What Is North Carolina Known For?

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North Carolina is known for iconic cities, significant historical events, research hubs and beautiful scenic spots. The state, founded in 1600, has a rich history with ties starting with the American Revolution. North Carolina is home to one of the first English settlements in Roanoke, where the state became one of the top producers of tobacco and textiles. Throughout history, North Carolina has come to be a hub for tradition and innovation, with world-changing events taking place within the state such as the Civil War, The Wright Brothers’ First Flight at Kitty Hawk and the Civil Rights Movement. Add to this, a mecca of research in the RTP, slow summers in the islands of the Outer Banks and the NFL team of the Carolina Panthers.

Nestled between mountains and the coastline, with a dynamic and diverse ecosystem, the weather in North Carolina is a true four seasons. Here, you will find hot and steamy summers that lend the perfect conditions for a day at the beach or on the water, beautiful and moderate springs that produce stunning flower blooms, chilly fall afternoons with some of the best fall foliage and crisp winters that can even bring snow in the mountains. Here’s what North Carolina is known for.

What Is North Carolina Known For?

1- Wright Brothers’ First Flight

Biplane On The Grass - 3D Render
The Wright Brothers’ first flight is what North Carolina is known for in the history books.

The Wright Brothers’ First Flight, which took place on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina was a significant event in the history of North Carolina and the entire nation that changed the world.

Two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright were bicycle manufacturers at the time with a passion for aviation.

Through vigorous research, the brothers came up with an aerodynamic design complete with a custom-built engine, propulsion system and control system that was put through wind tunnel and practical glider testing to create the first-ever controlled, powered and sustained flight with their aircraft, the Wright Flyer.

The first flight covered 120 ft (36 m) in 12 seconds and the Wright Brothers opened up the pathway for the modern-day aviation industry.

Because of this innovation, we have thousands of private and commercial flights taking place each day.


The Wright Brothers’ First Flight is still celebrated to this day, with 17 December earning the title of Wright Brothers Day.

Recommended tour: Wright Brothers Carolina Dunes Self-Guided Driving Audio Tour

2- Research Triangle Park (RTP)

Research Triangle Park, or “The Triangle” to the locals, is the heart of North Carolina when it comes to creation, discovery and exploration.

It is the largest research park in the United States, spanning 7,000 acres (2,833 ha), and is also considered one of the most successful across the entire world.

RTP was established in 1959 in the center of Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Talented minds from each of these schools find their way to over 300 companies that have their headquarters located in the Triangle.

Popular cities within the Research Triangle Park include Raleigh, Durham, Morrisville and Chapel Hill.

RTP is focused on the industries of biotechnology, information technology and pharmaceuticals.

Well-known companies located here are 21st Century Creations, ABK Biomedical and Aara Solutions.

3- Three Prestigious Universities: North Carolina State, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University

Duke University Chapel
What is North Carolina known for? Universities! Pictured here is Duke University Chapel.

Now that we’ve covered the universities that strategically line the globally-renowned Research Triangle Park, let’s dive deeper into what makes these universities so prominent.

North Carolina is ranked as the #8 state when it comes to the number of universities and each of these universities contributes heavily to the state’s dedication to research and academics.

North Carolina State University (NCSU) is a leading public research university packed with modern research facilities and new technology.

Duke University is a private college with a large focus on its medical and law schools.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), stands as the oldest public university in the United States with strong humanities, social sciences and health sciences programs.

UNC is also home to the Tarheels, which contributes to North Carolina’s nickname, “The Tarheel State.”

4- The Outer Banks Islands

Rocky Banks On Ocracoke Island Of North Carolina's Outer Banks
The Outer Banks Islands is what North Carolina is known for.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina, referred to as OBX, is a string of barrier islands off the coast that feature beautiful white sand beaches, maritime forests and a laidback lifestyle.

The chain of islands spans 200 mi (320 km) and consists of Bodie Island, Pea Island, Hatteras Island, Ocracoke Island, Portsmouth Island and the Core Banks.

These islands can change or shift over time due to hurricanes and new inlets being opened, so the exact number of islands is changing at all times.

One of the most notable spots is The Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which is home to an iconic lighthouse that displays the area’s heritage and stunning views of the waters.

Nearby is Roanoke Island, which is home to the first English settlement and the location of the famous lost colony.

These islands provide a coastal escape to many visitors each year with an abundance of historical sites, outdoor activities and an interesting atmosphere to enjoy.

A great way to explore is on this two-hour Outer Banks Wild Horse Tour by 4WD Truck.


Charlotte, NC - Lowes Motor Speedway Entrance
NASCAR is what Charlotte, North Carolina, is known for.

NASCAR, which is an acronym for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, is rooted in Southern culture and has become a cultural phenomenon enjoyed by many across the nation.

The company and races were established in 1948 by Bill France Sr. in Daytona Beach, Florida, which still hosts the iconic season-opener, the Daytona 500.

But, the popularity of the race for the NASCAR Cup skyrocketed when the company moved its headquarters to North Carolina.

Today, NASCAR’s headquarters are situated in Charlotte, North Carolina.

This strategic move to Charlotte took place in 1986 in order to be closer to more racing teams and tracks.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts two NASCAR events each year, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Bank of America ROVAL 400.

The city is also home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, where all of the most recognized racers and memorabilia can be found.

6- Founding Location of Krispy Kreme Donuts

Chocolate Donuts Display For Sale At Local Store
What food is North Carolina known for? Krispy Kreme Donuts is a brand everyone loves.

Did you know that North Carolina was responsible for producing the first Krispy Kreme Donut? Winston-Salem, a town in North Carolina, is the birthplace of this iconic donut chain.

It all started in 1937 when a man named Vernon Rudolph came into possession of a secret recipe from a French chef in New Orleans.

That same year, the first Krispy Kreme retail store was opened.

The store featured the now well-known “Hot Now” sign, telling customers when the glazed donuts were hot and fresh.

Another unique element of the shop was the “donut theater,” a glass wall that allowed customers to get a behind-the-scenes look at the donut-making process.

Although the original location does not stand today, there is an informational plaque that brings tourists to the spot.

Today, the company’s headquarters are still located in Winston-Salem, and the state boasts over 30 locations.

7- Bluegrass Music

Country Music Spotlight
Bluegrass Music is what North Carolina known for.

Bluegrass music is considered “mountain music,” specifically the mountains and foothills of North Carolina.

The music is characterised by high-pitched vocals paired with acoustic instruments including banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar and upright bass.

The origins of bluegrass stem from the traditions of the Europeans and African Americans who settled among the mountains of North Carolina.

Throughout history, North Carolina has been a staple and breeding ground for bluegrass music, producing bluegrass legends such as Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Snuffy Jenkins and Smith Hammett.

The rolling hills and peaceful mountains continue to inspire bluegrass music and musicians, especially in the western portion of the state.

Year-round bluegrass events include jam sessions, live performances, and festivals.

Some of the most popular bluegrass events that take place in North Carolina are MerleFest, Mount Airy Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddler’s Convention, Shindig on the Green, and the Yadkin Valley Bluegrass Convention.

Recommended tour: Historic Music Scene Walking Tour in Asheville

8- The Biltmore Estate and Gardens

The Biltmore Estate and Gardens, just outside downtown Asheville, is a massive mansion that holds the title of the largest privately owned home in the United States, with over 250 rooms.

This gorgeous estate and well-maintained grounds were built by George Washington Vanderbilt II in the late 19th century.

The mansion was designed to emulate the lavishness of the castles in Europe during the Gilded Age.

It has been converted into a museum and is one of the most visited attractions in the state of North Carolina.

Visitors can enjoy guided tours of the property complete with historical stories and facts, and stroll through multiple gardens including a rose garden and an azalea garden, a winery, and a restaurant.

There are also special activities to participate in such as painting and croquet.

You could easily spend an entire trip to North Carolina exploring this historical site.

Recommended tours:

9- The Great Smokey Mountains National Park

View Of Lake Fontana In Western North Carolina
The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is what North Carolina is known for among nature lovers.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.

The mountains gained the name “smokey” due to the permanent morning fog that emulates smoke.

This beautiful Appalachian park was established in 1926 and now stands as America’s most visited national park.

Visitors will find a rich biodiversity, misted mountains and an ancient forest that is home to over 19,000 different species.

What makes the park so popular is the abundance of activities.

You can rent campgrounds within the mountains, take driving tours, or hike along 800 miles (1,287 km) of trails to view native flowers, wildlife, over 80 historic buildings, and large waterfalls including Grotto, Laurel and Abrams.

Some of the most visited spots within the park are Clingmans Dome and Cades Cove.

The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is a North Carolina treasure that represents the natural beauty of the state.

10- A Craft Beer Scene In Asheville

North Carolina is known for its craft beer scene, specifically in the city of Asheville.

This mountain town has become Beer City, USA.

The city is filled with a community of beer crafters who are dedicated to producing a delicious product that combines creativity and locally sourced flavors.

You can find small, experimental breweries along with well-established breweries such as Wicked Weed Brewing, Highland Brewing Company, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

To celebrate this artistry, Asheville hosts “The Asheville Beer Week,” which is a festival that takes place each spring and showcases the innovation of craft beer.

The multi-day celebration includes a ton of events such as film screenings, beer dinners, educational seminars, brewer meet and greets, tasting tours, and exclusive collaborations.

This festival brings thousands of visitors each year and highlights the hard work of the locals who contribute to this prominent community within North Carolina.

Recommended tour: Electric Bike Brewery Crawl of Asheville

11- The Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers Statue
The Carolina Panthers is what North Carolina is most known for.

The Carolina Panthers are an American Football League headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The team was established in 1993 by businessman Jerry Richardson who chose the name “Panthers” to represent strength and power.

The Carolina Panthers are the heart of the state of North Carolina, as their only team that participates in the National Football League (NFL) and one of the only prominent teams outside of college sports in the state.

The Panthers experienced early success in the team’s career, reaching the Super Bowl in 2003 and then again more recently in 2015.

If you are interested in attending a Carolina Panthers game, you can find them at their home field, the Bank of America Stadium.

Each week, the team hosts over 70,000 passionate fans rooting for their home team.

The Carolina Panthers are a fixed staple in the state of North Carolina, gathering spirited fans together for decades.

12- Being Home To Basketball Superstar, Michael Jordan

While Michael Jordan is technically a Brooklyn native, the basketball star’s family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina when Jordan was five years old and went on to contribute to the success of the state in many different ways, making him an important North Carolina figure and a hometown hero.

Michael Jordan played three seasons of basketball with the North Carolina Tar Heels at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).

Following his successful career at UNC, Jordan went on to participate in the Olympics and play for NBA teams such as the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards, where he won six championships and was the Finals MVP six times.

Today, Michael Jordan is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time and one of the most famous.

Michael Jordan continues to give back and participate in the community of the state that raised him.

He was previously the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, North Carolina’s NBA team.

Jordan also has philanthropic endeavors that benefit education and healthcare in North Carolina.

13- Battleship USS North Carolina

Battleship North Carolina At It's Home In Wilmington
Battleship USS North Carolina is a historical icon North Carolina is famous for.

As we know, North Carolina has an abundance of history deeply rooted in the state.

The Battleship USS North Carolina (BB-55) holds the status as one of the most decorated battleships of the war.

It is also in North Carolina’s class of fast battleships.

This historic naval vessel was commissioned in 1941 and used in World War II.

With the power of this ship, North Carolina earned 15 battle stars.

The BB-55 has been converted into a museum ship that is anchored in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The USS North Carolina allows visitors to explore its various decks, bunks, offices, etc. which give a glimpse into the life of a sailor during this time.

This educational experience combined with the preserved nature of this iconic ship stands as not only a memorial of the bravery of the sailors who worked aboard the ship but as a testament to the strength and legacy of the state of North Carolina.

14- Hub Of The Tobacco Industry

The tobacco industry got its start during the 17th century in North Carolina when European settlers began cultivating tobacco farms due to the favourable weather and soil conditions within the state.

As the demand for the product continued to skyrocket, North Carolina quickly became the hub for this industry with innovative curing processes named the bright leaf curing process.

Eventually, the American Tobacco Company was founded by James B. Duke in the city of Durham.

By 1873, the Duke family was responsible for producing an estimated 125,000 pounds of smoking tobacco annually.

Throughout the 19th century when smoking was at its height, North Carolina was prospering with this business.

Although today the tobacco industry has heavily declined, the state still produces a large amount of what is sold throughout the country.

15- Carowinds

Carowinds is a special North Carolina treat that satisfies the need for thrills for locals and visitors from all over.

This 407-acre (165 ha) amusement park is the largest in the state, featuring over 60 rollercoasters.

Carowinds is technically located in Charlotte, North Carolina, but it is the only amusement park in the entire nation that sits on the border of two different states.

The park is world-renowned for its exciting coasters, such as the Fury 325, one of the tallest and fastest rollercoasters in the entire world.

The park also features themed areas including Snoopy World and Carolina Harbor waterpark, the largest waterpark in the state.

Throughout the year, the park hosts special seasonal events such as the Halloween Haunt and Winter Fest.

Carowinds is beloved by Carolina natives and visitors alike.

Map Of United States With North Carolina Highlight

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Jordan Donahue
Jordan is a freelance writer that has been in the industry for over a year. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in Communications which she used in her marketing career. Her hometown is Philadelphia, PA. Currently, Jordan resides in Central Florida with her family and French Bulldog, Philly. Jordan has travelled many places for fun and even travels for a living as a Flight Attendant. Her favourite destinations include Denver, Reno, and anywhere else with mountains and plenty of good coffee!