A day trip to New Bern, NC wouldn't be complete without a taste of history. So why not start the day that way? Take a tour, starting with the Convention and Visitor Center where maps, brochures and helpful staff capably and courteously tailor a route to meet visitor interests and time constraints. The downtown historic district offers pleasant walking and signs and historic markers on homes and churches, some of which are available for close inspection with guides. Cemeteries carry wonderful history in the legible grave markers and, certainly, Tryon Palace gardens and buildings are absolute musts for anyone enjoying American history and antiques. Tryon Palace is the historical gem of downtown New Bern and now with the addition of a new North Carolina History Center, this part of town is not to be missed.
Riding in the Historic Disctrict is possible during summer months with guides narrating open trolley and horse-drawn carriage tours, but walking is a great option too. Union Point Park provides a pleasant resting point with benches and gazebo by the water for respite from the sun. Games of Frisbee and kite flying, parents propelling little ones on swings and bikers on all the paths showcase the city residents enjoying outdoor assets.
Be sure to have lunch in downtown, where options included Greek, Italian, traditional Southern or fresh seafood are readily available and nicely served. Ice cream shops, specialty coffees, Southern sweet tea, soups and sandwiches are also on nearly every block. Between entree and dessert, visit a toy store or a pottery shop where the children can paint and have fired a pot of their choosing, then stroll on to the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola and enjoy an old fashioned soda fountain the way Grandma did on the way home from school.
Those still wanting more history might turn to the New Bern Firemen's Museum or the Attmore-Oliver Civil War House Museum, where a doll collection delights young ladies and those appreciating craftsmanship. Then, the art lover could visit the former bank that became home to the Craven Arts Council and Gallery where local and national artists show in changing, often juried exhibitions of painting, sculpture, photography, pottery, fiber art, jewelry, glass and wood carving.
Driving to the Croatan National Forest south of New Bern provides accessible natural beauty. A parking lot not terribly deep within the forest is close to a beach on the Neuse River, easily reached on stairs cut into the bluff. There, visitors may see heron, pelican, gull and cormorant gathering meals for themselves, or possibly a deer stepping down to the water for a drink.
Tomorrow might bring a golf outing or a day of shopping, but for now, dinner is in order. If elegance and service of exquisitely prepared fare is wanted, downtown is the place, followed by a coffee house with folk or jazz entertainment. If pizza and bowling or miniature golf sound just right, check out the zones on U.S. Highway 70 and Dr. M. L. King Jr. Boulevard and test the family skills. Guaranteed, the troupe will be glad to lay heads on pillows this night, just to rest up for the next great day in New Bern.