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Life and Religion

A weekend in ‘America’s Hometown’
Features Editor Michaela Duckett gets a taste of Fayetteville
Published Wednesday, June 4, 2014 12:00 pm
by Michaela L. Duckett

Here's me crossing Carver's Falls on a suspension bridge. Zip lining over the waterfalls was a thrilling experience that I won't soon forget. USA Today ranked as one of the top 5 zip lines in the country.

Whether you’re in search of history, heroes, outdoor adventure or a weekend destination for family fun, look no further than “America’s Hometown,” Fayetteville, N.C. – where southern hospitality reigns supreme.

About a three-hour drive from Charlotte, the Greater Fayetteville area is a place where people from every corner of the world cross paths. With a wealth of historic sites, interactive museums, international cuisine, parks, performing arts venues and so much more, it has something to offer for the entire family. No wonder it’s one of North Carolina’s fast growing communities.


I arrive midday on a Friday afternoon to the offices of the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, where I’m greeted by my host for the weekend, Melody Foote. In the spirit of true Southern Hospitality, she welcomes me with the words every traveler wants to hear just after getting off the road: “Are you hungry?”

Of course I am.

She takes to me to one of her favorite spots, Sherefe’ Restaurant (www.Sherefe.net) Located in Fayetteville’s historic downtown. Sherefe’ specializes in serving Mediterranean cuisine with Greek, Hungarian and vegetarian fare.

Melody introduces me to the owner and chef, Mustafa Somar. I ask for his suggestion on what to order. Without hesitation, he says go for the specials. I take his advice, and I’m glad I did.

The day’s special was blackened Mahi Mahi served over a spinach risotto and topped with a mango salsa. It is one of the most flavorful meals I’ve ever tasted. Just the thought of it makes my mouth water.

After lunch, Melody and I drive over to the Cape Fear Botanical Garden (www.CapeFearBG.org) for a golf cart tour of the 78-acre oasis of manicured gardens and unkept hiking trails located in an area where the Cape Fear River meets Cross Creek.

As our guide Sherry Carpenter zips us through the grounds, I find there is something here to stimulate all my senses. My eyes behold the beauty of the all the flowers in bloom. My ears are delighted with the sounds of birds chirping, the rushing waters of the nearby creek and river, and the laughter of children playing in the background – as there are many families visiting on this day.

All the while, my nose is picking up on the fragrance of Honeysuckle and Jasmine, which I wish I could bottle up and wear as perfume. With my fingers, I trace a stump of petrified wood, preserved from over 90 million years ago. It still looks like wood, but feels more like stone. As for my tastebuds, they are still singing the praises of Mustafa’s good cooking. (That dish was really amazing).

In addition to the various meticulously kept specialty gardens, the CFBG complex also includes a restored farmhouse, natural amphitheater, ponds, pools, waterways and a newly constructed indoor pavilion – which makes for a great wedding reception venue.

After checking into my hotel, Melody and I meet up and have dinner at Luigi’s Italian Restaurant & Bar (www.LuigisNC.com).


Fourth Fridays is a lively scene in downtown Fayetteville. I met artist Brandon Bass, a member of the U.S. Army who's exhibit "The Last to Let You Down" runs through June 24 at Cape Fear Studios.

Then, we head downtown for Fourth Fridays. It’s a lively scene as an eclectic mix of people of all ages, races and backgrounds come together each month to celebrate the arts and culture of the area. Most, if not all, of the businesses and artist galleries within a four-and-a-half block radius of downtown open their doors, display their goods and entice shoppers with various specials and deals. Some serve refreshments. Others offer fun activities, like face painting and cotton candy for the kids. And it’s all free.

We peek inside Cape Fear Studios, which is honoring the military with “The Last to Let You Down” exhibit running through June 24. The emotive paintings of Brandon Bass catch my eye so I ask him about the inspiration behind them and learn that he’s a member of the air force.

“I titled it ‘The Last to Let You Down’ because we are the ones our nation calls on if the United States is in trouble,” he says. “We do it, knowing that we could pay the ultimate price, but we have a job to do and we do it.”


Saturday morning, we pay a visit to the City Market at the Museum. Local farmers, artists and various vendors gather each week on the grounds of the Fayetteville Area Transportation & Local History Museum offering everything from eggs, honey, meats and produce to homemade soaps, oils, pottery, handmade jewelry and original art.

As home to Fort Bragg, the world’s largest airborne facility, Fayetteville is known as the unofficial home of the U.S. Army. It’s military history dates back to the Revolutionary War. So no trip to the area would be complete without experiencing its rich history and military tradition.

We visit the Airborne & Special Operations Museum (www.Asomf.org), which recounts the history of the U.S. Army Airborne from Test Platoon to present day. The guides that volunteer here are mostly retired army servicemen, many of whom are eager to share stories of their experiences. The life-size exhibits, audible gunfire and interactive displays gave me a new perspective of what life is like in the midst of the battlefield. I leave with a newfound appreciation of the sacrifices made daily by the men and women of the armed forces.

After touring the museum, we walk around the grounds, which include the statute Constant Vigilance, which is believed to be the world’s first memorial to dogs killed in action. I also walked through the Field of Honor, consisting of hundreds of flags standing in tribute to past and present service members.

We walk across the lot to N.C. Veterans Park (www.NCVeteransPark.org), which honors N.C. veterans from all branches of service. I browse the park to find the structures dedicated to veterans from Mecklenburg and Buncombe Counties (where I’m originally from). Each structure included four sculpted hands of veterans from each county. Inside the visitor’s pavilion, I come across a unique chandelier made from thousands of dog tags representing men and women of the armed forces.

After leaving the park, Melody and I enjoy lunch on the patio at Huske Hardware Brewing Company (www.HuskeHarware.com). Then, we take a tour of the Museum of Cape Fear Historical Complex, a branch of the N.C. Museum of History that tells the story of the history of southeastern North Carolina.


An outside view of the E.A. Poe House. Built in 1897, the historic 3,500-square-foot home cost $600,000 to renovate.

We also take a guided tour of the Edgar Allen Poe House, built in 1897. This particular E.A. Poe was a brickmaker, not the famed poet. I’m amazed that his family was only considered middle class, yet they had enough money to afford this 3,500 square-foot-home that took over $600,000 to renovate. The Poe family also employed help, which included a live-in nanny and cook.

For dinner, we dine at The Mash House Brewery & Chophouse (www.MashHouse.com). I order steak and shrimp and wash it down with one of their house-brewed craft beers. If you are super hungry, you can order the Monster Mash, which comes with a 40-oz prime cut steak, soup or salad, two sides and a pitcher of beer for $49.99. The “no splitting” blurb on the menu means, they expect one person to eat all that food. A fete I simply can’t imagine.

After dinner, we drive over to the nostalgic Cape Fear Regional Theater (www.CFRT.org) to see “Return to the Forbidden Planet.” It’s somewhat odd and unlike any musical I’ve ever seen. Let’s just say it was out of this world. Sixteen-year-old Halle Vargas Sullivan really stole the show with her amazing talent. A vocalist with the N.C. Symphony, Sullivan played in “The Lion King” on Broadway at the age of 9. I’m pretty sure she has a bright future ahead of her and would not be surprised to hear her name again and again in years to come.


In addition to its rich military history, Fayetteville also has a great reputation for being an ideal destination for those who enjoy the great outdoors. There are plenty of great places for fresh water fishing. In fact, the largest catfish ever caught in the state was caught here.

The area also boasts of numerous trails hiking, cycling and walking, natural waterfalls, wildlife, indoor skate parks and other activities. From climbing gyms to an indoor sky diving facility, there are plenty of ways to get your adrenaline rushing.

So on my final day in town, I decided to be adventurous and go zip lining at ZipQuest Waterfall and Treetop Adventure (www.ZipQuest.com). Depending on the size of your group, the tour takes about two hours to complete and features eight zips, which increase in speed and distance as the tour progresses. When I learned that I’d be zipping through trees and over waterfalls, I thought I’d be nervous. But strangely, I wasn’t. Which is a good thing because it allowed me to be in the moment and soak up the beauty of the natural environment surrounding me.

My guides Shiloh and Caitlin tell us all kinds of cool fun facts about the flora and fauna of Carver’s Falls. They also snapped dozens of pictures of us navigating the zips and crossing the suspension bridge over Carver’s Falls, and for $7 they emailed all of the photographs directly to my inbox by the time I arrived back in Charlotte.

All in all, my weekend in Fayetteville was one that was memorable. It was filled with good food, great folks, art, history and lots of adventure.

If you are looking for a family-friendly destination to spend a weekend away this summer or any other time of year, you can plan a customized vacation itinerary based on your personal interests at www.VisitFayettevilleNC.com/tour.


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Posted on September 1, 2014
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Posted on August 4, 2014

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