Although small, the city of New Bern has a lot going on. It’s a city of history, of heritage, and of things to do. New Bern is a melting pot of North Carolina culture, and as such is rich in things to do. This is the city where you can take in a show at the Riverfront Theatre or catch a game at Craven Stadium. This is the place where you can attend the North Carolina Literary Festival and enjoy all the great local cuisine. This is the city where you can explore the history of the Lost Colony and make a stop at the Roanoke River Wharf. This is your guide to the best things to do in New Bern NC. ~*~

There are so many awesome things to do in New Bern, that picking 10 “best” can be tough. The New Bern area has a lot of history, and there are many ways to experience it. Start your day listening to the history of New Bern on the walking tour of the City of New Bern. See how the city was first settled and watch a live taping of the town crier.

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New Bern is one of North Carolina’s hidden gems. It is the second oldest European-inhabited city in North Carolina (after Bath) and the state’s first capital (now Raleigh). This means that there are many historic buildings in town, including Tryon Palace, which served as the governor’s palace. In addition to the historical sites, there is plenty to do in New Bern, North Carolina.

The best things to do in New Bern NC

To make the most of your stay in New Bern, it can be helpful to know a little about the city’s history.

New Bern was settled by Swiss and German immigrants in 1710. The new settlers named the colony Christoph von Graffenried, 1. Baron von Bernberg, Switzerland. Bern is the old Germanic word for bear, and you will see that the bear is the symbol of New Bern.

If you visit different parts of New Bern, you will see bears everywhere!

1. Look at bear statues in New Bern

When New Bern celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2010, 50 ceramic and fiberglass bears were uniquely designed and placed throughout the city. Since then, twenty more bears have been added.

Each of the ceramic bears has its own theme, and it’s fun to see how different they are from the others. If you want to see them all, you can use this map of Bear City to find them.

2. Tryon Palace Tower

One of the most popular attractions in New Bern is a visit to Tryon Palace.

Tryon Palace, built as the state’s first capital, is a fine example of British colonial architecture.  This Georgian-style house was built in 1770 for the family of Governor Tryon.

Although the original mansion was built in the late 18th century. The building was destroyed by fire in the 19th century, but in the 1930s the original plans for the building were recovered and in 1959 it was rebuilt, restored and opened to the public.

Today it is a living museum. In the palace you will find rooms full of antiques. Teachers in historical costumes will be on hand to answer questions and act as guides.

In addition to the palace, you can visit the local blacksmith’s shop, the kitchen office and the gardens.

529 S Front St, New Bern, North Carolina, NC 28562

3. Enjoy the beautiful architecture of New Bern

One of my favorite things to do in New Bern, North Carolina, is to walk the streets and admire the beautiful architecture of the houses listed on the American Register of Historic Places.

New Bern has more than 150 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In New Bern you will find many Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival and Victorian style homes.

Blade House

The Blades House, one of the state’s finest combinations of Queen Anne style with Colonial Revival details, was built in 1907 by architect Herbert Woodley Simpson.

602 Middle Street, New Bern.

Patrick Gordon House

Patrick Gordon House, built in 1771, is a fine example of Georgian architecture. The house was originally built overlooking the River Trent.

In the interior, the stucco and mouldings have been preserved, as well as a beautiful Georgian staircase.

213 Hancock Street, New Bern.

John Wright Stanley House

The Stanley House was built in the early 1780s for prominent New Bern businessman John Wright Stanley. It is thought that John Hawkes, who designed Tryon Palace, also designed his house in the same Georgian style.

This elegant home, built of hand-carved longleaf pine, is one of the finest surviving examples of Georgian architecture in the South.

The house was only briefly occupied by Stanley and his family. He died of yellow fever in 1789, and the house was used as a Civil War headquarters, a convent, and a library.

Today you can walk around the house to see the crafts and relics of that era.

It is reported that George Washington stayed in this house during a visit to New Bern and remarked that he too was pleased with his stay.

307 George St, New Bern.

4. Cedar Grove Cemetery Walk

Cedar Grove Cemetery is a place in New Bern that you might not think of unless you are a history buff. It is one of the oldest public cemeteries in the region, dating back to the 1800s.

It is the final resting place of a dozen North Carolina congressmen and the inventor of Pepsi-Cola, Caleb Bradham.

As the headstones, monuments and statues are decorated, some may be surprised to see that there are tables next to some of the graves. It was customary for the living to picnic at the resting place of their loved ones.

The entrance is another interesting feature of the cemetery. The bows are made of shells, and after the rain, they are eerily colored with the color of rust.

Every Saturday at 4:00 p.m., the Earl Craven Commissioners Office conducts tours of Cedar Grove Cemetery.

Tickets are $10. They also organized a fascinating nighttime ghost walk in New Bern.

5. North Carolina History Center

The North Carolina History Center has many interactive exhibits and demonstrations for all to enjoy.

You’ll find everything from historical artifacts to exhibits on the regional history of New Bern and surrounding areas.

Evening events are also held in the centre throughout the year.

We visited it during the annual Tryon Palace Beer Festival. There were tastings from many North Carolina breweries as well as food booths and live music.

While you’re there, step outside for a great view of the River Trent.

Open from 9 to 17 hours

313 Pollock St, New Bern.

6. Discover the birthplace of Pepsi

Pepsi is not called the drink of the Carolinas for nothing! New Bern is the birthplace of Pepsi, and you can learn all about its history at the Birthplace of Pepsi store downtown.

Not only can you view Pepsi memorabilia from the past, but you can also buy Pepsi memorabilia and enjoy a lemonade.

Open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm and Sunday from 12pm to 4pm.

256 Middle St, New Bern.

6. Businesses in downtown New Bern

If you want to do a little shopping in New Bern, check out the quaint shops in the downtown area.

You will find many souvenir shops, clothing shops and even some antique shops.

There is something for everyone here!

7. Eating at Beer Army Burger Company

If you like craft beer, be sure to visit the Beer Army Burger Company in downtown New Bern.

You’ll find a craft brewery with 16 beers from all over the US, four house beers, and craft cocktails, as well as a restaurant that serves some pretty good pub food.

We tried two of the stars of their menu – a burger and chicken wings. I took the wings and my husband chose the War Pig (oriental BBQ burger). Oh, my God, that was amazing.

The Beer Army Burger Company is open daily for lunch and dinner.

313 Pollock St, New Bern, NC 28560, Phone: 252-288-5814

8. Try the Bear City Fudge Companydessert

Bear City Fudge Company is the place to go if you are looking for a sweet treat.

This downtown candy store offers gourmet caramels, chocolate truffles, saltwater caramels and homemade ice cream.

Bear City Fudge Company is open from 11am to 6pm, 7 days a week.

236 Middle St C, New Bern.

9. Guided tour of historic Christ Episcopal Church

Christ Episcopal Church was built in 1871 in the Gothic style and stands on the site of earlier religious buildings, including the original church of 1750.

Walk around the outside of the church for a while, where you’ll find an outdoor chapel and cemetery.

Christ Churchyard was the only public cemetery in New Bern until 1800. So you can imagine how many people were buried in the cemetery. They’re not all marked.

Although the nave is small, it stands out for its dark woodwork and beautiful stained glass windows. The interior of Christ Episcopal Church was designed in the style of Christopher Wren, the famous English architect best known for his design of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The church contains an organ designed and built by W. Zimmer and Sons (German organ builders). The organ has 1,397 pipes, i.e. 20 stops with 25 ranks of pipes.

Inside the church you can see the communion silver, the Bible and the prayer book, which were donated by King George II in 1752.

This five-piece communion set includes a chalice, paten/cover, two flags and an offering plate.  All items in the set are decorated with the Royal Coat of Arms and bear the London 1752 Mordecai Fox mark.

320 Pollock Street, New Bern

10. New Bern Battlefield Park Tour

Visit the park where Confederate and Union soldiers died in 1862.

You can visit the 30-acre site where the battle took place, and 36 explanatory panels explain the role this battle played in the Civil War.

You can visit on your own or with a guide.  Battlefield tours can be arranged by calling the New Bern Historical Society at 252-638-8558.  Guided tours cost $10 per person.

If you’re looking for a fun place to spend a weekend, head to New Bern. You won’t be disappointed. This coastal town in North Carolina is a hidden gem!

Have you ever been to New Bern? What did you like best?

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is there to do in New Bern NC today?

When my husband and I went on a trip to New Bern North Carolina, we didn’t even realize there was a river right next to the downtown area. It was a beautiful sight. Most of the river views were obscured by tree branches, but it was still a nice place to get a cup of coffee and people watch. There were a lot of families around and it was a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery. If you’re visiting historic New Bern, NC or live there, you’ll want to check out these attractions. The first is the Washington House, the oldest house still standing in the city, though there is little to it; it’s just a two-story structure with a shed addition. The second is the New Bern Historical Museum, which is described as “a comprehensive museum of New Bern’s history, including colonial Old Bladen County and the city of New Bern through the twentieth century”.

What is New Bern NC famous for?

New Bern, North Carolina is a city of about 40,000 people located in the coastal plain region of the state. It’s also known as the “River City,” thanks to the Neuse and Trent rivers that flow through the town. For those looking for a truly unique place to visit, New Bern is a great choice. It’s a tiny city with a ton of charm and even more historical significance. From the famous Trent House hotel to the picturesque Craven Terrace Park overlooking the Neuse River, there are many things to do in New Bern. Just a short drive from the bustling coastal cities of Jacksonville or Wilmington NC, you’ll find the charming little town of New Bern. Cute shops, historic homes, and historic districts line its streets, and it’s famous for its big riverfront park, where locals and tourists alike come to enjoy the weather. For visitors, New Bern offers short trips to nearby cities and attractions, while residents love the quiet nightlife and nearby beach options.

How far is Emerald Isle from New Bern?

If you’re planning to travel from Emerald Isle to New Bern, you have a choice of two options on the ferry: the short distance ferry that makes four stops, or the long distance ferry that makes three stops. The short distance ferry takes about 30 minutes to reach New Bern, while the long distance ferry takes an hour and fifteen minutes. If you have a car and plan to drive to your destination in New Bern, you’ll find that the ferry makes the trip a lot faster, as the drive takes about an hour longer via U.S. Highway 70. The best way to get to Emerald Isle from New Bern is by car, though if you’re coming from the airport you’ll need to take a cab or the bus. Once you’re on the island, you’ll find that there aren’t a ton of ways to get around, which is why a car is so beneficial. The island is small enough that you can walk to most places, but if you need to go to a different part of the island, your best bet is to take a walk (though the sand can be tricky), rent a bike, or catch a ride on a golf cart.

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