If you are considering a trip to Eastern North Carolina I highly recommend New Bern, NC. It is an incredibly charming town with a rich history and a fun present. Downtown New Bern is a beautiful waterfront area with so much for visitors to do.
We visited in September and the weather was stunning. New Bern, NC is one of the oldest towns in the United States with both Civil War and Revolutionary War history. Modern places are also available- the Riverfront Convention Center was a surprise to see among the old buildings.
We planned a trip for three days and will be going back at some point. There is more to see!
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What to Do in New Bern NC
Look For Bears– The bears in New Bern, NC are fancy. Decorated, fiberglass bears are all over town. You can click this link to see all the locations. They are sponsored by businesses and painted by artists to reflect the area.
Tryon Palace– This was the attraction I was most excited to see. Royal Governor William Tryon and his family brought architect John Hawks from London to design and build the Georgian-style structure. Completed in 1770, Tryon Palace served as the first permanent capitol of North Carolina and was home to Governor Tryon and his family. Beautiful gardens, stables, the largest kitchen I have ever seen in a colonial-era home, reenactors, and stunning grounds make this a must-see item. We did the normal house tour included with the ticket and the Lesser Stairs tour about the staff/enslaved persons. I highly recommend adding this tour if you can afford it and have the time.
The North Carolina History Center– The ticket to the North Carolina History Center is included with Tryon Palace. Since you will want to eat at Lawson’s on the Creek anyway (see below) you should make a quick stop in the museum! Currently, there is an exhibit about the 100th anniversary of the New Bern Historical Society and it is fascinating!
The Trolley Tour– Discover three centuries of history and architectural beauty in a comprehensive 90-minute trolley tour of historic downtown New Bern. Our tour and driver were excellent. They answered a huge variety of questions. Along with funny stories they had very detailed accounts and some pictures to pass around.
New Bern Battlefield Park– This was our absolute favorite activity. If you are a history person DO NOT MISS THIS. We had a private tour of the New Bern Battlefield Park at an incredible price (see below). Our private tour guide spent about 90 minutes with us. Most of the time it was POURING rain but we got so invested in his stories and the park we just told him to keep going. I recognize that this tour presents an obstacle- you have to CALL someone on the phone. You can’t book it online. Just trust me- if you are a history buff you do not want to miss it.
Union Point Park– We didn’t attend any events in this park but did drive through it. It’s a beautiful area, perfect for a walk on the water.
Take a Ghost Tour– We do this in every town we visit if they have one. There is no way to learn history like a ghost walk. We did it the first night and it set us up for success for the next few days. As a non-believer, I still find these tours fascinating.
Visit the Birthplace of Pepsi– Pepsi, or “Brad’s Drink” was created in New Bern. There is a beautiful soda fountain and a vintage store celebrating all things Pepsi. It was much more interesting than I had anticipated. Be sure to give yourself a minimum of 30 minutes to look around and try a drink. I swear it tasted better than usual Pepsi.
Where To Eat in New Bern
Lawson’s on the Creek– This restaurant is located in the North Carolina History Center. Admission to the History Center is included with your ticket for Tryon Palace. This restaurant has beautiful riverfront views and a focus on NC craft beer and wine by the glass. The side salads we ordered were fresh and the veggie panini was delicious! Also, do NOT miss the key lime pie.
Morgan’s Tavern and Grill– This restaurant is located in downtown New Bern in the heart of all the cute shops. Every person we spoke with before the trip recommended this place and they were not wrong. It was full when we arrived about five but we were able to sit at a round-top table near the bar. The service we received was excellent so do not turn away if it’s busy! Their specialty is a homemade croissant with honey that they bring as the table bread. It was delicious. I also recommend the Portobello Burger if you are a vegetarian!
Thai Angel– I forgot to take pictures because we were so hungry! This was a typical Thai restaurant as far as my experiences have gone. We had great Spring Rolls and Pad Thai and were in and out quickly. We had a concert to get to so it was nice to eat good food quickly!
The Cow Cafe– We had to grab a quick meal between the trolley tour and the New Bern Battlefield Park tour. The night before during the ghost walk we had seen this incredibly colorful, old-fashioned ice cream shop. Reviews online were great and prices were reasonable so we decided to try it. We got very yummy veggie wraps and some delicious ice cream made in-house!
Looking for another trip? Check out Visiting Mayberry on a Budget (Mt. Airy, NC)!
How to Budget for the Trip
I found the pricing for food and items in New Bern to be very reasonable. Somehow we did not end up buying anything in the boutiques but I did grab a few books. Each was priced the same as Amazon.
These are the prices we paid as of September 2023:
Look For Bears– FREE
Tryon Palace– One day for adults is $20 and children are $10. If you want to just see the gardens or museums there are discounted tickets. Our behind-the-scenes tour was an additional $20. During our visit we got lucky and a free concert was happening as well.
The North Carolina History Center– Included with the Tryon Palace ticket
The Trolley Tour– Pre-purchase to get the discounted ticket for $18.50. $20 each from the driver’s day off.
New Bern Battlefield Park– $10 per tour member plus tip
Union Point Park– FREE
Ghost Tour– Adults $17, Senior/Military/Student $15 plus tip
Visit the Birthplace of Pepsi- We paid $.49 each for a small Pepsi from the fountain
Walk Around and Look at the Amazing Buildings and Art- FREE
Where To Stay in New Bern
Wallace Meadow Farms (Air BNB)- When my mother and I travel we enjoy staying somewhere with two beds and two baths. I cannot recommend Wallace Meadow Farms enough. It is in Trenton, NC which is about a 20-minute drive from New Bern. You can google and track them down. They provided everything for breakfast and a free bottle of wine which helped keep some of our costs down.
Bridge Pointe Hotel & Marina– Frugal friends strongly recommended this location to me. I am visiting again in a few weeks and staying at this location for a single night. I will come back and update you after our visit. The price is excellent for the reviews.
The steps of the palace!
Love the curtains in the dining room!
The only original building left at the Palace- the Stables!
House used by the Union soldiers during the Civil War!
Mom learning to use a musket.
The moss on the trees is just stunning. This is a stop on the trolley tour.
The donkey at the Air BNB refused to take the carrot.
Beautiful local church.
Have you stayed in New Bern? Leave a comment with your favorite attractions or tips!