North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh and its largest city is Charlotte. In the past five decades, North Carolinas economy has undergone a transition from reliance upon tobacco and furniture to a more diversified economy with an emphasis on engineering, biotechnology, and finance.
The coastal plains are strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the state falls in the humid subtropical climate zone. More than 300 miles (500 km) from the coast, the western, mountainous part of the state has a subtropical highland climate.
Among the major attractions are the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge National Parkway, the Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout National Seashores, the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk, Guilford Courthouse and Moores Creek National Military Parks among others.
The Appalachian mountain chain runs through the western part of the state, forming the lush landscape of the region. The Great Smoky Mountains in southwestern North Carolina are one of the countrys top natural destinations and visitors can enjoy 250 miles of the world-famous Blue Ridge Parkway winding through North Carolinas mountains. Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the state, and at 6,684 feet, it is also the tallest mountain in the eastern United States.
Two-thirds of North Carolinas mountains are covered with hardwood forests and in autumn, the over 120 species of trees put on a brilliant display of color. There are hundreds of waterfalls and cold mountain streams full of trout.
Warmed by the Gulf Stream, the North Carolina Coast is a sunny place filled with pristine beaches, giant sand dunes (including Jockeys Ridge, the highest along the East Coast) and wetlands filled with wildlife and a variety of plants. The defining characteristic of the area is the Outer Banks, a chain of fragile barrier islands – 130 miles of unspoiled coastline surrounded by 900 square miles of water.
The area is also full of history, dating back to the 16th century, when the first English settlement was built and then vanished. There are also sites from pre-Revolutionary Days through the Civil War. Not to mention the historic lighthouses (including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which at 208 feet is the tallest brick lighthouse in the nation).
The city of Wilmington is a major US seaport. And, in 1903 the Wright Brothers ushered in the era of flight at Kitty Hawk.