Travel the Wright Route

Ready to travel the Wright Route? Back in the early 1900s, the Wright brothers took most of the trip by train. Today, that's no longer an option, but we've provided a general outline of destinations to get you started. If you're feeling adventurous, there are suggested excursions along the Wright Route listed at the bottom of the page. 

Major Stops

Dayton, Ohio

 

The Wright brothers' story begins in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. It was there that Orville and Wilbur Wright owned a bicycle shop and first studied flight. In 1905, two years after their successful heavier-than-air powered flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the brothers developed and flew the Wright Flyer III, the world’s first practical, fully controllable airplane, at Huffman Prairie Flying Field in Dayton, Ohio.

Sites to visit while you're here:

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati was, and still is, a major railroad hub in the United States. The "Queen City" was a key stop for the Wright brothers as they traveled between Ohio and North Carolina. Union Terminal was completed in 1933 and was designed to accommodate 17,000 passengers and 216 trains a day.

Sites to visit while you're here:

Today, Union Terminal is home to the Cincinnati Museum Center which includes the Cincinnati History Museum, the Cincinnati History Library and Archives, The Children's Museum, the Museum of Natural History & Science, and the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater.

 

After a day of learning, head to one of the thousands of chili restaurants throughout the city (more than any other city in the world!). 

Norfolk, Virginia

According to Wilbur Wright's diary, he "bought some white pine and had it sawed up at J.E. Ethridge Co. [M]ill....The weather was nearly 100 Fahr. And I nearly collapsed" while in Norfolk, Virginia, on September 13, 1900.

Sites to visit while you're here:

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Known as "The Harbor of Hospitality," Elizabeth City was founded in 1793 and was an important stop for the Wright brothers. The Arlington Hotel provided a comfortable overnight stay as the Wrights searched for passage to Kitty Hawk. The “world’s first flight crew” was made up of Lifesavers from Kitty Hawk Lifesaving Station who traveled to Elizabeth City to assist the Orville and Wilbur with their experiments. Today, you can visit Waterfront Park to see where those Lifesavers landed and Mariners' Wharf, where Wilbur Wright contracted Captain Israel Perry to sail his Curlicue to Kitty Hawk on September 11, 1900 (Wilbur joined his brother two weeks later). 

Sites to visit while you're here:

Kitty Hawk & Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright flew for 12 seconds across the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, completing the first successful, heavier-than-air powered flight in human history. The Wright brothers sent the following telegram back home to their family in Dayton:

 

"Success. four flights Thursday morning all against twenty one mile wind  started from Level with engine power along average speed through air thirty one miles longest 57 seconds  inform Press home Christmas.  – Orevelle Wright"

You can visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial to learn more about Orville and Wilbur Wrights' experiences in Kitty Hawk and how their legacy of making the impossible, possible, continues to change the world today. 

Sites to visit while you're here: 

Excursions

Want to take a slight detour? Check out these excursions along the Wright Route:

The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., maintains the world's largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft and houses the original 1903 Wright Flyer.

The Fort Myer Historic District in Washington, D.C. celebrates the first military airplane in the world, built by the Wright brothers for the Army Signal Corps, which made its first flight at Fort Myer, Virginia, in September 1908. Note: Due to heightened security, this active base is not currently open to the public.

 

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, houses the Space Shuttle Discovery, a Concorde supersonic passenger airliner and thousands of aviation artifacts. 

Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Virginiais the site where enslaved Africans were first brought to North America. The site also tells the story of American Indians, Captain John Smith's journeys, the Civil War and Fort Monroe's importance to national defense from the past to the present day. 

​The Blue Ridge Parkway is America's longest linear park and runs for 469 miles through 29 counties in Virginia and North Carolina, linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

While the iconic Lighthouse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, is currently closed to climbing because of extensive renovations, you can still explore the grounds of the Lighthouse, the beach and the Pamlico Sound!

At Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, in Manteo, North Carolina, you can Learn about the history of the Carolina Algonquian, the first attempted English settlement in the the "New World," the Freedmen's Colony, and Reginald Fessenden, the "Father of Voice Radio."

Cycle the Route

Interested in cycling the route?  Use USBR 50 to cycle from Dayton, Ohio, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From there, jump on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited to D.C. in order to get a feel for Wright brothers' train experience, and then use the Atlantic Coast Adventure Cycling Route to get to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. 

According to Adventure Cycling, starting in D.C.:

 

“The route uses the Rock Creek Trail and the Capital Crescent Trail to take you to the Lincoln Memorial and the Potomac River. After crossing the Potomac, you'll ride another beautiful bike path to Mount Vernon, George Washington's residence from 1754 until his death.

 

"Then there are more urban areas in expanding northern Virginia, some quiet country roads, and increasing urbanization as you approach Richmond. The route uses the Virginia Capital Trail from Richmond to Jamestown. After crossing the James River on a ferry, you'll head south through the farmlands of Virginia and encounter swamps when crossing into North Carolina.

 

"If you choose to ride the Outer Banks Alternate, you'll have a treat biking along the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean and have the chance to see tools utilized by the famous Wright Brothers in their bicycle shop. Expect high temperatures and humid conditions in the summer, though beach riding will be tempered by ocean breezes. The winds can be strong (that's why the Wright Brothers flew their first plane there), and sand may blow onto the road. In the Outer Banks, there are two ferry rides, one of which is 2-1/4 hours long.”

Wright Route Partners

NPS-logo.png
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
OBXForever_ParkFamily-01.png
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
NAHA-logo.png
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
firstflight21.png
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter