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The Tar Heel State offers a wealth of unique and surprising shopping opportunities. This is a state filled with artisans and dealmakers, and from the big cities to hidden hollers, North Carolina presents temptations and opportunities like no other place in America.
Let’s start with furniture. North Carolina is the nation’s largest furniture manufacturing center, and for decades the state has led in output and sales. The furniture manufacturing industry is centered around the towns of Hickory and High Point, and this is where you will find stores, superstores, and outlets, nearly all of which are willing and able to ship your purchase to your house or help you load it in the back of your minivan.
The High Point Market is a week-long furnishing exhibition held each April. Open to industry professionals only, it’s the best place in the world to see what’s coming in furniture trends. High Point is also home to High Point Furniture Retailers – a collection of the area’s biggest and best retailers. You’ll know you are here when you see the giant chest of drawers and 18-foot tall chair.
Hop on 20 Miles of Furniture – better known as U.S. 321 – which runs through rolling country between Lenoir and Hickory. This stretch of highway north of Interstate 40 has a plethora of stores, galleries, and outlets ranging from small companies to major retailers like Broyhill. In Hickory, swing by the Hickory Furniture Market, which has more than 100 factory outlets, private galleries, and showrooms selling products from more than 1,000 manufacturers – more than a half-million people come here each year! Nearby, Furnitureland South is billed as the “World’s Largest Home Furnishings Showcase” – just off the Interstate 85 Business Loop, this complex has more than 1.3 million square feet of showroom space. Feeling overwhelmed? There are sales and design consultants to help guide you through the store.
Ever lose or break a favorite plate or dish and feel like your favorite china set is incomplete? Replacements, Ltd. In Greensboro is the spot for you – this 500,000-square-foot store has 13 million pieces from more than 380,000 china patterns!
If malls are more your thing, there are tons to choose from in North Carolina. Concord Mills Mall in Concord has just about every store you could hope for, with good prices, a food court, and a movie theater. Anchoring the complex is a huge Bass Pro Shop. South Park in Charlotte is a large, upscale mall with a Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and a Macy’s, plus specialty shops like Lego and American Girl. In Asheville, Asheville Outlets is a modern urban mall with outlet stores like Restoration Hardware and Banana Republic. The Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh has a great selection of stores and is particularly pretty during the Christmas season. In Durham, Streets at Southpoint is a large, attractive mall, with indoor playgrounds and outdoor fountains – it’s popular for its food court.
Many of the state’s old warehouses have been converted into unique shopping experiences. In Wilmington, The Cotton Exchange is a multi-level mall in an old brick warehouse – it’s beautiful inside and out and is home to fun shops with a unique flair. Mayfaire is another Wilmington shopping landmark – it has a huge selection of small stores, many of which are found nowhere else. In Durham, Brightleaf Square is an indoor/outdoor mall in a former tobacco warehouse – you’ll love the gorgeous red brick facades and the great outdoor seating options, and it’s a great stop if you are headed to a game at Durham Bulls Stadium.
Antiques lovers will find great bargains and one-of-a-kind finds in North Carolina – almost every town has a rambling antiques mall on its fringe and a treasure-filled store downtown. In Charlotte, Sleepy Poet Antique Mall has close to 300 vendors and a huge variety of treasures. Antique Tobacco Barn in Asheville has hard-to-find pieces with a long Appalachian heritage. In Burlington, Granddaddy’s Antique Mall bills itself as the “South’s Largest Mall” – step inside and you’ll see why! The White Owl Antique Mall and Design Center in Mt. Pleasant has dozens of small booths crammed with noteworthy items and distinctive pieces. Other great spots for antiques include The Attic Antiques in Franklin, Gibsonville Antiques and Collectibles in Gibsonville, Lodestone Art and Antiques in Fayetteville, and Oak Street Mill Antiques in Cornelius.
All this shopping works up an appetite? Well then you need a plate of North Carolina barbecue! The state has two distinct barbecue styles – Western style, with its ketchup-based sauce, and Eastern style, with a vinegar-based sauce. Either way, the meat of choice is chopped pork. If you can’t get your fill of ‘cue while you are in the Tar Heel State, a number of cookers will mail meat to you! You can order barbecue by the pound, ‘cue sauce, slaw dog kits, and artisanal beef franks from outlets like Carolina Cue to Go, King’s BBQ, Parker’s BBQ, and more.
The state has a huge number of artists working in tiny towns and big city galleries. The town of Seagrove considers itself the “Handmade Pottery Capital of the United States” – there are oodles of spots to buy mugs, plates, cups, vases, and more. Asheville is home to the River Arts District, which is where you will find more than 180 studios housed in former factories and historical buildings. Biltmore Village is a shopping spot south of Asheville with a unique bohemian vibe. In Spruce Pine, Market on Oak is a non-profit which benefits local crafts makers and small businesses – proceeds go to fund college scholarships. And no stop to the mountains would be complete without a visit to the Mast General Store – stop in the original one in Valle Crucis, which is known for carrying everything from “cradles to caskets” in addition to a great line of hiking and camping gear, distinctive clothing, hard-to-find candy, and old-time toys.
Whatever short of shopping you are after, North Carolina has something for you!
Nestled in the triad city area of western North Carolina lies the historic city of Salem. The Old Salem Museums & Gardens is comprised of wonderful shops, restaurants, gardens, exhibits and museums. Stroll through the Winkler Bakery, Moravian Book & Gift Shop, the A. Butner Hat Shop and the Horton Center Museum Shop, to browse the selection of items available.
Take a break at Mayberry's Restaurant or the Tavern in Old Salem, for a delicious meal before continuing your journey in Old Salem. Attend one of the garden workshops or garden tours, to learn more about this rich heritage. Stay close in nearby Greensboro or High Point.
Since 1766, the gardens in Old Salem have remained a vital part of everyday life. The open-pollinated heirlooms have been saved throughout the years, due to this preservation of Old Salem landscapes and gardens. Take your time through the Miksch Garden, Single Brothers' Garden, the Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market, the Triebel Lot Garden and the Family Gardens of Salt Street.
Originally envisioned as the home to the estate workers of Asheville's Biltmore Estate, the Biltmore Village has now transformed itself as one of the top culinary and shopping destinations of the North Carolina Mountains. Check out Biltmore Village on your next stay in Asheville.
Enjoy this historic district, which feature everything from men's and women's apparel to food and spirits offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are many excellent ways to enjoy a stay in Asheville – the Biltmore Village just so happens to be one of the premier attractions.
Set on North Front Street, the Cotton Exchange is located near the North Carolina coast in Historic Downtown Wilmington. Once an industrious downtown complex, the Cotton Exchange was renovated as an entertainment district in the mid-1970s.
Today, the Cotton Exchange of Wilmington features over 20 boutique shops and eateries comprised of eight historic yet restored structures. Yielding local shops, wares, and cafés, the Cotton Exchange is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. – plus free parking to boot.