13 Amazing Cities In North Carolina

An all-around beautiful state, North Carolina is home to the most scenic Blue Ridge Mountains while being bordered by the coastline. The diverse in-town and endless activities on the premises and in the surroundings of these cities make them the best in the state. 


Aerial view of the skyline of downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Aerial view of the skyline of downtown Asheville, North Carolina. 

Called "Paris of the South," Asheville is one unique small city with an excellent food scene. The diverse restaurants serve dishes made from local ingredients gathered at the surrounding farms, while the city also boasts more breweries per capita than any other in the United States. The Blue Ridge Mountains behind the downtown skyline make a gorgeous backdrop for a day spent out, either enjoying the outdoor activities or at one of the terraced cafes. Asheville was also declared "America's new freak capital" for its independent spirit, with everyone finding their own niche in hiking, the art scene, or just relaxing with the city's laid-back vibe.


Autumn view of Boone, North Carolina
Autumn view of Boone, North Carolina. 

More than just a college town with the most extensive Appalachian State campus, Boone makes for a worthy facade of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The crisp mountain air calls for epic hiking and beautiful views from town and its scenic surroundings. The old-time streets are filled with a hearty youthful atmosphere with a great live music scene, strong bluegrass roots, and a vastly lower cost of living around if a tourist decides to make the city their home. Life is simple in Boone, where summer activities include tubing down the local river, and the fall time turns the lush foliage into gold and amber. 


Aerial view of downtown park and library in Cary, North Carolina
Aerial view of downtown park and library in Cary, North Carolina. 

Having boomed since the 1970s, Cary's 8,000 inhabitants multiplied to 170,000, making it one of the nation's fastest-growing cities. The convenient location from Raleigh makes for a great day's escape into a new environment, where many re-visit times again. As a spread-out city with a wonderfully walkable downtown, one will indeed find a favorite among the many comprehensive shops and eateries. There's the La Farm Bakery, the Bond Brothers Beer Company, the Taipei 101, the old school Ashworth Drugs with a soda fountain from back in the day, and fabulous hot dogs. The city is popular among sports fanatics for the games and championships, featuring the WakeMed Soccer Park and the USA Baseball National Training Complex. The Reedy Creek Entrance into the William B. Umstead State Park also sits in Cary along the Company Mill Trail.


View of downtown Charlotte, North Carolina from First Ward Park.
View of downtown Charlotte, North Carolina from First Ward Park. 

Charlotte is the state's largest city with the biggest airport and the second-largest banking hub in the nation after New York City. The city comprises a wonderful urban spread brimful with incredible restaurants, breweries, and lighter food options with many interesting neighborhoods. The optimal location of just a few hours' drive to both the Appalachian Mountains and North Carolina's white sand beaches, the cityscape is defined by a handful of skyscrapers as one of the most notable in the world. The neighborhoods feature unique styles and flair with a live southern charm and modern cosmopolitan influence throughout. The local culture with pro sports representation in the NBA and NFL, excellent museums, parks, and a vibrant brewery scene draw more permanent residents each year. 


Aerial view of the skyline of downtown Greensboro, North Carolina
Aerial view of the skyline of downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. 

Centrally located in the northern end of the state, Greensboro is another city offering the best of the worlds, with the Blue Ridge Mountains and the beautiful coastline just a few hours away. Standing by its name, the city has also been repeatedly called one of the "Greenest Cities in America." Greensboro has made several green initiatives on sustainability and protecting the surrounding environment, including the 90 miles of nature trails and greenways to promote and retain being excellent for outdoor activities. The local culture includes five colleges, explores an energetic local arts scene, and offers an excellent level of amenities. 


Aerial view of Hickory, North Carolina
Aerial view of Hickory, North Carolina. 

Sometimes known as the Catawba Valley, the area of Hickory is home to a wonderfully moderate climate and sweeping mountain views, with retirees, young families, as well young professionals fleeing to the city. Hickory makes a beautiful day trip opportunity for different vibes and environments with Charlotte only an hour away. It also gets the beer- and art-loving influence from Asheville, with the latter just an hour away from the mountains. With new restaurants, retail stores, and bars sprouting, it is also the famous birthplace of brands like Broyhill and Bernhardt, as well as data centers for Google and Apple. There are sculptures from local and regional artists to marvel at with strong artistic roots and excellent art galleries to peruse. 


Commonly attracting big-city dwellers from around the state, Jacksonville is another fastest-growing small cities in the United States known for Camp Lejeune and plenty of things to do for all ages. The Zing Zumm Children's Museum of Jacksonville is great for families with kids, while the fathers can make another stop at the Walton's Distillery for a tasting and a tour of the finest spirits. The Beloved By All restaurants serves diverse dishes, with the atmospheric Jeff's and the Kettle Diner being one of the local favorites. Complementing the city's down-to-earth feel, the Lejeune Memorial Gardens offer grounds for scenic strolls or a beautiful afternoon spent relaxing within tranquility.


The Boat Launching Dock at Lake Crabtree County Park, Morrisville, North Carolina
The Boat Launching Dock at Lake Crabtree County Park, Morrisville, North Carolina. Editorial credit: Wileydoc / Shutterstock.com

With a vibrant culture and suburban feel, Morrisville is the "happening" small city of the state, just west of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Boasting vast parks and neighborhoods of various personalities, it is also widely known as a tech town. Among the fastest-growing communities in North Carolina, it is one of the best cities to run a small business and raise a family with an easy commute to work, thanks to its central location in the state. Aside from the year-round events and annual festivals, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors, such as exploring Lake Crabtree County Park, boating, mountain biking, and hiking. 


Aerial view of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina
Aerial view of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Raleigh is one of the state's best cities and has a perfect from-all-angle stance. Couples, families, and kids love Raleigh with something to do for everyone, such as the spectacular museums and the eclectic restaurants suitable for an unforgettable date night. The Dorothea Dix Park, great as it is for daily strolls and relaxation, partially turns into a gorgeous site of beautiful sunflower fields during summertime. There are also dozens of ways to enjoy winter in Raleigh.

Wake Forest

A view of downtown Wake Forest, North Carolina on a January morning.
A view of downtown Wake Forest, North Carolina on a January morning. Editorial credit: Wileydoc / Shutterstock.com

Quaint and suburban, the town with a wistful name set just north of Raleigh is perfect for a day-trip visit to explore the diversity of the neighborhoods away from the bigger city. Its calling as an ideal place to enjoy the great outdoors makes Wake Forest rank high on the best cities to live in North Carolina. The ideal location with numerous parks is perfect for camping, boating, fishing, and cycling family-style. The in-town vibe with great restaurants, museums, galleries, and concert venues, is especially attractive to young professionals, with much of the population boasting college degrees.


As a suburb of Charlotte, Waxhaw is a small and quaint city while being one of the fastest-growing places in the state. Charming on the inside with the best of the beach and the mountains, Waxhaw is also known for some of the most beautiful houses in the state. Set just a few miles from the border with South Carolina, it receives frequent visitors from the neighboring state for a change in scenery.


Aerial view of Wilmington, North Carolina
Aerial view of Wilmington, North Carolina. 

Known as a city for family-friendly fun and downtime, Wilmington also has some of North Carolina’s best beaches. The Wrightsville Beach is known for its most awe-inspiring waters and some locally caught seafood by the beach. The Carolina Beach town, the Carolina Beach State Park, and the more secluded and relaxed beach experience at Kure Beach are also around the corner for more relaxation after kayaking or scuba diving. There is also Wilmington’s historic downtown, the beautiful annual Azalea Festival, as well as the fantastic breweries having inspired the popular beer app, Untappd, conceived in Wilmington.


Aerial view of the skyline of downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Aerial view of the skyline of downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

Once, two separate largest cities in North Carolina, the city today still features two distinct sides, with people coming to the "Old Salem" to travel back in time to the days of early America, the Moravians, and delicacies from the ancient days. There's also the must-visit Reynolda House, museums, and the Cardinal Hotel worthy of a look if not staying for its bountiful history. There are more delicious restaurants and innovative breweries, such as the Foothills Brewing that are favored by many throughout the state. Inclusive with a unique Downtown tasting room that offers special boozy creations and delicious complementing food, it is one of the coolest time-spent spaces with a chill environment in North Carolina. 

Set in the vicinity of other epicenters, these cities feature diverse neighborhoods for an array of sights to transport one into an entirely different atmosphere just around the corner. With great access to the bountiful outdoor scene in the outskirts, including mountains, beaches, and parks, one will find many things to boast about back home while telling the stories about "the best city they have ever visited."