Being home to Fort Bragg and the US Army Special Ops, Fayetteville has a lot of testosterone but I also discovered fun and cool things to do in Fayetteville NC. Located just off of I-95, Fayetteville eluded me as I passed through the area many times without stopping. When I finally did stop in Fayetteville North Carolina for a couple of days, I found some tasty food, fun attractions, interesting history, and more. Fayetteville is about one hour from Raleigh and 90 minutes from Wilmington NC.
Note: I was hosted by Fayetteville Area CVB (Visit Fayetteville NC) as an opportunity to explore fun and cool things to in Fayetteville NC and share my findings with the McCool Travel audience.
Great Things to Do in Fayetteville NC
1. Mash House Brewing Company
No, wait, this is not just another craft brewery. Mash House serves amazing food. Look at this entree my host ordered. So fresh and photogenic. I had the shrimp and grits, which was amazing but not as Instagrammable. My Reeses Cake still occupies my dreams several months later and I would return to Fayetteville just for another slice.
2. Airborne and Special Ops Museum
This military museum is the number one Fayetteville NC attraction and honors airborne and special ops accomplishments from 1940 (first parachute jump) to today. Displays center around authentic military craft, like a full sized C-47 aircraft to helicopters and ground vehicles. There is no admission charge (donations accepted and encouraged) but there are simulation theater shows for a fee. Allow time to explore the fun and creative items in the gift shop.
3. Smell the Roses
During my Fayetteville visit—ironically on Kentucky Derby Day (the race is also called The Run For the Roses)—I stumbled upon the Fayetteville Rose Garden on my way to find tacos (it was also May 5, Cinco de Mayo). Located at the intersection of Devers Street and Hull Road, the Fayetteville Rose Garden is on the grounds of the Fayetteville Technical Community College. It was an ideal time to visit because the roses were in full bloom.
4. Epic Tacos in Fayetteville NC
The above mentioned tacos are at Taqueria las Delicias and are indeed delicious. Serve yourself salsa and condiment bars tempt you while you wait for your freshly prepared taco order. From their complete collection of Jarritos flavored Mexican sodas, I select Guava (runner up is Pineapple).
5. Cape Fear Botanical Garden
If you are like me, a nice walk is perfect after some epic tacos. Either that or a nap. Well, I heard great things about the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, sitting between the Cape Fear River and Cross Creek, with a sweet butterfly garden and much more. Well, just my luck, I arrived 10 minutes before an early closing, due to a private Kentucky Derby party. Lesson learned, call ahead before driving all the way somewhere. These handy dandy social media and website links are good for something!
6. I Scream (Ice Cream) in Fayetteville NC
So, I could have screamed about the Cape Fear Botanical Garden closing early but instead I went for ice cream. My local contact suggested two places for fun ice cream experiences. One is Gillis Hill Farm, which is in the direction I came from but I am too stubborn to turn around so I will have to try it next trip. The other is Stedman’s Soda Shop, a throwback to Andy Griffith (which is set in North Carolina, by the way). The Fried Bologna sandwich (my sister’s favorite) for $2.39 tempted me but I stuck with ice cream. Dean and Roy (the UNC coaching legends) tried to distract me from my $3.50 sundae masterpiece but I managed anyway.
7. Downtown Fayetteville: People Watch, Eat, Drink
The classic downtown area is the place to go and be seen in the evenings. On my pleasant May Saturday evening visit, most people seemed to pose for prom, wedding, and elegant Instagram pictures. I kept my eyes on the prize and decided on yummy calamari and fun brews (Thin Mint Stout and Blueberry IPA) from Huske Hardware House. Later I strolled (check out the Cameo Art House Theater, if open) and discovered some tasty key lime pie at Rude Awakening coffee shop. Nearby Bright Light Brewing, a block off the main drag (Hay Street/Person Street) served a delicious pint, which I savored while watching a local cover band play Lynyrd Skynyrd songs for a half hour. Truth though, I mostly watched the crowd. Our secret.
8. The Bambino’s First Clout
Babe Ruth’s first professional home run was swatted on March 7, 1914 during a spring training exhibition game at Cape Fear Fairgrounds. A historic marker sits near the site but I pretended that the current Fayetteville SwampDogs (a summer collegiate program) stadium was it. Officially, for all you baseball historian sticklers, Babe Ruths first home run was not even in the United States. The first home run he hit in a “real” game was in Toronto, Canada on Sept 5, 1914.
Babe Ruth Historic Marker: corner of Southern Avenue and Gillespie Street
9. Fayetteville NC Pizza
C’mon now, you must be saying, every town has pizza. Plus, I already listed tacos, right? I will not steer you wrong, the pizza at Fayetteville’s Brooklyn Pizzeria is really good. Plus, if you are feeling a bit peckish and have a couple of friends, go for the challenge.
10. Casual Breakfast in Fayetteville NC
Looking for total no-frills but delicious Southern breakfast food, I stumbled upon Lindy’s Family Diner and loved it. On a Sunday morning, the place was packed with people on their way to church, people coming home from church, and various families, couples, and solo diners (like me). Hot sauce in a plastic squueze bottle, silverware in a plastic sleeve, and righteous biscuits. And of course I made an obligatory stop at Krispy Kreme for a hot glazed doughnut (maybe other things, too!).
11. Where to Stay in Fayetteville NC
The Ramada Plaza Fayetteville has spacious rooms and balconies. It is popular with Fort Bragg and hospital (across the street) visitors. It shares a lobby (and check in desk) with the attached Baymont Inn and Suites. McCool Travel tip: try to arrive NOT during peak check in time. I arrived around 3pm on a Friday and it took 30 minutes to check in.
Ramada Plaza Fayetteville: 1707 A Owen Drive: check here for best rates at Ramada Fayetteville Fort Bragg.
What are your favorite things to do in Fayetteville NC?