7 Top-Rated Romantic Getaways in North Carolina
Neil Diamond's song, Sweet Caroline, is North Carolina's unofficial theme song for good reason. "Good times never seemed so good" here in the Tar Heel State, especially for those seeking a romantic North Carolina weekend getaway. From beachside strolls along the shores of the Outer Banks and the bright city lights and urban landscapes of Charlotte to the old-world charm of Winston-Salem's Moravian Old Salem, North Carolina offers couples a varied choice of escape destinations, each delivering on the promise of southern hospitality and a memory-making holiday.
1 Crystal Coast
Carteret County is home to North Carolina's southern Outer Banks as well as its vacation gem the Crystal Coast. Well south of their more frequented siblings, Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke Island, the coastal communities of Emerald Isle, Indian Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Beaufort, Morehead City, and Atlantic Beach offer couples small-town appeal with big outdoor adventures and plenty of opportunities for romance.
Cape Lookout National Seashore, a 56-mile nature preserve and national park, is a great spot for a picnic. Ferries or charters from the Harkers Island Visitor Center take you on the 30-minute ride across Bogues Sound. You skirt right by the famed Shackleford Banks, a remote wilderness area that is home to the wild Banker horses. These beautiful creatures have roamed the island for more than 100 years. Upon arrival at the Cape, climb the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. The historic "Diamond Lady" is one of the most picturesque in all North Carolina and affords 360-degree views of the reserve.
The oak-lined streets of historic Beaufort are wonderful for leisurely strolls. Beaufort, the third oldest town in North Carolina and 12th oldest in the nation, was the setting for romance novelist and New York Times best-selling author Nicholas Sparks' romantic novel The Choice. The Ride to Remember bike tour with Hungry Town Tours, is a special tour inspired by the book. You'll pedal past crab boats and yachts at the historic marina and past the romantic waterside gazebo. At the Fudge Factory on Front Street, you can slay your sweet tooth with some tasty chocolatey treats.
Overnighting at the Beaufort's historic Pecan Tree Inn delivers a quintessential southern experience. Built into a former Masonic Lodge, the Victorian-flavored bed-and-breakfast has a breezy wraparound porch and immaculate English-style garden - not to mention award-winning breakfast fare.
Sunset at Atlantic Beach is the perfect way to end your day. A hand-in-hand walk along one of the widest and most pristine shorelines in the Carolinas is sure to create lasting memories.
North Carolina's largest metropolitan area, the Queen City offers couples many romantic options for their weekend escape.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens is a place to wander at will along the fountain-lined main promenade and admire the seasonal plantings. The secret White Garden is a favorite with couples for its snowy colored all-season blooms.
Nearby Belmont is a fun stop to soak in the southern charm of this town's hospitable Main Street, with its quaint shops and charming eateries.
Another fun excursion is a cooking class at Chef Alyssa's Kitchen. Charlotte's own celebrity chef (she's competed against Food Network's Bobby Flay) loves to get couples together for single-day classes, like Comfort Foods Done Right and Healthy Weeknight Meals.
Romare Bearden Park is one of Charlotte's best urban venues and a fun place for couples to take in super skyline views of the city or simply cuddle up and enjoy the fountains and spectacular people watching.
Charlotte stalwart The Fig Tree Restaurant, in the stylish Elizabeth neighborhood, is an intimate special occasion restaurant that treats couples royally. Set inside an early 1900-era manse, the restaurant delivers a seasonal menu offering continental classics and gives diners plenty of space to get lost in each other.
Your day out is extra special when choosing Discovery Place's IMAX Theater as the movie element to your date. Screening several new and classic nature-oriented films daily, Discovery Place gives visiting couples the added bonus of tapping into their inner child at the science exhibits found at the city's premier children's museum.
In the heart of the Carolina Piedmont, Winston-Salem is a fun romantic getaway for couples who enjoy a nod to North Carolina's historic past. This historically significant Moravian village of Old Salem dates to the 18th century, with several square blocks of cobblestone streets housing restored residential, commercial, and municipal buildings of the day. Couples strolling Old Salem discover architectural gems and their backstories from costumed interpreters, who guide them to the Single Sisters House, Miksch House, and the Trade Shops of the Tailors. Winkler Bakery is a favored stop to sample and purchase their legendary Moravian Sugar Cake and super thin Moravian Ginger Cookies.
North Carolina's original Moravian settlement, Bethabara is another worthy historical site to visit. More than 138 acres of parkland make this a top North Carolina tourist attraction, and you can explore the lovingly restored buildings here. Of particular interest is the Bethabara Moravian Church. Dating back to the 1700s, the church is listed on the national Register of Historic Places and still holds services, including weddings, today.
Nearby Reynolda House and Museum of American Art is a top Winston-Salem attraction. Romantic strolls are in order in the expansive gardens as you discover the fully restored 1917 former home of Katherine and Richard J. Reynolds, founder of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. Their collection of Hudson River School artist masterworks include those by Frederick Church and Albert Bierstadt. A short distance away is Reynolda Village, a collection of boutique shops and eateries housed in what were once the working farm outbuildings of Reynolda House.
Aperture Cinema is the place for art films in Winston-Salem. This independent theater screens off-the-radar foreign and independent documentaries and features not readily found elsewhere.
Top off your day with a romantic dinner at Quanto Basta. This authentic Italian home-style restaurant prepares specials just like "nonna" used to make.
North Carolina's state capital of Raleigh and next-door neighbor Durham are particularly welcoming to couples on the lookout for romantic adventures. Raleigh's North Carolina Museum of Art is home to one of the finest collections of Auguste Rodin sculptures in the southeast. You can examine 30 of the renowned artist's works here as well as period pieces from the Italian Renaissance, pre-Columbian art, African works, and fine Egyptian art. The grounds of Museum Park, where more than a dozen works are integrated into the landscape, are fun to wander around and explore.
Everyone knows chocolates are for lovers, and none are finer than those found at Escazu Artisan Chocolates in Raleigh's Mordecai neighborhood. Here, you can discover chocolate's romantic properties as you watch confectioners in action, crafting truffles and chocolate treats in their open kitchen. House made ice-cream, desserts, chocolate drinks, and specialty coffee are there to tempt you.
Lingering in Durham's Sarah P. Duke Gardens is a great way to spend an afternoon. You can explore the Asiatic Arboretum here and imagine a wedding ceremony at the wisteria-covered Terrace Pergola in Azalea Court.
Tourists enjoy a fun afternoon exploring and shopping at Brightleaf Square in Durham. The restored former tobacco warehouses are now home to boutique shops like Bull City Olive Oil and clothiers Vert & Vogue, as well as trendy restaurants.
You'll find luxurious pampering at Raleigh's top-rated Umstead Hotel and Spa, where their ultimate couples retreat package includes a special paired Swedish massage, hydrotherapy bath for two and a romantic dinner at their signature restaurant, Herons.
Wilmington is the epicenter of coastal Carolina. Couples capture four-season diversions in this top North Carolina tourist destination. The city's storied Riverwalk, the 80s-designed boardwalk running along the Cape Fear waterfront, is meant for strolling. Here, you can enjoy close-up views of the marina and the historic USS North Carolina.
Wilmington's Historic District extends more than 200 blocks from Market and Water Streets, making it one of the largest in the nation. You can take a carriage tour with Horse Drawn Tours, who provide a historical backdrop and local knowledge of the various shops, buildings, and homes you can see along your waterfront tour.
The Bellamy Mansion is a stunning example of southern antebellum architecture. A visit to this restored 10,000-square-foot manse is one of the most popular things to do in Wilmington. You can explore the Victorian Garden, studded with oyster shell paths and centuries-old magnolia trees.
Cruising the Cape Fear River on the Henrietta III is a tourist favorite. This reproduction riverboat offers a number of themed cruises, including the popular Murder Mystery Cruise. The couple who first solves the crime gets extra bragging rights.
6 The Blue Ridge Mountains: Asheville & Henderson County
Western North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains attract couples who love dramatic landscapes, hiking, and an outdoor mountain lifestyle. Hendersonville in Henderson County is an absolute gem of a small mountain town, with big cultural offerings, great restaurants, and a collection of boutique shops along Main Street that rivals any big city. You can get lost wandering in Mast General Store. Their old-fashioned candy counter hearkens back to old times and penny candies, and they sell an extensive offering of outdoor gear, shoes, and accessories. Mezzaluna offers wood-fired pizzas to fuel up for outdoor adventures.
The short drive to the Pisgah National Forest Ranger Station and Visitors Center in Hendersonville is worth the time. The rangers will help you plan the perfect hike, providing maps and advice. A popular, moderate hike takes you up close to the scenic Looking Glass Falls, one of several accessible waterfalls in the park.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is accessed just outside of Asheville and cruises along one of the most scenic byways in the country. Head north to the Southern Highland Guild Craft & Folk Art Center to experience true mountain craftwork, from textiles and pottery to baskets and carvings.
In Asheville, Biltmore Estate and Gardens is one of the most visited attractions in the state and with good reason. This massive "American Castle" was the former home to American industrialist George Vanderbilt. Numerous tours are offered, with a behind-the-scenes kitchen tour among the favorites.
Sunday brunch at Season's at Highland Lake, the restaurant at the popular Highland Lake Inn & Resort in Flat Rock, is a favored local ritual. The resort's lovely grounds are fun to explore before or after a leisurely meal.
7 North Carolina High Country
Watauga County's High Country offers couples a unique destination, with charming mountain towns, nature adventures, and homespun hospitality. Grandfather Mountain is the tallest mountain in the Blue Ridge - you'll want to be sure to hold on tight as you and your sweetheart cross the Mile-High Swinging Bridge. Towering well over neighboring peaks, this top North Carolina attraction affords panoramic views over the spectacular high country, where you can see for miles on cloudless days.
Linville Falls is another favorite nature destination and one of the most photographed falls along the Blue Ridge. The stalactites and stalagmites of Linville Caverns amaze visitors, and the caverns are the only publicly accessible ones in the state.
Horseback riding with Dutch Creek Trails appeals to novice and expert riders alike. This tour operator will take you on well-trodden wooded trails, bridle paths, and old farm fields with spectacular views of Valle Crucis, one of the first rural communities to be placed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Mast Farm Inn, in Valle Crucis, offers couples the ultimate romantic escape, with special packages, comfortable accommodations, and attention to detail that has earned them recognition from the Historic Hotels of America.
A visit to the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts in Boone delights, as this gallery and community center on the campus of Appalachian State University helps make the visual arts accessible to all with special exhibits and engaging programing.