Midway to Mickey

July 3, 2019

overnight stop on the way to florida

Did you know Fayetteville, North Carolina, is almost exactly midway between New York City and Orlando? New York City to Fayetteville is a 551-mile drive, and Fayetteville to Orlando is a 534-mile drive. This would explain why our tourism surveys consistently show residents of these two states make up the largest demographic of visitors to Cumberland County year-round. Many of these travelers are snowbirds who spend the colder months in Florida and the warmer months in New York. However, we also see many families traveling to and from major vacation destinations, such as Disney World.

Since Fayetteville is the only major city in North Carolina located on I-95, we are already a popular overnight stop for travelers. Knowing this, I have put together some suggestions for where to stay, play, eat, and shop here, all within about a five-mile radius of I-95. Offering affordable accommodations, good eats, and family fun, Fayetteville really is the perfect midsize city for a road-trip layover. We may be “midway to Mickey,” but that doesn’t mean your family’s vacation can’t kick off during your stay here!

overnight stop on the way to floridaTru by Hilton, one of Fayetteville's newest accommodations, is designed to be a fun reprieve from the road for the modern traveler.

Where to Stay

We can currently boast 85+ Cumberland County Accommodations that include everything from budget motels to internationally recognized hotel brands. Of those 85, you’ll find 30 options for I-95 Accommodations, all located on or near that heavily trafficked highway. Narrowing that pool down even further, I-95 travelers often choose to book their overnight stays at one of our many Exit 49 accommodations, since they are so accessible from the interstate. At that one exit alone, you’ll find the following 17 options:

*These accommodations feature a swimming pool.

overnight stop on the way to floridaMany of our accommodations, like SureStay Plus Hotel, offer family-friendly rates and bonus sleeping options, such as sofa beds.

Where to Play

Once you’ve checked in to your hotel, you’ll likely be in search of something to do to entertain the family and let the kids run off their energy. Within just five miles of I-95, there’s quite an array of Things to Do, from parks to museums to sports.

Just this year, Cumberland County's Sports scene expanded to include the Houston Astros' Minor League Baseball team, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers. I can’t talk about family-friendly things to do here without letting our visitors know about this new addition to America's Hometown. As I shared in the “Victory Means a Little More Here” blog, our Woodpeckers also came with a brand-new facility, Segra Stadium, in downtown Fayetteville. Since the Woodpeckers’ first home game in April, that stadium has seen nearly 140,000 visitors and locals fill the stands for home game nights.

Just one of the reasons families are big fans of Segra is the Kids Zone, where children can play while parents still have a great view of the ballgame from the outfield. Nearby is the berm—an open, grassy area in the left outfield—that is a perfect spot for parents of restless little ones to lay out a blanket and take in the game. If you walk the perimeter of the stadium, you’ll also find picnic tables, rocking chairs, lounge areas with couches, and a dedicated spot for outdoor games, such as corn hole. Learn more about what you can expect during one of the Woodpeckers’ action-packed home games here. Home games are scheduled on select dates through Sep. 2, 2019, and will resume for a new season in the spring of 2020.

I-95 Southbound —> Exit 52A-52B —> 5.6 mi. to Segra
I-95 Northbound —> Exit 46A-46B —> 7.5 mi. to Segra

overnight stop on the way to floridaFamilies love to spread out blankets on the berm to watch all the action from the outfield.

With over 30 Parks to choose from in Cumberland County, it’s hard to limit my suggestions here to just one. However, Arnette Park is not only one of the most convenient for I-95 travelers, but it is also our largest regional park. At this 100-acre site, situated on the Cape Fear River, you’ll find picnic pavilions, playground equipment, a disc golf course, and a variety of sports courts and fields. This is where my own family has watched my son play his soccer and baseball games. It's also the site of one of the most impressive Christmas lights displays in the area every December.

The one-mile, tree-lined road that lines the perimeter of Arnette is ideal for walking or jogging. Thanks to all its natural woodland, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to spot some wildlife or do some bird watching here, as well. Plus, there are places around the park where you can take in the view of the Cape Fear River. Pack a picnic and set aside a little time to enjoy this tranquil spot in nature. Open Mar. - Oct., Mon. - Sun., 9 am - 9 pm; Nov. - Feb., Mon. - Sun., 9 am - 4 pm.

I-95 Southbound —> Exit 46-46A-46B —> 4.3 mi. to Arnette
I-95 Northbound —> Exit 46A-46B —> 4.9 mi. to Arnette

overnight stop on the way to floridaFascinate-U encourages children to "explore their world through creative role-playing."

Of the ten Museums you’ll find in Cumberland County, one is especially appealing to little ones, and that is our Fascinate-U Children’s Museum, located in the heart of downtown. I featured this popular destination in a blog on “Indoor Recreation for Traveling Families,” because it’s the perfect place to let stir-crazy kids expend some energy while they’re learning.

For 25 years, children have been visiting this museum and “explor[ing] their world through creative role-playing.” The whole museum is designed to be a mini city, and through its interactive exhibits, kiddos can pretend to be a farmer, grocer, carpenter, soldier, and more. There’s even a toddler room for children under the age of four. At just $4 per child and $3 per adult, you really can’t beat the price for this type of fun, educational experience. Open Tue., Thu. & Fri., 9 am - 5 pm; Wed., 9 am - 7 pm; Sat., 10 am - 5 pm; Sun., 12 pm - 5 pm.

I-95 Southbound —> Exit 52A-52B —> 5.1 mi. to Fascinate-U
I-95 Northbound —> Exit 46A-46B —> 6.9 mi. to Fascinate-U

Where to Eat

While Cumberland County is known for its international diversity in Dining, we also know for a fact non-Southerners seek out barbecue and southern cuisine when traveling through the South. You can count on finding several popular restaurants and down-home eateries that will curb exactly that craving here. There’s no need to drive far to fill your belly with some Carolina favorites.

If you follow my blog much at all, then you likely know I’m a big fan of Fowler’s Southern Gourmet, a lunch eatery located on the outskirts of downtown Fayetteville. I believe this restaurant should be on the radar of anyone who’s a fan of family-owned barbecue joints. From its journey as a food truck to a darling brick-and-mortar site, Fowler’s has gained such a following among our locals and out-of-town visitors that Our State Magazine made it their featured restaurant in March with their "Fowler's Southern Gourmet in Fayetteville" piece. The writer of that article made sure to inform Our State's readers about Fowler’s practice of buying meat and many products direct from farms, most of which are right here in North Carolina.

I could go into a lot of detail about the smoked meats you’ll find on their sandwiches, plates, and salads, but I’ll just highlight the one that made me fall in love with their cuisine two years ago. On my first visit to Fowler’s food truck, I ordered The Boss—a smoked brisket sandwich, topped with a creamy slaw, that was an instant, nostalgic reminder of both my Texas roots and my adopted home state of North Carolina. On their menu today, you’ll find that same epic sandwich, plus a wide variety of side dishes that cover the gamut of Southerners’ favorite sides: potato salad, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and more. Now, I can’t tell you what to order on your first visit to Fowler’s; however, I will tell you, just like any barbecue eatery worth its salt, everything is made fresh on the day of, in limited quantities, and the early bird gets the worm here! Open Tue. - Sat., 11 am - 2 pm.

I-95 Southbound —> Exit 52A-52B —> 5.6 mi. to Fowler's
I-95 Northbound —> Exit 46A-46B —> 7.7 mi. to Fowler's

overnight stop on the way to floridaMy best suggestion for Fowler's first-timers is to order a smorgasbord of their greatest hits and sample it all.

In 2015, a Southern Living contributing writer, Robert Moss, placed Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ at the top of his list of “5 Great Interstate Highway Barbecue Joints,” guiding travelers to those places “conveniently located just off an Interstate exit.” Then, earlier this year, readers of AAA Carolinas’ Go Magazine voted to give the Members’ Choice Award for North Carolina’s “Best Comfort Food Restaurant” to Fuller’s. And there’s a good reason this 33-year-old, family-owned business with three locations keeps getting recognition from esteemed publications.

With one of their restaurants located on the outskirts of downtown, Fuller’s is a convenient, quick option for I-95 travelers. For families, especially, you can’t beat the price for what you get. When my own family and I are in the mood for southern comfort food, Fuller’s is a favorite go-to. Here, you’ll find a buffet featuring all the classic dishes. Fill your plate with barbecue, fried chicken, fish, and all the “fixin’s.” You’ll even find they have unique and regional offerings, such as quail, fried cornbread, and fat back. Just be sure you leave room for the spread of homemade desserts, because they do not disappoint! Open Mon. - Sat., 11 am - 9 pm.; Sun., 11 am - 4 pm.

I-95 Southbound —> Exit 52A-52B —> 4.3 mi. to Fuller's
I-95 Northbound —> Exit 46A-46B —> 6.4 mi. to Fuller's

overnight stop on the way to floridaWhenever possible, Circa 1800 sources their food, like this perfect catfish, from NC farms.

For my last dining recommendation, I’m suggesting a 10-year-old downtown restaurant that is known for offering its patrons a finer take on some southern classics. Circa 1800 is a family-owned establishment whose Chef Bill and team take great pride in developing recipes that are often inspired by their own families’ best food memories. Not only that, but their mixologist extraordinaire, Tony, carefully curates the restaurant’s selection of North Carolina craft beer, wines, and spirits. Add to that the fact Circa has made it their mission to get to know their patrons, to update their menu seasonally, and to consistently serve meals worth lingering over with loved ones, and you have the recipe for a stellar dining experience.

I’ve had just about every type of meal at Circa—from their popular weekend brunch to a weekday business lunch to a five-course dinner with friends—and I can say with confidence that all three offer diners something to fall in love with. Looking to have a special dinner during your visit? You can’t go wrong with their mainstays, such as Shrimp & Grits or Filet Tips, but the new Braised Pork Cheek entrée has piqued my interest. I recently fell in love with the Chilled Asparagus Salad over lunch with a friend and would also recommend everyone try their Fried Green Tomato Salad. It’s ridiculously hard to choose just one dish from their brunch menu; however, an all-star is the Southern Eggs Benedict. Be sure to ask any of their knowledgeable waitstaff to recommend a beverage to pair. Then top it all off with one of their decadent desserts to ensure you have the full "Circa Experience.” Open for Mon. - Fri. Lunch, 11 am - 2:30 pm; Mon. - Thu. Dinner, 5 pm - 9 pm; Fri. & Sat. Dinner, 5 pm - 10 pm; Sat. & Sun. Brunch, 10:30 am - 2:30 pm.

I-95 Southbound —> Exit 52A-52B —> 4.9 mi. to Circa
I-95 Northbound —> Exit 46A-46B —> 6.8 mi. to Circa

Where to Shop

When I'm on a trip, I always like to take a piece of that vacation home with me, and I especially appreciate locally owned shops that offer their patrons unique items. Among Cumberland County's array of Shopping options, you'll find many stores just like that in downtown Fayetteville, right off I-95. Below are just three spots where you're guaranteed to find products and souvenirs that are specific to North Carolina and even to Fayetteville.

In the past two years, A Bit of Carolina has won two local awards for "Best Gift Shop," proving what a treasure we have in this sweet spot. I have to recommend it to out-of-state visitors, because, as the name suggests, the store offers truly a bit of everything Carolinians love about our state. Not only will you find some well known clothing brands, like Simply Southern and State Legacy Revival, but even A Bit of Carolina's own t-shirt line. Even better, over 70 local artisans sell their wares here, so you're guaranteed to see unique wood and metal art, wreaths, candles, and much more.

If you're looking for gift items, you're in luck. One of the things this shop is known for are their gift baskets. Beyond the locally made artisan goods and clothing items, you'll also find a wide range of North Carolina food products, perfect for filling up a basket. There are southern favorites, like Faith Farms' Pickled Okra and Scuppernong Jam, but also items you've probably never heard of before, such as Monkey Butter and Moonshine Hot Sauce. After you're done shopping, the staff is always happy to wrap up your items in a gift basket or bag for free, or even ship them on your behalf. A Bit of Carolina is truly southern hospitality at its finest! Open Mon., 11 am - 3 pm; Tue. - Sat., 11 am - 6 pm.

I-95 Southbound —> Exit 52A-52B —> 5.3 mi. to A Bit of Carolina
I-95 Northbound —> Exit 46A-46B —> 7.0 mi. to A Bit of Carolina

overnight stop on the way to floridaA Bit of Carolina offers southern hospitality to go along with their NC gifts, souvenirs, and wares (PC: A Bit of Carolina).

Another shop well worth a quick stop, for a couple of reasons, is the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (FACVB) Store. Located inside the FACVB's Visitors Center, in downtown Fayetteville, this small store carries several items that make for great souvenirs. You'll find logo t-shirts, ball caps, magnets, postcards, stickers, and even a few locally made food products, such as barbecue sauce and honey.

Yet another reason it's well worth your time to stop by the FACVB Store during your stay is because of all the free information and resources the friendly Visitor Information staff offers travelers. Here, you can pick up a free county or state map, attraction brochures, calendar of events, hotel information, and visitors guide. The knowledgeable staff, Denise and Betty, will gladly offer suggestions on where to eat, what events to attend, and so much more. Just don't leave there without getting our signature Passport stamped, as this little book will guide you to several of Cumberland County's most popular museums and attractions. Open Mon. - Fri., 8 am - 5 pm.

I-95 Southbound —> Exit 52A-52B —> 4.7 mi. to FACVB Store
I-95 Northbound —> Exit 46A-46B —> 7.1 mi. to FACVB Store

overnight stop on the way to floridaPressed designs and sells their own t-shirt lines, many of which celebrate what makes NC and Fayetteville unique (PC: Pressed).

One of the most popular shops in downtown Fayetteville is Pressed – A Creative Space. When the owners left military service and decided to put down roots in Fayetteville, they wanted to start a business where they could offer "brands with a unique story to tell and design that inspires you," and they've achieved exactly that. Here, you'll find fun and funky accessories, planners, greeting cards, niche food products, pet items, clothing, and more. Pressed's own creative team is known for designing clothing that shows off the best of North Carolina and Fayetteville–from our breweries to baseball–and you'll see our locals, to include me, wearing their signature t-shirts just about anywhere you go in this town.

Additionally, Pressed offer items produced by beloved national brands, such as Rifle Paper and Kate Spade New York. Being big believers in the "Love Local" movement, they also strive to feature products that are made by other small businesses and artists in the area. Just one North Carolina business Pressed supports is LocoPops, based out of Durham. That popsicle business has a cult following for their Mexico-inspired, cool treats known as paletas, and Pressed is the only Fayetteville shop that stocks their deliciousness on a stick. After you're done shopping, you'll want to grab a Cherry Lime, Orange Mango, or Lavender Cream pop to take on your stroll through the lovely streets of our historic downtown. Open Mon., 10 am - 6 pm; Tue. - Sat., 10 am - 8 pm; Sun., 11 am - 5 pm.

I-95 Southbound —> Exit 52A-52B —> 5.2 mi. to Pressed
I-95 Northbound —> Exit 46A-46B —> 6.9 mi. to Pressed

The above suggestions don't even scratch the surface of everything Cumberland County has to offer our visitors. For even more ideas related to the above, check out the FACVB's lists of Accommodations, Things to Do, Dining, and Shopping. I also recently shared some ideas for how and where to stay cool during a visit to Cumberland County; to learn more about where to hit the water or cool off indoors, check out "Cool Down in Fayetteville." Lastly, Cumberland County's communities play host to thousands of events year-round, and the FACVB’s Calendar of Events offers an easy way to discover fun events to attend during a visit.

overnight stop on the way to floridaNew York City –> Fayetteville = 551 mi.

overnight stop on the way to floridaFayetteville –> Orlando = 534 mi.

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