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.

Explore the Arts Trails

Authentic North Carolina adventures are at your fingertips with the N.C. Arts Council's arts tourism trails!

Musician Bill Myers next to the cover of the African American Music Trail guide book

African American Music Trails

Experience the deep ties between music and community along the African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina, including stops at the Kinston Music Park, historic sites and local eateries.

Visit Website | Purchase Guidebook


Collage of a person playing banjo next to the cover of the Blue Ridge Music Trail guide book

Blue Ridge Music Trails

Traditional old-time and bluegrass music has deep roots in North Carolina, none deeper than in the communities surrounding the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Visit Website | Purchase Guidebook


A hand carving pottery next to the Cherokee Heritage Trail Guidebook cover

Cherokee Heritage Trails

Cherokee Heritage Trails provides information about Cherokee historical and cultural sites that you can visit in the southern Appalachians.

 Purchase Guidebook


Shelves of books next to guidebook covers for NC Literary Trails

Literary Trails of North Carolina

Three regional volumes invite residents and out-of-state visitors to explore North Carolina while reading literature from our state's finest writers.

Purchase North Carolina Mountains Guidebook
Purchase North Carolina Piedmont Guidebook
Purchase Eastern North Carolina Guidebook