About 37 miles right down U.S. 17 from New Bern, you will discover another charming town, Jacksonville. While I had often visited the city in Florida, the North Carolina version was refreshingly different. It all started with my visit to an actual distillery.

Walton’s Distillery includes a fantastic gift shop for unique finds.

Red in the Face

Walton’s Distillery makes moonshine, whiskey and bourbon. It is a working, small-batch facility with mashing, fermentation, distillation and bottling of spirits. Daily tours (except Sunday) showcase the process and experience of seeing a functioning moonshine still. Better yet, the owners have incorporated practices from generations of local makers and married it with techniques used by modern American distilleries. During my tour, I drummed up the courage to try Junior Walton’s Authentic Carolina Moonshine. Suffice it to say, I will not soon forget that taste. Or my red face. The whiskey is pretty good, though!

Delicious Bites

I needed some nourishment before setting out on my next stop.  I asked the folks at Walton’s for a lunch spot recommendation. The Kettle Diner (c’mon, that is a classic name) did not disappoint, as the ambiance was pure old-fashioned diner. I indulged in the Kettle Melt, smothered in mushrooms and provolone. I love that they have daily fruit offerings in addition to their daily soups. Pure Americana.

Blue is for Freedom


The Vietnam Veterans Memorial includes a listing of all fallen service members.

The Lejeune Memorial Gardens was the perfect way to spend this sunny afternoon. These gardens are a striking example of the beauty of patriotism. It served as a reminder of the amazing freedoms we have because of the men and women who serve our country. There are several amazing monuments, with two having a resounding effect on me. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated to those who served during the Vietnam War. The memorial is second in size only to the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., and it is one of only a few that lists all the names of the fallen. The other monument is an actual remainder piece of the September 11 tragedy. The 9/11 Memorial Beam from the World Trade Center instantly takes you to the day that forever changed American history.

It was time to head back to New Bern. Like the other cities and towns I have visited nearby, Jacksonville is a wonderful place to experience America at its best!