NORTH CAROLINA, the most industrialized of the Southern states, breaks down into three distinct areas – the coast, the Piedmont and the mountains. The coast promises stunning beaches, beautiful landscapes and a fascinating history – the world’s first powered flight took place here. The inner coast consists largely of the less developed Albemarle Peninsula, with colonial Edenton nearby. The central Piedmont is less appealing, dominated by manufacturing cities and the academic institutions of the prestigious “Research Triangle”: Raleigh, the state capital, is home to North Carolina State University; Durham has Duke; and the University of North Carolina is in trendy Chapel Hill. Winston-Salem combines tobacco culture and Moravian heritage, while the boomtown of Charlotte is distinguished by little but its downtown skyscrapers. In the Appalachian Mountains, alternative Asheville makes a hugely enjoyable stop along the spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway.

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