Jan 28, 2023 - Things to Do

3 must-do weekend trips within 4 hours of Raleigh

downtown wilmington nc

Downtown Wilmington. Photo: Bri Crane/Axios

Whether you're looking for a coastal respite or an adventurous mountain trip, here are three destinations to consider for your next getaway.

1. Mount Airy

Veggie pizza and a flight of craft beer from Thirsty Souls. Photo: Emma Way/Axios
Veggie pizza and a flight of craft beer from Thirsty Souls. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

This charming small town is just over 2 hours from Raleigh. Here’s how to spend the perfect weekend in Mount Airy.

Stay: In an Airbnb above Mount Airy's first brewery, Thirsty Souls, owned by Maria and Jan Kriska.


  • Relive the "Andy Griffith Show" era during one of several "Mayberry days" in various locations around Mount Airy from September 18–24. Details.
  • Find a funky sweater at Groovy Goose, a local thrift store just outside of downtown.
  • Go for a hike at one of the three state parks surrounding the town: Pilot Mountain (the shortest drive and hike), Hanging Rock or Stone Mountain.


  • Get a margarita flight from Mi Casa. Choose three flavors (lime, strawberry, mango, blackberry, pineapple or caliente) for $15.
  • Stock up on sweets at Opie’s Candy Shop, right on Main Street.
  • Grab a “Joe’s Joe,” a cinnamon and mocha latte, from Keepsmiling A’Latte.
  • Order the pork chop sandwich at Snappy Lunch, a downtown landmark, made famous in part by its mention on "The Andy Griffith Show."

2. Wilmington

saltworks cheeseburger
A burger from The Original Salt Works. Photo: Bri Crane/Axios

North Carolina's coastal crown jewel is about 2.5 hours from Raleigh. Here's how to spend a weekend in Wilmington.

Stay: At Dreamers Welcome, a renovated Victorian home was converted into a boutique bed and breakfast. It starts around $200 per night.


  • Check out the NC Azalea Festival from April 12–16. This five-day affair welcomes 200,000 visitors to the Wilmington area each year.
  • Spend the day at Wrightsville Beach. If you want to be walking distance from tourist attractions like the pier or Wings, look for parking somewhere between accesses 15 and 30. If you prefer a quieter beach day, park near access eight.
  • Take a self-guided film and TV location tour. If you were a big "Dawson's Creek" or "One Tree Hill" fan, you can follow this map to see some of the shows' iconic filming locations.


  • Get a pizza from Benny's Big Time. Celebrity chef Vivian Howard's family-friendly pizzeria has delicious cocktails and pizzas, and a signature hot honey sauce I'd drizzle on anything.
  • Try a spiked slushie from Jimmy's. Go here if you want to drink with the locals.
  • Get a burger (or double with bacon) from The Original Salt Works.
  • Get an iced coffee from Port City Java. This classic coffee spot has been around since 1995. And it’s reliably delicious.

3. Virginia Creeper Trail

virginia creeper trail
Photo: Bri Crane/Axios

The 34.3-mile Virginia Creeper Trail is worth the 4-hour drive from Raleigh.

How it works: You rent a bike (or bring your own) and ride from the top of the mountain all the way down.

  • It's a family-friendly trail that's mostly downhill, though some stretches require a little extra peddling.

Stay: At any number of Airbnbs if you want to make it a weekend.


  • Rent a bike from SunDog Outfitters. They'll cart you and your bike to the top of the trail. You can find all of the rental options here.
  • Stop for a picnic. The trail has a couple of concessions along the way, but we always pack our food so we can pull over in less crowded spots.


  • Grab a drink and sit outside at Wicked Chicken. They have 40+ flavors of wings to choose from if you work up an appetite.

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