Stroll: Fayetteville’s military history stretches from North Carolina’s colonial past to the present, so you may think going for a stroll means a march in formation, but that’s far from it. At the Cape Fear Botanical Gardens (www.capefearbg.com) there are more than 77 acres of hardwood forest and planned gardens to amble and admire. In the fall, the forests are ablaze with color, and as winter settles in, colorful blooms pepper the McLaurin Camellia Garden.
Cross Creek Linear Park (www.crosscreeklinearpark.com) traces a path across town, passing several spots worth stopping – the Market House, Lafayette Park and a statue of the city’s namesake, a trio of historic churches. At its western end, Cross Creek Linear Park terminates at Festival Park, just a short walk from North Carolina Veterans Park (www.ncveteranspark.org), the first park in the state dedicated to military veterans, and the Airborne & Special Operations Museum (www.asomf.org).
Shop: The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County (www.theartscouncil.com) puts on monthly 4th Friday celebrations; it’s when Cape Fear Studios (www.capefearstudios.com) stays open late and several resident artists open their studios for talks and to work in the public eye. The work of one member artist hangs in the gallery while contemporary art pieces – paintings, photos, pottery, jewelry and more – are on display and for sale in their retail area.
Hike: James Stillman Rockefeller (of those Rockefellers) built a winter home, Long Valley Farm, on what is now Carvers Creek State Park in Spring Lake, is just north of Fayetteville. Open periodically for tours, the home and buildings are otherwise closed, but still picturesque. The 2.25 miles of trails in Carvers Creek pass the home and millpond, but also traverse the ecosystem favored by the endangered red cockaded woodpecker. At www.ncparks.gov, get details in the “Find a park” search window).
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The All American Trail (www.fortbraggmwr.com/all-american-trail) runs 11 miles along the perimeter of Fort Bragg, another spot that also happens to be a red cockaded woodpecker habitat. The trail is open to hikers, runners and bicyclists.
Bike: The All American Trail is open for mountain bikes, but for cruisers and street bikes, look to the Cape Fear River Trail (www.fcpr.us). Wide, paved and clocking in at 10 miles round-trip, this is a popular path. As it runs along the river, the trail crosses over five bridges – one that’s a covered bridge – and traverses a marsh and wetlands via a 700-foot boardwalk. All along the way, signage provides highlights of the more than 700 species of flora and 150 species of birds you may spot along the route. Jason Frye
Given this city’s military town’s international flair, try some international flavors. Sherefe Mediterranean Grill (www.sherefe.net) – its name is Turkish for “cheers” – introduces diners to the world of Turkish cuisine. Turkish food is surprisingly familiar and the Mediterranean dishes are cousins of more familiar Greek dishes like hummus, gyros and kabobs ... but with spices and culinary twists from owner Mustafa Somar’s homeland. Somar also holds cooking classes, so plan a trip accordingly.
Anstead’s (www.ansteads.com) is a cigar bar and lounge serving craft beer and whiskeys as well as cigars, pipes, and loose tobacco. At Paddy’s Irish Pub – with the motto “No Wankers” – a true Irishman runs the bar, pours the pints, gossips with regulars and leads the musically inclined in rousing renditions of Irish drinking songs. Details: www.facebook.com (search for “Paddy’s Irish Pub”).