Reserve lots of time for a leisurely drive through the western part of the state along the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the speed limit is 70 km/h (45 mph). You won't want to go faster, as superb views of the Great Smoky Mountains and charming villages will constantly tempt you to stop the car and get out your camera. At Mount Mitchell State Park, you can explore the highest peak east of the Mississippi.
In Asheville, near the parkway's western end, don't miss the stupefying Biltmore estate, the largest "home" in America. This Vanderbilt chateau, now a museum, has more than 250 rooms, 65 fireplaces, a 3,240-hectare (8,000-acre) garden, a bowling alley and much more.
The parkway ends at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the North Carolina–Tennessee border. This Appalachian enclave is home to a huge range of wildlife, including more than 30 species of salamanders and an estimated 1,600 black bears, as well as some 1,500 species of flowers. Save time for a hike.
On the opposite side of the state, waterfront amusements beckon. In the Outer Banks region, you can explore the Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout national seashores, where you'll find America's tallest lighthouse, sweeping dunes and colonies of seabirds. The waterfront town of Beaufort has preserved many of its 18th-century buildings, making it an atmospheric place to spend an afternoon.
On the northern edge of the Outer Banks, near the evocatively named Kill Devil Hills, the Wright Brothers National Memorial commemorates the famous flight at nearby Kitty Hawk in 1903 with a fun aviation museum.