• Dawn Sabato

Ready To Explore - Johnston County, NC


Johnston County, North Carolina was designated in 1746 and named in honor of Gabriel Johnston, the state's governor at the time. Located at the crossroads of I-95 and I-40, Johnston County marks the approximate midway point from New York and Florida, making it an ideal stop on an East Coast road trip, or an easy destination from both north and south locales. The area is about a two-hour drive from the Atlantic Coast and four hours from the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. Visitors enjoy the storied history, culture, cuisine, and recreation to be found in Johnston City, where unspoiled nature and southern hospitality are tucked around every corner.


Comprised of eleven towns (Archer Lodge, Benson, Clayton, Four Oaks, Kenly, Micro, Pine Level, Princeton, Selma, Smithfield, and Wilson's Mills) as well as two rivers (Neuse River, Little River), Johnston is the "fastest-growing county in North Carolina in the last ten years". The town of Smithfield is the county seat, situated approximately 30 miles southeast of downtown Raleigh. Also the county's first town, Smithfield, was established as an early trading post along the banks of the Neuse River at Smith's Ferry.


Johnston County is a thriving agricultural center, with more farms than any other North Carolina county, leading the state in income realized from the production of crops like sweet potatoes, corn, and soybeans as well as tobacco.


All year long, the towns of Johnston County host an assortment of events centered around history, food, and entertainment. Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site commemorates the anniversary of the battle the third weekend of each year, with large reenactments taking place every five years. In April, celebrate NC Beer Month and the local Strawberry Festival. Don't miss the Smithfield Ham and Yam Festival, held the first Saturday in May, for arts, crafts, live music, and piglet races. Harvest and holiday events dominate the fall and winter months throughout the county.


And don't forget... Go antiquing in Selma! Visitors will find over 100,000 square feet of antiques along a stroll-able picturesque 1950’s streetscape!



We turned to the fabulous resources and media library from the Johnston County Visitors Bureau to create this overview of some of the most popular attractions and spots to discover on your next visit! Take a look at some of the notable stops and things to do that we've uncovered in Johnston County:


  • Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site - The location of the last major battle of the Civil War and the largest military engagement ever fought on North Carolina soil. The 1850s Harper House still remains. The downstairs area is furnished to interpret a functioning Civil War field hospital, while the upstairs has period domestic furnishings.

  • Tobacco Farm Life Museum - 6,000 sq ft gallery featuring exhibits on farm life. On-site historic buildings include the original Iredell Brown Homestead with detached kitchen, a tobacco barn, a smokehouse, and a one-room schoolhouse, as well as reconstructions of a packhouse and working blacksmith shop.

  • Ava Gardner Museum - An extensive collection of artifacts from Ava Gardner's career and private life in celebration of the silver screen legend who was born and raised near Smithfield.

  • Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail - Tour local vineyards, find out more about making craft beer, and discover the legacy of five generations of moonshiners. 7 stops at three breweries, two wineries, and two distilleries.

  • Strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkins - oh my! Explore the heritage of North Carolina and get out there on the farms... as well as u-pick operations, farmers markets, restaurants sourcing from local farms, and even farms that double as wedding venues! You can also find more than 75 Johnston County farms and agribusinesses listed on the Visit NC Farms App.

  • The Rudy Theatre - Movie Theater built in 1948, changed to a live music venue in 1998 with a house band and special concerts all year. Four unique shows: Easter Jubilee, Summer Jubilee, Classic Country Jubilee, and Christmas Jubilee.

  • Tucker Lake - Enjoy a 30-acre spring-fed lake with sandy beaches, beach volleyball, rope swings, 4 acres of shaded picnic areas with grills and tables, bathhouse, jungle gym playground, soft play water toys, kid slides, and a 167-foot twisting and turning waterslide for tons of fun!

  • Start your engines, race fans! Want to see race cars complete lap after lap testing endurance and strategy? Southern National Motorsports Park has a race season of April to November, with a track setup similar to NASCAR. Prefer quick bursts of speed deciding races in mere seconds? The GALOT Motorsports Park has events year-round on their one-eighth mile asphalt/concrete pad dragstrip, as well as a dirt strip for monster trucks shows and tractor pulls.

Make sure to check out these fun local guides from the Johnston County Visitors Bureau:


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