Arts Tourism


The North Carolina Arts Council was an early leader in cultural tourism and gained national recognition for one of the most innovative arts tourism programs in the country – one based on arts assets with 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. 

In partnership with UNC Press we have published seven guidebooks.Blue Ridge Music Trails of Western North Carolina, Cherokee Heritage TrailsAfrican American Music TrailsLiterary 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.)

Research shows that authentic experiences and rural sightseeing are among the top visitor activities in North Carolina, contributing to the state’s $21.3 billion tourism industry. The Arts Council also celebrates our rich traditions in music and craft by sponsoring stages and demonstration areas at the National Folk Festival. We have sponsored stages at Wide Open Bluegrass, part of IBMA held in downtown Raleigh. With an arts infrastructure that reaches into all 100 counties arts and cultural experiences abound and the N.C. Arts Council collaborates with local arts councils, and destination marketing organizations to promote these experiences to North Carolina residents and out of state visitors.


Former Arts Council executive director, Mary Regan, and current executive director, Wayne Martin, accept the 2004 Preserve America Presidential Awards for Heritage Tourism from President George W. Bush.

African American Music Trails

Celebrates people, places and events in Eastern North Carolina, showcasing the music that has been a part of family, church and community for generations.


Blue Ridge Music Trails

Welcomes users into the rich worlds of bluegrass, old-time gospel and string music, as well as clogging, flatfooting and other forms of traditional dance.