Taking Flight: Visiting the Wright Brothers Memorial with Kids
Everything you need to know about visiting the Wright Brothers Memorial with kids! The Wright Brothers National Memorial is a great national park to visit with kids. It has a small visitors center, with lots of accessible information including a replica of the plane the Wright brothers flew for the first powered flight.
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Where is the Wright Brothers Memorial?
The Wright Brothers Memorial is in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Part of the Outer Banks, it is close to some great beaches. We stayed in South Nags Head, NC, and visited the memorial when we needed a break from the beach. Located right off the main road through the Outer Banks, the address is 1000 North Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948.
We visited the Wright Brothers Memorial with kids as part of our Epic Cross-Country Road Trip over the summer of 2021. This road trip was the first leg of our Family Year Out. Check out all of our family travel tips.
How Much does it Cost to Go to the Wright Brothers Memorial?
The Wright Brothers Memorial is part of the National Park System, so your National Park Pass covers your admission. Without an annual park pass, adults are $10 (as of 2023), children (15 and under) are free.
If you’ll be visiting three or more National Parks, preserves, or monuments, be sure to get an Annual Park Pass. Good for 12 months from purchase, it makes entering and exiting all the National Parks simple and easy.
Buy Now: American the Beautiful National Parks Pass
Every year, 4th graders are eligible to get a free annual park pass for their families through the Every Kid Outdoors program.
What is There to Do at the Wright Brothers Memorial?
Your visit to the Wright Brothers Memorial can include the Visitors Center and Museum, the Wright Brothers Reconstructed Hanger and Workshop, First Flight Markers, the Wright Brothers Monument, and the Centennial Sculpture.
The Wright Brothers Vistors Center
The Wright Brothers visitors center is not huge but has an interesting and accessible set of exhibits. There are videos and sections that are easy for young minds to take in, as well as more advanced texts that explain the physics and scientific principles behind flight.
The highlight of the visitor’s center is the full-size replica of the 1903 flyer that the Wright Brothers successfully flew just outside.
Where is the Original Wright Brothers Plane Located Today?
The original plane is part of the Smithsonian collection. It is currently on display at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
The Reconstructed Flight Hanger and Workshop
Outside the visitors center, you’ll find the Wright Brothers reconstructed flight hanger (empty), and more interestingly, their workshop and living quarters. You can see where they worked and slept when experimenting with flights launching from the nearby sand dunes.
This is a great way to see what conditions were like when the Wright Brothers chose to work at Kill Devil Hills. There was little around or available- they slept in slings and ate mostly canned foods.
Why did the Wright Brothers Choose this Location?
As you walk around the Wright Brothers Memorial it’s easy to see one of the reasons that the Wright Brothers chose this location- the wind! The sand dunes that now hold the Wright Brothers Memorial have been stabilized with grasses.
When the Wright Brothers were experimenting here, these were shifting sand dunes. The combination of sand (soft landings), and sustained winds, were crucial to their work.
The First Flight Markers
One of the most visually striking parts of the Wright Brothers Memorial is the First Flight Markers. A granite stone marks where the plane left the ground for the first flight on December 17, 1903.
There are numbered flight markers that show where each of the first four flights landed. In the visitor center, you’ll see a graph that also outlines the wobbly path of each of these flights.
How Long was the First Flight?
The first successful flight was 12 seconds long, and the plane traveled only 120 feet. Orville piloted the first flight, with the help of his brother Wilbur. The fourth and final flight of the day was 59 seconds long and traveled a whopping 852 feet.
The Wright Brothers Monument
From the First Flight Markers, you can walk to the Wright Brothers Monument which is at the top of the nearby sand dune. You can also drive to the base of the monument if you prefer to shorten the walk.
This monument honors the Wright Brothers. It is a 60 feet tall, five-sided star that stands on the top of the sand dune that the brothers used for glider flights before the powered flight.
Hiking up the monument is a great way to stretch little legs, you’ll be rewarded with great views from the top.
The Centennial Sculpture
Behind the memorial, you’ll find the Centennial Sculpture, a re-enactment of the first flight. This sculpture was added to the site on December 17, 2003, to celebrate the centennial of the first flight.
Made of bronze and stainless steel, this includes a full-size flyer and all the participants that were there that day for the first flight. This is an interactive sculpture and you are free to walk through the scene and take pictures with all the people that participated in the first flight.
Who Were the Wright Brothers?
The Wright Brothers were Wilbur and Orville Wright. Born in Dayton, Ohio, they were businessmen who became obsessed with the idea of manned flight. Before their first successful powered flight in North Carolina, they refined their piloting skills with over 1,000 glider flights from the nearby sand dunes.
After their history-making flights in December of 1903, they continued to refine their glider. By 1905 they were making circling flights of up to 38 minutes.
Is the Wright Brothers Memorial Good for Kids?
Yes, the Wright Brothers Memorial is great for kids- many of the exhibits are visual and easy for young kids to digest. There are also several outdoor components that allow the kids to run around. Our kids were 4 and 6 1/2 when we visited, and both of them had a good time (and hopefully learned something!)
How Long Does it Take to Tour the Wright Brothers Memorial?
We spent about an hour and a half at the site, though we breezed through some of the more complicated portions of the visitors center. You could spend up to three hours, depending on the age of your kids and their level of interest in the mechanics of flight.
Why is the Wright Brothers Memorial Important?
The Wright Brothers Memorial commemorates the first powered flight of a heavier-than-air vehicle. It chronicles the experiments of Wilbur and Orville Wright, who spent three years at the site doing experiments before finally succeeding.
Where to Stay to Visit the Wright Brothers Memorial
One of the great things about the Wright Brothers Memorial is that it’s so close to the wonderful family-friendly beaches of the Outer Banks in North Carolina!
Family-Friendly Budget Hotel: We recommend staying at Sea Horse Inn & Cottages in South Nag’s Head. This simple Inn is just across from beach access and Jeannette’s Pier and within walking distance of great ice cream!
Check Availability: Sea Horse Inn & Cottages
There You Have It: Wright Brothers Memorial with Kids
We loved visiting the Wright Brothers Memorial with kids! It was an easy, fun outing. We enjoyed the easily digestible visuals around the park and climbing up to the memorial. We have found that the smaller National Parks are often the best ones for us!
Spending more time in North Carolina? The Oconaluftee Village in Cherokee, NC is a great educational stop for families. Visiting off-season? Check out all the things to do in Charlotte in Winter.