MATTHEWS, N.C., March 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- For the first time in nine years the annual ranking of North Carolina's most visited museums and historic attractions has a new leader. The newly expanded North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh has replaced Asheville's Biltmore as the most visited attraction.
Attendance numbers from 2012 show a total of 1,220,814 people visited the NC Museum of Natural Sciences while Biltmore attracted 1,123,144 guests.
The NC Museum of Natural Sciences opened its innovative Nature Research Center last spring. Dr. Emlyn Koster, the Museum's new director, noted that "We are thrilled to witness the school, family and adult appetite to get up close to the work of scientists."
"Science museums have lately been searching for new and successful ways to engage every stage of learning with the wonders of science as well as with its relevance to the changing opportunities and challenges facing society and the environment. It is imperative for this remarkable Museum to continue to pinpoint ways of combining its wide popularity with its external usefulness," Dr. Koster added.
Charlotte's Discovery Place finished third with 762,261 guests. Rounding out the top five most visited museums and historic attractions were the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro with 761,964 and Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach with 739,780 visitors.
The annual survey of attendance at North Carolina's museums and historic attractions is conducted by Carolina Publishing Associates, the Matthews-based publisher of the Carolina Heritage Guide, Carolina Field Trips Magazine and the African American Heritage and Visitor's Guide.
Here are the top 30 most visited museums and historic attractions in North Carolina, along with their attendance numbers.
1. NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, 1,220,814; 2. Biltmore, Asheville, 1,123,144; 3. Discovery Place, Charlotte, 762,261; 4. North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, 761,964; 5. Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, 739,780; 6. Marbles Kids Museum, Raleigh, 611,048; 7. Fort Fisher State Historic Site, Kure Beach, 564,269; 8. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, 469,007; 9. North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville, 494,270; 10. Museum of Life and Sciences, Durham, 446,485.
11. NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, 444,308; 12. NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Kure Beach, 433,954; 13. NC Museum of History, Raleigh, 342,371; 14. NC Museum of Art, Raleigh, 288,032; 15. NC Maritime Museum, Beaufort, 286,504; 16. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Manteo, 283,177; 17. Natural Science Center of Greensboro, 280,755; 18. NC Aquarium at Roanoke Island, Manteo, 279,508; 19. Grandfather Mountain, Linville, 248,224; 20. Chimney Rock State Park in Chimney Rock, 212,436.
21. Battleship North Carolina, Wilmington, 211,043; 22. NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte, 184,771; 23. Schiele Museum of Natural History, Gastonia, 181,744; 24. Airborne Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville, 176,809; 25. Linville Caverns, Marion, 172,414; 26. Tryon Palace, New Bern, 172,073; 27. Mint Museums of Charlotte, 161,859; 28. Cherokee Cultural Attractions, Cherokee, 157,146; 29. Morehead Planetarium/Science Center, Chapel Hill, 147,825; and 30. Old Salem Museums & Gardens, Winston-Salem, 138,105.
SOURCE Carolina Publishing Associates