New Bern is a small town with tons of charm! As the original capital of North Carolina, there is an abundance of well-preserved history, including civil war battlefields, private homes dating back to the late 1700s and 1800s, and — of course — the palace. Tryon Palace was the colonial home of the first governors of North Carolina. This large attraction spans approximately 70 acres and has the main palace, stables, a kitchen, formal and kitchen gardens, and several stately manners within two blocks. The palace grounds also include the North Carolina History Center with interactive displays and historical artifacts.
The palace regularly hosts activities and events that are very well-attended, including concerts on the expansive back lawn, candlelight tours during Christmas time, tea parties in the spring, and beer tastings from time to time. It’s also a popular venue for weddings. Tours throughout the palace buildings are led by costumed volunteers — an extra touch that brings history to life.
Visiting Tryon Palace with Kids
If you have children elementary-age and younger, you’ll probably want to spend most of your time in the North Carolina History Center. This is where you would buy tickets to get into the palace grounds, but this is also where you’ll find the hands-on exhibits. Inside the center, you’ll step back into colonial times where kids can learn about daily life back then. They’ll have a chance to chop trees, churn butter, make bread, sail a ship, tie knots, print a page on the printing press (with a crayon), and much more. This area is also a great place to let kids run around and explore on their own — you can see the whole room from just about anywhere.
The interior of the palace building and manors around the palace are not as interactive, so families with smaller kids may want to skip the history lesson tours. However, the tours themselves are not very long if you do decide to go in. The gardens and back lawn are also a great place to run around and get out some energy as well.
The palace also offers a number of summer and year-round educational programs. These are usually fairly specific — like fife and drum corps or pollination workshops, but they’re lots of fun if they fall into an area that interests your kids.
Creature Comforts and Accessibility
If you have little ones, are pregnant, or are just properly hydrated on an oppressively hot summer day, you’ll be happy to hear that both the History Center and the palace grounds have bathrooms with changing tables. Both sites are also stroller and wheelchair accessible, though the gardens are a bit more challenging to navigate with wheels since the paths are predominantly gravel. Strollers are not permitted inside the palace itself, but the first floor is wheelchair accessible. They even have a hands-on policy for visually impaired guests. If you call them in advance, they’ll make every effort to accommodate special circumstances.
Is It Worth It?
Admittedly, the entrance price can be a little hefty, at $20 per adult and $10 per child. That will get you into every area of the property. The Galleries pass is only $12 per adult and $6 per child and will get you into the history center’s interactive areas, as well as the palace gardens. You won’t be able to go into the palace or the other historic homes. Most would agree that, as a centerpiece of New Bern, Tryon Palace is definitely worth a visit at least once.
About twice a year, they have a free day at the palace, where you are welcome to come and explore the palace gardens and some of the inner buildings at your leisure. However, plan accordingly because these are typically busy days at the palace.
In our many travels as military families, we have the unique opportunities to bring the history and culture of our country alive for our kids as we move around. Tryon Palace is a great place to do just that. For some more information, head to their website.
Photo Credits: Eastern Sky Photography NC