From the latest (July) issue of Johnston Now Magazine, which you can read in full here.

Better a month late than not at all, right? Thanks to COVID-19, we’ve all had to make adjustments. One of those changes was waiting a bit longer to get some clarity on what would — and would not — be taking place in the county this summer.

Unfortunately, camps have been hit hard by the recent pandemic. There just aren’t as many to tell you about as usual. Some of the venues listed below are also impacted due to the governor’s orders on social distancing. It’s a good idea to reach out first and see what individual places are doing in response to COVID-19.

Stay safe, and have fun!


The Great Outdoors


Clayton River Walk on the Neuse
Address: 2686 Covered Bridge Road, Clayton

Cost: free
Overview: It’s a beautiful four-mile, paved trail that begins at the Wake/Johnston County line and runs parallel to the Neuse River under Covered Bridge Road.


Sam’s Branch Greenway
Address: 1358 N. O’Neill Street, Clayton

Cost: free
Overview: It’s a beautiful 1.25 mile, 10-foot-wide paved pedestrian and biking trail. The greenway leads to the winding Neuse River and connects with the Clayton River Walk on the Neuse, a four-mile section of the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail. These trails now allow families to enjoy more than 30 miles of biking or hiking all the way from Clayton to Falls Dam Lake in Raleigh.


Clemmons Educational State Forest
Address: 2411 Old U.S. 70 West, Clayton
Cost: free
Overview: The first of North Carolina’s Educational State Forests, Clemmons opened in 1976 in Johnston County. Featuring self-guided trails and exhibits, as well as Ranger-conducted classes, the forest offers a wealth of experiences for the senses and the mind.


Buffalo Creek Greenway
Address: 600 Booker Dairy Road, Smithfield

Cost: free
Overview: Enjoy nature along the three-mile greenway, which travels along the Spring Branch to the Neuse River Walk at Smithfield Commons. Part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail through Johnston County, the 10-foot wide path accommodates hikers, runners and bikers. Trail entrances are located throughout Historic Downtown Smithfield and the back of Smithfield Community Park.


Bentonville Battlefield
Address: 5466 Harper House Road, Four Oaks
Cost: free (special events not included)
Overview: The Battle of Bentonville, fought on March 19-21, 1865, was the final full-scale battle in the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression, depending on who you ask). It was the largest battle fought in North Carolina; and the only attempt to defeat General William T. Sherman during his march through the Carolinas. The Union force was almost three times larger than the Confederate Army, under Joseph E. Johnston, and the result of the battle was a Union victory.


Howell Woods
Address: 6601 Devils Racetrack Road, Four Oaks
Cost: free (special events not included)
Overview: The Rudolph Howell & Son Environmental Learning Center, or Howell Woods, is a 2,800-acre natural resource where visitors can experience a variety of environmental education programs and recreational activities. Activities include hiking, camping, canoeing, bird watching, hunting, fishing and more.


Black Creek Hill Farms
Address: 6019 N.C. Highway 50 North, Benson
Cost: varies by event
Overview: Take horseback riding lessons or join a summer camp at this charming facility outside of Benson. Cost is $250 per week.
Contact: or email


Tucker Lake
Address: 3025 Allens Crossroads Road, Benson
Cost: Starts at $10
Overview: Tucker Lake will be open in 2020 under the original Tucker Family Management. It’s a 30-acre lake fed by clear, spring water with white sandy beaches. Whether you want to relax on the beach, float in the water, or take a plunge from the 167-foot high water slide, Tucker Lake has you covered.


Smith’s Nursery
Address: 443 Sanders Road, Benson
Cost: Free, pay for the blueberries
Overview: Smith’s Nursery is a family-owned and operated nursery and produce farm in Johnston County. During the spring and early summer, they have an exciting U-Pick strawberry and blueberry season. There are also farm animals to feed, inflatables, and ice cream for kids to enjoy.


Johnston County Heritage GeoTrail
Dates: All summer
Ages: any
Cost: free
Overview: There are more than 100 special geocaches scattered around Johnston County. Can you find them all?


Building over the vineyards at Gregory Vineyards in Benson, NC.


Grab a Little Culture

Publisher’s Note: Some of these venues are operating under COVID-19 restrictions. Contact the venue for the most current information.

Visitors Bureau Note: The state of North Carolina has remained in Phase II through July 17th at which time the Governor will announce either the continuation of Phase II or the beginning of Phase III; some attractions like museums and performing arts venues cannot yet open but may be able to soon. Please call ahead before making any plans.


The Clayton Center
Address: 111 East Second Street, Clayton
Cost: varies by event
Overview: The Clayton Center provides a timeless and elegant backdrop for any special occasion. Attend a concert or event in its beautifully renovated 600-seat auditorium; also currently hosting a Facebook Live Concert Series.


The Rudy Theatre
Address: 300 North Raiford Street, Selma

Cost: varies by event
Overview: Check out the weekly variety show, or catch other nationally-renowned acts throughout the summer at the historic Rudy Theatre in downtown Selma.


Benson Museum of Local History
Address: 102 West Main Street, Benson

Cost: free
Overview: Check out exhibits on a variety of subjects including Benson’s agricultural heritage, its founding fathers and much more.


Johnston County Heritage Center
Address: 241 East Market Street, Smithfield

Cost: free
Overview: Discover more about Johnston County’s rich heritage with online access to more than 500 million records including census data, newspapers, obituaries, military service records, marriages and more.


Tobacco Farm Life Museum
Address: 709 North Church Street, Kenly

Cost: General admission is $8 (reduced rates for children and seniors)
Overview: Come visit and step back in time to a turn-of-the-century homestead, including a restored house and detached kitchen, smokehouse, log tobacco barn and even an outhouse. The 6,000-square foot museum features both permanent and rotating exhibits on farm life, southern medicine, domestic skills, rural social life and artifacts.


Ava Gardner Museum
Address: 325 East Market Street, Smithfield

Cost: General admission is $12 (reduced rates for military personnel, children and seniors)
Overview: Take a self-guided tour through more than 5,000 square feet of exhibit space. You’ll see extraordinary costumes, movie posters and awards that represent the Smithfield native’s 50-year career as a leading Hollywood actress.


Hinnant Family Vineyards
Address: 826 Pine Level Micro Road, Pine Level

Cost: varies depending on tasting and tour options
Overview: Enjoy a wine or port tasting or take a tour of the oldest and largest commercial Muscadine vineyard in the state of North Carolina.


Gregory Vineyards
Address: 275 Bowling Springs Drive, Angier

Cost: varies depending on tasting and tour options
Overview: This picturesque 135-acre working farm showcases hills of planted vineyards, a winery, a distillery and a tasting room that’s open seven days a week. If you’re hungry, Lane’s Seafood and Steakhouse is also on site.


Deep River Brewing
Address: 700 West Main Street, Clayton

Cost: varies depending on tasting and tour options
Overview: Take a tour or enjoy a tasting at Johnston County’s first legal brewery. The facility was an old cotton spinning mill in downtown Clayton and was brought back to life by utilizing old barn wood on the walls, mason jar lights and whiskey barrels for tables.


Broadslab Distillery
Address: 4834 N.C. Highway 50 South, Benson
Cost: $12 for a tour and tasting
Overview: During a one-hour tour, visitors will learn about the company’s natural, handcrafted premium products, how and why they make them and receive a free shot glass and tasting.


Frank Creech Art Gallery
Address: 245 College Road, Smithfield
Cost: free
Overview: This 1,500-square-foot gallery on the campus of Johnston Community College features local painting, sculptures, drawings and photography for the public to enjoy


Riverwood Golf Course tee looking towards the club house in Clayton, NC.


Golf Courses


Country Club of Johnston County
Address: 694 Country Club Road, Smithfield

Cost: varies by day and time
Overview: This 18-hole Ellis Maples-designed course is open to public play and has played host to multiple professional and amateur events.


Cardinal Country Club
Address: 363 Parrish Memorial Road, Selma
Cost: varies by day and time
Overview: This semi-private facility features tall pines, canals, ponds and bunkers to create a challenging course for beginners and seasoned players alike.


Neuse Country Club
Address: 918 Birkdale Drive, Clayton
Cost: varies by day and time
Overview: This John B. LaFoy designed course tops 7,000 yards from the back tees, and according to the website, players might want to save some energy and concentration for the 14th hole.


Pine Hollow Golf Club
Address: 3300 East Garner Road, Clayton
Cost: varies by day and time
Overview: The par-71 course, designed by Maurice Brackett and Bob Moore, opened in 1968 and measures 6,333 yards from the back (gold) tees. 


Reedy Creek Golf Club
Address: 585 Reedy Creek Road, Four Oaks
Cost: varies by date and time
Overview: Conveniently located near I-40 (Exit 319), this 18-hole, par-72 course is built upon rolling farmland. The Gene Hamm-designed layout  has been consistently rated as one of eastern North Carolina’s top public courses.


Riverwood Golf and Athletic Club
Address: 400 Riverwood Drive, Clayton
Cost: varies by date and time
Overview: Riverwood Golf Club is a championship layout set in the beautiful rolling terrain along the Neuse River.


Red caboose at the Selma Historic Union Train Station, Selma, NC.


Other Things to Do


Selma Train Depot
Address: 500 Railroad Street, Selma
Cost: free, unless you take a train
Overview: Historic train station and museum still in operation in Downtown Selma; originally built in 1924.


Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center (SRAC)
Address: 600 Booker Dairy Road, Smithfield
Cost: Varies, but a membership or day pass is needed to use the facilities
Overview: Enjoy the eight-lane, competition-sized swimming pool with adjacent kiddie splash pool, double gymnasium, elevated walking track, racquetball courts, fitness room and banquet room. Day passes are available for visitors.


Smithfield Cinemas
Address: 175 South Equity Drive
Cost: Kids summer movie program is $2.50
Overview: Check the website for current information at


Howell Theatre
Address: 141 South Third Street, Smithfield
Cost: Varies based on age and show time
Overview: The Howell Theatre is a vintage circa 1935 movie theatre that has been in constant operation for almost 80 years. Check the website at for current information.


Rainbow Lanes
Address: 850 N.C. 42, Clayton
Cost: Varies
Overview: Rainbow Lanes Family Fun Center is a great place to have fun times with family and friends. Check the website at for current information.


Bungalow Bounce
Address: 101 Best Wood Drive, Clayton

Cost: $7 for ages 3-11 and $2 for children under 3.
Overview: Sometimes, kids just need to bounce. This is a place where that can happen safely. Check the website at for current information.


Conundrum Escapes
Address: 41-A Technology Drive, Garner
Cost: Varies, but starts at $25 per person
Overview: Choose from one of several escape room scenarios. Don’t worry, it’s not scary. It’s just an hour of brain-teasing fun.


Ready Set Escape
Address: 1304 D West Market Street, Smithfield
Cost: Varies, but starts at $23 per person
Overview: Choose from one of three escape room scenarios. Great for a special occasion, group get together, birthday, anniversary and corporate training or team building.




July 10-12 and July 17-19
2020 First-Year Scout Summer Weekends Program
Camp Tuscarora, Four Oaks
This is a program for brand new scouts that have just moved up from Webelos or those joining the troop right before summer camp. The purpose of the program is to help new scouts become comfortable with scouting methods and give them an understanding of how scouting skills are learned and adapted for a lifetime. Participating scouts will function as members of a provisional troop and become part of a patrol during program time. Fees are $240 per scout, which includes both weekends, all meals at camp, program materials and a special edition Tkahsaha First-Year program patch! Visit to register.


July 13-17 and August 3-7
Howell Woods Summer Camp

Howell Woods, Four Oaks
Check out Howell Woods’ summer camp for 8-12 year olds! This week-long day camp will be full of outdoor adventure, fun and more. Each week will cost $150 per camper. To register, visit Spots will be filled at a first-come, first-serve basis.


July 13-16, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Carolina Dance Productions Magical Fairy Day Camp
Carolina Dance Productions, Clayton
Email to learn more about this event.


July 13-17, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Art Buzz Kids Camp: The Art of Science
Wine & Design, Clayton
This week-long, half-day camp is all about the beautiful things that can happen when art and science come together! Kids will not only have fun, but they may also learn a thing or two about science as well. Email for more details.


July 13-17 and July 20-24, 1-3 p.m.
Kids Band Camp
Artmosphere Community Arts Center
For beginner-level musicians, we provide the instruments and the experience of playing in a band. Students will learn the fundamentals of every instrument, different styles of music, different types of ensembles and then perform a role in a band. Campers will decide on a song or songs to learn, get the ins and outs of stage and performance etiquette and even try their hand at making band merch! On the last day of camp, there will be a showcase where the students get to show off all of their hard work and perform for their friends and family. Cost is $225. Visit to learn more.


July 20-23, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Carolina Dance Productions Princess Camp
Carolina Dance Productions, Clayton
Email to learn more about this event.


July 27-30, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Carolina Dance Productions Jungle Safari Day Camp
Carolina Dance Productions, Clayton
Email to learn more about this event.


July 27-31, 9 a.m. to noon
Carolina Dance Productions Jungle Safari Day Camp
Carolina Dance Productions, Clayton
Email to learn more about this event.


July 26-28 and July 30 through Aug. 1
Summer Camp: Backstage Pass

Carolina Youth Theatre, Clayton
Now in its tenth year, Backstage Pass gives rising third- through sixth-grade students a behind-the-scenes look at Carolina Youth Theatre’s summer musical. Participants will spend the week rehearsing scenes, music and choreography in preparation for a performance of their own. In addition, participants will get a backstage tour and receive daily instruction on different aspects of technical theater. Each participant will also receive a T-shirt and a complimentary ticket to CYT’s summer musical. Visit for more information.


Vacation Bible Schools


July 12-16
Stones Creek VBS

Stones Creek Church, Benson
The theme for this year’s event is “Rocky Railway: Jesus’ Power Pulls Us Through.”