We’re continually on the hunt for experiences that add richness to our lives. In the spirit of the revival of road trips, we are proud to feature a monthly section featuring destinations within driving distance of Charleston. We feel that our smart and savvy readers will find these trips interesting and entertaining.
Driving five hours and fifteen minutes Southeast of Charleston, West Virginia brings you to Smithfield, North Carolina, the most visited part of Johnston County and located conveniently right off of I-95. Smithfield is an up and coming city that has award-winning barbecue, unique museums and attractions, and bargain shopping. Check out what your weekend could entail with a visit to Smithfield.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN SMITHFIELD, NC
Browse around downtown Smithfield and take in the locally owned shops. The Oak City Collection is a store you won’t want to miss that sells upscale food products, gifts, NC logo tees and accessories, housewares, and rock & roll memorabilia.
A few minutes away are the Carolina Premium Outlets. Stores include Coach, Kate Spade, Adidas, Bath and Body Works, and Carolina Pottery.
Learn about the beautiful actress Ava Gardner, the hometown sweetheart, in a one-of-a-kind museum. The Ava Gardner Museum share the actress’ story through exhibits, memorabilia, and an informative film that highlights the Cinderella story of this beauty.
Another unique offering in Smithfield is the Tobacco Farm Museum. Don’t let the name deter you; this is a wonderful museum full of cool exhibits and stories. The inside portion of the museum takes you through the life of a tobacco farmer, a coveted job for many in North Carolina. The outdoor museum grounds have historic buildings, a tobacco barn, and farmstead home that you can tour.
Get some exercise and take in the scenery as you take a vigorous hike on Smithfield’s Mountains to the Sea Trail, which offers views of the Neuse River.
Depending on the time of year that you visit, you can also enjoy local You Pick ‘Em farms for strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkin.
Take a 15-minute drive to the neighboring town of Clayton, also in Johnston County, where you can take a self-guided sculpture trail with impressive artworks. Then do some shopping at Auntie’s Cottage, Bexley House, and ReJoyce Gifts, all darling independent shops.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN SMITHFIELD
You have to eat barbecue when you are in North Carolina and some of the best can be found at Redneck BBQ Lab in McGee’s Crossroads. Choose between St. Louis ribs, burnt ends, brisket, pulled pork, or smoked turkey, all which pair well with the collard greens and jalapeño mac & cheese sides. Save room for a Dole Pineapple Whip for dessert, the only place I’ve seen them outside of Disney.
Another tasty option Under the Oak, serving gourmet sandwiches and salads. Try the Hogfather, a creative sandwich with a pickled green tomato and a side of crackling pork rinds, still sizzling when they arrive on your plate.
Have upscale Southern comfort food, such as Country Fried Chicken or Shrimp & Grits, at SoDaSoPa. You may also want to look for a Red Hot Dog, a local favorite around this part of North Carolina.
Stop at Double Barley Brewing for a fantastic beer and small food bites, with the likes of beer cheese pretzels and such. Try the seasonal Gourd Rocker Imperial Pumpkin Porter or one of their mainstays such as Thrilla in Vanilla or Wilma’s Wandering EyePA. Tours of Double Barley are available on Saturdays at 2 PM.
The Simple Twist Taproom in the heart of downtown Smithfield is another cool place to visit for a good selection of brews and craft sodas, too.
Wine drinkers may prefer Hinnant Farms Vineyard & Winery, with wine slushes and a large selection of sweet muscadine wines. Try a flight—a great way to sample a few of the winery’s top sellers or your favorite varietals.
For dessert, pop into Sherry’s Signature Cheesecakes, a darling dessert-only restaurant in downtown Clayton with a variety of homemade options. Some tantalizing flavors include Maple Brown Sugar Bacon, Peaches & Cream, and Turtle Cheesecake. Cold Stone Creamery (ice cream) and Hills of Snow (flavored snowballs) are other choices for those wanting something lighter or more refreshing.
WHERE TO STAY IN SMITHFIELD
Enjoy an affordable and comfortable stay at the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson. Rooms have microwaves and refrigerators, as well as offer complimentary breakfast and Wifi. There are many other chain hotels around Smithfield, including Fairfield Inn & Suites and Holiday Inn Express & Suites.
The Horse Farm and Portofino Horse Barn are unique overnight stay options for waking up sur-rounded by horses and lovely natural scenery.
SMITHFIELD, A TOWN YOU’LL BE HEARING MORE OF IN THE FUTURE
Smithfield is a darling town with plenty of things to keep you busy on your weekend travels. From rich history to primo beer, southern eats to movie stars, you are sure to have a darned good time. Happy travels!