I might’ve lived in North Carolina for 20-plus years, but there are so many places I still haven’t visited. Of course I have my summer staples and local haunts, but I'm ready to explore more this fall! Check out my plans, plus what I'm doing in the meantime, below.
Nags Head Go-Tos
The highlight of my summers is our annual family trip to the Outer Banks. I like to relax on the beach and let time slow down, so while my family might like to bodysurf in the ocean, I contribute to the fun by taking the photos. I’m just fine sitting right here in my beach chair. When we do head out to explore though, we like these:
- Fish Heads Bar & Grill: OK, fine – I'll move from my beach chair for ocean views from the pier, live music, a basket of fried chicken and a beer.
- Outer Banks Brewing Station: This is the first wind-powered brewery in the country, so knowing I'm being environmentally conscious while I sip on a beer in the gigantic backyard is a win-win for me.
- Duck Donuts: Made-to-order, melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts fuel most of our mornings at the beach.
Local Raleigh Favorites
Raleigh is my home, and these places are my home away from home.
- The Green Monkey: I'm a regular here. It’s an LGBTQ+-owned bar and gift shop (Rusty and Drew are the best!), and it hosts a trivia night every week. I’ve also been to a chili cook-off and a soup cook-off, where local regulars compete with their homemade dishes and win prizes. I can’t wait to stop into their brand-new space – it's downtown in a building that dates back to 1883 but has been vacant since 1989.
- Mine Creek Greenway Trail: My dog loves this trail as much as I do! Soaking in the weather, trees and nature in general brings me to a happy place.
- Relish Craft Kitchen & Bourbon Bar: When I moved to NC, one of the food items I embraced immediately was a good mac ‘n’ cheese. And Relish has some of the best around – there are eight different varieties, and they come in a skillet with a baked layer of cheese on top. To die for! And when my husband and I don’t come for lunch or dinner, we’re here for breakfast. Basically, we’re here a lot.
Strolling Raleigh’s First Friday – a showcase of the city’s creative community on the first Friday of every month – with a beer in hand is one of my favorite things to do in the city. A couple of my must-stops on these days are:
- 311 Gallery: This gallery oftentimes puts on opening receptions during these Friday nights, and I’ve bought several local artists’ prints here.
- Designed for Joy: This nonprofit hires women in crisis situations to provide employment and stability. The women help create jewelry, charcuterie boards, leather handbags and more. I love buying friends and family gifts here because you know it’s supporting such an important cause.
Future fall plans in the mountains
I've wanted to go to these places for a while now. This fall, my North Carolina bucket list is about to get two mountain towns shorter!
- White squirrels: They’re simply a color variation within the same species as the gray squirrel – but they’re just so cute! I can’t wait to hopefully see one in person.
- 4th Friday Gallery Walk: Raleigh has First Friday, and Brevard has 4th Friday Gallery Walk – I think I'm going to like it here! I see more local artists’ prints in my future.
- Wilkesboro Dragway: A visit to Wilkes County means racing history gets the green light – so North Carolina’s oldest dragway is first on my list. There’s an event most weekends.
- Copper Barrel Distillery: Racing and moonshine go hand in hand in Wilkesboro, so a tour and tasting here is a necessity. I’ve got my eye on one of the fruit-flavored moonshines.
To look back at summer a bit longer, see how Visit NC Director of Tourism Marketing Scott Peacock spends his summer months, what Visit NC Partner Relations Manager Andre Nabors' summer soundtrack is, and what sparks nostalgia in NC Film Director Guy Gaster. Plus, start planning your spring break trips now with Visit NC insiders Dana Grimstead and Veda Gilbert.