Proudly calling itself “Freedom’s Home,” Fayetteville, N.C., is best known as the location of Fort Bragg, which has the largest military population in the country. Visitors typically tour the impressive Airborne and Special Operations Museum and the adjacent Special Forces K-9 Monument. But the Sand Hills, as this region is known, is multifaceted, with plenty of non-military attractions to enjoy.
Follow a heritage trail
It’s “Pick Your Own Adventure” with the Cultural Heritage Trails found at visitfayettevillenc.com/culturalheritagetrails. These downloadable, themed, self-driving tours have maps, descriptions of sites s, and contact info, including links to websites. If you make every stop, most of the trails are all-day adventures.
The choices cover just about every interest. There’s one for antiquing and another for art galleries and live performances. Celtic and African-American heritage each have a tour, as does the region’s history of religious tolerance. History buffs can pick their era to explore. There’s one that focuses on the American Revolution and another on the Civil War.
Fayetteville is the first city named after the Marquis de Lafayette, the French nobleman who became a general in the Continental Army. When he returned to the United States to celebrate its 50th anniversary, this was the only city named after him that he visited. You can retrace his steps on a driving tour that goes to every building or site he visited.
Outdoorsmen can find hunting and fishing sites, while another tour highlights biking and hiking opportunities. There’s even the Literary Lines Trail to new and used bookstores and one for secondhand shops.
Given the international scope of deployments of Fort Bragg’s soldiers, it’s not surprising that the dining scene serves up cuisines from every culture.
A savory scroll through the International Cuisine Trail has stops at Greek, Columbian, Indian, Thai, and Japanese restaurants. You’ll also find West African specialties, Mongolian barbecue, classic Southern food, barbecue joints, and microbrews around town.
Golfers have plenty of courses to choose from, so bring your clubs. There are 20 courses, with 19 miles of fairway and 360 holes, within an hour of Fayetteville. They are designed by such names as Davis Love III, Willard Byrd, and Stuart Gooden.
April Dogwood Festival
By mid-April, winter is long gone and Fayetteville celebrates spring with the annual Dogwood Festival. Held the fourth weekend in April, this year’s dates are April 24–26. The free, family-friendly party takes over the downtown. There are street performers, a carnival midway with rides and games, an outdoor arts-and-crafts emporium with more than 100 vendors, a classic car show, a special kids’ area, and fireworks during Friday night’s opening “Bloom and Boom” kickoff.
There is also a solid city block of corn dogs, tacos, funnel cakes, wraps, burgers, and cotton candy.
The festival is known for its fun events and this year it features the Duck Derby, with more than 100 yellow plastic duckies released into the river in a current-powered race. The “Battle of the Badges” pits local police and fire departments in a tug-of-war, obstacle course, and chicken wing-eating contests.
Live entertainment on the main stage this year features country music stars Craig Campbell and Mo Pitney and rock groups Warrant and Quiet Riot.
Not surprisingly, there’s a Dogwood Trail to enjoy the highlights of a Southern spring. It’s probably the most comprehensive tour of the entire Fayetteville area. The drive/walk tour visits the Rose Garden at Fayetteville Technical College, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, the downtown historic district, quiet landscaped neighborhoods, and museums of history, arts, and military culture. It’s a perfect way to unwind from winter and welcome spring.
For more information:
Fayetteville Tourism: visitfayetevillenc.com
Dogwood Festival: faydogwoodfestival.com