15 Wonderful Things to Do in New Bern (History, Food, and More!)

Last Updated on July 19, 2021

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Being big fans of small towns, we knew that there were going to be plenty of things to do in New Bern. I’m pretty sure to say that we fell in love with Bear Town and can’t wait to go back, retire, and call it a day in our lives.

First, you’ve gotta see what we’re talking about, right?

Thanks to bears, history, great food, and more fun things to do in New Bern, you’ll see exactly what you can do if you’ve got a weekend (or more) in this wonderful coastal town.

This post is part of our series on historic towns and all the awesome places to visit Eastern North Carolina.

Things to Do in New Bern

Stay Somewhere Comfy and Close

Best Hotels in New Bern NC Courtyard by Marriott Image
Access this during your stay at Courtyard by Marriott!

There are a lot of quaint and historic Bed and Breakfasts in Downtown New Bern, not far from the water.

We spent a wonderful evening at Courtyard, which is one of our favorite places to stay in North Carolina. That lovely hotel is right on the water and next to Union Point Park.

The New Bern-Craven County Convention & Visitors Center hosted us there and we really enjoyed our time staying right by the water.

Either way, I think you should stay by the water or in one of New Bern’s hotels or cozy BnBs for relaxation and access to the city’s most beautiful views.

Walk around Downtown

New Bern’s slow-paced downtown is easily walkable. I recommend getting an early start because people will be out visiting the town’s interesting buildings and locally owned businesses.

As bibliophiles, we think you should know about The Next Chapter, one of the best bookstores in North Carolina!

For more places to find as you explore downtown, Bill Hand wrote the helpful Walking Guide to New Bern. Our link takes you to Bookshop, an online bookseller that supports local bookstores like The Next Chapter.

One bonus way to enjoy Downtown New Bern is to be there during the awesome MERCI on Middle, a great charity event that we were fortunate enough to attend. 

Union Point Park

View from Union Point Park New Bern Image

There might not be any beaches here (see “Places Near New Bern”) but the waterfront at Union Point Park is a wonderful spot to catch the sunrise and watch boats as they pass by.

You can spend as much time as you want there, sitting on a bench or walking along the wooden boardwalk. It’s a great place to just slow down and take it easy for a while. Personally, I can’t wait to get back and do just that.

Know New Bern’s Background

Fun Fact: New Bern gets its name from the capital city of Switzerland. Even more fun fact: Bern means bear and the people of New Bern love showing off their “Bear Town” pride.

Find New Bern Bear Statues

There are over 60 New Bern bear statues and I challenge you to go find each and every one of them. Unlike the Swiss city’s wild bears, these statues depict professionally trained bears who work for a living, holding positions like a lawyer, doctor, and real estate agent.

Does your town do anything similar to this?

North Carolina’s Swiss connection doesn’t stop here, as we learned while staying at Switzerland Inn in the mountains!

Explore New Bern’s History

New Bern is North Carolina’s second-oldest town (after Bath) and filled with many famous historical sites. The town is home to beautiful churches and the first fire station.

You can also follow an African-American Heritage Tour that includes more than 10 landmarks. Start from the Convention Center, where you can pick up a guide, and learn about the Rhone family and Isaac Smith, two names that are crucial to New Bern’s history.

The tour is one of the most important ways to learn about Black history in North Carolina.

North Carolina History Center

Before jumping into Tryon Palace, I think you should spend some time exploring the North Carolina History Center. They have rotating exhibits, events, and food for those who need to grab a bite.

One thing we really like about this place is its commitment to the environment, as one of the greenest buildings in our state. 

Tryon Palace

Tryon Palace New Bern NC Outside Image

New Bern was also North Carolina’s first permanent capital and you can learn about it at Tryon Palace. Just be sure to emphasize “permanent,” or else you’ll get flogged or punished in some other time-accurate way.

The Firemen’s Museum

At the Firemen’s Museum, you can learn fun stories about the fire dog, New Bern’s firefighting history, and much more. There are also artifacts from early fire fighting history, photos, and items from the Civil War. 

Historic Churches

New Bern NC Christ Episcopal Church Outside Image
Christ Episcopal Church.

New Bern is also home to some beautiful churches and cemeteries. The First Baptist Church and Christ Episcopal Church are two of many you’ll see between Hancock and Craven, but there are a couple of more along Queen St, too. 

Is there a church in the New Bern area that stands out to you? We’d love to know about it! 

New Bern Battlefield Park

Since the Battle of New Bern was fought during the Civil War, the city’s Historical Society maintains New Bern Battlefield Park on one-third of the actual battle’s land.

Contact them at 252-638-8558 in advance for a guided tour ($5 for members, $10 for non-members). You can also grab a brochure at the visitor’s center and take a self-guided tour of the site. 


New Bern is also the birthplace of Pepsi. There’s actually a store on Middle Street where you can have a fountain soda and imagine this famous drink’s medicinal power running through your body. It’s such a one-of-a-kind spot that we even included it in our NC Bucket List!

Eat Great Food

With all this history and bear hunting, a person has to eat when hanging out in New Bern.

Eat breakfast at Baker’s Kitchen and don’t even think about avoiding their spectacular Dutch Potatoes

Best Restaurants in New Bern NC Persimmons Image

Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant is the first place many people will point you to for a great meal with a view. MJ’s Raw Bar & Grille‘s colorful decor compliments a truly delicious menu.

Best Restaurants in New Bern NC Beer Army Image
Beer Army.

Beer Army has a huge craft beer menu but also some of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. I’m serious.

We included Baker’s Kitchen among our favorite breakfast restaurants in North Carolina

Lawson Creek Park

New Bern NC Lawson Creek Park Image

Lawson Creek Park gives you a beautiful view of New Bern’s waterfront and is a great way to start a day. There are two spots ideal for launching a boat if you brought one and two fishing piers, including one accessible one.

We enjoyed the walking trail there, too, and can’t wait to go back for more! 

Explore Places Near New Bern

Atlantic Beach

There’s tons of watery fun nearby and the closest beach to New Bern would be Atlantic Beach in Carteret County. That’ll get you into North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, where you can explore 85 miles of beautiful coastline.

We love staying at Atlantis Lodge in Pine Knoll Shores near Atlantic Beach.

Croatan National Forest

Croatan National Forest North Carolina Image

For a mix of hiking and beaches, Croatan National Forest is about an hour away from New Bern and full of fun. It’s even one of our favorite places for hiking!

The Cedar Island Ferry

You can also island hop by taking the Cedar Island ferry to the Outer Banks towns of Ocracoke and Hatteras. New Bern is a great jumping-off point to many awesome places to visit in North Carolina along the coast.

Ready to Enjoy These Fun Things to Do in New Bern?

So while we keep our eyes out for homes for sale in New Bern, we’d love to know what you think. Have you ever visited this little slice of paradise?

If not, when are you planning to go? Slot it into your next North Carolina vacation and you can’t go wrong.

More Things to Do in New Bern

4 thoughts on “15 Wonderful Things to Do in New Bern (History, Food, and More!)”

  1. We love New Bern. Our most recent visit was during the Christmas holiday. .we were there 4 times last year. The flotilla and Marine Corp band’s performance were worth standing in the cold. A small town experience at its best…the atmosphere, history, food…most of all…the people.

    • Sounds like you had a fun time, Barbara. Thanks for sharing! New Bern is a wonderful place any time of year, but especially when it’s festive. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. New Bern is one of my favorite cities. May I suggest taking a cruise around the town. You learn so much about the city and even get to see Nicholas Sparks House.


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