BUT they say absence makes the heart grow fonder and even though I was quite fond of New Bern when I lived there, nothing has made me appreciate it like being away. I love big cities and more "urban" areas (not complaining about lots of restaurants and a real mall!) but there is something so convenient and easy about a small town (especially for someone like me who really struggles with directions/traffic.) Going downtown to walk around, peek into shops, enjoy the view of the river, read library books, sit on our favorite bench, and (most importantly) drink Mountain Dew from the Pepsi store. (For some reason, it tastes better than anywhere else in the world.)
Obviously you can't tell but this was taken on our favorite bench downtown. =)
So here's what we'd do if I could take you (or just myself!) on a weekend trip to New Bern, North Carolina: (these are my favorites, but they don't even include all the fun available with boats and jet-skis on the river or the multiple art festivals, etc. that go on too... again, just my picks =)
1. I'd take you out for breakfast at Baker's Kitchen, which has theeee best cinnamon rolls, French toast (according to Jonathan), and pretty much everything else you can think of. It's all delicious, but you have to get the Dutch potatoes (a cheesy, rich hash brown casserole-type dish. I'm nearly drooling just thinking about it.) This also puts us right in the heart of downtown so a stroll around the shops can burn off all those (totally worth it) calories. If you have kids, there's a park down the street or you could go around town to count the bears. (They're kind of the town mascot.)
2. It's famous for a reason! I'd say we're headed to the Tryon Palace but... shhhh.... I've actually never been. Isn't that awful? I'm told it's gorgeous but I genuinely don't know, so instead we'll head to another famous New Bern landmark- the Pepsi Store. (Billboards around town boast that it's the "Birthplace of Pepsi" and most restaurants serve Pepsi products.) If you've ever been to the Coke Factory in Atlanta, well- this is nothing like that. It's a tiny corner storefront but it does have a looping video of the history of Pepsi and a ton of cool vintage Pepsi and Mountain Dew memorabilia, plus you can get a fountain drink and popcorn for $1.50. That little treat has been our Saturday lunch many times.
3. Since calories don't count on vacation, we'll head down the street to Cow Cafe, an adorable shop (with cow-printed walls) that has "real food" but is most famous for its hand-dipped ice cream. If it's not too hot we can sit outside and people watch but I'm usually one to grab a table inside and enjoy the AC. They have all kinds of yummy concoctions, but my go-to is a mint chocolate chip cone. Mmmm. Or we could grab some homemade fudge or other treat at Bear City Fudge. (Eat all the chocolate!)
A milkshake and library day.
4. The weather is perfect and getting outdoors is a must. We'll walk over to Union Point Park, where there's lots of lawn, swings, a gazebo, and best of all a walkway along the river where we can watch the boats, feed the ducks, and just enjoy the water. That view never, ever got old to me. Also, the park hosts lots of cool events, including movie nights and the annual MumFest in October, which is a huge fair-like event that takes over al the downtown streets but is mostly an excuse to eat a ton of fried food. Even on the hottest days, there's a breeze coming off the river and it's just perfect.
Another fun downtown Saturday- the Dragonboat Races!
5. The locals would stone me if I didn't take you to Tryon Palace, and since I've already mentioned I've never been, it could be a first trip for both of us! The original Governor's Mansion now features lots of historic attractions and interactive displays, as well as being a gorgeous venue for weddings. Fun fact- it was also used to film part of the television series Sleepy Hollow! Or, if you're feeling a little more casual, we could stop by the Farmer's Market for gorgeous produce, handmade items ranging from cutting boards to doll clothes, and delicious baked goods (or, you know, a hot dog.)
6. You didn't ask, but I'll tell you anyway that a trip to New Bern wouldn't be complete without dinner at one of the many excellent seafood restaurants downtown. There are several good options, but our favorite (and one of the cheapest!) is Stingray Cafe. It's not much bigger than a hole-in-the-wall place but it's SO good and is conveniently across the street from both Tryon Palace and the Farmer's Market. I have dreamed of the shrimp basket about a million times since moving away. And if you're interested in taking some fish home, they sell fresh seafood in the little shop next door. (Or if you're not in a seafood mood, 37th Street Pizza is absolutely wonderful- my favorite is pepperoni and pineapple!)
Now that I'm feeling good and homesick, I think I'll pop over and check out flights into New Bern (yes, you can fly into the town at what has to be one of the world's tiniest airports.) Ha! I won't be flying out there anytime before the holidays, but you better believe that our next North Carolina trip will include a visit to my favorite little waterfront town.
If you're in North Carolina or passing through, consider coming through New Bern- maybe on your way to the beach! It's worth the stop, I promise. (Actually Baker's Kitchen cinnamon rolls alone are worth the stop- everything else is just a bonus.)