After taking a dip in 2020, New Bern saw record breaking tourism numbers in 2021.
Whether it was the desire for a small town feel amidst a chaotic world or being ranked as a top destination in a nationwide magazine, New Bern’s downtown streets seemed to be packed with visitors all year.
“New Bern does have what is known as a non-peak season for tourism, which is typically mid-December through February. However, this year we ended the month of December much like the rest of the year with record breaking numbers both in occupancy and visitors,” said Melissa Riggle, executive director of New Bern’s Tourism Development Authority.
Riggle said that the TDA’s hospitality partners all reported sales higher than previous years and the occupancy tax collections in Craven County from hotels, bed and breakfasts and rentals were unprecedented.
January and February months are traditionally slower, but there is never a point in New Bern where there is no tourism activity.
“Our hotels and bed and breakfasts are already reporting a high volume in advanced bookings through January. With travel and tourism trends changing, as well as our incredible attractions, events, and marketing efforts that our now reaching more audiences than ever before, we are seeing an uptick in our forecast for the new year,” Riggle said.
Business, restaurants and places of lodging use this minor lull to make physical improvements to their facilities, update offerings and create new marketing plans.
Though enjoying the water is an important attraction to New Bern, there are plenty of things visitors can do to pass a chilly day in New Bern—indulging in decadent meals, ducking into shops, taking self-guided tours and immersing themselves in history.
A winter day in New Bern
One thing New Bern is never lacking is dining options. Guests can start their day with a hearty meal at classics like Baker’s Kitchen or The Country Biscuit. Both serve up traditional, southern savory plates and the latter takes a twist on a sugary favorite with their biscuit donut.
For a lighter start to the day, New Bern is home to a plethora of cafes with breakfast bites and plenty of caffeinated choices.
After a few minutes at Five Point’s Crema Brew, visitors will be welcomed like regulars and can graze on breakfast sandwhiches and pastries while sipping on lattes.
With full stomachs, the next stop for a winter day of exploring has to be Tryon Palace, built for North Carolina Governor William Tryon in 1767.
Tickets, $20 for adults and $10 for children ages six to fourteen, grant access to a guided tour of the Governor’s Palace, 16-acres of gardens to peruse at leisure and admittance to several surrounding historic homes.
The North Carolina History Center is only a short walk from Tryon Palace grounds and is perfect for staying warm and learning more about how New Bern came to be what it is today.
Different spaces offer glimpses into a variety of eras. The Regional History Museum uses artifacts, videos and interactive opportunities to fill visitors in on the people and events that shaped the area. The Pepsi Family Center takes guests back to life in New Bern in 1835, when the city was just a bustling river village.
After hours of history and touring, refuel with lunch at the new Lawson’s on the Creek, serving up sandwhiches and salads, or stop by MJ’s Raw Bar and Grille, consistently known as the best seafood in town and famous for its crab cakes.
Retail therapy is next on the agenda. Pick up home goods from Blue Magnolia, gifts from Mitchell Hardware, foodie finds from Midtown Olive Oil or a T-shirt from Nautical Wheelers.
Hit The Birthplace of Pepsi for a snack break of popcorn and of course, a glass of the carbonated beverage.
Before it gets dark, bundle up and walk or drive the African American Heritage Trail that takes participants to ten different sites that were instrumental in the fight for racial equity.
Other self-guided tours for an informative afternoon are A Walk to Remember Tour, which stops at key landmarks from some of Nicholas Sparks’ most famous novels, or the Architectural Walking Tour that highlights New Bern’s mix of home styles.
Wind down with a dinner that brings a big city feel to New Bern at Cypress Hall Kitchen and Bar. The establishment puts innovative spins on classic southern cuisine with entrees like cider-braised porch cheek and seared duck breast.
Complete a winter day well spent in New Bern with a scoop of ice cream, or two, from the Cow Cafe or a glass of wine from The Bruin Craft Beer and Wine.
“Looking into 2022, we are very excited for many upcoming projects and new assets developing in New Bern. A lot of hard work, partnerships and vision have gone into continuing the success and momentum we have seen in tourism in Craven County,” Riggle said.
Growth and Development Reporter Julia Masters can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-318-3108.