Fayetteville was almost the state capital, and it was almost erased after a great fire, and it was almost shuttered at the end of the first World War. Raleigh became the state capital, the city recovered from the Great Fire of 1831, and today Fort Bragg is the largest Army base in the country. Fayetteville is a charming destination hidden inside a burgeoning city, a place for local coffee shops and craft breweries and diverse foods, and exactly where you need to go for a weekend getaway.
Discover the things you can do with a couple of days in Fayetteville – and the things you can do when you inevitably return. You’re certain to fall in love with something in the city.
I fell in love with Vietnamese food and local shopping along Hay Street.
Map of Things to Do in Fayetteville
How to use this map: Click the icon in the top-left corner to open the Map Legend, then click on any of the legend items to display more information. If you have a Google account, click the star beside the map’s name to save this map to your account, then access the map from your smartphone during your trip.
Brief History of Fayetteville
In the early 1700s, Scottish immigrants created two inland settlements in the North Carolina colony: Cross Creek and Campbellton. The settlements were an important trading post with goods shipped up the Cape Fear River from Wilmington. Then, in 1783, the settlements merged to form a new city. Fayetteville was the first city in the country named in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, a Frenchman who fought with Washington during the Revolutionary War.
In 1789, the state convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution was held in Fayetteville. Later that same year, the General Assembly met to discuss the location of North Carolina’s capital city. Fayetteville barely lost to Raleigh, a new city to be built to the north.
Despite losing the bid for the capital city, Fayetteville continued to grow. In 1918, Camp Bragg was established as an artillery training ground. In 1921, the War Department ordered Camp Bragg to be closed. But General Albert Bowley, commander of the camp, convinced the Secretary of War to visit, and within a month, the cancellation was rescinded. The camp was renamed Fort Bragg and became a permanent US Army post the following year.
Walk Through the Cape Fear Botanical Garden
Founded in 1989 along the banks of the Cape Fear River, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden is the best outdoor escape while visiting Fayetteville. Miles of trails crisscross the 80-acres of gardens filled with thousands of plant species. Various plants will be in bloom throughout the year, casting a splendid color across the evergreen landscape.
In 2011, the Wyatt Visitors Pavilion Complex was a milestone achievement for the botanical garden. Inside, visitors can explore a gift shop filled with local artwork and books on planting. Clean restrooms are always available.
2023 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers
Find the best gifts for travelers, road trippers, coffee lovers, and stocking stuffers with the annual guide – including my top gift recommendations.
Explore Local History at the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum
In 1890, the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad built a beautiful depot in downtown Fayetteville. Today, the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum occupies the renovated building.
The museum features two floors of exhibits exploring the long history of Fayetteville. Learn about Native Americans who lived on the land for thousands of years before the first settlers. Discover the devastation of the Great Fire, which was the worst fire in the country at the time. Explore artifacts and recreations in life size dioramas around the museum.
Visit the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum
Opening in 2000, the U.S. Airborne & Special Operations Museum is one of the best military museums in the country. Owned and operated by the U.S. Army, the museum tells the stories of soldiers from 1940 to the future.
The museum features a fascinating walk through the history of airborne assaults with life size displays that put the visitor in the middle of the action. Walk through the fuselage of a paratrooper aircraft. Stand beneath a full-size plane and learn about the black and white stripes on the bottom. Explore the streets of a war-torn Normandy. Watch a Jeep disembarking a Waco CG-4 glider.
The museum comes to life with sounds and videos, 3D exhibit to walk through, and real artifacts. Spend an hour doing a casual walk-through or take half a day to read the hundreds of interpretive panels filled with interesting history.
Take a Tour at the Museum of the Cape Fear and 1897 Poe House
In 1988, the Museum of the Cape Fear opened its doors to a historical complex covering seven acres near downtown Fayetteville. It’s a regional museum covering the history and culture of the twenty counties along the Cape Fear River to Wilmington.
The museum spans two floors filled with exhibits detailing the region’s history. Learn about early Native Americans, the first settlers to travel through the region, and the founding of Fayetteville. Outside, explore the 1840 Culbreth House that was moved onto the property and walk across a footbridge over US Highway 401 to visit Arsenal Park.
Take a guided tour of the 1897 Poe House. Contrary to popular misconception, the house has nothing to do with the famous poet. Built for E.A. Poe, the Poe Brick Company owner, the 5,500-square foot house features an East Lake style and was the home of generations of the Poe Family. In 1987, the museum purchased the house for $76,000, and ten years later, invested nearly $600,000 to meticulously restore the gorgeous home.
Spend an Evening at Segra Stadium
In 2019, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, an affiliate of the Houston Astros, was established in Fayetteville. Segra Stadium was completed the same year, wedged between railroad tracks at the edge of downtown. The stadium has a seating capacity of just under 5,000 wrapped around the first and third baselines to the outfield walls. A corner of the outfield concourse features a row of rocking chairs!
The biggest events, of course, are the home games played by the Woodpeckers in the Low-A East Minor League. Home games are played any day of the week except Monday from April through August. Outside of Minor League Baseball, the stadium also hosts other events throughout the year.
2023 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers
Find the best gifts for travelers, road trippers, coffee lovers, and stocking stuffers with the annual guide – including my top gift recommendations.
Catch a Show at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre
What started as the Fayetteville Little Theatre in 1962 quickly grew with local support and enthusiasm, eventually forming the Cape Fear Regional Theatre. The local actors bought a three-story building on Morganton Road about five minutes from downtown and renovated it into a state-of-the-art production theatre.
The 300-seat main stage features comfortable seating with a great view of the main stage. As many as six shows with numerous performances fill the calendar throughout the year, along with a few special events from time to time.
Watch an Indie Film at CAMEO Art House Theatre
In 1908, S.A. Lambert bought a moving picture theatre on Hay Street, moved it across the street, and opened the New Dixie. In 1998, Chris & Nasim Kuenze and Eric Lindstrom bought the building and began an extensive renovation. In 2000, the CAMEO Art House Theatre opened to the public.
The movie theater features 125 opera-style plush velvet seats, Dolby Digital surround sound, and a state-of-the-art digital projector. The theatre screens art, classic, foreign, and indie films throughout the year. Grab a glass of wine or craft beer in the lobby, settle in for a different kind of movie experience, and enjoy an evening at the CAMEO.
Go Shopping at Leclair’s General Store
The sign said it all, “Everything in this store is for sale.” Clothing, journaling supplies, and home décor? For sale. The antiques sitting on top of the bookcase? For sale. The bookcase? For sale. The canoe hanging from the ceiling? Yes, even that is for sale.
After two decades working in “visual merchandising,” Patrick Leclair moved to Fayetteville and opened a store that mixes retail, antiques, artwork, and for good measure, he put a coffee shop and wine bar in the corner. The general mercantile store offers one of the most eclectic shopping experiences in Fayetteville.
Go Shopping in Downtown Fayetteville
Downtown Fayetteville opens like a tabletop picture book at the corner of Hay Street and Old Street. A row of trees as straight as an arrow cast shade across the wide brick sidewalks. Quiet traffic slowly trudges along the unmarked street. The sidewalks are filled with sculptures, planters, and tables and chairs with giant market umbrellas.
Downtown Fayetteville is a peaceful oasis surrounded by a busy city. And local shopping is plentiful. Back-A-Round Records is filled with thousands of vintage vinyl records, CDs, and cassette tapes. City Center Gallery & Books features hundreds of used books and beautiful local artwork. At Pressed – A Creative Space, shoppers can browse unique and quirky clothing and home décor. A Bit of Carolina is exactly what it appears – produce, artwork, gifts, and clothing made throughoutNorth Carolina. At Reverie Goods & Gifts, visitors can explore a small shop packed with items perfect for gift giving.
The Cotton Exchange is a 100-year-old 5,000 square foot warehouse housing one of the most impressive collections of antiques in the Carolinas. Everything from coins to household furniture, the various booths of the warehouse are sorted by theme and stacked to the ceiling.
Hummingbird Candle Co. offers more than a chance to shop for locally made candles. Sign up for a class and make your own! The Candle Making Experience includes step-by-step instructions from a professional chandler, and candles are ready to go home the next day.
The Market House stands like an urban lighthouse in a roundabout on Hay Street near one end of downtown. The former state house used to stand on that location, the place where the US Constitution was ratified, and votes were cast to select Raleigh as the state capital. The Great Fire of 1831 destroyed the statehouse, along with a thousand other buildings, and in 1832 the Market House was completed.
Sample Craft Beer at Local Breweries
While craft breweries have opened acrossNorth Carolina, Fayetteville has not been left behind. The city features fewer breweries than Asheville or Wilmington, but the ones available are worthy of a visit.
Bright Light Brewing Co. opened in 2017 in a renovated downtown building. The taproom is a large industrial space with painted concrete floors and exposed steel beams. Grab a seat at a high-top table or sneak around the corner outside to find a row of black metal tables and chairs.
US Army veterans Vernardo “Tito” Simmons-Valenzuela, Jerry Hall, and Eric Whealton partnered to create one of the most interesting breweries in Fayetteville – Dirtbag Ales. The “campus” features the brewery, taproom, Napkins Restaurant, and weekend farmers’ market. Get something to eat from the restaurant and sit inside the cavernous taproom while sampling their beers.
Gaston Brewing Company was opened by US Army veterans and their spouses Troy and Trish Rassmussen and Darrin and Susan Jones. Moving into a downtown space, visitors can sample their beers and savory menu while sitting inside the gorgeous space or outside on the wide city sidewalks.
“Chief Heckler” Danny Miller wanted to open a friendly neighborhood brewery on the city’s north side, so he founded Heckler Brewing Company. It’s a small space with only a few tables, but it’s a cozy kind of small. Grab some food next door at Scrub Oaks and enjoy sampling their small-batch craft beers.
Opened in 2001, the Mash House Brewing Company is the largest craft brewery in Fayetteville. The brewery churns out 1,400 barrels of beer annually. How much could you sample with an evening visit? You can find out while browsing their expansive dinner menu.
Start the Day at Local Coffee Shops
The folks in Fayetteville enjoy a good kick start to their day with locally roasted coffee. Spread throughout the city, these coffee shops are a great way to start the day exploring the museums, retail shops, and restaurants.
Beans and Things Coffee source their beans from around the world and roast them in their facility about fifteen minutes from downtown. Moderately comfortable metal chairs and wood tables are the perfect place to enjoy a fresh coffee. The Peanut Butter Cup Mocha is a favorite.
In 1996, Kiki and Peter Mains and Victoria Stout opened The Coffee Scene in a gorgeous building on Morganton Road five minutes from downtown Fayetteville. They roast their own beans and grind them fresh for every coffee served. The menu includes drip coffee, espresso, lattes, iced coffee, smoothies, pastries, and a few sandwich options.
After three years of roasting beans in his garage, Juan Guadalupe opened Cumberland Coffee Roasters in 2014. The small shop in Hope Mills, about twenty minutes from downtown, is inviting with comfortable chairs at tables and a leather sofa in the front.
Dolce Aroma Coffee Bar is attached to Elizabeth’s Pizza and serves authentic Italian-style coffees. Their lattes are flavored with 1883 syrups, a brand that started in the French Alps in 1883. The coffee shop also offers amazing baked items like cheesecake and muffins to go along with your coffee.
At Leclair’s General Store you’ll find clothing, journaling supplies, and antiques throughout the mercantile store, but in the corner of the shop, you’ll find a coffee bar. Choose your own mug from the wall and enjoy the fresh ground coffee flavor while exploring the items in the shop.
In 1999, Bruce and Molly Arnold opened the Rude Awakening Coffee House in downtown Fayetteville. Beans are ground fresh for every coffee served. Find seating inside or head to the back of the shop to the atrium.
Vagabond Café was opened in 2019 by Nancy Ramos after two years of operating a mobile coffee cart. She sources her beans from around the world, roasts them in her shop, and grinds them fresh for every coffee served.
Explore the Food Scene with Local Dining
Fayetteville isn’t a foodie destination – but it could be. The burgeoning city features a diversity of top-notch restaurants serving everything from classic American to Vietnamese delicacies. There are a lot of local restaurants to explore, but here are a few to get you started.
Archway Burgers, Dogs and Beer is an interesting hole-in-the-wall eatery in downtown. Fill out an order on a checklist, adding instructions to fine tune your meal, and hand it to the lady behind the counter for a made-to-order meal. Enjoy the perfectly cooked food at one of the small tables inside the cozy restaurant.
Opening in 2012, Blue Moon Café started with only tapas on their menu. Since then, the menu has expanded to include appetizers, sandwiches, and specialties, and their weekend brunch menu is one of the best in the city. Seating inside is limited with only a few wood tables and chairs surrounded by beautiful local artwork, but outside, additional tables are spread across the wide sidewalk.
When husband-and-wife Jerry McPherson and Jennifer Boudreaux moved to Fayetteville, they brought dishes inspired by their native New Orleans. Opening The Bourbon Orleans downtown, the couple serves authentic Cajun, Creole, and French foods in a spectacular atmosphere. Sit inside and admire the gorgeous blend of modern chic interior design with a rustic brick building or take advantage of intimate seating on the sidewalk.
Circa 1800 Restaurant & Bar uses as many local ingredients as possible in their savory meals. The one-page menu features appetizers and entrees like seabass and duck, but the menu frequently changes depending on what local farms produce. Sit inside the modern restaurant space or claim one of the metal tables and chairs outside.
Opening in 2015, the Fayetteville Pie Company has a straightforward menu. The menu changes daily, but each day visitors can choose between three options for a 6” deep dish savory pie and 4” sweet pie. Sit inside at the ground floor tables or take the food upstairs to the left for a peaceful meal.
Gaston Brewing Company was opened by US Army veterans and their spouses Troy and Trish Rassmussen and Darrin and Susan Jones. Since the beginning, a kitchen has been part of the brewery. Appetizers, like their Jalapeno Popper Balls, and burgers like the Southern Bacon Jam prove they have the best burgers in the city. Enjoy the indoor seating or head outside for a space on the downtown sidewalks.
The Grilled Ginger Vietnamese Restaurant offers savory, authentic Vietnamese meals. The menu is written in Vietnamese and English and includes descriptions of the meals. Sit inside the large restaurant while sampling the interesting foods.
In 1996, Dr. William Baggett bought the old Huske Hardware building. He started a lengthy restoration of the 1903 building, turning it into the restaurant and brewery locals love today. Huske Hardware House Restaurant and Brewery features a pub-style menu with appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, and a few savory entrees.
In the 1950s and 60s, Peter Parrous, a Greek immigrant, opened several restaurants throughout Fayetteville. After selling most of his restaurants in 1982, he opened Luigi’s Italian Chophouse & Bar. Using a family recipe, Parrous offered authentic Italian pizza and pasta to the locals. In 2002, the restaurant added a climate-controlled room for 2,500 bottles of wine. It’s the best wine selection in the city – and probably all EasternNorth Carolina.
Pharoah’s Village Mediterranean Grill & Market is a fantastic place to visit if you’ve never tried shwarma, falafel, or gyros. It’s also a great place if you have tried shwarma, falafel, and gyros! The enormous restaurant is not fancy, with tables spread across a tile floor and a commercial drop ceiling overhead, but the food is worth every savory bite.
Napkins Restaurant uses locally producedNorth Carolina ingredients for as much of their menu as possible. Of course, that means the menu is constantly changing, but it will always be fresh and savory. Visitors order meals at a walk-up window behind Dirtbag Ales brewery. Even if you don’t try their craft beers – which you really should – diners are welcome to sit inside the cavernous space at comfortable tables or outside on the beautifully peaceful patio.
Where to Stay
Fayetteville has no shortage of great hotels. The only downside is a lack of boutique hotels or hotels with a downtown location. Here are the hotels I recommend using when you spend a weekend in the city.
Several of these hotels are located at Exit 49 off Interstate 95 in Judson. It’s a good area to spend a few nights with nearby gas stations and fast-food restaurants. This area is about ten minutes from downtown Fayetteville.
Days Inn is an older building, and the interior hallways will never win any awards for style. But the rooms feature unique floor-to-ceiling windows and a spaciousness that leaves visitors feeling at home. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool and a large dining area for a complimentary breakfast. Rooms include one or two queen or king beds.
Baymont is always a good budget choice for hotels. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, but it won’t be peaceful with the building beside the interstate. Rooms include one king or queen bed or two full beds.
Tru by Hilton is a fantastic place to spend the weekend in Fayetteville. The modern chic building doesn’t offer any amenities, but you’ll find a perfectly comfortable atmosphere inside. The spacious lobby features a full snack bar, plenty of seating, and a large dining room for breakfast. The gorgeous rooms include floating beds and modern furniture.
Hampton Inn & Suites is the top recommended hotel in Fayetteville. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool and a fantastic hot breakfast. Rooms include two queen beds, one king bed, and the suites a king bed and a sleeper sofa.
Fairfield Inn & Suites is located on Ramsey Street, about fifteen minutes from downtown Fayetteville. It’s the only hotel in the area, so it’s more peaceful than the Judson area. The hotel features an indoor swimming pool and spacious lobby. Rooms include two queen beds or one king bed, and the studio rooms have an additional sleeper sofa.