26 Interesting Facts About North Carolina

Last updated on September 26th, 2019

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. With these facts about North Carolina, let us learn more about its history, georgraphy, economy, people, and more.

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

3. 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]

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]  

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]

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 map

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]     

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]     

11. 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]     

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] 

NC state facts
Image by Nolan Williamson.

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]

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]

North Carolina facts - Wright Brothers first flight
Image via Flickr.

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]     

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]      
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