City and Regional Guides in the North Carolina Gay Guide:
For many years a traditional bastion of conservatism, like its Southern neighbors, North Carolina has changed considerably in recent years in terms of its attitudes toward and popularity among gays and lesbians. As younger, more tolerant, and more politically progressive residents continue to move here, a number of communities have developed increasingly visible GLBT communities.
The largest city, Charlotte, remains relatively more conservative than the southeast's largest metro region, Atlanta, but it's definitely changing, especially in trendier neighborhoods like Plaza Midwood, the Davidson Arts District, and the South End. Long a hotbed of tech and medical industries as well as education, the Research Triangle - which comprises the Chapel Hill (home to University of North Carolina), Durham (anchored by Duke University), and the state capital city of Raleigh (where you'll find NC State University) - is generally considered the most gay-friendly of North Carolina's urban regions. The state's other large metro section - the Triad (made up of Greensboro, Winstom-Salem, and High Point) has less of a gay scene.
Among smaller cities and top vacation getaways, North Carolina tends to draw its leisure visitors either to the coast or the mountains. Wilmington and the surrounding Cape Fear region has a growing following among gay visitors, especially given the area's much-acclaimed reputation as a center of film production. Farther up the coast, the towns strung along the famously scenic Outer Banks (from Currituck County to Cape Hatteras) have relatively few gay-owned businesses or accommodations, but there is a small and growing scene in these parts as well as a very fun GLBT party in late June, Outer Banks Pridefest.
In the rugged and mountainous inland, where you'll find Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the cool and beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, an artsy and gay-welcoming vibe has developed over the past two decades in the small, historic city of Asheville. You'll find a few gay-friendly B&Bs in small towns elsewhere in Appalachian North Carolina, but most of this rural area tends toward the conservative side.
One word about gay nightlife in North Carolina: bear in mind that throughout the state many nightclubs and bars are licensed as "private clubs," meaning that visitors must buy a temporary membership, which typically costs around $10.