North Carolina is a popular haven for creative people. From the inspirational beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the folk music history of the Appalachia, to the wild, untamed beauty of the Outer Banks. It’s no surprise artists, musicians, filmmakers, and writers call North Carolina home. If you’re an aspiring creative looking for inspiration, you’re sure to find it in these fourteen places.
It's obvious the city of the wonderful, weird, and downright eccentric belongs on this list. Asheville is famous for free-thinking residents and plenty of artists and creators. For inspiration, visit one of the many art galleries, or simply start up a conversation at the bar. Home of the famous author, Thomas Wolfe, there is still a great literary community here.
2. Mt. Mitchell Scenic Byway
If being on top of the highest peak east of the Mississippi isn't inspiration enough, hop in the car and drive 52 miles along the scenic byway. Besides gorgeous views, you'll pass art galleries and studios. Stop in and start up a conversation.
As pottery capital of America, Seagrove has boasted Smithsonian featured potters. Yet, a drive down the simple country roads dotted with studios in dilapidated, yet charming barns; you'd never guess Seagrove's stellar reputation in the art world. Most of the potters will be in their shop, or at least near the kiln. I've always gotten a good tour, and a good conversation with each potter I've met in Seagrove.
A hub for laid back, creatives, you're sure to meet your muse in Wilmington. Whether as a short visit, or a new permanent residence, Wilmington has a lively boardwalk district, colorful galleries, and unique charm that will get you feeling inspired.
While known for tobacco, Winston-Salem boasts NC School of the Arts as well as a lively arts district on Trade St. From the RiverRun film festival which brings in big name directors, to a monthly gallery hop, Winston fuels and breeds creatives like native Ben Folds.
Nestled in the mountains, you'll find beauty, inspiration, and music in Tryon. If you're seeking the perfect verse to finish a song, or simple storytelling inspiration, visit the Nina Simone statue. As a native to Tryon, the singer went on to national stardom. The isolation, small town, and gorgeous horse country (yes, Tryon is known for horses too) will get the creative juices flowing.
While the Rodanthe House has found a safer home due to hurricanes, you can still feel all of the Nicholas Sparks' inspiration here. Rodanthe is beautiful and wild. A little more remote than other popular nearby towns, this beautiful landscape inspired (now native) Nicholas Sparks and will give you your ah-ha moment too.
8. Chapel Hill & Carrboro
Chapel Hill was at the forefront of the indie rock scene in the mid-80's to 90's. Boasting 'little name' indie rock bands, that later went on to indie-rock stardom, several artists have gotten their start here, and still are here to this day. Get tickets to a concert at Cat's Cradle and appreciate a venue that has hosted acts like Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana.
While the 'finance capital' can seem more geared towards Type-A's...Charlotte's creativity can be seen simply in the skyline. Boasting modern, yet unique architecture, Charlotte is a new-age, art lovers dream. Stop by the Mint Museum, or photographers can visit the Light Factory. Even filmmakers can experience a brimming film community. From Films on Tap, a seasonal film festival hosted at local breweries, to competitions like 48-hour film fest. NoDa, Charlotte's art district, is everything you'd expect. With large murals adorning buildings, and plenty of creative types.
10. High Point
As furniture capital, interior designers will find unlimited inspiration in High Point. Browse one of the many showrooms, or come in the fall or spring for the furniture market and rub elbows with world-renown designers.
While this charming mountain town only has a population of 713, several residents are creative thinkers. From artists seeking a peaceful studio with mountain views, to writers who really want isolation. A stroll through downtown Saluda is sure to bring you in contact with interesting, like-minded creatives. If that's not enough, travel to nearby waterfalls and hiking trails.
12. Blue Ridge Parkway
If you're the type of creative that needs isolation for inspiration, take a long drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. With several overlooks, you can pen out a poem, sketch a new drawing, or sit and take in all the immense beauty. It's no surprise the Blue Ridge has been featured in music, books, and movies; the beauty is mesmerizing. Appalachia is also alive with folk music, on a nice morning, it's as if you can hear it in the mountains.
Durham has received an artful facelift in the past few years, and is now a thriving, small city that prides itself on cool creativity. Up and coming musicians, like Sylvan Esso, have gotten their start here. As part of the triangle, Durham is entwined in the rich musical heritage of the area. For the visually creative, catch a show at Durham Performing Arts Center, or visit the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
14. New Bern
Artists that prefer the beach over mountains will find themselves flocking to the historically rich New Bern. Full of colonial, coastal charm, just a walk through New Bern, or along the water, is inspiration enough. Visit one of the several galleries in the area, or go for one of the monthly ART-crawls.
Where do you go to get creative inspiration in North Carolina? Tell us in the comments!
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