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15+ Awesome Things to Do in New Bern (and Nearby!)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on March 18, 2024.

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Of all the small towns in North Carolina, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed this one most of all. Please don’t tell anyone we say this, but how can you top the history, the Southern hospitality, and these things to do in New Bern?

Head to New Bern and you’ll be treated to the best of North Carolina’s Inner Banks region, a beautiful place filled with friendly people and amazing attractions. Our guide shares it all, including how to get here, some interesting historical tidbits, and our favorite things to do in New Bern.

Because there is so much to do before planning your trip to New Bern, here’s how we have organized this guide:

  • New Bern Location Info and Quick Facts
  • Where to Stay
  • Annual Events
  • Year-Round Things to Do in New Bern
  • Things to Do in New Bern’s Surroundings (Croatan National Forest and More!)

You can scroll ahead to any of these sections or continue reading about New Bern’s location and some quick tidbits!

Read More: Historic Towns in North Carolina

Where is New Bern, North Carolina?

Map of North Carolina highlighting Craven County
Image Credit: David Benbennick, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Before we share our favorite things to do in New Bern, we thought you should know a little more about this town.

  • New Bern is located in Craven County, North Carolina.
  • It is considered a part of the Inner Banks region.
  • The town sits at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse Rivers and features a beautiful waterfront downtown.
  • New Bern gets its name from the capital city of Switzerland.
  • Bern means bear and the people of New Bern love showing off their “Bear Town” pride. That’s why you’ll find bear statues throughout town.
  • Founded in 1710, New Bern is North Carolina’s second-oldest town (after Bath).
  • As a result, the town is home to beautiful historic churches, the first fire station, and other historic sites.
  • One of those sites is Tryon Palace, which briefly served as the first permanent capitol of North Carolina.

Read More: The NC Tripping North Carolina Travel Map

Where to Stay in New Bern

There’s one more thing we need to discuss—where to stay. You have a lot of quaint and historic Beds and Breakfasts in Downtown New Bern to choose from, and many are not far from the water.

The Aerie

Another highly recommend Bed and Breakfast in New Bern is The Aerie! Built in 1882, The Aerie has eight luxurious rooms, each with unique charm and decor. Whether you’re coming to New Bern to relax or for business, we can’t recommend The Aerie enough!

New Bern The Aerie

Owners John and Beth are incredibly accommodating, and you will be steps away from Downtown New Bern and the historic Tryon Palace

The Victorian-style inn even housed historical guests, including a State Senator, a cousin of the Wright Brothers, and the son of Pepsi creator Caleb Bradham! 

Annual Events in New Bern

Things to Do in New Bern

Adding to your list of things to do in New Bern should include some of these incredible annual events! 

  • March to October: The Ghosts of New Bern walking tour takes you through New Bern’s spooky history and is a great way to enjoy a night out in the town.
  • April: Spring Homes and Garden Tour is a wonderful time of the year when homeowners of historical homes open their doors to the public. Tour the homes, take in the original architecture, and stop by Tryon Palace for their Annual Heritage Plant Sale too! 
  • September: Annual Chili Festival is held in Havelock and is a two-day chili-filled festival! Enjoy judging competitions for chicken wings, chili Verde, red chili, and more!
  • October: Mumfest is the most popular annual event in New Bern! Bringing more than 90,000 festival-goers, downtown New Bern is filled with beautiful mums, live music, and a weekend of dining in the streets! 

Read More: Weekend Getaways in North Carolina

Year-Round Things to Do in New Bern

Those special events are certainly worthy of your calendar. Here are things to do in New Bern, no matter when you visit!

Union Point Park

Things to do in New Bern Waterfront

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 sitting on a bench or walking along the wooden boardwalk.

It’s a great place just to slow down and take it easy for a while. Personally, I can’t wait to get back and do just that.

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.

Shop Local!

Things to do in New Bern Earth Wind Fire

We recommend checking out the oddities at Black Cat Shoppe and taking your checking out the outdoor equipment while sipping a beer at Earth, Wind, and Fire.

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.

There are even more local businesses to explore in New Bern. Do you have any favorites to share with us?

Find New Bern Bear Statues

One of the most fun things in New Bern is trying to find all those cute bear statues! In fact, there are more than 60 New Bern bear statues, and I challenge you to go find 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?

Read More: Switzerland Inn (Your Next Mountain Getaway)

African-American Heritage Tour

You can also follow an African-American Heritage Tour with 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 crucial to New Bern’s history.

Read More: 25+ Important Places to Visit and Learn About Black History in North Carolina

North Carolina History Center

Things to do in New Bern NC History Center

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

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

Read More: Fun Things to Do in Tryon and Nearby!

Tryon Palace

Things to do in New Bern Tryon Palace

New Bern was also North Carolina’s first permanent capitol; 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.

Things to do in New Bern Tryon Palace gardens

Visiting Tryon Palace is one of the most popular things to do in New Bern, so read more in our article here and more on what to expect during your visit!

Read More: Interesting Facts About North Carolina That You Should Know

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 artifacts from early firefighting history, photos, and items from the Civil War. 

Read More: The NC Museum of History in Raleigh (+7 Things We Love About It!)

Historic Churches

Things to do in New Bern downtown new bern
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 more along Queen St, too. 

Is 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 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. 

The Birthplace of Pepsi

Things to do in New Bern Pepsi museum

New Bern is also the birthplace of Pepsi. Visiting the Birthplace of Pepsi is one of the best things to do in New Bern! The store is on Middle Street and 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!

The Best Restaurants in New Bern

With all this history and bear hunting, a person has to eat when hanging out in New Bern. So here are some of our favorite restaurants in New Bern.

  • Eat breakfast at Baker’s Kitchen and don’t even think about avoiding their spectacular Dutch Potatoes. They also have an incredible butter syrup that is something once you experience it, you’ll never stop talking about it!
Things to do in New Bern The Chelsea
Cajun Mahi Mahi and Shrimp from The Chelsea
  • There are some absolutely incredible upscale restaurants in New Bern. The Chelsea is one such restaurant that should definitely be on your travel itinerary. This upscale bistro will satisfy your cravings with a fabulous rotation of specials and solid menu items! Don’t forget to order the South African Pudding. It’s a banana cake with rich caramel that will seal the end to an excellent meal!
Things to do in New Bern Cypress Hall octopus
Grilled Octopus Appetizer from Cypress Hall
  • Before our last visit to New Bern, I polled our Facebook Group to see where I should eat. The number one recommended restaurant in New Bern was Cypress Hall, and I will agree with them! This downtown restaurant features a large bar, exposed brick walls, and a strawberry cake that can only be described with drools and moans.
Things to do in New Bern Cypress Hall
Hanger Steak from Cypress Hall
  • You thought I was done talking about Cypress Hall? Nope! The upscale menu is the creative endeavor of New Bern native Chef Ashley Moser. Absolutely everything I ordered, from the cocktail, grilled octopus appetizer, to the delicate hanger steak was memorably delicious. I highly recommend getting reservations ahead of time, especially on the weekends. The restaurant was even packed one Wednesday evening when I stopped by!

Here are a few more restaurants to visit while enjoying all the things to do in New Bern.

  • Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant is the first place many people will point you to for a great meal with a view. This is definitely a must for their Sunday Brunch!  
  • MJ’s Raw Bar & Grille‘s colorful decor compliments a truly delicious menu. We highly recommend getting their famous crabcakes!
  • Beer Army has a huge craft beer menu and some of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. I’m serious.

Read More: The Best North Carolina Breweries

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. Two spots are ideal for launching a boat if you bring one and two fishing piers, including one accessible.

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

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

Things to do in New Bern Shopping

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?

What are your favorite things to do in New Bern?

Let us know here in the comments section or by email. You can also share your experiences in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group.

Things to Do in New Bern’s Surroundings

While these things to do in New Bern will keep you occupied, you might want to venture out and explore its surroundings!

New Bern is an easy day trip from Raleigh and Wilmington. Some nearby small towns to check out while you’re in New Bern include:

Here are a few more places within an hour’s drive of New Bern.

Read More: Eastern North Carolina (and 100+ Awesome Places to Visit!)

Croatan National Forest

Croatan National Forest North Carolina Image

For a mix of hiking, beaches, and camping spots, Croatan National Forest has it all. There are quite a few access points, and each offers something fun.

Exploring this public space has to be one of our favorite outdoor activities in New Bern’s surroundings.

Read More: 4 National Forests in NC (Things to Do + Why We Love Them!)

Jacksonville

Things to Do in NC Jacksonville Freedom Fountain

Jacksonville is one of our favorite spots in Eastern NC and about 45 minutes away from New Bern! Known for Camp Lejeune, there’s plenty here.

If you’re in that area, at least take a few moments to pay your respects at Lejeune Memorial Gardens. It’s a special reminder of those who’ve served and paid the ultimate price for our country.

If you’ve got little ones, stop by Zing Zumm Children’s Museum of Jacksonville. If you like spirits, head to Walton’s Distillery for a tasting and tour. It’s one of our favorites in all of North Carolina!

Read More: Restaurants in Jacksonville (and Nearby!)

Atlantic Beach

Atlantic Beach Best Beaches in North Carolina

There’s tons of watery fun nearby and the closest beach to New Bern would be Atlantic Beach in Carteret County. We love staying at Atlantis Lodge in Pine Knoll Shores near Atlantic Beach.

You could easily spend the whole day on the beach but don’t forget to get out and explore Fort Macon State Park and the amazing restaurants from Atlantic Beach down to Emerald Isle.

Read More: All North Carolina State Park Sites (and Things to Do in Each One!)

Beaufort

Eastern North Carolina Rachel Carson Reserve Beaufort

The wild horses of the Rachel Carson Reserve are one of the main reasons we first came to Beaufort. From there, we’ve remained hooked on this wonderful town.

You should also visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum or stare at the boats and water after parking on Front Street.

Don’t forget to grab some grub at Beaufort Grocery CO and Moonrakers.

Read More: 7 Awesome Coastal NC Lighthouses (+ How to Visit Them All!)

The Cedar Island Ferry

Things to do on Ocracoke ferry

You can also island hop by taking the Cedar Island ferry, about 1-1/2 hours from New Bern. From there, you can reach the Outer Banks town of Ocracoke.

Explore Ocracoke Village (including Ocracoke Lighthouse), continue north toward the Hatteras ferry, and hire a boat to take you to Portsmouth Island.

New Bern is a great jumping-off point to many fabulous places to visit in North Carolina along the coast.

Read More: The Best Things to Do in the Outer Banks

More Things to Do in New Bern (and Nearby!)

13 thoughts on “15+ Awesome Things to Do in New Bern (and Nearby!)”

  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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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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    • G Morning Hello You need to see the First Black Hotel in New Bern. It’s rite near the railroad Tracks on Queen Street and was a Hotel and Housed African Americans taking the train. The Blue Print for the Hotel is all around the Country. My Parents Renovated and Brought it up to Par. Bailey Barnwell and my Company is called Shred the Stigma. Have a nice Day

      Reply
  3. My wife and I came to visit New Bern in Feb 2018 and loved it so much we returned home to Chicago to get ready to move into the house we bought!

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  4. The Neuse River and Pamlico Sound are all part of a huge inland sea that has some of the fishing on the East Coast. Spending a day on the water fishing for redfish, speckled trout, striped bass or tarpon can be a blast. There are area fishing guides launching from New Bern and Oriental and numerous bait launch for those who have their own watercraft.

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  5. Here’s the correct website address for the North Carolina Plein Air Art Festival now underway in Historic New Bern, Oriental, and Beaufort — May 14-21: https://ncpleinair.org/
    Plein Air headquarters and art displays are located two blocks from Tryon Palace in the Farmers Market. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  6. After suffering through 15 land-locked years, this lifelong sailor was more than ready to get back to coastal living. So, in 2016, I began looking up and down the East and West coasts for my forever home. It needed to offer 1) affordable housing 2) a well-established, year-round community — not one with an economy and lifestyle driven solely by seasonal tourism 3) an excellent location for a cruising sailboat 4) moderate weather. I had other nice-to-have items on my list, but those were my must-haves. Many coastal towns met one of these conditions, some met two, but only one sufficiently met all four: New Bern, NC. I moved here in 2016 and have not regretted my choice for one minute. Is it perfect? No. But it is perfect for me. I truly love my home and its proximity to a very strong sailing community and beautiful cruising grounds — not to mention the gorgeous NC beaches. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the U.S.! Believe me, I looked. 🙂

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  7. We’re planning a trip this month. I am interested in doing some kayaking/paddle boarding (rentals) which I saw mentioned somewhere but not here…anyone have any info on that?

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  8. Don’t miss the MARINE CORPS AIR STATION (MCAS) Cherry Point Air Show inn May! Just 20 minutes south of New Bern The access to the flight line is open to the public. Just go online and print off a parking pass (FREE) to get on base.

    Reply

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