90 Interesting Facts About North Carolina

Interesting facts about North Carolina state, United States

North Carolina is famous for the Wright Brothers’ first flight, tobacco, Krispy Kreme, and Pepsi.

Find out what else the “Old North State” is known for with these fun North Carolina facts!

General North Carolina Facts

1. North Carolina is found in the country’s southeastern region. It is NOT part of the Deep South.

2. North Carolina state spans 53,819 mi² (139,390 km²), making it the 28th largest state. In terms of size, it is between New York state and Arkansas.

3. If North Carolina were a country, it would be larger than Greece.

4. The state has a population of 10.7 million, which makes it the 9th most populous state, between Georgia and Michigan.

5. If the two Carolinas (which were officially split in 1712) were combined, they would be the 5th largest state by population, after California, Texas, Florida, and New York.

6. North Carolina is bordered by Virginia to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west.

7. Raleigh is the capital city of North Carolina. With 480,000 residents (metropolitan 1.4 million), it is the 41st largest city in the United States.

A highway leading to the skyscrapers of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh, the state capital

8. The largest city in the state is Charlotte, which has 875,000 residents (metropolitan 2.7 million), making it the 16th largest city in the country.

9. The state’s six largest cities are all located in the central Piedmont region of the state.

10. The area now known as North Carolina was once home to approximately 30 Native American tribes that were scattered throughout the region.

11. Today the central Piedmont area is home to the Sioux, while the mountains in the western region are inhabited by the Iroquois, and the Algonquin inhabit the southern tidewater region.

12. North Carolina is often referred to simply as Carolina.

13. The name Carolina is derived from the Latin name Charles, after King Charles I and II.

A cluster of Venus Flytraps
Venus Flytraps are a symbol of North Carolina

14. Nicknames for North Carolina include “The Tar Heel State” (from its history of producing tar from its pine trees for naval use), “The Old North State”, and “The Tupertine State” (because it produces a lot of turpentine).

15. Tourism slogans for North Carolina have included “Firsts that Last”, “First in Flight” (after the historic Wright Brothers flight in the state), “To Be Rather than to Seem”, and “Discover the State You’re In.”

16. People who live in the state are called North Carolinians.

17. NC is the two-letter abbreviation for North Carolina.

18. The Venus Flytrap plant is native to North Carolina and is the official state carnivorous plant.

19. The emerald is a naturally occurring gemstone in North Carolina.

The state flag of North Carolina
The North Carolina state flag

20. North Carolina’s state flag consists of a vertical blue bar on the left, and horizontal red and white stripes on the right. Two golden scrolls with the dates of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the state’s official call of independence are around the letters N and C, with a 5-pointed star between them.

21. The state motto of North Carolina is “Esse Quam Videri”, which means “to be, rather than to seem.”

Random Interesting Facts About North Carolina

22. The first gold discovery in the United States was made at Reed Gold Mine, North Carolina, in 1799.

23. The North Carolina portion of the I-95, the highway running closest to the coast, is said to be the most dangerous road in the country in terms of number of deaths.

A view of several layers of misty mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina

24. North Carolina is home to 1 national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which it shares with Tennessee. The park is named after its signature haze that settles in its forests and mountains.

25. The national park follows a ridge in the Great Smoky Mountains, which are part of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain of the Appalachian Mountains. Some of the highest mountains in the Eastern USA are there.

26. The national park has been the most visited national park in the US every year since 1944. It had 14 million visitors in 2021. It is popular for its large size, wildlife, waterfalls, trails, proximity to 2/3rd of the US population, and because it has no entry fees.

27. The Appalachian Trail, the longest hiking trail in the world, which runs from Georgia to Maine, crosses Newfound Gap, roughly at the center of the park.

Some grass and sand dunes in Jockey's Ridge State Park
Sand dunes in Jockey’s Ridge State Park

28. There are 35 state parks in North Carolina. The largest is South Mountains State Park, also part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, while the most popular is Jockey’s Ridge State Park, which protects the largest area of sand dunes in the eastern United States.

29. There are 39 National Historic Monuments in North Carolina. The list includes a historic battlefield, tobacco factory, fort, courthouse, shipwreck, church, tavern, plantation, and several old homes.

30. At 208 ft (63 m), Cape Hatteras Light Station in Buxton, North Carolina is the tallest lighthouse in the United States, and a recognized National Historic Monument.

31. North Carolina has a string of barrier islands off its coast, which are known as the “Outer Banks“. These islands are famous for their beaches and draw many tourists.

32. So many ships have sunk in the seas around the Outer Banks that the area has been named the Graveyard of the Atlantic. The list of sunken ships includes the flagship of Blackbeard, an English pirate.

A white and black striped lighthouse on a grassy coast
Cape Hatteras Light Station, tallest in the US

33. The first English person born in the Americas, Virginia Dare, was born in the Outer Banks. She and several other colonists mysteriously disappeared. Today, she is prominent in American folklore and North Carolina’s Dare County is named after her.

34. North Carolina still has around half a dozen drive-in movie theaters, including a few of the most popular ones in the country.

35. The Carolina Panthers, popular in both North and South Carolina, are one of only two NFL teams to represent two states.

36. The Charlotte Hornets were owned by basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan. Jordan’s 13-year run as Hornets owner ended in Aug. 2023 when he sold the team for approximately $3 billion.

37. Fort Bragg, North Carolina is one of the largest military centers in the world, with around 55,000 military stationed there.

38. The sea level in parts of North Carolina has risen by 11 inches since 1950, and the rate seems to be increasing.

A row of tobacco plants on a farm
Tobacco field in North Carolina

39. North Carolina is the largest producer of tobacco in the United States. Together with Kentucky, they produce 75% of the country’s tobacco.

40. North Carolina is known for producing a lot of Christmas trees. With 1,300 growers, North Carolina produces more Christmas trees than most other states.

41. In fact, North Carolina’s “Fraser Fir” species is so popular that it’s been chosen 13 times as the White House Christmas tree- which is more numerous than any other species.

42. North Carolina is home to the highest mountains in the country’s eastern region, the Black Mountains.

43. The state’s highest point is at Mount Mitchell at 6,684 ft (2,037.28 m) above sea level.

The peak of Mount Mitchell, with treetops in the foreground and the sky is pink and blue
Mount Mitchell is the state’s highest point.

44. North Carolina’s highest recorded temperature was 110°F (43°C) in Fayetteville on August 21, 1983, while the lowest was -34°F (-37°C) at Mount Mitchell on January 21, 1985.

45. Pepsi-Cola was invented in New Bern, North Carolina in 1893 and is known for being the biggest soft drink rival of Coca-Cola. Pepsi-Cola was originally known as Brad’s Drink after Caleb Bradham, the man who invented it. The drink was renamed in 1898 from two of the key ingredients: pepsin and cola.

46. Krispy Kreme, the world-famous donut company, was founded in North Carolina in 1937 by Vernon Rudolph.

47. Vicks VapoRub was invented by Lunsford Richardson of Selma, North Carolina.

48. The world’s first successful sustained, controlled, and powered flight was launched by the Wright brothers in Dare County, North Carolina. There is now a Wright Brothers National Memorial Center in Kill Devil Hills, near the site.

Black and white photograph of the Wright Brothers testing out their airplane
The Wright Brothers testing their flying machine in North Carolina

49. The first public university in the country was The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, founded in 1789.

50. Famous people from North Carolina include actress Julienne Moore, actors Zach Galifianakis and Michael C. Hall, evangelist Billy Graham, and wrestler Jeff Hardy.

51. Movies that were set and/or filmed in North Carolina include Talladega Nights, Bull Durham, Cold Mountain, Days of Thunder, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Kiss the Girls, Nights in Rodanthe, and Safe Haven.

52. Dirty Dancing and The Last of the Mohicans were also partially filmed in the state.

53. Many of the American Idols’ finalists came from North Carolina, including Fantasia Barrino and Clay Aiken.

A mosaic of famous people from North Carolina
Famous North Carolinians Andrew Jackson, Billy Graham, Nina Simone, Julienne Moore, Zach Galifianakis, and Tori Amos

54. The oldest woman to complete a full marathon was North Carolina’s Harriette Thompson, at age 92.

55. Three presidents came from North Carolina: Andrew Jackson, James Polk, and Andrew Johnson.

56. Famous bands and musicians from North Carolina include Nina Simone, John Coltrane, George Clinton, Corrosion of Conformity, Ben Folds Five, and Tori Amos.

57. In North Carolina, it’s technically against the law to have “Happy Hour” specials on alcohol. If the “Happy Hour” is offered on food, it’s legal.

58. According to another old law, you’re supposed to call Town Hall before entering Forest City by car.

59. Women in North Carolina are legally supposed to wear clothes that total 16 yards.

60. It’s illegal to visit the cemetery after midnight in North Carolina.

Historical Facts About North Carolina

61. In ancient times, most of North Carolina was under a shallow sea.

62. The megalodon, the largest shark ever to have existed, once lived in what is now North Carolina. It reached up to 60 ft (18 m) in length. Its tooth is the official state fossil.

Two hands holding two huge megalodon teeth
Megalodon teeth are the official NC state fossil

63. Native Americans first inhabited the region approximately 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.

64. Around 1000 AD, members of the South Appalachian Mississippian culture inhabited the area. They built the Town Creek Indian Mound around 1150 to 1400, now a National Historic Landmark.

65. Frenchman Giovannie de Verrazano explored the coast of Carolina in 1524.

66. In 1540, Hernando de Soto, a Spanish explorer, searched for gold in the southwestern part of the state.

67. The first European to permanently settle in the region of North Carolina was Nathaniel Batts in 1655.

68. In 1705, the building of the state’s first town, Bath, took place.

A small island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina
The Outer Banks islands were the first part of the state to be settled by Europeans.

69. Political disputes in 1710 led to the Carolina territory being divided into two halves, North Carolina and South Carolina. The change was official in 1712.

70. In 1718, the pirate Blackbeard was killed off the coast of North Carolina.

71. The state became a royal English colony, meaning one directly controlled by the Crown, in 1729, 10 years after South Carolina had also done so.

72. In 1774, Penelope Barker led the women of Edenton to take on British rule by putting down their teacups. This became known as the “Edenton Tea Party”.

73. In 1775, the first colony to declare independence from the British was North Carolina. They were also the first state to vote in favor of this on April 12, 1776.

74. North Carolina officially became the country’s 12th state on November 21, 1789.

A dark cavern at Reed Gold Mine
Reed Gold Mine

75. In 1799, the first documented gold rush took place in Cabarrus County, now known as Reed’s Gold Mine. Conrad Reed found a 17-pound sparkly rock on his family’s farm. He ended up using it as a doorstop until one of his visitors identified it as solid gold.

76. In the early 1800s, the state became known as “Rip Van Winkle” because North Carolina’s slow progress was compared to being asleep.

77. In 1804, the “Walton War” was fought between North Carolina and Georgia residents.

78. Andrew Jackson of North Carolina became the 7th president of the US in 1828.

79. In 1845, North Carolina’s James Polk became the 11th president of the US.

80. The first North Carolina State Fair took place in 1853.

A fence along a hill at Fort Fisher, NC
Fort Fisher operated from 1861-1865 during the Civil War.

81. North Carolina was known for being a slave state, and a third of the state’s population were slaves by 1860.

82. In 1861, North Carolina was the last state to join the confederacy (by contrast, South Carolina had been the first state to join it).

83. In the 1920s, tobacco became an important crop in the state.

84. One of the most destructive hurricanes in the history of North Carolina was Hurricane Hazel in 1954, which battered the coast of North Carolina.

85. Governor Sanford established the North Carolina Fund in the 1960s. The fund aimed to end the state’s poverty and it even became a model for programs across the country.

86. In 2003, Eric Robert Rudolph, who was responsible for the bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and several others, was arrested by police in Murphy, North Carolina.

A large park and skyline of Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte, Carolina today

87. The implementation of the state lottery was voted on by the State Legislature in 2005. It is one of the youngest state lottery systems in the country.

88. North Carolina’s population surpassed 10 million in 2015.

89. In 2021, North Carolina authorities allowed thousands of prison inmates to finish their terms at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in jails.

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