From wide open outdoor spaces to cool museums that cater to little visitors, New Bern truly is a paradise for kids. Combining education and culture with miles of fun, kids will have a blast discovering all the different things to do in this charming Inner Banks town, and are sure to enjoy a vacation that’s filled with activities and memories that will last a lifetime.
Not sure where to start first?
Then check out these unique attractions, destinations, and things to do that will have every member of the family grinning – and especially, the youngest members of the group.
Step Back in Time and Live like Royalty
Tryon Palace is easily one of New Bern’s most famous attractions, as this sprawling 18th century mansion and ensuing grounds is impossible to miss for Downtown visitors. The inside is just as impressive as the massive brick façade, and kids will have a blast touring the central home and surrounding outbuildings, perusing the acres of gardens, and taking a step back in time to an era of Colonial grandeur. Best of all, there’s plenty to keep kids engaged at Tryon Palace, including special demonstrations of crafts and everyday domestic tasks, interactions with costumed “residents” who talk about the daily life of New Bern circa 1770, and a host of special programs that are offered throughout the year, like spooky ghost tours or festive Christmas celebrations. With ample room to move and explore, Tryon Palace is a great destination to get little minds engaged in regional history, all while having fun exploring one of the Inner Bank’s most stately attractions.
Discover New Bern’s Coolest New Museum
The North Carolina History Place is a sprawling, 60,000’ square foot complex that was open in 2010 to teach visitors of all ages all about the coastal region. Comprising of several different exhibits within one $65 million dollar site, kids will want to head right to the Pepsi Family Center which is its own unique museum that was designed with young visitors in mind. Hands-on activities abound in this section of the North Carolina History Center, with exhibits that include a virtual realty time machine, a ship that young visitors can sail, and an on-site store where kids can work hand-in-hand with the local shopkeeper. With lots of interaction throughout, (and quite a bit of education that’s quietly included), kids can play the morning or afternoon away, all while learning all about this unique Inner Banks destination. Be sure and save some time to also visit the on-site Regional History Museum, where detailed exhibits bring the centuries-old story of New Bern to life.
Celebrate with a Pepsi
New Bern is famous as the original home of Pepsi cola, and kids of all ages will have a ball celebrating this claim to fame with a visit to the Birthplace of Pepsi store and museum. Located in the heart of the downtown area, and found within the original drug store where a local pharmacist first developed the drink in 1893, this cool shop is stocked with period antiques and memorabilia that chronicles Pepsi Cola’s rise to international fame. Adults can peruse the unique photographs and ancient advertisements, while kids will have fun checking out the endless Pepsi merchandise for sale, which includes toys, books, games, apparel, and much more. For a real treat, indulge in a Pepsi or two, courtesy of the on-site soda fountain which has an old-fashioned appeal, and which regularly serves up the sugary treat to thirsty patrons. A fun destination for visitors of all ages, the Birthplace of Pepsi store and museum is a great spot for kids to indulge a sweet tooth, while learning a little bit about New Bern’s local legacy.
Hang out with Firefighting Legends
Kids will adore all the cool exhibits and unique stories that are waiting at one of New Bern’s most distinctive museums – the New Bern Firemen’s Museum. Located in the heart of the downtown in an original two-story firehouse, this museum is stuffed with hands-on exhibits and cool artifacts, which includes ancient firetrucks from decades past, photos and memorabilia from New Bern’s Great Fire of 1922 , and even a stuffed fire horse named Fred who is a local legend. Kids can ride – and even steer! – some of the old and new firetrucks on display, and can even participate in one of the special Junior Firefighter programs which are held throughout the year. With lots of displays that are designed for little hands, and a collection of unique stories from North Carolina’s oldest fire department, the New Bern Firemen’s Museum is a destination that will thoroughly fascinate both the young and the young at heart.
Launch on a Watersports Adventure
Visitors can try out a new watersport or two without ever leaving the downtown area, thanks to New Bern’s incredible locale on the intersection of the Trent and the Neuse Rivers. Visitors who want to explore the waters can bring their kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards to the centrally located Union Point Park, where a boat launch, fishing dock, and easy water access can all be found. Don’t have a board or a boat handy? Thankfully, downtown New Bern has several local watersports shops that offer stand-up paddle boards and kayaks for rent on an hourly or even daily / weekly basis, which makes discovering a new watersport a breeze. In addition, seasonal guided tours of the area on a board or via a kayak may be available throughout the summer months, allowing watersports fans of all ages to gain a little guidance before launching out on their own. From the incredible views to the array of local wildlife, New Bern is a great spot to get your toes wet in a new sport while enjoying the downtown scene.
Spend some time in Kidsville
Head just a couple miles west of the heart of Downtown New Bern to discover one of the coolest and most popular parks in the region – Kidsville. This interactive component of the Set West Parrot Park features a beautifully planned environment that’s packed with playground equipment of all varieties. Kids will have a blast climbing and exploring the intricately detailed wooden fort, and can spend hours sliding, running, and climbing through a network of twists and turns. The facilities also feature four tennis courts, two lighted baseball fields, two lighted little league fields, and on-site public restrooms and a picnic shelter for easy breaks in between adventures. With one of the most extensive and eye-catching playgrounds in towns, Kidsville will be a favorite destination for New Bern’s youngest visitors, and is the perfect spot for kids to get out and stretch their legs, as well as their imaginations.
Get Active at Totten Park and Field
The 5.5 acre Fort Totten Park is a sunny destination for kids of all ages who want to let off a little steam in between downtown adventures. Located just a couple miles west of the downtown attractions, and tucked in between Neuse Boulevard and Trent Road on Fort Totten Drive, this public park is a great destination for casual family picnics and get-togethers, courtesy of a picnic shelter with grills and multiple tables, and has a host of activities on-site to keep young park-goers busy. There’s a lighted softball field that’s open to the public, a modular playground for little ones, a swing set, and ample room to run around and go wild. With on-site restrooms and trash receptacles for added convenience, the Totten Park and Field is a little-known but hidden gem of a public park where families can enjoy a wealth of outdoor activity.
Have a Sporty Afternoon at Creekside Park
New Bern’s biggest hub for outdoor fun is easily the expansive Creekside Park – a sprawling 111 acre public park that’s located adjacent to the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport. The park serves as the year-round home for a number of recreational clubs and organizations, including the New Bern Area Soccer Association, Babe Ruth Girls' Softball, Sunday School Baseball, and adult kickball, and has multiple fields for easy pick-up games among family members and friends. In addition, the park features a total of three playgrounds designed for kids ages 5-12, a sand volleyball court, a hiking trail, and a waterfront area with easy canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddle board access along the edge of the easy-going Brice’s Creek. With extra amenities that include multiple picnic shelters, a scenic gazebo, and public restrooms, Creekside Park certainly earns its reputation as one of New Bern’s best – and most extensive – places to play.
Embark on an Archeological Dig
Kids can learn all about North Carolina’s rich natural history while perusing a number of natural finds that date back millions of years with a visit to the Aurora Fossil Museum in the small town of Aurora, NC. Located about 45 minutes north of New Bern, this day trip destination has tons of unique natural treasures, including sparkling gems and minerals, ancient fossils that can span from 3-22 million years old, and even giant finds like a megalodon shark’s tooth! Best of all, after touring the highlights of the museum, kids can head to the on-site fossil pit and dig for their own treasures, such as ancient seashells and pieces of coral, cool fossils from the nearby Pungo River, and even sharks’ teeth that are abundant in the pile of sediment and natural treasures. With an array of treasures just waiting to be uncovered, kids can score their own souvenirs while playing archeologist at this cool and completely unique Inner Banks museum.
Take a Tour by Land, or by Sea
How do you get kids excited about New Bern’s centuries of history? By embarking on a fun and fascinating tour! The town of New Bern has more than 300 years of stories that are found around every downtown or waterfront corner, and families can uncover these stories in detail by signing up for one of the area’s dozens of unique city-wide tours. The options are plentiful, and include casual walking tours that veer through the local streets, fun trolley tours on-board a classic motorized trolley, and even water tours and cruises on board a skiff, a sailboat, or even a tug boat. With lots of variety that can include spooky ghost walks or kid friendly expeditions, family members of all ages and interests will have a blast furthering their New Bern education while discovering everything this town has to offer.
Explore a Creative Side
New Bern is famed for its regional arts scene, and visitors of all ages can discover their own artistic talents by signing up for one of the many art classes that are offered at local businesses and galleries throughout the town. Families can pop into the Bank of the Arts – the headquarters of the Craven Arts Council and Gallery – to explore the varying options about town, or can pop into one of the many craft and art workshops / galleries that are scattered throughout the downtown streets. A number of the local galleries offer classes and camps that are specially designed for kids, and New Bern also has a “Paint your Own Pottery” shop where visitors can get creative whenever they feel a dose of inspiration. From perusing local artworks to creating your own masterpiece, being crafty is a breeze in the artful community of New Bern. Check local gallery calendars ahead of time to see what classes coincide with a vacation, or just stop by the Visitors Center and / or Bank of the Arts for suggestions on where to go, and what to create!
Satisfy a Sweet Tooth
New Bern has dozens of eateries and sweet spots to indulge in a treat or two, and on a hot summer day, there’s nothing like touring the town in search of the perfect ice cream cone, milkshake, or other frozen delight. Families that want to give into a sugar craving will want to check out the Cow Café – a favorite New Bern destination for sweet treats of all varieties. Situated on Middle Street in the heart of the downtown area, this cow-themed restaurant and ice cream shop has quite a Wow factor, courtesy of an intricate and impressive décor scheme where the cow is the star of the scene. The dining area is surrounded by farm murals, and features a real moving train, a large barnyard play area, and even a nearby gift shop that has more than 500 varieties of bovine-related gifts. If you can take your eyes off the wild décor, saddle up to the counter to watch ice cream being made in the glassed-in production room, and choose your own favorite scoop from 40 different flavors. Much more than a typical ice cream shop, the Cow Café turns an ice cream outing into a genuine adventure.
Shop till you Drop
There are all sorts of cool shops that are tucked along the narrow downtown streets, and visitors of all ages will have a great time browsing from one busy storefront to the next. Downtown New Bern is home to several different toy shops and kid-friendly souvenir stores, as well as cool watersports and sporting goods stores, bakeries and ice cream shops, and lots of antique shops that can have a collection of historic toys, games, books, and other vintage children’s treasures. Explore the heart of the town to see all the options for shoppers of all ages and tastes, and be sure and pop into the local museum and attraction gift stores, where even more educational books, toys, and games can be found. In addition, families will want to make sure they incorporate a trip to the weekly Framer’s Market along Front Street during their shopping adventures, as this extensive market features a wide array of fresh produce, home baked goods, and a treasure trove of crafts and goodies designed to delight the senses.
Catch a Show
Visitors of all ages can enjoy a little culture and live entertainment, courtesy of the historic and always engaging New Bern Civic Theatre. Established for more than 40 years, this local theatre group educates, enriches, and entertains the community via a full roster of seasonal plays, productions, and live music events. Performed at the iconic Athens Theater in downtown New Bern, families will find an array of family-friendly entertainment in store, which includes special children’s theater productions, classic musicals and comedies, and even crowd-pleasing musical performances. The local Radio Theater Company also performs a line-up of intricate programs that are held at the Cullman Performance Hall at the North Carolina History Center, while the RiverTowne Players also produce a wealth of varying shows, dinner theatres, concerts and more, which are traditionally held at the historic 1805 Masonic Theatre. From family-friendly plays performed by talented local actors, to special performances by visiting musicians and artists, virtually any time is a great time to enjoy a family-friendly night on the town that everyone will applaud.
Enjoy some Indoor Fun
A rainy day never puts a damper on a vacation in New Bern, as the town features an array of family fun centers and venues that offer hours of entertainment with every visit. Visitors can catch a summer blockbuster or an animated matinee at one of two movie theaters in New Bern - the Neuse Blvd. Cinema 3, and the Bear Town Cinema 6 which features a real RealD 3D screen in addition to its traditional theatre screens. For an active adventure, head over to The Strike Zone for a family bowling competition, a round of laser tag in a 3,000’ square foot arena, or just a little time at the on-site arcade with the latest games. There’s also a skating rink in New Bern – the Rollerland Skating rink – which features a host of special after-school events, teen nights, and even summer camps for kids. From relaxing and watching a flick to enjoying a little fun on eight wheels, there’s plenty to do - rain or shine – in the undeniably kid-friendly town of New Bern.
Settle in for Story Hour
Both visiting and local kids alike are welcome to spot by the New Bern-Craven County Public Libraries to engage in a wide variety of programs that are typically free to the public, and which highlight the joys of learning, reading, and having fun. The public library has a series of story hours, which can include stories, music, puppetry, and much more to make the local books and tales come to vivid life. In addition, there’s a special after-school adventure that’s open to children ages 5-10, which combines both storytelling and creative activities to allow kids to explore, play, and of course, read. With a roster of distinctive events held throughout the year, and at multiple libraries throughout the community, kids of all ages can discover a treasure trove of adventures and things to do, all with an everyday visit to their local library.
Take a Day Trip!
New Bern is just an easy one hour drive away from a wealth of attractions and sites that are clustered along the North Carolina Coastline. Plan a trip to the town of Atlantic Beach, and enjoy a splashing good time by the seashore at one of the area’s local public beaches, like the Circle or Fort Macon State Park. The nearby town of Pine Knoll Shores is also a great destination for kids, as it’s home to the famed North Carolina Aquarium where dozens of hands-on exhibits are waiting, and a collection of cool beach stores, restaurants, watersports companies, and ice cream shops can be found all along this stretch of coastline. In addition, the slightly inland town of New Bern has a wealth of boat tours and cruises, local museums, shops, and attractions that will delight visitors of all ages, and the adjacent community of Morehead City has its own selection of attractions such as the History Place and the waterfront Jaycee Park. With countless activities and plenty of beaches, a day trip to the Crystal Coast is a fine way for everyone in the family to enjoy some fun in the sun.
From the unique museums where history comes alive, to the vibrant downtown area that serves as a celebration of arts and culture, there’s lots of ways for busy kids to stay entertained in the town of New Bern.
Enjoy long days and evenings of exploring the endless sites that are found along the hopping downtown streets or just a quick drive away, and discover why this 300-year-old community still holds a fascination for visitors of all interests and ages. With ample fun to go around, a New Bern vacation will be an adventure that everyone in the family will never forget.