The Tar Heel State
North Carolina is located in the southeastern United States. It is hot and humid in summer while temperatures are mild in winter. Spring and fall are ideal times to visit. Georgia's northern neighbor is home to the Appalachian music and culture of the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains (the most visited National Park in the entire country). From tobacco farms and cotton plantations to vineyards and large cities including Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Fayetteville, North Carolina is one of the nation's most charming vacation spots. The Outer Banks (achain of islands), with its beaches and sand dunes, is known for its famous lighthouses and wild horses. To travel around the state, you will need to rent a car, book a bus or train ticket. For more information visit: visitnc.com.
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Town Creek Indian Mound. Photo by Zachary Williams.
Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.
The International Civil Rights Center and Museum memorializes the Greensboro Four, a group of African-American men who participated in a sit to protest racial segregation policies, and honors the civil rights movement across the United States. Visitors can enjoy tours, music events, educational program, lectures and films during their time at the museum. See the Events Calendar for further details.
Old Salem Museum & Gardens is a restored historic town in Winston-Salem that teaches visitors about the culture of the Moravian community in the 18th and 19th century. Visitors can see historical exhibits, watch traditional craftsmen at work, and explore the gardens and museums of Old Salem.
Stagville State Historic Site was one the site of one of the largest plantations in the Southern United States before the Civil War. The site now teaches visitors about the families and slaves that once lived at the plantation. Original structures like the plantation home, slave quarters, the Great Barn and a family cemetery can be seen on tours of the site and during special events held at Historic Stagville.
The Town Creek Indian Mound is a National Historic Landmark dedicated to American Indian heritage. The site has been identified as a public meeting place and ceremonial area for the Pee Dee Indians during the Pre-Columbian era. Today visitors can see historic structures, outdoor exhibits, nature trails and other sites.
The Battleship USS North Carolina was present at all major naval battles in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. Visitors can now take self-guided tours of the battleship or sign up for special tours and events.
At the North Carolina Museum of History, visitors can learn about the history of North Carolina from its early inhabitants up to the 20th century, including historical events like the Civil War, the making of Gone with the Wind, the civil rights movement and the growth of the Latino community.
Oconaluftee Indian Village is a recreated 18th century Cherokee village. Visitors can take self-guided tours, see live reenactments of historical events, participate in interactive demonstrations and learn about events and figures from 1760.
Wright Brothers National Memorial marks the site where Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully completed the first powered flight. Visitors can see reproductions of the Wright Brothers’ glider and flying machines, view exhibits and films, and see the flight paths where the flying machines first took off.
- Coastal Kayak Touring Company
- Corolla Outback Tours
- Crystal Coast Ecotours
- Pure Vida Adventures
- Taste Carolina Food Tours
- Wild Horse Adventure Tours
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to learn more about the U.S. and its culture.
Museums and Art Organizations
Asheville Area Arts Council (AAAC) promotes art and culture in the Asheville region. The ARTERY, the council’s multipurpose exhibition facility, hosts art exhibits, workshops and programs, rehearsal space for performing artists, and small events. Upcoming events, gallery exhibits and programs are available on the AAAC Events page.
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte is dedicated to mid-20th century European modern art.
The Carl Sandburg Home is open for tours and nature walks around the 264-acre property. Sandburg was a writer, folk singer, activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and is an admired literary figure in the United States.
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture in Charlotte focuses on African American art, history and culture. The center has permanent collections of artwork, exhibitions, educational programs, lectures and workshops.
Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City exhibits pieces of cultural history from northeastern North Carolina. Special events and educational programs are also held at the museum throughout the year.
The Charlotte Film Festival in March screens hundreds of independent films and documentaries from around the world in Charlotte, North Carolina. Discussions, panels, workshops and educational programs are also held throughout the festival.
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April is an admired international film event dedicated to nonfiction films. The event has hundreds of film screenings and panels, educational programs and discussions at multiple venues in Durham.
See a full list of film festivals in North Carolina at the Film NC website.
Performing Arts Venues
- African American Dance Ensemble, Durham
- Brevard Music Center, Brevard
- Carolina Ballet, Raleigh
- North Carolina Dance Theater, Charlotte
- North Carolina Opera, Raleigh
- North Carolina Symphony, Raleigh
Art & Culture Resources in North Carolina
- Art museums and venues in Raleigh.
- An arts and culture online guide for Charlotte.
- The North Carolina Arts Council has information on art trails, museums and galleries, performing arts, and art events throughout North Carolina.
Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano drving down pit road in the 2009 Coca-Cola 600. Photo by tequilamike.
Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
North Carolina is home to 80% of NASCAR racing teams and the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the site of the Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600. Stock car racing is also the official state sport of North Carolina. To learn more about racing events at the speedway and to purchase tickets, visit the Charlotte Motor Speedway website.
Visitors can also go to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
Professional Sports Teams
College Sports Teams
Other college teams include:
- Appalachian State Mountaineers
- Charlotte 49ers
- Davidson Wildcats
- East Carolina Pirates
- UNC Asheville Bulldogs
- UNC Wilmington Seahawks
- Wake Forest University Demon Deacons
- West Carolina Catamounts
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
The Appalachian Trail is a backpacking trail running from Georgia to Maine. Visitors can hike a section of the Appalachian Trail within North Carolina in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both beginner and advanced hikers will find trails to suit their skill level.
The Biltmore in Asheville is the former home of George Vanderbilt. Visitors can tour the 8,000-acre estate, house and gardens or participate in outdoor activities like fly-fishing, horseback riding, biking and river trips.
Grandfather Mountain is a tourist attraction and state park in the Blue Ridge Mountain range. Popular outdoor activities on the mountain include hiking, wildlife viewing and camping. Guided hikes are also available for visitors.
The Outer Banks are a group of barrier islands along the Atlantic Coast of North Carolina and a popular vacation destination for visitors and residents. Many outdoor activities can be found in the Outer Banks throughout the year, including biking, fishing, swimming, windsurfing, boating, kayaking, off-road driving and ecotours.
Visitors will find six full-service ski and snowboard areas in North Carolina with trails for all skill levels. Other winter activities like snow tubing and sledding are also available throughout North Carolina.
For more outdoor activities and things to do in North Carolina, visit the North Carolina tourism website.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
As part of the Southern United States, North Carolina cuisine includes many Southern specialties like corn bread, hush puppies, grits, fried chicken and barbecue. As a coastal state, seafood is also a popular option when eating in NC.
NC Pickle Festival in Mount Olive, April
Carolina Pig Jig in Raleigh, May
The Blue Crab Festival in Little River, May
Watermelon Fest in Winterville, August
North Carolina Seafood Festival in Morehead City, October
Grover Pumpkin Festival in Grover, October
Barbecue Festival in Lexington, October
For a unique and local perspective on American cultural, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games are one of the largest Highland events in North America. Scottish culture is an important part of North Carolina’s heritage due to the many Scottish clans that traveled to the state in the 18th century. Today, the culture is celebrated at the Grandfather Mountain Highland games where visitors can enjoy live music and dancing, food and events like Highland wrestling, tug-of-war and the hammer throw.
The Storytelling Festival of Carolina in Laurinburg, NC features storytelling and music over three days in March. Other events, like storytelling classes and workshops, arts and craft sales, food vendors and nature walks, are also held throughout the event.
The Multicultural Festival in Lexington is held each May at Finch Park. The event celebrates many cultural groups including African-American, Asian, European, Latino and Native American. Each group shares their native dress, music, art and food. Other attractions, like arts and craft vendors, exhibits, rides and parades, are also held at the event.
Bele Chere is a three-day music and arts festival in historic Downtown Asheville with arts and crafts, live entertainment and attractions. The free outdoor event is held each July.
In September, the Kuumba Festival celebrates African-American culture. Entertainment, children’s activities, food, storytelling, dance and live music are some of the main events during the festival.
Carl Sandburg house in Flat Rock. Photo by Sheila Scarborough.
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
- Housing information for Work and Travel USA participants
- Housing information for Career Training USA interns and trainees
North Carolina Housing Resources
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for North Carolina participants include:
- Craigslist - North Carolina
- American Homestay Agency
- Hostelling International
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options.
Visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in your local community.
Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) provides bus and train service in the greater Charlotte area.
Triangle Transit serves the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. Find bus schedules, routes and other information on the Triangle Transit website.
Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA) operate bus routes in the Triangle region of North Carolina.
Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation bus routes serve Greensboro and the Piedmont area.
Winston-Salem Transit Authority operates bus routes in the Winston-Salem region.
Train Travel in North Carolina
Amtrak travels to many destinations in North Carolina, including Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Durham and others. Amtrak trains also connect to many bus services, providing transportation across North Carolina and the United States.
Bus Travel in North Carolina
Participants in North Carolina can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
Emergency Management Agencies
- North Carolina Department of Public Safety – Emergency Management
- Ready North Carolina
- Twitter updates @NCPublicSafety
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov
- North Carolina FEMA updates on Twitter @femaregion4
- National Weather Service
- National Hurricane Center
- Weather – Eastern North Carolina
- Weather – Central North Carolina/Raleigh
- Weather – Western North Carolina
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
Help at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina on an on-going basis or for a one-time project. Volunteer opportunities are available for both individuals and groups.
Habitat for Humanity of Wake County needs volunteers of all skill levels to help build homes and to support the organization.
Hands On Charlotte help volunteers find the right opportunities based on their interests, skills and time commitment. Browse the volunteer calendar or search for specific opportunities on the Hands On Charlotte website.
Volunteer withHands On Asheville-Buncombe and volunteer for one hour, one week or on an on-going basis. Visit the website to search for an opportunity or browse the volunteer calendar for upcoming events.
The Volunteer Center of Durham has many opportunities to help out in the local community, including many volunteer projects with short or one-time commitments.