North Carolina is a coastal mid-Atlantic state tucked neatly between South Carolina and Virginia. It is a popular tourist destination but if you have never visited, what should you really expect when you finally do?
For starters, southern charm and hospitality will greet you the first time you stop for gas. North Carolinians are relatively warm-hearted and genuine. They are open and welcoming and when they find out where you are from, they want to show you what North Carolina has to offer.
Unlike most states, North Carolina can offer a wide variety of options for the touring traveler. The Outer Banks is typical tops on anyone’s list but you can literally drive from the beaches of Cape Hatteras to the Mountains of the Blue Ridge Mountains in about seven hours. On a map, it seems shorter but there are only a couple of ways to get off the islands and back to the mainland.
If you told me you were making your first visit to the state, what would I tell you? What would I say you can expect. The first thing that comes to mind is you are entering NCAA basketball country and it dominates the state’s sports landscape.
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Yes, the Carolina Panthers NFL team is here and so is the Carolina Hurricanes NHL franchise, but both are distant seconds and thirds to NCAA basketball. The sport is so popular that many visitors from out of state make the drive to Raleigh just to visit the campuses of the top colleges in the sport.
It is here that you will find Duke Blue Devils, N.C. State Wolfpack, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and North Carolina Tar Heels. All within about an hour of each other.
In addition, you need to know that N.C. is also the heart of NASCAR country. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is in Charlotte.
I would then tell you that the state is a mix of metropolis socialites and country bumpkins. Charlotte is a bustling city while the state capital of Raleigh is more down-home. I would tell you that you can experience not one but two military branches. Visiting Fayetteville will bring you up close and personal with the U.S. Army and the Special Forces.
Soldiers are everywhere and with them comes a great mixture of food from around the world. In Jacksonville, you get the U.S. Marines and the beaches of the lower banks.
I would tell you that experiencing the food culture is important and wide-ranging. Seafood dominates the coast while BBQ tops the west but in the south, southern food and home-style meals will comfort you. More upscale tastes? Charlotte is becoming one of the top Mid-Atlantic culinary regions.
Finally, because of the military influence in parts of the state, North Carolina offers a diverse community that is everchanging and with that diversity comes a wide range of cultures to experience. I came to North Carolina 15 years ago and have to say, it was a smart move, especially for a traveling soul that previously had never lived anywhere longer than 5 years at most.