With the breathtaking Appalachian Mountains to the west, the lovely rolling hills of the Piedmont region in the center, and the stunning Atlantic coastline to the east, North Carolina offers a diverse range of scenic backdrops for an incredible Memorial Day weekend getaway. Look forward to enjoying plentiful opportunities for fun outdoor activities, festive holiday events, and fine dining. Book a stay at one of many North Carolina vacation rentals for your upcoming Memorial Day weekend trip. Here are the most exciting destinations in North Carolina.

1. Asheville

The city of Asheville lies at the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers in the midst of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. Memorial Day signals the beginning of summer and initiates a burst of outdoor activities. French Broad River Outfitters rents equipment for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing along the rivers that flow through the city. Head for Sliding Rock in the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard for the thrill of slipping down a rock waterfall into a natural pool. Take a 13-line zip line tour through a forest of the Blue Ridge Mountains with Navitat Canopy Adventures. On Memorial Day weekend, Asheville hosts the annual Mountain Sports Festival at Carrier Park along the French Broad River, where participants compete in fun activities such as disc golf, the triathlon, dodge ball, and beach volleyball. Nearby Brevard holds its White Squirrel Festival, a light-hearted mix of live music, food, arts and crafts, and family fun, over Memorial Day weekend.

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2. Boone

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northwestern corner of North Carolina, the city of Boone provides great beauty and fun activities for Memorial Day weekend getaways. River and Earth Adventures offers equipment and guides to help you make the most of hiking, rafting, kayaking, and cycling in the area. For assistance with gear and locations for fly fishing in the local rivers, head for the Appalachian Angler Fly Shop. Contact Appalachians by Horseback for private guided rides through the beautiful forested hills around Boone. The Local is a great restaurant with a casual atmosphere as well as games and live music. Don’t miss the annual Mountainhome Music Memorial Day Salute, a concert dedicated to armed forces veterans.

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3. Cherokee

Vacation rentals in Cherokee are surrounded by the incomparable Great Smoky Mountains. As the name implies, Cherokee is the center for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. It’s also a gateway to the wonders and beauties of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Oconaluftee Visitors Center at the park entrance has a museum that focuses on Cherokee and park history as well as helpful maps and publications. Oconaluftee Island Park in the shallows of the Oconaluftee River in downtown Cherokee is an ideal spot for picnicking and swimming. Head for River’s Edge Outfitters if you need help with equipment and guidance for fly fishing. Cherokee’s Memorial Day Trout Tournament lasts all weekend and offers prizes to participants that catch tagged fish.

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4. Charlotte

The dynamic city of Charlotte lies near several lakes and rivers in south-central North Carolina. Charlotte NC Tours offers several guided cycling tours of the city that focus on history, architecture, food tasting, or breweries. Among Charlotte’s recreational attractions is the U.S. National Whitewater Center, where you can emulate Olympic athlete trainees by shooting the rapids in a canoe, kayak, or raft. The center also holds a special annual Memorial Day celebration with trail races, live music, and a dusk fireworks display. Another annual Memorial Day weekend event, Mint Hill Madness at Mint Hill Veterans Memorial Park, is a three-day festival that includes a parade, a carnival, live music, arts and crafts, and fireworks.

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5. Greensboro

The city of Greensboro sits amidst lovely rolling hills in north-central North Carolina. Built to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the United States, the Bicentennial Garden has a fascinating visitor center and beautiful gardens with walking trails, outdoor sculptures, and abundant foliage. Wet ‘n Wild Emerald Pointe is an enormous water park with one of the country’s highest water slides and numerous other aquatic attractions. Rent kayaks, canoes, or rowboats at Lake Brandt Marina, and explore this pristine body of water. The Greensboro History Museum, which offers fascinating displays on the history of the area, is an ideal place to visit on Memorial Day.

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6. Raleigh

Raleigh, the state capital, is in central North Carolina surrounded by lakes, rivers, and gently rolling hills. Falls Lake State Recreation Area on the north side of the city has several beaches that are ideal for relaxing swimming and sunbathing. Rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards to explore the lake at Rollingview Marina. The recreation area also featires almost 15 miles of mountain bike trails. For fascinating displays on the history of the region over the past 14,000 years, including the state’s military heritage, head for the North Carolina Museum of History. Sample award-winning regional cuisine at Poole’s Diner. Don’t miss the Freedom Balloon Fest at Fleming Loop Park, a Memorial Day event that features the flights of dozens of colorful hot air balloons as well as abundant food, live music, and field games.

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7. Fayetteville

The city of Fayetteville lies along the Cape Fear River in the Sand Hills area of south-central North Carolina. The Cape Fear Botanical Garden, with its nature trails, pine forest, and steep ravines, is a beautiful place for a stroll. Take a sightseeing cruise on the river with Cape Fear Riverboat Rides. The Zipquest Waterfall and Treetop Adventure takes you on multiple zip-lines over treetops and past a large waterfall. As the home of Fort Bragg, a large U.S. Army base, Fayetteville has several fascinating military venues to visit on Memorial Day, including the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum, and the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum. You can also tour Fort Bragg itself for a close-up look at the training and facilities.

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8. Wilmington

Located near the mouth of the Cape Fear River in southeastern North Carolina, the port city of Wilmington is only a few minutes away from popular white sand beaches such as Kure Beach and Carolina Beach. Stroll along the scenic two-mile Riverwalk in the historic downtown area, and browse through the eclectic boutiques, markets, and art galleries. Tour the production locations at EUE/Screen Gems Studios, also known as Hollywood East, where hundreds of famous films and TV shows are shot. Play 18 holes at the renowned Wilmington Municipal Golf Course. Don’t miss a visit to the awesome Battleship North Carolina, which is moored across the river from downtown Wilmington. An annual Memorial Day service on the ship’s deck draws visitors from all over North Carolina and beyond.

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9. Bald Head Island

Beautiful and pristine Bald Head Island lies in southeastern North Carolina at the southern end of its chain of barrier islands. The island is accessible only by ferry and has very few cars. Instead, rent bicycles from Riverside Adventure Company. Besides the miles of quiet roads and trails, the island has three lovely soft sand beaches that are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, water sports, and observing marine wildlife. Climb to the top of Old Baldy Lighthouse to enjoy a panoramic view of the island and surrounding waters. Watch ships coming and going while you dine dockside at Mojo’s on the Harbor.

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