Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Fayetteville, NC

  • Published 2022/11/28

Home to Fort Bragg, a major U.S. army installation, Fayetteville has received the All-America City Award three times from the National Civic League.

The city is located in the sandhills of the Coastal Plain region on the confluence of the Cape Fear River.

As of the 2020 census, the city is home to a population of 208,501, making it the sixth-largest city in North Carolina.

The Siouan Native Americans were the early settlers in the area until the Scots from Campbeltown, Argyll, and Bute, Scotland, established two settlements in the 18th century.

The establishment of the two inland communities, Cross Creek and Campbellton, stemmed from the Yamasee and Tuscarora Wars.

The city was named after French military hero Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who helped the American soldiers during the wars.

Fayetteville is the county seat of Cumberland County and offers many attractions, including those without a fee.

Here are the free things to do in Fayetteville, North Carolina:

See Gorgeous Roses at the Fayetteville Rose Garden

A pretty flower at Fayetteville Rose Garden

Shiela Anderson /

Beautiful blooms await you at the Fayetteville Rose Garden, an intimate spot where you can enjoy a relaxing afternoon.

Sit and relax at one of its stone benches while enjoying the view of the fountain and more than 1,000 varieties of roses.

It’s a small romantic spot to take photos while taking advantage of the gorgeous views with a nice gazebo.

Vibrant roses at Fayetteville Rose Garden

Shiela Anderson /

There are also horticulturalists you can talk to about roses.

The Fayetteville Rose Garden was established in the 1970s at the Fayetteville Technical Community College campus.

It’s located off the main road on Hull Street.

Travel Back in Time at the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum

The Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum has an extensive collection of the city’s history, including the Cape Fear exhibit.

Vintage cars, fire equipment, artifacts on civic leader E. A. Poe, transportation, and other times are showcased here.

The museum’s doors opened to the public in 2006 in the railroad depot, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

The Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum is one of the best spots to visit in Fayetteville with the entire family.

It is located on Franklin Street.

Get Closer to Nature at Cape Fear River Trail

A person jogging along Cape Fear River Trail

KMaynerECU, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy the beauty of nature by exploring the Cape Fear River Trail with two different starting points.

The 5.3-mile-paved trail takes you closer to the amazing views of the river, hundreds of spectacular species of plants and trees, and wildlife.

You’ll see occasional deer, turtles, frogs, and lizards whether you’re biking, hiking, jogging, or simply taking scenic walks.

Also, you’ll find a 700-foot boardwalk over wetlands and marsh close to Clark Park, where you can find the trailhead named for Moses Mathis, the Bicycle Man.

You’ll experience both flat and a little hilly terrain along the way, but the journey will be an adventure!

The other starting point of Cape Fear River Trail is at Jordan Soccer Complex on Treetop Drive at Methodist University, while Phase 2B at Clark Park is on Sherman Drive.

Appreciate Culture and the Arts at the Arts Council of Fayetteville

Fayetteville has stunning natural areas to explore and other historic attractions, but it also prides itself in offering outstanding opportunities to local artists.

The Arts Council of Fayetteville gathers all artists in the Cape Fear Region to showcase their talents.

There are many activities funded by local organizations and other partners to help artists of all ages reinforce, develop, and stimulate their skills and talents.

Many artworks on display at the council are up for sale, helping artists get recognized.

One of the annual events is the International Folk Festival in September, which celebrates cultural diversity, heritage, arts and culture, crafts, and more.

The Arts Council of Fayetteville was established in 1973 on Hay Street.

Celebrate with the Locals at the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival

Street dancers during the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival

Selena N. B. H. from Fayetteville, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fun and exciting activities are held every fourth weekend of April in the three-day Fayetteville Dogwood Festival.

Since its inception in 1982, the festival has drawn thousands of tourists from Cumberland County, North Carolina, and the rest of the country.

There’s free entertainment by local and national artists and musicians, educational activities for kids, arts and crafts, and more.

Food and drink vendors are also scattered throughout the historic Fayetteville downtown, so you can enjoy local produce while celebrating with the locals.

Then-mayor Bill Hurley and his team founded the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival.

Pay Homage to War Veterans at the North Carolina Veterans Garden

The North Carolina Veterans Garden is a tribute to U.S.’ fallen heroes.

Located in the historic downtown, the park features sculptured hands representing the war veterans from North Carolina counties.

A display inside the park with dog tags representing the war casualties is also not to be missed, and there are even vacant ones for future use.

The North Carolina Veterans Garden is the U.S.’ First Sanctuary Community for the Military.

It was established in July 2011 off Bragg Boulevard, adjacent to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum.

Admire the Old-World Structure of the Historic Evans Metropolitan AME Zion Church

Exterior of Evans Metropolitan AME Zion Church

Gerry Dincher, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The historic Evans Metropolitan AME Zion Church was built in a Gothic Revival architectural style on North Cool Spring Street.

The church features historic medieval architecture, which became prevalent in the 1740s in England.

It also features flanking towers, a usual style of Gothic Revival architecture.

The church’s congregation was founded by shoemaker and Methodist preacher Henry Evans, who started Methodism in Fayetteville.

His grave is marked on a table in the church’s basement.

A 1913 two-story house used as an office was also built on the property.

The historic Evans Metropolitan AME Zion Church is a great destination for a quick glimpse of old-world architecture.

The church was built between 1893 and 1894 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Tour around the 1897 Poe House

The two-story Victorian 1897 Poe House was the home of Fayetteville’s civic leader, politician, and businessman Edgar Allan Poe, his wife, and children.

So as not to be confused with the famous poet of the same name, Poe is referred to as “E. A.” who owned the Poe Brick Company.

The three-bay frame house was constructed in 1897 in an Eastlake Movement and Stick Style architecture.

Located in the Haymount historic district, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Free guided tours allow you to learn about African-American history, children’s and women’s roles, and more.

Visit the 1897 Poe House onBradford Avenue.

Have a Picnic at Arnette Park

Daytime view of Arnette Park

refrina /

If you’re after a relaxing activity, enjoy outdoor fun at Arnette Park.

The 100-acre park with natural woodlands features picnic pavilions where you can have a nice lunch while enjoying the gorgeous views.

There are also grills to use for barbecue.

For sports enthusiasts, you can play a friendly game at the park’s sand volleyball courts, disc golf, baseball fields, tennis courts, and horseshoe pits.

Welcome sign of Arnette Park

refrina /

There’s also a concession stand in the park if you need more snacks and drinks.

The fun walks along the river junctions are not to be missed!

The park also hosts Fayetteville’s “Christmas in the Park.”

You can find Arnette Park on Wilmington Highway.

Enjoy Nature and Wildlife at the J. Bayard Clark Park & Nature Center

Beautiful and relaxing, the J. Bayard Clark Park & Nature Center will get you closer to animals and nature.

The 76-acre park features paved and dirt trails along the Cape Fear river.

You’ll see turtles, fish, snakes, and other wildlife along the way and a cascading waterfall.

The nature center also houses taxidermied animals, rocks, gemstones, native trees, and many more.

You can also pack a lunch and use the park’s picnic tables.

There’s also a spacious playground for the kids to play.

The J. Bayard Clark Park & Nature Center is located on Sherman Drive.

Learn about Military History at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum

Exterior and statue of Airborne & Special Operations Museum

Rex K. Williams /

Fayetteville has been home to a large military presence since the 18th century, with its history showcased and exhibited at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum.

Many exhibits are displayed at the museum, showcasing the Special Operations and Airborne history from the 1940s to the present.

You can browse through the museum’s main and temporary galleries, a motion simulator, a gift shop, and a four-story theater.

Interior of the Airborne & Special Operations Museum

refrina /

You’ll also learn more about the U.S. military story in general and the World War II conflict.

The Airborne & Special Operations Museum was founded in 2000 by the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

You can find it on Fort Bragg, a U.S. military installation on Bragg Boulevard.

Exhibit in the Airborne & Special Operations Museum

Gary Todd from Xinzheng, China, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Drive through the Fayetteville Cultural Heritage Trails

Driving through a total of 750 miles of themed cultural heritage trails is a fun activity in Fayetteville.

Each trail is marked with significant historical events to learn and discover.

There are 17 trails for you to explore while driving, including the Patri-Arts & Gardens Trail, and the African-American Heritage Trail.

Take the family out, experience, and learn more about Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s culture and history!

Enjoy Peaceful Views at Lake Rim Park

The waters of Lake Rim Park

Chansak Joe /

Another gem in the neighborhood, Lake Rim Park, offers fun activities for families and solo travelers.

The park offers boating and fishing access for those who want to drop their fishing lines and spend a day paddling in the water.

The boat ramp is off Old Raeford Road, where you can launch your kayak or canoe.

There are also scenic one-mile walking trails to explore and a playground for the kids to enjoy.

If you’re into sports, the park also features sports fields so you can also spend time playing a friendly game.

You can also use the park’s picnic areas.

Note that while admission is free, some park facilities may require a fee.

Lake Rim park is located on Tar Kiln Drive.

Bask in the Sun at Milton E. Mazarick Park

Visit Milton E. Mazarick Park to enjoy various outdoor activities.

These activities include fishing, as the Glenville Lake inside the park is stocked with Bluegill, Channel Catfish, Large Mouth Bass, and Redear Sunfish.

However, netting of fish is prohibited at the lake; you’re only allowed to do pole and line fishing.

The 80-acre park also features a disc golf course, a playground, picnic areas, and walking trails.

You can find Milton E. Mazarick Park on Belvedere Avenue.

See the Historic Market House

Exterior of the Historic Market House

Real Window Creative /

When the old State House & Town Hall in Fayetteville burned down during the Great Fire in 1831, the historic Market House was then constructed in 1838.

The ground floor was the marketplace where goods and livestock were sold until 1907, while the second floor was used as the Town Hall until 1906.

The marketplace was believed to be a hub for trading slaves apart from household goods and other stuff.

The arcaded structure and format of the building were an inspiration from the British Isles and are also prevalent in England.

Clock tower of the Historic Market House

John Patota /

Today, the building’s second floor has been converted into a museum after it became a subject of demolition.

The museum features monthly rotating exhibits focused on the Market House itself.

It was added to theNational Register of Historic Places in 1973.

You can find it on Gillespie Street.

View of the Historic Market House at night

Hunter Gaede /

Final Thoughts

Fayetteville offers spectacular and historic attractions that have drawn many visitors.

What’s more, there are many things to do here that don’t require you to pay even a single cent.

Take advantage of these free things to do in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on your visit!

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