When is the best time to visit North Carolina? As with any destination you visit, you’ll want to know the most popular places and the best time of year to visit so you can plan out your trip successfully.
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The state of North Carolina also known as the Tar Heel State is a popular destination with beautiful places to visit – from coastal towns on the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Smoky Mountains bordering Tennessee. It’s also among the top destinations people flock to from all over the United States.
And with good reason. It’s a great place for outdoor activities and a variety of events year-round.
But before you go book your flight, knowing when to visit is important for your trip planning to ensure you fully enjoy your vacation.
The best time to visit North Carolina for ideal temperatures is between early April and the middle of June before it gets too hot. Then in early September to late December for a mix of cool crisp air and warm temps. Makes for an ideal time.
Visiting in early fall would be my recommendation to see the leaves change.
The hottest months are July and August so unless you enjoy the hot temperatures and some humidity, you can either avoid visiting during this time of year or plan a trip to the mountains for more comfortable weather and fun water activities.
But I will warn you, North Carolina river water is super cold!
Worst Time to Visit North Carolina
With so much to do throughout every season, there truly is no bad time to visit North Carolina but it also depends on what part of the state you choose to vacation in. Although the busiest month for tourism in North Carolina is June.
If you go inland around the Charlotte city area, Lake Norman, or along the East Coast you might be a bit miserable in July and August. The hot temperatures are brutal.
Plus, with summer being a peak season and the most popular time for family travel, you’ll find larger crowds. Your best bet is going to be a mountain vacation if you want to escape the higher temperatures and scorching summer heat!
Cheapest Time to Visit North Carolina
The cheapest time to visit North Carolina is early September when everyone is back in school and travel is down some. This is a good time to enjoy fewer crowds too.
What Time of Year Does North Carolina Have the Best Weather?
You can’t go wrong with the pleasant weather North Carolina has to offer. Most northern tourists who visit the state love it for the warm climate even in winter!
In early spring or early March, you can expect average temperatures to be in the mid-50s to 70s range and in late spring the temps will start creeping up to the upper 70s to lower 80s.
Personally, my favorite time of year for the best weather in North Carolina is during the fall season. You just can’t beat it!
The average high temperature by region:
- Eastern region – 66 °F (19 °C) – Best in late September to early November
- Central region – 60 °F (16 °C) – Best in early September to mid-November
- Mountain region – 55 °F (13 °C) – Best in July and August
The higher elevations in the mountain region such as the Mt. Mitchell area, Boone, and Banner Elk will have lower temps with an average low temperature that ranges 10 to 25 degrees cooler, even when the coastal region is experiencing heat waves.
June through August are the best months to visit the North Carolina mountains for fresh air, hidden gems, and fun family activities. Keep in mind, however, that when night falls, low temperatures can range between the 30s and 40s.
When to Visit North Carolina to Avoid Crowds
The best time of year to visit North Carolina to avoid the crowds is during the colder months of the low season from December to March. During low season, you can expect to find fewer crowds and colder temps.
It’s also a great time to jump on travel deals from airfare to hotel stays and vacation rentals. If you plan on visiting during the holiday season, keep in mind that vacation rentals book fast so you’ll want to book your stay 8-12 months ahead of time as most people tend to book a year in advance.
The Best Time to Visit North Carolina for Families and Kids
The best time to visit North Carolina with the fam is typically going to be the summer months when everyone is on vacation and it’s warm enough to enjoy the water activities and local attractions. From the beaches to the mountains, you are sure to find fun for the whole family!
Enjoy The Beautiful Beaches of North Carolina
North Carolina has some of the most beautiful beaches on the east coast of the U.S. with barrier islands that are home to incredible wildlife, state parks, and white sandy beaches as well as diving, surfing, boating, and snorkeling water activities.
Best Beaches on the East Southern Coast:
Carolina Beach (known for its vintage beachside boardwalk)
Bald Head Island
Outer banks (Nags Head, Bodie Island, Hatteras Island, Kitty Hawk, and other barrier islands)
The southern coast has hidden gems and historical spots that span about 300 kilometers of shoreline just off the east coast of North Carolina.
Here are a few historical points of interest:
Kitty Hawk is where Wilbur and Orville Wright successfully completed the first airplane flights.
Morehead City is an active beach town on NC’s Crystal Coast accessible to everything the southern part of the Outer Banks has to offer.
Cape Hatteras Island is most famous for having the tallest lighthouse in the United States and was given the nickname, “America’s Lighthouse.”
Best Mountain Areas:
Chimney Rock State Park
Blowing Rock (You’ll find unique things at some of the small shops on Main Street. This small town charmer is a family hot spot!)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Pisgah National Forest (Beautiful waterfalls and Sliding Rock)
Asheville (Biltmore Estate)
Because summer is a popular time for family travel, you can expect higher prices on gas if a road trip is in your travel plans as well as increased resort and hotel rates. With search engines like Expedia, Booking, Hotels, or Wayaway which gives you cash back on bookings, you can more than likely find a great travel deal.
When to Visit North Carolina for Good Hiking
Fall is a perfect time to hike in the North Carolina Mountains. It’s when temperatures cool down and autumn starts to show off its beautiful display of colors. Typically in early October in higher elevations like Mt. Mitchell to late October and mid-November in lower elevations in the Asheville area.
If you want to beat the crowds but still get in on the cool temps, early to mid-September would be the time.
For a peak autumn colors hike, plan on hitting the trails in mid-October but be sure to take the scenic drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway to hit some hiking trails along the way. It’s definitely not one you want to miss!
Dress warm as it can get chilly in higher elevations toward the end of October and into November with a chance of snow in some areas depending on the elevation.
The higher the elevation, the greater the chance to spot the beautiful Monarch butterflies as they stop during their migration south from mid-September to early October or when they head north from May to July.
When to Visit North Carolina for Fall Foliage
Peak colors usually take place mid to late October starting at the highest elevation down to the foothills south of Asheville.
Plan your trip for mid-October to catch the fall foliage at its peak in the North Carolina mountains. There will be lots of changing colors with hues of bright oranges, yellows, and reds lining the Blue Ridge Parkway with some amazing sights to see.
Autumn in North Carolina generally lasts around 6-8 weeks but it’s dependent on the climate.
The cooler the temps, the faster the autumn display of colors will progress. If the temps are warmer, it’ll take longer to see the leaves change.
North Carolina Travel Seasons
North Carolina has four distinct seasons that can sometimes be on the mild side but nonetheless, the weather is perfect enough to draw in crowds from all over.
In spring, you can also hit the hiking trails and explore fields of wildflowers in the Blue Ridge mountains. It’s a great time to get outside after the cold winter months to enjoy the fresh, warmer air and take in the beauty of the blossoming dogwood, magnolias, cherry blossom trees, and blooming flowers which make quite the appearance in early spring.
While the spring season can bring warmer temperatures and beautiful blooms, it also brings pollen. So if traveling during this time, be ready for pollen season as well.
This is a family fun kinda season where time can be enjoyed either in the coastal region, the foothills, or in the high country part of the state.
This season does attract more crowds but you can always escape to places like the outer banks for a more relaxing vacation retreat.
Summer rates are a bit higher, especially during key events like the 4th of July which also increases the number of visitors to the barrier islands. So that’s something to consider when planning your trip.
The Autumn months are a time to enjoy a drop in temperatures after the summer heat starts to dwindle. It’s my absolute favorite time of year for fall colors, bonfires, and everything pumpkin. It’s also a perfect time to break out the sweaters and boots!
Autumn is typically a season favorite for leaf peeping so again, with that, expect to see heavier crowds. Particularly on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The winter months in North Carolina aren’t as bad as in the northern states with average weather temperatures in the 50s during the day and in the 30s at night. Although, there are days that temperatures can jump into the 80s and drop into the 40s from one day to the next in the Piedmont region.
The Piedmont has the mildest winter temps with January being the coldest month.
The foothills and high country, however, are a different story. Those regions tend to see cooler temps early on with a high chance of snow which makes the winter season a perfect time to visit ski resorts, enjoy the winter activities, and get in the holiday spirit!
North Carolina Weather & Climate
North Carolina’s weather and climate vary by region with some parts having more of a temperate climate than others.
During the spring and fall seasons, you can expect comfortable temperatures ranging from the 50s to 60s and sometimes into the 70s. Mornings are cool and crisp, afternoons warm up, and when evening falls, the temperatures do too.
Summer temps hover in the upper 80s to lower 90s on average with high humidity levels according to most Carolinians.
Coming from South Florida, however, the humidity is nowhere near as bad unless you’re in the Charleston, South Carolina area!
Rainfall varies as well but since moving to the area in 2006, I’ve seen more sunny days than rainy ones which at times can be deceiving during the winter months.
In winter, snow can be expected in the Western region closer to the mountains but rarely in the Piedmont area. There might be a dusting and an occasional snowfall but nothing that sticks around for too long. The sun usually melts it all away the next day.
But rest assured that everything will shut down if there is an inkling of snow flurries on the way!
Why You Should Visit North Carolina
Having four distinct seasons, North Carolina is a great place to visit any time of year. With lush green and colorful landscapes, sunny climates, and a wide variety of fun outdoor activities, it’s a perfect travel hotspot.
Tips for Visiting North Carolina
Pack Appropriate Clothing
North Carolina weather is very diverse and can vary across the state. It can be warm one day and the next it could be cold. It can be very unpredictable so pack accordingly and be prepared for warm and cooler climates.
If traveling in the summer, I would recommend packing light and breathable clothing to stay cool. If visiting in the winter, pack layering clothes for comfortability as well as a springlike change of clothes for unexpected warm weather which is highly likely in North Carolina. Especially in the Charlotte-Lake Norman regions.
If you have hiking or outdoor water activities on your travel itinerary, be sure to pack your hiking and water shoes including outdoor-appropriate clothing.
To play it safe, be sure to check the weather before zipping up the luggage to make sure you’ve got everything covered.
Pack the Essentials
When planning your trip, you want to make sure to double check you’ve packed all the travel essentials including a portable phone charger, camera, travel documents as needed, games for the kids if road tripping, snacks, and anything else you might need prior to travel.
And don’t forget to pack your rain gear for rainfall events!
North Carolina Allergy Season
With nature coming back to life in spring and wildflowers, and trees all starting to bloom, the pollen in North Carolina can be rough if you suffer from allergies.
FAQ’s About Traveling to North Carolina
Where is the best weather in North Carolina?
Charlotte is number one for best weather followed by Raleigh.
What is the rainy season in North Carolina?
The rainiest months are July and August with Cedar Mountain bringing in the most rainfall.
What is the best month to go to the Outer Banks?
Anywhere between March and May or September and November when resort rates drop and there are fewer crowds.