North Carolina

12 Unique Things to Do in Fayetteville

by Paul Joseph  |  Published April 19, 2024

Situated in North Carolina’s scenic Cape Fear Valley, the city of Fayetteville offers a wealth of attractions that draw visitors here in large numbers.

(Photo: Fort Liberty)

Named after a French army officer who aided the Americans during the Revolutionary War, the city is perhaps best known for its history as an important military base – and it’s a legacy that lives on thanks to the base remaining open to visitors to this day. Museums are also in abundance, charting the city’s cultural heritage and providing cover on those  infrequent rainy days when the opportunity for outdoor adventure are stymied. Here are 12 of the most unique things to see and do in Fayetteville.

Visit the “centre of the military universe”

When the US Army decided to expand its training facilities in preparation for World War I, it picked a site northwest of Fayetteville. They named it Camp Bragg in honour of North Carolina native and veteran of the Mexican-American War, Braxton Bragg. Inaugurated in 1918, Camp Bragg was renamed Fort Bragg in 1922, before being renamed again to Fort Liberty in 2023. Today, Fort Liberty is the world’s largest airborne facility, with more than 45,000 military personnel, and can be visited by civilians who obtain a visitor’s pass on-site at the All-American gate. On entering, they’ll find landmarks including military monuments, the Airborne & Special Operations Museum (see below), and the JFK Hall of Heroes.

Discover a fascinating museum

Set within a beautifully restored 19th-century railroad depot, the Fayetteville History Museum takes visitors on an evocative journey through the city’s evolution from ancient times through to the 20th century. Spread across two floors of exhibition space, the museum has a strong focus on transportation and how it has spurred the city’s growth, including a section on the development of the plank road system that connected Fayetteville to other towns throughout North Carolina. Other highlights include a model train room, an interactive steamboat zone, vintage cars, and a recreation of a 1920s gas station.

325 Franklin Street / 10am-4pm Tues-Sat Closed Sun-Mon

An antiquated carriage on display at the Fayetteville History Museum (Photo: Kelly Verdeck via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED)

Created to educate the public about the history of the Special Operations and Airborne community and the crucial role it has played for the US military, the Airborne & Special Operations Museum is another renowned Fayetteville institution. Located at Fort Liberty (see above) the museum features a main exhibit gallery, a temporary gallery, a four-story tall theatre, a motion simulator ride, and a gift shop. Among the exhibits on display are uniforms, equipment and personal items belonging to Special Operations and Airborne members over the years.

100 Bragg Boulevard / Tues-Sat 10am-4pm Sun 12pm-4pm Closed Mon

Military exhibits at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum (Photo: Gary Todd via Flickr / CC0 1.0 DEED)

A legendary author of American horror stories, Edgar Allan Poe was also the name of a lesser-known figure who happened to be born right here in Fayetteville. A local businessman, this particular Poe – who was born after the writer had died – lived in a house in the city’s Haymount Historic District, where it has been preserved as part of the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex. Guided tours of 1897 Poe House cover such topics as African American history, the role of women and children, and technological, economic and social changes in North Carolina over the 20th century. There are also a number of original pieces that remain including artwork, a piano in the parlor, and dining room furniture.

206 Bradford Avenue / Tues-Sat 10am-5pm Sun 1pm-5pm Closed Mon

Take a stroll around a botanical garden

Spanning some 80 acres, Cape Fear Botanical Garden is one of Fayetteville’s most scenic attractions. Overlooking the gushing waters of Cape Fear River a short drive from downtown, the pristinely-maintained garden features a large number of nature trails, along with steep ravines sheltering rare plants, and waterways that attract an abundance of birdlife and other fauna. There’s also an 1800s farmhouse, a tobacco barn, a café and a busy programme of cultural events.

 536 North Eastern Boulevard / Mon-Sat 9am-5pm Sun 12pm-5pm

The scenic surroundings of Cape Fear Botanical Garden (Photo: Selena N. B. H. via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Catch some live theatre

Since opening its doors back in 1962, the award-winning Cape Fear Regional Theater has been at the heart of cultural life in Fayetteville. The three-story complex complete with 300-seat main stage plays host to a diverse programme of plays and musicals for all ages throughout the year and is widely considered one of the region’s premier destinations for the performing arts. Show tickets are available to purchase online, via telephone or directly at the box office.

1209 Hay Street 

Let your hair down at a fun-packed festival

A major highlight on the city’s cultural calendar, the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival has been drawing revellers in their droves for over four decades. Taking place downtown over a long April weekend, this cherished community tradition has grown bigger and better over time, with a whole host of family-friendly entertainment for visitors to enjoy. There’s live music, carnival rides, a street fair, and an array of food trucks serving up top-notch fare and beverages to keep festival-goers fully fuelled up till the final bell.

Downtown Fayetteville / April each year

A girl on a ride at Dogwood Festival (Photo: pixydust8605 via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Explore an urban nature centre

One of the region’s largest parks, Clark Park Nature Center is a natural woodland area that draws large numbers of visitors throughout the year. It offers three trails that each follow the banks of Cape Fear River, providing a picturesque setting for walkers, joggers and cyclists. Canoeing on the river is a popular activity, too, as well as picnics overlooking the woods and waterfall. Certified park rangers are on hand to educate visitors and help them spot the abundance of wildlife that can be found here, including turtles, fish, snakes and other reptiles.

631 Sherman Drive / Mon-Fri 8am-5pm Sat 10am-4pm Closed Sun

Go souvenir hunting at an art gallery

If you’re keen to pick up any souvenirs or gifts during your time in Fayetteville, then Cape Fear Studios is a great place to visit. A non-profit art gallery and working studio, it is home to a collective group of artists who display and sell their creations at the on site retail gallery. Works for sale include everything from oils, pastels, watercolour, fabrics, pottery, jewellery and more. There’s also a main gallery showing a collection of not-for-sale works by local artists.

148 Maxwell Street / Tues-Fri 11am-5pm Sat 11am-2pm Closed Sun-Mon

Hunt down the best bars in town

Fayetteville is a relatively sleepy place, but a smattering of live music bars, comedy shows and trivia nights provide plenty of evening entertainment for those so inclined. One of the best ways to experience the city’s nightlife is by joining a Fayetteville Bar Hunt, which is accessible via a downloadable app that puts a techy spin on the traditional bar crawl concept. A fun activity for small groups of adults, participants are invited to complete photo and video challenges at they make their way through pubs, clubs, and dives to see who will be crowned the Bar Hunt Champion.

You can join a Let’s Roam Fayetteville Bar Hunt via Viator

(Photo: Let’s Roam / Courtesy Viator)

Check out a historic farm

A remarkable nine generations of the same family have presided over Gillis Hill Farm over the past 250 years – and the historic farm is still going strong to this day. Visitors can learn about the fully operational farm’s long history, as well as daily farm life, and how the growth of technology has helped the farm adapt and prosper. Animals, antique farm equipment, and restored buildings that include a smokehouse, tobacco curing barn, sawmill, log corn crib, and water-powered grist mill are among the attractions that an be explored.

2701 Gillis Hill Road / Mon-Sat 11am-8pm Closed Sun

Pay your respects to military veterans

Among the city’s many military-related attractions is Fayetteville Veterans Park, the first state park dedicated to the military veterans from all 100 counties of North Carolina. Near the park’s entrance, a 3,500 square foot Visitors Centre features a huge wall made of fused glass, representing every service medal awarded since the Civil War, as well as an eye-catching chandelier made from 33,500 “dog tags” (service member identification tags). There’s also an interactive globe that allows visitors to pinpoint locations where several notable military events have taken place down the years.

220 Lamon Street