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JCVB Blog

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

Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday

Everyone has their own opinions surrounding Black Friday. Some would classify it an obsession. Some, a tradition. While others find it's slow erosion of Thanksgiving Day and family-time appalling. Whether you're spending Friday the 25th of November in front of the TV on the couch or in line at a store, you certainly have the next day, Saturday the 26th, to go shopping or shop some more. And the Saturday after Thanksgiving has, for the past 6 years, been known as Small Business Saturday.

Started in 2010 and championed by American Express, Small Business Saturday is one day out of the year where shoppers are encouraged to focus their attention and buying-power on small, locally-owned businesses. These are the shopkeepers on the corner, the chefs serving-up homegrown dishes in the kitchen, the artists and growers and merchants on main streets across the country. They have hand-made, hand-picked, and personally-selected items in their stores that would make the perfect Christmas gift for someone on your list. They can help you pick the most cheerful decorations, the perfectly-paired wine, or provide a warm meal to keep you going while you shop the day away.

The best part is that whether you're a local or a visitor to Johnston County this holiday season, small business shops and restaurants are all around. They're waiting to welcome you this Saturday. In fact, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau (JCVB) has been working on creating and posting videos that highlight all the many things to do along the main streets in Johnston County. You can view the Benson video here, the Clayton video here, and the Smithfield video here. Don't forget about Four Oaks' boutiques and general store and Selma's plethora of antique shops. Keep on the lookout for videos coming about these area's as well. This Saturday would be an excellent time to check out all these downtown areas for yourself.

It is on days like Small Business Saturday that we can reflect on how important these businesses are to our local economy. And tourism, by definition, exists to support and sustain the success and growth of these businesses by bringing in visitors from outside the county to enjoy everything that JoCo has to offer. So this Saturday, thank a small business owner and get all your friends and family Christmas presents that have been "sourced-locally".

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The Watermark of the Human Spirit

The Watermark of the Human Spirit


Sometimes in this blog I get to provide information, and sometimes I get to introduce interesting people. But better yet, every once in a while, I get to say something important.  This is one of those times. It is critical in the days and weeks to come that you shop local. And not just in your own community but in the communities you happen to visit, from Benson to Goldsboro to Fayetteville to Charleston to Savannah.

Hurricane Matthew damaged a lot of homes and businesses, some of which were shops, restaurants, hotels, museums, and historical sites. Visitation is their lifeblood. Being open to receive customers is critical. Not only are many of them facing repair costs with very little of the federal assistance afforded to residential property owners, but these local business owners take a loss every day they cannot open their doors. Please continue to support them. Make it a priority. Ask what you can do to help. When you see them reopen their doors, go make a purchase. From a tourism prospective “going local” has always been important to me. On a good day, shopping local provides you an opportunity to make a connection with someone who has ties to the place you’re visiting. It provides you with cultural context, a friendly face, and the sense of exploration you get from stepping outside your comfort zone to try the unknown and unique. But on a not-so-good day, shopping local provides you the opportunity to help someone with an entrepreneurial spirit continue to realize their dreams; your business is their key to recovery.

It’s going on two weeks now and the hurricane itself is a distant memory of the vast Atlantic Ocean. But from the Haitian villages all the way up to the small towns of eastern NC, the flood waters are only now receding and the destruction being accessed. There are still 18 shelters open in North Carolina housing displaced people. Yes, raging waters subside and we will rebuild our lives as generations of strong, stubborn Carolinians before us have done. But, help is needed. Much like currents can be both cruel and kind, humanity can also rise to the occasion. I’m asking you to choose kindness right now, as people return to homes and cars that are destroyed. As families deal with the loved ones they lost to the flood waters, let us band together to assist and to comfort.

A wonderful, digital publication Bit & Grain has provided a very thorough write-up on their website of how you can help Hurricane Matthew victims on a state-wide level and also by county. The contact and donation information listed includes Johnston County.

Don’t forget to thank a first responder or a utility worker. I would like to thank all of North Carolina and Johnston County’s first responders. You are the people who rush out to help while I stay hunkered down in my home. You are the boat in raging waters. You are the people on the frontlines putting yourself in harm’s way to help those in need. Even when flood waters recede and raging winds calm, you take a step forward every day when the rest of us take a step back. And to linemen, watermen, and public works people, who work ceaselessly to return our lives to normalcy, thank you.

This Saturday the 22nd of October the Clayton Center is hosting the last concert event of the Clayton Piano Festival. It will be an amazing night – 5 artists with 5 pianos all playing together on one stage. To say thank you, the center and the festival have come together to offer up-to 4 free tickets for first responders to the event so that they and their families can enjoy a night of entertainment at no cost. It is the least we can do for all you have done for us. Each responder can receive the tickets by simply calling the box office at 919-553-1737 or stopping by The Clayton Center at 111 E. 2nd Street in Clayton.

A writer is a reader first. It is because of this elementary and important rule that a writer’s words are the product of everything they have ever read. So, I would like to end this blog post by borrowing from a writer I love to read (and by unabashedly mentioning how wonderful Our State magazine is and that you should subscribe to it as a local or lover of North Carolina).

In her most recent welcome letter in Our State magazine, Editor in Chief Elizabeth Hudson wrote about rivers, both the joyful distraction and sometimes terrible destruction they offer up. I was privileged at an event a few weeks ago to hear her read these words along with the rest of the letter out loud. She could not have known, nor could the rest of us in that room have known, how true these words would ring just a few weeks later. Nor could Our State, who plans its editorial calendar months and years in advance, have known that their Rivers issue would hit stands a week after the devastation of Hurricane Matthew.


“During Hurricane Floyd, when the Tar River swelled 20 feet above flood stage, we lowered our heads and prayed so hard for our friends in eastern North Carolina… places where the river is a part of everything. If you look, you can still see the waterlines on clapboard, an alluvial yardstick of our history. Raging waters subside, eventually. And I hope, then, we speak of better days – of the swimming holes and of tires swinging from overhanging branches; of beloved wet dogs shaking on the banks; of Sunday baptisms and church picnics and family reunions; of pointing the nose of a canoe downriver and paddling; of spending quiet, perfect, peaceful afternoons in search of smooth, flat stones to sling, popping the surface of the water and making ripples that seem to go on forever.”


The waterlines will indeed mark for years and decades to come how high the waters of Matthew got. We will be able to viscerally measure how hard nature pushed at us and in our recovery will be able to tell the story of how we pushed back.  It is the push back that is tougher to see and measure; the watermark of the human spirit that shows how high we are all willing to rise to help those around us rebuild their lives.

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Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday

Everyone has their own opinions surrounding Black Friday. Some would classify it an obsession. Some, a tradition. While others find it's slow erosion of Thanksgiving Day and family-time appalling. Whether you're spending Friday the 27th of November in front of the couch or in line at a store, you certainly have the next day, Saturday the 28th, to go shopping or shop some more. And the Saturday after Thanksgiving has, for the past 5 years, been known as Small Business Saturday.

Started in 2010 and championed by American Express, Small Business Saturday is one day out of the year where shoppers are encouraged to focus their attention and buying-power on small, locally-owned businesses. These are the shopkeepers on the corner, the chefs serving-up homegrown dishes in the kitchen, the artists and growers and merchants on main streets across the country. They have hand-made, hand-picked, and personally-selected items in their stores that would make the perfect Christmas gift for someone on your list. They can help you pick the most cheerful decorations, the perfectly-paired wine, or provide a warm meal to keep you going while you shop the day away.

The best part is that whether you're a local or a visitor to Johnston County this holiday season, small business shops and restaurants are all around. They're waiting to welcome you this Saturday. In fact, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau (JCVB) has been working on creating and posting videos that highlight all the many things to do along the main streets in Johnston County. You can view the Benson video here and the Clayton video here. Don't forget about Four Oaks' boutiques and general store, Selma's plethora of antique shops, and Smithfield's downtown offerings. Keep on the lookout for videos coming about these area's as well. This Saturday would be an excellent time to check out all these downtown areas for yourself.

It is on days like Small Business Saturday that we can reflect on how important these businesses are to our local economy. And tourism, by definition, exists to support and sustain the success and growth of these businesses by bringing in visitors from outside the county to enjoy everything that JoCo has to offer. So this Saturday, thank a small business owner and get all your friends and family Christmas presents that have been "sourced-locally".

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Evans to Unveil a Jewel of a Store

Evans to Unveil a Jewel of a Store

Evans to Unveil a Jewel of a Store

Evans New Shop

Evans Jewelers is happy to announce the Grand Opening of their new location, 320 E. Market St. in downtown Smithfield. On September 18th a ribbon cutting ceremony will begin at 5:00pm followed by a night of live music, food, and beverages. It is open to the public and it is a night more than 2 years in the making. As owner Daniel Evans said, " we have been so blessed in our business that we needed more space, but we wanted to do it right. We had been discussing it for a while before deciding on our new location and getting to work on the remodel." 


The new space is truly only a few paces away from their current story, but much larger. Daniel said he chose the location because he loves being in downtown Smithfield, "the downtown area is historic and it has a lot to offer."


Visitors to the new shop will be pleasantly surprised. It does not look like a jewelry store. It has an open, urban loft feel to it with plenty of hardwood, brass, and cooper elements to give it a warm feeling. Honestly, I wanted to move in. I was assured that was the feel they were going for. Evans Jewelers will be a destination... and one with a lot to offer.

 

Not Your Typical Grocery Store

humidor
To begin with I was told that Evans will always first and foremost be a jewelry store, as it has been for over 40 years. But the new location will allow for the offering of ancillary products. One of those products will be cigars from the Dominican Republic. There will be 5 blends on offer, uniquely made for Evans Jewelers and stored in the stunning Spanish oak walk-in humidor in the shop. Eventually the shop will also carry affordable boutique wines. It will be a small collection, but full of vineyards and varietals you can't find in a grocery store.


The new store location will also see the edition of a bridal registry. Not just fine china, but everyday china, pewter serving pieces, glassware, crystal, and other giftware. But the selection won't be limited to brides. Baby, graduation, and retirement gifts will also be available. Brides will be able to sign-up for the registry in-store and sit down with Anna Evans to discuss the makings of their ideal registry. Evans will send out registration announcements at no additional cost to you and they can also take orders over the phone and ship purchases for guests that do not live in the area.

ring options
The wine tastings, cigar blendings, charity events, and other happenings will soon be a normal occurrence in the new made-for-entertaining Evans space. But I asked Daniel in light of all the new additions, what he liked best about being a jeweler, "about 75-80% of our products are custom designed pieces. So, what I enjoy most is seeing a customer smile when we really get it right, when the piece of jewelry we make for them is exactly what they wanted. And knowing that the piece we created for them may one day be a family heirloom, that creates connectivity across generations." 


Almost every product at Evans is truly unique and Daniel says that it is this sense of matchlessness that lends itself to the hard work and individuality they put into the new Evans Jewelers location. He says that he hopes customers will appreciate the blending of old and new. If you want to see the amazing space for yourself, mark the evening of the 18th of September on your calendar. I'll see you at the grand opening!

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A Simple Twist of Fate

A Simple Twist of Fate

A Simple Twist of Fate     

People tell me it's a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring
She was born in spring, but I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate.
-Bob Dylan

In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, blame it on a simple twist of fate. Nathan and Colleen Roby named their little-restaurant-that-could Simple Twist. And so it seems that the providence of that namesake has carried them into the present with not one, but two thriving locations.

The restaurant business is not for the faint of heart. It takes hard work and long hours. But Colleen credits their success to the locals for the passion they have shown for Simple Twist through their patronage, "we opened the first location in Garner in June 2014 and community support helped to make it an instant success."Simple Twist Burger

Both excellent service and fresh, unique cuisine choices help to set Simple Twist apart. Colleen and Nate - who runs the kitchen and sets the menu - have developed partnerships with local producers, "we have close relationships with farmers in the area that have brought us all kinds of locally grown produce. We only serve Certified Angus Beef, the best kind of beef you can get. We use high quality ingredients to create delicious meals."

It's this same dedication to sourcing that carries over into the quality of the food. Colleen stated that the restaurant also works hard to keep menu items homemade, "Everything is made from scratch, there is hardly anything in the freezer." She points out, "In fact, we converted a large 2 door freezer into a cooler when we first opened since we did not need the space for freezing product." Cool.

Customers can taste the love and passion that goes into every bite and they showed their appreciation by showing up. A lot. In June 2015 Simple Twist opened a second location here in Smithfield to keep up with demand. Smithfield's residents and workforce couldn't be happier.

And the restaurant's business keeps growing. Nathan and Colleen just recently decided to extend their hours at the Smithfield location, "we plan to open Sundays starting August 30th. We will have Bloody Marys and Mimosas served with our regular menu, and will be open from 11AM-4PM." Simple Twist is also working with the Johnston County Visitors Bureau on initiatives that will bring visitors into Johnston County and into Simple Twist. You can read about the Girlfriends Getaway Hotel Package here.

One thing I suggest you don't leave up to a simple twist of fate is a visit to this restaurant. Click here to print a coupon for your first visit. I absolutely love the twisted guacamole. It includes three of my favorite things - avocados, bacon, and bleu cheese. Yum! Click on the video below to watch Chef Nathan Roby whip up this amazing appetizer.

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Stanfield's Stores a Little Bit of the Past in the Present

Stanfield's Stores a Little Bit of the Past in the Present

Stanfield's Stores a Little Bit of the Past in the Present


In 1914 it was Massengill's Store & Warehouse. Stanfield's General Store

In 1944 it was RA Temple's O-Kay Groceries.

In 1965 it was Austin's General Store.

Now Stanfield's General Store, this piece of real estate in downtown Four Oaks, NC has been a rural destination of supplies and sustenance for the people of southern Johnston County for decades.

Before the birth of super-markets and mega-stores, the local general store was where life's necessities were acquired. Sometimes stretching across multiple store fronts, general stores had hardware materials, farm supplies, groceries, toys, cleaning products, clothing, and candy. Because of this, general stores were also normally a community's hub of activity, of social interaction, and of gossip.

David Stanfield kept all this in mind when he opened Stanfield's General Store a few months ago after purchasing three connected store fronts on Main Street. Along with some hardware supplies and lawn care products, he carries delightfully unique arts and crafts, food stuffs, drinks, toys, and jewelry. All of these products are made locally. David said he wanted to highlight and support local craftsmen, "I also wanted products in my store that you couldn't get anywhere else."


Good Things Are in Store

Stanfield's General Store Shelves
Since its grand opening, Standfield's has welcomed shoppers from all over the county and beyond. So far the store only exists within one store front space. This leaves David with two other spaces to expand into or do something completely different with. No definitive plans have been made yet. As for growing in-store events, Stanfield's may soon have bluegrass jam session nights. Or possibly days where you can meet local craftsman of the products you can purchase in the store. In the meantime I recommend the cheese straws and the glass bottle Coke's. 

The possibilities for expansion are endless. Among them the opportunity for general stores like Stanfield's to once again become the hub of social interaction for the community. A place where families gather to play music together, to purchase necessities, to chat over life's ups and downs, and to find what glaringly-lit box stores can't offer - a sense of community and a feeling of pride that only shopping local can give you.

You can visit Stanfield's at 105 N. Main St., Four Oaks, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Reach them by phone at 919-963-9607 or search “Stanfield's General Store” on Facebook.

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Jewel's Formals - An Accessory to Confidence

Jewel's Formals - An Accessory to Confidence

Jewel's Formals - An Accessory to Confidence

For as long as I can remember, Jewel's has been a beacon of cloth and color on the corner of Market and Third in downtown Smithfield.  Through rain and sun and snow, the dazzling dresses in the window stand out to pedestrians and motorists like brightly wrapped presents. And without telling my age, the length of my memory is about how long this sophisticated shop has been around. Jewel's Formals has been in the formal business for 25 years. And they dress each client with a confidence born from over two decades of experience.
dress rackGuarding over the racks of dresses, a canvas mounted on a wall towards the back of the shop says, "without question the most important thing a girl wears is her confidence". With the same thought, Kim Johnson, owner of Jewel's, would tell you that it is not their service, their dresses, or their hard work that make a dress shine brighter than the rest, it is the woman wearing it. A winning dress does not create beauty, it enhances it.

But Jewel's certainly has winning dresses, or just perhaps winning clients. For the last 2 years in a row, but not for the first time, Jewel's has dressed both Miss North Carolina and Miss Teen North Carolina. In fact, a staggering estimated 30 girls in this year's Miss North Carolina pageant wore a Jewel's dress in the competition, out of 79 contestants. In addition, out of the top 5 Miss Teen North Carolina contestants, 4 of them were wearing a Jewel's dress in the competition.

The Crown(ed) Jewel

What exactly does this mean? Well, it means that Jewel's is a great place to purchase dresses for pageantry. In fact, it is a large part of their business. The second being prom. However, it does not mean that the particular Jewel's dress worn for the state pageants will also be worn in the Miss America competition. Kim explains that at the national level girls are provided with dress options from pre-selected pageant sponsors. So, Miss North Carolina 2015, Kate Peacock, will not be wearing her winning Jewel's dress at the Miss America Pageant. But, she may be wearing Jewel's attire to appearances and other functions.

What is important to remember though is that the girl chooses the dress. She selects the shop, the designer, the cut, and the color. Jewel's has a huge pageant business because an overwhelming number of contestants choose to purchase their dress at Jewel's. They have a reputation for fashion. A reputation that precedes them. Well-earned over time. And with time comes knowledge of the dress industry and the pageant industry.

Formal and Formidable

Jewel's carries around 25 designer labels at any given time, purchased from different fashion markets twice a kate peacockyear. The shop purchases upcoming fall fashion in the spring and upcoming spring fashion in the fall. Pageant season runs all year long with preliminaries starting in August and competitions running through May. A contestant could come into the shop at any time of the year looking for "the" dress. Though Jewel's is not a bridal boutique, they do offer prom, homecoming, military balls, and tuxedo rental expertise.

As for pageant knowledge, I learned that Miss North Carolina contestants often go with a safer, more conservative dress - nothing too revealing - and teen contestants have historically stayed away from the colors black and red. However, Kim acknowledged that there is proof in the winner's circle that this un-written rule seems to be shifting.

You can benefit from all this knowledge, plus professional and friendly service at Jewel's. Even if you aren't in the market for a pageant dress, Jewel's will make you feel like a beauty queen for any occasion. And while Kim insists that it isn't the dress that makes the girl, a Jewel's dress does certainly make the perfect accessory to any girl's confidence. Just ask future Miss America (we hope) Kate Peacock!

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Keep it traditional this Christmas - and easy!

Keep it traditional this Christmas - and easy!

In the world of destination marketing, trends like being a "Foodie", or becoming a culinary destination really are determined by the story or food experience your town/city can offer.  If you have to make it up (or your ad agency does) -- you are not authentic by any means.  Here in Johnston County we are keeping it traditional and with locally grown produce and food products -- we keep it Southern (not new Southern) and that's how we love it. 

Johnston County HamsWe are all very busy during the Holidays and to keep it simple, why not let some of the best local food businesses help you out for the Christmas meal.  That's okay if you let Linwood Parker of White Swan cook your ham or turkey, you fix the sides, and let family bring dessert, and you won't be too exhausted to open presents.

First step, let us share some time saving tips and resources to help with your Christmas feast.

  • Turkeys, Spiral Hams and Fresh Hams are available throughout the county, and many locations cook them for you.  Order about two weeks out -- locals know this is a popular treat and time saver.

    Johnston County Hams
    Stop by this popular store for country hams, spiral hams, smoked turkey, bacon, and more.  They don't cook products for you, but give out instructions and how-to's for preparing country ham.
    204 N. Bright Leaf Blvd, Smithfield
    919-934-8054

    Steven's Sausage Company
    They offer more than sausage here for the holidays, try country ham, spiral ham and of course, their sausage is wonderful for Christmas morning casseroles.
    3411 Stevens Sausage Rd, Smithfield
    919-934-3159

    White Swan BBQ
    Let the men roast the turkey and prepare the ham this year, and they also offer the full meal for ten people with meat, dressing, vegetables and tea.
    3198 US Hwy 301 S., Smithfield
    919-934-8913

    Smithfield Chicken N' BBQ
    There are three locations in Johnston County and more than 30 in the state...order a pork shoulder cooked low and slow and use your favorite BBQ sauce. Great addition for large groups! Check online for location and information on ordering.
    924 N. Bright Leaf Blvd., Smithfield, 919-934-8721
    10414 US Hwy 70 W, Clayton, 919-553-4553
    5180 NC Hwy 42 W., Garner, 919-773-0774

    McLamb's Abattoir
    Maybe your family likes to have beef for the Christmas meal, order a whole Rib Eye Roast from McLamb's or standing pork loin, and their sausage is wonderful too.
    623 Benson-Hardee Rd., Benson
    919-894-2587

  • Cooking the best cornbreads, biscuits, and tasty sides starts with quality flour and cornmeal.  Johnston County has two local companies known for quality products and they are the real deal.

    Atkinson's Mill
    Products include:  hush puppy mix, biscuit mix, seafood breader, chicken pastry, chicken stock and more.  Products are in some local stores, or you can purchase at the mill office or online.
    95 Atkinson Mill Rd., Selma
    800-948-5707

    House Autry Mills
    This nationally known product provides cooks with a variety of options, biscuit mix, corn meal, breaders and their website has tons of tasty recipes to try.  Products are available in area stores and online.
    919-963-6200

  • Want to order desserts too, you will find everything from 10 layer chocolate cakes, cheesecakes and cupcakes to satisfy your families sweet tooth.

    Sherry's Signature Cheesecakes
    Yum, Yum, Yum....Sherry's cheesecakes are wonderful.  We love to serve her desserts at our functions...you will too!
    115 First St., Clayton
    919-270-0513

    Nancy Jo's
    Looking for something extra special? You've found it. Twelve, yes 12 layers of moist yellow cake drenched in carefully boiled and stirred chocolate icing. Each layer is baked individually and iced while it is still hot. A true labor of love, our 12 Layer Chocolate Cake is an example of Southern baking at its finest.
    200 East Main St. Suite 102, Clayton
    919-550-7437

    Clayton Bakery
    Breads, cookies, cupcakes, pastries and cakes -- order from a grand selection.  And it's all very good!
    8928 US Hwy 70 E., Clayton
    919-550-5300

    Meadow Restaurant
    Order some of the area's best homemade cakes and pies from Meadow -- order soon!  Sorry no website for a list of available goodies, call for a selection.
    7400 NC Hwy 50 S., Benson
    919-894-5430

Now, that makes cooking for the family over the holidays....somewhat stress free!  Don't forget to shop local too for gifts!


Carolina Premium Outlets, JR Outlet, DeWayne's, Carolina Apparel and our downtown merchants around the county are offering great deals all holiday season long.  Click here for finding just the right gift for your love ones.

We so enjoy bringing our readers this BLOG, and sharing what makes our community so uniquely JoCo! (short for Johnston County!)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

 

 

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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

girl with camera in travel group

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

hotel bed and pillow with johnston county logo

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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