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Explore History, Art, And Culture In North Carolina’s Museums
The Tar Heel state’s great museums put the spotlight on art, sculpture, history, and more. In Albermarle, Morrow Mountain State Park has a museum featuring local cultural and natural history, while the Stanly County Museum has local history exhibits in a house built in the 1840s. Learn about Harley Davidsons at Asheboro’s American Classic Motorcycle Museum – and while you are in town make sure to stop at the North Carolina Aviation Museum, which has restored aircraft and memorabilia.
Asheville is home to the renowned Asheville Art Museum and the Antique Car Museum, which also includes horse-drawn wagons and a fire engine. Other Asheville can’t-miss spots include the Folk Art Center, the Black Mountain College Museum, and the Biltmore Estate, which has a vast collection of decorative arts.
Beaufort is home to the North Carolina Maritime Museum and Fort Macon State Park, which has a restored fort and museum. Catawba is where you’ll find the Catawba County Firefighters Museum, while Chapel Hill is home to the Carolina Basketball Museum and the Kidzu Children’s Museum. Headed to Charlotte? The Queen City is where you’ll find the Charlotte Nature Museum, the Carolinas Aviation Museum, and the UNC Charlotte Galleries.
Bellamy Mansion Museum
Completed in 1861, the Bellamy Mansion Museum is a historic attraction set in downtown Wilmington on the North Carolina coast. The former home of man-about-town Dr. John D. Bellamy, the 22-room mansion is now a combination history and art museum.
Open Tuesday through Sunday till 5 p.m. Bellamy Mansion features house tours for those interested in antebellum architecture, Civil War history, botany, and North Carolina heritage.
Historic Latta Plantation
History buffs in the Charlotte area have a wonderful attraction to visit. The Historic Latta Plantation, located twenty miles north of Charlotte in Huntersville, was a working short-staple cotton plantation in the early 19th century. The plantation is included in the Latta Plantation Park, that encompasses fifty-seven acres along the shoreline of Mountain Island Lake. James and his wife Jane Knox Latta owned the plantation and lived in the 1800 home located on the grounds.
Be sure to schedule plenty of time, while at this living history museum. Tour the home museum to see the wonderful display of artifacts and stroll through the grounds to view the short-staple cotton grown on-site, the kitchen garden and the honeybee exhibit. Time your visit to watch the open hearth cooking and gold panning demonstrations and have fun meeting the farm animals.
Located in North Carolina’s Piedmont region, the Rowan Museum is a 19th century courthouse, preserved to showcase the history of Rowan County. The Rowan Museum encompasses two other pre-Civil War era sites, including the Old Stone House and Utzman-Chambers House.
The Rowan Museum offers group tours, displaying numerous artifacts and antebellum architecture. The Rowan Museum Messinger Room can host special events, ideal for weddings, business meetings, or any other type of get-together at the Rowan Museum.
Old Rock School Railway Museum
Also known as the Piedmont & Western Railroad Club, the Old Rock School Railway Museum is located in Valdese in western North Carolina. The museum is housed in the historic Old Rock School in historic downtown Valdese.
Open during normal business hours, PWRR Museum features exhibits on the area’s railway heritage. Set along Main Street – or US Highway 70 – the museum is also open during the annual Waldensian Festival in August, and the Valdese Christmas Parade in December.
Smith-McDowell House Museum
The oldest surviving house in Asheville and one of the oldest structures in the North Carolina Mountains, the Smith-McDowell House Museum is a premier attraction. The brick-built house now features exhibits on the history of the three families associated with the house – the Smiths, McDowells, and Garretts.
Explore over 200 years of history etched in 15 exhibits detailing topics ranging from the Native American settlement period to the arrival of the railroad in Asheville. The museum is open from Wednesday to Saturday, 10 to 4, and Sunday, 12 to 4.
Charlotte Museum of History
Glean historic insights in Charlotte. Be sure to visit the Charlotte Museum of History. Also home to the Hezekiah Alexander Homesite, this premier museum is located on eight acres, just east of Charlotte. On the original homesite, is the 5,000 sq ft rock house, built in 1774. It's the oldest home in Mecklenburg County and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Guided tours of the home are available in groups of 20, so plan accordingly.
The 36,000 sq ft museum was completed in 1999. Tour the museum to view the collections of artifacts and photographs of the Charlotte region. View over 13,500 artifacts in the permanent exhibit, Charlotte Stories: Our Collections, Your Treasures. Finding comfortable accommodations is easy in Charlotte with Best Western hotels. Enjoy your time in Western North Carolina.
Corolla Wild Horse Museum
Corolla’s wild horses are pretty unique, and the Corolla Wild Horse Museum provides education, exhibits, and events around these magnificent creatures that have roamed the Outer Banks for over 500 years near Kill Devil Hills.
Located in a restored 1901 schoolhouse, the Museum also offers activities geared to kids and is not far from the Corolla Wild Horse Tours.
Levine Museum of the New South
Located in Charlotte, the Levine Museum of the New South encompasses a vast collection of post-Civil War interactive history displays. A popular and award-winning permanent, the Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers exhibit, features 8,000 square feet of interactive displays native to the Piedmont region.
Former renowned exhibits include the likes of the Box that Changed the World, the New South’s Love Affair with the Car, and Boots on the Ground – each carry their own significance to the area. Other perks include the calendar of fun-filled and informative events and the Levine Museum of the New South store.
Museum of the Albemarle
Recently relocated into a newer, more spacious facility near the waterfront at Elizabeth City, the Museum of the Albemarle features both traveling and permanent exhibits on the Coast Guard, the Civil War, and the history of the area around the Albemarle Region from Colonial days to now.
A variety of artifacts help share the stories of the North Carolina coast’s watermen, farmers, soldiers, townspeople, and more. While there are many ways to enjoy a stay in Elizabeth City – you're not too far from the shimmering waters of the Atlantic Ocean, for starters. The Museum of the Albemarle is one of the premier attractions found inland.
North Carolina Museum of History
While in North Carolina, connect with the past during your time in Raleigh. Take time to visit the North Carolina Museum of History and learn about the rich history of the state. The museum was established as the Hall of History in 1902, by Frederick Augustus Olds and his collection of items. By 1968, the museum collection grew to include over 91,000 items.
Stroll through the 55,000 square foot museum to view more than 250,000 items relating to North Carolina's past. Exhibits include The Story of North Carolina, Real to Reel: The Making of Gone with the Wind, Greetings from North Carolina and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. Kids love spending time in the For Kids Only Fun Zone. Stay close to this wonderful downtown Raleigh attraction and make the most of your North Carolina coast travels.
North Carolina Transportation Museum
Located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer gives visitors a look at the state’s extensive railroad history. Moreover, the museum also features an extensive collection of antique cars and aircraft.
The museum is just outside of towns like Albemarie, Huntersville, and Statesville. Some of the exhibit highlights include about 30 locomotives, including names like the Doris and the Loretto, two private rail cars belonging to Charles M. Schwab and James B. Duke.
The Right Track Toy Train Museum
Found on the shores of Lake Lure in the North Carolina Mountains and near Hendersonville, the Toy Train Museum at Right Track features several train tracks with working trains and a separate kids room. Visitors enjoying playing and working with the toy trains themselves while the kids love the push trains, engineer costumes, and coloring books.
Opened to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research, the museum continues to send its donations to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Hours for the museum are from 1 to 6, Wednesday to Saturday, and 2 to 6, Sunday.
Southern Appalachian Radio Museum
Found near downtown Asheville, the Southern Appalachian Radio Museum preserves the history of radio transmissions in the North Carolina Mountains. Explore antique radio artifacts, including a regenerative receiver from the 1930's and a world war era spark gap transmitter.
After exploring, catch a transmission of the amateur radio station W4AFM and even get the chance to play and experiment with the radios. Visit Asheville in the mountains of NC and be sure to make the most of your time – tour the Southern Appalachian Radio Museum for great local insights.
Waldensian Heritage Museum
Set along the Waldensian Trail of Faith, the Waldensian Heritage Museum & Gift Shop is located in Valdese in the Piedmont Region of western North Carolina. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday, with tours at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., or by appointment.
Found at Rodoret Street and St. Germain Avenue, the museum covers Waldensian heritage – including architecture, artifacts, furnishings, and tools. The site is owned and operated by the Waldensian Presbyterian Church.
Wilmington Railroad Museum
Established in 1979, the Wilmington Railroad Museum commemorates the 161-mile Wilmington & Weldon Railroad of 1840. Located in Wilmington on the North Carolina coast, WRM features galleries, gift shops, and museum events.
The Wilmington Railroad Museum features family-friendly exhibits on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and train industry in general. Check out depot replicas, model trains, real steam engines and train cars, and a kids’ area.
The premiere women's cultural museum in the North Carolina Mountains, the aSHEville Museum in Asheville is a definite must-see in the state. It hosts core and temporary exhibits on the stories, facts, myths, and narratives of the achievements and experiences of women throughout history.
The museum is ticketed and admission hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Plan your next stay in Asheville and be sure to spend an afternoon touring the aSHEville Museum.
Asheville Pinball Museum
Consider yourself to be a real pinball wizard? Located in the town of Asheville at the heart of the North Carolina Mountains, the Asheville Pinball Museum thrills all or its visitors with access to over 35 pinball machines, all ranging from 1947 to 2003. Visit soon and check out the games.
Pay a small fee and play to your heart's content. The museum is open from Wednesday to Friday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. There are many ways to enjoy a visit to North Carolina – Asheville, in particular. The Asheville Pinball Museum is just one.
Carolinas Aviation Museum
Established in 1992, the Carolinas Aviation Museum is a charming museum found in Charlotte, NC. The museum showcases a number of aircraft ranging from countless U.S. military aircraft to commercial airliners like the US Airways Airbus “Miracle on Hudson” aircraft.
Specific collections include the US Airways Heritage Collection, Preddy Memorial Foundation, and Piedmont Airlines Historical Society. Other perks at the Carolinas Aviation Museum include the Dolph Overton Library and Bat Cave Storage and Restoration Facility.
Catawba Valley Furniture Museum
Found inside Hickory Furniture Mart, the Catawba Valley Furniture Museum is located in Hickory in the Piedmont Region of western North Carolina. The museum covers Catawba Valley’s industrial heritage in furniture construction. Visitors can check out the Catawba woodworking shop, and browse collections of historic tools and furnishings along the tour – ideal for history buffs.
82nd Airborne Division Museum
Experience a bit of American lore in NC. The 82nd Airborne Division Museum is located in Fort Bragg, the world's "largest and busiest military complexes." The museum houses an impressive collection of military aircraft on the museum grounds.
Tour the museum to view artifacts and learn about the history of the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers from 1917 to present time. View the collection of uniforms, rifles and light armor weapons in the museum exhibits.
Because the soldiers were from 48 states, the division was nicknamed "All-American," as shown on the "AA" shoulder patch. While in the coastal region of North Carolina, consider staying at the Best Western Pinehurst Inn, located approximately 20 miles from the museum in Southern Pines.
Graveyard of the Atlantic
Many a ship has wrecked off the North Carolina coast through history; it’s one of the reasons there are quite a few lighthouses along the Outer Banks. It’s also the reason this museum near Kill Devil Hills exists. The focus is on shipwrecks and maritime history from the 1500's through 1945.
A more general history of seafaring and the Outer Banks region is also showcased in the museum, along with piracy, warfare, commerce, and even original lenses from some of the area lighthouses.
North Carolina Music Hall of Fame
Located Kannapollis – just north of Charlotte – the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame showcases some of the states’ most prized and renowned artists and composures. Originally founded in 1994, the museum now houses an extensive list of musicians, including names like Randy Travis, George Clinton, and John Coltrane.
The induction ceremonies are frequently open to the public and are generally held at the Vintage Motor Club Conference and Events Center. The hall of fame has over 50 members in total.