From Plantations to Pinball: A Few of North Carolina’s Most Awesome Museums

From Plantations to Pinball: A Few of North Carolina’s Most Awesome Museums
Whether your interest is in finding a weekend activity for the family, or learning more about your favorite sport or athlete, or delving into the fascinating history of the “Old North State,” there’s a museum, exhibit or attraction for you.

Sports & Recreation 

Wilson’s North Carolina Baseball Museum holds memorabilia honoring several native North Carolina ball players, including Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Hoyt Wilhelm, and five more NC players who have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Also featured are athletes who have played at Fleming Stadium (Rod Carew, Ted Williams and others), and other renowned North Carolina athletes like Josh Hamilton and Trot Nixon.
Enjoy unlimited time playing all the “classic” video games and pinball machines – some from as far back as the 1930s – at the highly rated Asheville Pinball Museum. Make a reservation ahead of time to ensure you won’t need to wait to get in.
Chapel Hill’s Carolina Basketball Museum re-opened in June of 2021 following a pandemic-related closure. Located in the Dean E. Smith Center and completely refurbished in 2017, the museum holds artifacts such as the shoes Roy Williams wore in the final win of his career and the winning ball Luke Maye used in the UNC/Kentucky match-up in 2017 – the season UNC won their sixth NCAA title.
Explore a private collection – one of the largest in the country – of antique Harley-Davidsons, browse a fun gift shop or enjoy a delicious brunch at the Heritage Diner at Asheboro’s American Classic Motorcycle Museum.
Charlotte’s NASCAR Hall of Fame is full of all the hands-on, interactive experiences one might expect at such a fun museum. Dedicated to the history of stock car auto racing, the Hall of Fame features simulators, viewing parties, team building activities, and educational and camp opportunities. Each year three racing athletes are celebrated as new inductees.

Kids’ Museums 

Every day at Chapel Hill’s Kidzu Children’s Museum features its own program of activities designed for children through the age of 12. Kids are encouraged to learn through a process of “purposeful play” in an environment of creativity, collaboration and community. Some of the many outstanding exhibits here include an Outdoor Learning Garden, Farm to Fork play area, The Makery craft center, and mini performance space called the Forest Theater.
Over 20 exhibits at the Greensboro Children’s Museum – Main Street/Our Town, Imagination Station, the Edible Schoolyard and more – encourage kids to learn through play in a fun and hands-on environment. Activities include science labs, art studio classes and storytelling.
Fayetteville’s Fascinate-U Children’s Museum allows children to role-play throughout a mini city, where they learn all about various jobs from delivering the mail to milking a cow. The museum also offers art classes, summer camp and field trips as well as occasional special events such as carnivals and family holiday breakfasts.
Charlotte’s Discovery Place Kids (Huntersville and Rockingham) features interactive, high-energy exhibits focused on the discovery of the natural world. Educational programs and special events allow children to further develop their interest in the sciences.


Explore the life and legacy of North Carolina native Ava Gardner at Smithfield’s Ava Gardner Museum through exhibits, video and other digital displays. The annual Ava Gardner Festival  (scheduled for October 7-9 in 2022) features tours, presentations, videos and updated exhibits, all honoring Johnston County’s most famous citizen.
Mount Airy’s Andy Griffith Museum displays artifacts and memorabilia from the life and career of one of the country’s most beloved comedians, Andy Griffith. The 2,500 sq. ft. building, just a half-mile from the actor/singer’s childhood home, is located next to the Andy Griffith Playhouse, the site of the elementary school Griffith attended in the 1930s.

Crafts & Culture 

The Franklin Gem & Mineral Museum, situated in Franklin’s Old Jail, is one of the largest gem and mineral collections in the South. Visitors to the museum learn about the study of rock and minerals, the collection of gems and the art of jewelry making.
Enjoy memorabilia and exhibits on North Carolina’s rich musical culture at Kannapolis’ North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Information on Hall Fame inductees from across the state – Tori Amos, Charlie Daniels, Earl Scruggs and John Coltrane, just to name a few – is presented via interactive displays and recordings of each inductee’s musical concerts.
The town of Cherokee’s Oconaluftee Indian village offers visitors a “living history” experience of what an 18th-century Cherokee community was like in the mountains of North Carolina. Guests wander through dwellings, ritual sites and work areas where villagers participate in everyday life activities such as weaving, creating pottery and hulling canoes. Re-enactments and Cherokee dance performances are also presented.
The impressive Scottish Tartans Museum and Heritage Center in Franklin, NC focuses on the history of Scottish immigrants and dress traditions – specifically, the kilt – of the area’s large population of Scottish-Americans. Visitors are able to search for their family tartan here and view the kilts – some as old as 400 years – for specific clans, districts and organizations.

Historic Homes & Battlefields 

Enjoy a guided tour or special event such as a paranormal investigation or exhibits highlighting Black History Month at Charlotte’s Historic Rosedale Plantation. The 200-year-old home features beautiful gardens, a reconstructed blacksmith shop, and the fascinating Big Tree Museum.
Built in 1855 by physician and landowner Dr. Buckner Lanier Hill, the picturesque Buckner Hill Plantation features Italianate style and a “cruciform” (cross-shaped) design that make it one of the most unique antebellum plantations in North Carolina. Recently restored, the property includes a kitchen, smokehouse, storehouse, and expansive porches on each level.
Learn all about the Battle of Averasboro , an important component of the Civil War’s Carolinas Campaign at Harnett County’s Averasboro Battlefield & Museum. Explore a Civil War cemetery or stop in at the visitors’ center and museum to view artifacts and displays commemorating the day in March of 1865 on which Confederate soldiers engaged in a military action to delay General Sherman’s progress on his march northward.
100 years earlier at the Moores Creek National Battlefield, North Carolina Patriots met Loyalist soldiers approaching across Wilmington’s Moores Creek Bridge with musket-fire and cannons in their first true victory of the American Revolution. Enjoy several annual events here including living history demonstrations or just tour the battlefield and learn all about the epic battle from local historians.

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