“Fayetteville is not just a military town,” says Adriana Quinones, horticulture director at the 77-acre Cape Fear Botanical Garden in Fayetteville, N.C.
Yes, it’s the home of Fort Bragg, a sprawling 163,000-acre Army base that borders the city.
Yet this city of 230,000 in Cumberland County, just off I-95, attracts 2 million tourists a year, not counting visitors staying with friends and family, say local tourism officials.
A lot is going on in the region, including the botanical garden’s amazing mix of familiar and unusual plants and its special strolling sections.
Five new videos produced for the visitor bureau showcase the county’s attractions. They follow a group of tourists as they make their way around the region. Activities featured in the videos include zip lining at ZipQuest, playing miniature golf, hiking in the Carvers Creek State Park, participating in paintball, indoor rock climbing, and skeet shooting. Known as “America at Every Turn,” the series features music by the University of North Carolina Drumline.
For the adventurous, ZipQuest offers eight zip-lines providing a two-hour ride over 60 acres of privately owned forest. Participants may ride one or all eight, and the guides provide an exceptionally thorough safety awareness program for newbies. You can have a more down-to-earth outdoor adventure hiking in Carvers Creek Park, just 10 miles from downtown.
The Rockefeller House overlooks a mill pond lake at the park. James Stillman Rockefeller, great-nephew of patriarch John D. Rockefeller, donated his 1,420-acre Long Valley Farm, which helped create the 4,332-acre state park. Built in 1938, the 6,200-square-foot home — his winter retreat — is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Although the house is closed to individual travelers, group tours are allowed with advance notice.
At the farmers market
The Saturday farmers market downtown features a variety of products, and many of the 50 vendors will share their stories and gladly pose for photos. You will find produce (primarily locally grown), cakes, frozen pork and chicken, freshly fried pork skins, roasted coffee beans, pottery, cloth handbags, and handicrafts.
Tony Vazquez, owner of Symphony Coffee Roasters, told me how he imports raw beans that arrive in Charleston, S.C., in 150-pound bags and are shipped to his business in Hope Mills. He explained the “green-to-brown” roasting process. A coffee addict, I returned home with an 8-ounce bag of his whole beans from Guatemala.
I then met Cherry Hargrove, whose business card reads “Ms. Cherry Delightful Desserts.” She boasts about her signature product, a sweet potato/butter pecan cake with cream cheese frosting, and she loves to be photographed.
Beth Aspray, a former elementary school teacher turned potter from Autryville, sells an array of handmade items, and I gave in to the urge to purchase a blue-and gray-colored soap dish and ceramic garden markers for mint and chives.
Museums recall military and local heritage
Since this is military country, museums honor service members at various locations. The Airborne and Special Operations Muse
um and the North Carolina Veterans Park are located in Fayetteville, and the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum is in Fort Bragg.
The Transportation and Local History Museum next to the farmers market has all kinds of retro stuff on display, including vintage cars and a re-created 1920s gas station. There’s also the cleverly named Fascinate-U Children’s Museum and the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Park, both in town.
The Fayetteville Passport, a handy guide to the area’s attractions, is available at Fayetteville’s three visitor centers or online.
And, yes, the city owes its name to the Frenchman who sided with America in the Revolutionary War.
Fayetteville Tourism: visitfayettevillenc.com