Far from stuffy or boring, these palaces of fun are scattered from the state’s largest city, Charlotte, to its coastline and in between.
Photo of USS North Carolina battleship. Photo credit: Alyssandra Barnes
NASCAR Hall of Fame
Charlotte boasts the NASCAR Hall of Fame, housing lots of race cars, artifacts and memorabilia dating to the birth of the sport. This museum features more than 50 interactive experiences, including race simulators and a Kids Zone. Try your hand at being part of the pit crew where you time for tire-changing and fueling skills, or practice announcing a race. Special events for the public include celebrity autograph sessions, race-viewing parties and induction ceremonies.
Admission: Adults $19, children $12
Regular hours: Open daily from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh is home to a number of great museums, including the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Interactive exhibits, live programs and educational films are fun for the entire family. Some areas explored include space, dinosaurs, gems and weather. The new wing of the building, the Nature Research Center, highlights scientific studies and is now open to the public.
Admission: Free, excluding special programs and events
Regular hours: Monday-Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 12-5 p.m.
USS North Carolina Battleship
On the Cape Fear River, across from downtown Wilmington, sits the USS North Carolina. Get a glimpse of everything on board, from the massive guns to bunks to the engine room. While touring the boat at leisure, many informative signs, video clips and pictures scattered throughout the decks guide visitors along the way. Built in 1941, it was once considered the most advanced sea weapon in the world.
Admission: Adults $12, children $6
Regular hours: Open every day
Perhaps one of the most unique museums in the state, Korner’s Folly in Kernersville is a mansion built by Jule Korner in 1878. This building has seven stories, 15 fireplaces, 22 rooms with no two doorways alike, ceiling heights that vary from six to 25 feet and America’s first private home theater. Tour the building and surrounding grounds, and then enjoy one of the numerous puppet shows.
Admission: Adults $10, children $6
Regular hours: Thursday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday 1-4 p.m.
Located in Charlotte, Discovery Place is an interactive museum for the whole family with activities ranging from musical lights to a bubble room. Adjacent to Discovery Place is an IMAX theater, which features educational movies along with blockbusters. Museum guests can enjoy the IMAX theater for a ticket upgrade.
Admission: Adults $12, children $10
Regular Hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 12-5 p.m.
Wright Brothers National Memorial
Commemorating Wilbur and Orville Wright, the architects of modern flight, this museum in Kill Devil Hills features exhibits, movies and educational programs. Most notable are the full-scale reproductions of the 1902 glider and the 1903 flying machine, as well as an engine block from the original 1903 Flyer.
Regular hours: Open every day excluding Christmas
Andy Griffith Museum
The world’s largest collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia is on display in Mount Airy, the real town that inspired TV’s Mayberry. The original hometown of the actor, this museum features hundreds of items from The Andy Griffith Show, Matlock and his other TV, film and music career accomplishments. The museum is also home to a newly established park and garden.
Regular hours: Open seven days a week excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas
Alyssandra Barnes contributed to this article. She is a photojournalist and assists the authors with photography, writing and research.