North Carolina’s license plates don’t say “First in Flight” for nothing, because this is where the Wright Brothers made their epic flight in Kitty Hawk in 1903. If you love airplanes and aviation in general, this is a great place to be because the state offers a total of 14 museums made for all lovers of aviation and history.
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If you’ve always loved airplanes and find yourself in love with anything related to the military or aviation in general, visiting an air museum is something you’ll love.
Filled with artifacts and even real airplanes for you to explore, these museums can help you learn more about aviation and allow you to read, view, and study items that you likely didn’t know existed until you got there.
Some air museums have artifacts that date back many decades, and many of them also specialize in certain eras or wars, which gives all history and military buffs a place to go to and learn even more about them.
From old photographs to a variety of airplanes from different time periods, you’ll never run out of things to see and enjoy when you visit your local air museum.
If you live in North Carolina, finding a great air museum is a lot easier than you think, and below are more details on all 14 of them.
1. North Carolina Aviation Museum & Hall of Fame (Asheboro)
This museum is open Thursday through Sunday and houses over a dozen different airplanes. A few of them include the Beech C-45H Expeditor, Piper J-3C-65 Cub, Vans RV-8, and the Boeing Stearman PT-17 Kaydet. They also provide various events throughout the year, including appreciation breakfasts for veterans, dances, and many other presentations, short-term exhibits, and educational opportunities for people of all ages.
Visit them at www.ncaviationmuseumhalloffame.com for additional information.
2. Carolinas Aviation Museum (Charlotte)
Open daily throughout most of the year, this museum has a great gift shop and is home to dozens of airplanes that you can view and study. They include a replica of the Wright 1902 glider, McDonnell F-4S Phantom II, Republic F-84G Thunderjet, North American T-28B Trojan, and the Convair YF-102A Delta Dagger.
The museum is currently closed for renovations until the year 2022, and you can keep up-to-date on their progress by visiting them at www.carolinasaviation.org or calling them at 704-997-3770.
3. Airborne and Special Operations Museum (Fayetteville)
Open every day except Monday throughout most of the year, the US Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum is free to visit, although a small donation is encouraged and greatly appreciated. The planes on display include the Douglas C-47A Skytrain, Waco CG-4A Hadrian, Bell UH-1H Iroquois, and the Hughes MH-6C Cayuse.
Current exhibits include Early Airborne history and artifacts, a special World War II exhibit, the Korean War and Cold War display, and the Vietnam War exhibit, as well as displays concerning Contingency Operations and Training and a few temporary exhibits that can involve a variety of topics and areas of interest. This is the place to visit if you’re interested in learning all about the many brave men and women who have fought throughout the decades to keep us free, and it is certainly a place that will never disappoint.
4. 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum (Fort Bragg)
This museum is open Tuesday through Saturday and offers free admission and a great gift shop so you can take home souvenirs of your visit. Unless you have a Department of Defense ID card, you have to stop at the Welcome Center at Fort Bragg to access the museum. The museum houses several airplanes that you can view and study, including the Fairchild C-123K Provider, Curtis C-46F Commando, Bell UH-1B Iroquois, and the Douglas VC-47D Skytrain, among others.
You can also get additional information by visiting their website at www.82ndairbornedivisionmuseum.com.
5. Havelock Tourist and Event Center (Havelock)
Open every day except Sunday throughout most of the year, you can get into this museum for free. Highlighting over a century of history in the Havelock-Cherry Point area, you can access information about various aspects of Marine aviation in the Eastern North Carolina area, and study the culture, history, and everything else the area has to offer its citizens. Just a few of the aircraft housed in this facility include the Douglas A-4M Skyhawk, Grumman F-9F-6P Cougar, McDonnell RF-4B Phantom II, and a replica of the Boeing F-4B-3.
6. Western North Carolina Air Museum (Hendersonville)
Open on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout most of the year, this museum is free to visit and is located in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. It houses a great gift shop and has over a dozen planes for you to enjoy, including the Piper J-5 Cub Cruiser, Heath LNB-4 Parasol, Cessna 170B, and the Wittman W.8 Tailwind. It is also home to the unique home built Sportfire, which comes from Britain.
7. Hickory Aviation Museum (Hickory)
Open daily most days of the year, the museum is free to enter, but they gladly accept and appreciate donations of any size. With artifacts and items dating from World War II to the present, real flight suits and ejection seats are just some of the memorabilia included within its walls. There is a memorial wall listing the names of locals who gave up their lives fighting for freedom, and a few of the many planes housed inside include the Northrop F-5E Tiger, Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star, de Havilland Vampire, and the Boeing A160 Hummingbird.
8. Wright Brothers National Memorial (Kitty Hawk)
Located in Kill Devils Hill, North Carolina, the memorial houses two separate displays: a glider built in 1902 under the direction of Wilbur Wright, and a Flyer from 1903 that is a very authentic-looking replica. Inside are artifacts that include several items from the Wright Brothers’ shop, including numerous artifacts and a replica of the wind tunnel they used in their early attempts at flight. If you’re an aviation enthusiast and want to learn about how it all got started, this memorial is the perfect place to begin.
9. North Carolina Military History Museum (Kure Beach)
Open Friday and Saturday or Friday through Sunday, depending on the season, the museum is free to visit, and the Bell UH-1H Iroquois is prominently displayed for you to view and study while you’re there. If you’re a history buff and you love the military, this is one museum you won’t want to miss. It contains dozens of artifacts about aviation both in North Carolina and throughout the country, and a visit there will never disappoint.
10. Dare County Regional Airport Museum (Manteo)
Located on the west end of the airport terminal building, the museum is open every day throughout most of the year, and although it is smaller than many other aviation museums, its artifacts are truly valuable for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of aviation, both in Dare County and in the United States. The lobby alone contains numerous airplanes displayed prominently for you to enjoy.
11. North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh)
Open daily throughout most of the year, this museum has a great aircraft collection that includes the Bensen B-8M Gyrocopter, a replica of the Wright flyer, and the Rogallo Standard hang glider. It is currently closed temporarily due to the coronavirus, but its current exhibits include Toys from the 1950s and 60s, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, and a special exhibit on pioneering aviator Mary Nicholson, among many others.
12. North Carolina Transportation Museum (Spencer)
Open Wednesday through Sunday most days of the year, this museum is home to planes that include the Douglas C-53, Taylor Coot A, Rearwin 185 Skyranger, and a replica of the Wright flyer. It is the sight of a former railway, so in the museum are also items such as antique automobiles, 25 locomotives, and even an authentic train depot. It is a great place to visit to learn about many different types of transportation.
13. Missiles and More Museum (Topsail Beach)
Open Monday through Friday or Monday through Saturday, depending on the season, the museum has been around since 1946 and was once used by the government to assemble missiles for a top-secret mission in the area (visit the exhibit Operation Bumblebee for more information on this mission). Closed temporarily until April of 2020, its many exhibits include Women Air Force Service Pilots, the Osprey aircraft, Camp Davis, and many other historical and military commemorations.
You can visit them at http://missilesandmoremuseum.org or by calling them at 910-328-8663.
14. USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial (Wilmington)
Open daily throughout most of the year, this memorial site allows you to enjoy viewing the aircraft Vought OS2U-2 Kingfisher, and although it is temporarily closed because of the coronavirus, you can still enjoy a variety of online exhibits if you visit their website at www.battleshipnc.com. There is also a great store you can visit on the grounds, and the museum offers a lot of resources for teachers so that learning about the battleship is much easier.
They have plans to open again very soon, and until then, you can visit their website or contact them at 910-399-9100 to keep up with their reopening plans.