The 78 Most Fun and Interesting North Carolina Facts You Didn’t Know

Written by Megan Martin
Updated: November 17, 2023
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North Carolina is a beautiful state filled with rich natural experiences and history. Learn about 78 interesting facts about it, from famous faces to nature’s beauty.

1. The Nickname for the State of North Carolina Is “The Tar Heel State”

This nickname dates back to the state’s early history. This is because of the amount of tar, pitch, and turpentine that can be extracted from North Carolina’s vast pine tree forests.

2. North Carolina Is the 28th Largest State by Square Mileage

The state of North Carolina contains around 53,819 square miles. This means that around 5 North Carolinas could fit into Texas.

3. The Gray Squirrel Is the State Mammal

Eastern Gray Squirrel

These squirrels are abundant throughout the state.

© Davies

Gray squirrels became the official state mammal of North Carolina in 1969. During this time, school children voted for it as their favorite, which earned it the title through legislation.

4. The State Can Be Broken Down Into Three Main Regions

North Carolina is home to a vast and beautiful landscape. This can be divided into the mountain region (west), the coastal region (east), and the Piedmont (center). Although the Piedmont is not part of the mountainous region of the state, it does contain small mountains and foothills.

5. It Is Home to the Oldest Mountains in North America

The Uwharrie Mountains in central North Carolina are 500 million years old! While they are located in the center of the state now, when they first formed, they were located on the coast. This region is also home to Lake Tillery.

6. The State Flower Is the Dogwood

Blue sky and dogwood in full bloom

Flowering dogwoods have represented the state for over 50 years.

©atonom/iStock via Getty Images

The General Assembly designated the dogwood as the North Carolina official state flower on March 15, 1941. It is important to note that the flower of the dogwood is the state symbol, not the entire tree itself.

7. North Carolina Has Two State Berries

The two state berries for North Carolina are the strawberry and the blueberry. One small town, Ellerbe, sports a strawberry patch named The Berry Patch that features a 24-foot-tall strawberry structure.

This popular restaurant opened in 1989 in Greensboro. Today, they have locations in a total of ten states. They boast over 40 different shake flavors, from everyday to seasonal specials.

9. Roanoke Island in North Carolina Was the First Attempted English Colony

The Roanoke colony was first established in 1585 by Sir Walter Raleigh. The colony disappeared, however, when a ship later visited. Although known as the Lost Colony, it is most likely that the settlers relocated to Hatteras Island, which was then called Croatoan Island and home to the indigenous nation of the same name.

10. The State of North Carolina Used to Be Fused With South Carolina in a Single State 

A single colony named Carolina was first formed in the early 17th century, only to later be split in 1712. This split formed North Carolina and South Carolina.

11. The Mascot for the Largest City’s Basketball Team Has Roots in the Revolutionary War

Charlotte’s basketball team is named the Charlotte Hornets. This name can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, when the city was known as a hornet’s nest by Loyalists.

Pepsi was invented in 1893 in New Bern. During this time, it was known as “Brad’s Drink” after Caleb Bradham, the creator.

13. The State’s Precious Stone Is the Emerald

North Carolina is a state rich in emeralds, which is why it later became designated as the state’s precious stone.

14. Krispy Kreme Was First Founded in This State

The doughnut company Krispy Kreme was founded on July 13, 1937, in Winston-Salem. Today, it is headquartered in Charlotte.

15. Luke Combs Was Born in North Carolina

Luke Combs is an American country music singer and songwriter born in Huntersville, north of Charlotte. He has earned three Grammy Award nominations, as well as several other awards.

16. The State Insect is the Honeybee

Honeybees were named the state insect in 1973. This is because of the importance of their pollination in agriculture. 

17. Nicholas Sparks Lives in North Carolina

Nicholas Sparks is an American romance novelist, screenwriter, and producer who moved to New Bern in 1989. He is known for his many works, such as The Notebook.

18. The Largest Private House in the World Is Located in North Carolina

Biltmore Estate

Ashville’s Biltmore Estate is the largest private house in the world.

©R. L. Terry / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

The Biltmore Estate is a Châteauesque-style mansion located in Asheville. It has 178,926 square feet, with 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. Today, this historic house acts as a popular museum.

19. The First English Child Born in the Colonies Was Born in North Carolina

Do you remember the Roanoke Colony from before? Prior to their disappearance, Virginia Dare was born on  August 18, 1587. She is the first child of English lineage to be born in the Americas.

20. North Carolina Is Home to the Furniture Capital of the World

High Point is home to several national and international furniture manufacturers. Twice a year, the city hosts the High Point Furniture Market, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to the area.  

21. John Coltrane Was Born in North Carolina

Coltrane was an American jazz saxophonist born in Hamlet in 1926. In 2020, a full wall mural was painted in town recognizing him.

The North Carolina Musician Murals Project has unveiled the mural of John Coltrane in the legendary jazz musician's hometown of Hamlet, NC

Posted by John Coltrane on Tuesday, July 21, 2020

This popular pickle company was founded in North Carolina in 1926. Their current address is One Cucumber Blvd in Mt Olive!

23. North Carolina Houses the Largest Military Base in the United States

Fort Liberty is the largest military base in the United States based on population. This base, formerly named Fort Bragg, is located in Cumberland County.

24. One City in the State Has Banned Cars to Preserve the Environment

Love Valley is a tiny but scenic mountain town where most of the “roads” are called trails. This is because cars are banned in this town, with transportation instead relying on horses. As of 2016, around 104 people call this quaint, tiny town home.

25. The First Gold Rush Occurred in North Carolina

The very first gold rush in the United States can be traced back to Conrad Reed. Twelve years old at the time, Reed had found a large gold nugget in 1799  in Cabarrus County, near Charlotte. Today, the historic site of Reed Gold Mine in Midland offers education about the Carolina gold rush that started it all.

26. Eric Church was born in North Carolina

A popular American country music singer-songwriter, Eric Church, was born in Granite Falls in 1977. He graduated with a marketing degree from Appalachian State University. 

27. The State Dog Is the Plott Hound

Plott hounds are scent hounds bred for the purpose of hunting bears. They became the state dog in 1989.

28. North Carolina Is the 9th Largest State by Population

North Carolina’s population is nearly 10.3 million, making it the 9th-largest in the country.

29. The State Bird of North Carolina Is the Northern Cardinal

Northern cardinals became the state bird of North Carolina in 1943.

30. North Carolina Is the Number One Producer for Two Different Crops

When it comes to national ranks, North Carolina is number one for tobacco and sweet potato production.

31. This State Saw the First Successful Flight of an Airplane That Was Mechanically Propelled

On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers conducted the first successful flight of a mechanically propelled airpland at Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Haw. Thisd was the fruit of several previous unsuccessful attempts.

32. North Carolina Is Home to the First Family Dollar Store

Leon Levine founded Family Dollar in 1959. The first store opened in Charlotte in November of that same year.

33. The State Fruit Is the Scuppernong Grape

Scuppernongs are named for North Carolina’s Scuppernong River, where the grapes were originally found growing in the wild. They became the state fruit in 2001.

34. Venus Flytraps Are a Native North Carolina Species

Close up of a potted Venus flytrap

The Venus flytrap is just one of the carnivorous plant species in North Carolina.

©Menno van der Haven/

This species of carnivorous plant can only be found in North and South Carolina along the coast.

35. North Carolina Is Home to the Fast Food Restaurant Bojangles

With a focus on cajun-seasoned chicken and handmade buttermilk biscuits, Bojangles was founded in 1977 by Jack Fulk and Richard Thomas in Charlotte. 

36. The State Drink of North Carolina Is Milk

Milk became the official state beverage of North Carolina in 1987. Many other states share this symbol as well. 

37. The First Public University in the United States Is Located in North Carolina

The University of North Carolina opened in 1789, with its first class being admitted in 1795. It is the only public university to have produced a graduating class in this century.

38. The State Rock Is Granite

Granite became the official state rock in 1979. The North Carolina Legislative Building features granite accents to commemorate this.

39. Andy Griffith Was Born in North Carolina

Andy Griffith starred in many prominent roles, ranging from acting to comedy. He was born in Mount Airey in 1926. Many believe it to be the inspiration for the town of Mayberry in the Andy Griffith Show in which he starred.

40. Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries, a Fast-casual Restaurant, Started in North Carolina

Hwy 55 was founded by Kenney Moore in Goldsboro in 1991. It was originally known as Andy’s Cheesesteaks and Cheeseburgers

41. North Carolina Has the Largest Research Park in the United States

Research Triangle Park in the state capitol of Raleigh (and surrounding cities and communities) is the largest operating park in North America. It is home to over 300 companies with more than 60,000 employees. The research park was founded in 1959.

42. North Carolina Was the 12th State to Ratify the United States Constitution in 1789

North Carolina ratified the Constitution on November 21, 1789. It was followed by Rhode Island, the last of the original colonies to ratify the Constitution.

43. The Highest Point in North America East of the Mississippi, Is Located in North Carolina

Mount Mitchell North Carolina

The highest point in North Carolina is Mount Mitchell.

© Flagstad

Mount Mitchell‘s summit is 6,684 feet above sea level, the highest point east of the Mississippi River.

44. The Coast of Cape Hatteras Is Known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”

Because of the dangerous waters and many shipwrecks that have occurred here, this area has earned the title “Graveyard of the Atlantic”.

45. Blackbeard’s Ship Ran Aground on the Coast of This State

For years, researchers have believed that Blackbeard may have run the Queen Anne’s Revenge aground on the coast of North Carolina. Research from 2020 shows that this act may have been intentional.

46. North Carolina Has 15 Different Metropolitan Areas

There are 15 metropolitan areas in the state, with Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro being the largest.

47. Charlotte Houses North Carolina’s Only Light Rail System 

The Lynx Blue Line opened in Charlotte in 2007. It is the first major rapid rail service in the state.

48. The North Carolina Museum of Art Was the First Major Museum Collection in the United States Formed by State Legislation and Funding

The North Carolina General Assembly designated $1 million to the museum, allowing it to begin its collection in 1947.

49. The State Salamander Is the Marbled Salamander

The marbled salamander became the official state salamander of North Carolina in 2013.

50. Woody Shaw Was Born in North Carolina

Woody Shaw, born in Laurinburg in 1944, was a jazz musician, band leader, arranger, and composer.

51. North Carolina Has More American Idol Finalists Than Any Other State

This state has produced 8 finalists, of whom 3 went on to be winners, and many more who continue to pursue successful music careers.

52. North Carolina Is Home to Five Professional Opera Companies

These are located in Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Asheville. 

53. Cheerwine Was Founded in North Carolina

This popular cherry-flavored drink was founded in 1917 in Salisbury.

54. The State Frog Is the Pine Barrens Tree Frog

Pine Barrens Tree Frog (Hyla andersonii)

The Pine Barrens

tree frog

is a rare species of tree frog.

©Jay Ondreicka/

This rare species of frog became the official state frog of North Carolina in 2013 as a way to raise awareness. 

55. Steph Curry Was Raised in North Carolina

Curry is a professional basketball player for the Golden State Warriors. He was born in Ohio and raised in Charlotte, NC.

56. Hardee’s, a Fast Food Restaurant, Started in North Carolina

Wilber Hardee opened the very first Hardee’s store in Greenville in 1960.

57. North Carolina Is Home to the Mile High Swinging Bridge

The Mile High Swinging Bridge is a large pedestrian bridge located in Grandfather Mountain. It was built in 1952.

58. Charlotte Is the Most Visited City in the Entire State

Skyline of Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina.

While not the capital, Charlotte is the most populated city in the state.

©ESB Professional/

With a variety of activities to offer, Charlotte is the most visited city. However, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited destination.

59. The Largest Natural Habitat Zoo in the World Is Located in the Center of the State

The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro offers 500 developed acres filled with dozens of different species of animals. It is currently in the process of developing more land to add an Asia-based section along with its current Africa and North America sections.

60. The Fayetteville Observer Is the Oldest Newspaper in North Carolina That Is Still in Production

This newspaper was founded in 1816,, and with the exception of a few years between 1865 and 1883, it has been running since then. The oldest continuously published paper in the state is the Wilmington Star, established in 1867. 

61. North Carolina Has Five Major League Sports Franchises

This includes the Charlotte Hornets (basketball), the Carolina Panthers (football), the Carolina Hurricanes (hockey), and two soccer teams: the North Carolina Courage (National Women’s Soccer League) and the Charlotte FC (Major League Soccer).

62. The State Has No Major League Baseball Team

Despite having several different professional teams, there is no MLB team in the state.

63. The First Capital of North Carolina Was New Bern

When the capital of North Carolina was first established, it was in New Bern. It later switched to Raleigh, where it remains today.

64. North Carolina Has 100 Counties

The first counties were established in 1664. The latest additions came nearly 300 years later, in 1911.

65. The State Motto Is “Esse Quam Videri”

This Latin phrase means  “to be rather than to seem.”

66. The State Boasts Many Waterfalls

There are more than 250 waterfalls in North Carolina.

67. There Are Four National Park

These are the Uwharrie National Forest, Croatan National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, and Nantahala National Forest.

68. Michael Jordan Was Raised in North Carolina

Michael Jordan was born in New York. However, he was raised in Wilmington. 

69. The Greensboro Sit-ins Occurred in the State

This civil rights protest began in 1960. The sit-ins occurred after a group of students were denied service at a Greensboro Woolworth.

70. The State Tree Is the Pine

Tall, stately Ponderosa Pine trees showing the red rough bark they are known for in an open forest setting

Pine trees are the namesake for North Carolina’s nickname.


The state’s nickname comes as a result of its abundance of pine trees. As a result, the pine tree was adopted as the state tree in 1963. However, a specific species of pine was not stated.

71. Babe Ruth Hit His First Home Run in North Carolina

George Herman “Babe” Ruth is likely one of the most well-known baseball players in the United States. On March 7, 1914, he hit his first professional home run in Fayetteville. 

Billy Bathgate was shot in the Hamlet in 1991. The state has served as the backdrop for many other movies as well, including some scenes from Dirty Dancing (1987), Forrest Gump (1994), and Green Mile (1999). Wilmington and the surrounding areas are popular film locations due to the different river mouths, beach locations, and marshes.

73. The State Has the Most White House Christmas Trees

North Carolina has provided the White House with 15 Christmas trees. The tree of this year, 2023, is also coming out of North Carolina!

74. Texas Pete Hot Sauce Was Created in North Carolina, Despite Its Name

Texas Pete was introduced to the TW Garner Food Company in 1929 in Winston-Salem.

75. The State Fish Are the Brook Trout and Channel Bass

The channel bass, or red drum, became the state saltwater fish in 1971. The state freshwater fish is the Southern Appalachian brook trout.

76. The State Fossil Is the Megalodon Shark Tooth

Megalodon Teeth - Megalodon Shark Teeth

These are the largest types of shark teeth known in the world.

© Kostich

Megalodon teeth are one of the most sought-after shark’s teeth. It became the state fossil in 2013.

77. North Carolina Is Home to One of the Largest Living Sand Sunes

Jockey’s Ridge is the tallest sand dune in the eastern United States. Depending on the weather, it ranges from 80 to 100 feet.

78. Wild Horses Can Be Found in North Carolina

A wild horse colony has survived on North Carolina’s Outer Banks for hundreds of years. These were first brought over from Europe.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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