Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens is New Bern’s main attraction, but many other activities can round out your visit. The palace ( www.tryonpalace.org) is a re-creation of the original government house and family residence constructed between 1767 and 1770 for royal Gov. William Tryon. At the time it was completed, it was considered one of the most beautiful public buildings in the colonies. The reconstruction, faithful to the original blueprints in every way, took a full decade and opened in 1959. In addition to the main house, the site includes three other historic homes, the New Bern Academy (the first public school in North Carolina) and several distinct gardens.
Adjacent to Tryon Palace is the North Carolina History Center ( http://bit.ly/1peSf7b), which opened in 2010 as part of New Bern’s tricentennial celebration: New Bern is North Carolina’s second-oldest town. The center deftly blends traditional museum exhibits with high-tech, interactive displays that are youth-oriented but will readily engage visitors of all ages. Other historic sites include the Attmore-Oliver House and the Firemen’s Museum ( www.newbernfiremuseum.com).
“Mum’s the word” means to keep something secret, but New Bern isn’t quiet about its Mumfest celebration ( www.mumfest.com), which drew more than 90,000 visitors last year. The 34th annual street fair, to be held Oct. 11-12, will feature the usual assortment of vendors, a wine and beer tasting, a 5K run, street entertainers, stage acts and amusement rides.
The one-hour “Ghosts of New Bern” walking tour ( www.ghostsofnewbern.com), available year-round, promises even more spirited fun around Halloween. Guides share stories about the unexplained occurrences associated with several houses and buildings in the historic district.
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If you’d rather see the city in daylight, take advantage of the 90-minute New Bern Trolley Tours ( www.newberntours.com) or take the self-guided Civil War and African-American Heritage Walking Tours (free maps are available at the New Bern Visitor Center; www.visitnewbern.com).
Just south of New Bern is Croatan National Forest ( www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc), which covers the southern half of Craven County. It is the only national forest in the eastern part of the state – and the only true coastal forest east of the Mississippi River. Fall foliage here isn’t what you’d see in the Western N.C. mountains, but it still makes for a pleasant autumn outing. Along with fishing and boating opportunities, the forest has 43 miles of nature trails.
The annual Candlelight Christmas Celebration, held at Tryon Palace on Dec. 13 and 20, showcases tours of historic homes displaying traditional 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century decorations. Also featured: dancing, street performers, black-powder fireworks and other yuletide merriment. Gary McCullough