Cultural Tourism

The North Carolina Arts Council gained national recognition for one of the most innovative arts tourism programs in the country – one based on arts assets with a national and international appeal.

In western North Carolina, our Blue Ridge Music Trails and Cherokee Heritage Trails led to the designation of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and set the N.C. Arts Council on a statewide path to document other significant arts assets, including craft, literary heritage, and African American music. For each cultural tourism project, we work collaboratively with rural communities to document and celebrate treasured local artistic traditions.

In partnership with UNC Press, we have published seven guidebooks: Blue Ridge Music Trails of Western North CarolinaCherokee Heritage TrailsAfrican American Music Trails of Eastern North CarolinaLiterary Trails of the North Carolina MountainsLiterary Trails of the Piedmont, and Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina. (The guidebooks are available at UNC Press or other book retailers.)

We also recognize our rich traditions in music and craft by sponsoring North Carolina artists at stages at MerleFest in Wilkesboro, N.C., the North Carolina Folk Festival in Greensboro, N.C., and Wide-Open Bluegrass Festival in Raleigh, N.C. 

In 2015, arts and culture audiences in our state spent more than $1.18 billion, with each in-state resident spending an average of $27.95. Along the Blue Ridge Music Trails, 26 music events alone had a $20.7 million economic impact with a typical community traditional music event generating a return of more than $4,000 for every visitor attending.

Check out our cultural trails and see for yourself.