A rainy day is no reason to stop the fun in New Bern. With a treasure trove of museums, unique downtown destinations, and plenty of kid-friendly activities, an overcast day never puts a damper on a New Bern vacation.
In need of a little inspiration? Then check out these attractions and activities that are always worth a trip, rain or shine.
Bypass the acres of gardens, (or save them for when there’s a break in the rain), and step inside this historic brick mansion for a trip back in time without leaving the New Bern city limits. Tryon Palace is a stunning replica of the original 1700s’ governor’s mansion which boasts a towering main house that was built off of the original plans, as well as several outbuildings that are originals or painstakingly created replicas. Costumed interpreters will lead guests through the many beautifully furnished rooms which includes the formal dining area, parlor, and grand living areas, and will explain the significance of the home as well as the history of New Bern, and consequently, North Carolina. With stunning period antiques and centuries of stories to keep guests entertained, a tour through this top New Bern attraction is a welcome activity that visitors of all ages will enjoy, regardless of the weather.
North Carolina History Center
Visitors can spend a full morning or afternoon at this 60,000’ square foot complex that features multiple museums and exhibits found within a fully indoor, sprawling locale. Opened in 2010 to coincide with New Bern’s 300th anniversary, the North Carolina History Center is home to several different “museums” which includes the Pepsi Family Center, the Regional History Museum, the Duffy Exhibit Gallery, and an on-site restaurant and museum store. Let the kids exercise their imaginations at the family-friendly Pepsi Family Center, which is stocked with interactive exhibits, or peruse a number of relics and artifacts from centuries past at the in-depth and engaging Regional History Museum. The Duffy Exhibit Gallery serves as an active art space where regional talents from all over the state and beyond are showcased, while the museum store is a great stop for anyone on the hunt for unique and / or authentic treasures. Because all the exhibits are found under one roof, it’s easy to drift from one fascinating site to the next without ever getting your toes wet.
New Bern Firemen’s Museum
Visitors of all ages will love visiting one of New Bern’s most unique and longest running museums, the more than 60-year-old New Bern Firemen’s Museum. This cool destination that’s located within an original two-story fire house is stocked with all kinds of exhibits that pay homage to the oldest established fire department in North Carolina. Kids and adults alike will love touring the array of fire trucks that span the decades, leaning about the history of the fire department including the story of the Great Fire of 1922, (which destroyed 1,000 buildings), and checking out the quirky side of New Bern’s famed fire department with unique exhibits like the stuffed Fred, the iconic local Fire Horse. With regular programs that are designed to appeal to children and parents alike, any afternoon can serve as a fine excuse to check out one of the hottest attractions in town, the New Bern Firemen’s Museum.
New Bern Academy
Kids won’t mind going to school on a rainy day, provided it’s a trip to the New Bern Academy, which is located in the heart of New Bern. This unique former school house that was built in 1809 and which is located just four blocks away from Tryon Palace has been converted to a museum, with four former classrooms now serving as the home of a handful of distinct exhibits: the Face to Face: Civil War Sketches & Stories exhibit, the Architecture exhibit, the Civil War Military Occupation exhibit, and the History of Education exhibit. While strolling from room to room, patrons can admire the grand brick building that once served as a school house, and which briefly served as a makeshift hospital for soldiers during the Civil War. With a unique history that’s outlined in great detail, and friendly staff on hand to fill in the blanks, the New Bern Academy Museum is one school visit that young visitors won’t mind a bit.
Serving as a pristine representation of how New Bern’s elite lived during its heyday as one of the most important towns in North Carolina, the Attmore-Oliver House is a unique destination that will give visitors an up-close view of local history. Build in 1790 and beautifully restored with period antiques and furnishings, the first level of this gracious home is open for visitors to explore a collection of rooms that have been beautifully preserved in their original condition, while the top level serves as the administrative offices for the New Bern Historical Society. Guests are free to tour the first level, and can acquire more information from friendly staff and volunteers on other unique sites and historical treasures that are worth a rainy day visit. An ideal destination for history buffs, the Attmore-Oliver House shines a spotlight on the authentic life of New Bern’s original elite residents.
Birthplace of Pepsi
A little rain is the perfect excuse to take a pause from a downtown stroll, and enjoy the most popular beverage in New Bern – an ice cold Pepsi – at the place where the beverage was born. The Birthplace of Pepsi is part museum, part gift shop, and part soda fountain shop, and is located in the exact brick building where the drink was created by local pharmacist, Caleb Davis Bradham, more than a century ago. Concocted in 1893 and later named “Pepsi Cola” in 1898, visitors can celebrate this history with plenty of taste by perusing the walls of photos and memorabilia, picking up a Pepsi themed souvenir or two, or sitting at the drug store counter and ordering a frothy Pepsi from the authentic soda fountain. With an authentic atmosphere and plenty of ice cold Pepsis to go around, the Birthplace of Pepsi / Pepsi store is a fine place to get out of the rain, and toast the local history.
East Carolina Aviation Exhibit, Havelock
The nearby town of Havelock, (located less than 20 miles away), is a prime destination for aviation enthusiasts, as the community is famed as the home of the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point - one of the country’s largest and oldest Marine Corps air stations. Visitors can trace this story in detail – all while admiring real airplanes from decades of military history – with a visit to the sprawling East Carolina Aviation Exhibit. This museum that’s found within the extensive Visitors Center features a world of exhibits that chronicles the history of the air station from its 1942 beginnings, as well as a collection of historic planes that are located within the spacious building, as well as on the sprawling outside grounds. Coincide a visit to this exhibit with a drive around the town of Havelock – where numerous historic aircrafts are on display around veritably every corner – and you’ll surely thrill the military buffs and aviation fans in your vacationing party.
North Carolina Maritime Museum
A rainy day is a perfect excuse to take a quick day trip to one of coastal North Carolina’s most acclaimed museums, the North Carolina Maritime Museum in the town of Beaufort. This unique museum is famed for its collection of artifacts from one of the most infamous ships in American History – Blackbeard the pirate’s flagship the Queen Anne’s Revenge – and the nautical-themed space is also filled with varying exhibits that will turn any trip into an adventure. Explore the early roots of commercial fishing, discover the North Carolina coastline’s importance in the Civil War, and peruse hundreds of shells from 150 different countries – the sheer variety of exhibits within this museum ensures everyone will be entertained from the ground up. Best of all, because the museum hosts a number of special programs like their famed “Build a Boat in a Day” classes, a casual trip to Beaufort can turn into a true educational adventure with just a little advanced planning.
Bank of the Arts
Though the exterior of this arts center may look like an imposing bank from the turn of the 20th century, (which is exactly what it was in its former life), visitors who escape the rain and step inside will be surprised with a myriad of colorful displays where local talents shine. The Bank of the Arts is the home of the revered Craven Arts Council and Gallery, and the former 1913 financial institution has been transformed to serve as an open art space, a home for exhibits, and a place where visitors can learn lots more about the chic New Bern arts scene. Regularly changing exhibits are found at the Bank of the Arts, which shine a spotlight on talents from all across the southeast region. In addition, the site may be home to special gallery or artist receptions, seasonal art sales, special shows, and / or all of the above, ensuring that every visit is a fascinating adventure. With cool events that are held year-round, like special concerts or new artist showings, even frequent visitors to New Bern will find a fascinating and cultured rainy day distraction with every visit to the Bank of the Arts.
Antiques and Shopping
New Bern is well-known in local circles as the place to go for antique shopping, and new visitors will be thrilled by the sheer variety of shops that are waiting in this historical town. Because of New Bern’s notoriety for a number of different feats – which includes its status as the second oldest town in North Carolina, as well as its title as the birthplace of Pepsi – the town has a number of antique shops which are concentrated in the downtown area, and which feature a treasure trove of wares. Peruse ancient Pepsi bottles and commemorative glasses, or pick up some nautical themed artifacts, glassware, and even furnishings and décor. Downtown New Bern is a vintage shopper’s paradise, with no shortage of goods that will wow antique fans of all varieties. In addition, the downtown area is home to a number of cool art galleries, boutiques, gift shops, and other cool stores that will lure in visitors of all tastes. From checking out local artists of all mediums, to letting the kids pick out an educational souvenir or two, a rainy day is an ideal excuse to dive into the vibrant and distinctive New Bern shopping scene.
Arts and Crafts
Downtown New Bern is home to roughly a dozen art galleries and shops, and newcomers will discover that many of these destinations allow visitors to explore their own distinctive creative side. Spend a lazy morning or afternoon creating your own work of art at New Bern’s own Paint your Own Pottery shop, or check out the local art galleries’ events calendars for information on on-site art classes and wine and paint pottery events. From kid-friendly classes where young visitors can have a blast creating their own masterpiece, to wine and paint parties where Happy Hour has a creative flair, the New Bern Arts Scene welcomes new visitors with style, and allows everyone to join in the fun. For a little inspiration, stop by the Bank of the Arts, and find out more about local gallery showings as well as special events and classes where visitors can spend a rainy day flexing their creative muscles.
Shows and Theater
Whether you’re in the mood for a summer blockbuster or a local theater matinee, New Bern is hopping with opportunities to settle into a cozy seat and enjoy a show. The town is home to two movie theaters which will be a welcome distraction for cinema fans, and which includes the Neuse Blvd. Cinema 3, and the Bear Town Cinema 6 – (which also features special 3D screens as well as the traditional movie theater screens.) In addition, New Bern is home to several distinctive theater groups, including the New Bern Civic Theatre, the RiverTowne Players and the Radio Theater Company, which host productions throughout the downtown area in a wide variety of mediums. The sheer array of shows that are on the calendar can include beloved musicals, comedies, off-Broadway dramas, special guest performances, and everything in between, which makes New Bern a hotbed for local and regional talent. With so many options for all varieties of entertainment, a day at the movies (or at the theater) is a must for any New Bern visitor.
Fun and Games
A rainy day can serve as the perfect excuse to let off a little steam, and the town of New Bern is stocked with a host of indoor fun centers where visitors of all ages, (and especially kids), can enjoy a little active play without ever stepping outside. The Strike Zone is New Bern’s local bowling alley, and the site features a host of lanes that are open day and night, as well as a 3,000’ square foot laser tag arena, an on-site arcade, and plenty of concessions for refueling after a game or two. In addition, New Bern has a local skating rink, the Rollerland Skating rink, which is open year round, and which has special weekly events such as after-school skating sessions, teen nights, and even summertime day camps for kids. With so many ways to enjoy a family-friendly competition, family members can still extend a lot of energy without worrying about the local weather, thanks to New Bern’s host of fun centers where having a blast is a breeze.
Wine and Dine
A rainy afternoon or evening can be the perfect excuse to enjoy the local dining scene, and the town of New Bern has plenty of options to choose from. While the outskirts of the city offer a familiar line of chain restaurants, new visitors will want to set their sights on the downtown region where roughly a dozen local eateries can be found. Housed within historic buildings, and offering a healthy sample of local favorites like North Carolina barbecue, fresh seafood, and everything in between, the true culture of New Bern is often best enjoyed with a fork. Be sure and try the local seafood delicacies, as New Bern is close to a myriad of famed commercial seafood ports, like Morehead City. With a unique atmosphere within buildings that date back a couple centuries or more, as well as a host of fare that is locally sourced and delivered with plenty of southern hospitality, New Bern is a fine destination to experience the local culture from a culinary point of view. Just be sure and get there early – many of the local downtown restaurants close by 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., so a traditional dinner time is key for having access to ample options.
New Bern is remarkably close to a number of top regional destinations, and as such, a rainy day can serve as the perfect excuse to get out in the family car and explore. Head due south for a self-guided tour through one of the most massive coastal forests in the state - the Croatan National Forest – and keep going to explore the picturesque beach towns that comprise the Crystal Coast. New Bern visitors can also take a cruise north to the small towns of Aurora and Washington, which have their own unique charms like the Aurora Fossil Museum, or head east to check out the sailing hotbed of Oriental, which is a charming community on the edge of the Neuse River. From scoping out unique museums like the NC Maritime Museum of Beaufort, to perusing new downtown areas where a plethora of chic restaurants and shops can be found, New Bern’s locale that’s close to some of the Inner Banks’ top attractions will inspire guests to discover everything the local neighborhoods have to offer.
From essential museums and attractions to out-of-the-way destinations that are worthy of a road trip, New Bern is always brimming with activities for visitors of all varieties.
Spend a rainy day exploring all the secretive downtown gems and nationally recognized landmarks, and discover why this town is always a crowd-pleasing vacation destination, regardless of the weather.