Things To Do in New Bern NC
New Bern is a beautiful city to visit all year round. As the first capital of North Carolina and the second-oldest city in the state, it’s known for its perfectly preserved historical buildings and architecture, stunning waterfront scenery, and proximity to nature.
A stay here in New Bern is sure to be a one-of-a-kind experience with no shortage of fun activities and places to visit! Check out our recommendations for the best places to go to, events to attend, and things to do in New Bern, NC!
Parks and Outdoors
Union Point Park
Located in the heart of downtown New Bern and right where the Neuse and Trent Rivers meet, Union Point Park is an excellent place to take in the picturesque waterfronts of the city and breathe in the fresh air. The park has plenty of benches and tables for seating, picnic tables, grills, playground facilities, restrooms, boat launches, a fishing pier, and an extensive boardwalk that runs right by the water’s edge.
Plenty of outdoor events are held in the park, including free live music performances at the gazebo, and there’s plenty of free open space to go around. A great place to take the family out for a fun day outdoors!
Lawson Creek Park
Lawson Creek Park is an ideal place to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and enjoy a quiet moment outdoors. This 140-acre park is surrounded by Lawson Creek and the Trent River and offers opportunities to get out on the water, from boating and kayaking to fishing and swimming. The park also features picnic areas, grills, soccer fields, a handicap walkway and fishing pier, and an 8-mile walking trail.
Lawson Creek Park is an ideal place to sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of nature without going too far away from the comforts of the city.
Latham Whitehurst Nature Park
Latham-Whitehurst Nature Park is Craven Country’s first state park and is made up of 133 acres of pristine preserved coastal land. Featured activities include hiking, sightseeing, bird watching, and wildlife viewing from many of its picturesque vistas. You can also go picnicking in various sheltered picnic areas, stroll along the walking trails, and appreciate the great outdoors.
There’s never been a better place to connect with nature than at Lathan Whitehurst Nature Park.
Croatan National Forest
If you want more of an adventure, Croatan National Forest is an extensive national forest on the Atlantic Coast. Housed within a whopping 160,000 acres of land, the Croatan National Forest was first established in 1936 and remains a much-beloved national forest with countless visitors coming in from all over the country to see its splendor up close every year.
There are plenty of fun outdoor activities to do in Croatan, from hiking, biking, camping, hunting, wildlife viewing, picnicking, fishing, swimming, kayaking, and more! The land houses not just pine forests, but lakes, rivers, creeks, estuaries, bogs, and beaches. Located right near New Bern, Croatan National Forest is an exciting place to explore and live out your wildest wilderness exploration dreams!
Historical Places and Museums
Ask anyone what there is to see in New Bern and they’ll most likely point you toward the Tryon Palace first. The Tryon Palace, also called the Governor’s Palace, was the home of the governor and his family back when New Bern was the capital of the state of North Carolina. Today, the impressive structure still stands as a testament to New Bern’s rich history, teaching locals and newcomers alike about the state’s beginnings and rise to what it is today.
The site contains not just the Georgian-style brick mansion, but also 22 acres of lush gardens, a complex of other historical buildings, centuries-old antiques and artifacts, and guides dressed in period-appropriate clothing who are more than happy to retell stories of the palace’s various goings-on in its heyday. The Tryon Palace is a definite must-visit anytime you’re in New Bern!
New Bern Fireman’s Museum
The Firemen’s Museum is one of the most unique places you can visit in New Bern. The museum highlights the history of the New Bern Fire Company, the state’s oldest fire company, and the overall history of fires and those who put them out in the city. The museum features extensive exhibits full of old artifacts, memorabilia, and other items from the fire company’s history, including Fred, the company’s ever-reliable fire horse.
Birthplace of Pepsi Cola
Perhaps New Bern’s biggest claim to fame is the fact that the extremely popular and well-known carbonated beverage Pepsi was first made and invented here. Then named “Brad’s Drink”, the beloved soda was first created by Caleb Bradham, a local drugstore owner. Today, the original drugstore where Bradham made and sold the drink now serves as a museum, gift shop, and soda fountain where visitors can enjoy a classic Pepsi and view memorabilia detailing the history of this beloved drink. Best of all, it’s located right in the heart of downtown New Bern.
New Bern Battlefield Park
Did you know that New Bern was once the site of a Civil War battlefield? The New Bern Battlefield Park sits on one-third of where the Civil War Battle of New Bern took place on March 14, 1862. Managed by the New Bern Historical Society, the park is kept in pristine condition, so visitors can see the battlefield exactly as it was when the Battle of New Bern took place.
Take a guided tour through the battlefield and learn more about what led to the battle and its aftermath.
North Carolina History Center
Want an in-depth look into the history of New Bern and North Carolina itself? The North Carolina History Center is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the history of this wonderful city!
Featuring interactive displays, extensive exhibits, and significant artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia from throughout New Bern’s history, visitors can step right back into time and learn all about the natural, economic, and cultural events that helped to shape New Bern into what it is today.
African-American Heritage Tour
No historic tour of New Bern would be complete without the African-American Heritage Tour, a self-guided trail that’ll take you all across New Bern to significant points that each tell the story of the African-American community, from the Civil War to their modern struggles and culture.
The tour features 16 panels at over 10 sites in the Craven Terrace or Dryborough neighborhoods of New Bern, each one meant to teach you about a specific part of African-American history and culture in the city. There’s no particular order to it, so you can browse at your leisure and start and stop at any point and time. Black history is just as important to learn about as any other historical aspect of New Bern and what better way to both learn and honor it than with this in-depth and comprehensive tour?
Events and Festivals
Footloose on the Neuse
Footloose on the Neuse is New Bern’s premier outdoor concert series. Happening every other Friday from June to September, these free concerts feature musical acts from different local bands and artists. Grab a blanket or a chair and bring your friends and family for a night of great music at Union Point Park starting at 6:30 PM every other Friday for the whole summer!
Celebrate pride month at New Bern with New Bern Pride Prom! Happening on June 24, 2023, at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, you can start the day off with an all-ages Pride Market from 4 to 6 PM featuring a wide variety of handmade products from local vendors and artisans, a satellite art gallery presented by the Craven Arts Council and Gallery, and a chance to learn about voting rights and even register to vote with the nonprofit organization, You Can Vote.
Then, starting at 7 PM, have a drink at an adults-only Pride Prom with a live DJ and a drag show featuring beloved drag performers from all over the country. Pride has never been this fun!
The Great Trent River Raft Race
The Great Trent River Raft Race is a spectacular annual event that showcases the city’s great creativity and paddling skill. Join hundreds of New Bernians and tourists alike for a fun, family-friendly day full of — you guessed it — boat races on the Neuse and Trent Rivers, shops and vendors, and performances from The Shadow Players Stage Combat Group and The Pirates of the Loose Cannon Company.
The event takes place on June 24, 2023, rain or shine, and launches at Union Point Park.
Fourth of July
The Fourth of July is one of the most anticipated holidays in the US, and New Bern plans to celebrate the Fourth of July like no other! The festivities begin on July 4, 2023, at 5:30 PM at Lawson Creek Park, ending with a stunning fireworks show at 9:15 PM.
There’ll be food trucks, games, live music, and fun entertainment for all ages, so be sure not to miss it if you’re in town!
NC Film Fest
The 2023 North Carolina Film Festival returns to New Bern on July 29, 2023, from 10 AM to 10 PM, at the New Bern Civic Theatre. The festival features submissions from North Carolina filmmakers, actors, and artists in categories ranging from short films to documentaries. Don’t miss this comprehensive all-day event and definitely stick around for the awarding ceremonies!
New Bern is a city full of opportunities to have fun and take in unique sights and sounds! Northwest Creek Marina is your gateway to all the best experiences that New Bern has to offer. Start planning your ideal New Bern summer getaway today!