11 Epic Day Trips from Greensboro For Your North Carolina Adventure

Got some extra time to kick around in the Tarheel State? Carve out a spot on your itinerary to explore North Carolina and beyond with the best day trips from Greensboro, NC.

Known as the Gate City, Greensboro makes the perfect base for exploring the top travel destinations in North Carolina. Steeped in history, blessed with stunning landscapes, home to vibrant cultural attractions and delicious food – this Southern state has it all!

Choose from a myriad of beautiful state parks. Indulge your cultural cravings in North Carolina’s bounty of museums and galleries. Stand on the iconic site of the South’s official Civil War surrender. Hit the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway for a scenic cruise, and be sure to stop along the way and savor mouthwatering Southern cuisine.

Ready to supercharge your North Carolina adventure? Max out your holidays with this trip planner for the top-rated Greensboro side trips!

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Winston-Salem, NC

History buffs visiting the Tarheel State will want to make a beeline for Winston-Salem, NC. Just 30 minutes west of Greensboro, this historic town was one of the state’s earliest European settlements.

Founded by German immigrants in 1766, Winston-Salem has honored its original settlers’ legacy by preserving many of the settlement’s original structures. Stroll the cobblestoned streets of Old Salem’s historic district for a journey into the past. One of the coolest places to visit in Winston-Salem, the Old Salem Museum & Gardens is an immersive living history museum where you can watch re-enactors in 18th-century garb practicing centuries-old crafts.

Salem Lake Trail

Treat your eyes to the visual splendors of the Reynolda House Museum of American Art. Housed in a massive “bungalow” built in 1917 by tobacco tycoon R J Reynolds, this historic museum is the centerpiece of a gorgeous 1,000-acre estate. Explore the mansion’s interior and browse thousands of artifacts, along with a collection of world-renowned American art spanning 250 years.

Got youngsters in tow? Feed your little Einstein’s scientific curiosity at the Kaleideum, an interactive museum of science and exploration. Or take them out to Salem Lake, where they can picnic, play, and feed the resident ducks.

Head downtown to fuel up at one of Winston-Salem’s amazing restaurants, or stop off at the famous Winkler Bakery in Old Salem and grab some lip-smackin’ treats for the road.

Durham, NC

Whether you’re looking for historic sites, outdoor adventures, sports action, or award-winning cuisine, you’re going to hit the jackpot in Durham, NC. Just an hour’s drive east of Greensboro, Bull City (named for the locally-grown tobacco) is a vibrant college town that blends a rich history with modern urban energy.

Originally inhabited by the Eno people, the site now known as Durham was settled in the mid-1750s by Europeans who created a thriving network of grist mills, many of them still seen today.

Duke University in Durham

Step into the past at Bennett Place, an iconic American landmark and one of Durham’s must-see tourist attractions. Explore restored historic structures, experience living history events, and stand on the very spot where General Sherman negotiated the Confederate surrender – and the end of the Civil War.

Outdoor enthusiasts can take their pick of dozens of city parks, along with the beautiful 4,200-acre Eno River State Park. Sports fans can catch a Bulls game at the ballpark, and culture vultures can get their fill at the historic Carolina Theater or the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

The Tastiest Town in the South is home to James Beard Award-winning chefs – and it’s also a hotspot for Southern specialties. Make a roadside pit stop at the local favorite Backyard Barbecue Pit for the real deal.

Haw River State Park, NC

Tempted to get away from it all? Plan an escape to Haw River State Park, NC. Originally used as a retreat for the state’s Episcopal Church, this beautiful park is now an ideal getaway for serenity-seeking secular pilgrims.

Take a 25-minute jaunt north of Greensboro into Guilford County, and you’ll be transported to a region of pristine beauty that’s one of the newest protected areas in the state.

Haw River State Park

Haw River State Park offers fantastic hiking and recreational opportunities, but it’s also designed to be an educational showcase for the local flora and fauna. Stop in at the Visitor Center to learn about the park’s unique ecosystem and conservation efforts.

RELATED: Most Popular Tourist Attractions in Greensboro, NC

Then, explore miles of trails and a boardwalk that will take you through the park’s vibrant wetlands and across a photo-worthy suspension bridge to the Haw River’s headwaters. Wander through lush oak-hickory forests and stop off to fish or unpack a picnic hamper. Keep the binoculars handy; the park’s natural habitats are a magnet for birdlife.

Hanging Rock State Park, NC

If you want to be wowed by some jaw-dropping vistas, set your compass for Hanging Rock State Park, NC. Head just an hour northwest of Greensboro, and you’ll discover a stunning landscape filled with plateaus and cliffs. With amazing views of rolling mountains and irresistible stay-the-night options, you may want to make this more than a day trip!

Hanging Rock State Park

Hiking, rock climbing, fishing, horseback riding, picnicking: you can do it all at Hanging Rock State Park. Want spectacular views? Take a hike along the Hanging Rock Trail (just over a mile) or the Moore’s Wall Loop Trail (just under five miles) to get to the mountain – and climb!

Miles of trails accommodate all skill levels but be prepared for some serious legwork to reach the Hanging Rock pinnacle at 2,000 feet. Along the way, you’ll discover an array of entrancing waterfalls, including the spectacular Lower Cascades. Reach the summit, and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views across the valley of the Dan River to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia.

Raleigh, NC

Award-winning restaurants, fabulous museums, and gorgeous green spaces: Tie those up with a bow, and you’ve got Raleigh, NC. One of the state’s coolest destinations, North Carolina’s capital city also happens to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States.

Start your visit low-key with a visit to Dorothea Dix Park. This former plantation has found new life as an inviting 308-acre urban park filled with spaces to kick back, chill out, and take in fantastic views of the city’s skyline.

Traveling with kids? Head for Pullen Park, where you and your crew can hop aboard a train or carousel ride – or just cut loose in the park’s playgrounds.

Take in more of Raleigh’s wide open spaces at Umstead State Park, a gorgeous green space boasting 6,000 acres of woodlands and trails. Don’t miss the “Chainsaw Art Tree,” a massive fallen oak that’s been transformed into an eye-popping wooden sculpture.

Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park

Get an indoor art fix at the North Carolina Museum of Art, featuring spectacular guest exhibits by artists like Frida Kahlo and Ansel Adams. For art lovers, it’s one of Raleigh’s must-see tourist attractions.

Explore the natural world at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, where you can get an up-close look at dinosaur bones, explore North Carolina’s ecosystems, and wander in a butterfly garden.

Worked up an appetite? Satisfy it at James Beard Award-winning Beasley’s Chicken & Honey, or quaff your choice libation of choice at the Raleigh Beer Garden.

Stone Mountain State Park, NC

Scoping out spectacular landscapes? Then, you won’t want to miss Stone Mountain State Park, NC. Ninety miles northwest of Greensboro, this is one of the most popular state parks in North Carolina and a must-see for any journey through the Tarheel State.

Spanning 14,000 acres of high country landscape, Stone Mountain State Park is brimming with beautiful waterfalls, winding creeks, and teeming trout streams. Outdoor enthusiasts will be in their element with over 22 miles of trails to explore, fishing, horseback riding, and some of the best rock climbing in North Carolina.

Stone Mountain State Park

You can’t miss the star attraction: a towering 600-foot granite dome that’s now a designated National Natural Landmark. Nestled at its base is the historic Hutchinson Homestead, a restored 1860s farm that’s been converted into a museum and learning center celebrating the history of high country ranching.

Hike around the Stone Mountain Loop, and you’ll discover the majestic 200-foot-high Stone Mountain Falls, the remnants of old stills, and some great spots for trout fishing!

Gather some firewood, stake out a campsite, and hunker down for the night!

Charlotte, NC

If you want to pick up on some urban energy, take a spin down to Charlotte, NC. About 100 miles southwest of Greensboro, the Queen City is the largest city in the state. And it’s packed with great attractions – so you may want to turn this day trip into a North Carolina weekend!

Take a stroll around Uptown Charlotte. You’ll discover intriguing spots like the Levine Museum of the New South, focusing on post–Civil War history in the South. Or make some hands-on discoveries with the immersive science displays at Discovery Place, one of the coolest Charlotte tourist attractions for families. Dive into the history and culture of North Carolina’s African-American community at the Harvey B. Gantt Center, one of Charlotte’s top-rated museums.

Lake Norman State Park

Want a break from the bricks? Chill out in one of the city’s 400 parks. For more room to roam, head 40 miles north to Lake Norman State Park and explore the region’s most popular mountain biking trail system.

Up for more action? Test your mettle at the US National Whitewater Center, where you can raft on the water, climb the rock wall, or zip your way through the ropes course.

Top of your day with a jaunt to Charlotte’s trendy NoDa (North Davidson) neighborhood. The city’s arts and entertainment hub, NoDa is packed with eclectic galleries and music venues, artisan gift shops, hip bars, and awesome eateries featuring Southern fare and Cajun cuisine.

Hickory, NC

Ready to dial it down a notch? Mosey on down to Hickory, NC. Set 90 minutes southwest of Greensboro at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this historic town exudes Southern warmth and charm.

Hickory began life in the late 1700s as a tavern serving thirsty travelers on the main east-west road through Catawba County. The original log structure no longer stands, but the Hickory Tavern Monument commemorates the spot where Hickory was born.

Step into Hickory’s past at The Harper House History Museum. A stunning example of elaborate Queen Anne interior styling, the museum offers an intriguing glimpse into Victorian life in the South.

Lake Lure in Hickory

For another take on Hickory history, swing 10 minutes southwest to the Henry River Mill Village in Hildebran. Originally built in 1905, this rare preserved piece of NC history is a moving legacy of Hickory’s early days as a vibrant mill town.

Shake off that mill dust and get in some waterside action with a 15-minute jaunt northeast to Lake Hickory. This man-made freshwater lake boasts over 100 miles of shoreline – great for boating, fishing, and water skiing.

Ready to refuel? Head back to town and make a whistle-stop at the Olde Hickory Station. Built in 1912 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s now home to a bustling restaurant, bar, and gourmet market. Stock up for the road!

Raven Rock State Park, NC

Hungry for outdoor adventure? Gear up and head just over an hour southeast of Greensboro to Raven Rock State Park, NC. Check in at the Visitor Center, and you’ll discover interactive exhibits exploring the area’s history and indigenous legacy.

Boasting miles of hiking trails, rapids, waterfalls, and paddle-in campgrounds, this beautiful park offers plenty to sink your teeth into!

The stunning centerpiece is (naturally) Raven Rock. Named for the brooding birds that roost there, this awesome 150-foot crystalline structure spans almost 5,000 acres along the Cape Fear River. For generations, it’s been a landmark for river travelers.

Raven Rock State Park

Landlubbers will discover a nice mix of gentle flat loops and longer, more difficult routes. Hit the rugged trails along the bluffs, and you’ll be delighted by the unexpected beauty of stunning mountain flowers splashed across the rocky terrain.

Venture towards the river, and you’ll hit captivating scenic landmarks like Lanier Falls Rapids, Fish Traps Rapids, and the remains of the 19th-century Northington Lock and Dam.

If you’re here for the “ultimate” view, put your mettle to the test on the Raven Rock Loop, a challenging 2.5-mile-long trek. Your reward: amazing views from the summit clear across the awesome Cape Fear River and valley.

Roanoke, VA

If you’re looking for a destination with star power, hit the Blue Ridge Parkway and make a two-hour run across the border to Roanoke, VA.

Set in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of southwest Virginia, this often-overlooked gem sports an iconic 88.5-foot-tall neon star perched on Mill Mountain. Drive to the top, and you’ll get great pics and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.

The “Star City of the South” Roanoke is a great family-friendly getaway. Make it your base for exploring the gorgeous overlooks, parks, and trails of the world-renowned Blue Ridge Parkway – the most popular destination in the United States National Park System.

Mill Mountain Park

Soak up a special mountain town charm that’s unique to the region. Featuring a historic town center and open-air market, Roanoke is surrounded by stunning scenery in every direction. But it’s also got a modern vibe fuelled by diverse museums, trendy restaurants nestled in historic buildings, and bustling microbreweries.

Check out Center in the Square for a multitude of options that guarantee an amazing time for the whole gang. Explore an awesome array of aquariums, a unique interactive Pinball Museum, and a Children’s Museum loaded with fun, hands-on exhibits.

Craving a cultural infusion? You’ll get it at the Center, with performances by North Carolina’s best and brightest in live theater, ballet, opera, and symphony music.

Crowders Mountain State Park, NC

Heads up, mountaineers: If you’ve been itching to go mano a mountain, pack up your pitons and proceed two hours southwest of Greensboro to Crowders Mountain State Park, NC. Boasting 5,300 acres of pristine beauty, this natural gem is home to two magnificent peaks offering breathtaking views across the North Carolina Piedmont.

Are your sights set high? Hit the 2.5-mile-long Crowders Trail to reach a majestic summit that towers 1,625 feet over the surrounding countryside. Determined to go big or go home? Trek the 2-mile-long Pinnacle Trail to a jaw-dropping height of 1,705 above sea level, the highest point in all of Gaston County.

Crowders Mountain State Park

But you don’t need rock-solid climbing skills to immerse yourself in the pleasures of Crowders Mountain State Park. Cast a fishing line. Head out on the water for a paddle. Stake out a campsite and dig into some alfresco eats.

And with over a dozen trails to choose from, this wild haven welcomes all comers. You can opt for one of the park’s gentler treks, like the scenic Lake Loop. Bordering Lake Crowder, this beautiful trail takes you through lush maple and oak forests. This area is brimming with birdlife, so pack your binoculars!


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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