From the mountains to the sea, to great beer, food and wine, to natural beauty and a rich cultural history, North Carolina really does have it all. If you’re looking for some fun this summer, may we suggest taking one of our curated tours of the state’s best restaurants, or a tour of its top breweries and wineries; better yet, carve out some time and do both.
For the historians and art lovers among you—and even those with kids who like their travels mixed with a little education—our list of museums, or North Carolina’s portion of the U.S. Civil Rights trail, provide fascinating opportunities for learning and discovery.
Finally, if you’ve only got a few days and are looking to get away, head to the coast for the cool, crystal waves and salty sea air; the town of Duck or Atlantic Beach beckon. If you’d prefer to stay cool, on the other hand, wander west; Winston-Salem is booming and has lots to offer in the culinary and cultural realms, while the mountain town of Hot Springs has no shortage of outdoorsy opportunities on offer. Happy trails!
Fun for Foodies: An NC Culinary Tour
13 Biltmore Ave., Asheville
Tuesday -Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. -11 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. -10:30 p.m.
There are lots of great restaurants in Asheville but when you have a chance to eat at one with a James Beard Award nominated chef – you should. That’s the case with Katie Button’s restaurant Cúrate (pronounced COO-rah-tay), a traditional Spanish tapas spot. Located in a 1920s bus depot, the 40-foot marble bar and open kitchen create a lively atmosphere to accompany some of the finest cuisine in the South.
Things to try…
• Chistorra & Chips José’s Way: Spicy chorizo wrapped in potato chips, the perfect snack
• Gambas al Ajillo: Sautéed shrimp with sliced garlic, sherry and a chili
• Almejas con Guisantes: Clams from Clammer Dave in S.C., roasted in josper oven with peas, pea purée, pine nuts and jamón de bellota
300 S. Liberty Street, Winston-Salem
Monday -Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Willow’s Bistro is housed in an old railway freight warehouse built in 1913. The history of the building is visible in its brick walls, high ceilings and sprawling porch patio but what really makes this spot special is its New-American-style food.
Things to try…
• Chipotle Black Bean Burger with tomato jam, shiitake,
arugula, smoked gouda, curry-lime aioli
• Rabbit Gnocchi: ricotta gnocchi, asparagus and sage
• Fried Green Tomato BLT with Goat Cheese: panko friend green tomatoes, applewood-smoked bacon, goat cheese crumbles and sun dried tomato aioli on grilled wheat bread
206 Greenfield St., Wilmington
Tuesday – Thursday 4-10 p.m.; Friday 4 – 11 p.m.; Saturday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
This is Chef Vivian Howard and husband Ben Knight’s red-sauce Italian-American joint, inspired by their favorite pizza restaurants in Brooklyn and Chicago. The pizzeria has two wood-burning ovens serving Neapolitan-style pizzas with family-style pastas, salads and desserts.
Things to try…
• Pepperoni Rolls with spicy parmesan fonduta and Calabrian chili oil.
• Southern Fried Chicken Parm with sage, stracciatella, Italian hot honey, pickled peppers
• Rigatoni with pork sugo, herbed ricotta
• Guilty Pleasure pizza with pineapple, chili, mint, speck
157 E New Hampshire Ave., Southern Pines
Monday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Chapman’s blends the equestrian and historical to create a restaurant with old-time charm; it’s casual, comfortable, but beautiful as well. Be sure to check out the bar top covered with hundreds and hundreds of shiny pennies.
Things to try…
• Fish Tacos: blackened fish, kimchi, cole slaw, tropical salad & wasabi aioli
• Bacon Jam Burger: blend of ground chuck, short rib and beef brisket with bacon jam and cheese on a brioche bun
• Reubenesque: shaved corn beef, swiss cheese, kimchi and sweet chili mayo on grilled rye
715 W. Fire Tower Road, Winterville
Monday – Saturday 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Sam Jones was born into BBQ but he’s certainly made it his own. After inheriting and rejuvenating his grandfather Pete’s Skylight Inn in Ayden, he opened a spin-off restaurant simply named Sam Jones BBQ, just outside of Greenville. Whole hogs are smoked on site, and Jones honors the heritage of Eastern NC BBQ while taking a new spin on smoked meats.
Things to try…
• Jones Family Original BBQ Tray: A throwback to the golden standard that made Sam’s famous. Includes a tray of slow-smoked BBQ pork, a piece of Skylight Inn style cornbread and sweet slaw
• Smoked Chicken Salad: chicken salad just the way you’d expect it, but with smoked chicken
• Spare Ribs: Slow-smoked for hours until they’re good and tender
Wonders Abound: A Tour of NC Museums
325 E. Market St., Smithfield
Monday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
The Ava Gardner Museum honors the life, loves, and legacy of one of Hollywood’s most glamorous leading ladies. You may not know Ava Gardner well, or even at all, but you will certainly recognize her closest friends… and her husbands. The museum’s self-guided tour includes a short biographical video screening, with information about the star’s early life in Johnston County and commentary from those who knew her best, including her first husband, Mickey Rooney. Get to know the many other people who played important roles in Gardner’s life, too; her circle of close friends included luminaries such as Gregory Peck, Grace Kelly, Ernest Hemingway and Howard Hughes. You’ll also learn about the actress’s tumultuous marriages, which were often bigger news during the 1940s and ‘50s than her films. Plus, see artifacts from Gardner’s time with her third and final husband, Frank Sinatra, whom she called “the love of her life.”
2730 Randolph Rd, Charlotte
Monday – Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Thursday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Mint Museum Randolph opened in 1936 in Charlotte’s Eastover neighborhood, the state’s first art museum. Located in a beautiful park setting, intimate galleries allow visitors to engage with the art of the ancient Americas, as well as ceramics and decorative arts, fashion, European and African art and other collections. At the rear of the Mint building is the original 1836 façade of the U.S. Mint and the museum also offers game-like puzzles that make learning about different cultures fun for the kids. Admission to the museum also includes admission to Charlotte’s Uptown Mint Museum location.
62 Vintage Lane, Maggie Valley
Tuesday – Wednesday Closed
Thursday – Monday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wheels Through Time Museum is home to the world’s premier collection of rare American motorcycles, memorabilia, and a distinct array of unique and one-off American automobiles. The museum houses a collection of more than 300 rare machines, and they’re not just motorcycles—old cars, an airplane, Indian bikes and all sorts of posters and auto-related objects are housed there, too. Past visitors advise going in with a plan; rather than wandering around aimlessly on both floors, go straight to the back on the main level where chairs are set up for an informational video. Watch that, then take a walk around this awesome museum.
450 Skipper Bowles Dr., Chapel Hill
Monday -Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
The Carolina Basketball Museum is located on the first floor of the Ernie Williamson Athletics Center, just next door to the Dean Smith Center. From the moment you walk in, you’re surrounded by a curated collection of Tar Heel college basketball memorabilia, including artifacts, videos, photos, and statistical panels highlighting the history of Carolina hoops. The museum experience begins with a presentation and includes video tributes to Dean Smith, Roy Williams, Tyler Hansbrough, Michael Jordan and every aspect of the UNC basketball program’s storied history. It also includes interactive presentations highlighting North Carolina’s 20 Final Four appearances and 18 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championships, as well as some of the greatest games and most exciting Tar Heel finishes.
1 Battle Square, Suite 1-A, Asheville
Monday 1 – 6 p.m.; Tuesday Closed;
Wednesday – Friday 2 – 9 p.m.; Saturday 12 – 9 p.m.; Sunday 1 – 6 p.m.
Admittedly, the Asheville Pinball Museum doesn’t look like much from the outside, but once you walk, in it’s a wonderland of Pinball machines and games. Some vintage machines are just for admiring but more than 75 pinball machines and older video games are there for the playing. Entry costs $15 for adults and $12 for children under 10, buying you a wristband that gives you all-day access to the games designated for play. The museum tends to get busy so the earlier you can go, the better—or, add your name to a list and wait, as the museum only allows in as many people as there are machines available for them to use.
Drink Up: A Tour of NC Breweries and Wineries
2101 Central Ave., Charlotte
Tues – Wed 3 p.m. -10 p.m.; Thurs – Fri 3 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Saturday Noon – 11 p.m.; Sunday Noon – 8 p.m.
The Resident Culture warehouse had been in Phillip McLamb’s family for more than 35 years when he decided to open up his own business there, a brewery. McLamb hired an experienced California brewer and, with his childhood friend and business partner Slates Snider, created the first brewery in Charlotte with a “coolship”—an open-air tank used for spontaneous fermentation that creates interesting and unpredictable flavors.
1 Approach Rd, Asheville
Mon – Fri 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sat- Sun 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Visiting the Biltmore Winery is like going to the Disney World of wine tours and a complimentary tasting is included in admission to the Estate. There are more than 20 wines to try and you’re free to taste them all, none of that five or six tastes per person. The tasting room is vast, with a wine bar and a gift shop. Plan to spend a leisurely afternoon here tasting a wide variety of wines with the winery’s expert staff.
1234 North Main St., High Point
Mon. – Fri. 4 – 10 p.m.; Sat. Noon – 11 p.m.; Sun. Noon – 7 p.m.
Owners Britt Lytle and John Vaughan didn’t know much about brewing before they opened Brown Truck Brewery together—they just bonded over a love of craft beer. The pair spent months investigating how to start a business and visiting breweries before hiring a brewer and opening up shop in their hometown. More than two years in, Brown Truck is creating award-winning beers for plenty of discerning palates.
450 Groce Rd., Ronda
Mon. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Tues. Closed; Wed. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun. 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
This vineyard nestled in the Yadkin Valley is affectionately nicknamed “Chianti in the Carolinas,” and it’s known for its variety of delicious whites, reds and rosés. The cooler, drier Piedmont climate is perfect for bolder reds, including Montepulciano and Sangiovese, and the sweeping views of the winery’s vineyards will make you feel as if you’ve escaped to the Italian countryside. Wine tastings are available for $12 and include a sample of all the wines on offer, as well as a souvenir wine glass.
1610 Pavilion Place, Wilmington
Mon.- Tues.11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Wed.- Fri. 11:30 a.m. – Midnight;
Sat.10 a.m. – Midnight; Sun.10 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Waterman’s is the painstakingly-realized vision of three longtime friends who share a love of brewing and the beach and were willing to oversee a major renovation to make their dream a reality. Located just before the bridge crossing over to Wrightsville Beach, it’s a great spot with a large outdoor patio. Waterman’s serves good food, too, but it keeps its main focus on the brews.
7005 Caratoke Highway, Javisburg
Mon. – Sun. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Located on the Outer Banks, Sanctuary Vineyards is a wine lover’s by-the-ocean dream. Sanctuary offers a variety of whites, reds and muscadine wines including the Wild Pony White, a delicious wine from which a portion of the proceeds go to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Tastings and tours are available daily.
Civil Rights History: A Tour of NC Landmarks
From the march for the vote in Selma, Alabama, to demands for school integration in New Orleans and Topeka, Kansas, to Emmitt Till’s murder in Money, Mississippi, Southern states and cities are rich with the history of the decades-long struggle for civil rights. The U.S. Civil Rights Trail, a collection of churches, courthouses, schools, museums and other landmarks, highlights some of the most prominent sites in 14 states and Washington D.C. where activists challenged segregation and fought for equal rights and social justice in the 1950s and ‘60s. Work on North Carolina’s portion of the trail, which currently features four sites, started two years ago as a partnership between tourism organizations Visit NC and Travel South, as well as a group of scholars and historians from Alabama and Georgia State University. Some sites along the trail, including Greensboro’s International Civil Rights Center and Museum, are under consideration for UNESCO certification as international World Heritage sites, but all are worth a visit. “The trail tells the story of the South,” says Wit Tuttell, the vice president of Visit NC. “We didn’t just limit it to the ‘60s, so there are stories from the Civil War and from within the last decade, stories that are ongoing and living and happening as we speak. We hope the trail shines a light on these sites and helps tell some of the stories people don’t already know.”
The International Civil Rights Center and Museum
134 South Elm St., Greensboro
The 25-year-old museum once housed the Woolworth’s five-and-dime where four NC A&T State University students launched a peaceful sit-in after being denied service at the store’s whites-only lunch counter in February 1960. Now, the center—with the preserved Woolworth’s lunch counter and bar stools—is Greensboro’s most-visited site, welcoming guests from all over the world. “People walk away feeling refreshed and renewed,” says John Swaine, the museum’s director of nearly a decade. “What we put forward [at the museum], although it’s a battle over civil rights and basic dignity, represents more of what’s expected for the future and where we’re going. We started out with a hopeful, positive story, and we ended with one, too.”
Hayti Heritage Center
804 Old Fayetteville St., Durham
The Hayti Heritage Center is a music venue, art gallery, dance studio and cultural enrichment facility that promotes the African American experience through various programs, activities and events. Opened in 1975 under the management of the nonprofit St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation, the Hayti Heritage Center, along with St. Joseph’s AME Church, a landmark on the National Historic Register, hosts year-round tours as well as film and music festivals, gallery exhibitions, dance, boxing and aerobics classes, concert series, poetry slams, a Kwanzaa celebration and more.
721 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh
The brick seminary built on Shaw University’s campus in 1873 was the first building in the United States constructed for the higher education of African American women. It’s also the oldest building still standing at Shaw, which is the oldest historically black college in the South and the first institution of higher learning built for freedmen following the Civil War. Located in the East Raleigh South Park Historic District, Estey Hall was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Gardens
1215 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., Raleigh
Built on 2.4 acres in 1975 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, the gardens comprise the first public park in the U.S. devoted solely to Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. The park is an historic and educational destination featuring a life-size sculpture of Dr. King, part of the City of Raleigh’s Public Art Collection, and a granite water monument honoring local civil rights pioneers.