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  • The roasted oysters at Death and Taxes restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina
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    Raleigh, North Carolina: Craft Cuisine Discoveries

  • Whitewater rafting in the heart of Richmond, Virginia, on the James River
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    Richmond, Virginia: Festive Fun in an Urban Center

  • The scenic setting of Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in West Virginia
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    Shepherdstown, West Virginia: A Leap Back in Time

  • Twilight view of the front entrance of the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
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    White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia: A Hidden Gem for Luxury

  • Winkler Bakery in historic Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
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    Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Art and Gardens in a Hip College Town

  • Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina
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    Asheville, North Carolina: Welcoming Mountain Town Spirit

  • The charming downtown area of Brevard, North Carolina
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    Brevard, North Carolina: Waterfall Wonders in a Mountain Gateway

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North Carolina and the Virginias Loop: Touring Small Towns and Up-and-Coming Cities

By Zaida Rios

  • Route distance:
    1,463.00
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

Get ready to make happy memories around every corner on this quintessential Southeastern road trip through North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

A leisurely road trip means fun-drenched days and starry nights and everything in between. Slide down a natural waterfall slide, stay in a glamourous luxury resort, tour stunning gardens, hike the Appalachian Trail, dine at fantastic restaurants, hang out at a champagne bar and tour a chocolate factory. Fly into Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in North Carolina, rent a car and begin your trip.

01
The roasted oysters at Death and Taxes restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina
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Raleigh, North Carolina: Craft Cuisine Discoveries

Located in the famed “Research Triangle” consisting also of Durham, Chapel Hill and the three cities’ major universities, Raleigh is a city that knows a thing or two about quality dining, whether it’s high-end or homespun. Eating like a local in Raleigh means a stop at the State Farmers Market. Walking past food stalls showcasing colorful produce and food staples, you get the sense that this is the heart of the city’s culinary scene. Cultivating a farm-to-plate atmosphere before it was cool, this market is a happy place for foodies, home cooks and any anyone seeking items such as bee farm honey, artisanal bread, handcrafted cheese and homegrown wine. Complete the experience with a meal or dessert from the State Farmers Market Restaurant or N.C. Seafood Restaurant located right in the market. Dip into the cultural scene at the North Carolina Museum of Arts, home to a wide array of modern and classical artwork. A stroll through the Rodin Garden – brimming with natural elements and Auguste Rodin’s bronze sculptures – is a highlight. End the day with something sweet at the Videri Chocolate Factory, where you’ll learn the wonders of bean-to-bar chocolate making from passionate chocolatiers. Set inside a quaint brick warehouse, this chocolate factory tour would even impress Willy Wonka. Make sure to pick up some treats for the road.

274 km
2.5 hours by car
02
Whitewater rafting in the heart of Richmond, Virginia, on the James River
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Richmond, Virginia: Festive Fun in an Urban Center

Head north on Interstate 95 to Richmond, Virginia, the state’s historic capital city mixed with up-and-coming hot spots and easy access to the outdoors. Richmond is the only U.S. city with Class III and IV whitewater rapids right in the city center. Sign up with an outfitter for a rafting adventure, then get a taste of the urban scene afterward. There’s a lot going on in Carytown, a trendy neighborhood known as the “Mile of Style.” Catch a movie matinee at the opulent Bryd Theatre, nosh on farm-to-plate goodies at The Daily Kitchen & Bar and then drop by The Jasper for top-notch cocktails. Not far from Carytown, wander into the Fan District, an artsy and hip sector with history-drenched architecture and tree-lined streets. It’s also home to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with featured works from masters such as Cezanne, Degas, Renoir and Picasso. On the west end of the city, you’ll discover Monument Avenue where you can gawk at stately, gilded-era mansions, examine historic monuments and delight in a perfect afternoon stroll.

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251 km
3 hours by car
03
The scenic setting of Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in West Virginia
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Shepherdstown, West Virginia: A Leap Back in Time

Continue north on Interstate 95, then wind through hilly roads, and you’ll discover Harpers Ferry National Historical Park situated where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet in West Virginia. Tall maples and enormous sycamore trees line the shore offering a peaceful respite. This tranquil place was once the site of an abolitionist uprising as well as a pivotal Civil War site. Drive the scenic Washington Heritage Trail to nearby Shepherdstown, a riverside town where history is laced with a little mystery. Ghost lovers and sleuths will be smitten with the Shepherdstown Mystery Walk, which is packed with interesting legends and enticing ghost lore. For more historic nostalgia, but the sweet kind, don’t miss True Treats Historic Candy. Confections and candy from yesteryear fill the shelves of this store that could double as a candy museum. Pick up more fuel for your sweet tooth – and the next leg of the drive.

348 km
3.5 hours by car
04
Twilight view of the front entrance of the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
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White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia: A Hidden Gem for Luxury

Head southwest on Interstates 81 and 64 to White Sulphur Springs, then ramble along scenic Route 60’s pretty country roads and mountain ridges to The Greenbrier Resort. An idyllic luxury getaway set in the picturesque seclusion of the Allegheny Mountains, it’s been a retreat for presidents, celebrities and sports figures for decades. Indulge in a stay at this National Historic Landmark, which includes access to several golf courses, a state-of-the-art spa, an equestrian center and even a casino. One of the best parts of your visit will be taking the 90-minute tour of the Greenbrier Bunker. It’s a fascinating look into the once top-secret, government bunker that served as a potential relocation site for members of Congress in case of a national emergency. Before heading out of town, stroll along Main Street White Sulphur Springs to take advantage of wonderful shops and dining spots in a laid-back and quaint atmosphere.

287 km
3.5 hours by car
05
Winkler Bakery in historic Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
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Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Art and Gardens in a Hip College Town

Venture southbound on Interstate 77 or take the scenic route via U.S. Highway 219 back into North Carolina. College towns are known for their beautiful architecture, lively atmosphere and lush landscaping, and Winston-Salem (home to Wake Forest University) is no exception. Spend a lazy afternoon at the university’s Reynolda Gardens, located on campus. Complete with 52 hectares of garden space, a conservatory, greenhouses and a museum, it’s a beautiful locale for garden lovers and nature photographers. To learn more about local history head over to Old Salem Museum & Gardens, a living history site detailing early Southern life and Moravian influences on the area. Don’t leave without a box of Moravian cookies – thin, delicate delights packed with rich flavor. Top off the day uncovering the city’s creative spirit at the Downtown Arts District, located between Trade and Liberty streets. Traverse the Art Trail or meander on a gallery and studio tour. Winston-Salem also has the distinction of being the birthplace of the popular Krispy Kreme doughnut; the original Krispy Kreme store is in historic Old Salem. Pop in for a visit, the tour and a couple of their legendary hot glazed doughnuts.

233 km
2.5 hours by car
06
Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina
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Asheville, North Carolina: Welcoming Mountain Town Spirit

A two-hour drive westbound will lead you into gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountain territory. Free-spirited and outdoorsy, Asheville is a mountain outpost that greets you with open arms. Tour the showstopping Biltmore Estate, a Chateau-style mansion owned by the Vanderbilt family, and spend some time in the mountains hiking sections along the famed Appalachian Trail, before diving into the city’s culinary scene. Your first stop should be Cúrate, Chef Katie Button’s award-winning tapas restaurant. One sip of Spanish red wine and a bite of the garlic and sherry shrimp lets you know you’re in store for something elevated and special. Continue the fun at the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar. What’s not to love at this clever wine bar smack dab in the middle of a craft beer town? Buy a captivating read and sip some sparkling wine while you’re at it.

55 km
1 hour by car
07
The charming downtown area of Brevard, North Carolina
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Brevard, North Carolina: Waterfall Wonders in a Mountain Gateway

Drive about an hour southbound from Asheville, and you’re in Brevard, a scenic mountain village and gateway to loads of outdoor adventure. Nearby Pisgah National Forest deserves your attention first; hike or bike the trails in this enchanting national forest. Be sure to visit Gorges State Park, where you’ll journey on pristine trails to wondrous waterfalls and river gorges. Feeling high-spirited? Visit Sliding Rock, and careen down a natural waterfall-turned-slide into a cool, refreshing mountain pool. Sign up with an outfitter for a fly-fishing lesson or a fun excursion down the French Broad River by canoe, kayak or tube. Downtown Brevard provides a nice break from the outdoors with its cool shopping and dining. Try the Hobnob Restaurant, a quaint, restored Craftsman home, where you can settle in for a casual gourmet lunch. If Brevard doesn’t steal your heart, the town mascot will. Pisgah Pete, an adorable white-furred squirrel (one of the many white squirrels in town), serves as the town’s unofficial ambassador. Locals rely on him to predict the arrival of spring and even the winner of the Super Bowl. When it’s time to say goodbye (and it will be difficult), drive a little over two hours to Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) in Charlotte, North Carolina, to fly home.