North Carolina, nicknamed the Tar Heel State, is the 12th United State. Its capital is Raleigh, but its biggest and most famous city is Charlotte. Settlers first came to North Carolina in the 1500s. Before that, it was home to several Native American tribes. The state has three distinct landscapes. The Appalachian Mountains, the Piedmont plateau, and the coastal plains. Roanoke Island, on the Outer Banks, was where the first colony of English settlers lived. However, they disappeared and today, historians are still wondering what happened to the “Lost Colony”.
North Carolina is known for its sports teams the Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Hornets. The Outer Banks, a group of islands, are a popular vacation destination with a rich history. The Wright brothers flew the first airplane there. It was also frequented by the pirate, Blackbeard!
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
The popular (and delicious) doughnut brand Krispy Kreme has origins in North Carolina. The founder Vernon Rudolph first bought a secret donut recipe from a French chef in New Orleans.
He then sold doughnuts in Kentucky and Tennessee with his uncle. But, in 1937, he opened his own store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The store was named “Krispy Kreme Doughnuts” and it was a huge success. So much so that in the 40s and 50s, Rudolph opened more stores in North and South Carolina!
Pepsi-Cola was first created in New Bern, North Carolina. It was invented by a local pharmacist, Caleb Bradham in 1893. It was originally a fountain drink at a pharmacy that was called “Brad’s Drink”. Thankfully, it was renamed later.
It wasn’t until 1903 that Caleb Bradham founded the Pepsi-Cola company. By World War I, the drink was sold in 24 states and Bradham had invested heavily in sugar. Then came the 1920s sugar shortage. Sadly, Bradham lost ownership of the company over his bad investment.
America’s first grapes were discovered in 1584 on the North Carolina coast. The “Mothervine” is on Roanoke Island. It is the oldest cultivated grapevine in the country!
Today, the state has over 525 vineyards and 186 wineries. These are spread out over 2,300 acres. The state ranks 11th in wine production in the US, producing 1.1 million cases of wine per year.
North Carolina has wineries in the mountains, on the coast, and in Piedmont. In the east, they focus on native muscadine grapes. In the west, they grow European-style vinifera grapes.
The Caroline Panthers are an American professional football team based out of Charlotte. They play in both the NFC and the NFL. The team is one of the NFL’s youngest franchises, but their success and following are on par with older teams.
Their name wasn’t always set in stone. The nicknames “Rhinos”, “Cobra’s”, and “Cougar’s” were considered. The name “Panther’s” was eventually chosen after being suggested by the franchise owner’s son.
In 2012, the Panthers defied the odds by losing 13 consecutive coin tosses in a row. The chances of that are one in 8,192!
The Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville, were American inventors. In 1903, they managed the first sustained airplane flight in Kill Devil Hills. The first flight lasted for 12 seconds and the aircraft traveled 120 feet.
This plane was named the Wright Flyer, and after its first day of flying, it never flew again. That is until Neil Armstrong took a left wing and propeller piece with him on the first moon landing!
In 1932, a 60-foot monument was built in honor of the brothers in Kill Devil Hills. Over 500,000 people visit the monument and surrounding grounds every year.
The Charlotte Hornets are an American basketball team based out of Charlotte. They compete in the NBA and are partly owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan.
They are the only NBA team without the Nike logo on their jerseys! Instead, they have the jumpman logo, since Michael Jordan is an owner.
The Hornets were founded in 1988. They. were the first professional sports team in Charlotte. They were originally going to be named the “Spirits” but later on the name “Hornets” was chosen.
Grandfather Mountain State Park
Grandfather Mountain State Park encompasses 2,456 acres of Grandfather Mountain backcountry. It is an International Biosphere Reserve home to incredible wildlife and scenery.
One of the top attractions in the park is the mile-high swinging bridge. It was built in 1952 and is the highest bridge in the US. The bridge really is one mile high. It got its nickname the “swinging” bridge because it sways in strong winds. Yikes!
Its original Cherokee name was “Tanawha” meaning hawk or eagle. But pioneers gave it the name “Grandfather” because they saw an old man’s face on one of the cliffs.
North Carolina is the number one sweet potato-producing state in the country. And, since 1995, the sweet potato has been North Carolina’s official state vegetable.
The hot, moist, and fertile conditions are perfect for cultivating sweet potatoes. It produces around 50% of the nation’s supply, with 350 commercial sweet potato farms. In 2013, North Carolina supplied 212 billion sweet potatoes, coming in at $228.9 million!
Venus flytraps are native to North and South Carolina. They are the most famous carnivorous plants in the world. But, they only grow along a small section of coast, within 70 miles of Wilmington.
These plants thrive in humid and boggy areas, like the Carolina Bays. Amazingly, of the 66 carnivorous species in the US, a whopping 36 are in North Carolina! These plants thrive in acidic, moist soils, which can be found throughout the state.
Venus flytraps are protected by the state. They are currently also being considered for protected status under the Endangered Species Act.
US National Whitewater Center
The US National Whitewater Center is in Charlotte. It is an outdoor adventurer’s dream and is considered one of the best things to do in Charlotte. The facility has whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, ice skating, and hiking.
The center is around 1,300 acres and is next to the Catawba River and Long Creek. It has the largest artificial whitewater course in the world and the tallest climbing facility in the world.
Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains span across of eastern North Carolina. While the mountains go across many eastern states, the highest peaks are in North Carolina. The highest peak is Mount Mitchell at 6,684 high, 30 miles from Asheville.
The mountains are a part of the Appalachian Mountains. But, they get their name from the beautiful blue haze that surrounds them. This phenomenon is caused by specific trees like oaks. They release hydrocarbons which cause the blue tint!
The Great Smoky Mountains
Another incredible mountain range in North Carolina is the Great Smoky Mountains. The Smoky Mountain National Park sits along western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.
It is the most visited national park in the US with 14.1 million visitors in 2021. The park has over 850 miles of trails and some spectacular waterfalls.
It is the most biodiverse state park. It houses over 65 species of mammals, over 200 bird varieties, and has 67 native fish species. Some of the most commonly seen animals in the park are black bears and white-tailed deer.
Aside from being the setting of a popular Netflix show, the Outer Banks is a top tourist destination. The Outer Banks or OBX is a 200-mile-long strip of peninsulas and barrier islands. The area is known for its rich history, pristine towns, and incredible beaches.
It has the tallest lighthouse in the US (the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse), which is 210 feet tall! There are 16 main towns. This includes Kill Devil Hills, where the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane.
The infamous pirate Blackbeard lived in Bath, North Carolina. He spent his time pillaging ships of the North Carolina Outer Banks. Also known as Edward Teach, he was originally from England. Most historians agree he was born in Bristol.
According to the legend, Blackbeard managed to capture over 30 ships during his time as a pirate. He eventually met his end on the Outer Banks during a bloody battle with the British Navy.
Nascar Hall Of Fame
The Nascar Hall of Fame in Charlotte is a high-tech venue dedicated to the history of NASCAR. It spans 150,000 square feet and has over 50 interactive experiences.
North Carolina was chosen as the location because of its role in stock car racing. The origins of stock car racing are in the state’s Appalachian Mountains. Drivers modified their cars to be better equipped for driving fast on the winding mountain roads.
Biltmore House is the largest home in the US. It is on the Blue Ridge mountains and the entire estate is 8,000 acres! It was built between 1889 and 1895 and resembles a chateau.
The house itself is 175,000 square feet, and has 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. Biltmore is credited as the Birthplace of American Forestry, with sustainable land use being an important theme on the estate.