North Carolina: History’s Havens

If history’s your cup of tea, come to North Carolina to whet your appetite for the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution. Historic sites preserve significant preludes to the war in destinations you’ll want to discover for pure pleasure.

Moores Creek National Battlefield. Photo courtesy of Visit NC.


In this Colonial-era capital renowned for waterside beauty and remarkable architecture, socialite Penelope Barker became the first American woman to organize a political act, 1774’s Edenton Tea Party. Barker and 50 other women signed a resolution vowing to stop buying tea and other British imports. Once word reached England, the “Society of Patriotic Ladies” was satirized in a political cartoon.

Travelers can embrace the story at Barker House, a welcome center and museum overlooking the Albemarle Sound. Views of history extend to adjacent Colonial Park with the Edenton Trolley Tour, Edenton Bay Cruises aboard the Liber-Tea, and the scene-stealing 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse.

Historic moments continue with the story of Harriet Jacobs, the first woman to publish a fugitive slave narrative. Get a taste of the past at The Herringbone on the Waterfront, a 19th-century herring icehouse reborn as an upscale casual restaurant. Lose yourself in streetscapes with nearly 350 homes, gardens and other structures that span 250 years. Not to miss: Cupola House, the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse and the James Iredell House.


Amid rising calls for independence, Halifax made history with the first official action by an entire colony calling for independence. North Carolina’s Fourth Provincial Congress met in the Roanoke River town on April 12, 1776, and unanimously adopted the Halifax Resolves. Visitors to Halifax State Historic Site can survey the action in a 13-minute film, then take a self-guided tour of the site, which includes the 1838 jail and 1790 Eagle Tavern. A well-timed visit might include costumed interpreters and craft demonstrations.

The site is also home to a stop on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, which continues at River Falls Park in Weldon and the Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail in Roanoke Rapids. The scenic 7.5-mile trail includes an 18th-century engineering marvel: an aqueduct that spans 35 feet in a single arch. Loaner bikes are available.


The Patriots scored their first decisive victory nearly two months before Paul Revere’s famous ride. Fortified by Highland Scottish settlers from the area that’s now Fayetteville, a Loyalist force of 1,600 (including heroine Flora MacDonald’s husband) took on 1,000 Patriot militiamen on the bridge at Moores Creek northwest of Wilmington. The last broadsword charge by Scottish Highlanders ended in swift defeat. The 88-acre site, preserved as the Moores Creek National Battlefield, holds commemorative events while welcoming visitors to explore landscapes ranging from dry pine forests to a wet-pine savanna.

Travelers can seize more moments in nearby Wilmington, home of Civil War sites; the Battleship North Carolina, a World War II memorial; and the wilmingtoNColor tour, which details the only successful coup d’état on U.S. soil. East of the battlefield at Topsail Beach, the Missiles and More Museum preserves the story of a top-secret Naval operation from World War II.

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