The riverfront city of New Bern, North Carolina is not only the birthplace of Pepsi or the setting of the popular romance tale, The Notebook. New Bern is actually overflowing with scenic views and plenty to do. That helped put the state's second-oldest city and the former colonial capital on the map for tourists.
History of New Bern
Established in 1710 by immigrants from Switzerland, the name of this new North Carolina city was inspired by the capital of the country from whence the settlers came. However, the area had long been claimed. The Native Americans of the Tuscarora tribe lived in a village called Chattoka.
Later on, New Bern had a stint as the state capital. The city was given the moniker "the Athens of the South." This was due to the art-inspiring landscape and growing importance in politics. Speaking of political power, New Bern was the first place in the burgeoning country to celebrate America's first president. So he came to visit.
There's plenty more to celebrate as we look into our favorite things to do in New Bern!
You can't mention history without putting a spotlight on North Carolina's first state capital building. It is the same building where George Washington was rumored to have danced. This extravagant estate not only houses Tryon Palace. Also included on the grounds:
Another bonus, the History Center is one of the greenest public buildings in the state. A one-day, general admission pass gets you access to all of these spots on the grounds for $20.
Downtown New Bern
You can't get away from the history of a place like this. However, Downtown New Bern is an excellent mixture of the past and the present with dining, shopping, and guided tours. They also keep events going downtown all year long. From concerts to parades, there's often some activity happening to keep the strip lively.
We couldn't move on to the next thing to do without telling you the must-eat spots downtown. Here are a few that the New Bern locals would refer you to while in town:
Croatan National Forest
You've learned a lot and had fun, now you might want to have some quiet time to take in the coastal beauty. Croatan is one of four National Forests in the state as well as the only coastal forest on the east coast. Here, you can get the freshest air amongst 160,000 acres. Available activities include:
Our Firemen's Museum is a standout landmark in the history of firefighting here in the city. It was the first fire company in the whole state. In the tour, you can walk through an event that brought New Bern to its knees, the Great Fire of 1922, where over 1,000 buildings were ravaged. On a lighter note, there are plenty of activities for kids and grownups alike. Offering both educational and hands-on experiences. Admission comes with a guided tour and costs $7 per adult; children five and under are free.
Another important part of the city's past is the American Civil War and the battle that took place here. This site was the location of the Battle of New Bern in March 1862. The Historical Society employs volunteers to give you a knowledgeable walkthrough. The battlefield tour is $10. Also available are self-guided tours with a provided leaflet of the area and map. The Attmore-Oliver House on the property provides self-guided tours as well. Want to add a little more spook to your experience? There are Cedar Grove Cemetery tours available at $10 each.
To say there is a lot to do in this part of North Carolina is an understatement. You can be part of a city and into the woods on the same day. Everything here has a place in history, even the clock on Pollock Street is on the National Register. There is no time like the present to make New Bern part of your own story. Come enjoy the land and sea in your new favorite Eastern North Carolina town.