What is North Carolina Known for? Discover North Carolina’s Famous Facts, Foods, and Landmarks

With its lush forests, rolling hills, miles of coastline, and picturesque islands, North Carolina is an amazing place to live in the South. Even if you’ve lived in the state for years, there’s always something to learn about North Carolina. So, what is North Carolina known for?

At Redfin, we’re here to tell you all about the Tar Heel State, and where it got its nickname. Whether you’re looking to rent an apartment in Charlotte or buy a home in Fayetteville, read on to find out what North Carolina is famous for.

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Thriving economy and job opportunities

North Carolina is known for its wide variety of industries, with some of the primary industries being banking, biotechnology, and manufacturing. Other major industries include aerospace, furniture manufacturing, and textiles. Major corporations that contribute to the state’s economy are Bank of America, Biogen Inc., and Duke Energy. 

North Carolina’s top five employers

  • WakeMed Health & Hospitals
  • Wells Fargo
  • Bank of America
  • Duke University and Health System
  • North Carolina State University

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Historic tourist attractions

  • Blue Ridge Parkway: Winding its way through the mountains of western North Carolina, you can find breathtaking vistas, scenic overlooks, and access to outdoor recreation, like hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing. The fall season is particularly popular, as the mountains are painted in brilliant shades of red, orange, and gold.
  • The Biltmore Estate: America’s largest privately-owned home is a masterpiece of Gilded Age architecture. Set amidst the rolling hills of Asheville, you can tour the opulent mansion, stroll through formal gardens, and sample estate-produced wines.
  • The Outer Banks: A string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, this area is renowned for pristine beaches, historic lighthouses, and abundant outdoor activities. From surfing and kiteboarding to fishing and birdwatching, the Outer Banks offer endless opportunities for seaside adventures and relaxation.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Along the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the most visited national park in the US. You can explore its vast wilderness on hiking trails, scenic drives, and wildlife-watching excursions.
  • Charlotte: This dynamic city is known for its vibrant arts scene, diverse culinary offerings, and NASCAR heritage. Home to spots like the Mint Museum and the Levine Museum of the New South, you can also catch a performance at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, or sample craft beer at local breweries.

Acclaimed regional cuisine

North Carolina’s culinary identity is deeply rooted in Southern tradition, with barbecue reigning as the state’s most cherished dish. Whether it’s Eastern-style whole hog or Lexington-style pork shoulder, North Carolina’s barbecue is slow-cooked to perfection and served with a tangy vinegar-based sauce. The state also boasts a love for fried chicken, pimento cheese, and classic Southern sides like collard greens and hush puppies.

Top restaurants in North Carolina

Arts scene and concert venues

North Carolina’s heritage is shaped by its indigenous roots, colonial history, and communities. Cities like Asheville and Durham are hubs of creativity, boasting vibrant arts scenes and cultural events. There are plenty of art institutions throughout the state, like the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Durham, and the Mint Museum in Charlotte.

Five great places to catch a show in North Carolina

Fun fact: North Carolina is home to the oldest state university in the US, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, chartered in 1789.

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Range of landscapes

North Carolina features a diverse range of natural landscapes, from the towering peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west to the pristine barrier islands of the Outer Banks along its eastern coast. The state is also home to the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains, with lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and abundant wildlife.

National and state parks in North Carolina

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: On the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains is America’s most visited national park, known for its biodiversity, hiking trails, and scenic drives.
  • Jockey’s Ridge State Park: Located on the Outer Banks, Jockey’s Ridge features the tallest sand dunes on the East Coast. The area offers opportunities for hang gliding, kite flying, and sunset views.
  • Mount Mitchell State Park: Home to the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Umstead State Park: Situated near Raleigh, Umstead offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.
  • Stone Mountain State Park: Known for its massive granite dome, Stone Mountain is great for hiking, rock climbing, fishing, and camping in the scenic foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Professional and collegiate sports teams

  • Carolina Panthers (NFL)
  • Charlotte Hornets (NBA) 
  • Carolina Hurricanes (NHL) 
  • Duke University Blue Devils (competing in NCAA Division I sports)
  • University of North Carolina Tar Heels (competing in NCAA Division I sports)

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Popular North Carolina phrases

In North Carolina, you’ll discover plenty of local expressions reflecting the state’s rich history and Southern charm. 

  • “Pig Pickin’,” is a traditional barbecue feast.
  • “Yonder,” is a way to describe something that’s far away.
  • “Fixin’,” is when you’re about to do something.
  • “Sweet tea,” is a popular drink to beat the heat. 
  • “ACC basketball,” refers to rivalries and the excitement of college game days.
  • “Lost Colony” of Roanoke and the enduring legend of Blackbeard’s pirate adventures along the coast.

More things North Carolina is known for

  • Tar Heel State: North Carolina’s nickname, the Tar Heel State, has roots in its colonial history. The state produced tar, pitch, and turpentine from its vast pine forests. The phrase later came to represent soldiers’ tenacity during the Civil War.
  • Research Triangle Park: Located in the heart of North Carolina’s thriving tech industry, Research Triangle Park is a hub for innovation and research. It’s home to numerous high-tech companies, research institutions, and startups.
  • Barbecue capital: North Carolina takes its barbecue seriously, with distinct regional styles. From the vinegar-based sauces of the eastern region to the tomato-based sauces of the western region, barbecue aficionados can find plenty of options to try.
  • College basketball: With storied rivalries between universities like Duke, North Carolina, and NC State, college basketball is a beloved pastime in North Carolina.

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