Halfway between New York and Miami is Fayetteville, North Carolina, one of America’s most accessible cities. Charlotte, straight west, can be reached in less than three hours; drive south for just over two hours and you’ll come to Myrtle Beach, SC; and Raleigh is just over an hour north. With plenty to do, see, and eat, however, Fayetteville and Cumberland County can fill any itinerary with indelible adventure. From breweries and downtown boutiques to a new baseball stadium and a vibrant artistic presence, there is a culture of bonhomie here. Read on to find out what to experience in this vibrant and diverse city full of Caroline panache.
Learn more about our nation’s soldiers
Bordering the towns of Fayetteville, Spring Lake and Southern Pines, Fort Bragg, the backbone of the county’s economy, is one of the largest military installations on the planet, spanning 251 square miles. It is the headquarters of the US Army Special Operations Command. Many presidents have given important speeches at Fort Bragg, including President John F. Kennedy in 1961, President Ronald Reagan in 1987, President George W. Bush in 2005, and President Barack Obama in 2011.
So no visit to Fayetteville is complete without a stop at the US Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum (ASOM), which celebrates more than eight decades of Air Force and Special Operations history. Ride in a C-47 transport plane, see a ground mobility vehicle, and see a rotor that was once attached to a Black Hawk helicopter. Through thoughtful exhibits and educational programming, this free-to-the-public museum honors the soldiers of our country.
Pro tip: In addition to visiting ASOM, be sure to spend some time at the North Carolina Veterans Park, dedicated to military veterans from all branches of the military. The Oath of Service wall and community columns have casts of the hands of veterans and their families, representing not only the veterans, but also all the people of North Carolina who support the veterans.
Sing along during the seventh inning stretch
The Segra Stadium, located in the heart of downtown, is home to the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, a subsidiary of the Houston Astros’ Class A Minor League. With a community of fans who derive from a long line of military influences, singing “The Star Spangled Banner” is a once-in-a-lifetime experience from the stands at Segra Stadium.
The home opener is scheduled for May 11, and individual tickets go on sale April 24.
Pro tip: Other sports for spectators include Fayetteville Marksmen ice hockey, a veteran-owned professional team that plays at the Crown Coliseum; Fayetteville Motor Speedway, features dirt track races; and Cape Fear Heroes Indoor Football, a professional arena football team, which is part of the American Arena League.
Explore the historic city center
Hours can be reduced, exploring bustling downtown Fayetteville, full of shops, antiques and collectibles, and outdoor art. The climate in Fayetteville is relatively warm and moderate, firmly planted in an area of humid subtropical climate, suitable for exploring outdoors for most of the year.
Step into A Bit of Carolina for North Carolina-inspired gift items, browse used titles as well as local art at City Center Gallery & Books, smell the handmade soaps at Olde Town Apothecary, and pet Benny the Milk Dog before he goes to his farm. – table deliveries for the downtown market.
Make your own eco-friendly candles in a candle-making workshop at Hummingbird Candle Company, a black woman-owned business that creates jobs by putting women at the helm.
Admire works of art created by North Carolina artists at the Arts Council, stroll downtown and spot nine different sculptures, and admire local art at a number of businesses and galleries in the center -city.
Pro tip: Do not miss, The Cape Fear Regional Theater has entertained surrounding communities with shows since 1962.
Walk between the Cape Fear River and Cross Creek
The highlight of any trip to Fayetteville is definitely the Cape Fear Botanical Garden. Set on 80 acres, this garden features a children’s garden, several hiking trails and viewpoints, an evergreen garden, a pond, shade gardens, and ornamental plants. The Heritage Garden features a farmhouse and farm structures dating back to 1886. Don’t forget to bring your camera and capture the colorful flowers, evergreens, and plants.
Pro tip: Tours, educational programs and therapeutic horticulture are also offered, enriching the community and the experience of all who enter the gardens.
Paddle away from your worries
Rent a kayak with Yakalacky Outfitters and paddle your watercraft at Lake Rim Park. You will see families fishing both on the shore and on boats. Make your way to the north end of the lake where you will find hundreds of dragonflies and damselflies floating in the spring.
Pro tip: If you are new to kayaking, Lake Rim Park offers guided tours.
Try your luck at ax throwing
Historically part of lumberjack competitions, indoor ax throwing is a modern sport, much like playing darts, where competitors throw an ax at a target for points.
Axes and Armor Hatchet House, the first ax throwing facility inside Cumberland County, opened in 2019.
Pro tip: It is a good idea to wear closed-toe shoes and comfortable clothing that you can move around in. Watch out for the “axpert” as he or she teaches you how to handle and throw an ax.
Eat, drink and rejoice
There are a number of fantastic restaurants, cafes and faucet rooms to satisfy any visitor.
The Blue Moon Café, located right in the city center, offers a variety of appetizers and a lovely outdoor patio.
Pierro’s Italian bistro offers a modern ambience and classic Italian dishes.
The District House of Taps, located in the historic district of Haymount, is a self-service tap dance hall and eatery housed in a 112-year-old historic building that was once a restaurant, pizzeria, antique store and a indoor golf simulator.
Fayetteville Pie Company, which serves sweet and savory pies, is owned by veterans. The flavors change regularly, but if you have the chance, order the Blueberry Lavender Pie for dessert.
Pharaoh’s Village is the hotspot for Mediterranean cuisine like shawarma, gyros, falafels, kebabs, Greek salads, and Turkish coffee.
The Coffee Scene, trendy and colorful, is the ideal place to meet up with friends over an espresso or an ice cream. (There are two locations in Fayetteville.)
Dirtbag Ales is family-friendly and pet-friendly and has a large outdoor area designed to relax all day while enjoying favorite craft beers like Blood Orange Kolsch (the original flagship beer), IPA, and Jalapeno Business. Dirtbag Ales also hosts food trucks, a window ordering restaurant, towels, and a farmer’s market with over 40 weekly vendors.
Pro tip: Next month, the all-new Dirty Whiskey Saloon will open alongside Dirtbag Ales, serving cocktails and mixed drinks.
Stay in a historic Bed & Breakfast
Worth a visit in Fayetteville alone, the MacPherson House, located on Hay Street near the historic downtown area, is an experience you won’t soon forget.
The house, built in 1920, was originally located on the MacPherson Estate before being dismantled and transported through town to its current location.
Each of the five bedrooms is fitted with designer touches that aim to create a calming space with a nod to the past. A separate chalet is also offered on the property, ideal for a family of four. Breakfast is served each morning – in the dining room or on the porch – and yoga and massage therapy sessions are offered to guests.
Pro tip: The Chesnutt Room, named after Charles Wadell Chesnutt, an African-American author (1858-1932), is a favorite with guests.