50 States Countdown North Carolina

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In honor of me having achieved my goal of visiting all 50 US States, I will post a picture of somewhere I have visited in each state and write a paragraph or two about my experience. There is so much to see in every one of them, so I am just selecting one of my best memories. 

Andy and Opie from the favorite television show The “Andy Griffith Show”. Griffith based the fictional town of Mayberry on his hometown of Mt. Airy, North Carolina. You can find hundreds of “Mayberry’s” here. Small towns of close-knit communities, living life almost precisely the same way they have for decades. Holding on to the traditions and values of forefathers.

North Carolina is full of dichotomies. Part quaint, part modern. Deep Mountain Hollows, and flat ocean beaches, A foot firmly stepping into the future with eyes still on the past. North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country. Thousands are lured here each year by jobs in high tech, medical research, and banking. The cities of Charlotte and an area that is known as the triangle (Raleigh the state capital, Durham and Chapel Hill) have seen a dramatic population increase in the last few years. But drive an hour or so out of the city, and you’ll find little has changed in the last couple hundred years.

Everything about Charlotte seems brand new. Most of the buildings in the skyline are less than 20 years. The airport is very modern, and everywhere I drove there appeared to be newly opened strip malls and office buildings.


Raleigh also seemed very new. The recent influx of skilled workers has done wonders for the local economy.

While there are some excellent museums and restaurants in the cities. Some of the best things to see in North Carolina is the natural landscape.  The state runs from the Atlantic to the Great Smokey Mountains. And for me, the extreme edges of the state are really the best parts.

Great Smokey Mountains and Asheville. 

This area is about a two hour or three-hour drive from Charlotte but well worth it. In Asheville, you will find a nice downtown Arts area and the city is home to the Biltmore Estate. The largest privately owned home in the United States.

Built by the Vanderbilt family. The home is one of the best examples of a Gilded Age home. While I can appreciate the beauty and aesthetic and artistic value of the house, there is something almost obscene of someone living in a place like that especially given they built their fortune on the exploited labor of others.  (Alright, no more tubthumping) It is stunning though. The home and gardens are exquisite and exquisitely priced. Admission is between 55 and 85.00$, But you can save 10.00 with a 7-day advance purchase.
Built to resemble a French Chateau, the mansion has over 250 rooms and almost 130,000 square feet of living space over four floors.

Further west is the Great Smokey Mountain National Park the most visited of all the national parks, and many would contend is the most beautiful as well. The park is shared with the state of Tennessee and has ample hiking and camping sites.

It’s easy to take a stunning picture when your subject matter looks like this.


The park has many waterfalls. It is especially crowded during the summer and Autumn months, but if you go on the shoulder times (later fall or earlier spring), you can avoid much of the rush.

Heading East to The Outer Banks The outer banks’ area is a strip of barrier islands that separates the Atlantic from the Pimlico and Albemarle Sound. The islands offer beaches beautiful lighthouses, and at at the Currituck Beach area, you can find feral horses that roam freely under the protection of the government. If you see just one thing here, this should be it. nc9

These are feral The horses descended most likely from the Spanish explorers who left them here. They are not pets and should be treated respectfully. But there is something about seeing wild horses running through the surf that is deeply moving and magnificent. I’ll do a more in-depth post on these beauties in a future post. nc8

North Carolina has such variety just about any traveler will find just the perfect itinerary. I still feel like I have so much left on the table, but a little mystery is a good thing. Come visit and discover your own story, you won’t go home disappointed.

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