Attractions in New Bern, NC

 

History, performing arts and an abundance of waterfront views are three of New Bern, NC's most popular attractions. As North Carolina's first capitol, history buffs are drawn to downtown New Bern's vast assortment of historical homes and landmarks such as Tryon Palace and the recently added North Carolina History Center. Other popular attractions include performances by the New Bern Civic Theater, the Firemen's Museum and historical cemeteries with towering markers that date back to the early 1700s. Many of these attractions are also stops along trolley and walking tours, so be sure to look at some of our favorite spots below before planning your trip.

Probably the most compelling attraction for New Bern is her history. Three hundred years as a political entity in a changing political scene are recorded in the historic district, parks, cemeteries, re-enactments, historical societies and themes of several live entertainments. As prosperity ebbed and flowed over the course of that history, New Bern endured the pangs of growth and change, remembering to value its heritage. To that end, a great number of old homes and churches have been restored, and, in cases of potential loss, relocated, thanks to groups such as the New Bern Preservation Foundation. Salvaged structures now number more than 150, and restoration efforts are continuous.

New Bern’s Fireman’s Museum offers an interesting look at New Bern’s firefighting history, which includes the great fire of 1922 that burned down 1/3 of the city. Not only does this affordable museum have an exhibit of the very engines used in that fire, it’s a testament to the bravery and sense of community that New Bern displayed during one of the city’s greatest tragedies.

The Pepsi Sore is also a must-see attraction in downtown New Bern. Not only will you find Pepsi-Cola and Mountain Dew coming right out of the soda fountain, you’ll also have a chance to relax and shop for Pepsi collectibles in the place where Caleb Bradham invented one of the world’s most popular beverages … Pepsi.

Of course, the crown jewel of New Bern’s long list of attractions is Tryon Palace. Home to a striking reproduction of North Carolina’s first capitol building, Tryon Palace is named after Governor William Tryon, the state’s first governor. This two story Georgian mansion, complete with 15 acres of 18th century gardens, a Kitchen Office and Stable Office, is one of the most photographed and visited sites in all of New Bern. Tryon Palace extended even further in 2010 with the North Carolina History Center. A modern look at history museums for the young and young at heart, the North Carolina History Center is home to the Pepsi Family Center, Cullman Performance Hall and the North Carolina Regional History Museum. Each of these exhibits is a destination unto its own as countless visitors and students on field trips make their way to the NC History Center for an interactive approach to learning that blends history with today’s technologies.

While historical sites, homes and buildings are focal points of New Bern, art and cultural events of the town are constantly evolving. Many reputable visual artists grace New Bern with their work, often exhibiting at the Bank of the Arts, the public library and commercial art galleries. Performing arts events and festivals occur year round. Not listed in many guidebooks are the town's churches, each distinctive and worthy of a sightseeing visit. Christ Episcopal Church on Pollock Street may provide the most interesting lore, including stories around the royal gift of a silver communion service donated by King George II. The service survived two fires and reconstruction. According to local history, the communion service was stolen in the 1960s or '70s. The thief, so goes the tale, fenced his take with a man who recognized it for what it was and returned it to the church.

Walking tours of the historic district are one of the easiest and most pleasant ways to experience this history. Many of the historic homes are private residences with gardens, landscaping and architecture in keeping with the Colonial heritage of the city. Some of the more popular tours to be on the lookout for are Civil War history, African American Heritage Tours and Ghost Tours.

Featured Local Businesses
The Aerie Bed and Breakfast, Guest House, and Conference Center
North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

General Attractions

Tryon Palace New Bern AttractionsTryon Palace529 South Front St.
New Bern, NC 28562 • map(252) 639-3500
(800) 767-1560
tryonpalace.org

Tryon Palace, built in 1770 by Royal Governor William Tryon, was known at the time as one of the most beautiful buildings in America. After its use as both a Colonial and a state capitol, the palace fell into disrepair. The main building burned in 1798 and the kitchen office was...more about Tryon Palace

Attmore-Oliver Civil War House Museum511 Broad St.
New Bern, NC 28560 • map(252) 638-8558

The Attmore-Oliver Civil War House Museum was originally built in 1790 by prominent New Bern resident, Samuel Chapman. It was enlarged to its present size in 1834. Of particular interest are the fine Greek Revival portico and two-story porches at the rear of the house. Today, the museum houses offices for...more about Attmore-Oliver Civil War House Museum

Cedar Grove CemeteryQueen and George Sts.
New Bern, NC 28560 • map

Anyone who loves to wander through old graveyards won't want to miss this one. Statuary and monuments beneath Spanish moss draped trees mark burial traditions from the earliest days of our nation. One smallish obelisk lists the names of nine children in one family who all died within a two-year time...more about Cedar Grove Cemetery

Centenary United Methodist Church309 New St.
New Bern, NC 28560 • map(252) 637-4181

First organized as a congregation in 1772, the current Centenary United Methodist Church was designed by Herbert Woodley Simpson and completed in 1905. Its rounded walls and turrets have an almost Moorish look. Guided tours, available weekdays between 9 AM and 4 PM, begin with a stop by the church office....more about Centenary United Methodist Church

Christ Episcopal Church320 Pollock St.
New Bern, NC 28560 • map(252) 633-2109

More than 260 years old, Christ Episcopal is the oldest church in New Bern and one of the oldest in North Carolina. This church building is actually the third to stand in this area. The first, completed in 1750, was later destroyed by fire. The foundation of that first church is...more about Christ Episcopal Church

Craven Arts Council & Gallery Bank of the Arts317 Middle St.
New Bern, NC 28560 • map(252) 638-2577

Changing exhibits often, the gallery at Bank of the Arts showcases local and southeastern artists in every visual and tactile medium. Admission is free, though donations are welcome, so locals visit often. Visitors are welcome to browse. Built in 1911, this interesting granite structure once served as a bank. Now it...more about Craven Arts Council & Gallery Bank of the Arts

The Firemen's Museum408 Hancock St.
New Bern, NC 28560 • map(252) 636-4087

The New Bern Fire Department is one of the oldest in the country, still operating under its original 1845 charter as the Atlantic Hook and Ladder Company. The New Museum next door houses steam pumpers and an extensive collection of other early fire-fighting equipment, most of which has been in service...more about The Firemen's Museum

First Presbyterian Church400 New St.
New Bern, NC 28560 • map(252) 637-3270

The oldest continually used church building in New Bern, First Presbyterian was built during the years from 1819 through 1822, by local architect and builder Uriah Sandy. The congregation was established in 1817. The Federal-style church is similar to many built around the same time in New England but is unusual...more about First Presbyterian Church

George W. Dixon House609 Pollock St.
New Bern, NC • map(252) 514-4900
(800) 767-1560

The Dixon House, built in 1828, epitomizes New Bern's lifestyle in the first half of the nineteenth century, when the town was a prosperous port and one of the state's largest cities. Built for a successful New Bern merchant, Dixon House is a fine example of neoclassical architecture. Its furnishings, reflecting...more about George W. Dixon House

John Wright Stanly House307 George St.
New Bern, NC • map

On his Southern tour in 1791, President George Washington dined and danced at Tryon Palace, but his two nights in New Bern were spent at the nearby home of John Wright Stanly. Stanly died of yellow fever in 1789, but New Bern residents reopened and refurnished the residence, then located on...more about John Wright Stanly House

Lawsons Landing Cafe529 South Front Street
New Bern, NC • map(252) 637-9307

This waterfront cafe is part of the North Carolina History Center addition to the Tryon Palace Complex. Named from New Bern history, Lawsons Landing, a Riverwalk Cafe brings visitors to the center into the experience with coffee, lattes, teas and light fare for breakfast, and lunch by the river. Pastries, fruit...more about Lawsons Landing Cafe

New Bern Academy MuseumNew and Hancocks Sts.
New Bern, NC • map(252) 514-4900
(800) 767-1560

Founded in 1764 and built in 1809, New Bern Academy is the oldest public school building in North Carolina and one of the oldest in America. It was still used as a school recently enough to have been attended by some of New Bern's current residents. After it closed, it sat...more about New Bern Academy Museum

New Bern Civil War Battlefield ParkNew Bern Historical Society
512 Pollock St.
New Bern, NC 28562 • map(252) 638-8558

Visitors to the Civil War Battlefield Park can literally walk in the footsteps of young Confederate and Union soldiers who fought in the mist and rain five miles east of New Bern on what is now US 70 East. Park grounds where nearly one third of the Battle of New Bern...more about New Bern Civil War Battlefield Park

New Bern National Cemetery1711 National Ave.
New Bern, NC 28560 • map

Encompassing nearly eight acres, New Bern National Cemetery was established in 1867 as a final resting place for veterans. Current cemetery grounds were the site of military drills by occupying forces during the Civil War. Once inside the gates, visitors see row after impressive row of matching government standard-issue white marble...more about New Bern National Cemetery

Robert Hay HouseEden St.
New Bern, NC • map

A tour of the Robert Hay House provides insight into the lives and society of middle-class craftsmen and artisans essential to everyday life in the early nineteenth century. Scottish-born Robert Hay was a skilled craftsman of carriages and riding chairs. He purchased the house in 1816, living there until his death...more about Robert Hay House

 
 
 
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