Travel to North Carolina – Episode 461

categories: USA Travel

Hear about travel to North Carolina as the Amateur Traveler talks to Karen Dawkins of about the Tar Heel State.

We cover from Mount Mitchell in the west to the Outer Banks in the east.

Karen says, “North Carolina has everything. You can come to North Carolina to ski or water ski. You can come to North Carolina to surf and everything in between. We have it all.”

Karen grew up further north but was lured to North Carolina by the weather and the slower pace of life. “Really we came here for the weather and the opportunity to be outside all whole lot more and the opportunity not to shovel the driveway for seven months every winter.”

“If you want to get a taste for the whole state I would say start in the mountains and work your way to the beach. A lot of people are surprised to learn that North Carolina has the highest point in the Appalachians, the highest point east of the Mississippi (Mount Mitchell). No one seems to think of us as a mountain state but we really are. It’s just beautiful. You’ve got the mountains. You’ve got the waterfalls. There is a ton of hiking and biking trails up there. And it’s a slow quiet way of living. It’s a great place to get away and unplug. My favorite mountain is probably either Grandfather Mountain or Chimney Rock. They both have trails that are either easy or difficult, it depends on what you want. Chimney Rock, if you want to skip the climb altogether, you can take the elevator inside the mountain to the top.”

In Charlotte, if you are interested in racing you can visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Throughout the state you can go to some of the smaller venues which are like the NASCAR minor leagues. “There are no strangers in the stands, everybody is talking to everybody else. The food is going, The beer is going, the whole 9 yards. And when you see someone come from behind to win you know it. It is loud, it is fast, and it is unlike any other sport on the planet.”

In Durham you can visit the Durham Bulls and the Durham Performing Arts Center. Nearby Raleigh is the state capital and is called the Smithsonian of the South. The history museum is a Smithsonian affiliated museum. The History museum and the Nature Research Center next door are both free. Raleigh has more than 100 miles of greenway that connect all the parks through the city.

We talk about state parks, NASCAR, the state fair, food trucks, music festivals, BBQ and more. Come down to North Carolina and experience the hospitality and a pig pickin’.

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Show Notes

Family Travels on a Budget
North Carolina Tourism
NC Mountains
Mount Mitchell
Grandfather Mountain
Chimney Rock
Lake Lure
Home Away
Skinny Dip Falls
Sliding Rock
Hunger Games Movie Locations
Movie Filming Locations
Biltmore Estate
Explore Asheville
Charlotte, NC
Boomerang Bay
Charlotte Motor Speedway
NASCAR Hall of Fame
Billy Graham Library
Durham, NC
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Raleigh, NC
NC Museum of History
NC Museum of Natural Science
Greenway Trail System
Pullen Park
Pullen Park Carousel
SPARKCon Raleigh
Wide Open Bluegrass
Hopscotch Music Festival
Food Truck
NC State Fair
New Burn
Tryon Palace
The Outer Banks
Crystal Coast
Brunswick Islands
Research Triangle Park
Artspace NC
First Friday
Carolina Beach
Britss Donuts
North Carolina Moonshine
Broadslab Distillery
Carolina In My Mind


about Cruising Around Cape Horn in South America – Episode 460 Steve wrote:

Hi Chris,

We did this cruise going the other direction several years back. We were on a smaller ship, the Azamara Journey. Our trip also included Antarctica. We really enjoyed our voyage also. We missed the Falklands entirely due to bad weather. I understand that this is a common occurrence.

You are right about a cruise being the only way to see this part of the world.

Be sure to go back to Brasil, Argentina and Chile and spend time exploring. The people are fabulous as are the sights and the food. The DK guides are a good start, but talking to locals will give you better information. South America is the only part of the World where I find the DK guides needing improvement.

We really enjoy the sea days. It sounds like maybe you don’t. If you ever decide to relax, then I suggest a cruise to Antarctica. The views are fabulous as is the wild life.

You are right about the costs of shore excursions. We check out the Ships tours and costs before we go. We also check out local companies and tours. The ships are usually marked up 100% to 200% for the same trip. We use Cruise Critic to link up with others who want to share the trips. We’ve never had a problem by doing this.

You were right about the crew. The better they feel about other crew members and the leadership, the better the service. We’ve seen this many times. Holland America is known for good service and it sounds like they came through for you.

I’m glad you enjoyed your trip.

Thanks for all the great Podcasts.


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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

6 Responses to “Travel to North Carolina – Episode 461”

Holly Lofgren


I listened to your show on N. Carolina today and, as someone, who lived in N Carolina for two years, I wanted to add a few comments. First, your host suggested that people might not want to visit the state in July and August as it gets a bit hot. I found this to be slightly understated! As I recall, from May to September my clothes were sticking to me before I left the house in the morning! Another piece of information you often ask guests to talk about are the distances between travel stops they recommend and how itineraries might be planned. The traffic in the triangle area and Ashville is horrendous, as are the mountain and beach areas. And, routes between these locations take much longer than might expect to go say, 100 miles. We spent many a weekend getaway in our car. The one thing I would solidly agree on is the N. Carolina BBQ. It would have been great if your speaker had mentioned a place where you can still get good N. Carolina BBQ as its getting harder to find. The pig pickins are still abundant.

Karen Dawkins


In reply to Holly Lofgren’s comment:
Last year (2014) was incredibly delightful in NC. We never reached 100 degrees and the summer temps were positively pleasant! It was a rare treat. The year we moved here (2001), I questioned the decision it was so very hot and humid! Every summer is its own treat.

There’s so much to do in NC, that covering it all in one podcast is impossible! I felt bad leaving out Mt. Airy (and Andy Griffith), Winston-Salem area, Kerr Lake and Lake Gaston to name a few. As to the best BBQ in NC, here’s a link to the BBQ trail: I hope that helps!

Jeremy Ashton


As someone who grew up in North Carolina, I was really happy to see the Amateur Traveler devote an entire episode to the state. Karen did a wonderful job of highlighting many of the places and things that make the state so special. In particular, her descriptions of the State Fair, Durham Bulls games and the Raleigh museums brought back some great memories for me from high school and college.

I do, however, have one major correction: There are two distinct types of barbecue in North Carolina. The vinegar-based barbecue that Karen described is associated with the eastern half of the state. The West/Piedmont is known for a barbecue style that includes tomatoes or ketchup in the sauce and uses only the pork shoulder. The regional rivalry over the two styles is so intense that an argument broke out in the Legislature a few years ago when someone introduced a bill to try to make the Lexington Barbecue Festival (in the west) North Carolina’s official barbecue festival. If you’re traveling anywhere in the state and want to find a good barbecue spot (especially in the east), I’d recommend checking out as a resource.

I also want to give a plug for my hometown of Edenton, which would be a good stop on the way to the Outer Banks from Raleigh. It’s been recognized by a few magazines as one of the prettiest small towns in the country, and it was hugely important in colonial North Carolina. Edenton is the third-oldest town in the state and was once the colonial capital. The town contributed a signatory to the Declaration of Independence (Joseph Hewes), a signatory to the Constitution (Hugh Williamson) and one of the first Supreme Court justices (James Iredell). Edenton’s biggest claim to fame, though, is the Edenton Tea Party in which 51 women pledged to boycott English tea. It was the first known organized political action by women in U.S. history.

Thanks again for a great episode!



I wasn’t born in NC, but I’ve lived here since the mid-70s, so i was particularly interested in this episode. Admittedly, there is only so much time per episode, I was surprised by what was left out.

First and worst, I was stunned to hear no mention of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, far and away the most visited National Park in the country. See: Then there’s the wonderful Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs all the way from the Cherokee Indian Reservation (also not mentioned) up into Virgina, where it meets Skyline Drive. That’s hundreds of miles of wonderful mountain scenery, and if you’d rather walk, there is a long stretch of the Appalachian Trail in the state. Not to mention the new Mountains to the Sea trail. See: and

I would also rate Old Salem – – well above Billy Graham and NASCAR, and Winston-Salem is on I-40, which gives you a straight shot from Asheville through to Raleigh and on to Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach.

Then there’s the zoo, deliberately located in the middle of the state, and according to wikipedia the largest walk-through zoo in the world, the famous potteries around Seagrove (notably Jugtown), and the golf courses around Pinehurst. I guess the real problem was that there is a lot more in NC than you can cover in one program. and

BTW, while you can stay on the estate at Biltmore House, the house itself is not a hotel – you were probably thinking of the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. The grande dame of Asheville hotels is the Grove Park Inn.

Also, the best eastern-style BBQ is at Allen and Son’s just outside Chapel Hill (somewhere else that should have been covered), and the desert of choice would be pecan or pumpkin pie.

Alexandra Wiggins


For those that want to get into racing, I recommend attending live smaller tracks, rather than large races or trying to get into it on TV. Small tracks are the heart of the sport, and allow you to hear your conversation! Haha… Also, Hatteras Island is the remote section of Outer Banks, and Ocracoke Island a hidden Key-Westy gem!



Thanks Alexandra!

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