North Carolina Summer Bucket List

North Carolina Summer Bucket List

See the sun rise over the Oak Island Pier in the Brunswick Islands

It’s officially summertime, and to celebrate we’ve created the 2014 North Carolina Summer Bucket List featuring fun things to see and do across the state.

Make the most of your summer with these 20 quintessential experiences from the mountains to the coast, then share your bucket list photos with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #NCbucketlist.

Summer Bucket List - SunriseBask in a coastal sunrise

Welcome your day with a scenic start over one of our barrier island beaches. From the Outer Banks to the Brunswick Islands, the view will set the standard for your vacation, whether your day includes fishing, golf or historic sites.

Summer Bucket List - Farmers MarketExplore a farmers market

North Carolina is a wonderfully bountiful place with an abundance of farmers markets where you’ll find locally produced fruits, vegetables and baked goods, along with flowers, homemade goods, art and crafts.

Summer Bucket List - Yadkin ValleyTaste wine from the Yadkin Valley

An ideal blend of sun and soil make the Yadkin Valley a perfect place to experience wines crafted by vintners who welcome guests as if they're family. Enhancing the wine experience are the local cuisine, charming B&Bs, local arts and plenty of outdoor activities.

Summer Bucket List - BBQPick a barbecue team – Eastern or Western style

Barbecue fanatics argue passionately over the styles prevalent here – Western (or Lexington) versus Eastern. It’s all about smoking choice cuts of homegrown pork crowned with imaginative sauces, so take your palate on a statewide taste test (and don’t forget the hushpuppies).

Summer Bucket List - Historic SitesExplore one of 27 historic sites

Visit one or all of these 27 sites to reimagine our Native American heritage and the first English colony in the New World, traverse battlefields and plantations, learn about North Carolina’s historic figures and famous personalities, pan for gold and much more.

Summer Bucket List - WaterfallsMarvel at one of 350+ waterfalls

Discover hundreds of waterfalls around every bend in the North Carolina mountains. In Transylvania County alone, more than 250 falls welcome you to drive by, hike to or walk under them, giving the county its nickname, “The Land of Waterfalls.” There’s even a 60-foot natural waterslide known as Sliding Rock.

Summer Bucket List - Donald RossTee off at a Donald Ross golf course

Master designer Donald Ross made North Carolina his personal canvas, creating more than 50 courses that include his masterpiece, Pinehurst No. 2, site of the 2014 U.S. Opens. The Ross challenge awaits at courses from the mountains to the coast, and especially around Pinehurst and Southern Pines.

Summer Bucket List - North Carolina ZooVisit the baby animals at the zoo

The North Carolina Zoo is the place for face-to-face encounters with more than 1,600 creatures in acres of natural habitats. Check out the cougar kittens and baby otter, while the enhanced KidZone will thrill young visitors.

Summer Bucket List - Duke GardensStroll through the Duke Gardens

Wander through one of the country’s premier public gardens, encompassing 55 acres graced with a living collection of native and exotic plants, flowers, trees and shrubs – and just steps from the Duke campus.

Summer Bucket List - LighthouseClimb to the top of a coastal lighthouse (or see all seven)

Seven historic lighthouses dot the state’s beaches welcoming visitors, including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the nation’s tallest. Climb to the top – sometimes involving more than 200 steps – to enjoy spectacular ocean views.

Summer Bucket List - TweetsieTravel back in time on the Tweetsie Railroad

Hop aboard a historic steam-powered locomotive at Tweetsie Railroad, complete with a Wild West town featuring shoot-outs, musical shows, a ride-filled amusement park and plenty of old-fashioned fun. The July 4th fireworks show and Halloween Festival are favorite special events.

Summer Bucket List - Jockey's RidgeHang glide at Jockey’s Ridge

Soar solo or tandem off the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge for an unequalled oceanside experience – hang-gliding lessons and gear are available, even for kids – or try sandboarding down a dune, kayaking, windsurfing or a dip in the Atlantic Ocean.

Summer Bucket List - World Beer CupTry a 2014 World Beer Cup winner

A recognized hotbed of craft brewing, eight North Carolina beers recently won prestigious national awards, including four gold medals. Whether you’re on the Outer Banks, in the mountains, downtown Raleigh or uptown Charlotte, you can taste these honored beverages and many others worth sampling.

Summer Bucket List - NASCARImmerse yourself in NASCAR

If NASCAR is your thing, then North Carolina’s your place. Come to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a race, tour the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame Museum, cruise the “Dale Trail” and check out the high-tech shops where race cars are built for speed.

Summer Bucket List - FilmHost a North Carolina film screening party

Whether you’re planning a visit or pining for Tar Heel scenery, stage a viewing party featuring a movie or TV show filmed here – there are only about 800 to choose from, including The Hunger Games, Dirty Dancing, Iron Man 3, Last of the Mohicans, Bull Durham and Homeland.

Summer Bucket List - BiltmoreLive like a Vanderbilt at Biltmore

It’s America’s largest home, and you can stroll Biltmore’s hallowed halls, relive the past, and marvel at the exquisite architecture, furnishings and art. Then meander through the gardens, visit the winery and sample the estate’s wines and food.

Summer Bucket List - Whitewater CenterConquer the U.S. National Whitewater Center

Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind outdoor playground where you can try whitewater rafting and kayaking, bike miles of trails, test your rock climbing skills or cruise down a zip line. While you're there, enjoy food, beverages, festivals and music.

Summer Bucket List - Dan RiverFloat down the Dan River

More than 100 miles of refreshing water await you on the Dan River, making it perfect for tubing, kayaking and canoeing. It’s also a good place to fish, or just enjoy the natural surroundings. Go for the day, or make it an overnight at a campground nearby.

Summer Bucket List - Wild HorsesRoam the Outer Banks with wild horses

Witness the freedom and beauty of the wild horses of the Outer Banks. Descended from ponies brought here by Spanish explorers 500 years ago, they’re an awe-inspiring vision on the beaches of Corolla and the Shackleford Banks.

Summer Bucket List - SunsetTake in a mountain sunset

There’s no better end to a day than to pause on a mountain ridge here in North Carolina and watch the sun descend behind a peak. Afterward, there’s still plenty of nightlife to explore and enjoy, whether you’re camping or wandering around town.

Gary Carter is an Asheville-based travel writer who covers a range of topics for magazines, online publications and his blog, Eliot’s Tales 4 Gen B.

Request your Travel Guide

Download or order FREE guides and maps

Discover Project Project 543

Explore unique spots across North Carolina