Calling all history buffs! Did you know North Carolina is a state brimming with an interesting history? From the first flight to the civil rights movement, the Tarheel State offers many intriguing and fascinating historical sites to visit from coast to coast. Whether you’re more into sociological history, scientific history or military history, there is something here that is sure to quench your thirst for knowledge.
Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills (Nearby Hotels)
On December 17, 1903, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first successful powered airplane flight in Kitty Hawk, NC after years of experimenting with flying machines. At the Wright Brothers National Memorial, you can relive those historic days by visiting the spots where they first took flight and landed, examining an artistic sculpture of the plane, wandering through a reconstructed camp building and paying your respects at the nation’s commemorative monument to the Wright Brothers.
The International Civil Rights Center and Museum, Greensboro (Nearby Hotels)
Located in Greensboro, NC, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum is not only a museum, but also an archival center and a teaching facility that celebrates the non-violent protests of the Greensboro sit-ins, which changed the civil rights movement in 1960. Visitors can explore 14 different interactive exhibits focused on human and civil rights that feature photos, artifacts and video re-enactments, as well as see the original lunch counter and stools where the “Greensboro Four” held their protest on February 1, 1960.
USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial, Wilmington (Nearby Hotels)
The majestic Battleship North Carolina sits in its permanent dock just across the Cape Fear River from downtown Wilmington and celebrates the lives of all the young men who served aboard the ship during World War II. When you visit this massive ship, you have the opportunity to step back in time and imagine what life aboard the vessel must have been like as you watch the introductory film, tour the exhibit hall and tour up to 9 levels of the ship. You can even pretend to steer the ship, start the engine or fire one of her guns!
Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, Boone (Nearby Hotels)
Fans of American history will want to visit the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum that celebrates the important part that explorers and settlers like Daniel Boone played in our nation’s history. As you explore the 18th century homestead complete with interpreters dressed in period clothing, you’ll discover what life was like in the 1700’s and experience some of their daily activities like hearthside cooking, blacksmithing, candle making and spinning & weaving. If you visit the museum during the summer months, be sure to also check out Horn in the West – an outdoor drama that focuses on Daniel Boone and the fight for American independence.
Reed Gold Mine, Midland (Nearby Hotels)
The Reed Gold Mine, located in Midland, NC, is the site of the first documented gold find in the United States. This important discovery played a large part in Tarheel State history since during its peak years, gold mining was the second largest industry to employ North Carolinians (behind farming). In fact, North Carolina actually led the nation in gold production until 1848, when the focus moved to California. Now, you can visit the mine and tour portions of the underground tunnels that have been restored and imagine what life must’ve been like for the miners. You can also watch an educational film in the Visitors Center and try your own hand at gold panning while you’re there.
Fort Fisher, Kure Beach (Nearby Hotels)
Fort Fisher protected North Carolina’s port of Wilmington during the Civil War and allowed blockade runners to bring necessary supplies to Confederate troops that were inland. Although it eventually fell due to a massive attack in 1865, approximately ten percent of it still stands today, including the palisade fence which has been restored. Visitors can tour the remains of the fort, see a reconstructed 32-pound seacoast gun, watch an audiovisual presentation on the history of the fort at the Visitors Center and check out items that have been recovered from sunken blockade runners. And while you’re there, make sure to stop by and check out the NC Aquarium that’s located on the same site.
Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens, New Bern (Nearby Hotels)
Originally built between 1767 and 1770 for Governor Tryon, Tryon Palace was the first permanent capitol of North Carolina. It was later reconstructed in the 1950’s and is now a favorite stop for history buffs who want to travel back in time and experience interactive, living history. There is plenty to explore here between the Governor’s Palace where you’ll encounter costumed interpreters, the North Carolina History Center where you can participate in a variety of interactive games and hands-on exhibits, or the more than 16 acres of gardens that represent the formal garden style of 18th century Britain.