AND ON THE GRAM...
KATHERINE ILONA
Katherine Ilona is a destination wedding & adventure elopement photographer and youtuber encouraging genuine and authentic women to find their voice.  She is a Washington DC Wedding and Engagement Photographer, and is based out of Alexandria, VA and Charlottesville, VA.
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All About Living at Fort Bragg, NC

August 16, 2018

I initially moved to the area for school, but with so many people PCSing to Bragg, I decided to write a post about the wonderful things that Michael and I enjoy doing in and around Fort Bragg.  Fayetteville does not have a good reputation, and this is often well-founded based on some sketchy areas you might drive through.  However, every city has their bad neighborhoods and I would prefer to encourage people to look past these and get excited about moving to this quintessential southern town!

TRIANGLE ROCK CLUB

Mike and I both love climbing.  Needless to say he is much better than I am, but Triangle is a wonderful all-around gym.  I have been to a lot of climbing gyms, and 

BRIGHT LIGHT BREWING COMPANY

Bright Light has a fun weekend scene.  It is a craft beer artsy punk crowd and they have a great assortment of unique seasonal and sour brews.  On the weekends they have live music and food trucks every night like Fowlers The Blind Pig and Empanadas.  Last weekend they actually had unlimited axe throwing for the brave of heart.  Bright Light is VERY dog friendly and the array of woofers that are there on the weekends fills my heart.

 

BEST BURGERS -- COUNTRY KITCHEN USA

This restaurant is off of Highway 210 on your way North from Fort Bragg towards Anderson Creek.  It is a sketchy looking Mom and Pop joint on the side of the road and I swear I almost thought it looked closed until Michael told me it was not.  It's unassuming exterior is not to hide a great interior, however 

 

BEST COFFEE -- THE MORNING JUMP

Choose which side of the driveup coffee and breakfast joint you want to choose because I ALWAYS choose the wrong one and the other side moves so much faster.  This coffee and breakfast joint is one of our favorite stops.  In addition to great food and drinks to kickstart your morning, they also have an awesome array of swag and some pretty cool stickers on the driveup windows.  Michael's favorite breakfast sandwich is the mini bagel, his favorite drink is the sky dragon, and his favorite sticker is from some SF group and their motto is "we do bad things to bad people".  It always makes me chuckle.  

 

BEST SUNSETS -- ON THE DOCK AT LAKE RIM PARK

I take Daisy Mae here to train because she loves diving off the dock after bumpers to practice her water retrievals.  The dock at Lake Rim is on the opposite side of the fishing dock.  You can sit at the end of it and watch the sun slowly lower below the treetops and into the horizon directly across from where you're sitting and it is really beautiful.  I would not recommend for fishing, however, as I have heard from some locals that it is not the best unless you have a boat.

 

BEST BEACHES -- WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH

Wrightsville Beach is beautifully maintained and it also has some of the best food anywhere in the south.  If you are looking for the closest beach within driving distance of Fort Bragg Wrightsville beach is definitely the go to place for Fort Bragg families.  Especially if you are new to the area, and have recently PCSed here, Wrightsville is a must see quintisential North Carolina Beach Town!  If you visit the beach you can often find free parking along the main roads instead of the beach access roads where you have to pay with the meter.  For food and wine lovers please visit Sweet and Savory.  They have over 400 bottles of wine and their menu is absolutely exquisite.  

 

BEACH BEACHES WITH DOGS -- FREEMAN STATE PARK

If we aren't in Fayetteville during the summer this is usually where you can find us.  The moment we drive over the intercoastal, Daisy Mae is up against the window sniffing and crying to be let out to swim in the waves, before she even catches sight of them.  You can purchase a daily pass, although if you plan on going a couple of times, the annual pass is almost more worth it.  At freeman state park you MUST have a 4x4 vehicle to access the beach.  It is a four wheel drive beach and you drive your truck or jeep right up on the sand to the edge of the water.  Dogs are allowed year round at Freeman Park and they can be off leash during the off-season months.  When the weather cools, you are allowed to reserve and camp in an overnight spot and your alarm clock is the sun rising over the crashing waves.  It is breathtaking and quiet before the daily crowd arrives -- groups that bring unit flags, speakers, grills in the backs of their trucks, and cornhole.  If you have not been, you have to go.

 

BEST RUNNING TRAIL -- CAPE FEAR RIVER TRAIL

Daisy and I love this trail.  It is a great running trail and if you check it out near Methodist University, you can get some good hills in towards the beginning and the end of your run.  There are lights on the trail and call boxes for added safety, but as I was conditioned when I was young, I always encourage women running on their own to notify people where they're going and carry a miniature pepper spray with them on the trail.  Running is just like hiking, and being by yourself makes you a larger target for anything to happen.

 

BEST PRODUCE -- SPROUTS

I am big on fresh produce, and although they may not always have the largest array of items, when compared to Food Lion, the Commissary, Fresh Grocer, and Walmart, Sprouts takes the win for having the best and freshest produce in Fayetteville.

 

BEST LUNCH DATE SPOTS -- UMAMI

Another place that needs to expand its sitting options.  Umami is so good that I have never visited this place without having to wait to get seated.  That being said, takeout is always an option.  I don't often trust a lot of sushi places, but umami is awesome.  Their specialty rolls are great and their have Bento Boxes at lunch which offer a little bit of everything.  FUN FACT: They also offer boba bubble tea!

 

BEST LUNCH DATE SPOTS -- METRO DINER

I am from the Northeast.  Diners are our jam.  On weekends in college, my roomies and I would always try to go to the diner and eat a big breakfast or I would hit them up with my family after church on Sunday morning.  When I moved to the south I think it was one of my biggest disappointments.  North Carolina has no diners.  WHAT.  Well, Metro took up shop and has begun changing that.  Their menu is fantastic and they have a full array of burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, double deckers, mac and cheese sides, etc.  Try to avoid coming from post at lunchtime, though, as there is always a wait out the door.

FAVORITE WEEKEND EXCURSIONS

HANGING ROCK STATE PARK

Hanging Rock is one of my favorite hiking destinations in North Carolina apart from Asheville.  The overlook is perfect for sunset, but get up there a little earlier than sunset because the shape of the mountain ranges causes the sun to disappear from view a couple of minutes before the scheduled time.  Be sure to bring a flashlight AND headlamp if you climb to the summit, because a lot of people go to see the sunset and then have difficult climbing down in the dark.  Sturdy footwear is a must for this one, because some of the scrambles could lead to twisted ankles if not prepared.  Most people don't know this, but Hanging Rock also has some lovely waterfalls.  You can get underneath and into some of the falls so you'll have to definitely check those out as well.  

 

CHARLOTTE, NC WHITEWATER CENTER

Charlotte is home to the training center for the national whitewater kayaking team.  The whitewater center has fun for people of all ages and provides a super fun weekend getaway.  The daily admission allows you to access their mountain biking trails and rock climbing walls, their deep water solo (a rock climbing route that overhangs the water with no ropes.  You climb up to the top and then you let go and drop into the pool).  They also have a craft brewery and other fun water activities that are more whitewater related.  Definitely check it out if you are in Charlotte for the weekend.

 

RALEIGH FARMERS MARKET

The state farmers market is located in Raleigh and is open every day of the week.  Local artisans, farmers, flower farmers, cheese makers, and others bring their things early in the morning and they have the best german baked goods at one of the stands.  The farmers have great succulent stands and there is an herb peddler that sells wonderful mint varieties; if you go, you'll have to check out the chocolate mint.  When you rub the leaves, it smells exactly like peppermint patties.  The flowers at the farmers market make me so happy.  As the summer progresses they have some great sunflowers and peonies and daisies, and black-eyed-susans.

 

Thats it for now, but stay tuned for more Fayetteville excursions documented and comment below with any questions about the area!

 

EDIT: VISIT THE SF MUSEUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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