What to Expect at the Wright Brothers National Memorial

Here’s our complete photo review of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, with everything you can expect to experience during your visit.

What-to-Expect-at-the-Wright-Brothers-National-Memorial

For some years I’ve been afflicted with the belief that flight is possible to man…” Wilbur Wright (May 13, 1900)

 

 

To arrive at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina for a wedding last week, I thought nothing of booking a last-minute, one-hour flight.

And yet walking through the Wright Brothers National Memorial, I realized that – just a little over 100 years ago – such an everyday occurrence would’ve been an impossible dream…

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Chris and I were fascinated by everything we learned from our visit to the Wright Brothers Memorial. And our two-year-old, Trevor, enjoyed the experience too.

Here’s our complete photo review of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, with everything you can expect to experience during your visit.

(Plus a few fascinating facts we picked up during our time touring the site!):

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As you pull into the parking lot at the Wright Brothers Memorial, the first thing you may notice is that the grounds aren’t picturesque.

On the day we visited, which was a rainy and gloomy day in late October, the area felt really desolate. At first, I was disappointed that our visit wouldn’t be scenic.

Fascinating Fact: As we learned while exploring the site, the memorial grounds aren’t beautiful. But the grounds are very significant because they mark the location of the first successful flights of the Wright Brothers. The brothers specifically chose this location, amidst the vast sand dunes of the Outer Banks, as ideal for experimenting with flying. The brothers were looking for an area that had steady winds and was clear of obstructions (like trees and buildings).

Fascinating Fact: In 1903, “Kitty Hawk” was noted as the site of the Wright brothers’ first successful flights. But you’ll find that the Wright Brothers National Memorial is actually located in a town called Kill Devil Hills. The brothers referred to the area as “Kitty Hawk” because Kill Devil Hills didn’t yet exist in 1903!

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The Wright Brothers Memorial Tower

After checking out the grounds, the next thing you’ll probably notice is a beautiful gray granite memorial tower perched on top of Kill Devil Hill.

We began our visit by walking up the paved pathway to the top of the hill. It’s an easy five-minute climb.

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It’s possible to get up close to the monument, which towers toward the sky with a light beacon on the top.

Inscribed around the bottom of the monument is a quote that reads, “in commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.”

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Also from the top of Kill Devil Hill, you can take in the entire vista of the memorial.

Trevor has been on over a dozen flights, and thinks nothing of it. We loved showing him the land where those first incredible flights happened over 100 years ago.

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The Wright Brothers Memorial Fields

After checking out the tower, we took a stroll through the memorial fields.

The first stone monument we saw marked an important location in the history of flight. It reads, “The first successful flight of an airplane was made from this spot…”

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Next, we walked the actual routes of that fateful day for the Wright brothers, which happened on December 17, 1903.

There are stone markers that commemorate each of the four test flights that the Wilbur brothers flew on that day.

Fascinating Fact: The first flights on that momentous day in 1903 were incredibly short! As we read on the stone markers, the first flight lasted for only 12 seconds and covered a distance of only 120 feet! By the fourth and final flight of the day, the flyer covered a distance of 852 feet and remained airborne for 59 seconds.

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On the day we visited, some small yellow prop planes flew over the memorial fields. Trevor, of course, loved watching them zoom by. It was fascinating to think how far we’ve progressed in just one hundred years!

Next on the fields, we saw two tiny wooden buildings.

One was a replica of the Wright brothers’ living quarters, and the other was a replica of the shed they used to house the flyer.

Both replicas were based on historic photos, and it’s possible to explore inside and imagine how the brothers lived. During their time experimenting with flying, the brothers lived very simply with just the most basic staples at their base camp.

Fascinating Fact: The brothers worked for three years before their first successful flights in 1903. They experienced many set-backs and failures before their final success. After a series of discouragements, they almost quit in 1901. Wilbur, giving up hope, was quoted as saying, “not within a thousand years would man ever fly“!

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The Wright Brothers Visitor Center

The last part of the memorial that we explored was the indoor visitor center.

The main draw to this museum is a full-size replica of the original Wright Flyer. (The original is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.)

Fascinating Fact: The plane had room for one person, the pilot. Both Wright brothers took turns as the pilot during that first test-run in 1903. The pilot lay on his stomach on the lower wing of the plane. There was a cradle that warped the wings and turned the rudder, which was attached to the pilot’s hips. This allowed the pilot to control and steer the plane.

The museum includes original tools and machines used by the Wright brothers to conduct their flying experiments. There’s a reproduction of a wind tunnel that the brothers used to build the wings of the planes.

The museum also honors many other inventors who dreamed of and experimented with the possibility of flight.

Fascinating Fact: as you’ll learn as you explore the Wright Brothers Memorial, the Wright Brothers weren’t the “inventors of the airplane.” In fact, during their lifetime, there were many engineers, scientists, and dreamers who were experimenting with the idea of flying and building aircraft. The Wright brothers are credited with achieving the first “heavier-than-air, controlled” flight. In other words, they created the first aircraft that allowed a pilot to steer and power a sustained flight.

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Before we left the Visitor Center, we saw a board on display that encouraged visitors to write down their “impossible dreams” and post them to the wall. Most of the dreams we saw on the wall were written by children.

It was fascinating for me to imagine what two-year-old Trevor will experience in his lifetime. Things that Chris and I can’t even imagine…

Overall, we loved the Wright Brothers National Memorial for a couple of reasons:

  • We gained a fuller picture of the Wright brothers’ lives and their struggles. They worked tirelessly through countless failures. But it all led to an incredible victory.
  • We appreciated how the monument is a living tribute to the power of innovative thinking. It encourages all of us to believe in and pursue our highest dreams.

 

Here are all of the questions we had before going to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, plus all the answers we found after visiting:

Wright Brothers National Memorial

1000 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948

When Is the Wright Brothers National Memorial Open?

It’s open every day, seven days a week, from 9am-5pm.

How Much Does It Cost to Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial?

Admission is $10 per person. Children 15 and under are free! The memorial has plenty of space for parking.

How Much Time Should We Plan to Spend at the Wright Brothers National Memorial?

In order to check out everything – the tower, the fields and first flight markers, and the visitor center – plan to spend about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Is the Wright Brothers National Memorial An Outdoor Attraction?

Most parts of the memorial – including the first flight markers, fields, and tower – are outside. The Visitor Center is an indoor museum with restrooms and a gift shop.

Is The Wright Brothers National Memorial For Children?

Trevor loved visiting the memorial! There was plenty of open space for Tru to roam and explore, so it was perfect for him. Like a lot of young kids, he loves planes! So he liked checking out the airplane models that are located inside the Visitor Center. There are also some interesting, interactive exhibits that older children will enjoy.

 

For More on Traveling to North Carolina, Check Out:

The Ultimate Kid-Friendly Beach Destination for Families

 

 

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