Why You Should Visit Greenville in the Summer
Summers bring to mind sandy soils and plenty of sunshine for lovers of North Carolina. As the temperature rises and schedules relax, why not venture east to the inner Coastal Plain and explore Greenville’s beautiful historic uptown, Eastern-style barbecue, good brews and friendly faces, not to mention the famous Tar River? You might like the bustling city so much that you’ll never want to leave.
“I have never lived in a place as friendly as Greenville, North Carolina,” says Andrew Schmidt, executive director of Greenville-Pitt County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “When I first moved here over 20 years ago, the first thing I noticed about the people is they were incredibly genuine. Greenvillians are always ready to help and look you in the eye when talking to you. There is also a wonderful community pride in Greenville and Pitt County. We know that we are a vibrant community and just as significant as the bigger cities located to the west in our state.”
From Tobacco to Travel Destination
Tobacco once was king in Greenville, but along came a small state teachers’ school that grew into East Carolina University. Today, ECU annually welcomes almost 30,000 students to the area. Schmidt says that while the university adds social and cultural opportunities for residents and visitors, Greenville has evolved into more than an educational center. The city serves as the medical hub for 29 counties in Eastern North Carolina with Vidant Health systems as its anchor and employs nearly 7,000 people in Pitt County alone.
“Greenville, North Carolina, is definitely more than just a college town,” agrees Ryan Spruill, a Charlotte native who moved to Pitt County in 1996 to attend ECU, and never left the area. “Once named Sports Illustrated’s Sports Town USA, our sports teams are second to none.”
Spruill adds, “If you are heading to town for ECU Football, be sure to make it here by Friday to attend Freeboot Friday before every home game, and take advantage of kid-friendly activities – including a giant inflatable pirate ship since the team mascot is the pirates – plus food, shopping, music and, of course, local craft beer and wine. Even if the team is not playing its best, we have never lost a tailgate.”
Brews & Barbecue
Spruill is a home brewer with a palate for the finer things in life, from brew to barbecue and everything in between. Greenville’s thriving uptown offers all of the above. A stroll along the historic buildings offers plenty of ambience and choices. While Sup Dogs beckons the younger crowd with its specialty hot dogs, burgers and bevy of beverages, across the street, fine dining can be found at the Starlight Café, a farm-to-table establishment nested in the former home of Brody’s department store. Nearby, Winslow’s Deli, Tavern and Market offers a stunning collection of craft beers and excellent food that will stick to your ribs.
“If you are looking for adult-oriented things to do, check out Dickinson Avenue After Dark for a taste of local breweries and food trucks,” Spruill says. “You can experience Greenville’s three local craft breweries: Trollingwood Taproom & Brewery, which ferments all of its beers in wooden vessels, Pitt Street Brewing, known for its family-oriented facility with tons of games and food trucks daily, plus Uptown Brewing, all within walking distance. Just a short drive to Farmville will net you Duck-Rabbit Brewery with its award-winning dark beers, or head down to Kinston and experience Mother Earth Brewing, the country’s first Gold LEED-certified brewery.”
If you happen to be in Greenville on a Wednesday from May through August, be sure to visit the open-air Uptown Greenville Umbrella Market at Five Points Plaza for fresh produce, homemade goodies and live music. Celebrate art with a visit to the Greenville Museum of Art and the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge Gallery, or enjoy the art of nature at Pitt County Arboretum. For a wholesome destination for all ages, consider Simply Natural Creamery, where you can enjoy delicious ice cream made from fresh ingredients.
“Enjoy the best ice cream in the state of North Carolina while relaxing on their spacious front porch overlooking acres of pristine farmland,” Schmidt says. “Take a scheduled tour of Simply Natural’s working dairy farm, which includes seeing the milking parlor where the cows are milked, petting and loving on the baby calves, and even milking a simulated cow.”
A visit to Greenville wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Tar River. Schmidt suggests working with Knee Deep Adventures to learn about the area’s local ecosystems through guided tours for individuals or groups. “You’ll find numerous birds, fish, picturesque trees and enjoy a mental escape hearing the chirps, squawks and splashes of the wild,” Schmidt says.
Last but not least, don’t forget the barbeque. Participate in the Pitt County Brew & ’Cue Trail, complete with an official “PassPork.” Get started with a visit to the Greenville Visitors Center to collect your PassPork, and earn a stamp for every brew and/or barbeque establishment you try. Once finished, return to the Visitors Center to claim your Pitt County Brew & ’Cue Trail T-shirt or pint glass, and have your picture hung among the city’s Brew & ’Cue Wall of Fame.
Pitt County is also part of the North Carolina Barbecue Society’s Historic Barbecue Trail, and home to the top two spots – Skylight Inn and B’s Barbecue. Spruill says visitors must give both establishments a try. However, he has one important tip. “Just remember to get there early,” he says. “When they run out, they are out!”
If You Go...
To learn more about Greenville or plan your trip, go to visitgreenvillenc.com or call (800) 537-5564.
– Karsen Price