If you’re driving in North Carolina, take a turn or two off the beaten path and see attractions ranging from different and unique to downright weird.
1 American Museum of the House Cat
1 American Museum of the House CatSylvaSee on map
At the American Museum of the House Cat in Sylva, thousands of artifacts pay homage to loveable, yarn-chasing cats. Trace the history of house cats from ancient Egyptian statuary up to modern-day advertising, and help support one of our state’s largest no-kill cat shelters while you do. The museum’s curator, Dr. Harold Sims, shares his love for felines with every visitor as he leads tours that include art from Andy Warhol, beer steins decorated with cat motifs, a bronze statue dating back to 600 BC and more.
2 Museum of Bizarre Displays
2 Museum of Bizarre DisplaysWilmingtonSee on map
Walk through various attractions and truly bizarre displays – like a unicorn horn or Houdini’s ouija board – at Wilmington’s Museum of the Bizarre. Or weave your way through interesting mazes, such as a maze of mirrors or one made of lasers. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis loved her visit when she was in the area filming Halloween Kills, and she even posed for a “surreal” photo next to Michael Myers.
3 Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park
3 Vollis Simpson Whirligig ParkWilsonSee on map
This collection of whirligigs – large, wooden, wind-driven mechanical windmills – brighten the landscape thanks to the late local folk artist Vollis Simpson. The devices incorporate complex movement and sound and are an integral part of more than 30 of Simpson’s works, some of which have been exhibited at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
4 Museum of the Alphabet
4 Museum of the AlphabetWaxhawSee on map
The Museum of the Alphabet, just south of Charlotte in Union County, fills a small building with various depictions of the world’s alphabets. Exhibits include languages dating from early Egyptian to Turkish, Russian and Greek. Hand-painted displays have amazing attention to detail.
5 Cold Blooded and Bizarre Reptiles
5 Cold Blooded and Bizarre ReptilesCharlotteSee on map
For the brave at heart, Cold Blooded & Bizarre is essentially a neighborhood zoo full of creepy crawlers. This reptile pet store also educates visitors on some of the most feared animals on the planet, such as snakes and tarantulas. The store’s collection of animals – both dead and alive – are ethically sourced and highlights the beauty of each creature.
6 Real-Life Mayberry
6 Real-Life MayberryMount AirySee on map
Fans of The Andy Griffith Show get a taste of the life depicted in the popular television series when they visit Mount Airy, Griffith’s hometown and the inspiration for the series. Visitors are welcome to take a ride in Barney’s squad car and cruise by Andy’s childhood home and down Main Street past Floyd’s Barbershop. Or visit in late September, when Mayberry Days celebrates everything Andy Griffith.
7 Mary and Marvin Johnson Gourd Museum
7 Mary and Marvin Johnson Gourd MuseumAngierSee on map
Master Gourd Grower Marvin Johnson and his wife cultivated more than 200 different kinds of gourds and collected gourds from around the world. You’ll see everything from giant African gourds to gourds so tiny they look like robins’ eggs.
8 Devil's Tramping Ground
8 Devil's Tramping GroundNear Siler CitySee on map
Legend has it that in this circle of bare earth about 20 feet across, the devil paces, thinking up bad things to do to mortals. His “tramping” supposedly kills off vegetation and causes wildlife to keep their distance. Even spookier, anything placed inside the circle after dusk is moved outside the circle before dawn.
9 Belhaven Memorial Museum
9 Belhaven Memorial MuseumBelhavenSee on map
This museum about 50 miles east of Greenville showcases Mrs. Eva Blount Way’s overwhelming affection for collecting buttons. In addition to some 30,000 buttons, you’ll see a fascinating array of collectibles, such as period clothing, toys and dolls, china, and farm tools. Believe it or not, there’s also a dried flea wedding, viewed through a magnifying glass, a two-headed kitten, one-eyed fetal pig, and a hare-lipped dog.
10 Country Doctor Museum
10 Country Doctor MuseumBaileySee on map
Docents lead tours through two buildings and a seasonal medicinal herb garden and are available to answer questions about the practice of medicine between the late 18th century and the first half of the 20th century. Exhibits contain artifacts that include medical instruments and tools of pharmacy used by country doctors, as well as their diaries, papers and medical books.
11 Nation's Largest Collection of Historic Log Structures
11 Nation's Largest Collection of Historic Log StructuresValeSee on map
Stroll through Hart Square, the nation's largest collection of historic log structures, just outside of Hickory. More than 100 log buildings – all of which look like a pioneer’s home from the 1800s – sit on the 200-acre property. Visitors are invited to explore the history and significance of the area at festive events throughout the year. During spring, join in on an Easter celebration with egg hunts and storytelling. In the summer, walk through the 5-acre sunflower field for picture-perfect memories. Or pick pumpkins in the fall and take part in The Annual Festival on the fourth Saturday in October. Then wrap up the year with Christmas in the Village in December, where you’ll be able to step inside several cabins and embrace Yuletide traditions of early America.
12 World's Largest Duncan Phyfe Chair
12 World's Largest Duncan Phyfe ChairThomasvilleSee on map
North Carolina is furniture country, and we have oversized furnishings to prove it. You can gaze up in amazement at the largest Duncan Phyfe chair in the world at 6 West Main St. in Thomasville. Although much of our furniture is made of wood, this giant piece is made from steel and concrete.
13 World's Largest Chest of Drawers and Highboy
13 World's Largest Chest of Drawers and HighboyHigh PointSee on map
Head right down the road to High Point, the “Home Furnishings Capital of the World,” and check out not one, but two, giant chests of drawers. The Chamber of Commerce built the original curiosity in the 1920s, when the 20-foot building-with-knobs served as the “bureau of information.” Renovated in 1996, the building was converted into a 38-foot Goddard-Townsend block-front chest. Two giant socks peek from a drawer, symbolizing the city’s hosiery heritage. Not to be outdone, Furnitureland South erected a massive highboy, standing at 80 feet tall, right off I-85.
14 Big Coffee Pot
14 Big Coffee PotWinston-SalemSee on map
If you like massive quantities of caffeine, you’ll love this 12-foot coffee pot in the restored Moravian Village of Old Salem. The pot was originally erected in 1860 as an advertisement for a silversmith.
15 Clyde Jones – Chainsaw Folk Artist
15 Clyde Jones – Chainsaw Folk ArtistBynumSee on map
Local chainsaw folk artist Clyde Jones’ small mill house is surrounded by “critters” he carves from large chunks of wood. He adds features with everything from old softballs and plastic fruit to old film canisters.