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13 Incredible Cities In North Carolina

A beautiful state in every way, North Carolina is home to the most picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains and is bordered by coastline. The diversity in the city and myriad activities in and around the facilities of these cities make them the best in the state.


Aerial view of the downtown Asheville, North Carolina skyline
Aerial view of the downtown Asheville, North Carolina skyline.

Called “Paris of the South”, Asheville is a unique little town with a great food scene. The various restaurants serve dishes made with local ingredients gathered from surrounding farms, while the city also boasts more breweries per capita than any other in the United States. The Blue Ridge Mountains behind the downtown skyline are a wonderful backdrop to spend the day, whether enjoying the outdoors or at one of the sidewalk cafes. Asheville was also declared “America’s New Monster Capital” for its independent spirit, where everyone finds their own niche whether it be hiking, the art scene, or just kicking back with the laid-back vibe of the city.


Autumn view of Boone, North Carolina
Autumn view of Boone, North Carolina.

More than a college town with the largest Appalachian State campus, Boone is a worthy fa├žade of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Fresh mountain air calls for epic hikes and beautiful views of the city and its picturesque surroundings. The streets of yesteryear are filled with a youthful and friendly atmosphere with a great live music scene, strong bluegrass roots, and a much lower cost of living if a tourist decides to make the city their home. Life is simple in Boone, where summer activities include tubing down the local river and fall turns the lush foliage gold and amber.


Aerial view of park and library in downtown Cary, North Carolina
Aerial view of the park and library in downtown Cary, North Carolina.

Booming since the 1970s, Cary’s population of 8,000 has multiplied to 170,000, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Raleigh’s convenient location makes it a great day escape to a new environment, with many returning to visit. As a sprawling city with a wonderful walkable downtown, one will find a favorite among the many full shops and restaurants. There’s La Farm Bakery, Bond Brothers Beer Company, Taipei 101, old-school Ashworth Drugs with an old-fashioned soda fountain and fabulous hotdogs. The city is popular with sports fans for games and championships, with the WakeMed Soccer Park and the USA Baseball National Training Complex. The Reedy Creek entrance to William B. Umstead State Park is also located in Cary along the Company Mill Trail.


View of downtown Charlotte, North Carolina from First Ward Park.
View of downtown Charlotte, North Carolina from First Ward Park.

Charlotte is the largest city in the state with the largest airport and the second largest banking center in the country after New York City. The city encompasses a wonderful urban sprawl filled with amazing restaurants, breweries, and light food options with many interesting neighborhoods. Optimally located just a few hours’ drive from both the Appalachian Mountains and the white-sand beaches of North Carolina, the cityscape is defined by a handful of skyscrapers as some of the most notable in the world. The neighborhoods feature unique styles and flair with a vivid southern charm and modern cosmopolitan influence throughout. Local culture with professional sports representation in the NBA and NFL, great museums, parks, and a vibrant beer scene attract more permanent residents each year.


Aerial view of the downtown Greensboro, North Carolina skyline
Aerial view of the downtown Greensboro, North Carolina skyline.

Centrally located in the far north of the state, Greensboro is another city that offers the best of the world, with the Blue Ridge Mountains and beautiful coastline just hours away. Standing by its name, the city has also been repeatedly called one of the “The Greenest Cities in America”. Greensboro has undertaken several green initiatives around sustainability and protecting the surrounding environment, including 90 miles of nature trails and greenways to promote and preserve excellence for outdoor activities. The local culture includes five universities, explores a vibrant local arts scene, and offers an excellent level of amenities.

Hard nut

Aerial view of Hickory, North Carolina
Aerial view of Hickory, North Carolina.

Sometimes known as the Catawba Valley, the Hickory area is home to a wonderfully moderate climate and scenic mountain views, with retirees, young families and young professionals fleeing to the city. Hickory is a beautiful day trip opportunity for different vibes and environments with Charlotte only an hour away. It also gets the beer- and art-loving influence of Asheville, with the latter just an hour from the mountains. With new restaurants, retail stores and bars springing up, it’s also the famous birthplace of brands like Broyhill and Bernhardt, as well as data centers for Google and Apple. There are sculptures by local and regional artists to marvel at with strong artistic roots and excellent art galleries to peruse.


Commonly attracting big city dwellers from across the state, Jacksonville is another fastest growing small city in the United States known for Camp Lejeune and plenty of things to do for all ages. Jacksonville’s Zing Zumm Children’s Museum is great for families with kids, while parents can make another stop at Walton’s Distillery for a tasting and spirits tour. Beloved By All restaurants serve a variety of cuisines, with the atmospheric Jeff’s and Kettle Diner a local favorite. Complementing the down-to-earth feel of the city, the Lejeune Memorial Gardens offer grounds for scenic walks or a beautiful afternoon of relaxing in tranquility.


The Boat Launch Pier at Lake Crabtree County Park, Morrisville, North Carolina
The boat launch dock at Lake Crabtree County Park, Morrisville, North Carolina. Editorial credit: Wileydoc /

With a vibrant culture and suburban feel, Morrisville is the state’s “hip” little town, just west of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. With vast parks and neighborhoods of diverse personalities, it is also widely known as a tech city. Among the fastest growing communities in North Carolina, it is one of the best cities to run a small business and raise a family with an easy commute to work, thanks to its central location in the state. In addition to year-round events and annual festivals, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors, including exploring Lake Crabtree County Park, boating, mountain biking, and hiking.


Aerial view of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina
Aerial view of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina.

Raleigh is one of the best cities in the state and has perfect posture from every angle. Couples, families, and kids love Raleigh with something to do for everyone, including spectacular museums and eclectic restaurants fit for an unforgettable date night. Dorothea Dix Park, as good as it is for daily walks and relaxation, partially becomes a beautiful site of beautiful sunflower fields during the summer. There are also dozens of ways to enjoy winter in Raleigh.

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A view of downtown Wake Forest, North Carolina, on a January morning.
A view of downtown Wake Forest, North Carolina, on a January morning. Editorial credit: Wileydoc /

Quaint and suburban, the nostalgically named town located just north of Raleigh is perfect for a day visit to explore the diverse neighborhoods away from the big city. Its vocation as an ideal place to enjoy the outdoors makes Wake Forest a prominent place among the best cities to live in North Carolina. The ideal location with numerous parks is perfect for camping, boating, fishing, and biking family style. The city’s atmosphere of excellent restaurants, museums, galleries and concert halls is especially attractive to young professionals, and much of the population has university degrees.

wax ax

As a suburb of Charlotte, Waxhaw is a quaint little town while also being one of the fastest growing places in the state. Charming on the inside with the best of the beach and mountains, Waxhaw is also known for some of the most beautiful homes in the state. Located just a few miles from the South Carolina border, it welcomes frequent visitors from the neighboring state for a change of scenery.


Aerial view of Wilmington, North Carolina
Aerial view of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Known as a city for family fun and leisure, Wilmington also has some of the best beaches in North Carolina. Wrightsville Beach is known for its most stunning waters and some locally caught seafood right on the beach. The town of Carolina Beach, Carolina Beach State Park and the more secluded and relaxed beach experience at Kure Beach are also just around the corner for extra relaxation after kayaking or snorkeling. There’s also historic downtown Wilmington, the beautiful annual Azalea Festival, as well as the fantastic breweries that inspired the popular beer app, Untappdconceived in Wilmington.


Aerial view of downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina skyline
Aerial view of the downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina skyline.

Once the two largest separate cities in North Carolina, the city still presents two distinct sides today, with people coming to “Old Salem” to travel back in time to the days of the early United States, the Moravians, and the delicacies from the old days. There’s also the must-see Casa Reynolda, the museums, and the Cardinal Hotel worth visiting if you’re not staying for its rich history. There are more delicious restaurants and innovative breweries, like Foothills Brewing, which are a favorite of many throughout the state. Bundled with a unique downtown tasting room featuring specialty alcoholic creations and delicious complementary food, it’s one of the best places to hang out with a relaxed atmosphere in North Carolina.

Located in close proximity to other epicenters, these cities have diverse neighborhoods for a variety of sights that transport you to a completely different atmosphere around the corner. With great access to the bountiful outdoor scene in the suburbs, including mountains, beaches, and parks, one will find plenty to brag about at home while telling the stories about “the best city they have visited”.

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