49 Things You Can Do in Fayetteville, NC
When it comes to road trips, the only thing more exciting than the last mile is discovering something new along the way. Turn your next I-95 pit stop into an afternoon getting to know Fayetteville, North Carolina, a city that’s soon going to be one of your favorite places. At Exit 49, drive right past the first gas stations you see, skip the fast-food burgers in a bag, and come on into Fayetteville. There’s a thousand reasons to visit and a thousand more reasons to stay, but in the interest of time (you’ve got a road trip to plan, after all), we’re going to let you know 49 things to do in Fayetteville, NC, on your next road trip. We’ll see you soon.
You’re on a road trip and you’re hungry? What do you do? Stop in Fayetteville, of course.
We’re packed with restaurants that serve more than a burger, fries and a shake, much more, in fact. Fayetteville’s a city with an international flair, and our restaurant selection looks like the United Nations’ lunchroom. Whether you want some famous North Carolina barbecue; some Southern comfort food; a burger and fries; or a bite from Egypt, Greece, Vietnam, or beyond, you’ll find something to savor on your stop.
The aromas of Middle Eastern spices are nearly as colorful as the plates at Pharaoh’s Village. Go for a handheld meal–gyro, shawarma, or falafel pita–or sit down to a platter piled high with lamb kebabs, flavor-packed veggies, or all the fixings for a gyro feast. Just don’t skip dessert because the baklava and kunaffa are worth every calorie.
In Spring Lake, only a few minutes from Fayetteville, Sawaddee dishes up authentic Thai and Chinese cuisine that continues to turn the “maybe I’ll stop in for lunch” crowd into regulars. The Pad Thai balances smoky, sweet and savory, and one bite of their handmade spring rolls reveals all you need to know about Sawaddee: fresh, homemade, delicious.
Transport yourself to the shores of the Aegean Sea with a bite from Agora Restaurant. Here, simple flavors and family recipes for adana kebabs (ground beef and lamb), gyros, and the Alexander (a spicy play on the gyro) make for a bite so authentic you’ll swear you’re in Istanbul.
One whiff of a steaming bowl of pho – a ginger-packed, lemongrass-laced noodle soup from Vietnam – and you’ll be hooked. As satisfying as pho can be, it’s not everyone’s cup of soup, so Grilled Ginger offers up other delicacies from Vietnam. Try the perfect simplicity of Lemongrass Chicken Vermicelli; Hot Chili Shrimp; or a clay pot filled with rice, seafood and an irresistible curry.
There are more than 30 different countries represented in the cuisine offerings of Cumberland County’s restaurants, making for a wide array of tasty options for any palate.
You’ll recognize Das Bavarian Haus by the blue and white checked Bavarian flag outside, but you’ll come back to this German eatery for the schnitzel – crispy, platter-sized slices of breaded and fried pork or chicken. Of course, the knockwurst, bratwurst, pretzel buns, and the offering of German wine and beer add to the authenticity.
For a fusion of barbecue styles and a guaranteed hit on every plate, stop by Fowler’s Southern Gourmet. Smoked pulled pork, chicken, dry-rubbed ribs, brisket and burnt ends are only half the story here. Add to that an array of sauces, killer sides, oversized salads, both kinds of tea (sweet and unsweet) and hand-cut French fries, and you have a must-stop.
The menu changes constantly at Napkins, the Hope Mills eatery sitting alongside Dirtbag Ales, and the burgers, sandwiches and fries are close to perfection. Try one of five smashburgers, a Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich or a basket of tots paired with one of Dirtbag’s brews for a winning combination.
The menu might look like your typical pub grub, but it’s so much more. If a zesty fish and chips to a Chicago-style beef sandwich, to a Certified Angus Beef burger topped with bacon jam and homemade pimento cheese doesn’t convince you, maybe the grown-up chicken tenders, fried cheese curds, or dozen beers on hand will.
Serving barbecue, fried seafood and all the fixings since 1986, Fuller’s is an institution in Fayetteville, with two locations and a legion of hungry fans. While North Carolina barbecue is the star here, don’t skip the slaw, hushpuppies or barbecue chicken. Perfect for a picnic, a to-go box is like a ready-made picnic.
When it comes to fried chicken, Uptown’s Chicken & Waffles serves a tasty bird. Fans will tell you the only thing better than the fried chicken is the waffle. Or the shrimp and grits. Or the fried fish platter. Truth be told, whether you order the cheeseburger sliders, the fried chicken sandwich, or a salad piled high with grilled shrimp, you’ll leave happy and full.
Everyone on a road trip needs the chance to stretch their legs and get a little fresh air. These spots let you–and your four-legged friends–forget the road for a few minutes and lose yourself in a good time.
This One’s for the Dogs (Literally)
Just off Interstate 95, Riverside Dog Park gives pooches the chance to work off a little energy and make a pit stop of their own. Cross Creek Linear Park connects Riverside with the gorgeous Cape Fear Botanical Garden (more on that in a moment), giving you and your pooch a chance to stretch, explore and get some fresh air. Other dog-friendly spots a short drive away include Carvers Creek State Park and Hope Mills Municipal Park.
An adrenaline-pumping afternoon awaits at ZipQuest. Here, you’ll take a treetop zipline tour that includes eight zips, sends you soaring over Carver’s Falls, and, if you’re bold enough, will have you swinging over the 7-story drop to Carver’s Creek.
Packed with exhibits and activities that engage kids’ minds and unlock their creativity, Fascinate-U is a hit with our younger visitors. Costumes, props and toys give kids the chance to play as farmers, shop owners, soldiers, and performers. Science and art programs and special events make for plenty to explore when you stop by.
If you think playing laser tag is kids’ stuff, you’re right, but at Battle House, it’s so much more. Veteran-owned, Battle House brings the fun on tactical video games to the real world. A 14,000-square-foot indoor arena complete with buildings, bridges and obstacles gives players plenty of space for missions like capture the flag, domination, search and destroy familiar to gamers. Toss in an armory of fun laser weapons and you’ve got a fun day of play ahead.
Want to try skydiving but scared to jump out of an airplane? Us, too. That’s why we’re glad Paraclete XP has taken the experience indoors. Suit up, head into the vertical wind tunnel and wait for the enormous fans to lift you and your instructor off your feet. Soaring up and down the vertical shaft, you’ll get the sensation of skydiving minus the sky. After a few flights, take a seat and watch others take their turn. If you’re lucky the U.S. Army Golden Knights, a demonstration and competition parachute team, will be there practicing thrilling aerial maneuvers as a unit and as individuals.
Throwing axes at a giant plywood dartboard is crazy…fun, and at Axes and Armor, you can get in on the sport of hatchet throwing with your friends. With an indoor facility and mobile axe-throwing alley that frequents Dirtbag Ales, you’re never more than a blade’s toss from fun.
Take your tactical-combat game to the next level at Black Ops Paintball and battle your way through more than a half-dozen paintball and airsoft fields and arenas spread across 150 acres. From regulation speedball and hyperball fields to wooded compounds to indoor close quarter combat arenas, Black Ops keeps paintball and airsoft enthusiasts breathless with options.
Jump for Joy
If you want to keep your sky-high adventures close to earth, check out one of the indoor trampoline parks around town. JP’s Jumpmasters, near Paraclete XP, is full of trampolines, foam block pits and dodgeball and basketball areas. At Defy.Fayetteville, you can unleash your inner Ninja Warrior and practice on a challenging–but safe–obstacle course, try your hand at the trapeze, or even duel it out on the Battle Beam. Surge Trampoline Park, in Hope Mills, features dodgeball courts and basketball dunking lanes, challenging obstacle courses, and it’s wall-to-wall trampolines.
Go for a Swim
Ready to cool off? At Lake Pines Swim Club, a two-acre, spring-fed lake gives you a taste of sun and sand along with plenty of places to swim, splash and dive the day away. Cabanas and picnic areas give you a private place to rest, recharge and regroup. If you’re staying overnight, opt for a hotel with an outdoor pool (we have more than three dozen) or an indoor pool (we have six to choose from).
Grab lunch and your picnic blanket, then head to one of three dozen parks and gardens in Fayetteville to dine al fresco and walk off your lunch after.
Studded with views of the Cape Fear River and carrying walkers, joggers and cyclists through hardwood forests and over marshes and hills, the Cape Fear River Trail runs for more than 5 miles across Fayetteville. As part of the East Coast Greenway–a series of urban greenways and trails that will connect Maine and Florida–the Cape Fear River Trail is a showstopper. Lace up your running shoes, oil up your bike chain, and grab a leash for your four-legged sidekick, then hit the trail for an easy amble, a challenging run or a simple leg-stretching walk in the great outdoors and see a different side of Fayetteville.
Eighty acres of pine and hardwood forests and more than a dozen immaculately planted gardens stand at the edge of the Cape Fear River just a couple of miles from downtown. The Cape Fear Botanical Garden has become a fixture and ideal place to gather with friends and family or to gather one’s thoughts. Miles of trails meander through garden rooms, along bluffs overlooking the Cape Fear River and Carver’s Creek, and along the rich soil of floodplains. The $10 admission (adults; for kids it’s only $5) is worth every penny, as programs like Discovery Backpacks make exploring the garden time well spent for kids and grown-ups alike.
The terrain in and around Fayetteville makes for amazing golfing, and at Arnette Park, you can get in a round of a different sort as the disc golf course here draws players from far and wide. The course plays at just about a mile in length (depending on which tees you play), and along with the walking and biking paths, playgrounds and greenspace in the park, give you plenty of opportunity for a blend of exciting competition and “let’s come back and do this again” fun.
Skate the Day Away
At Rowan Park, a 16,000-square-foot skate park calls to skaters, BMX trick riders, and rollerbladers who come for the multi-level flow bowl (think round-bottomed swimming pool, but water-free) and the obstacle-filled street flow area. Check that you have your helmet, pads and wheels–and don’t forget your best moves–before you drop in.
Carvers Creek State Park, once a vacation retreat for a member of the nature-loving Rockefeller family, features a gorgeous millpond and historic structure at Long Valley Farm. There, a pair of trails lead you through the property and along the pond’s edge. A second section of the park–the 3,300-acre Sandhills area–has more than 10 miles of trails to traverse. While you’re in the woods here, keep your eyes and ears open for the red-cockaded woodpecker; they love it here almost as much as you will.
Angling for a Good Time
With the Cape Fear River, Carvers Creek and other tributaries, and dozens of lakes and ponds nearby, there are plenty of spots to do a little fishing. Hope Mills Lake is full of largemouth bass, sunfish and catfish. Lake Rim Public Fishing Area and other stops along the Fish & Game Trail (there are 30 stops in all) guide anglers to the river, streams, ponds and waters where they can wet a line for an hour or two.
If you’re new to fishing or just want to improve your casting or knot-tying game, check out the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center. They hold short clinics and longer intensives that go from fishing basics to more advanced concepts and nuances of the sport. Check their calendar to see if they have a clinic, demo or public fishing event when you visit, or inquire with one of their staff as to the best fishing hole (that they’ll reveal) around and just what the fish are biting.
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you put your brain on pause. These museums will hold your attention and let you in on a few secrets from Fayetteville’s history.
The circa-1890 Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad Depot that’s home to the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum provides a beautiful and fitting setting for the exhibits and interactive displays inside. Across two floors, the story of Fayetteville–from pre-history to today–unfolds; aided by an interactive steamboat exhibit and display of historic automobiles, fire trucks, farm equipment and more, you’ll find an engaging museum and come to know this equally amazing town.
Paying homage to the contributions, sacrifices and stories of the U.S. Army’s Airborne and Special Operations soldiers–many of whom train or are stationed at nearby Fort Bragg, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum reveals harrowing and heartbreaking details about the missions and the soldiers who made history and a safer world. Through exhibits filled with the tools of war, life-sized dioramas, and even an immersive, big-screen simulation of Airborne missions, you’ll get a taste for what it takes to be Airborne and Special Operations. While you’re there, take the time to ask one of the volunteers–many of whom are Airborne or Special Operations veterans–about their experiences; we guarantee you’ll hear a story or two worth repeating.
Pay a visit to Gillis Hill Farm and Contentment Farm, where the same family has farmed since the 1700s. Farm tours detail the history of the farm, family and region, and exhibits show the evolution of farming techniques and equipment. But that’s only half the draw. The other half is the homemade ice cream and baked treats. Stop in, grab a cone or a shake, and take the tour; or, if you’d rather spend your time lazing away the hours, grab a seat on the porch and watch the clouds roll by.
Downtown Walking Tour
Stroll downtown with locals who know Fayetteville’s history, legends and lore. The veteran-owned Downtown Fayetteville Tours offer historical tours touching on everything from the town’s namesake to the fire that wiped out a huge portion of the city to the ghosts, spirits and haunts around town. If you’re thirsty, you should join one of the weekend-only Bar Crawl tours that takes you to breweries, local hangouts, and more.
You don’t have to be a military intelligence officer to see that Fayetteville is a city bursting with patriotic pride. From Fort Bragg and Pope Field right here in town to the veteran-owned businesses to stories of the valor displayed by Fayetteville’s sons and daughters since our colonial days, there are stories around ever corner. On the Patriots Past and Present Trail, you’ll visit more than two-dozen sites that bring these stories to the forefront and will inspire your own patriotic zeal.
Save Room for Souvenirs
Take a little slice of Fayetteville home with you, whether it’s a tee shirt or homemade soap, a chic antique mirror or bit of military surplus, or a literal slice–or whole–pie. Make room in your stomachs and luggage for some keepsakes from Fayetteville and devote some of your layover to browsing the boutiques and businesses across the city.
Whether you want to take home a tee shirt or a bottle of authentic North Carolina barbecue sauce or something in between, poke your head into A Bit of Carolina to see what tickles your fancy. Their selection of North Carolina- and Fayetteville-centric goods and gifts has the ideal keepsake from your time in town.
Leclair’s General Store carries what a good general store should: everything. Or near enough that you won’t notice what’s missing. Art, antique and vintage pieces, photographs and knickknacks, even an odd thing or two that will have you thinking “I wonder who buys this?” fill the store and make for some Instagrammable vignettes. While you shop and look for the perfect photo, sip a coffee, craft beer or glass of wine. What could be better?
This gallery and working artists’ studio is the only visual arts cooperative in Fayetteville and whether you stop in for a class, to visit with the artists, or to shop, you’ll find something inspiring waiting there. The gallery here changes exhibits once a month, and every fourth Friday a new show debuts. Just about everything you see here is for sale–unless it’s spoken for–and no matter if you’re in the market for pottery, paintings, watercolors or something else, one of the artists here makes it.
Inside the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, there’s a store stuffed with locally made goods, souvenir items like magnets and tee shirts, and other mementos of your visit. Stop by for a keepsake and to pick up an area map, trail guide, or suggestion on where you should grab breakfast in the morning.
Located inside the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (FACVB), this store offers a variety of travel souvenirs, including logoed apparel, drinkware, magnets, stickers, and postcards, as well as locally made food products.
Interested in purchasing products online? Shop at FayettevilleNCGear.com.
If you’re looking for a gift or keepsake that’s as individual as you are, see what Pressed has on hand. At Pressed, everything’s curated and reflects the funny, edgy, weird side of life. Pick up a candle disguised as a crystal, a sassy pair of socks, a tee shirt celebrating your love of biscuits and beer (or just about anything else) and have a laugh or two while you shop.
In Eastover, a few minutes from downtown, Off the Racks Boutique carries fun and fashionable women’s wear. A comfy, easy place to shop, you’ll have no problem putting together a look you’ll love.
In a town next to an army base and awash in veterans and active-duty military folks, you expect to find a military surplus store or two. Well, Fayetteville’s got ‘em, so if you need new camo, a mil-spec backpack, a repurposed messenger bag or purse, or a patch, pair of boots or just about anything else, make your way to one of the military surplus stores in town. Pay a visit to All American Military Surplus in Fayetteville, or head to Spring Lake and drop in at Old Sarge’s Surplus.
Finding a great vintage boutique, second-hand store, antique gallery, or consignment shop when you visit a new town can be a tall order. We’re taking the guesswork out of it with the Second-Hand Treasure Trail. When you’re on the trail you’ll find nearly 50 shops in and around Fayetteville that cater to your inner treasure hunter. With vintage clothes and mid-century pieces, 16th-century furniture, like-new clothing, and more waiting on you, heed the call of the trail and go find your new favorite thing.
There’s plenty of farmland around Fayetteville, and we celebrate our farmers, craftspeople and artisan makers with a pair of farmers markets. City Market at the Museum takes place every Saturday at the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum and focuses on homegrown goodies. The Dirtbag Ales Farmers Market—held onsite, appropriately, at Hope Mills’ Dirtbag Ales Brewery—is packed with vendors and draws visitors who love the selection and vibe here. Dirtbag Ales Farmers Market takes place every Sunday from April to November.
Before you tell Fayetteville “goodbye (for now),” grab a treat for the road from one of the bakeries, coffee shops and sweet treat outposts around town.
You’ll feel like you won a Golden Ticket when you walk into Rocket Fizz, a candy shop with a mind-boggling array of candy, sweets, sodas and treats. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill, find-it-at-any-grocery-store candy, it’s nostalgic candy brands and flavors, it’s candy you’ll only find overseas (or here), and it’s 500 kinds of Rocket Fizz soda. No matter what you buy, you’ll wish you had one more, so go ahead and pick up an extra or two; you won’t be mad about it.
Want some killer ice cream made with a contraption involving a John Deere tractor? Want to buy that ice cream at a post office? You can do both if you head to Andy’s Homemade Ice Cream in the post office at 806 Cedar Creek Road. When you place your order, pick up a postcard or two and write to your friends (we’ll get you started: “you won’t believe it, I’m getting ice cream from a post office! xoxo") while you wait on the postmaster to retrieve your frozen treat.
This downtown coffee shop opens early, closes late, and makes an exceptionally good-looking latte, thanks to the printer they have that will transfer photos or messages to the top of your foam-filled cup. Novelty aside, they make a great cup here, and the bites–from muffins and croissants to sandwiches–make for a quick and tasty meal.
With loose teas from around the world and special blends you can’t find anywhere else, WInterbloom Tea has all the leaves and tea accessories you could ever need. They’ll teach you about the optimal brew times, temperatures and techniques and set you up to make the perfect cuppa when you arrive back home.
You can tell by the name and your nose that Cumberland Coffee Roasters roasts their beans in-house; the coffee shows it, too. This Hope Mills coffee shop delivers a variety of beans and levels of roast so you can find you next favorite cup. Keep it classic with a French press or go for a flavor-packed specialty latte.
This bakery and café specializes in delicious cupcakes unlike any other. Think of cupcakes holding secret centers of peanut butter, Nutella or vanilla pudding, then topped with fresh berries, salted caramel drizzle, even roasted peanuts. If you’re not feeling daring, go for a cake pop; it’s a tasty option. Regardless of your order, you’ll leave wondering when you can come back for more.
This dessert-focused bakery delivers cakes fit for any celebration and treats guaranteed to brighten your day. Grab a box of scones, macarons or cinnamon rolls, or go for a classic cookie or cake pop. Their work is as delicious as it is beautiful, so even if your expectations are sky-high, they’ll exceed them with every bite.
The only thing better than a slice of pie is a whole pie, and at Fayetteville Pie Company they cook up only the best. Their variety of sweet and savory pies is inventive and daring, and it always hits the mark on flavor. From traditional chicken pot pies to sweet potato pies loaded with pulled pork, their savory pies are swoon-worthy. And on the sweet side, it’s hard to beat their seasonal berry pies, unless it’s with one of their cream pies or one of their other takes on a classic pie. Everything here dazzles the taste buds, so order with reckless abandon; whatever you order will be a winner.
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