46 Interesting Facts About North Carolina

Last updated on July 22nd, 2020

North Carolina is the 9th most populous and the 28th most extensive of the 50 states of the United States. It is in the southeastern region of the United States. The state attained statehood on November 21, 1789, becoming the 12th state to join the union. Its four bordering states are Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and VirginiaNorth Carolina (nicknamed: Old North State, Tar Heel State, Turpentine State) has 100 counties. The abbreviation for North Carolina is NC. The state’s capital is Raleigh. Let us learn more about its history, geography, economy, people, and more.

Interesting facts about North Carolina

1. A state with multiple nicknames

North Carolina has many nicknames, the most common being the ‘Tar Heel State.’ It is believed that the name has its origin in the state’s early history. North Carolina was and is a leading producer of tar, turpentine, rosin, and pitch. ‘Tar Heel’ was a term used for workers who went barefoot to collect sap used for the production of tar and pitch. It was a derogatory term associated with low-class workers. During the Civil War, soldiers began to call themselves ‘tar heels’ and completely annulled the shame and humiliation associated with this moniker. Today, North Carolina is known the world over as the ‘Tar Heel State.’[1]

2. North Carolina was once home to dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals

It can be said with certainty that three different species of dinosaurs — two duck-billed vegetarian and one large carnivore — once inhabited the state of North Carolina. The fossils of a duck-billed vegetarian dinosaur were found in Sampson County in 1869. Paleontologists also have enough evidence to believe that tyrannosauruses also inhibited the state during the Cretaceous period.[2]

North Carolina on the map

3. Pepsi was invented here

A drugstore clerk named Caleb Bradham from the city of New Bern invented a syrupy drink in the year 1893 that he claimed helped with digestion. He called it Brad’s Drink. He changed the name of the drink to “Pepsi-Cola” in 1898. In 1903, Bradham became wholly invested in the business and sold 7,968 gallons of Pepsi-Cola in the same year.[14]

4. Home to the tallest lighthouse in the United States

Cape Hatteras, at 210-feet-tall, is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States and the second tallest in the world. It was reconstructed in 1870 and is a popular tourist attraction today. Świnoujście Lighthouse in Poland is the tallest brick lighthouse in the world.[4,5]

The Biltmont Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
Interesting facts about North Carolina. The Biltmont Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

5. The largest mansion in America

The Biltmore Estate, which was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II in the late 19th century, is the largest mansion in America. This mansion sees a high influx of tourists round the year who gather to admire its French chateau-inspired architecture. With a floor area of some 4 acres, it took 6 years to complete the 250-room residence. After being designated a national historic landmark in 1963, three years later, it was added to the U.S. National Registry of Historic Places.[6,7]

6. The University of North Carolina is the first American public University.

The University of North Carolina was founded in 1789 and today has a student population of about 30,000. The university first held its classes in 1795. The University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, and Duke University now form what is popularly known as the Research Triangle.[8,9]

Appalachian from Mount Mitchell
View of the Appalachian from Mount Mitchell with elevation sign in Autumn near Asheville, North Carolina.

7. North Carolina is home to Eastern North America’s highest peak

At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in mainland eastern North America. The mountain is named after Professor Elisha Mitchell of the University of North Carolina. He was the first person to scientifically study Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains from the standpoint of physical geography. A hiking trip to this mountain will give you a chance to witness incredibly beautiful scenery. If you are not one for hiking, you can take your car and drive almost up to the summit.[10]

North Carolina on the U.S. map
North Carolina (in red) on the U.S. map with bordering states.

8. The state also has the East Coast’s tallest waterfall

North Carolina is home to more than 300 stupendously beautiful waterfalls. The Upper Whitewater Falls, which comes within the Transylvania County, is the tallest waterfall of the East Coast. North Carolina is home to another ‘tallest’ waterfall — Glassmine Falls. However, the Glassmine Falls flows only occasionally and thus, has disavowed from its claim to East Coast’s tallest waterfall.[11]

Bald Head Island, North Carolina.
Interesting facts about North Carolina. Aerial view of houses and ocean at Bald Head Island, North Carolina.

9. Cars are not allowed on the Bald Head Island

If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city life, head straight to the Bald Head Island. The island boasts 14 miles of beaches and a complete absence of cars. Travelers can opt for either golf carts or bikes or choose to walk. Bald Head also has the state’s oldest standing lighthouse, Old Baldy and an exciting marine life scene.[12]

10. The Outer Banks region is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic

Though the Outer Banks region has become a popular surfing area now, it has been associated with many shipwrecks over the years. More than 5,000 ships met their end in this region. The Hatteras village on the island of Hatteras alone has seen more than 600 shipwrecks to date. The area around this region is considered unsafe for shipping vessels.[13]

A rare wild white albino squirrel
A rare wild white albino squirrel sitting on a wooden platform eating with his fluffy tail curled up above his head.

11. The state is home to some weird animal species

White squirrels, a rare animal species, are quite a common sight in the city of Brevard. Many don’t believe in the existence of these squirrels. However, many pieces of evidence corroborate this fact. North Carolina is also home to the rare blue ghost fireflies. The common fireflies glow a yellow-green color, but the singular blue ghost fireflies are associated with a blue hue.[3]

12. Their Wines are quite popular

The first commercial winery — Medoc Vineyard — was established in 1835. Today, the state has over 400 vineyards and 200 commercial wineries. Nestled in the foothill of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Yadkin Valley is a famous wine destination that attracts thousands of tourists each year.[15]

a glass of milk. North Carolina fact file.
Interesting facts about North Carolina.

13. North Carolina may have invented Pepsi, but its state beverage is Milk

The state of North Carolina is famous for wines and is credited with the invention of Pepsi, and yet its state beverage remains Milk. Adorable, isn’t it? Along with being an excellent source of calcium, milk is also a great source of vitamins A & B, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and protein.[16]

14. Your trip to North Carolina is incomplete without a sip of Cheerwine.

Cheerwine is often referred to as the “nectar of the Tarheels.” Also, despite its name, there’s no wine in Cheerwine. Cheerwine is a cherry-flavored drink that has lesser caffeine than Pepsi and Coco-Cola. Cheerwine is the oldest family-owned soft drink company.[17]

Stack of donuts. facts about North Carolina.
Stack of donuts.

15. Birth place of Krispy Kreme Donuts

Vernon Rudolph and his uncle bought the recipe for Krispy Kreme donuts from a French chef named Joe LeBeau in the year 1937. Rudolph saw potential in the recipe and decided to start his donut shop. In the summer of 1937, Rudolph moved to the present-day Winston-Salem and started his donut shop. The first Krispy Kreme Donuts were made on July 13, 1937.

16. North Carolina has given the world many Jazz artists

North Carolina has given the world many prominent Jazz artists, including Bill Taylor, Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Tal Farlow, Tab Smith, Percy Heath, and Thelonious Monk. If you love jazz music, we recommend buying tickets to the North Carolina Jazz Festival.[19]

17. The first America-born English child was born in North Carolina

Yes, you read that right! Virginia Dare was the first English child born in America. She was born in the year 1587 to Eleanor and Ananias Dare in Roanoke Colony, what is now known as Dare County, North Carolina. Not much is known about Virginia Dare and what happened to her, but her name will remain forever etched in the annals of history.[20]

Airplane being prepared for flight
Airplane being prepared for flight. 

18. The Wright Brothers tested their first flight in North Carolina

The Wright Brothers may have been born in Ohio and Indiana, but they chose North Carolina to test their first flight. The brothers chose the beach town of Kitty Hawk as it gave them the privacy and steady winds needed to test the flight. The siblings tested their first flight on December 17, 1903. The flight flew 20 feet above the ground, lasted 12 seconds, and covered a distance of 120 feet.[21]

Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC.
Jimmie Johnson (48) and Austin Dillon (3) lead the field to a restart during the Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. Interesting facts about North Carolina.

19. We must talk about NASCAR

During prohibition, North Carolina earned the title of “Moonshine Capital of the World.” NASCAR racing has its origin in bootlegging of illicit products during the prohibition years. Bootleggers used small vehicles to illegally distribute various products. Bootleggers would modify their cars to enhance their speed. After Prohibition was repealed, people from North Carolina continued to ‘moonshine’ for fun and other reasons.[22]

20. Even hurricanes cannot mar North Carolina’s spirit

After Florida, North Carolina sees more hurricanes than any other state in the United States. According to information from the National Hurricane Center, Florida is the state with the most direct hits from hurricanes in the United States. However, even the worst of hurricanes haven’t been able to mar the spirit of this fantastic state.[23]

21. Blackbeard haunted the state for years before being finally killed in 1718

The infamous pirate Blackbeard plundered many ships and haunted the state of North Carolina for years. He was killed by the British Naval forces off of the cost in the Outer Banks in the year 1718.[24]

22. If Christmas lights make you happy, visit the Tanglewood Park’s Annual Festival of Lights

If Christmas lights make you happy, you must drive through the Tanglewood Park on Christmas eve. From running dears and squirrels to flying eagles and everything else, the displays will fill you with the Christmas spirit.[25,26]    

23. Babe Ruth hit his first home run as a professional baseball player in Fayetteville, North Carolina

George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth was the first sports superstar. His career spanned 22 seasons in Major Baseball League. In his elaborate career, Babe Ruth made and broke many records. However, he hit his first home run in North Carolina and the state gave him his nickname ‘Babe’.[27,28]

golf course
Interesting facts about North Carolina.

24. Miniature Golf was born in North Carolina

In 1954, Don Clayton, a Fayetteville resident, invented what we today know as the Miniature Golf or Putt-Putt Golf.[29]

25. High Point is known as the Furniture Capital of the World

The city holds two major trade shows, one in April and the other in October, every year. The High Point Market is the biggest furniture trade show in the world, bringing more than 75,000 people to High Point, every six months. Almost 2000 exhibitors participate in it. The city is also home to the biggest furniture store in the world.[30]

The emerald gemstone. facts about North Carolina
The emerald gemstone.

26. North Carolina has given the world many famous emeralds

In North Carolina, minerals and gemstones occur in abundance. The state is especially famous for its emeralds. North Carolina gave the world The Carolina Emperor, a 310-carat uncut emerald. The stone was cut into a 64-carat emerald stone and sold for $1.65 million at an auction in 2010.[31]

27. The “Miracle on the Hudson”

Charlotte is the home to the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane known as US Airways’ Flight 1549 and piloted by Captain Sully Sullenberger. The Carolinas Aviation Museum at Douglas International Airport houses the aircraft. Sully and survivors of the storied flight visited the site to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Miracle on the Hudson US Airways Flight 1549 Airbus A 320
Miracle on the Hudson US Airways Flight 1549 Airbus A320 on exhibit at Carolinas Aviation Museum at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Interesting facts about North Carolina. Photo via B Davis

28. If you love architecture

Raleigh’s Daily Planet Theater is a fascinating piece of architecture in downtown. The massive globe is about five stories high and 70 feet wide and is close to a scale replica of the earth. The globe appears to have rolled against the side of a building and is said to be the second-largest earth on earth.

29. The famous Vicks Vapor Rub

Greensboro is the birthplace of the famous Vicks Vapor Rub. Greensboro pharmacist Lunsford Richardson concocted the rub as a treatment for his son’s croup. Although the salve became a household name, many who use it may not be aware of its humble origin.

Vicks Vaporub.
Interesting facts about North Carolina. Vicks Vaporub. Photo credit – Tatsuo Yamashita

30. Rose Bowl outside of Pasadena

Durham hosted the only Rose Bowl outside of Pasadena in 1942. The game featured Oregon State vs. Duke. The Rose Bowl’s venture to the Southeast came after the recent attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States Military’s restriction on large gatherings on the West Coast. The Oregon team found their opponents very hospitable.

31. A hidden gem

Winston-Salem is home to a hidden “gem” known as Bath Branch Falls. The site is described as a place where water flows over rocks into a deep gorge surrounded by vegetation. Surprisingly, this mysterious and natural beauty located in the heart of the city is hard to find—unusual since other cities might create a destination around such a treasure.

32. Tribute to soldiers

Fayetteville became a sanctuary for soldiers in 2008. The city and Cumberland County declared the area “The World’s First Sanctuary for Soldiers and Their Families,” with the pledge to “watch over those who watch over us.”

Grimshawes Post Office, Whiteside Cove, NC
Grimshawes Post Office, Whiteside Cove, NC. Image credit – Warren LeMay

33. A tiny post office

Grimshawes Post Office in Cashiers was the tiniest Post Office in the United States. At eight by six feet, the structure resembles a tiny shack, but from 1878 until 1953, it was the place to pick up letters and goods from the outside for residents of this remote area.

34. A carnivorous plant 

Wilmington is the home of the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden. It’s not often that most people get a glimpse of carnivorous plants in action, but at the Rehder garden, visitors can see Pitcher Plants, and Venus Fly Traps up close and personal.

35. Barbecue Capital of the world

Lexington is famous for its barbecue and is the self-proclaimed Barbecue Capital of the world. However, during some years, the Davidson County town rolls out its popular “Pigs in the City” exhibit featuring statues of pigs in uptown, dressed in sunglasses and other fun attire. Businesses sponsor the fiberglass pigs, while residents and tourists enjoy the porky photo ops.

Flying Squirrel, North Carolina. facts about North Carolina.
The southern flying squirrel is found throughout North Carolina, in urban areas as well as in forests, in the lowlands of the Coastal Plain and at elevations up to 4,500-5,000 feet. Image credit – ncpedia.org

36. Flying squirrels

The Blue Ridge Parkway is not just a place to see breathtaking scenery. People who doubt the existence of flying squirrels may catch a glimpse of this member of the endangered species in the trees along the scenic route.

37. Moonwalkers are trained here

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is more than a destination for those curious about the out limits of the universe. Several astronauts trained at the center, including moonwalkers Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins.

An astronaut on the surface of moon.
Illustrative image – An astronaut on the surface of moon. Image credit – H. Michael Karshis

38. A 6,956-acre park

Chimney Rock State Park was privately owned by the Morse family until 2007 when they sold it to the State of N.C. Dr. Lucious Morse and his brothers purchased Chimney Rock and surrounding land for $5000 in 1902 to create the park.

39. Are you a hot sauce lover?

Texas Pete is a household name for many hot sauce lovers everywhere. The founders chose Texas as part of the product’s name because of the State’s reputation for spicy food, and Pete is the nickname of one of the founder’s sons.

40. Inseparable since 1926

Mt. Olive Pickles and the town of Mt. Olive have been inseparable since 1926. The company remains at the original site, and each New Year’s Eve residents and visitors can enjoy the town of Mt. Olive’s annual pickle drop.

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