield, Wilson, Rocky Mount, Southern Pines, Hamlet.
Car- Highways I-77, I-74, I-40, I-95, and the largest state maintained highway system in the U.S. The scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is a beautiful way to traverse the mountains.
Climate: Temperature on the coast can vary from 90’s in the middle of summer, to 30’s in the dead of winter. In the mountain region, the climate is milder in the summer, usually getting no higher than low 80’s, but winters can be painful, averaging 20’s and snowy. The piedmont region contains the best of both- snow in the winter, and not warm temperatures in the summer, but neither too extreme.
Our portion of the Appalachian Mountains is referred to as the Blue Ridge Mountains. The main city in the Blue Ridge Mountains is Asheville, NC which is the largest city in Western NC. Slightly eastern, there is Boone, NC, home of Appalachian State University. Transylvania County NC has over 250 waterfalls, some of the more famous being Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock, Moore’s Cove Falls, and Courthouse Falls. Highways in NC include I-40, I-26, I-240, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Shatley Springs is a Restaurant about 40 minutes outside of Boone that will reinvent the idea of Southern cooking for you. Do not miss it, but DO make sure you miss a meal before going. Or two. www.shatleysprings.com
For a little bit of “rustic luxury” try staying at Nantahala Mountain Resort. The cabins are unbelievably well appointed, with everything from leather furniture to multiple Jacuzzis, designer bathrooms and gourmet kitchens. Our stay included a cabin with a story wall of windows that-needless to say-offered an amazing view of the mountains. Oh, and it’s just buried enough up the side of a mountain that all you hear is birds and streams, not roads. www.nantahalamountainresort.com
In Brevard is one- if not the-coolest toy stores I have ever seen. It is called O.P. Taylors, and it is almost worth the trip the musical mountain town just by itself. 2 stories of wall-to wall (literally every inch of the walls covered ) toys, including in addition walk through room downstairs with model trains and RC cars. www.optaylors.com
When in Asheville try Left Bank, a wonderful French fusion restaurant just down from the downtown center. The prices may be a bit steep, but the food is amazing, and well worth it. Try the double cut pork chop, if only for the herb spaetzle that comes with it. 90 Patton Avenue. 828-251-5552.
The Piedmont region contains some of North Carolina’s largest cities: the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triad known as the “Research Triangle” with a combined population of over 1,300,000; Charlotte, NC with 2,277,074 in the metro area, and the Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point area known as the “Piedmont Triad” with 1,786,976 people. This coastal plains region is also the home to our national sports teams the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Bobcats in Charlotte, and the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. As well, Raleigh is home to the well-known University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, home of the Tarheels; North Carolina State University, home of the Wolfpack; and Duke University, home of the blue Devils. Highways I-40, I-95, I-77, I-74, I-440, I-485, I-277, and I-85.
While in Raleigh, check out Crabtree Valley Mall. If the capital city starts to feel like just another city, this mall brings into the realm of a pretentious upper class metropolitan. With stores like Crate and Barrel, Sephora, Cheesecake Factory, Brooks Brothers, Coach, Godiva, Pottery Barn, Swarovski and Williams-Sonoma, you know this just beams with look-down-your-nose goodness, because hey, who doesn’t like to kick out the credit cards with reckless abandoned every now and then?
The best exit for the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (domestic or international, I’ve used it for both) is 284-B, from I-40. When you get towards that number, go ahead and get in the far, far right lane- traffic on the beltline comes quick and travels fast, and if you miss it, it will take forever to get turned around.
If you’re going to a show in either Walnut Creek in Raleigh or the Bobcats Training Center in Charlotte, get there very early, because the traffic patterns can keep enjoying most of the show from car otherwise.
When going to a Show at the Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte, instead of committing road rage trying to find somewhere to eat in that enormous city, just wait until you get to the Hall- there is a Wendy’s right across the street. (also don’t stay in the Clarion for a 1 night stay for a concert. Made this mistake before, spent more there than the show)
Ahh, my home, the North Carolina Atlantic coast. From Kill Devil Hills to Southport and everything between, this is probably the most geographically well-known region of the state. The largest city on the coast is Wilmington, with a population of around 100,000. Wilmington is also home to one of the largest film studios on the east coast- Screen Gems, as well as the U.S.S. North Carolina. There are around 300 miles of barrier island beach, and the islands are home to Cape Hatteras, and Ocracoke Island. The highway I-40 ends in Wilmington, or begins there depending on your direction. The coast also contains highways 74/76, 17, and 95.
In Wilmington, try Firebelly Lounge. It is a small dive bar down a set of stairs underneath a tattoo parlor. Yeah, I know, but try it anyways. The wings are best I have had anywhere in the world- and that is saying something. 265 N Front St. 763-0141
Avoid the hotels on Market St. in Wilmington, from about 8th St, until New Centre Dr. Not all are terrible, just most, and in order to remain arbitrary, I would just avoid this area. Should be fine otherwise.
If you get to Wrightsville Beach and there is absolutely nowhere to park (which if you get there after 9am from May until September there won’t be), try going ALL the way to the other end of the county and checking the area between Fort Fisher and Kure Beach. Cheaper and less crowded.
For great seafood in Wilmington, check out Naked King Fish. It is not as reknown as Oceanic or Blue Water, but it is every bit as good. Also Check Michael’s in Carolina Beach.