Wright Brothers National Memorial commemorates two ingenious brothers from Dayton, Ohio, who, in 1900, chose the sparsely populated area known as the Outer Banks to conduct a series of experiments that three years later resulted in the world’s first powered, sustained and controlled flight. Orville and Wilbur Wright traveled to the Outer Banks for their flight experiments because of the wind, slopes without trees or shrubs and sandy soil for soft landings. On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers were successful with four powered flights. The first lasted 12 seconds and carried Orville 120 feet, and the last, longest flight lasted 59 seconds and carried Wilbur 852 feet. The story of these brothers embodies the American ideal of hard work overcoming obstacles.
The memorial includes a visitors center* with a bookstore, exhibits on the Wright brothers and full-scale replicas of both the 1902 Wright Glider and the 1903 Wright Flyer. On the grounds a six-ton granite boulder marks the take-off spot and the smaller markers of all four flights that took place on December 17. There are replica buildings of the Wright brothers’ living quarters and hangar. The Centennial Pavilion includes exhibits on the Wright Flyer, the 100 Years of Powered Flight, NASA and the future of flight and the Outer Banks at the turn of the century. A 30-minute film is shown daily in the pavilion auditorium on the Wright brothers. There is a gift shop filled with Wright brothers’ memorabilia such as t-shirts, hats, outerwear, kites, glassware, die-cast plane replicas and models.
On top of the 90-foot dune known as Big Kill Devil Hill is a 63-foot granite monument. Climb the hill for a striking view of Kill Devil Hills, the ocean and the sound.
Wright Brothers National Memorial is open seven days a week, year round, with the exception of Christmas Day. The visitor center and centennial pavilion are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The admission fee is $7 per person for ages 16 and older and is good for seven days. Children and teens ages 15 and younger get in free, and seniors ages 62 and older get in free with a Senior Pass. An annual admission pass is $30.
* Note: From November 2016 to late summer/fall of 2018, the visitors center on the grounds of the Wright Brothers National Memorial will be closed for a renovation project. This renovation is bringing improvements to the building's infrastructure as well as the installation of brand-new interactive exhibits. Due to the smaller size of a temporary visitors center on the grounds, plan to spend most of your time visiting the outdoor areas of this national park.