The Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, NC is an amazing National Park to take the kids for a visit. Surprisingly moving and absolutely memorable, it's a great reason to plan a family vacation to the Outer Banks.
Within days of moving to North Carolina, the Wright Brothers were on our minds. Our license plates boast NC's claim to fame as First in Flight and when given the option of plate designs, I absolutely chose the one that featured Orville and Wilbur Wrights amazing flying machine.
It took us a few years to finally find the time to plan a family trip to the Outer Banks where Kitty Hawk and the national flight memorial is located. It took our daughter's fourth grade school project on lighthouses to spur our trip. We wanted to visit the NC lighthouses and the Wright Brothers Memorial all in one weekend.
When I planned the trip, the Wright Bros Memorial was just a checklist on our agenda. What I didn't see coming was being moved to tears by the park ranger's presentation during our visit. I found the memorial to be highly inspiring and moving. It was BY FAR my favorite part of our entire weekend.
When you consider the bravery and tenacity it took for the brothers to persist through so many failed attempts at flight and the impact their invention has had on the modern world, you can't help but stare at the dunes that hosted the first flight in total awe.
Our kids couldn't even imagine a world in which airplanes did not exist. Technology today is moving so quickly, this was a wonderful reminder of a more basic time and the power and lasting impact of invention.
I highly recommend the Wright Brothers National Memorial for a family vacation destination, here's everything you need to know to prep your kids to get the most out of this adventure.
Where was the Wright Brothers' first flight?
The Wright Brothers National Memorial is located on the same site as their first flight: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Though Orville and Wilbur Wright were born in Ohio, they came to North Carolina's Outer Banks to test their flying machines because of the high amount of wind available there.
Who are the Wright Brothers and why are they are so important?
Our kids had never even heard of Orville and Wilbur Wright before our visit to the Wright Brothers Memorial. I recommend watching this fun StoryBots video with them before you go. It's short and sweet, even my middle-school aged daughter got a kick out of it:
Take a peek at historic pictures of the Wright Brothers and their plane:
You won't find the original Wright Flyer at the National Memorial, so if you want your kids to be familiar with the kind of plane they invented, take a peek at this excellent article from National Geographic Kids. It's an excellent brief explanation of who they were and pictures of their incredible flying machine here.
Where is the first Wright Brothers' plane on display?
You can see the original Wright Flyer on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
I think visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial and seeing the site where they first flew the plane before you see the exhibit in D.C. would be really incredible, but whichever is easier for you to do first is the right way to go. We can't wait to get back to Washington to see the plane ourselves.
What is There To See at the Wright Brother's Memorial?
I highly recommend stopping immediately for the park ranger's presentation. It was the very first thing we did and it completely changed my perception of the entire memorial and the importance of the Wright Brothers themselves.
The presentation took about 30 minutes and was entertaining for each of us.
From there we went to view the commemoration stone placed on the site of the first flight. The stone was placed 25 years after the successful flight and renowned pilots came to celebrate the milestone. You can see a photo of Amelia Earhart standing beside the stone in its current position.
I've long been intrigued by Earhart, so standing quite literally in her footsteps was an amazing feeling.
Finally, on top of Kill Devil Hill, you can find the Wright Brothers Monument, our nation's tribute to their achievement. To view the monument up close, there's a long uphill walk along a paved path. The weather was picking up and a thunderstorm was rolling in during our visit. The park rangers discouraged us from going to the top of the hill for fear of lightning striking. So, I highly recommend visiting on a clear day if you want to see the monument.
You can read more about the national park hours and plan your visit using the National Park Service's web site here.