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05-11-11-angie-abrams.jpgI wish I had paid more attention in history class. This is one of the fi rst thoughts I had when I started my position at the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau in November 2008. Growing up not too far from Fayetteville, I never realized that there was so much history right here in my very own back yard.

Like most people, I learn by doing and the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has a great tool available to residents and visitors alike. The Cultural Heritage Driving Trails are a set of 14 thematic driving trails that tell the story of Fayetteville and Cumberland County based on the 14 themes. Some of the trail themes include African-American Heritage, Civil War, Gaelic Beginnings, Religious Freedom, Patriots, Past and Present and Paths, Plank Roads and Planes. Each site on these trails is linked together by the overall theme of the trail. We provide you with the phone number, address and hours of operation for each location. On most of the trails we provide turn-by-turn directions to help you get from point A to point B.

There are a few that we like to call a la carte options — no directions provided just options you can select depending on your preferences. The All-American Adventure trail provides a sample list of recreational opportunities available around Cumberland County. The Patri-Arts and Gardens Trail provides an array of locations where you can experience art and culture in different mediums.

Since Fayetteville is a melting pot of cultures, we also offer an International Cuisine Trail that showcases the many different cuisines available in Fayetteville/Cumberland County. Everything from Indian to Greek to Caribbean to European to Colombian to Southern fare is available somewhere in Cumberland County. All restaurants included in this trail are locally-owned, non-chain restaurants. We also checked the health scores of each restaurant to make sure they were all above par establishments. We’ve also included two farmers markets for those who love fresh and local!

One of our newest, most unique trails is Trail Trek. Ever heard of geo-caching? In simplest terms, it’s a modern day scavenger hunt.

Here’s what you need: A hand-held GPS unit that allows you to enter in coordinates, a vehicle, a copy of Trail Trek and some small trinkets for the caches (pronounced cashes, we will get to what it is in a bit). You can get a copy of Trail Trek off our website; there is a printable version available to download. We provide you with a set of coordinates, you enter them into your hand-held GPS unit and drive to where the coordinates take you. You will have to get out of your car and walk with the unit in hand to get to all of our locations.

Once you get to where the coordinates take you, we have given you a clue that will help you fi nd the cache, a fancy way of saying the treasure box! Once you fi nd the cache, there is a log book as well as a small trinket. Basic geo-caching etiquette is if you take something out, you put something in. These trinkets are small items, figurines, matchbox cars, usually items from the dollar store work just fine. No food or money though. Then place the box where you found it so the next trail trekker can have as much fun as you did when looking for the cache!

Trail Trek has 10 sites that you can visit. You do not have to do them in order, nor do you have to do them all in one day. But we are sure that you will be pleasantly surprised at the locations that you do end up visiting and you will want to take some time to look around after finding each cache.Trail Trek is even on Facebook; find us and like us and you will get updates about new sites coming on board real soon!

We also have a feature on our website in which you design your own itinerary based on when you want to get out and explore or when you have friends and family visiting the Greater Fayetteville Area. CustomizeIt! is a web-based feature that takes you through three easy steps and results in a trail that has everything that you want to do, when you want to do it!

Step One asks basic questions: Where are you coming from? How many people are in your party? when will you be here? and What are you interested in seeing or doing while you are in Fayetteville?

Based on your answers in step one, step two allows you to select all of the options that you want to visit. You can even select the day you want to visit. Don’t worry, we provide you with hours of operation for each site!

Once you have selected all the places you want to visit, step three puts everything together, gives you a map and highlights where all the attractions are that you’ve selected. We even give you some restaurant and accommodation options based on the cuisine type and accommodation requirements that you selected in step one.

Step Three also gives you a look at the events calendar to see what local events are happening during your visit. You have the option to download audio files for the attractions that you have selected, either to a CD or MP3 player. You can save your itinerary if you need to come back and tweak it before your journey here, and you can email it to others that may be traveling with you.

Fayetteville and Cumberland County has a lot to see and you can learn a lot about our history by going out on one of our trails, or one that you create on your own through CustomizeIt!

You can find all the trails and CustomizeIt! on our website www.VisitFayettevilleNC.com. Our website features categories on every aspect of Fayetteville/Cumberland County and can help you learn more about the Greater Fayetteville area. Friends and family can also use it to plan a visit when they travel to our area. Check us out and find out why Fayetteville is a community of History, Heroes and a Hometown Feeling!

Photo: The Fayetteville Area Transportation Museum is one of many historic buildings on The Cultural Heritage Driving Trails.

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