At these engaging sites, visitors immerse themselves in the story by tracing the first flight, watching a drama unfold or visiting a lunch counter that helped turn the tide of segregation.
1 Wright Brothers National Memorial
1 Wright Brothers National MemorialKill Devil HillsSee on map
See where bike mechanics Wilbur and Orville Wright took the first manned flight. Walk past markers of the first 1903 flights; the longest lasted about a minute and reached 852 feet. The newly renovated visitors center offers interactive exhibits, as well as a life-size replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer. For a bird’s-eye view of the grassy air strip, hike to the Wright Brothers Monument at the top of Big Kill Devil Hill.
2 International Civil Rights Center and Museum
2 International Civil Rights Center and MuseumGreensboroSee on map
In the former F.W. Woolworth Co. building, relive the struggle of African-Americans to obtain equal rights at a counter that became a turning point in the journey to end segregation. Film re-enactments depict discussions by the Greensboro Four before their sit-in and the six-month effort that followed to integrate the lunch counter in 1960.
3 The Lost Colony
3 The Lost ColonyManteoSee on map
You’re pretty much in the play as the story of America’s first British colony unfolds around you on an outdoor stage. First staged in 1937 in Manteo, the production recounts the 1587 English settlement on Roanoke Island that soon mysteriously vanished, leaving no trace of the settlers.
4 North Carolina History Center
4 North Carolina History CenterNew BernSee on map
Transporting visitors to 1835, the museum’s Pepsi Family Center (named for the drink invented here in New Bern) allows guests to become characters in the story of this river city’s early days. Learn about the culture of the era by helping a shopkeeper find supplies, distilling turpentine from pine sap and piecing together quilt squares. This center is an essential part of the Tryon Palace experience.
5 Museum of the Cherokee Indian
5 Museum of the Cherokee IndianCherokeeSee on map
Walk through 13,000 years in a single exhibit as Story of the Cherokees tells the history of the native people in the southern Appalachian region. Imagine the strength it took to carve tools from stone, and garden without tractors or modern fertilizers. Life-size figurines and computer animation join artifacts to engage visitors.
6 Island Farm
6 Island FarmRoanoke IslandSee on map
A blacksmith’s hammer rings as a rooster crows and a smoky smell fills the air. Interpreters in period attire perform daily chores that would have taken place on Roanoke Island in 1847. They harvest the garden, fry corn cakes in a skillet and wash laundry in steaming water as the children play games in the yard.
7 CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center
7 CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive CenterKinstonSee on map
Rescued from the bottom of the Neuse River in the 1960s, the only remaining Confederate ironclad above water draws visitors to downtown Kinston. Remnants of the Neuse rest in the town where its construction was completed in 1864. The CSS Neuse II, a life-size replica, allows visitors to step inside the hulking warship.
8 Levine Museum of the New South
8 Levine Museum of the New SouthCharlotteSee on map
More than 1,000 artifacts, images, oral histories and video clips compose Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers, the Levine Museum’s central exhibit that tells the post-Civil War story of the Charlotte region. Touch seed cotton and listen to the rhythmic clatter of a cotton mill while learning about the area’s economic shift from agriculture to textiles to banking.
9 Cradle of Forestry
9 Cradle of ForestryBrevardSee on map
Forest conservation began here in 1889, and the Cradle of Forestry honors that legacy. The Biltmore Campus Trail illustrates what life was like for the first forestry students in the early 1900s with cabins, a schoolhouse and a blacksmith shop. Inside the Forest Discovery Center, visitors fly over a forest fire in a helicopter simulator.
10 Reed Gold Mine
10 Reed Gold MineMidlandSee on map
The Reed family used an unearthed piece of gold as a doorstop for three years until, in 1802, a jeweler identified the 17-pound nugget, which prompted the country’s first gold rush. Today, visitors tour restored tunnels, view artifacts or perhaps try their luck panning for gold.
Travel back in time and discover more historic North Carolina “firsts” in The Official 2021 North Carolina Travel Guide.