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September 22, 2022

Spend a weekend in Smithfield this October: Exit 95, off I-95

Travel Weekend Getaways

Content sponsored by Visit NC - Johnston County Sponsorship Badge

Limited - JoCo - Gilded Pear Johnston County Visitors Bureau/for PhillyVoice

Smithfield, North Carolina is located just off I-95, Exit 95 only six and a half hours from the Philadelphia area. It’s a perfect long weekend getaway or a great stop-over on your way further south. Smithfield is situated along the Neuse River, with great connections to history, entertainment, dining, lodging, and outlet shopping. Explore a variety of attractions, attend local festivals, discover unique boutique shops, meet some interesting people, and savor even better BBQ - served with sweet tea and a generous helping of true southern hospitality.

Attend the Ava Gardner Festival

The Ava Gardner Museum hosts an annual festival in honor of the legendary actress, fashion icon, and humanitarian Ava Gardner, a North Carolina native who grew up just 7-miles east of Smithfield, NC. This year’s festival, scheduled for October 7-9, kicks off Ava’s 100th Centennial Celebration and will include a multitude of exciting events, as the museum unveils new exhibits, hosts special film and video presentations, and more. One of the can’t-miss events at this year’s festival is the musical experience dedicated to Ava, opening the festival weekend on October 7th! 

Limited - JoCo - Ava Gardner MuseumJohnston County Visitors Bureau/for PhillyVoice

Ava Gardner Museum

The museum will have new exhibits showcasing recent acquisitions and never-before-seen artifacts on loan from collectors, and additional events on Saturday include wine and whiskey tastings by Seven Jars Distillery and film screenings at the Smithfield Cinemas. Heritage Tours will be available as well with a tour guide to the Brogden Community where Ava was born and raised. Other points of interest will be featured in Smithfield, and the group will visit Ava's grave site. As the festival concludes, the museum will continue the centennial celebration throughout 2023 with special programming and virtual offerings for Ava’s 100th Centennial Celebration.

Shop Smart & Shop Local

Travelers to Smithfield will find plentiful shopping opportunities thanks to Carolina Premium Outlets where 80 national brand stores offer 25-65% off retail prices daily. For eclectic shopping and browsing visit Downtown Smithfield to walk and discover locally owned retail offering everything from boutique clothing, handmade goods, vintage decor, and fine jewelry. New to Downtown Smithfield is The Dragonfly Boutique and The Twisted Willow.

Don’t forget DeWayne’s, just a few minutes away in nearby Selma; locally owned and operated, this shopping experience was curated over multiple decades from a small seasonal produce stand into a destination in Eastern NC. DeWayne’s is a home and garden store with thousands of square feet of shopping. From themed boutiques for men, women, and children to specific sections for brands like Yeti and Pandora, DeWayne’s also has a Christmas Land department open seasonally for holiday décor and gifting. There is also an ice cream and fudge store inside if you need a snack to help you keep shopping.

Outdoor Delights in Warm Weather

Take a walk, or a bike ride, along the Mountains to the Sea Trail which curves along the banks of the Neuse River in Downtown Smithfield - known as Buffalo Creek Greenway. The Mountains to Sea Trail network links this greenway to trails that run from the Blue Ridge Mountain to the coast of Carolina. Smithfield also offers a self-guided Historic Downtown Walking Tour which takes visitors past historic buildings and outdoor art. The downtown area is home to a growing number of murals and sculptures, many of which have historical significance or local themes.

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Culinary & Craft Beverage Trails

Eat in one of several locally-owned restaurants in Downtown Smithfield, including the new coffee shop The Gilded Pear & Brew House. Grab lunch at a real New York Deli, Gotham’s offers the sort of fare you’d find in the Big Apple. There’s also SoDoSoPa, a smoked meats concept, and Simple Twist, a chef-owned restaurant. For lunch or dinner visit Selma’s brand new Old North State Food Hall. With 10 regional, unique vendors in one space, a variety of cuisine, and a full bar, the Old North State Food Hall is the nation’s first roadside food hall right off I-95’s Exit 97.

Limited - JoCo - Old North State Food HallJohnston County Visitors Bureau/for PhillyVoice

Old North State Food Hall

With a growing culinary and craft beverage scene in the area, don’t miss the self-guided Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail, the first of its kind in North Carolina. The trail has eight partners: two wineries, four breweries, and two distilleries. Smithfield-adjacent partners on the trail include Double Barley Brewing and Hinnant Vineyards. Speaking of trails, if you’re big on foodie exploration, the Smithfield area has stops along multiple food trails that cover the area including culinary themes like: coffee, BBQ, red hot dogs, and more!

Experience Fall Fun Near Smithfield

Smithfield and its surrounding towns are located in Johnston County (JoCo), one of NC’s largest counties land-wise. Johnston County has a rich history in farming and agriculture. Get out of the downtown area to visit local farms taking full advantage of the agritourism trend inviting visitors to come experience farm life. Purchase pumpkins, enjoy corn mazes and hayrides, plus special Fall events and activities are being offered at area farms throughout the season. Visit Sonlight Farms in nearby Kenly to let the kids run out some of their energy. Or, for older kids and adults, visit the Clayton Fear Farm - an evening experience that is the areas premiere “scream” park.

Limited - JoCo - Ashlan Meadows Apple CiderJohnston County Visitors Bureau/for PhillyVoice

Ashlan Meadows Apple Cider

 Looking for somewhere to stay? A variety of accommodations are available; travelers along I-95 will find an abundance of hotels located at many of Johnston County’s exits. Visitors to the Smithfield area will find hotel packages throughout the year offering room rate discounts, as well as special offers on area shopping, dining, and attractions. Whether you are traveling to Smithfield for a special event or experience, or just stopping overnight along the way, there’s a reason to return again and again to JoCo!