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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.

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hotel bedroom with white bedspread and black and white accents

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.

benches in O'Neil Hotel in Kinston, NC

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.

inside lobby of transformed bank into hotel lobby

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.

four dishes at The Chef and The Farmer - things to do in Kinston

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 three-month wait. We were impressed with the high quality of food while still featuring a friendly environment where guests wore everything from their fanciest outfits to casual. Make sure to leave room for dessert! Of course, if you’d like to visit sooner, consider visiting during a weeknight instead of the weekend.

four dishes at The Chef and The Farmer

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.

painting with people dressed in denim blue on a sidewalk

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.

smiling couple in Red Room - bar with red light
Date night at The Red Room!

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.

inside of Mother Earth Brewing with blue lit bar

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.

More reading for your Kinston weekend:

If you’d like to explore nearby Goldsboro:

Happy travels!
Annick, The Common Traveler

Things to do in Kinston, NC, USA., to have a great weekend.


Foodies and romantics, plan your weekend getaway to Kinston, North Carolina, USA, with this list of things to do.