New Bern, NC
New Bern (40 miles from Beaufort, NC), is the second oldest town in North Carolina, and was settled in 1710 by Swiss and German immigrants who named the settlement after the Swiss capital, Bern. New Bern’s skyline, like that of any Swiss city or town, is distinguished by its brick clock tower above City Hall. “Bern” is a German word meaning “bear,” and in both the Swiss capital and in New Bern, the black bear symbol is found all over town from the first greeting at the Trent Road exit from US Highway 70 to the enjoyable Bear Plaza in the middle of the Historic Downtown district.
At the heart of town and the history of New Bern is Tryon Palace, the Georgian brick mansion built for the British Colonial governor William Tryon in 1770. It is a showplace and living museum of Colonial history with lavish surrounding gardens backgrounded by the lovely Trent River. The palace was a stately setting for the first State Legislature meeting that occurred in 1777.
New Bern is the site of many firsts: the state’s first public school, the state’s first printing press printed the first book and newspaper printed in North Carolina; the first official celebration of George Washington’s birthday was in New Bern where George Washington did actually sleep a time or two; one of the first celebrations of Independence Day after the Declaration of Independence was in New Bern; and, topping it off, a New Bern pharmacist invented a brew he called Brad’s Drink which created a great following of New Bernians. Now we all know Brad’s Drink was the first Pepsi Cola.
Visitors to New Bern are welcomed into the myriad of arts, cultural, historical and festive town events that are on-going throughout the year. From the annual Shrine Ceremonial in January to the lavish Tryon Palace Christmas Celebration, there is always something interesting happening in the river city. From many miles around, everyone enjoys the Spring Historic Homes and Gardens tour the first weekend in April and the concurrent Tryon Palace Gardeners’ Weekend celebrating a painting of colorful tulip gardens.
The Rotary Cup Regatta during Labor Day weekend brings the excitement of sail racing over the finish line in New Bern. In October, Mumfest is one of North Carolina’s major festival events celebrating the colorful season of chrysanthemums in bloom throughout the town. The Christmas season brings the annual Coastal Christmas Flotilla, an uncommon performance of Handel’s Messiah and Christmas Candlelight Tours of Tryon Palace. Each season brings new reasons to be in New Bern.