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Looking to spend a weekend in Kinston, North Carolina? Kinston is becoming more and more of a weekend travel destination for East Coast residents. It is a perfect stop for Raleigh and Durham residents traveling to the Crystal Coast. Located just under an hour from I-95, Kinston is also a great stopping point for travelers between north and south on this busy corridor. Is it worth the extra time and distance? A resounding yes – and here are things to do in Kinston, NC during your weekend getaway.
Where to Stay in Kinston
If you want to be downtown during your weekend in Kinston, which is generally my preference, you’ll have two primary options for hotels: the O’Neil Hotel and its’ sister location, the Mother Earth Motor Lodge. Do keep in mind that Kinston is one of many small Eastern North Carolina towns that were on the edge of disappearing when tobacco went away. However, the downtown revitalization efforts, spearheaded by Vivian Howard and Mother Earth Brewing, have placed Kinston back on the map of must-visit places, especially for foodies and romantic getaways.
Reminiscent of the 70’s motel that could be found up and down the highways of America, the Mother Earth Motor Lodge gives a 70’s Miami vibe with its bright colors and modernist decor. A variety of rooms accommodate travelers from couples to families to even those whose pooch accompanies them everywhere. Owned by the same owners as Mother Earth Brewing, guests should enjoy some locally crafted beers while staying here.
If you prefer a more intimate setting for your weekend in Kinston, book a room at the O’Neil Hotel. This converted bank building is now a boutique hotel with seven guest rooms, each uniquely decorated. The vault in the lobby has been converted into a refreshment area for guests. The building features the oldest functioning elevator in North Carolina. Guest amenities at this hotel will fulfill your every need. Both hotels are within easy walking distance of other downtown sites. You can read more about the O’Neil Hotel here.
Where to Eat in Kinston
Fans of PBS’ “A Chef’s Life” will be familiar with Vivian Howard. Dinner reservations at her flagship restaurant, Chef and the Farmer, need to be made three months in advance, making a perfect stop during your weekend in Kinston. The dimly lit restaurant creates a romantic ambiance. The food was some of the best quality we have tasted and yet it was affordable. Ask to be seated at the counter where you can see the kitchen at work. The food was amazing, which certainly explains the
Not in the mood for a fancy dinner? Enjoy a laid back dinner (or lunch) at Vivian Howard’s Boiler Room Oyster Bar. This casual oyster and hamburger restaurant is sure to please all guests. The Oyster Boilerfeller dish is amazing. We saw no unhappy guests here – choose an unfussy hamburger or sandwich. Because of the proximity to Eastern Carolina’s coast, the seafood is fresh and tasty. But don’t leave without trying the banana pudding! Read more about our yummy meals here.
Things to Do in Kinston
You’ll want options for things to do during your weekend in Kinston. Spend the afternoon or evening touring artistic exhibits at the Community Council for the Arts featuring local artists. Part of Kinston’s revitalization efforts has been to attract local artists. Housing and supplies are provided during their residency to encourage their freedom to express themselves. You’ll see local art exhibited in several places, which should be enjoyed if you like art.
Tour Mother Earth Brewing where, in addition to brewing amazing beer, they also distill rum, whiskey, and gin. Enjoy a flight of beer or a glass of wine. Experience a free brewery tour, offered several times a day on the weekend. You’ll get to experience all the environmentally friendly adaptations they have adopted and encouraged.
Interested in keeping the night going? Visit The Red Room where bands and live acts perform every weekend. Seating around the room is plentiful. The red lighting inside adds to the Red Room effect.
Need to walk off all of that food? Stop by the Neuseway Nature Park. Stroll on paths that follow the Neuse River. Or visit the free Ellis Planetarium. These are great ways to explore the city. Small, locally owned coffee shops and restaurants dot the downtown streets.
A history buff? Visit the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center. Featuring the Ironclad (the ship), displays showcase North Carolina’s largest historic artifact from the era. This small museum is worth the visit to learn more about this time in our history. It is a perfect way to spend some time in town while waiting for your dinner reservation.
We visited in the fall, but during the summer, a waterpark attracts visitors, especially families with children.
Kinston, North Carolina is the perfect underrated romantic getaway as a small town experiencing a revival. Whether you’re traveling through on your way to the beaches of eastern North Carolina or whether you’re specifically visiting Kinston for its uniqueness, you’ll have a memorable weekend in Kinston with your loved one.
Consider combining a night or so in Kinston with a visit to nearby Goldsboro, where you can visit Seymour Air Force Base or try some of the state’s best barbecue.
Annick, The Common Traveler