With 300 miles of gorgeous coastline to the east and one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world to the west – and tons of urban fun in between – North Carolina summers offer plenty of opportunities to up your Instagram game.
Grab your phone and your favorite travel buddies and get to snapping at some of our most Instagram-worthy destinations, or plan an epic summer road trip and hit all nine. Make sure to use #visitnc when you post – we want to see how you enjoy our state.
1 Switzerland Inn & Chalet Restaurant
1 Switzerland Inn & Chalet RestaurantLittle SwitzerlandSee on map
The firepit area overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains alone is worth a trip to Switzerland Inn, but you’ll want to take advantage of The Chalet Restaurant’s panoramic mountain views while dining on seafood, duck and fine steak offerings, too. Add a hike to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the East, or to Linville Falls for more great photo ops.
Insider tip: Save big when you book a weeknight stay with lodging and spa packages.
2 Dorothea Dix Park
2 Dorothea Dix ParkRaleighSee on map
There’s something about sunflowers in bloom that makes summer feel like it’s officially arrived, and the 5 acres at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh certainly make you want to run carefree through these stalks of summer bliss and document it all. Who can’t help but smile when you’re surrounded by these happy flowers?
When to go: The sunflowers are expected to be at peak bloom in mid-July. To celebrate this beautiful time of year, the city of Raleigh throws its annual Destination SunFest with music, art, classic summer foods and lawn games.
3 Adapt Kitchen & Juice Bar
3 Adapt Kitchen & Juice BarWrightsville BeachSee on map
Adapt Kitchen & Juice Bar has quickly netted thousands of Instagram followers thanks to artful photos of its bright, beautiful and super-fresh food including acai bowls, poke bowls, and artisan toasts topped with avocado or labneh. Of course, the colorful superfood smoothies and organic juices often steal the spotlight on the ‘gram.
Insider tip: Though not listed on its online menu, Adapt also serves tasty gluten-free power balls and other gluten-free desserts.
4 Rough Ridge Trail
4 Rough Ridge TrailLinvilleSee on map
Known as “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway has endless Instagrammable hotspots along its 469 miles that stretch from western North Carolina all the way up through the High Country and beyond. Rough Ridge, at milepost 302.8, is definitely worth a stop to stretch your legs. From Rough Ridge Overlook, the summit is a little more than a half-mile from the parking area, and you’ll be rewarded with long-range views of Grandfather Mountain, the Linn Cove Viaduct and more.
Insider tip: Post-hike, head to milepost 297 for a stroll around Price Lake or get on the water and rent a kayak, rowboat or canoe on-site.
5 Hello, Sailor
5 Hello, SailorCornelius, north of CharlotteSee on map
Three levels of waterfront dining at Hello, Sailor provide plenty of tables for enjoying the views of Lake Norman, our state’s largest man-made lake. For the perfect shot, try a refreshing cocktail served in funky glassware (think Tiki cups and marlin heads). Indoor seating also offers a bright, gorgeous aesthetic of pastel colors with wood accents, so be sure to snap photos in both places.
What to order: Everyone raves about the hushpuppies – they were named the South’s best in 2018 by Garden & Gun – and its seasonal hand pies, which change biweekly and are tossed in the beef-fat fryer before being coated in a sugar-and-salt mixture.
6The Lost Colony
6The Lost ColonyManteoSee on map
The Lost Colony – which centers around the 117 English colonists who mysteriously disappeared from Roanoke Island in 1590 – has enthralled audiences since 1937, making it America’s longest-running outdoor symphonic drama. Created by Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Green, the 100-plus-person production pulls out all the stops with top-notch acting, props and scenery. In fact, more than one Broadway career has launched here.
When to go: The play runs six nights a week with Sundays off from late May through late August. Be ready to pull out your camera as the sun sets behind the waterfront stage.
7 Fontana Lake
7 Fontana LakeNear Bryson CitySee on map
If you’d like to cool off surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, head to beloved Fontana Lake for striking views. Swim, boat and fish to your heart’s content, and remember that some of the coolest photos come when you’re out in the middle of the lake. After your dip, be sure to drive or walk across Fontana Dam, the equivalent of a 50-story building and one of the tallest dams in America.
Insider tip: Rent a boat for a full day or half day for the ultimate summer experience.
8 LeBauer Park
8 LeBauer ParkGreensboroSee on map
Locals love LeBauer Park for its wide swath of grass, mature trees and events calendar filled with activities for kids. A splash pad, two on-site restaurants, lawn games, and free events such as yoga and movies in the park make this a popular Greensboro hangout.
Insider tip: Evenings reveal a sparklier side of this enchanting park, with a beautiful outdoor art installation that lights up the sky framed by the twinkling night lights of the city and fountains that glow.
9 Sailing in Oriental
9 Sailing in OrientalOrientalSee on map
As the “Sailing Capital of North Carolina,” Oriental hosts a multitude of water festivals, regattas and other races throughout the year. Bystanders can also enjoy watching weekly sail races on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., while budding sailors can sign up for hands-on, days-long courses at Oriental’s School of Sailing. Or rent a powerboat, charter a captain or take a sunset cruise; whatever you do, get out on the water, and then show off your new skills with a photo or boomerang.
More water fun: Oriental is known for its sailing chops, but small water crafts also rule here thanks to Oriental’s location at the intersection of several creeks along the Neuse River that create miles of waterways to explore.