6 Rewarding Museums In North Carolina

Learning doesn't have to be boring, and having fun doesn't require a cross-country flight. These museums show that you don't have to venture far from home to be immersed in great artwork, history, and science. Each of the following destinations is a great place for people of all ages to learn and get inspired, all of them located in North Carolina. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

6 Engrossing North Carolina Museums

Attraction Location Features
Levine Museum of the New South Charlotte Exhibits, programs, and events focused on the evolution of Southern culture
Discovery Place Charlotte, Rockingham, & Huntersville Four locations where young people can learn and have fun while exploring science and nature
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Charlotte Over 1,400 works from some of the most prominent artists of the 20th century, as well as musical performances, film screenings, and community outreach programs
North Carolina Museum of History Raleigh Artifacts from six centuries that illuminate the significance of the state's history, along with multiple yearly festivals
Ackland Art Museum Chapel Hill Connected to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, houses a large permanent collection and many rotating exhibitions of pieces from all over the world
Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center Black Mountain Showcases local artifacts, hosts lectures and screenings, and offers hikes that highlight the area

Harvesting Bees at Discovery Place Nature

Timeline of North Carolina History

Year Event
1524 Giovanni da Verrazano explores the Carolina coast
1586 Colonists at Roanake are forced to return to England
1655 Nathaniel Batts becomes the first European to permanently settle in North Carolina
1712 North and South Carolina split
1718 Blackbeard the pirate is killed off the coast
1729 NC becomes a royal English colony
1774 The Edenton Tea Party is a show of defiance against the British
1776 North Carolina becomes the first state to vote in favor of independence on April 12
1789 NC becomes the 12th state in the union
1789 The University of North Carolina becomes the first public school in the US
1794 Capital moved to Raleigh
1804 Walton War is fought with residents of Georgia
1828 Andrew Jackson becomes 7th president
1845 James K. Polk becomes 11th president
1861 State votes to leave the union
1861-1865 Civil War is fought
1868 State readmitted to the union
1903 The Wright brothers make man's first successful flight at Kitty Hawk
1918 Fort Bragg Established
1960 First lunch counter sit-in occurs in Greensboro
1971 Federal court in Charlotte orders busing to enforce school integration
1977 North Carolina General Assembly refuses to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment
2002 Elizabeth Dole becomes the first woman to represent North Carolina in the Senate
2018 Hurricane Florence hits the state

Southern Painter Damian Stamer at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Where Were The Wright Brothers From?

Because of the fame they garnered from their historic 1903 flight, several states have laid claim to Orville and Wilbur Wright. Wilbur was born in Indiana in 1867, while Orville was born in Dayton, Ohio, where both eventually died. And of course, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina was the site of their famous flight. The result is that one could answer the question with Indiana, Ohio, or North Carolina, depending on where you're from. And of course, there are others who claimed to have flown before the Wright brothers, but no matter what, Orville and Wilbur will go down in history as pioneers of human flight.

In Depth

Not only are museums fantastic places to learn about world history and culture, they're also among the best places to visit if you're looking to know more about the regions in which they're located. The ones included on this list connect visitors with the cultural heritage of North Carolina, offering enlightening experiences oriented around its history, science, art, and natural environment. Covering everything from the legacy of the Civil War to contemporary crafts-making and technology, here are, in no particular order, six satisfying museums to check out in the Tar Heel State.

Landing at #1 is Levine Museum of the New South. Determined to create a more egalitarian community, Levine offers programs and exhibits that encourage empathy, spur conversation, and connect people across the city of Charlotte. With a focus on the evolving culture of the post-Civil War American South, its interactive exhibits give visitors fresh perspectives on everything from Reconstruction to the region's modern urban growth. Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers, the museum's centerpiece, uses the greater Charlotte area to illuminate the changes that have occurred in the South since the 19th century.

Spanning age groups and interests, Levine's many programs further connect the public to the region and its culture. Shaping C.L.T., a round table event featuring various community leaders, strives to give audiences useful information that can help build a more inclusive city. Hosted by the historian in-residence, the New South for the New Southerner program explores the history of the state's Piedmont Triad. Free family days, which happen five times a year during different school holidays, provide a number of fun and productive activities for the whole family. Support the organization by becoming a member, and get benefits such as free annual admission.

Support the organization by becoming a member, and get benefits such as free annual admission.

For #2 we have Discovery Place. Established in 1946 as the first science education center in the Southeast, this organization is devoted to fostering the ongoing, transformative exploration of nature and technology. It carries out this mission through a network of four interactive museums across three cities, as well as through classes, outreach programs, and professional development for regional teachers. Engaging the community in interactive learning experiences that help facilitate scientific discovery, the museums are among the Carolinas' leading institutions for STEM education.

Discovery Place has two museums in Charlotte, one focusing on science and the other on nature. The former features numerous multi-sensory exhibitions that offer hands-on explorations of such diverse subjects as human anatomy, architectural design, simple machines, and unusual physical phenomena. The latter museum allows kids to encounter the natural world through a butterfly pavilion, walking trails, and a creature cavern filled with owls, snakes, frogs, and more. Discovery Place's Huntersville and Rockingham locations, meanwhile, provide children with sundry opportunities to learn through play. Give back by volunteering as an ambassador or lab assistant.

At #3 is the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Exhibiting the rich, wide-ranging art collection amassed by the Swiss Bechtler family, this Charlotte-based museum dedicates itself to championing and perpetuating the aesthetics of mid-century modernism. Representing an array of historical movements and styles, its collection comprises over 1,400 works by some of the most significant artists of the 20th century, including Picasso, Le Corbusier, Warhol, Miro, and more. Certain works are complemented by photographs and letters that show how they're connected to the Bechtlers.

Exhibiting the rich, wide-ranging art collection amassed by the Swiss Bechtler family, this Charlotte-based museum dedicates itself to championing and perpetuating the aesthetics of mid-century modernism.

In addition to its exhibitions, the museum runs numerous programs and education initiatives that involve the public in the experience and appreciation of modern art. Among these are guest lectures, family days, musical performances of genres such as jazz and classical, and screenings of films that examine themes related to engineering, architecture, and design. Offered free of charge, community outreach programs include artist residencies at schools, hands-on workshops throughout the local county jail system, and tours and classes designed for those with developmental disabilities. Help keep the arts accessible by donating online to the organization's annual fund.

For #4 we come to the North Carolina Museum of History. Located in Raleigh, this Smithsonian-affiliated institution provides programs, events, and exhibitions of historical materials that illuminate the storied heritage of the state. Its collection encompasses over 150,000 artifacts spanning six centuries, while its myriad exhibits cover topics pertaining to Native American life, the Civil War, the Wright brothers, industrialism, and more. There are also an assortment of events offered for kids and families, such as crafts activities, conversations, musical performances, and demonstrations.

Equally fun and enlightening, the museum's annual festivals honor both the state's history and its continued cultural developments. The longest-running is the American Indian Heritage Celebration, which features visual artists, dancers, musicians, and authors who belong to eight of North Carolina's indigenous tribes. Another lively event filled with music, dance, and food is the African American Cultural Celebration. The Longleaf Film Festival, meanwhile, presents fiction and documentary works that bear a connection to the Tar Heel State. To aid the museum's efforts, consider sending a gift virtually or by mail.

Another lively event filled with music, dance, and food is the African American Cultural Celebration.

Showing up at #5 is the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Started by collector William Hayes Ackland's bequest to the university, this museum seeks to foster intellectual and cultural growth through the arts. Holding approximately 17,000 works, its permanent collection includes significant European paintings and sculptures, modern and contemporary pieces, North Carolina pottery, and the state's preeminent assemblage of Asian art. It also presents ten to twelve rotating exhibitions annually, which showcase everything from video installations to African wood-carving.

The museum's galleries and exhibitions stand as valuable educational resources for not only the university, but for all teachers and students throughout the area. Graduate instructors and faculty members can use works from the collection in the classroom, while both grads and undergrads can take part in training sessions that assist them in developing their pedagogical skills. Also available are guided school tours, as well as a variety of workshops and professional resources designed to help teachers integrate the arts into their curricula. Contribute to Ackland's mission by bequeathing an artwork you own.

Finally, for #6 we arrive at the Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center, which serves as Buncombe County's primary museum of local history. Located in a 1920s firehouse in Black Mountain, it offers innovative exhibitions, programs, and events that explore and preserve the cultural heritage of the Swannanoa Valley. Along with viewing temporary and permanent exhibits that showcase a range of historic artifacts, visitors can access archival materials such as ledgers, oral histories, and photographs for use in research.

Located in a 1920s firehouse in Black Mountain, it offers innovative exhibitions, programs, and events that explore and preserve the cultural heritage of the Swannanoa Valley.

The museum's events include documentary screenings, monthly lectures and workshops with local experts, a book club, and year-round hiking excursions. In addition to many stand-alone hikes, there are two monthly series that offer participants deeper immersion in the area. Consisting of eleven treks, the Swannanoa Rim Explorer series surveys the remote ridge lines of the valley, and is designed for experienced travelers. Valley History Explorer is a more moderate program, and is comprised of eight treks that highlight local community histories. Make a donation in the form of an honorary, engraved brick, which will become part of a large-scale mosaic around Swannanoa.