This city of nearly 30,000 was founded in 1710 by a Swiss nobleman who named it after his home: Bern, Switzerland. Since "bern" means bear in German, the black bear is New Bern's mascot—you’ll see them peering from carvings, on the city's seal, on street corners, and in town souvenirs. New Bern had the state's first printing press in 1749, the first newspaper in 1751, and the first publicly funded school in 1764. For nearly 30 years it was the state capital, until it moved to Raleigh in 1792. George Washington even slept in New Bern . . . twice. In 1898, New Bern cemented its place in pop-culture history when pharmacist Caleb Bradham mixed up a digestive aid that eventually became known as Pepsi-Cola.
Today New Bern has a 20-block historic district that includes more than 150 significant buildings, about a third of which are on the National Register. The diverse architecture covers colonial, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian styles. Since 1979, more than $200 million has been spent preserving and revitalizing the downtown area, now a pleasant mix of shops, restaurants, and museums. Sailors and sun seekers enjoy the area, too, as the Neuse and Trent rivers provide the perfect environment for such activities as boating, waterskiing, and crabbing. The town has several marinas and seven public or semipublic golf courses that are open year-round.