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4 Most Charming Cities in North Carolina

best cities in north carolina

Home to the Wright brothers and the Smoky Mountains, North Carolina offers visitors plenty of fresh air, with access to mountains on the left and beaches to the right. In between, there are some of the most charming cities in the country:

1. Cary

Make sure you arrive with an empty stomach: Master Baker Lionel Vatinet’s La Farm Bakery is a local point of pride, while the Neapolitan-style Pizzeria Faulisi is run by a renowned husband-and-wife chef team (ask about joining the Super Secret Sandwich Club). Try the banana pudding, birthday cake and Midnight Chocolate Crunch flavors on offer at FRESH. Local Ice Cream. Two award-winning microbreweries, Bond Brothers Beer Company and Fortnight Brewing Company, are giving the town a good name in beer-lovers circles.

2. Clayton

Brought your bike? Take it easy along the four-mile, paved Clayton River Walk on the Neuse, or gear up on the eight-mile, multi-directional Legend Park Mountain Bike Trail, with its rock gardens, boulders, jumps, and jumpable bridges. Looking for something more intimate? Sign up for a cruise for two with Neuse Adventures Canoe & Kayak Rentals, or if you plan to stay indoors, enjoy the sophisticated whiskey and craft cocktail bar and lounge Revival 1869. Family in tow? Book out the FlipSide: this restaurant and taproom has a menu to satiate any appetite.

3. Durham

Named NC’s Hippest City by Vogue Magazine in 2017, Durham offers everything from contemporary art installations at 21c Museum and locally distilled gin at Alley Twenty Six, to gourmet fish-and-chips takeout at Saltbox and whole-hog BBQ at Picnic. Take it all in at American Tobacco – the one-million-square foot former Lucky Strike factory is now an entertainment district, complete with authentic sushi, Cuban tapas, a documentary theatre and free, pop-up summer concerts.

4. Hickory

Lake Hickory Adventures offers a surprisingly well-stocked dinner menu along with the chance to take in the sights from the water, or take a hike in the 189-acre Bakers Mountain Park, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Take home some fresh, local produce, plants and more from the Downtown Hickory Farmers Market, while the kids explore every inch of the 33,000 square feet of indoor activities at Hickory Dickory Dock: they’ll find bumper cars, mini-golf, two laser arenas, birthday party rooms and over 100 arcade games.