Almost every place on the coast evokes an episode, unfortunate or tragic from the past (recent or distant). It was on the island of Roanoke that in 1584 Sir Walter Raleigh established the real first English colony, a colony whose end remains one of the mysteries of the history of the United States: when in 1590 Raleigh returned from England, the occupants of the fort had all disappeared without leave traces, except for an inscription on a tree: Croatan, the name of an Indian tribe. This episode inspired writer Paul Green with a tragedy, The Lost Colony, which is performed annually in Fort Raleigh by students of the University of North Carolina.
Not far from here, the Outer Banks were the scene of another event which dates back to December 17, 1903. On that day aviation was born in Kitty Hawks, when the Wright brothers managed to fly an airplane; a copy of this ancestor of the airplanes is kept in the museum of Ka.ll Devii Hill, located in the place where this historic event took place. Cape Hatteras National Seashore has now lost its sinister reputation as the “cemetery of the Atlantic” attributed to it over the centuries for a series of shipwrecks. Sandbanks along the coast have always been a danger, now reported by the largest lighthouse in the United States.
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In the historic port of Wilmington, in the south of the state, is the cruiser USS North Carolina, which performed actions in the Second World War; immobilized forever, it is a monument offered to the veneration of tourists who are passionate about great military events. But Wilmington doesn’t just evoke war: the whole region is a feast for the eyes. In the summer you are enchanted by the flowering of azaleas, against the backdrop of dogwoods, pines, cypresses and oaks. Orton Plantation (1725), with the mansion overlooking the Cape Fear River, symbolizes all the flowery elegance of Carolina’s gardens.
The botanical beauties of the coast are accompanied by those of the “Countries of the Sky”, the highlands of the West. The spell begins in Asheville, at the foot of the mountain, in the French gardens of the 500-hectare property where George Vanderbilt had the famous Baltimore House built, a Renaissance-style castle with 365 rooms. Around, the Blue Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains offer a great variety of plants: magnolias, rhododendrons and orchids present, in their seasons, a colorful spectacle of infinite variations against the green background of dense forests. By giving up motor vehicles, you can go on foot or horseback on the trails and, once you reach the top, enjoy the spectacle that can be discovered from Mount Mitchell (2037 meters) or from Grandfather Mountain.
The Piedmont plateau in central North Carolina begins with the Fall Line, where the Appalachian Mountains drop sharply. Raleigh, a small modern capital, with its two universities and three museums, is one of the vertices of the “Research Triangle”, while the other two are Chapel Hill, with the oldest university in the United States, and Durham (Duke University). These last two cities have the merit of having been able to preserve the ornament of a lot of greenery and gardens enclosed by white fences in their old houses. In Old Salem, where 18th-century buildings have been restored, girls in period costumes stroll the shady boulevards, moving gracefully in an unreal setting.
Cultural tourist places– Among the cultural institutions of North Carolina stands the North Carolina Museum of Art, in the city of Raleigh. Other notable ones are the Ackland Art Museum, the Weatherspoo Art Gallery, the Greensboro Historical Museum, the North Carolina Museum of History, the Museum of Natural Sciences in Charlotte, the Catawba Museum of Anthropology, and the Charlotte Science Museum. Other places of historical and cultural interest are Roanoke Island, where the remains of the first English settlement in America are found, and the parks where the battles of Moore Creek, 1776, and Bentonville (1865) are commemorated.
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Tourists are especially drawn to North Carolina’s beaches, countless golf and tennis opportunities (including the world-famous golf courses at Pinehurst), and the state’s mountain parks and landscapes. Sites of particular interest are the battlefields at Guilford Courthouse, Moore Creek Bridge, Bennett Place, near Hillsborough, where the last great Confederate army surrendered, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk. With more than 500 golf courses throughout the state, North Carolina is often dubbed the “Golf Capital of the World”.
Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout protect the beauty of the Outer Banks, together they cover 23,700 hectares. The Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Park Service-operated scenic drive that winds through the Blue Ridge in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, attracts millions of visitors to North Carolina each year. Another popular attraction is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles Tennessee and North Carolina.
Fun Fact – North Carolina has teams in two of the most popular professional leagues in the United States: the Charlotte Hornets, in basketball; and the Carolina Panthers, in that of American football.