North Carolina Museum of Art

About North Carolina

Scenic beauty, a moderate climate, a culture rich in history and the arts, and world-class sports and recreational opportunities make North Carolina an exceptional place to live and do business. Combine that with quality health care, top universities, a low cost of living and it’s easy to see why most people who live here never want to leave.

Our state is renowned for its natural resources with more than 300 miles of Atlantic coastline and the highest mountain peaks east of the Rockies. Our communities are healthy, attractive and thriving. North Carolina consistently ranks at the top among places to live and do business.

We’re Bigger than You Think

With nearly 9.3 million people, we are 10th in population in the United States. Our more than 9.7 percent growth rate is twice the national average. At $398 billion, our gross domestic product is 10th in the country, the same as Sweden and the 22th-largest GDP in the world. Our state comprises 48,710 square miles.

Health Care

cardinal in dogwood tree
The cardinal is North
Carolina's state bird.

North Carolina has numerous nationally ranked medical facilities along with affordable health care costs. Four respected medical schools produce a wealth of medical professionals who spend some portion of their careers at the state’s six research hospitals and 100 community hospitals.

Cost of Living

North Carolina’s cost of living rivals that of many states across the country. From housing and utilities to everyday supplies and groceries, and from transportation to health care, most North Carolina residents enjoy a cost of living that is below the national average based on the ACCRA Cost of Living Index.


We have the largest state-maintained highway system in the nation as well as more than 76 public, 225 private and four international airports. North Carolina also maintains the largest ferry system on the east coast. North Carolina’s Amtrak operates the Piedmont and Carolinian passenger trains, offering daily service to Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, and nine other North Carolina cities.

More Comparisons

See how North Carolina compares with other states on measurements such as demographics, health, education, human services, law enforcement, environment, recreation, in taxes and spending.

Key Industries

biotech industry
North Carolina is a
powerhouse in pharmaceuticals
and clinical research

Some of the key industries that are thriving here include advanced manufacturing, aerospace and aviation, agribusiness, automotive, biopharmaceuticals, defense, energy, financial services, software and information technology as well as textiles.

Over the past 20 years, North Carolina has transitioned from a traditional economy based on tobacco, furniture and textiles to a global economy that is driven by knowledge-based enterprises. Many of our traditional industry sectors showcase the economic transition. For example, agriculture remains vital with a shift in focus from tobacco to livestock, poultry, and new crops that fuel such areas as wine-making and biotechnology. Our textile manufacturers have evolved by producing high-tech innovations in the area of nonwoven textiles and engineered fabrics.

These industries, along with our universities, community colleges and training programs, provide a continuous stream of workers equipped with the skills that are in demand globally. North Carolina workers are not only highly trained, but also more productive. In fact, North Carolina workers are 36 percent more productive than the average U.S. worker (PDF). That’s because the quality of life here helps people to flourish. And when people are happy and more productive, the companies they work for gain a competitive advantage.

“Creativity Means Business” in North Carolina

A 2009 study shows that creative businesses and individuals contribute a market value of $41.4 billion dollars worth of goods and services to North Carolina’s economy. The creative industry employs 165,000 people directly and sustains almost 300,000 jobs, which is nearly 6 percent of total state employment.

N.C. History

Learn about North Carolina’s history, from pre-Columbian times, to when explorers first found our coast, to the U.S. revolution and Civil War. More information can be found in NCpedia. Visit North Carolina’s historic sites.

Firsts in North Carolina

Wright Brothers Plane
First Flight

Famous North Carolinians

Natural Beauty, Naturally Fun

Mountains to the Coast: Geography

There are three distinct landforms of the Southeast and of North Carolina: the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont and the Appalachian Mountains. The Coastal Plain is low, flat to gently sloping land that extends along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Much of the Southeast lies within the Coastal Plain. The Piedmont, characterized by hilly, rolling land, borders the Coastal Plain. The Piedmont extends from Virginia to Alabama. The Appalachian Mountains, the largest range in the eastern United States, stretch from Canada to northern Alabama.


Wildlife Photo Contest Winner

Awed by North Carolina’s natural beauty and its wildlife, the earliest English explorers described our state as “the goodliest land under the cope of heaven.” North Carolina remains rich in resources, with a stunning array of wild creatures, from Canada geese to painted buntings to white-tailed deer, bog turtles and our native brook trout. This is a great state for hunting, fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing, perhaps in one of our state parks.

Arts and Culture

Cultural and educational experiences are plentiful. The nation’s first state-supported symphony and art museum continue to flourish in the state. Along with celebrated Native American and Civil War roots, we also commemorate the Wright Brothers’first moments of flight.

Summer theaters, wineries and festivals abound throughout the state, as does outdoor drama. A nationally recognized zoological park and extensive system of aquariums support wildlife education.

Recreation and Sports

Recreational opportunities range from celebrated golf courses to outdoor sports, to college and professional athletics. The state’s beaches, national and state parks and mountains offer boating, kayaking, fishing, hiking and skiing. Outdoor recreation areas include the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout national seashores, and 36 state parks.

North Carolina’s Pinehurst, established in 1895, is considered the home of American golf. Pinehurst will host the U.S. Open again in 2014. Pinehurst’s nearby Pine Needles was the site of the 2007 Women's U.S. Open.

When you’d rather watch sports than participate, North Carolina boasts an array of professional football, hockey, basketball and baseball teams. The Carolina Hurricanes hoisted hockey’s biggest honor, the 2006 Stanley Cup. North Carolina is the heart of the stock car racing world.

Four universities in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including North Carolina State University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wake Forest University and Duke University, provide plenty of sports rivalry. National Collegiate Athletic Association Conference contenders North Carolina Central University and Appalachian State University also compete nationally with the latter winning back-to-back championships. 

Higher Education

North Carolina is a great place to further your education or to send your kids to school.

The University of North Carolina was the first public university in the United States to open its doors and the only one to graduate students in the eighteenth century. The University of North Carolina is a public, multi-campus university dedicated to the service of North Carolina and its people. It encompasses the 16 diverse constituent institutions and other educational, research, and public service organizations. Additionally North Carolina has 36 private, non-profit liberal arts, comprehensive, and research colleges and universities accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, including Duke University, Elon University, and Davidson College.

NC Community Colleges are one of the most comprehensive community college systems in the nation. Originally created in the years following World War II, in response to the state’s rapid shift from an agricultural to an industrial economy, community colleges in North Carolina continue to be deeply rooted in economic development and workforce training while also providing Basic Skills and literacy education, and pre-baccalaureate programs." North Carolina’s community colleges open the door to high-quality, accessible educational opportunities that minimize barriers to post-secondary education, maximize student success, develop a globally and multi-culturally competent workforce, and improve the lives and well-being of individuals.

Photography courtesy NC Dept. of Cultural Resources