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JCVB Blog

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!)

Location

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

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. 

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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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Chick-Fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon Attracting Out of State Visitors

Chick-Fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon Attracting Out of State Visitors

Chick-Fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon


The Chick-Fil-A 3 Little Pigs Triathlon will be held in Smithfield, North Carolina, on Saturday, June 13, 2015. The event will begin at 7:30 AM and include a 250-yard pool swim, 14-mile bike, and 3.1 mile run. 3 Little Pigs Triathlon is a USA Triathlon sanctioned event. USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon, and paratriathlon in the United States.
swim portion
The event will begin at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center (SRAC) at 600 Booker Dairy Road. The swim will take place at the SRAC; the bike course will be from the SRAC into rural Johnston County on a scenic but mostly flat course; and the run course is an out-and-back course around Smithfield’s community park, and down and back on the Buffalo Creek Greenway.
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This is the sixth year the triathlon is being held. Chick-Fil-A of Smithfield is the title sponsor, with volunteer assistance coordinated by staff of the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center and the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County. Proceeds will benefit Friends of the Park and the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County.

“We are excited about the response we’ve received about the 3 Little Pigs Triathlon,” said Martin Tetreault, a committee member for the event. “We’ve had great participation each year that we’ve held the triathlon, and everyone seems to have a great time. Last year we raised over $15,000. Those funds go directly back into the community through Friends of the Park and the Rotary Club of Central Johnston County. It’s a great time for the participants and their families.”

Family activities will also be available for those coming to support instead of run. There will be a SRAC splash pool, a misting tent, face painting, and the playground at the finish line. So far this year's participants have signed up from locations like Charlotte, Wilmington, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Virginia. Athletes also range in age from 12 to over 70.  There is still time to be a participant yourself. Registration information is below.  
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Registration Information
 - Online: https://fsseries.com/3-little-pigs-sprint-triathlon
 - Onsite registration may be available if the event is not full.
 - Participants receive a t-shirt and a Chick-Fil-A sandwich as part of the event.
Good Luck!

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Part III - Pine Level, Micro, Kenly Bike Route

Part III - Pine Level, Micro, Kenly Bike Route

Part Three in a four part series on the new JoCo Bike Routes

One of the first county-wide projects the Johnston County Sports Council tackled was developing new on-road routes for biking enthusiasts.  Currently along the country roads of the county, residents may spot individual riders and club rides biking almost every morning and especially on Saturdays.

The Selma Cyclepaths have a loyal team of riders in the county, however, visitors and bikers from Wake County are now making trips over to enjoy our wide open spaces.  With these new approved bike routes, the Visitors Bureau will have established routes to market via brochures, online biking sites, hotel packages, and our county websites.

There are four NCDOT adopted bike routes which cover most all areas east, west, north and south.  Both the Smithfield and Clayton routes have been discussed in detail in the two previous blog posts. This blog will explore the loop from Pine Level, to Kenly, to Micro, and back to Pine Level. The routes have been vetted by the NC Department of Transportation Bike and Ped Division and each local planning department has reviewed and provided a resolution of support for the routes.  The Visitors Bureau currently has a new JoCo Bike Route Brochure... interested riders can call and we will mail out brochures or printer-friendly versions will be on our website soon.

Through a series of BLOG posts we will take you through each new bike ride in the county.

Pine Level, Micro, Kenly Route

Start here:  Great parking is available at the Sam Godwin Park in Pine Level to begin your bike ride, with a great stop just minutes down the road at Hinnant Family Vineyard and Winery. 

Hinnant's Vineyard is the largest muscadine vineyard in the state with more than 75 acres of grapes. This award-wining winery has a tasting room with a variety of muscadine wines, Norton reds, specialty wines like the Ava Gardner "Barefoot Beauty" dry Blanc Du Bois, and fruit wines like strawberry, blackberry, peach, and pomegranate.

Hinnant Winery

Head northeast out of Pine Level: through beautiful farmland and find out more about our agricultural heritage.

Travel through rich farm lands all the way to the Town of Kenly, home to the Tobacco Farm Life Museum that offers weekly heritage events every Saturday showcasing farm heritage, crafts, and farm life. The Tobacco Farm Life Museum has been serving visitors an agritourism experience for more than 25 years with a 6,000 square foot museum, reconstructed farmstead dwellings, and special events held throughout the year.

Tobaccon Farm Life Museum

Head back to vineyards:  Once you travel through Friendly Kenly, return back to Pine Level along Lowell Mill Road, which will take you back by the winery. The Selma/Pine Level loop is perfect for a return trip for shopping for antiques, DeWaynes, or great bargains at JR Outlet. Just minutes from Pine Level, outlet shoppers and lovers of antiques will enjoy Selma. Home to the entertaining and family-friendly American Music Jubilee country music variety show.

For more information - lodging, food, activities - click on Pine Level, Kenly, or Selma.

 

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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

beer wine and shine trail logo

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.

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Meeting Planners

meeting venue with presentation screen

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?

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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.

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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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FREE TRAINING

 

Check out what other travelers say about Johnston County, North Carolina on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor
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