Go There: 48 Fun-Filled Hours in Fayetteville, NC
Spend a weekend – or longer – exploring this charming North Carolina city filled with shopping, dining, art and attractions.
Located 20 minutes from Fort Bragg, the city of Fayetteville, North Carolina, benefits economically, culturally and socially from its proximity to the nation’s largest armed services installation. Yet, Fayetteville has a laid-back charm that is completely distinct from the military precision of its next-door neighbor.
With more than 200,000 residents in the city and another 50,000 on base, Fayetteville is large enough to attract an exciting array of shops, restaurants and entertainment while still being manageable for visitors to navigate and explore. Diverse activities make for a great getaway, whether planning a romantic weekend, reunion with friends or family road trip.
While there are plenty of hotel chain options to align with your favorite rewards program, the lovely MacPherson House Bed & Breakfast marries the best of historic charm and modern conveniences with a hard-to-beat location near downtown.
The MacPherson House, which was relocated to its current setting in 1991, was built in 1920 and completely remodeled a century later. Each room features gleaming hardwood floors, a comfy king bed, small private bath and thoughtful design. The owners made a conscious decision not to include televisions in the rooms, but there is excellent Wi-Fi connectivity (so stream if you must). In addition to breakfast, two beverage bars feature coffee, water and sweet treats.
In This Article
Day 1: Explore Historic Downtown
From the inn, walk just a few blocks down Hay Street to the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum. This incredible military museum takes visitors from the conception of the Parachute Test Platoon in 1940 through current airborne and special op units. The museum highlights changes in technology, equipment and strategy through life-size exhibits, vignettes and storyboards. While ASOM is free (donations appreciated), there is a ticket fee for the virtual reality Pritzker Simulator that puts riders in soldiers’ boots across major conflicts.
Snap a selfie with Iron Mike and explore the ASOM grounds before taking another short walk down Hay Street to the heart of Historic Downtown Fayetteville. Public art pieces add color and vibrancy as you stroll past storefronts that beckon you inside.
Check out the shopping options at Pressed – A Creative Space with an ever-changing selection of gifts, stationary and graphic tees. Pop in A Bit of Carolina with more than 60 local artisans, food vendors and consigners. Turner Lane is another excellent spot for locally crafted, artisan goods. And don’t miss City Center Gallery & Books, an independent bookstore featuring artworks, classic literature, best sellers and a children’s corner.
Need to recharge? Grab a light bite, espresso, latte, cold brew or host of other coffee concoctions at Rude Awakening (best name ever for a coffee shop). A pioneer in downtown revitalization, owner Molly Arnold opened the popular gathering spot in 1999 after restoring the historic building destined for demolition. Don’t miss the charming back courtyard that feels like a secret garden.
In the afternoon, visit the Arts Center Gallery to view works by local artists, along with traveling exhibits. While there, pick up the scavenger hunt map to decode the clues tied to downtown public art pieces. For more family fun, visit the hands-on Fascinate-U Children’s Museum, which is ideal for younger kids or test your wits at Xscape Factor, a great option for tweens and teens. Both are just about a block off Hay Street.
Day 2: Get to Know Northside
Take in Fayetteville’s natural beauty in Northside. For the adventurous, ZipQuest Waterfall & Treetop Adventure gives you a bird’s eye view of the local flora and fauna as you soar between platforms, climb spiral staircases and navigate swinging bridges. Depending on your course, plan on spending two-three hours at ZipQuest, ranked one of the best zipline parks in the nation by USA Today.
If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, explore the Cape Fear River Trail. Park at Jordan Soccer Complex to hop on the wide trail used by walkers, joggers and cyclists. A boardwalk crosses marshland along the seven-mile trail that winds up near downtown and includes more than 700 types of plants and 150 species of birds. Note the trail isn’t a loop, so plan accordingly when considering how far you want to hike.
Between ziplining and walking, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite. Stop in ScrubOaks Contemporary American Pub for truffle tots with aioli, a bourbon burger, fish tacos with pineapple salsa or a good old-fashioned BLT. The menu, which changes seasonally, also includes lighter fare and craft beers on tap.
After lunch, head 15 minutes south to the Haymount District, with its great shopping and live entertainment. Local stores feature upscale home, art, gift and clothing boutiques, including Vibra’s, Leclair’s General Store and Betty Kelly’s. Insider tip: Pop in the Exxon Gas Station on the corner to cool off with soft-serve ice cream.
Haymount is also home to the acclaimed Cape Fear Regional Theatre, featuring five Mainstage shows each season, including musicals, family fare, classic comedies and thought-provoking plays. The schedule includes evening shows and weekend matinees. For a quick bite before the curtain rises, try Latitude 35 Bar & Grill next door or District House of Taps just a couple of blocks from the theatre.
More Evening Options
Cue the Cracker Jacks as the Fayetteville Woodpeckers step up to bat at downtown’s Segra Stadium. From April-September, enjoy evening games during the week and afternoon outings on weekends in the 5,500-seat stadium that opened in 2019. A Single-A farm team of the Houston Astros, Woodpeckers games offer something for everyone with fireworks on Friday nights, a Kid’s Zone and cocktails for the adult crowd at Healy’s Right Field Bar.
Another option is dinner and a movie downtown. From Italian and American bistros to gastropubs and Southern fare, there are plenty of restaurant selections along Hay and Person streets. After dinner, head to the Cameo Art House Theatre to enjoy current movies in a historic setting. The restored movie house also screens independent, foreign and classic films and hosts events throughout the year.
Live like a local with a short drive to some of Fayetteville’s favorite dinner spots. For more than five decades, the Parrous family has delighted diners with Greek and Italian specialties. Luigi’s Italian Chophouse & Bar continues that delicious tradition with many signature dishes, sauces and soups using original recipes dating back nearly 75 years. For a more casual evening, check out Dirtbag Ales Brewery & Taproom. What started with a home-brew kit has grown into a hopping spot with indoor and outdoor seating, frequent live music, small-batch specialty brews and dining options that include Napkins (which you’ll need while enjoying a juicy smash burger) and a host of food trucks.
Fayetteville is blessed with four distinct seasons and scores of events throughout the year that give every trip a different vibe. This city loves celebrating, so check out what’s happening while you’re in town.
A few of the major annual events include Fayetteville Dogwood Festival (April), First Fridays Downtown (April-Sept.), Fayetteville After Five (Second Friday June-Aug.), Independence Day Celebrations (July), International Folk Festival (Sept.), Indigo Moon Film Festival (Oct.), Holiday Festival (Nov.-Dec.) and New Year’s Eve at Festival Park (Dec.).
- Getting There: The easy-to-navigate Fayetteville Regional Airport is serviced by American Airlines and Delta. The Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) welcomes more than a dozen carriers for more flight options. If renting a car, the drive from RDU to downtown Fayetteville is less than 90 minutes.
- Hours of Operation: On Mondays, several attractions and restaurants are closed, so check websites to verify hours.
More to Do: Two days in Fayetteville just gets you started. But there’s more to explore, including Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Cape Fear Historical Complex and nearby attractions throughout Cumberland County. Check out the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors website at VisitFayettevilleNC.com for more info and ideas.