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Best Time to Visit North Carolina (Coastal Fun & Epic Adventures!)

Find the ideal season for coastal fun and epic North Carolina adventures! Learn the prime months for festivals, hiking, and beach trips for travelers.

Tobi Miles
July 26, 2022
Best Time to Visit North Carolina (Coastal Fun & Epic Adventures!)

North Carolina is a mesmerizing place to visit. In the West, the rugged Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountain ranges cover hundreds of thousands of square miles. The East Coast has bustling beach destinations like Carolina Beach and the tranquil Outer Banks.

North Carolina has a diverse climate and nature, so there is no bad time to visit. However, you should consider a few things when planning your visit. Whether you want to hit the coast or ski slopes, North Carolina has it all.

Spring and fall are the best times to visit North Carolina. This is due to daily temperatures of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and an average of only 3 inches of rain per month. It is also the ideal time for catching festivals and events. Some include the Dogwood Festival, the Wilmington Riverfest, and the Lighthouse Beer and Wine Festival.

Are you in search of festivals? A ski vacation? Time spent by the Atlantic? North Carolina has a range of vacation options to choose from. The best time to visit depends on what type of trip you are looking for.

July may not be the best month to ski in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range. However, it is a great time to visit the Outer Banks. Alternatively, the fall hurricane season may not be a great time to hit the coast. However, it is one of the most lovely times to go hiking in Asheville because of the gorgeous autumn weather.

What is the Worst Time to Visit North Carolina?

North Carolina’s climate is so diverse statewide, that it is difficult to choose a bad time to visit. However, in the winter, parts of the state can dip down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you’re on a ski vacation this may be ideal. However, if a beach vacation or hiking are on the itinerary the chill would probably be unpleasant.

The North Carolina beaches, especially the Outer Banks, are also prone to hurricanes. Avoid vacationing on the barrier island from August through October to dodge one of these detrimental cyclones.

What is the Cheapest Time to Visit North Carolina?

The cheapest time to visit North Carolina tends to be in September. January through March and August through November also have low flight and accommodation rates statewide.

September is a gorgeous time to visit the state. Especially if you’re planning outdoor activities. Expect average temperatures in the 70s, low precipitation, and minimal crowds at this time.

Related Read: 75 BEST Things to Do in Charlotte, NC

What Time of Year Does North Carolina Have the Best Weather?

North Carolina has the best weather in the spring and fall. Average temperatures at this time are mild and rainfall is at an annual low in April and November.

In such a large state with a range of climates, weather can vary. Check the forecast for the specific geographic location you’ll be staying in.

Best Time to Visit the Coast & Mountains: Monthly Breakdown

January: Winterfest (Blowing Rock)

Winters in North Carolina can often dip below freezing. The town of Blowing Rock in the mountains embraces the chilly weather each year and holds the lively festival Winterfest.

Winterfest is a four-day event celebrating everything that the season has to offer. The event has various events ranging from a polar bear plunge to a chili-making competition.

Visit Winterfest for chilly outdoor fun, local artists, food and beverage vendors, nightly parties by the campfire, and more. It is a kid-friendly event that is fun for the whole family.

The ice sculpture-making contest is one of the best things to see during Winterfest. Watch the experts carve intricate designs from a block of ice and admire the work all weekend long.

While visiting Blowing Rock, check out a nearby ski resort. The winter is the perfect time to hit the slopes in North Carolina.

  • First Day Hikes, Statewide
  • Moonshine Heritage Day, Wilkesboro
  • Asheville Fringe Arts Festival, Asheville

February: Best Time to Go Skiing (Western North Carolina)

Western North Carolina is a winter wonderland. Snow activities are popular from November to April, but the state has the highest cumulative snowfall in February. The highest monthly accumulation can reach 11 inches in some parts of the state.

The mountains of Western North Carolina have some of the best places to ski on the east coast. Strap on your skis or grab your snowboard and enjoy this snowy playground.

Sugar Mountain ski resort is the largest in North Carolina. It has a broad range of runs from bunny slopes to the most vertical plunge in the state. With 21 runs and over 125 acres, it suits everyone from beginner to expert skiers and snowboarders.

Sugar Mountain is close to the mountain town of Banner Elk. Banner Elk is a quaint place with some of the best snow accumulation in the state. Rent a mountain villa for the weekend and enjoy the gorgeous winter weather.

  • North Carolina Jazz Festival, Wilmington
  • Carolina Chocolate Festival, Morehead City

Related Read: 30 Best Romantic Getaways In North Carolina

March: Best Time to Take a Brewery Tour (Asheville)

Asheville is a popular destination. The town itself has plenty of shopping and dining options. However, nature and breweries fuel the Asheville tourism industry.

Take some time to visit one of Asheville’s many breweries. Vendors around town even offer a brewery crawl for those looking to sample a handful of brews.

Some of the most famous breweries in town include Highland Brewing Company, Hi-Wire Brewing, and 12 Bones Brewing.

Asheville boasts more than 100 local beers and has more breweries per capita than any other US city. They are the real deal when it comes to beer. Each brewery has a unique atmosphere. While in town you should check out more than one.

  • Skyfest, Smithfield
  • Art in Bloom, Raleigh

April: Dogwood Festival (Fayetteville)

The Dogwood Festival is one of the most popular festivals in the entire state. It is a four-day event featuring food, music, and arts. The festival draws in thousands of national tourists each year.

The festive weekend begins on Thursday with the Annual Cork & Fork food and wine event. Cork & Fork is a great way to experience some of the local dining options in Fayetteville. North Carolina also has a bustling wine industry. Be sure to try out a local bottle.

On Friday, festival goers can expect plenty of live music, carnival rides, and of course, more food. The main festival stage often welcomes big names to the small town. Rides and games also give the festival a more local, carnival feel.

Saturday introduces a street fair into the mix. There is also a car and truck show on Sunday. The entire weekend has a variety of events to entice the whole family.

  • North Carolina Azalea Festival, Wilmington
  • North Carolina Science Festival, Statewide
  • Cosmic Rays Film Festival, Chapel Hill

May: Best Time to Hike the Blue Ridge Mountains (Western North Carolina)

The Wilderness of Western North Carolina is some of the most gorgeous on the east coast. Famed Country artist John Denver sang about the Blue Ridge Mountains for a reason. The range is one of the most stunning in the entire country.

The Blue Ridge Mountains cover over 34,000 square miles of land. In May, the scenery blooms with lush foliage and wildflowers.

There are hundreds of accessible trails across the mountain range. Some of the top-rated include Black Balsam Knob, Crabtree Falls, and Rough Ridge.

If hiking isn’t your speed, driving through the mountains is a marvel. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a stunning drive through Western North Carolina. Plenty of lookout points offer drivers the option to pull over and take in sprawling mountain views.

  • Carolina Blues Festival, Greensboro
  • Crystal Coast Boat Show, Morehead City
  • Ham and Yam Festival, Smithfield

Related Read: 25 Top Treehouse Rentals in North Carolina

June: Carolina Beach Music Festival (Carolina Beach)

In June, head to Carolina Beach for one of the biggest music festivals in the state. This festival takes place on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk and hosts well-known vocalists and bands.

The Carolina Beach Music Festival is one of the longest-running beach music festivals in the United States. Some past performers include Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Kieth Urban among other stars.

While staying in Carolina Beach, check out more of the local attractions. The town has a vintage boardwalk promenade with plenty of shops, dining, and accommodation options.

  • Trail Days Festival, Elkin
  • NC Gold Festival, Vein Mountain
  • Black Bear Festival, Plymouth

July: Best Time to Visit the Outer Banks (Outer Banks)

The Outer Banks is a barrier island bordering North Carolina on the Atlantic Ocean. July is one of the best times to visit as you’ll get perfect beach weather. The Outer Banks tend to stay fairly uncrowded and peaceful compared to mainland beaches.

One of the most exciting things to do in the Outer Banks is to check out the flight culture. Back in 1903, the first flight in history was conducted by the Wright Brothers in Kitty Hawk. Today, visitors can check out the memorial. They can also take flight themselves by hang gliding, parasailing, and more.

The Outer Banks has many lighthouses scattered across the island. Visit one of them to climb to the top of the tower. The Bodie Island Lighthouse has some of the most stunning views of the marshy landscape.

  • Hillbilly Jam, Maggie Valley
  • Cook Out Summer Shootout, Concord
  • Brevard Music Center Summer Festival, Brevard

August: Yadkin Summer Whites Event (Yadkinville)

There are a handful of popular events to attend during August in North Carolina. The Yadkin Summer Whites Event showcases the white wines of the region. Held over two August weekends, each weekend features five different Yadkin wineries.

Event participants can expect wine tastings with food pairings. You’ll leave the festival with a souvenir glass and a knowledge of the intricacy of wine making and tasting.

Another popular August event is the Blowing Rock Plein Air Festival. This peaceful event held in the gorgeous mountains of Blowing Rock is a four-day painting festival. Artists gather among the scenery and spend time painting in the fresh mountain air.

If you’re looking for a more thrilling August event, Carolina Beach hosts the Boardwalk Blast. Boardwalk Blast takes place on Carolina Beach’s boardwalk. Each year, it welcomes a range of rides, vendors, food, and even a firework show.

  • National Black Theater Festival, Winston-Salem
  • OBX Watermelon Festival, Outer Banks
  • North Carolina Mineral and Gem Festival, Spruce Pine

September: Celebrate North Carolina’s Appalachian Culture (Tennessee / North Carolina Border)

The Appalachian region is one of the most culturally significant portions of the United States. September is the perfect time to visit the mountains and learn about this rich culture.

Each year, two different towns in North Carolina host heritage festivals. Sparta, North Carolina lights up with vendors, food, and educational seminars all about Appalachian culture. The town of Cullowhee holds a similar heritage day.

The town of Lake Lure also hosts Dirty Dancing Festival every September. This festival pays homage to the infamous Patrick Swayze film that defined the 1980s.

Celebrate the classic movie in the filming location of the infamous lake dancing scene. Some things to expect at the festival include plenty of music, dance lessons, and film screenings.

  • Mountain Song Festival, Brevard
  • North Carolina Hot Sauce Contest and Festival, Oxford
  • John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival, High Point

October: Visit Wilmington (Wilmington)

October in Wilmington is host to plenty of events and gorgeous weather. Temperatures tend to linger around the 60s and 70s Fahrenheit with minimal rainfall.

One of the top things to do in North Carolina in October is the Wilmington Riverfest. Riverfest takes place in downtown Wilmington annually on the first weekend of October. The event features a street fair, live entertainment, plenty of vendors, and more.

Another October event in Wilmington is the Ironman North Carolina. An Ironman is the longest triathlon in the world. It features a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike race, and a 26.22-mile run. The Wilmington event is half of this distance for each event.

Lighthouse Beer and Wine Festival is another October event in Wilmington. The event features a range of boozy beverages available in downtown Wilmington.

  • Smoke Mountain Elk Fest, Maggie Valley
  • Wilmington Boat Show, Wilmington
  • Ava Gardner Festival, Smithfield

November: Best Time to Catch a Basketball Game at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill)

North Carolina is a major collegiate sports state. College basketball is one of the most popular sporting events, especially if you are a University of North Carolina fan.

The University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill branch is one of the college’s biggest locations. The town of Chapel Hill is a gorgeous place to visit. It has a small-town collegiate feel.

One of the most exciting things to do in Chapel Hill is going to one of their college basketball games. College basketball is a huge deal for UNC. Especially if you are lucky enough to catch them playing against Duke.

  • Cape Fear Kite Festival, Kure Beach
  • Townebank Outer Banks Half Marathon, Nags Head
  • Kersey Valley Christmas, Archdale

December: Celebrate the Holidays (Statewide)

North Carolina is a great place to celebrate the holidays with a rustic event. Christmas at the Biltmore is one of the top-rated holiday activities on the east coast.

The historic Biltmore Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina lights up every December. Over 100 Christmas trees, 10,000 ornaments, and 100,000 twinkle lights adorn the hotel.

Another popular holiday event is WinterLights in Manteo. The Other Banks town decorates Elizabeth Gardens each year with a colorful, festive display. It is one of the top-rated holiday attractions in the state due to the spectacle’s beauty and festivity.

  • Festival in the Park: NC Holiday Flotilla and Wrightsville Beach. Wrightsville
  • Annual Celebration of the Wright Brothers' First Flight, Kill Devil Hills
  • In Heavenly Peace Candlelight Tours, Four Oaks

What is the Best Time to Visit North Carolina With Family?

The best time to visit North Carolina with family is in the summer. Many vacation destinations offer activities geared at families since school tends to be out. This is a method for destinations to draw in more tourism.

For example, in the Outer Banks, plenty of kid-friendly activities open up. One of the best is kite making in Kitty Hawk. Children of all ages have the opportunity to design their own kites. They can then fly it only a few miles from where the first plane in the world took off.

Related Read: 20 Best Waterfalls near Franklin, NC

What is the Best Time to Avoid Crowds in North Carolina?

September and the winter are the best times to avoid crowds in North Carolina. September offers a moment of calm after the busy summer high season. Average temperatures are still a pleasant 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you hate the cold, this is a great time to visit.

The winter also has annual low rates and crowds, so you may have some destinations to yourself. Just prepare for temperatures below freezing in parts of the state.

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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