Raleigh, NC is such a special place to live. In addition to the city’s amazing economic, social, and recreational opportunities, its central location makes it the perfect base to travel to some of North Carolina’s most amazing locations. Whether you want to get away for a few days or a couple of weeks, there are incredible mountain and beach destinations just a few hours away. There’s no other state with such a perfect mix of city life and natural wonder, and you can experience it all from Raleigh!
Best Weekend Getaways From Raleigh, NC
Explore the Mountains Near Raleigh, NC
1) Asheville: 3 hours and 45 minutes away
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains with spectacular views from the region’s winding highways, this vibrant city and the surrounding areas are the perfect weekend getaway whether you want to relax or recharge. Start with Downtown Asheville by strolling through this colorful neighborhood and taking in the arts, music, independent stores, farm-to-table eateries, and laid-back vibe. There’s no shortage of places to explore.
Next, stop at the Biltmore for an afternoon of dazzling architecture, artistically landscaped gardens, memorable wine tours, and casual entertainment in the Village. Stay overnight at one of the estate’s many properties and experience the opulence that the Vanderbilt family intended when they built this family home a century ago.
If you’re in the mood for pampering (and who isn’t?), pay a visit to the subterranean spa at The Omni Grove Park Inn, and you won’t be disappointed. There are twenty water features, including mineral pools, therapeutic waterfall pools, and a lap pool complete with underwater music. You will emerge (literally) feeling completely rejuvenated.
After you’ve rested, time to head to Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest for some outdoor action! This small waterfall is a natural slide where visitors can slide from the top and plunge into the shallow pool at the bottom. Thousands visit this unique mountain waterfall every summer and it’s perfect for kids and adults alike.
2) Banner Elk: 3 hours and 30 minutes away
With one traffic light but a million ways to have fun, Banner Elk is an exciting weekend getaway from Raleigh. For a thrill unlike any other, try the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, a 2,390-foot track where you can safely speed down the mountain and through the forest in a 2-person cart at 27 miles per hour. Just prepare yourself for the three 360-degree loops!
For a slightly slower activity — but one that can be just as thrilling — try mining for authentic North Carolina gemstones at Sugar Creek Gem Mine. Sort, sift, wash, and repeat and you’re guaranteed to find real precious and semi-precious gemstones. Kids and adults of all ages will have a blast looking for rubies, sapphires, garnets, emeralds, and citrines, and many other gems that North Carolina is known for.
3) Boone: 3 hours away
Take a trip back in time and enjoy a simpler outdoor life in Boone, NC. Named for the explorer Daniel Boone, this small town still relishes his pioneering spirit and has a distinct high country culture that’s hard to match. On your weekend trip here from Raleigh, visit Grandfather Mountain — a 300 million-year-old mountain with some rock formations dating back 1.2 billion years. It is a place to come and be one with the area’s incredible biodiversity and natural beauty.
If scenic drives are your thing, then pack the car for a multi-day adventure and head out to explore the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. This 469-mile stretch of road is operated by the U.S. National Park Service and runs from North Carolina to Virginia. Opt for one of the Pisgah Region itineraries, and plan to drive at a leisurely pace to enjoy the stunning views and many attractions along the way.
If your kids are itching for adventure, round them up and take them to a Wild West extravaganza at Tweetsie Railroad. Here they can let their imaginations run free while they take a 3-mile train adventure, pan for gold, enjoy amusement rides, watch live entertainment, and interact with deer, goats, emus, llamas, and all sorts of other animals in Deer Park Zoo.
Visit the Best Beaches Near Raleigh, NC
4) Wilmington / Wrightsville Beach: 2 hours away
North Carolina really does have it all. When the weather warms up and the kids have a break from school, head in the other direction and enjoy some of the best coastal towns in the U.S.! Wilmington and the island beaches are some of our favorites, where you can splash, surf, stroll, dine, play, and so much more.
Eagle Point Golf Club is an 18-hole PGA championship course, with 7,259 yards of play through a beautiful and natural coastal North Carolina landscape. Designed by local Tom Fazio, it has ranked in America’s Greatest 100 golf courses consistently since 2009. Members and guests alike enjoy an impressive clubhouse with floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of the views, high vaulted ceilings, and a large stone fireplace for optimum comfort.
Don your sailor’s cap and step aboard the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, an authentically restored World World II battleship, museum, and memorial. Visitors can experience first-hand what it was like to live and be at war on board what was once the finest sea weapon in the world.
For the quintessential waterfront experience, take a stroll along the 2-mile, scenic Wilmington Riverwalk. Browse the many markets, eclectic boutiques, and art galleries, then take your pick from a plethora of outdoor cafes. Enjoy the views, sunshine, and fresh breeze on the Riverwalk any time of year.
5) Outer Banks: 3 hours and 30 minutes away
The Outer Banks of North Carolina consist of 100+ miles of barrier island shoreline, seaside villages, and eclectic towns that never feel too crowded or touristy. They are easily accessible by car and offer a host of outdoor activities on the water, on land, or by air. Whether you want to take it easy or keep busy, there’s something here for everyone.
Come see where the Wright Brothers flew the very first airplane in 1903 on the island of Kitty Hawk, NC! At the Wright Brothers National Memorial, visitors can learn about all things aviation, from the first flights to the latest NASA breakthroughs. There’s a replica of the first flying machine, a series of museums, markers that indicate the launch and landing spots of the brothers’ test flights, and of course, the enormous granite monument to their achievements.
The Outer Banks has seven fishing piers that offer terrific Atlantic Ocean fishing year round, and all are welcome to cast their lines! Bring your tackle box (or rent one at some piers), a little bit of patience, and be rewarded with pompano, seal mullet, croaker, flounder, trout striped bass, red drum, or mackerel. When you’ve got your catch of the day, ice it down, then stop in for a cold drink and a snack at any one of the bars and restaurants near the piers.
A climb to the top of the tallest brick lighthouse in North America is quite the experience! See incredible views of the Atlantic from the Lighthouse on Cape Hatteras, the original of which was constructed in 1799 to protect ships from one of the most hazardous selections of the Atlantic Coast.
There’s no shortage of ways to experience the fantastic Outer Banks! A few additional experiences we recommend include deep sea fishing at Capt. Stacy Fishing Center on Atlantic Beach, seeing wild horses on Shackleford Banks Island, or catching a ferry to Sand Dollar Island to hunt for some of the most beautiful sand dollars around.
Living in Raleigh is pretty incredible, and when you have options for quick and convenient getaways to some of the country’s (and world’s) most amazing mountain and beach destinations, that makes living here almost as sweet as the tea we serve.