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Embrace the Best of North Carolina: A New Resident’s Guide to Local Attractions and Hidden Gems – FREE PDF

moving to north carolina
December 20, 2023

A warm North Carolina breeze, breathtaking mountain vistas, and a vibrant cultural tapestry await you. Whether you're seeking thrilling outdoor adventures, a taste of history, or simply a slower pace of life, North Carolina has something for everyone. From the rolling hills of the Piedmont to the dramatic peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, the state offers a diverse landscape primed for exploration.

As a new resident, you're standing on the threshold of countless exciting experiences. This guide will serve as your map, leading you through some of North Carolina's most celebrated attractions, as well as unveiling hidden gems that only locals know. So, buckle up and prepare to be enchanted by the natural beauty, rich history, and friendly communities that make North Carolina truly unique.

From the world-renowned Blue Ridge Parkway to the charming Outer Banks beaches, your journey will take you through breathtaking scenery, charming towns, and thriving cities. You'll discover historic battlefields and vibrant art scenes, uncover delectable local cuisine and hidden culinary treasures, and find yourself surrounded by a warm southern hospitality that will make you feel right at home.

Whether you crave an adrenaline rush while whitewater rafting in the Nantahala National Forest or seek a tranquil escape along the quiet shores of Lake Norman, North Carolina's diverse landscape caters to every desire. So, delve into this guide and get ready to embrace the best of North Carolina, one unforgettable adventure at a time.

Let’s explore some points to moving to North Carolina worth considering.

Moving to North Carolina: Cities on the Rise

On our first stop in exploring North Carolina, we want to look at cities on the rise. These are cities that have booming job, culture, and entertainment markets. You’re in luck in North Carolina, the state is experiencing a surge in new residents, drawn by its diverse opportunities and welcoming atmosphere.

Want to see which cities are ranking? Let's explore some of the top growing cities that could be your new home.

1. Raleigh: The City of Oaks

Raleigh, the capital city, is a hub of innovation and culture. Boasting a thriving job market, renowned universities, and a rich history, it's no wonder that many are choosing to make Raleigh their home. Moving to North Carolina often leads to Raleigh for those seeking a perfect blend of career growth and a vibrant lifestyle.

The city's tree-lined streets and green spaces create a picturesque backdrop for a life that balances work and leisure. From the historic neighborhoods like Oakwood to the contemporary vibes of Downtown, Raleigh offers diverse living experiences, each with its unique character.

Raleigh's commitment to innovation is evident in the Research Triangle Park, a hub for technology and research that attracts professionals from around the globe. This commitment extends to a lively arts scene, diverse culinary experiences, and a calendar filled with events that bring the community together.

2. Charlotte: The Queen City

Known for its impressive skyline, Charlotte stands as the largest city in the state. It's a financial powerhouse with a robust job market and a cultural scene that rivals any major metropolis. Moving to North Carolina and choosing Charlotte means immersing yourself in a city that beautifully balances career opportunities and recreational offerings.

What sets Charlotte apart is its diverse neighborhoods, each with its own personality and charm. From the historic streets of Dilworth to the trendy vibes of South End, there's a place for every taste and lifestyle. As you explore the city, you'll discover a rich cultural scene, delectable dining options, and a calendar filled with events and festivals that bring the community together.

3. Asheville: A Mountain Haven

For those craving a more laid-back and artistic vibe, Asheville in the western part of the state is an ideal choice. This mountain oasis has become a magnet for those seeking a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and a thriving job market. Whether you're a young professional, a nature enthusiast, or a retiree looking for a vibrant community, Asheville has something special to offer.

Asheville's economy boasts a diverse range of industries, from healthcare and education to technology and tourism. The city has seen steady growth in recent years, attracting major companies like Google and Cisco. This dynamic economic environment presents exciting opportunities for professionals seeking a challenging and rewarding career path.

We could never forget the expansive outdoor marvels of the city. Asheville's breathtaking natural landscape is a playground for adventurers and nature lovers alike. Hike or bike along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, kayak or paddleboard on the serene waters of Lake Julian, or conquer the thrilling rapids of the French Broad River. For a dose of history and stunning views, climb to the top of Chimney Rock State Park or visit the magnificent Biltmore Estate, America's largest home.


School Districts: North Carolina Nurtures Leaders

Moving to a new state often means considering educational opportunities for your family. In North Carolina, you'll find a variety of school districts committed to providing quality education. The state’s education system is at the forefront of innovation and research, providing students with opportunities to engage in cutting-edge projects and collaborate with industry leaders. The state is a hub for technology, science, and healthcare advancements, with universities and research institutions actively contributing to breakthroughs that shape the future.

Beyond traditional education pathways, North Carolina offers specialized programs that cater to unique learning needs. Magnet schools, charter schools, and vocational education initiatives provide students with alternative approaches to education, allowing them to explore specific interests and develop valuable skills for the future.

Here are a few noteworthy districts:

  1. Wake County Public School System (WCPSS)
    Covering the Raleigh metropolitan area, WCPSS is one of the largest and most diverse school districts in the country. With a focus on academic excellence and innovative teaching methods, it's an attractive choice for families moving to North Carolina's capital.
  2. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS)
    Serving the Charlotte metropolitan area, CMS is renowned for its commitment to student success. The district offers a range of educational programs, including magnet schools and specialized academies, catering to diverse learning needs.
  3. Buncombe County Schools
    Nestled in the mountains around Asheville, Buncombe County Schools emphasize personalized learning and a strong sense of community. It's an excellent choice for families seeking an educational environment that values individual growth.

Furthermore, National Blue Ribbon Schools, recognized for their academic excellence and positive learning environments, can be found throughout the state. The U.S. Department of Education has released its list of 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools with eight North Carolina public schools receiving the award.

The North Carolina schools winning the award this year include:

  1. Beaufort County Early College High School, Beaufort County Schools
  2. Fairview Elementary School, Buncombe County School
  3. Greensboro Academy, Greensboro
  4. Heyward C Bellamy Elementary School, New Hanover County Schools
  5. Highland School of Technology, Gaston County Schools
  6. Jay M. Robinson Middle School, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
  7. Lucama Elementary School, Wilson County Schools
  8. R. Odell Elementary School, Cabarrus County Schools

Job Opportunities: Thriving in the Tar Heel State

North Carolina isn't just a haven for its natural beauty; it's also a land of opportunities. Before moving to North Carolina, consider the job market and sectors that drive the state's economic engine.

1. Research Triangle Park (RTP)

Situated between Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, RTP is a hotbed for technology and research. Home to numerous multinational companies, this area offers a plethora of job opportunities in fields such as biotech, information technology, and pharmaceuticals.

2. Banking and Finance in Charlotte

Charlotte stands tall as a major financial hub in the United States. The city is home to headquarters of major banks, making it an ideal destination for those in the financial sector or related industries.

3. Tourism and Arts in Asheville

If you're drawn to the arts and cultural sector, Asheville's vibrant community might be your calling. From local crafts to music festivals, Asheville provides a haven for creative individuals seeking job opportunities in the artistic realm.

Things to Do in NC: Uncovering Hidden Gems

Moving to North Carolina isn't just about work; it's about experiencing life to the fullest. Here are some must-visit attractions and hidden gems across the state:

1. Biltmore Estate: Asheville's Crown Jewel

Prepare to be swept away into a realm of opulence and natural splendor as we explore one of North Carolina's absolute must-sees – the illustrious Biltmore Estate! Nestled in the heart of Asheville, this architectural masterpiece is not just a destination; it's an experience that promises grandeur, history, and an array of delights waiting to be discovered.

At the heart of an extraordinary 8,000-acre compound stands the Vanderbilt Mansion, proudly holding the title of the largest private home in the United States. With a staggering 250 rooms adorned with impressive artwork, antiques, and architectural marvels, the mansion is a living testament to the Vanderbilt legacy. Wander through corridors that whisper stories of the past, adorned with collections of vintage clothing and accessories that paint a vivid picture of a bygone era.

While on your wanderlust adventure at Biltmore, don’t forget to visit the botanical gardens with their ornate pools and sculptures dating back to the 1800s.

2. Beach Towns to Unwind: Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, Avon, and more

Escape to a coastal paradise where excitement meets tranquility, and sandy shores stretch as far as the eye can see. The Outer Banks, a 200-mile stretch of barrier islands, beckon with their enchanting beaches, promising a haven for relaxation and endless summer fun. Picture this – long stretches of soft sand tracing the coastline for miles, a sun-kissed haven that draws in sun-seekers from all corners, especially during the vibrant summer months.

But the Outer Banks are not just about the beach; they're a treasure trove of adventures waiting to be explored. Embark on a journey to discover historic lighthouses that stand sentinel along the coast. Camp under the starlit sky, letting the sounds of nature serenade your senses. Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of the region at the Outer Banks History Center and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, where tales of the past come to life.

3. Skiing Bliss in the Heart of North Carolina: Where Thrills Meet Tranquility!

Swap your everyday scenery for the exhilarating slopes of North Carolina's five stellar ski resorts – Sugar Mountain Ski Resort, Beech Mountain Ski Resort, Appalachian Ski Mountain, Cataloochee Ski Area, and Wolf Ridge Ski Resort. These alpine havens beckon with the promise of excitement, relaxation, and a snowy playground for enthusiasts who seek the perfect blend of adventure and tranquility. North Carolina's ski resorts bring unexpected treats for winter enthusiasts. Positioned perfectly to escape extreme cold temperatures, yet boasting enough elevation for serious vertical drops, these resorts redefine the skiing experience. Dive into a world where family skiing takes center stage, with a mix of beginner-friendly runs for aspiring Olympians and adventurous trails for parents seeking a thrill.

Top Ski Resorts in North Carolina:

  1. Sugar Mountain Ski Resort
  2. Appalachian Ski Mountain
  3. Wolf Ridge Ski Resort
  4. Beech Mountain Ski Resort
  5. Cataloochee Ski Area

4. Blue Ridge Parkway: America’s Favorite Drive

Are you ready for an adventure like no other? Brace yourself for the breathtaking majesty of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, fondly known as "America's favorite drive." Crafted by the visionary landscape architect Stanley Abbott, this scenic wonder was designed to be more than just a route from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. It's a soul-stirring experience that evolves with every mile, every season, and every twist and turn.

The drive is a favorite among motorcyclists and bicyclists, thanks to its endless scenery that shifts like a kaleidoscope throughout the year. With incredible views of the Blue Ridge mountains and the surrounding landscapes, every mile is a promise of awe-inspiring beauty.

Thousands enjoy the scenic hiking trails and camping grounds for their North Carolina experience. Some of their trails lead to hidden gems like spectacular waterfalls, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts. Pack a picnic lunch and take advantage of the strategically placed tables that offer front-row seats to Mother Nature's grand spectacle. While the numerous campgrounds provide the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable night under the stars. Can you imagine waking up to the crisp mountain air and the promise of another day filled with exploration?

Local History: Stories Etched in Time

To truly embrace North Carolina, take a step back in time and explore the local history that has shaped the state's identity.

1. Historic Roanoke Island: The Lost Colony?

Roanoke Island, nestled amid North Carolina's historical gems, stands as a testament to the mysteries of the past, its very name echoing with the enigma of a lost colony. Named after the Roanoke indigenous people who thrived on its shores for over 800 years before the arrival of English colonists, this island is a tapestry woven with tales of cultural encounters and a disappearance that continues to baffle historians.

In 1587, English settlers, under the leadership of John White, sought to establish a foothold on Roanoke Island. As the English faced challenges and shortages, John White traveled back to England later in 1587 to secure supplies. His anticipated return within three months was thwarted by the broader geopolitical threat of a massive Spanish invasion. England, under imminent danger, commandeered all ships for the defense of the English Channel.

Consequently, White's return to Roanoke Island was delayed until 1590, and upon his arrival, he was met with an inexplicable void. The settlement, once teeming with promise, had vanished without a trace. All that remained were haunting inscriptions—a single word, "CROATOAN," carved into a post, and the letters "CRO" etched into a tree. The cryptic clues led to more questions than answers. Inclement weather prevented White from investigating further, forcing his return to England. This marked the last chapter of John White's journey to the New World, and the fate of the colonists, including his daughter Eleanor Dare and granddaughter Virginia Dare (the first English child born in the New World), remained an unsolved mystery.

2. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills

Nestled in the coastal beauty of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright Brothers National Memorial is a testament to the extraordinary journey that culminated in the first successful airplane flights. Driven by the winds, the soft sands, and an unwavering dream of flight, Wilbur and Orville Wright conducted years of meticulous scientific experimentation. This endeavor reached its pinnacle on December 17, 1903, when the brothers achieved a milestone that would forever alter the course of history.

It was on the serene expanse known as Kill Devil Hills, just four miles south of Kitty Hawk, that the Wright brothers ushered humanity into the era of powered, heavier-than-air flight. The Wright Flyer, their pioneering aircraft, took to the skies in the first controlled and sustained flight—a monumental achievement etched into the annals of aviation history.

As you stand on the hallowed grounds of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, you are not merely witnessing a testament to human ingenuity; you are immersed in the mystery and marvel of that transformative moment in 1903. The winds that guided the Wright brothers' flight still whisper through the dunes, inviting you to explore the history, the innovations.


A Journey of Discovery Awaits

As you embark on the exciting journey of moving to North Carolina, remember that the state is not just a destination; it's an experience waiting to unfold. From the bustling cities to the serene mountains, and from thriving job markets to rich historical narratives, North Carolina offers a diverse and enriching tapestry of life. So, pack your bags, open your heart to new possibilities, and get ready to embrace the best of the Tar Heel State!

Are you contemplating a move to the welcoming embrace of North Carolina? As you prepare to embark on this exciting journey, it's crucial to not only explore the enchanting attractions and hidden gems the state has to offer but also to understand the practicalities of daily life. Let's delve into a crucial aspect that every prospective resident considers: the cost of living in North Carolina.

Cost of Living for Those Moving to North Carolina

North Carolina, with its diverse landscapes, vibrant communities, and rich cultural tapestry, has long been a magnet for those seeking a balance between the bustling urban scene and the tranquility of the great outdoors. Before immersing yourself in the Tar Heel State's treasures, it's wise to gauge the economic landscape to ensure a smooth transition into your new life.

One of the primary factors influencing the cost of living is housing. Whether you are drawn to the urban vibe of Charlotte, the historical charm of Wilmington, or the scenic tranquility of Asheville, North Carolina provides a range of housing options. From apartments and townhomes to spacious single-family houses, the state caters to diverse preferences. To make an informed decision, explore reliable real estate websites like Zillow and Realtor.com, where you can compare prices, neighborhoods, and amenities.

Utilities and Transportation

While the cost of utilities can fluctuate based on your location and lifestyle, North Carolina generally boasts reasonable utility costs. Be sure to account for electricity, water, and heating expenses when planning your budget. Additionally, if you're navigating the state's beautiful landscapes by car, consider fuel costs and potential tolls in your budget. Public transportation options vary by city, so it's beneficial to research the accessibility of buses, trains, or light rail systems in your chosen community.

Groceries and Everyday Expenses

North Carolina offers a pleasant surprise for residents when it comes to grocery prices. The cost of food is often lower compared to the national average, making everyday essentials more affordable. Take advantage of local farmers' markets for fresh produce and explore different grocery stores to find the best deals. Factor in your dining preferences, whether it's cooking at home or indulging in the diverse culinary scene across the state.

Educational and Healthcare Expenses

If you have school-aged children, consider the educational landscape and associated costs. North Carolina boasts a mix of public and private schools, each with its unique offerings. Research school districts, explore local educational resources, and tap into online platforms like GreatSchools for reviews and insights. Similarly, evaluate healthcare options, including insurance coverage, local hospitals, and healthcare providers. Understanding these factors will contribute to your overall financial planning.

Resources for Prospective Residents

As you contemplate moving to North Carolina, this guide provides valuable insights into the cost of living, ensuring a smooth transition into the heart of the Tar Heel State. Embrace the best of North Carolina, not only through its captivating attractions and hidden gems but also by navigating the practicalities with confidence and informed decision-making. Welcome to your new home!

Day Trips: Asheville, NC

Day 1: Exploring Asheville's Charm

Morning: Breakfast at Biscuit Head

Start your day with a hearty Southern breakfast at Biscuit Head. Indulge in their famous cathead biscuits with various toppings, along with creative gravies and jams.

Late Morning: Biltmore Estate

Head to the iconic Biltmore Estate, a marvel of architecture and history. Explore the magnificent mansion, stroll through the gardens, and absorb the grandeur of America's largest privately-owned home.

Lunch: Corner Kitchen

After your Biltmore adventure, savor a delightful lunch at Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village. This historic restaurant offers a farm-to-table menu in a charming setting.

Afternoon: Downtown Asheville Exploration

Take a leisurely stroll through downtown Asheville. Explore unique shops, art galleries, and street performances. Don't miss the vibrant energy of Pack Square Park.

Dinner: Tupelo Honey

For dinner, experience Southern comfort food with a modern twist at Tupelo Honey. Enjoy dishes made from scratch using locally-sourced ingredients.


Day 2: Nature and Arts

Morning: Early Breakfast at Early Girl Eatery

Kick off your day with a delicious farm-to-table breakfast at Early Girl Eatery, known for its Southern-inspired dishes.

Late Morning: Blue Ridge Parkway

Embark on a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Marvel at breathtaking mountain views, and consider a short hike or visit the Folk Art Center (Milepost 382).

Lunch: The Grey Eagle Taqueria

Satisfy your appetite with a relaxed lunch at The Grey Eagle Taqueria. Indulge in tasty tacos and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere.

Afternoon: River Arts District

Explore Asheville's artistic side in the River Arts District. Wander through galleries, studios, and murals. Engage with local artists and witness the city's vibrant creativity.

Dinner: Curate

End your trip on a high note with dinner at Curate, a renowned Spanish tapas restaurant. Experience an array of flavorful dishes in a lively and intimate atmosphere.

Asheville, with its blend of culture, nature, and culinary delights, offers a perfect getaway for a two-day adventure. Adjust the itinerary based on personal preferences and enjoy the diverse experiences this charming city has to offer.

Day Trip: Wilmington, NC

Wilmington's present-day allure combines its historical significance with a vibrant cultural scene, beautiful waterfront, and a welcoming atmosphere. As you explore the city's landmarks, savor its culinary delights, and bask in the coastal beauty, you'll find Wilmington to be a captivating blend of past and present.

Nestled along the Cape Fear River, Wilmington boasts a rich tapestry of history dating back to its founding in 1739. Initially settled as a colonial port, Wilmington flourished as a hub for shipping and trade. The city played a pivotal role during the Civil War as a vital Confederate port.

Wilmington's historic downtown, with its cobblestone streets and preserved buildings, reflects its antebellum charm. The Bellamy Mansion, built in the mid-1800s, stands as a testament to the city's architectural legacy.

During World War II, Wilmington contributed significantly to the war effort. The USS North Carolina Battleship, now a museum, symbolizes the city's maritime history and wartime contributions.

Day 1: Exploring Historic Wilmington

Morning: Breakfast at The Basics

Begin your day with a delicious Southern breakfast at The Basics. Indulge in their signature dishes, such as shrimp and grits or sweet potato pancakes.

Late Morning: Historic Downtown Walking Tour

Explore the rich history of Wilmington by taking a self-guided walking tour of the historic downtown area. Admire the well-preserved antebellum architecture, visit the Bellamy Mansion, and stroll along the picturesque Riverwalk.

Lunch: Front Street Brewery

Enjoy a leisurely lunch at Front Street Brewery, housed in a historic building. Savor handcrafted beers and a diverse menu with options ranging from pub fare to inventive dishes.

Afternoon: USS North Carolina Battleship

Step back in time with a visit to the USS North Carolina Battleship. Tour this World War II battleship and learn about its fascinating history and contributions during the war.

Dinner: Elijah's Restaurant

Dine at Elijah's Restaurant, located on the Riverwalk. Feast on fresh seafood and enjoy the waterfront views as the sun sets over the Cape Fear River.


Day 2: Maritime Adventures and Relaxation

Morning: Breakfast at Dixie Grill

Fuel up for the day with a Southern-inspired breakfast at Dixie Grill, known for its friendly atmosphere and hearty dishes.

Late Morning: Airlie Gardens

Discover the beauty of Airlie Gardens, a stunning 67-acre garden with historic roots. Stroll through azalea-filled pathways, visit the iconic Airlie Oak, and explore freshwater lakes.

Lunch: The George on the Riverwalk

Head to The George on the Riverwalk for a delightful lunch with views of the Cape Fear River. Enjoy their diverse menu featuring fresh, local ingredients.

Afternoon: Beach Time at Wrightsville Beach

Spend the afternoon relaxing at Wrightsville Beach, just a short drive from Wilmington. Soak up the sun, take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean, or enjoy water activities.

Dinner: Dockside Restaurant

Wrap up your trip with a seafood dinner at Dockside Restaurant, located on the Intracoastal Waterway. Relish the maritime atmosphere and a menu filled with coastal flavors.

Hurry up and get the Colonial Van Lines State Guide to North Carolina! Click the button below to download!