As one of the coolest of the 50 US states, there are plenty of interesting facts about North Carolina for you to discover.
However, the state has a long, rich history that has helped shape the United States into the powerful nation it is today.
Whether you want to learn more about the origins of the state, or if you are a keen sports fan, there's a reason that everyone should give North Carolina a chance.
From historical facts to funny tidbits about the state, there is so much to learn about North Carolina. Here are the 75 top North Carolina facts to get you started.
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The Government at the time decided that they wanted a central capital, so they purchased some land near the center of North Carolina, and ruled the state from there ever since.
North Carolina has plenty of nicknames, but "Tar Heel State" is the most popular. While nobody is quite sure why North Carolina is fondly nicknamed this, it’s thought that it’s because North Carolina was well known for producing lots of tar, pitch, and turpentine.
One of the really cool facts about North Carolina is that The Wright brothers, who were notorious in the aviation field, managed to complete their first heavier-than-air flight in their Wright Flyer in Kitty Hawk, one of the coastal towns in the Outer Banks region.
Before this, they spent plenty of time testing out prototypes in the area, which was said to have near-perfect flying conditions. The brothers have had a massive influence worldwide, paving the way for modern aviation.
If you are in the Kitty Hawk area, you can visit the First Flight Airport in the nearby Kill Devil Hills, one of the closest airports to the Outer Banks that also houses the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
Because of the famous Wright Brothers mentioned in the fact above, North Carolina’s license plates say "first in flight". This is said to rile up residents of Ohio, who argue that the brothers lived and worked mainly in their state.
Another interesting thing about North Carolina is that it's the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola. Caleb Davis Bradham was a medical student from North Carolina, and he worked as an apprentice at a local drugstore.
After a family crisis, he was forced to drop his studies and move back to New Bern, where he opened up his own drugstore.
In 1893, he created a drink to aid digestion which was known as "Brad’s drink" - the drink became a hit and later became what people know as Pepsi today.
The Outer Banks area of North Carolina is absolutely beautiful, but it has had its fair share of shipwrecks over the years.
Today, it’s a pretty vacation spot where Americans flock to in the summer, but “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” has an eerie past - the treacherous waters have claimed the lives of many sailors.
He might have been born in Baltimore, but iconic baseball player Babe Ruth made history in Fayetteville, North Carolina on March 7, 1914, when he hit his first professional home run.
His real name was George Herman Ruth Jr, although he had plenty of nicknames given to him, including ‘The Babe,’ ‘The Sultan of Swat,’ and ‘The Great Bambino.’ His career in major league baseball spanned 22 seasons before he eventually retired.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claims to be the nations’ oldest public university - something that the University of Georgia also claims to have.
The university first opened its doors in 1795 and has an impressive list of alumni, including Michael Jordan and 11th president, James K. Polk. It is the flagship of North Carolina, comparable to many Ivy League universities across the states.
Because the land is rich and the climate is hot and moist, North Carolina can grow more sweet potatoes than any other state in the US. They’re said to grow 60% of all the supply in the states - 25% of this will go straight to processing to make sweet potato fries to feed the nation.
In 1937, Vernon Rudolph bought a secret recipe from a New Orleans chef and opened a small store in the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina.
He started by selling his doughnuts to local grocery stores, and this business eventually turned into the Krispy Kreme people know and love today.
Krispy Kreme has since expanded to around 30 countries, supplying the world with the perfect, indulgent treat.
Virginia Dare was born August 18, 1587, in Roanoke colony, present-day North Carolina. She was the first English child born in a new world English colony, although nobody is sure how or when she died.
Virginia Dare has become somewhat of a legend ever since, with many places in North Carolina named after her.
Because North Carolina is prone to hurricanes, the ice hockey team renamed themselves The Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. The Hurricanes currently play in the National Hockey League as part of the Central Division, playing their home games at the PNC Arena.
The North Carolina town of High Point is home to many international furniture companies, which has led to it becoming known as the furniture capital of the world. High Point also hosts bi-annual furniture markets, which attract over 160,000 visitors each year.
With just 13 residents (as of a 2010 census), Dellview in North Carolina is one of the smallest towns in the United States, and there’s no police or water system in place.
The closest major city is Cherryville, located just over a mile away from Dellview. At one point, Dellview was thought to have just ten residents, most of whom are related.
One of the little known facts about North Carolina is that in Fayetteville in 1954, Don Clayton created Putt-Putt golf as an alternative to the obstacle-filled crazy golf courses.
Today, the Putt-Putt company has made over $100 million in sales, with Myrtle Beach known for having the most courses.
Written by William Gaston, North Carolina chose “The Old North State” as their state song in 1927 - the lyrics describe how blessed the land is and how North Carolina is like no other state.
“The Old North State” is a nickname given to North Carolina in 1629 when King Charles I gave his Attorney General, Sir Robert Heath, land named Carolina.
Despite the home of jazz music widely being considered to be New Orleans, Louisiana, many famous jazz musicians have come from North Carolina. Nina Simone and John Coltrane are just two of the musicians that were born in this state.
If you wander through the major cities in North Carolina, you'll find plenty of speakeasies and jazz bars playing trombone melodies late into the night.
With the state’s total area a whopping 52,669 sq miles, North Carolina is the 28th largest state in the United States. Interestingly enough, at 54,554.98 sq miles, New York just beats North Carolina to 27th place.
One of the fun historical facts about North Carolina is that despite the existence of South Carolina, locals love to refer to North Carolina as simply Carolina.
The name Carolina refers to the Latin word for Charles, Carolus, and as mentioned in a previous fact, was named after King Charles I.
A line of erosion runs through the center of North Carolina, dividing the state between Piedmont and coastal plain regions. This erosion runs through many counties in the state, and you can see the damage at rivers along the erosion line.
The park is filled with pretty plants, waterfalls, and breathtaking views, and if you’re coming from North Carolina, you can enter the park in Cherokee.
A little-known fact about North Carolina is that it is the 9th most populous state in the USA. With approximately 10.5 million people residing in North Carolina, it just beats Michigan to 9th place.
There are many funny facts about North Carolina, but a favorite is that the state was once famous for its illegal moonshine trade.
But don’t worry, today there are plenty of places dotted throughout North Carolina - particularly in Wilkes County - where you can try legal moonshine.
Around 100,000 Native Americans still live in North Carolina today - this is the largest population you’ll find to the east of the Mississippi River. There are eight recognized tribes in the region, including the eastern band of Cherokee and Coharie.
North Carolina picked the Northern Cardinal as the state bird in 1943 - the Cardinal is popular, with seven other states also choosing this bird to represent them. These birds are known to be very cheerful and can often be found in backyards singing.
While the Venus Flytrap is native to the east of both North and South Carolina, it was first described in a letter written by colonial Governor Arthur Dobbs to a botanist named Peter Collinson in 1759.
While planning for the states’ art museum began in 1924 with the creation of the North Carolina State Art Society, the actual museum was not built until 1947. Today, the museum is home to an impressive collection of art mainly from America and Europe.
As well as jazz musicians, many famous authors began their life in North Carolina, including Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry. These authors, along with many others, have shaped American literature throughout history.
There are two styles of barbecue in North Carolina: Eastern and Lexington. Eastern barbecue involves the whole animal with a peppery, lemon-based sauce, whereas Lexington style usually uses shoulder meat and a tomato-based sauce in recipes.
To the west of Fayetteville, Fort Bragg boasts the largest military base in the whole of the United States. Not only is it geographically the largest base, but it also has the highest population residing there.
Alongside Maryland, Virginia, and New York, North Carolina was one of the original colonies that existed between 1607 and 1776. These were the British colonies formed when colonists traveled across the Atlantic to the east coast of the US.
State capital Raleigh boasts 3 major art, history, and science museums:
The best part? They’re all free!
Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry, and John Wall have all called North Carolina home at one point in their life. In fact, if you check out the stats, North Carolina is ranked as the 10th state when it comes to producing NBA talent.
One of the brilliant historical facts about North Carolina relates to the state motto, "Esse Quam Videri." This motto was officially used from 1893 and means "to be, rather than to seem."
These words, along with the date 20 May 1775, were added to North Carolina’s coat of arms after the motto was adopted.
North Carolina and South Carolina were both one colony called Carolina until 1729 - this was after King Charles II named the area in honor of his father Charles I. However, it wasn’t until 1776 when South Carolina became a state of its own.
White Lake, near Elizabethtown, is a small town with a picturesque lake in North Carolina with a white-sand bottom and crystal clear water. It’s known as one of the safest beaches in the USA, with no currents, tides, or hazards that pose any threat to swimmers.
Fontana Dam, in Graham County, is home to the tallest dam in the east of the United States. Standing at 480ft, this dam halts the 10,230-acre Fontana Lake and stretches all the way across to Tennessee.
Originally only scheduled to run for one summer, The Lost Colony outdoor drama was so popular with locals that it has played for 60 years in North Carolina.
The play was initially written by Pulitzer prize winner, Paul Green, and commemorates the life of Virginia Dare through acting, music, and dance.
Grandfather Mountain, which sits at the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains, has the honor of being the only private park in the world that the United Nations has recognized as an International Biosphere Reserve.
This means that the area has been commended as a space where sustainable development is underway - a brilliant achievement for North Carolina.
North Carolina remained flagless until 1861, when the state convention voted to join the confederacy and a flag was created.
The flag is, of course, red, white, and blue, and has the state initials of N C alongside the date of May 20, 1775, when the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was supposedly signed.
You won't need to travel far in North Carolina to find Cheerwine - the drink is everywhere. Don’t be fooled by the name; Cheerwine is non-alcoholic goodness.
What does it taste like? Cheerwine has a unique fizzy cherry taste and makes an incredible soda float. The drink is thought to have become so popular because it cuts through the rich food found in the south perfectly.
Washington Caruthers Kerr first discovered dinosaur bones in North Carolina in 1869, when he visited a Sampson County Marl Pit that belonged to James King.
These bones were later found to belong to the Hypsibema Crassicauda species and can be seen in the Natural Sciences Museum in Raleigh.
A cool fact about North Carolina is that emeralds have been mined plenty of times. In fact, emeralds are so abundant that the General Assembly of 1973 named them as the state stone. You can even go mining yourself at Emerald Hollow Mine.
Despite the popularity of Cheerwine, North Carolina's state beverage is actually milk. But North Carolina isn't alone - seventeen other states also have designated milk as their state drink.
Situated on the Outer Banks, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is not only the tallest lighthouse in North Carolina but also the most distinctive, with its black and white candy stripe design. It's a must on your Outer Banks itinerary!
Due to erosion, the lighthouse had to be moved around 2,900 feet to the southwest in 1999 to prevent structural damage to the building, and this is where it has remained since then.
Situated just a twenty-minute ferry ride away from mainland North Carolina, Bald Head Island is a slice of paradise off the coast.
They banned cars to protect nature and the vast green space, covering over 80% of the island. The island also welcomes dogs to visit and benefit from the gorgeous natural environment.
And if you're wondering where it got its funny name from, the island was given the loving nickname after erosion caused the land to resemble a bald head.
The infamous flight 1549, which landed on the Hudson River moments after departing for North Carolina, was previously displayed in the Carolinas Aviation Museum.
Flowering Dogwood was named the official flower of the state in 1941. It's one of the most commonly found flowers in North Carolina, as is the tree it's found on, managing to sprout in most terrain. Although you can find Dogwood in plenty of colors, it is most often white or light pink with four distinct petals.
Over the years, North Carolina has produced many astronauts, including Michael J. Smith and Charles Moss Duke Jr. The state even has a space-grant available to STEM students to help cultivate future astronauts and to support the development of space travel.
Another successful company to come from North Carolina is Vicks VapoRub. If you're not familiar, this is a medicated balm that can be used to help unblock noses and soothe sore throats.
The first tub of Vicks was first sold in 1905 in Greensboro, North Carolina, by the brand Richardson-Vicks, before being sold to Proctor and Gamble in 1985.
In what is quite possibly the weirdest and most wonderful celebration ever, the Mt. Olive HQ in North Carolina celebrates the New Year by dropping their pickle mascot.
This is a highly anticipated event every year, and it’s live-streamed, so those out of state can watch too. Funnily enough, the company's address is One Cucumber Blvd, Mt Olive, NC 28365.
Another fascinating historical fact about North Carolina is that Marine Air Corps Station at Cherry Point is the largest Marine airfield in the world. When it first opened in 1941, it's thought that over 8,000 Marines were stationed at Cherry Point.
During WWII, this station housed the 3rd and 9th Marine Aircraft wings, so it has played a significant role in US Military history.
The 8000-acre Biltmore Estate is situated in Asheville, North Carolina. Boasting an incredible 250 rooms, it is the largest estate in the US. Initially built for George Vanderbilt, today, the mansion is a museum and tourist attraction open to everyone.
Despite its confusing name, the infamous Texas Pete Hot Sauce is from North Carolina. It’s said that the name is Texas for its spicy nature, and Pete was the nickname from the founder’s son.
This is actually one of America's best-selling hot sauces, loved for its very spicy but slightly sweet flavor.
House of Mugs is one of the most interesting places in North Carolina - a literal home covered in mugs. But, this attraction was actually started by accident when Avery and Doris Sisk picked up a box of mugs from a flea market and hung them up, and it spiraled from there.
Visitors are encouraged to go and add a mug to the collection on display here - I highly recommend taking a trip to this quirky spot.
North Carolina has currently got 100 counties, although this is due to some pretty recent additions in 1911. Many of the state’s original counties are now part of Tennessee or have been renamed and made defunct.
The research triangle is the name for an area in Piedmont where three major research-based universities meet in a triangular shape.
The universities are Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. The area is sometimes referred to as the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill part of North Carolina.
Raleigh may take the title of the state capital, but stretching across 771km2, Charlotte is undeniably the city that covers the most land area.
Not only the biggest land-wise, but Charlotte has almost double the number of residents as Raleigh, with a whopping 858,000 people living there.
Charlotte is a great location to check out whilst you're in North Carolina, with plenty of cool bars, restaurants, and shopping spots waiting to be discovered.
North Carolina is bordered by South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia, with the Atlantic ocean to the east of the state.
One of the most random facts about North Carolina is that it is home to the largest natural habitat zoo in the world - this means that the animals have plenty of room to roam around.
They also have lots of conservation efforts that you can get involved with and help protect endangered species, which makes a trip to the zoo extra special.
Because there are plenty of free museums and exhibitions dotted around the city, Raleigh has earned itself the nickname “Smithsonian of the south”. Alongside museums, multiple historic attractions and education institutions open their doors to let visitors explore.
The University of North Carolina is no stranger to a Nobel Prize winner. The alumni and faculties accolades include 9 Nobel Prizes, 23 Pulitzer Prizes, and 51 Rhodes scholars. Some of the most notable names include Aziz Sancar (MD, Ph.D.) and David Zucchino.
Raleigh, North Carolina, is one of only 450 cities to proudly display its own city flag in the US. As well as this, it’s actually double-sided, which is even rarer. The flag features red and white stripes with contrasting emblems on each side.
Reaching an elevation of 6,684 ft, Mount Mitchell is the highest point in North Carolina and in the US to the east of the Mississippi River.
The mountain was previously called Black Dome, but it was actually renamed after the US scientist Elisha Mitchell after he sadly died during his climb.
One of the most interesting things about North Carolina is that the state was actually the place where the first American gold rush happened.
Gold was discovered in Piedmont in 1799 when 12-year old Conrad Reed was fishing at his family’s farm, and he came across a small nugget. After this, the creek was searched, and lots of gold was found, triggering the first US gold rush.
Charlotte is famed for its NASCAR motor speedway and even has its very own Hall of Fame that honors the best drivers. Even if you’re not watching a race, you can visit the Hall of Fame to get in on all the motorsport action. Tickets start at $34 for adults and include unlimited simulator rides.
With around 1,300 growers, North Carolina produces a lot of Christmas trees (more than most other states), and the state's Fraser Fir is so popular that it has been chosen to be the White House Christmas Tree 13 times! That’s more than any other species.
At 92 years old, Harriette Thompson became the oldest woman ever to complete a full marathon. Not content with just that, she later became the oldest woman to run a half marathon at 94 years old. Famously only starting to run marathons in her late 70’s, this woman is an inspiration to everyone.
Although they were previously two separate places, the town of Winston and the city of Salem merged on May 13, 1913, to create what is today known as Winston-Salem. This happened after a new city board was elected, which helped to bring the two municipalities together.
North Carolina has graced us with some very popular celebrities, including Zach Galifianakis, Emily Procter, and the late Andy Griffith - The Andy Griffith Show was even filmed in the state. Other shows filmed in North Carolina include One Tree Hill and Dawsons Creek.
Although he is said to have ironically met his fate there, it’s thought that Blackbeard would sail around North Carolina’s Outer Banks and even lived in the small town of Bath between his jaunts around the Seven Seas.
In fact, many pirates would hide on the Outer Banks, waiting for the storm to settle so that they could return to their ships safely.
President James Polk, President Andrew Jackson, and President Andrew Johnson all came from North Carolina. There’s even a statue that you can visit commemorating all three former presidents near the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences.
Boasting around 100 local beers and counting, Asheville is the place to go if you want to try out some of North Carolina’s incredible craft beer.
With many breweries to choose from, it’s no wonder that Asheville is the city with the most breweries per capita in the US.
If you happen to be in the OBX area, there are also some great breweries in the Outer Banks to stop in for a beer at.
This list ends with the king of fun facts about North Carolina. The state produces more American Idol finalists than most.
Is there a reason for this? Nobody is quite sure. But the likes of Clay Aiken and Fantasia Barrino have had their lives changed forever since appearing on the show.
With all these fascinating facts about North Carolina, it’s easy to see why it is one of the coolest states in the USA. Whether you love museums and art galleries, or if you’re a keen foodie, this is a state that has all the bases covered.
When planning your next trip in the US, be sure to give the Tar Heel State a chance. Join the 50 million visitors who take a trip to North Carolina each year!
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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