A Salute to Fayetteville, NC – A Perfect Family Friendly Place to Visit
I was invited to visit Fayetteville, NC by the area Convention and Visitors Bureau. I received an all expense paid trip. All opinions are my own.
About Fayetteville, NC
Fayetteville is located in Cumberland County, North Carolina and is best known as the home of Fort Bragg, a major U.S. Army installation. The area is proud of it’s connection to the military. In 2008, Cumberland County proclaimed it was the “World’s First Sanctuary for Soldiers and Their Families”, and marked major roads with blue and white “Sanctuary” signage. Within the county, soldiers were to be provided with local services, ranging from free childcare to job placement for soldiers’ spouses. Five hundred volunteers signed up to watch over military families. They were recruited to offer one-to-one services; member businesses offer discounts and preferential treatments. Time magazine recognized Fayetteville for its support of military families and identified it as “America’s Most Pro-Military Town”.
There are very few places I visit that I would like to keep going back to see again and again. Fayetteville is definitely one of those spots that I can see myself visiting several more times. The food was delicious, the people were friendly and the center of town is full of great shops I would love to explore.
About Fort Bragg
Fort Bragg is one of the largest military installations in the world (by population) with more than 50,000 active duty personnel. The fort was first opened in 1918 as Camp Bragg as a training compound and is now the headquarters of the United States Army Special Operations Command, which oversees the U.S. Army 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) (Provisional) and 75th Ranger Regiment. It is also home to the U.S. Army Forces Command, U.S. Army Reserve Command, and Womack Army Medical Center. Fort Bragg maintains two airfields: Pope Field, where the United States Air Force stations global airlift and special operations assets as well as the Air Force Combat Control School, and Simmons Army Airfield, where Army aviation units support the needs of airborne and special operations forces on post.
As you can imagine, there are many families coming in and out of the area on a regular basis to visit their loved ones stationed at Fort Bragg. Even if you don’t have a family member serving, the area offers so much to do you should definitely add it to your list of places to visit. There is so much to choose from for families, singles, and couples. Those of you that love history will love visiting the many museums in the area.
Airborne & Special Operations Museum
The Airborne & Special Operations Museum tells the history (in well thought out exhibits) of the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations troops. The life-sized exhibits are moving, informative and will not only keep everyone’s interest, but will also leaving you wanting to know more.
Standing guard in front of the museum is “Iron Mike” an icon of the Airborne Trooper that stands on rocks from the first Airborne training jumps. Nearby is “Constant Vigilance” the world’s first memorial to special operations K9s killed in action. It’s wonderful to see this K9 watching over Iron Mike since canine soldiers have saved many lives.
The museum is a place to honor and preserve the legendary feats of the airborne and special operations troops who have defended our nation. A history from the early days of the Parachute Test Platoon to the on-going War on Terrorism, the Airborne & Special Operations Museum recounts the actions of heroic soldiers. The main gallery is designed as a self-guided tour, in chronological order, through the history of airborne and special operations soldiers from 1940 to the present. Also available is a simulator that puts you through the motions of special operations training. The museum is free to enter, however, a $5 donation is recommended. There is an additional cost to enter the simulator ($8.50).
North Carolina Veterans Park
North Carolina Veterans Park is located across the parking lot from the Airborne & Special Operations Museum and is a beautiful tribute to veterans. It is the first state park dedicated to military veterans – young and old – living or deceased – from all branches of the Armed Services.
The park honors veterans from North Carolina. It doesn’t matter what branch of the service they served in or what years. There is a display of dog tags from each North Carolina military person that has been killed in action. The dog tags go back to World War II through today and each tag is imprinted with the military members name.
Columns of hand prints belonging to North Carolina veterans are stunning and moving to see. You can envision proud veterans of North Carolina taking the time to share their hand print to be memorialized forever. North Carolina Veterans Park is definitely something you shouldn’t miss. There is no fee to visit the park.
Cape Fear Botanical Garden
The Cape Fear Botanical Garden is seventy-eight acres a mere two miles from the center of downtown Fayetteville. Thousands of plants and flowers broken up into specialty areas give you a peaceful and serene feeling. Colorful displays as far as the eye can see will keep you strolling through the paths for a full afternoon. The gardens are beautiful and full. While I was visiting the volunteer staff was in the process of installing a model railroad in the children’s area. Tracks were being placed around shrubs, trees and flowers. I would love to go back to see it complete!
Cape Fear Botanical Garden provides a variety of educational opportunities for all ages and members of the family. You can attend workshops on gardening, take a guided tour or join a group on a nature walk – there’s something for everyone!
General admission (over age 12) to the botanical gardens is $10. Children, age 6 to 12, are $5; Children 5 and under are free. There is a discount for military (with ID) and seniors (65+). A Garden Gift Shop offers some really unique garden items for you to take home.
Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex
The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex is full of fascinating exhibits highlighting the history of southeastern North Carolina from the days of native Americans through today. Founded in 1898, it is the oldest history museum in the state.
There are many permanent exhibits covering four hundred years of history on two floors of a beautifully planned building. Traveling exhibits, on loan from other museums, come to visit.
Coming this summer is an exhibit about a Burmese python named George (actually a girl) who was brought home to North Carolina in 1964 by a Special Forces soldier who saved the snake from being eaten by Cambodian mercenaries.
When the Green Beret received orders to return to the US, he knew he could not leave George behind to become a meal for the Cambodians. A visiting General suggested George could be useful as a training aid back at Fort Bragg. Shortly after their long journey to the U.S., George was taken to Raleigh where he was to become the first resident of a future zoological park. He was temporarily housed at the State Museum. The eventually 16-foot snake delighted visitors to the museum for 25 years, from 1964 to 1989, because the zoo was never built. George’s remains are now in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
There is no admission fee to visit the complex.
A ground breaking ceremony recently took place to begin construction on a new building to house the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center which will be built on the complex property, next to the remnants of a Confederate Army arsenal. The new museum complex will be dedicated to the Civil War era.
Arsenal Park is part of the Museum of Cape Fear Historical Complex. The Confederacy used the arsenal to produce rifles, ammunition, and gun carriages. Union troops, commanded by Gen. William T. Sherman, destroyed the facility in 1865.
Visitors can explore the site, which contains extant ruins with explanation signage; a steel semblance of the Northwest tower called the “ghost” tower; and two Civil War Trail markers.
ZipQuest Waterfall & Treetop Zipline Adventure
ZipQuest Waterfall & Treetop Zipline Adventure is rated one of the top 10 ziplines in the United States. I had never zipped before. I will definitely zip again! I loved flying through the trees even though I will admit to being a bit of a tree hugger on my first platform!
Plan a half day if your family wants to go ziplining. The staff at ZipQuest is outstanding. Safety is their first concern. The zip guides that take you through the course are friendly, fun, knowledgeable, patient and most importantly safety conscious. I was a little hesitant starting out. The staff was great and definitely put my fears at ease.
After you arrive you will be taken through how to get into your harnesses and receive instruction on a small, low to the ground, training course. During the training course you are taught how to hold on, how to slow down and stop, and are given the opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns.
The full course takes close to 3 hours. Around mid-way through there is an “escape” route. The course is made up of 8 ziplines and two rope bridges over a waterfall. Each zipline starts and ends at large, well constructed platforms where you can get a birds-eye view of some of North Carolina’s greenery. The longest zipline on the Watefall Adventure tour is over 800 feet long.
There are two different zipline tours available. The Treetop Excursion ($55) and the Waterfall Expedition ($85). Reservations can be made online, as well as the completion of all necessary paperwork. There is also a Swing Shot ($20). The Swing Shot has you lifted three and a half stories up into the trees. You are suddenly released and sent swinging toward a stunning view. I wasn’t brave enough to try!
When you visit, be sure to stop at the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau (245 Person Street) and pick-up an area Passport. This 30+ page passport will give you the address and a brief description of all there is to do in the area.
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing more about Fayetteville, NC – where to stay, where to eat and a spot I visited that really surprised me! I hope you’ll come back to read all about it.
Have you ever visited Fayetteville, NC? What was your favorite spot?