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The Johnston County Visitors Bureau BLOG is published weekly with news and feature articles on visiting the county.

Howell Woodstock Celebrating Earth Day

Howell Woodstock Celebrating Earth Day

If you’d like a way to celebrate Earth Day this year, the annual Howell Woodstock will take place on Saturday the 22nd of April. The event goes from 1:00PM to 5:00PM and is located at Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center in Four Oaks. Take the kids for nature hikes, browse food and craft vendors, and enjoy educational displays. The Tobacco Farm Life Museum will be joining the festivities this year as well as the Science Club from Clayton Elementary. In addition, Jeremy Stroud will be demonstrating Wilderness Survival and Howell Woods will also be partnering with the JCC Science Dept. and the NC Science Festival to offer some hands-on activities.

“This year’s Howell Woodstock is shaping up to be another great event,” said Jordan Astoske, Director of Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center

Howell Woodstock offers many free, fun activities for the family including fishing, mule wagon rides, astronomy, and reptile displays. Kids can enjoy recreational activities like a rock climbing wall and inflatables.

“We are excited to once again be offering this family-fun day out at Howell Woods,” says Astoske. “This is such a beautiful time of year on the Howell Woods property, and we hope folks will come out and bring their families and have a great time with us.”

Visitors to the area the weekend of the 22nd are encouraged to attend. Howell Woods is located a few miles off of Exit 90 on I-95. Whether you're looking for a day trip opportunity or a family excursion, put Howell Woodstock on your calendar. 

Howell Woods is a unique 2,800-acre natural resource located at 6601 Devil’s Racetrack Road in the southeastern part of Johnston County. Programs, activities, and other recreation experiences like bird watching are offered at Howell Woods at other times of the year during spring, summer, and fall. Continue to check their website below for additional information regarding everything they have to offer both locals and visitors to Johnston County.

Howell Woodstock will be held rain or shine. For more information about the event and Howell Woods, please call (919) 938-0115 or visit www.johnstoncc.edu/howellwoods.

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Looking Forward to Spring in JoCo

Looking Forward to Spring in JoCo







1. Picking strawberries. This activity is perfect for families with little ones. Johnston County has a few working farms that open their fields to pickers, or just show up and buy them pre-picked by the bucket. Click here for a list of berry farms and farmer's markets sure to have this sweet, red fruit.


2. With the weather turning warm and breezy, Spring is a great time to enjoy the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail. In the Spring months our family-owned, award-winning vineyards are green with grapes growing on the vine and waiting for the late Summer harvest. Sit on the porch and enjoy a chilled glass of wine and take home a bottle of your favorite. Don't forget that April is NC Beer Month. Johnston County's breweries will have special release beers and great weekend events happening in celebration. Visit the Beer, Wine, Shine Trail website to learn how to travel along the trail and then click on each trail location's website for more information on events and products.


3. For parents of young, energetic kids it's been a long winter of being cooped-up indoors due to the weather. Take the family outside to explore, play, and learn. The Neuse River also offers an excellent opportunity for canoers and kayakers. For a list of places in Johnston County to hike, bike, and play visit our Nature & Recreation page.

4. Explore Johnston County's Downtown areas. All of our historic downtowns are very walk-able with shops, restaurants, and museums. You never know what sort of unique treats your might find, like the Hills of Snow snow cone which is a local, seasonal favorite - opening in March. Spring also starts our festival season. You can learn more about all our events here.


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Meet Our 2017 Visitors Guide

Meet Our 2017 Visitors Guide

The ink has just finished drying on our brand new Visitors Guide, also known as the "be a tourist in your town" guide.

We here at the JCVB are certainly excited to be bringing you a wealth of information in this compact brochure. The Johnston County visitors guide includes where to stay, shop, dine, drink, explore, tour, and experience the best of JoCo. Also included in the guide is a list of annual events and the months in which they occur, a guide to recreation in the county, and a list of wedding and event venues.

Visitors can find the guide in welcome centers and visitors centers around North Carolina. If you're already in Johnston County then our guide can be found in your hotel, at the Carolina Premium Outlets, and in most of our tourism partners' businesses like museums and restaurants in the towns of Benson, Four Oaks, Selma, Smithfield, Clayton, Cleveland, and Kenly.

The guide is used by the JCVB through-out the year as a promotional tool at media events, trade shows, sales appointments, and industry events to showcase the best that Johnston County's business owners and locals have to offer visitors, groups, journalists, and brides!

You can click the photo below to access a PDF version of the 2017 Visitors Guide.

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Make a Splash. Cast a Line.

Make a Splash. Cast a Line.

It’s the dog days of summer and in the south that means a lot of lazy front porch sitting with a cold glass of lemonade or sweet tea clutched in your hand like a lifeline. But, it can also mean floating down the river, casting a line, or diving in to cool off. In Johnston County, we’ve got tons of outdoor activities for both the adventurous and the idle at heart.

You can do all these activities in one trip if you make it a weekend escape to Johnston County. But Johnston County is also close enough to the Triangle to include all these in your list of day-trip, must-do Raleigh activities. If you’re traveling up or down I-95 this summer, stop and let the kids play off some of that energy. Many of the activities below are near the interstate.

Splishin’ and Splashin’ at Tucker Lake

Open May to September, Tucker Lake offers swimming, hiking, a playground, and picnic area. The lake is spring fed with sandy beaches, a rope swing, slides, and paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes available for rent. Lifeguards are on duty at all times, which makes this the perfect place to take the whole family on those hot summer days. You can bring your own chairs, rafts, food, and non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy as well.  

Tucker Lake is located in Benson and does have a daily admission cost. You can find more information by visiting the Tucker Lake website.

Catch Waves on Wires at Hexagon Wake Park

You could say that Hexagon Wake Park is for the athletic or adventurous, but their first-timers class makes sure that everyone who wants to give cable wakeboarding a try, can. For the uninitiated, cable wakeboarding is when a series of overhead cableski wires pull you through the water instead of a boat.

Hexagon shares space with Tucker Lake, though they have separate entrances, and parties that do not want to wakeboard can simply hang out at Tucker Lake. Both kids and adults of varying ages can brave the wake course and there are rentals available if you don’t have your own equipment, including the board, life jackets, and helmets. For more information on Hexagon and for a list of their pricing, visit their website.

Have Some Fun Out of the Sun at SRAC

If it’s too hot outside for the little ones, or you’ve got a case of the sunburn, try the indoor pool at SRAC – also known as the Smithfield Recreation & Aquatics Center. Along with an indoor pool, they’ve got a splash park for the little ones to enjoy and great locker room facilities.

If you’re visiting the area and/or are not a member, SRAC offers drop-in fees which you can pay to have access to the pool and the gym facility for the day. For more information, check out their website.

Rent a Canoe or Kayak and Float on the Neuse River

Scenic and historic, the Neuse River offers a gentle and relaxing ride. There are plenty of places along the Neuse in Johnston County to put in your own boat and go. But if you find yourself without equipment and know-how, contact Neuse Adventures Canoe and Kayak Rentals. They’ll get you all set and drifting down the river in no time. They also provide the drop off and pick up transportation for 2-hour quick-trip floats and longer 5-hour river excursions. Find out more about their float trips and rentals at their website.

See if the Fish Are Biting at Smith’s Nursery

Smith’s Nursery is family owned and operated. If you’re a Johnston County local, or an avid berry-picker, then you know that Smith’s is the place to be during strawberry and blueberry season. But, Smith’s has tons of other fun activities and seasonal produce options throughout the year – pumpkin picking, hayrides, and a millet maze.

You can also fish their pond. All you have to do is show up with your own equipment and bait, pay a $5 per person daily fee, and drop a line. Smith’s has 2 stocked ponds and restroom facilities. If you get tired of catching, you can always mosey on over to the produce stand for some ice-cream.

Smith’s asks that you catch and release and that you fish from the banks, no boats. If you’re a local or you’re going to be in the area for a while, yearly family passes are offered for $125 a year. For more information about Smith’s visit their website.

Remember your sunscreen and to stay hydrated while you’re having fun. For more information about things to do in Johnston County be sure to visit our website page as well.

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World Class Wakeboarding in Johnston County!

World Class Wakeboarding in Johnston County!


Did you know that Johnston County is home to one the United States’ premier wake boarding parks? That’s right! Hexagon Wake Park at Tucker Lake is one of only 30 cable wake parks in the US. In an area known for Civil War history, tobacco farming and mules, this park offers a unique opportunity to enjoy this active sport in a safe, environment. 

If you have never heard of a wake park, allow me to explain. Hexagon is a cable wake park. Just like those wake boarders you see skimming across Lake Jordan behind speedboats, Hexagon offers the same thrill, but there’s no boat needed! Since there’s no boat to maintain and it doesn't use gas, it’s less expensive than traditional wake boarding.

Cable wake boarding uses an overhead cables system to pull wake boarders across the water.  Personally, I like the consistency with cable wake boarding too. Speed is easily controlled, which gives beginners like me some confidence. 


The Hexagon Experience

Hexagon Wake Park at Tucker Lake uses a straight line cable to teach the basics to new wake boarders and a hexagonal shaped continuous running cable wake system. The straight line cable gives beginners a chance to learn the feel of the cable system and how to stand on a board. Basics mastered, boarders move on to the continuous hexagonal shaped system. It's faster and offers jumps and rails for advanced boarders.

Hexagon Wake Park is located at 3025 Allens Crossroads, Benson, NC. Guests should park in the lot opposite the wake park office. At check-in, guests must complete a liability release form — this is an adventure sport after all. 

Once fitted with a board, helmet and life jacket, a training video explains the basics: how the helmet fits, what to expect at the water and how to stand up. In my opinion, this is not the best set-up for such an important feature. The video plays on a small TV high on a wall in the corner of the store/registration area, where nearby noise and activity distracts. My son, who has been cable wake boarding before, was fine with it. My daughter, a first-timer, really didn’t understand what she watched and got distracted by everything going on around us. 

I spent some time reviewing the safety instructions and tutorial with her, then we headed out to the dock and the straight-line training cable.

My son did great -- he got to his feet no problem and headed off to the Hexagon cable to try the “real” one.


Going... going... gone! He found his feet!



Ben mastered the Hexagon! Next trip --- jumps and rails

My daughter did not fare so well. She tried, but she never got on her feet.


Almost on her feet -- but she didn't lock those knees. Nice try!



Look at the face! Such determination.

The key to successfully wake boarding is NOT to think! The cable does all the work. All the rider has to do is let it —- let the cable pull you to your feet, then lock in those legs and enjoy the ride. If you think too much, you’ll try to stand up and topple forward. If you resist and pull against the cable, you’ll tumble again. 

Hunter, a Hexagon staff member, tried everything he could to help her. When she wanted to quit (the first time out), he talked her into taking a break and trying again. It just wasn’t her day.

Back to my son… his first three attempts on the Hexagon cable looked much like my daughter’s on the training cable. He just couldn’t figure it out. The staff member worked with him (amazing young man -- wish I could remember his name), fixing his stance, showing him how to hold the handles, and teaching him to listen for the click signaling that he was hooked in to the cable. Just like that, he was on his feet. He made a full circuit, and didn’t wipe out until he mis-judged a turn toward the end.

The wake boarders in line cheered him on! There’s a special camaraderie among this group of people. (We noticed this in Illinois too!)


Hexagon Wake Park is located at 3025 Allens Crossroads, Benson, NC, convenient to Interstate 40, Exit 328B. Out of town visitors have ample hotel options in nearby Benson or at the I-40/State Route 42 interchange. 

The facility

The bath house/changing room is located at the far side of Tucker Lake Park, so I suggest you arrive ready to board: swim suit, rash guard and sunscreen. 

There are no lockers at Hexagon Wake Park. We took our duffle bags, towels and camera to the wake board area and set them on a picnic table. If you aren’t comfortable with that, just lock valuables in your trunk.

Recommended ages

While there are no age restrictions, boarders under age 10 must pay for an extra coaching session their first visit. I have seen very young kids successfully boarding, but it all depends on their personality. I wouldn’t force a timid child to try it. Adults, unless you have physical limitations, I really think you should try! If I can do it, anyone can. 


Rates for Hexagon Cable Park vary. All wake boarding rates include admission to all the amenities at Tucker Lake Park. Come for the wake boarding and stay for the slides! 

I strongly suggest a 2-hour session for first-timers as it can take a while to figure out how to stand up. For complete rates, click here

You will not be on the cables the full time! Every time you fall, you have to get back in line and wait your turn to board again. My son said that after a run, the break is good to rest hands and muscles before another ride. 


Hexagon Wake Park is a bit of a secret to locals, but not to the rest of the world. The owner of the Illinois park has visited. A family from Wilmington was there for their third visit of the smmer. We met an 11 year old boy from California who declared it the highlight of his vacation! Locals, this is your park too! Come on out and see how easy it is.

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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

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Travel around the county to four award-winning wineries, two breweries and get a taste of brandy along the way!  Receive a Free $30 coupon book when you complete the trail.


Meeting Planners

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Johnston County offers conveniently located and affordable conference facilities for meetings, reunions, and unique destination weddings sites.  Why not select a historic home or horse farm for your next event?


Group Tour Operators

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Groups have discovered exits along I-40 and I-95 for outlet shopping, music theatre, museums and heritage sites.  Call today for custom itinerary planning.


Hotel Packages

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We have created several special hotel packages including a Girlfriends Getaway for outlet shopping, we know you need a break and great deals on shoes!  Click here to book your getaway today.


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