North Carolina is known for its natural beauty, especially its mountains and coastlines. North Carolina is famous for universities and their sports teams and also for several professional sports teams. Another thing that makes North Carolina famous is the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk. The state also has a reputation for excellent barbecue.
Where is America’s largest private residence? What is the site of one of America’s favorite unsolved mysteries? Where did humans first fly? The answer to all of these questions is “North Carolina.”
Of course, that begs the question, “But where in North Carolina?” In this article, we will take a look at these fascinating facts and many other things that make North Carolina famous
- 26 Things North Carolina is Known For
- 1. Barbecue
- 2. The Blue Ridge Mountains
- 3. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- 4. Chimney Rock State Park
- 5. Roanoke Colony
- 6. Virginia Dare
- 7. The Split with South Carolina
- 8. Duke University
- 9. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- 10. The Tar Heel State
- 11. North Carolina State University
- 12. Pepsi-Cola
- 13. Raleigh, North Carolina
- 14. Charlotte, North Carolina
- 15. Asheville, North Carolina
- 16. Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- 17. Fort Bragg
- 18. The Biltmore Estate
- 19. The North Carolina Coast
- 20. The Outer Banks
- 21. Cape Hatteras National Seashore
- 22. Bodie Island Lighthouse
- 23. The Civil War
- 24. The Wright Brothers
- 25. New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop
- 26. The Furniture Capital of the World
- FAQs About Famous North Carolina Things
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26 Things North Carolina is Known For
When it comes to food, North Carolina knows how to eat. North Carolinians pride themselves on their barbecuing skills.
Two traditions of barbecue arose in the state–Lexington style and Eastern style. Lexington style uses only the pork shoulder and uses tomato sauce, vinegar, and, often, red pepper flakes. Eastern style, on the other hand, uses every cut of pork and omits the tomatoes from its base.
2. The Blue Ridge Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains run down the length of the eastern United States. North Carolina is famous for its stretch of this range–the Blue Ridge Mountains. The highest peak in all of the Appalachians is North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell, standing at 6,684’ high.
Another one of the most famous places in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the Grandfather Mountain State Park. At the Grandfather Mountain State Park, the famous “Mile-High Swinging Bridge” spans the gap between two peaks. The newer, solidly-built bridge does not swing as much as its predecessor, much to the relief of some and the disappointment of others.
❗ Trivia Time: Check out this article if you’re curious to know what states the Appalachian Mountains go through.
3. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Look up a list of the most visited national parks in America and the number one result will surprise you. It’s not Yellowstone, Yosemite, or even the Grand Canyon. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the most visited national park according to recent statistics.
And the Great Smoky Mountains run right through North Carolina. Densely-wooded mountains and winding rivers here make for an unforgettable escape from the hubbub of modern life. Hiking trails take you deep into the forests.
Wildlife abounds, whether majestic elk, graceful deer, or melodic songbirds. Autumn shows an especially beautiful side of the park, with the leaves on the trees turning from green to many fiery colors.
4. Chimney Rock State Park
While Nebraska is known for having a rock formation with the same name, North Carolina’s Chimney Rock is also quite impressive. Visitors to the park can either hike or take an elevator to the top of the 315’ tall pillar of rock to enjoy the majestic view.
Hiking trails lead into the backcountry, making for excellent day hikes (the park has no camping grounds). Amenities at the park range from educational presentations to concessions and restaurants.
5. Roanoke Colony
Everyone loves unsolved mysteries. One of the first and most famous in American history is the unknown fate of the colony on Roanoke Island. England established this colony on the island of Roanoke in 1587. In 1588, when colonial leader John White returned from an expedition to check on his colony, he found it completely deserted.
Only the inscription “CROATOAN” on the colony’s palisade wall offered any clue about the fate of the colonists. White and his crew thought it meant that the colonists relocated to nearby Croatoan Island. Unfortunately, the loss of his ship’s anchor and the approach of a violent storm forced White to return to England before he could further investigate the matter.
6. Virginia Dare
The fate of these vanished colonists was never learned, and, in time, forgotten about. However, in the 1830s, historian George Bancroft reinvigorated interest in Roanoke upon publishing his research on the subject.
Virginia Dare, White’s granddaughter who disappeared with the colony, became immortalized as a romanticized symbol of “The Lost Colony” and the pioneering spirit of the early colonists.
7. The Split with South Carolina
North and South Carolina had once been one colony named for King Charles II of England. The Carolina colony was officially founded in 1663.
In 1691, the governing body of the colony appointed a deputy governor for the northern part of the colony. In 1712, the division became official. It was not done because of any conflict, but in order to more easily manage the colonies. To this day, North Carolina takes pride in its “northern” status, with “North State” being a common prefix for business names. Somewhat ironic, perhaps, for one of the states that make up the South.
👉 Read Next: What is South Carolina Known For?
8. Duke University
In the world of higher education, North Carolina is famous for its prestigious universities. North Carolina’s most famous university, by many people’s reckoning, is Duke. Famous for its basketball team, Duke has won 5 NCAA championships and is the alma mater for pros like Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Zion Williamson, and more.
9. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Duke’s number one rival hails from the University of North Carolina in the town of Chapel Hill.
Many sports fans consider the rivalry between the Duke Blue Devils and the UNC Tarheels as the greatest rivalry in college basketball history. UNC is also the alma mater of Michael Jordan, considered by many to be the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) basketball player.
10. The Tar Heel State
UNC’s team name derives from the state’s nickname. “Tarheel” refers to several things. Shipbuilding, for which tar was essential, was a major part of North Carolina’s early industry. The term began as a derogatory one because the job was seen as lowly and unskilled.
Laborers were said to track tar everywhere on their shoes. People have a way of turning insults into compliments, though. During the Civil War, North Carolina soldiers turned the term on its head (heels over head?) making a badge of honor instead of an insult.
11. North Carolina State University
This university, together with Duke and UNC, forms the “Research Triangle,” a group of three major research universities within a relatively short distance of each other. Besides athletic legacies, the universities also have a reputation for strong academic and research programs. One notable alumnus of NC State is the NFL’s Russell Wilson
When pharmacist Caleb Bradham first concocted a new soft drink in 1893 in a New Bern, North Carolina pharmacy, he probably couldn’t have imagined how popular it would become.
First known as Brad’s Drink, the beverage that would become Pepsi gradually gained popularity. It got its new name, Pepsi, because the brew was said to help relieve dyspepsia.
13. Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina’s state capital takes its name from Sir Walter Raleigh, an early English colonial leader. The city has a wide variety of museums, including the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
This museum is known for being the largest natural sciences museum in the southeastern United States, and also the oldest museum in North Carolina. The NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes call Raleigh home, as do several minor league teams of a variety of sports.
The North Carolina State Capitol, built in 1840, showcases Greek Revival architecture and has the status of a national historical landmark. On the east side of the capitol stands a statue of the three Presidents of the United States from North Carolina: James Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Andrew Johnson.
14. Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina with a population of nearly 880,000. Raleigh may be the political capital of North Carolina, but Charlotte could easily be considered the state’s sports capital.
The NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and the NFL’s Carolina Panthers call Charlotte home. Charlotte is also the site of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. North Carolina may have the Hall of Fame for America’s favorite motorsport, but Indiana is known for its most famous race: the Indy 500.
15. Asheville, North Carolina
If art is more your thing, Asheville is the place to be. The small city has numerous art galleries and a thriving music scene, especially street music. One can also find a surprising amount of diverse architecture.
The Basilica of St. Lawrence, for instance, adds a flair of Spanish Baroque architecture amidst American Appalachia.
16. Winston-Salem, North Carolina
This town offers Asheville some stiff competition in the art scene, having been dubbed “The City of Arts and Innovation” in 2014. Another claim to fame is being the home of Texas Pete hot sauce. Asheville is also known for being a gateway to the Yadkin Valley, North Carolina’s wine country.
❓ Trivia Time: Texas Pete may not come from Texas, but what is Texas known for?
17. Fort Bragg
North Carolina is home to one of the world’s largest military bases by population. The fort was founded in 1918 as an artillery training ground for World War I, having only a few thousand personnel.
World War II saw the population explode (no pun intended) reaching upwards of 67,000! Today, around 52,000 members of the Air Force, Army Reserves, and Special Operations are stationed here.
18. The Biltmore Estate
This North Carolina home is the largest private residence in the entire country. George Washington Vanderbilt II, a member of the wealthy Vanderbilt family, had this massive mansion built between 1889 and 1895. In all, the Biltmore Estate measures 178,926 sq ft of floor space!
The descendants of George Vanderbilt still own the mansion to this day. The Antler Hill Village resort, situated just below the estate, offers visitors a wide array of dining, shopping, and lodging options for visitors to the Biltmore Estate.
19. The North Carolina Coast
One of North Carolina’s most cherished natural wonders is its coastline. A long chain of barrier islands shelters the eastern coast of North Carolina’s coastal plain regions from the Atlantic Ocean. On these islands, long sandy beaches and beach towns abound. The island also saw the pioneering exploits of the Wright Brothers in their quest to take to the skies.
❓ Trivia Time: What state has the most shoreline?
20. The Outer Banks
One of the most famous destinations on the east coast is the Outer Banks. Aquatic activities of every kind can be enjoyed here, from fishing to waterskiing and everything in between. Nature lovers also know the Outer Banks as an excellent bird-watching destination.
There’s even a small population of wild horses! Visitors have a wide array of lodgings to choose from, as well, with cozy B&Bs, luxurious resorts, and cozy campgrounds.
21. Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Another famous locale of coastal Carolina is this national seashore. Here one finds more idyllic beaches and also a wide variety of wildlife. Seals come here in the winter months, and five different species of sea turtles crawl up on the sands in the summer. Cape Hatteras was also frequented by a notorious “sea dog,” the legendary pirate Blackbeard.
22. Bodie Island Lighthouse
One of the attractions at Cape Hatteras is the Bodie Island Lighthouse (also known as the Bodie Island Light Station). The lighthouse recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, having begun operating in 1872. Even with all the improvements in modern navigational technology, the lighthouse is still in service, helping ships navigate the treacherous local waters.
❓ Trivia Time: Which state has the most lighthouses?
23. The Civil War
Although situated squarely in the South, North Carolina found itself divided when it came to the Civil War. The state sided with the Confederacy, but contained significant pockets of pro-Union sentiment, with some North Carolinians fighting on the side of the Union.
❗ Fun Facts: Want to know more about Gettysburg and what Pennsylvania is known for? Follow the link and find out!
24. The Wright Brothers
North Carolina’s islands have a reputation for their natural beauty, but their biggest claim to fame is the first aircraft flight in human history. The Wright brothers completed their first flight at present-day Kill Devil Hills.
At the time of the flight, Kill Devil Hills had not been founded. The town of Kitty Hawk was the closest settlement to the site of the flight. Today, the Wright Brothers National Memorial stands on the site of their pioneering achievement. North Carolina honors this accomplishment, printing “First in Flight” on all standard North Carolina license plates.
25. New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop
Mount Olive pickles come from North Carolina. The company hosts the NC Pickle Festival on the last full weekend in April each year but may be better known for its unique event on New Year’s Eve.
A prestigious place like Fifth Avenue in New York is known for dropping a huge illuminated ball to ring in the new year, but locals here add their own twist. Instead of an illuminated ball, they drop a glowing 3.5’ replica of a pickle on the festive occasion.
26. The Furniture Capital of the World
The small city of High Point has a big reputation in the world of furniture. Furniture production has been a staple in the economy here since the late 1800s, steadily gaining momentum over the decades.
In 1959, North Carolina surpassed New York for the number of people employed in the furniture industry. Along with the growth in production, High Point became the site for major furniture expos both on a national and international scale.
👉 Read Next: What Are the States Known For?
FAQs About Famous North Carolina Things
What makes North Carolina unique?
North Carolina has the largest Native American population in the eastern United States. Around 10,000 Native Americans live at the north end of the Mississippi River.
What famous foods are from North Carolina?
Fried green tomatoes, Texas Pete hot sauce, and Lexington and Eastern styles of barbecue are some of North Carolina’s famous foods.
What famous people are from North Carolina?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Andy Griffith, and John Coltrane come from North Carolina.
Now, when someone asks you “What is North Carolina known for?” you’ll have plenty of answers. North Carolina has stunning natural beauty in its mountains and on its coasts. The first manned flight happened in North Carolina. North Carolina has some mighty fine barbecue and great sports teams. It’s easy to see why this state is famous!