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North and South Carolina

Old Sep 17th, 2012, 05:11 PM
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North and South Carolina

I will be traveling for the first time to North and South Carolina from San Francisco in October. Which is the best airport to fly into? I have read Atlanta or Virginia so not sure any suggestions?
Primarily interested in visiting historic sights and beaches and also driving and hiking the Blue Ridge parkway. We will be there for 2 weeks.
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Old Sep 17th, 2012, 06:12 PM
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We flew into Charleston for our visit of Charleston and Savannah, but that might be a little too far in a corner of the Carolinas for you.
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Old Sep 17th, 2012, 06:39 PM
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Because it is a major hub I would suggest Atlanta. From Atlanta go north on US 19 into western North Carolina to see the mountains and forests. Head east through North Carolina through cities and the Piedmont until you come to the Outer Banks. See Kitty Hawk and Cape Hatteras lighthouse and anything else you want to see on the Outer Banks.
From there head south to Charleston by way of Myrtle Beach.
Do you have a desire to see more cities, coastal areas, Piedmont or Appalachian Mountains?
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Old Sep 17th, 2012, 06:56 PM
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Unless you get a huge price break, I wouldn't bother with Atlanta *or* Virginia if your goal is to see the Carolinas. Why not fly into Charlotte, or Asheville, or Raleigh/Durham, or Charleston? Which one(s) would be best depends on what you want to do exactly. You could start in Asheville and do the mountains first, then make your way across NC and down to Charleston.

Be aware that if you're talking about this October, that's the most popular time of year in the mountains since the leaves are usually changing colors, so you'll want to start looking for accommodations ASAP.
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Old Sep 17th, 2012, 09:12 PM
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Thank you all for your suggestions. I have a better feel for the area after reading your responses. Having a difficult time trying to put an itinerary together since it is only for 2 weeks and 2 large states and so much to see.
I did not realize that there would be peepers, so we are going to take this into conseration. I was thinking of leasing something like a Eurovan so we can camp and not have to have check in and out times. This way we can hike, stroll and sight-see without too much of a rush and always have our bed close by(we are seniors).
I was thinking a sampling of everything, beaches, mountains and historical towns/cities.
Any other thoughts are appreciated. Thank you all again.
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 01:23 AM
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Definitely look at flying into Charlotte. Why add another hundred miles or more to your trip by flying into Atlanta?

Once you are out of the mountains, you won't have peepers to deal with, but there may be weekend football games in Columbia or the Chapel Hill-Durham-Raleigh area.

It is a lot of ground to cover, sort of like an easterner planning to spend two weeks seeing LA and San Francisco in two weeks, but it is certainly doable.

I would suppress the urge to rent a camper for this trip because of the housekeeping issues: getting up and out in the morning and settled in the evening is just a lot easier from a hotel.

In your situation, I would make a giant loop: west to Smoky Mountains National Park, east to Asheville, north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to somewhere like Blowing Rock and Boone, east again to Winston-Salem, where you could visit Moravian Old Salem, then east to Chapel Hill. You could go to the Outer Banks, but you might just drive east to Wilmington and down US 17 through iconic Low Country scenery to Charleston. From there is a quick trip back to Charlotte.

When possible you should avoid horrible I-40 and I-85 in favor of smaller highways like NC 54, but there are places where the interstate is the only way to go, and I-40 up Black Mountain outside Asheville is a very scenic route. By the way, our VW camper could not do more than 10 mph in some portions of the grade, and the downhill (eastbound side) has a number of turnout ramps for trucks whose brakes have failed.
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 04:58 AM
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CLT is the 11th busiest airport in the world - you will have no problem getting non-stop from the Bay area. No need to look at Atlanta unless it will save you lots of money in fares.

I like Ackislander's planned loop and would recommend making it all the way out to the Outer Banks only if you haven't tired of driving yet (NC is a very long state). Personally, I'd probably opt to head to Wilmington from the Raleigh/Durham area - the Outer Banks are just too far out of the way for me.
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 05:09 AM
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Just to give you some drive time estimates excluding stops for Ackislander's loop (assuming your van can maintain the speed limit):

CLT to Asheville - 2.25 hrs
Asheville to Blowing Rock/Boone - 2.5 hrs on the Blue Ridge Parkway (nice drive)
Blowing Rock/Boone - Winston Salem - 2 hrs
Winston Salem - Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill - 2 hrs
Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill - Outer Banks - 4 hrs
Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill - Wilmington - 2 hrs
Outer Banks - Wilmington - 5 hrs
Wilmington - CLT - 4 hrs
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 06:47 AM
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You guys are great!Discovering the 2 states are hugh was surprising and I wish we could extend our trip another week. Thanks for the itinerary, I was overwhelmed with the guide books, again because of the size of the states and all the fantastic scenic drives I would like to do. Any insiders suggestions on what to avoid or definitly not miss would be great. Thanks again!
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 07:33 AM
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I'm with Ackislander and Brian - the Smokies/Blue Ridge/Asheville/Triangle/Charleston loop is a good overview to me. If you're very into beaches or lighthouses or whatnot, you could add the Outer Banks, but they're quite a drive. You could even skip Wilmington if you wanted to save some time and put your beach time in the Charleston segment, though Wilmington is nice too.

It would save you some time (if you did the above) to fly home from Charleston, but you'll likely get better prices and connections from Charlotte and could see a bit more of South Carolina on the way as well. Worth checking, though.

I'd be hesitant to take a camper through the mountains, personally; the roads are windy and, as mentioned, can have a pretty steep grade. But I haven't driven one so others may disagree.
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 08:55 AM
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Sorry, I didn't mean to leave out Charleston - I even prefer it to Wilmington, so if pressed for time, choose it (for beaches and downtown Charleston).
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 09:51 AM
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And another vote for flying into Charlotte. To add to Brian's good time travel, we are about 3 hours from charleston. I would choose Charleston over the Outer Banks just for sheer distance to travel. You have to "leave" also. it's just a "fer" piece.
I don't think the camping van is a problem at all in our mountains--even a travel trailer. That's what people do--go to the mountains to camp grounds.
I think you have a treat. NC and SC are really beautiful states with the mountains and the beaches so accessible.
I'd maybe do a part of Ackislander's idea--from Charlotte go up to Boone, Blowing Rock, drive down the Parkway to Asheville. Head down to Charleston, then up the coast through Georgetown, Pawley's and Litchfield to Wilmington.There is a nice hotel ON the beach at Litchfield--the Litchfield Inn.
Head back west from Wilmington to Charlotte.
Depending on your time south of Greensboro is Seagrove, a pottery "capital" such as you may never have seen. There are over a hundred potters of all kinds in this little area.
Around Chapel Hill/Durham is also Hillsborough, a lovely old town--and with a Vietri outlet!!
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 09:04 PM
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Thank you all again for your suggestions, I am so excited! I have always wanted to visit this area and now I'm going.
Gretchen, thanks for the shopping scoop!
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Old Sep 19th, 2012, 01:52 PM
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Suntree,

When you got your general route specced out, I am sure this board could flesch the trip out with specfic restaurant recs, historic sites, etc. Let us kmow and we'll se what we can do!
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Old Sep 19th, 2012, 04:02 PM
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See the Biltmore in Asheville, while you are there.
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Old Sep 26th, 2012, 09:33 AM
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my favorite is the ferry boat ride from quaint Southport to the Carolina Beach area. Many movies are filmed int Southport to wilmington area.Ironman is being filmed in Wilmington now. We go to Myrtle Beach to see the many shows in the area. Then head for Southport, a little town with shops and dining on the pier overlooking the water. Halle Berry's first movie was filmed there. Then we take the ferry boat from Southport to Kure beach which is part of the Carolina Beach area and then on into historical Wilmington. Dine at dockside, again on the water.
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