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40+ of the Most Amazing Museums in North Carolina (for ALL Ages!)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on May 13, 2024.

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Want to learn more about our wonderful state and have fun doing it? Look no further than these amazing museums in North Carolina.

Since we’ve visited more than a few, it’s time that we shared some of our favorites from all over. All of these places appeal to our little ones, but also to us. That’s because we’re curious about the place we call home, too.

If you’re searching for specific museums in North Carolina, we’ve organized this post into the following sections:

Read More: The NC Bucket List

Museums in North Carolina (Western)

We spend a lot of time exploring Western North Carolina but have also noticed some of the most fun museums in North Carolina reside in mountain towns there.

Read More: 30+ Great Things to Do in Boone (Hikes, Eats, and More in App Town)

Asheville Art Museum

Address: 2 S Pack Square, Asheville, NC

Asheville Art Museum

We think the Asheville Art Museum is one of the most underrated museums in North Carolina. It’s right in the middle of downtown Asheville and a great complement to the city’s fun things to do.

Inside, you’ll find an awesome contemporary art collection and thought-provoking special exhibits.

Read More: 25 Incredible Asheville Restaurants for Your Next Meal Out!

Asheville Pinball Museum

Address: 1 Battle Square Ste 1b, Asheville, NC

At the Asheville Pinball Museum, there’s no need for a pocket full of quarters. Why? Because admission grants you unlimited access to over 80 classic games!

With a limited number of occupancy, plan your visit accordingly and understand that there might be a wait, especially on rainy days in Asheville.

Read More: 25+ of the Best Breweries in Asheville (South Slope, Downtown, and Nearby Towns!)

Biltmore Estate

Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC

Museums in North Carolina Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC

Biltmore Estate was built by George Vanderbilt’s family and things haven’t really changed since its completion.

The house is still family-owned, as Vanderbilt’s descendants remain involved in the day-to-day operations. Be sure to tour the house, gardens, and also stop off at the winery!

Read More: How to Enjoy Christmas at Biltmore

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

Address: 1800 Little River Rd, Flat Rock, NC

Museums in North Carolina Carl Sandburg Home

Walk in the shoes of one of America’s most famous poets at the Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock (near Hendersonville). The property is an amazing National Parks site that’s open to the public.

Sandburg spent the last two decades of his life at Connemara and you can learn about it, the historic goats, and take in the beautiful surroundings.

Read More: 50+ Great Things to Do With Kids in Asheville (and Nearby!)

Earl Scruggs Center

Address: 103 S Lafayette St, Shelby, NC

Museums in North Carolina Earl Scruggs Center Shelby

The Earl Scruggs Center honors the Cleveland County native and the cultural and historic traditions of the Shelby area. Permanent exhibits mix with rotating ones to explore Scruggs’s life, career, and more topics that will keep you coming back for more.

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Museum of the Cherokee People

Address: 589 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee, NC

Museum of the Cherokee People

Witness the retelling of 11,000-plus years of history at the Museum of the Cherokee People. With multiple permanent and rotating exhibits, this building in Cherokee is one you should visit if you want to find a “Model for Museums.”

Read More: Mingo Falls in Cherokee

Scottish Tartans Museum and Heritage Center

Address: 86 E Main St, Franklin, NC

Scottish Tartans Musem Franklin NC

Franklin’s Scottish Tartan Museum and Heritage Center has served as a public information source about Scottish Highland Dress traditions.

The museum also has exhibits that cover Scottish immigration to the region and visitors can learn even more with a volunteer-led guided tour.

Read More: Wayah Bald Tower (and the Best Views in Franklin)

Smoky Mountains Train Museum

Address: 100 Greenlee St, Bryson City, NC

Museums in North Carolina Smoky Mountains Train Musuem

While you wait to ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad from Bryson City, check out the Smoky Mountains Train Museum. Admission is free with a train ticket and you’ll have access to a collection of 7,000 Lionel engines, a children’s activity center, and more.

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)

The Wheels Through Time Museum

Address: 62 Vintage Ln, Maggie Valley, NC

Wheels Through Time motorcyles

The Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum in Maggie Valley draws motorcyclists (and people who like fun and fast bikes) nationwide. We once sat across from Jason Momoa at BearWaters Brewing while he was in Maggie Valley to check it out!

Home to the world’s best collection of rare American motorcycles and memorabilia, this amazing museum in Western NC is a memorable experience for advanced riders and motorcycle newbies.

Read More: 20+ Great Things to Do in Waynesville and Nearby!

Wilson Center for Nature Discovery

Address: 1104 Grandfather Mountain Entrance Rd, Linville, NC

Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum

While enjoying Grandfather Mountain’s paths and Mile-high Swinging Bridge, take a moment and check out the Nature Museum inside the park.

Near Banner Elk and Boone in the High Country, you’ll find exhibits dedicated to the natural history of this mountain. Nearby are wildlife habitats with black bears, bald eagles, and other wonderful animals.

Read More: Things to Do in Blowing Rock

Central North Carolina Museums

With the state’s largest cities and some cool small towns, too, Central North Carolina has some of the best museums in North Carolina and here are our favorites.

Ava Gardner Museum

Address: 325 E Market St, Smithfield, NC

Ava Gardner Museum

Smithfield’s Ava Gardner Museum recognizes one of Hollywood’s most famous actress/singers who just so happens to be a Johnston County native. Visitors can check out Gardner’s costumes, awards, rare movie posters, and much more. 

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Address: 420 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Charlotte NC
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art was only the second in the country designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. This Charlotte museum includes works by some of the most important artists of the mid 20th century, including Giacometti, Picasso, Warhol, Hepworth, and more.

From the four-story glass atrium to the bold and dramatic fourth-floor gallery, the exterior of this art gallery is just as impressive as the works inside of it.

Visiting the amazing Bechtler is one of our favorite things to do in Charlotte and you’ll see why.

Read More: Children’s Museums in North Carolina

Bennett Place

Address: 4409 Bennett Memorial Rd, Durham, NC

Facts About North Carolina Bennett Place Durham NC End of Civil War Surrender
Bennett Place.

Many folks might not know that Bennett Place in Durham is where Joseph E. Johnston met with William T. Sherman as part of the largest surrender of the American Civil War.

That prompted Robert E. Lee’s surrender in Appomattox just 17 days later, ending the Civil War.

Learn about this historical moment at the visitor center or attend one of the living history programs.

Read More: Things to Do in Durham

Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh (CAM)

Address: 409 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC

The Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh (CAM) lives up to its name thanks to a constantly rotating exhibit lineup.

We’ve enjoyed walking around during our weekend visits to Oak City, but they’re also open on Thursdays and Fridays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays by appointment. 

Read More: Free Things to Do in Raleigh

Discovery Place Science

Address: 168 W 6th St, Charlotte, NC

At Discovery Place Science, you can tinker, manipulate, observe, and participate. This is THE place for the next generation of scientists and creatives that are going to mold and change our world.

Get creepy crawly in the Bug Lab, hop into a jungle rainforest in World Alive, or get your hands dirty in one of the Explore More labs.

Read More: The Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte and Why We’ll Be Back

Greensboro Science Center

Address: 4301 Lawndale Dr, Greensboro, NC

Museums in North Carolina Greensboro Science Center

One of our favorite museums in North Carolina is the Greensboro Science Center. It’s hard to top their aquarium, museum, and zoo. And outside, you’ll find SKYWILD, a treetop adventure park where you can zip, slide, climb, and fly through the trees.

Read More: The Historic Magnolia House in Greensboro (an Excellent Former Green Book Hotel)

Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture

Address: 551 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC

The Gantt (short for the Harvey B Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture) is part of the Levine Center for the Arts in Charlotte.

The Gantt’s location and design offers quite a bit of insight into Black history in Charlotte. Today’s museum resides in the razed Brooklyn neighborhood that once was a Black community hub.

The demolished Myers Street School, once the Queen City’s only African-American public school, inspired its outer aesthetic. Inside, you’ll find exhibits dedicated to Black history, art, and culture in North Carolina and beyond.

Read More: Hilton Charlotte Center City and Why We’ll Be Back

International Civil Rights Museum

Address: 134 S Elm St, Greensboro, NC

International Civil Rights Center Greensboro NC Museums

Greensboro’s International Civil Rights Museum memorializes a courageous moment in our history—the sit-in movement. Today, you can stroll through the museum which remembers the A&T Four and the American Civil Rights Movement through exhibits and videos.

Read More: Important Places to Visit and Learn Black History in North Carolina

Miriam P. Brenner Children’s Museum

Address: 220 N Church St, Greensboro, NC

Museums in North Carolina Greensboro Childrens Museum Image
Outside at the Miriam P. Brenner Children’s Museum.

The first of a few awesome things to do in Greensboro (especially with kids) is the Miriam P. Brenner Children’s Museum, formerly known as the Greensboro Children’s Museum.

With more than 20 permanent hands-on exhibits and plenty of outdoor space, this place has tons for you and the little ones to explore.

It’s perfect for children of all ages from infants to big kids! The outdoor section has awesome 30-foot Neptune XXL Climbers for every adventurer.

Read More: Fun Museums in Greensboro (Kid-Friendly, Contemporary Art, and More!)

Museum of Life and Science

Address: 433 W Murray Ave, Durham, NC

Museum of Life and Science Durham NC

Have you ever seen baby red wolves or built a tornado with your hands? Durham’s Museum of Life and Science (MLS) is an interactive science museum that’s great for all ages.

Their huge outdoor section has treehouses, butterfly garden, lemurs, and spray ground, which makes it just as impressive as the indoor space.

Read More: Things to Do With Kids in Durham

NASCAR Hall of Fame

Address: 400 E M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Charlotte, NC

Inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte NC Image

If you’ve ever driven through North Carolina, you’ll think it’s only fitting that we also house the NASCAR Hall of Fame! Just 25 minutes away from Charlotte Motor Speedway, The Hall of Fame pays respect to former drivers, crew chiefs, and major contributors to NASCAR.

There’s even a 33-degree banked ramp similar to Talladega Superspeedway, which is filled with 18 different cars, several rotating exhibits, the Hall of Honor, and simulators.

Read More: Things to Do in Concord and Cabarrus County

North Carolina Museum of Art

Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh, NC

Museums in North Carolina NC Museum of Art Raleigh

The perfect place to start a date night, the NCMA has a free permanent collection as well as impressive past exhibitions like Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe, and You Are Here.

Wear some comfortable walking shoes and visit The Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park trails, which connect to the Capital Area Greenway. We shared more about the museum, its backstory, and why we keep coming back here.

Read More: Date Night in Raleigh

North Carolina Museum of History

Address: 5 E Edenton St, Raleigh, NC
NC Museum of History Closure Begins in 2024

NC Museum of History Raleigh

Free and open every day, North Carolina Museum of History has exhibits on the Tar Heel State, NC Sports Hall of Fame and a replica of Raleigh’s 1920s J.C. Brantley Drugstore.

These wonderful exhibits make the Raleigh museum special on their own, but the temporary and special exhibits boost this one near the top of our favorite museums in North Carolina.

NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Address: 11 W Jones St, Raleigh, NC

NC Museum of Natural Sciences Raleigh

The NC Museum of Natural Sciences is easy to recognize by the giant metal globe exterior. On the inside, it is filled with beautifully curated exhibits and houses creatures that live in North Carolina.

And the best part? It’s free! The bucket list-worthy events happening at this museum are another part of the story. Astronomy Days and BugFest are included in our guide to kid-friendly events in North Carolina.

Read More: Winter Things to Do in Raleigh

NC Transportation Museum

Address: 1 Samuel Spencer Dr, Spencer, NC

Museums in North Carolina Spencer NC Transportation Museum

60 acres of trains, automobiles, tractors, and fun await you at the NC Transportation Museum! Located in Spencer, this place commemorates Spencer Shops, once the Southern Railroad’s large steam locomotive repair facility on the east coast.

There, you can go on a train ride or attend the Fire Truck Festival, Days out with Thomas, or The Polar Express Train Ride!

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Old Salem Museum and Gardens

Address: 900 Old Salem Rd, Winston-Salem, NC

Museums in North Carolina Old Salem

Old Salem is a historic town that’s now a part of Winston-Salem. It also serves as an educational tool and showcases North Carolina’s Moravians in the late 18th century.

One can easily spend a day or more visiting the various shops, historic buildings, gardens, and everything else that makes up the place.

Read More: Interesting Facts About North Carolina

Reynolda House Museum of American Art

Address: 2250 Reynolda Rd, Winston-Salem, NC

Museums in North Carolina Reynolda House Winston Salem

Reynolda House is an American Art Museum and exhibition house designed and decorated by the Reynolds family in 1917. Complete with a bowling alley, squash court, indoor pool, and luxurious interior design, you can transport yourself back in time.

The nearby gardens have some cool designs and are a great spot for throwing down a blanket and relaxing for a while.

Read More: Museums in Winston-Salem

Eastern North Carolina Museums

Most folks head to the Coast to check out the water, but there are also some pretty fun museums found here!

Battleship North Carolina

Address: 1 Battleship Rd NE, Wilmington, NC

Museums in North Carolina Battleship NC

A piece of history is docked in the waters in downtown Wilmington. Battleship North Carolina is one of our favorite things to do and also, one of our favorite museums in North Carolina’s Port City.

Join the families and friends who walk the deck and learn about what life was like for soldiers on the USS North Carolina in the Pacific during World War II. 

Read More: Carolina Beach State Park (and 7 Great Things to Do There!)

Fort Fisher State Historic Site

Address: 1610 Fort Fisher Blvd S, Kure Beach, NC

Museums in North Carolina Fort Fisher State Historic State

One might not realize as they walk the scenic trail at Fort Fisher that this site was the Civil War’s largest amphibious battle. The Visitors Center offers education and recreations of the battle as well as artifacts recovered from sunken ships.

Parts of the fort remains can be seen along the trail and divers can grab a dive map and explore the wreckage of the blockade runner Condor just 700 yards off the beach.

Read More: 20+ Great Things to Do in Carolina Beach (and Nearby!)

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

Address: 59200 Museum Dr, Hatteras, NC

Museums in North Carolina Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum Hatteras

At the bottom of Hatteras Island, you’ll find the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. Here, you’ll find a commemoration of the 2,000-plus shipwrecks sunk off the Outer Banks.

That’s how the area got the name Graveyard of the Atlantic. There are also exhibits that touch upon maritime culture, history, wars, ghost ships, and more.

Graveyard of the Atlantic is housed under the North Carolina Maritime Museums.

Read More: Things to Do in Beaufort

NC Aquariums


North Carolina Museums NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island Image
Checking out the fishies at NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island.

Operating for over 40 years, NC Aquariums offer education, resources for rehabilitation, and research for marine creatures. Locations include the following:

Read More: Our Favorite Beaches in North Carolina

Oliver Nestus Freeman Roundhouse Museum

Address: 1202 Hines St SE, Wilson, NC

Museums in North Carolina Oliver Nestus Freeman Roundhouse Museum Wilson

Of all the museums in North Carolina, Wilson’s Oliver Nestus Freeman Roundhouse Museum might be the most unique building. Inside the “Roundhouse,” you’ll find a museum that offers insight into African-American life and contributions to the Wilson community, from slavery through today.

You’ll also find examples of work by the man who the house is named for. Freeman’s work accentuates this amazing museum in one of our favorite small towns.

Read More: Things to Do in Wilson

Tryon Palace

Address: 529 S Front St, New Bern, NC

Things to do in New Bern Tryon Palace

Tryon Palace is an ode to North Carolina’s first permanent capitol, which sat in New Bern until the original building was destroyed by fire in 1798.

Today, visitors can come and learn about its place in history, as well as tour the gardens and other historic buildings after starting at the North Carolina History Center. 

Read More: Things to do in New Bern

US Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum

Address: 100 Bragg Blvd, Fayetteville, NC

You can easily spend an entire morning (or longer) at the US Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville. With plenty to do inside and out, the main exhibit starts with the history of airborne and special operations from the 1940s to current units.

Spend a moment at Iron Mike, the 3,235-pound statue dedicated to all past, present, and future paratroopers or pause at Constant Vigilance, the first memorial for K9 soldiers killed in action.

Read More: Things to Do in Fayetteville

Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum

Address: Corner Of Main and, Gladden St, Washington, NC

Museums in North Carolina Underground Railroad Museum Washington

At the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum, you can learn about Washington and Beaufort County’s history of slavery. It’s probably the smallest of our museums in North Carolina, housed in a caboose, but there is plenty to discover inside.

The museum shares the story of enslaved people in the area including those who sought freedom from slavery.

As part of the National Parks Service’s “Underground Railroad Network to Freedom,” we think this is easily one of the most important places to learn about Black history in North Carolina.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Address: 1000 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills, NC

Wright Brothers National Memorial walking

If you ever wondered why North Carolina license plates read “First in Flight,” the Wright Brothers National Memorial will show you why.

Here, you’ll learn about the two brothers who changed the way we travel. You can also see all the steps and crashes it took to finally reach the sky in the Outer Banks town of Kill Devil Hills.

Read More: The Best Things to Do in the Outer Banks

Got Any Museums in North Carolina to Add?

Since you’ve gone through our favorite museums in North Carolina, we’d love to know which one you love the most.

Also, did we leave out one of your favorite museums in North Carolina?

We’d love to know more about it and might even try to visit really soon since we’re a bit addicted to learning about our state.

More Things to Do (Beyond Museums in North Carolina)

18 thoughts on “40+ of the Most Amazing Museums in North Carolina (for ALL Ages!)”

    • Hi Kelly, that sounds like a fun museum! Thanks for sharing and we’ll be on the lookout for it when we’re in Jackson County next.

  1. You should check out the south-central piedmont and visit Town Creek Indian Mound State Historic Site ( – Mount Gilead/Montgomery County), the Rankin Museum of American Heritage ( – Ellerbe/Richmond County), Discover Place Kids – Rockingham ( Rockingham/Richmond County), the Hamlet Depot & Museums ( – Hamlet/Richmond County), & The Museum of the Southeastern American Indian ( – Pembroke/Robeson County)

  2. The Schiele Museum in Gastonia, NC. They have interactive displays, nature trails, indian village, waterwheel grist mill and farm animals, a planetarium & much more.

  3. The Mint Museum in uptown Charlotte is an amazing collection of contemporary and older artwork. The Mint Museum on Randolph Road in Charlotte has one of the best ancient American art collections to be found, along with American ceramics, furniture and other artwork.

  4. The Richard Childress Racing Museum in Welcome, NC. RCR is the team Dale Earnhardt raced for, they have a lot of dale memorabilia and his race cars, along with exhibits and things from other drivers, etc.

  5. The Museum of History in Newton, NC in the historic 1924 Courthouse. The Harper House/Hickory History Center, an 1870’s Victorian Mansion in Hickory, NC. Murray’s Mill Historic District in Catawba, NC is a working grist mill and general store with amazing trails and a 28 feet high waterwheel. Hope you check them out!

  6. The Aurora Fossil Museum in Aurora NC is a huge hit with children of all ages. Admission is free, visitors can actually dig through fossil matrix in the huge outdoor pits and keep the fossilized sharks teeth, coral etc they find. Inside there are exhibits of fossilized megalodon teeth and , prehistoric whale skeleton s etc. Lots of fun.

  7. The Hickory Museum of Art is a part of the SALT Block. It’s a major cultural experience for the city and surrounding areas. Please check it out


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