Fayetteville, N.C.: Plenty to Bragg About
One of the first things you’ll notice on a visit to Fayetteville is all of the American flags. They line the downtown streets and adorn many windows and awnings of retail shops and restaurants.
This patriotic display is not just for show. Fayetteville and its surrounding communities have been dubbed “Freedom’s Home” for an unwavering support of the men and women stationed at Fort Bragg, the nearby U.S. Army installation. In fact, Fayetteville’s connection to the military can be seen in a number of tourist attractions.
“Fayetteville is steeped in military history – from the Revolutionary War to today’s men and women fighting for our freedom,” says John Meroski, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Fayetteville is a place where North Carolina ratified the Constitution, and now we’re home to the men and women who defend that Constitution.”
Meroski says Fayetteville boasts more than 700 miles of historic and military sites and attractions.
The Airborne & Special Operations Museum pays homage to the U.S. Army airborne and special operations forces with life-size exhibits featuring fighter planes and combat re-enactments. A main gallery hall chronicles the history of the special ops throughout the country’s major conflicts, and a four-story theater and flight simulator gives kids of all ages a sense of the action. The best part: admission to the museum and its campus is always free.
“A unique experience because their docents are veterans,” Meroski says of the museum. “A lot of the veterans can actually take you to a part in the museum and tell you what it was like during that time.”
Another must-see is North Carolina Veterans Park, the first state park dedicated to military veterans from all branches of the Armed Services. Check out the North Carolina Soils Wall, built with soil collected from the state’s 100 counties, featuring 100 molded hands of active and retired servicemen and servicewomen from across the state.
Arts & Adventure
In addition to a strong military heritage, Fayetteville has a vibrant arts and culture scene. Downtown Fayetteville is easily the city’s cultural epicenter with an impressive roster of art galleries, studios and museums. Browse the collection of regional and national artwork at the Fayetteville Arts Council’s Art Center, housed in a restored post office.
The Arts Council hosts a number of cultural events throughout the year, including 4th Friday, a monthly celebration of the arts downtown with art demonstrations, entertainment and refreshments free to both residents and visitors. Before leaving downtown, stop by Cape Fear Studios where you can watch local artists at work and shop for handcrafted pottery, sculptures, photography, paintings, jewelry, and other works of art.
Families with children will find a wealth of activities to entertain kids from toddlers to teens, starting with Fascinate-U Museum, which features fun, hands-on games and educational exhibits. Test your family’s adventurous spirit at ZipQuest, a three-hour zipline tour, or learn how it feels to be “airborne” at Paraclete XP indoor skydiving center down the road in Raeford.
Explore the famed Cape Fear River by kayak, canoe or from shore along one of seven hiking/biking trails that meander beside the river. Then stop and admire the roses, hosta, lilies and other varietals at the Cape Fear Botanical Garden. Kids especially love the Children’s Garden and the 450-foot-long Butterfly Stroll walkway lined with butterfly-attracting plants and flowers.
“We have a brand new state park in Spring Lake called Carvers Creek State Park,” Meroski says. “The park is absolutely beautiful, and there’s even an old Rockefeller estate that’s been preserved inside the park. If you want to spend the day there, you can go fishing, pack a picnic lunch or take a stroll along the walking trails. It’s a nice gem to have in our community.”
– Teree Caruthers