Set against a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains’ rolling hills, Asheville has been travelers’ top destination for years. With numerous art galleries in downtown Asheville, this ideal small town boasts a year-round farmers market and pedestrian-friendly shopping districts. Enjoy hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities in the surrounding area, or stop by the impressive Biltmore Estate to find out why Frommer’s named Asheville one of the top 12 travel destinations in the world.
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George Vanderbilt built this 125,000-acre estate as his country escape. After he opened his home filled with 250 rooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces, he, his wife and child lived there through the 1900s. Now the site of a winery, inn, and numerous outdoor activities, the estate ranked as one of America’s favorite architectural wonders by a recent public poll. Roam the lush gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the creator of New York’s Central Park, and tour the massive home modeled after three 16th-century French chateaux.
A chain of barrier islands along North Carolina’s coast, the Outer Banks have drawn visitors since 1587. Go hang-gliding on the sand dunes, windsurfing in the ocean, or relax with a book on the sandy, pristine beaches. Visit Cape Hatteras, at more than 70 miles of coast, the nation’s first national seashore.
Cape Fear Coast
Search for sea turtles at Wrightsville Beach, and hike the nature trails on Pleasure Island to look for the rare Venus Flytrap. And then head over to the banks of the Cape Fear River, for a horse-drawn carriage tour through Wilmington’s historic district.
Take in the city life in Charlotte. Cheer on the city’s sports teams, including the Carolina Panthers, the city’s NFL team, or for the basketball fan, the Charlotte Bobcats. Can’t resist the vroom of a fast car? Go to the Lowe’s Motor Speedway for a NASCAR race. To feed the mind, see a Broadway musical at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, take in a performance at the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, or marvel at the latest science exhibit at Discovery Place. For those who would rather spend the day outside, try your hand at kayaking the Catawba River or go rafting on the world’s largest man-made whitewater river at the U.S. National Whitewater Center just 15 minutes outside the city.