Are We There Yet? North Carolina's Variety Vacationland, 1930s-1970s

  • Recurrence: Recurring daily
  • Venue: North Carolina Museum of History
  • Location: Downtown Raleigh
  • Address: 5 E. Edenton St., Raleigh, NC 27601
  • Phone: 919.814.7000
  • Times: Tues.-Sat., 9am-5pm; Sun., noon-5pm
  • Admission: Free


This photography exhibit looks back at an era when tourism boomed thanks largely to a state-run marketing effort called “Variety Vacationland.”  The Variety Vacationland campaign was successful in creating a unified tourism industry in North Carolina from the 1930s to the 1970s by depicting our state as both modern and progressive, but with strong ties to its past.  However, true to the Jim Crow era, most sites promoted were marketed (and accessible) to White tourists only; people of color were neglected and even exploited at times, an attitude this exhibit attempts to point out where possible.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, politicians and business leaders began efforts to boost North Carolina’s economy by lobbying for a statewide campaign to showcase tourism attractions.  This eventually led to a full-color tourist guide titled North Carolina, a Variety Vacationland first printed in 1937.  It was soon followed by billboards, postcards, movies, television programs, and even a jingle!

"In this exhibit, I tried to highlight the nuances of the Variety Vacationland campaign," says the exhibit's curator, Katie Edwards, also curator of popular culture at the Museum of History.  "It was an effective campaign that brought tourism to the state, but it was also a campaign that neglected to include all North Carolina's citizens and tourists."