The riverfront city of New Bern is North Carolina’s best kept hidden gem. Not only is it the first capital of North Carolina, but it’s also the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola – and in my personal opinion, home of America’s friendliest people ever (seriously, it’s crazy). As one of the oldest cities in the The Tar Heel State, there’s no shortage of history to encounter. But that’s not all – this coastal escape is packed with unique shopping, arts and culture, natural beauty, and a bustling culinary scene. Ready to experience it for yourself? Here’s your perfect guide for visiting New Bern, NC.
Hot Tip: For those planning their upcoming trip, consider visiting New Bern over Veterans Day Weekend for Trail to Tryon taking place November 12, 2022. The event includes a half marathon, 10K, and 5K race and fun-filled events. Register here.
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Where to Stay in New Bern, NC: The Jarvis at 220
Located in the heart of Downtown New Bern, NC, The Jarvis at 220 is a gorgeous luxury bed and breakfast housed in a renovated historic mansion. The masterfully decorated living spaces feature bright strokes of blues, Coastal-themed art, and thoughtful touches that make the inside feel immaculate, yet cozy. Guests will find no shortage of spots to spread out and unwind both in the living and dining rooms, the front and back patio areas, and even downstairs in The Cellar Door: a speakeasy-style underground lounge with a billiards table and bar area. Upstairs in the house, enjoy an intimate vibe with just four stunning guest rooms – all featuring plush beds with spa-like bathrooms.
Aside from the gorgeous décor, what really makes The Jarvis a special place are the owners, Denise and Michael, who show so much kindness and hospitality that their B&B feels more like home than well… your actual home! From the delicious homecooked breakfasts (Denise makes amazing pancakes and smoothies!), to the Tiffany blue bikes available for guest use, to the stocked mini fridge with soft drinks to your heart’s content. The Jarvis 220 is the gold standard for bed and breakfasts (and honestly, deserves its own blog post). Look no further for your home base and book your stay here.
Things to Do in New Bern
Visit the Birthplace of Pepsi
Did you know that New Bern, NC is actually the birthplace of Pepsi Cola? In 1893, New Bern pharmacist Caleb Bradham developed a drink that he served at the soda fountain in his pharmacy at the corner of Pollock and Middle Streets. First known by the name of “Brad’s Drink” as an aid to digestion, the concoction gained popularity quickly and was being bottled and distributed by 1905. Today, Caleb’s former pharmacy is a museum and gift shop known as The Birthplace of Pepsi-Cola Store, where you can find unique themed memorabilia and have a Pepsi from soda fountain.
Stroll Downtown New Bern
Downtown New Bern possesses a sweet charm, where the mission to “support small businesses” is easily achieved by visiting the locally-owned shops and boutiques lining the historic streets. From souvenirs to home décor to fabulous fashion – there’s a vast selection of unique products available. While I recommend popping into as many shops as you can, here are some standouts:
- Carolina Creations Gallery is a downtown New Bern legend, contributing to the city’s art scene as “part art gallery, part contemporary gift shop.”
- Blue Magnolia is filled to the brim with artisan-made jewelry and shabby chic home décor that screams Southern Living.
- Sourcing textiles from around the world, OysterBelle is a coastal lifestyle boutique with bright pieces from near and far.
- Mitchell Hardware may have been founded in 1898, but the legacy still runs strong as an authentic working hardware store and gift shop.
- If you have a sweet tooth, stop by Bear City Fudge Company for ice cream and delicious fudge in unique flavors.
Remember what I said earlier about the people of New Bern? Pay attention while you explore downtown – every local will say “hello” and all the shop owners greet you so warmly!
Have Lunch at Morgan’s Tavern and Grill
Housed in a former garage, Morgan’s Tavern and Grill serves everything from seafood to burgers to pasta. Regardless of what you order, just make sure you try their pillowy-soft croissants! For entrees, the Mahi Tacos were cooked to perfection. The Lobster Bisque would’ve had me licking the bowl if I were in the privacy of my own home (not really kidding about that). Aside from the great food, the inside boasts high ceilings, original brick, and exposed wood beams that draws the eye up and makes the space feel grand.
Explore the Bank of the Arts
Art lovers, this one’s for you! Originally commissioned as a bank, the Bank of the Arts is home to the Craven Arts Council & Gallery. Wander through renovated bank vaults filled with art. Admire hanging sculptures and wander galleries below the lofty ceilings. Take a glimpse into the local and regional culture with works created from several mediums, including painting, photography, fiber arts, and more. Although the building still maintains its historic charm as a part of the National Register of Historic Places, it’s amazing to see how its been transformed into a gallery that displays beautiful works of art.
Dinner at Persimmons
Dinner with a side of views is never a bad idea. Perched along the shore of the Neuse River, Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant is a must-eat on your visit. The ever-changing menu features locally-sourced seafood and seasonal ingredients from regional farmers around New Bern, NC. Sit right next to the water atop the picturesque outdoor deck area or enjoy views from their dining room. Be sure to also grab a glass of wine from their expansive wine list or a handcrafted cocktail!
Sunset Sailing On the Neuse River
Ready to witness one of nature’s greatest shows? Set sail on a private Historic River Tour by sunset with T&G Motorsports! Discover New Bern’s natural scenery along the Trent and Neuse River while the fiery sun dips below the horizon. You’ll see the beautiful skyline, nature and a number of luxe homes. New Bern’s shoreline is so beautiful that even Nicholas Sparks, writer of the iconic romance The Notebook, couldn’t resist it. In fact, he lives there and you’ll spot his estate on the tour!
Breakfast at The Country Biscuit
With over 40 years under their aprons, The Country Biscuit is a breakfast staple for locals and visitors alike. The eatery prides itself on “Simple, Southern Homecooking.” Enjoy Breakfast platters, omelets, biscuit sandwiches and more – all served with a smile. Whatever you do, don’t forget to try the buttermilk country biscuits and take home an order of the Biscuit Donuts. They are made fresh each morning!
Take a Tour of Tryon Palace
No visit to New Bern, NC is complete without a visit to one of their most recognizable landmarks, Tryon Palace. The estate was North Carolina’s first colonial and state capitol, serving as the home of colonial Governors and their families. This is the place where governors ruled, legislators debated, and even where our first President danced. Of course, life at Tryon Palace was not glamorous for everyone – there were a number of staff, free and enslaved, who cooked the food, cared for the horses, emptied the chamber pots, and anything else required to make a life of luxury possible. You can hear their stories as well by taking the Life on the Lesser Stairs tour at the estate. Aside from the mansion, the Palace Gardens are stunning. Be sure to see the Latham Memorial Garden, a formal garden whose expertly-manicured bushes form beautiful patterns straight from a storybook.
Dinner at Cypress Hall
Downtown New Bern’s newest restaurant brings Southern flair with a modern twist from the mind of Chef Ashley Moser. Cypress Hall Kitchen + Bar brings an elevated vibe with industrial touches to Middle Street. The full bar and food menu have a brimming variety of options for every palate – from soul-warming comfort food to pizzas with all-natural ingredients. Don’t miss the Smoked Deviled Eggs to start, topped with bacon, chicharrones, and chives!
Discover the Ghosts of New Bern
Historic cities mean historic buildings. Historic buildings mean stories of former residents – some of which have never left. If you’re not afraid of a little paranormal activity, set out on a Ghosts of New Bern Tour. Learn about the legends and myths of the old city and unexplained occurrences in local homes and buildings. With an enchanting mix of history, local lore, and personal experiences, you’ll leave the last stop at the cemetery with an undeniable chill down your spine. The tour departs from The Black Cat Shoppe, a spot for quirky oddities and “randomly inspired fun.”
Spot to Watch Out For [Opening Soon]: Baxter’s
Buckle up for something New Bern’s never seen before, thanks to local residents Tyler Griffin and Von Lewis. Together, the pair are undergoing an ambitious mission of transforming the former Baxter’s jewelry store into a one-of-a-kind jazz hall and upscale bar. Featuring handcrafted cocktails, expertly-prepared tapas, and plenty of “Instagrammable” spaces, the new Baxter’s brings a high-end performing arts venue to New Bern’s night scene. Featuring global and local acts playing genres from jazz to blues, the venue is designed with the stage in one place you’d never expect it: above the entrance door. Every seat in the house will be a good one. Personally, I’m excited to re-visit once Baxter’s opens!
The official opening date for the venue is still under wraps. Join the list to stay in the know here.
From history to art, New Bern, NC has the makings of a perfect escape. Where will you visit first on your trip?
Disclaimer: This post is in partnership with Visit New Bern. As always, all opinions & thoughts expressed above are 100% my own – I wouldn’t have it any other way!