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  • Mother Earth Motor Lodge
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  • The O'Neil Hotel
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  • Bentley Kinston's Bed & Breakfast Inn
  • Chef and The Farmer
  • King's Restaurant Incorporated
  • Lovick's Cafe
  • The Baron and the Beef
  • Whiskey Pig Craft Butchery and Deli
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  • CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center
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Things to do in Kinston, NC – A Weekend Plan

Posted by Annick Lenoir-Peek | Updated on Sep 14, 2023 | Published on Mar 26, 2019 | Coastal Plains , North Carolina | 16

Things to do in Kinston, NC – A Weekend Plan

We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

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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visit kinston nc

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

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:

  • The Chef and The Farmer experience
  • O’Neil Hotel review

If you’d like to explore nearby Goldsboro:

  • Things to do in Goldsboro
  • Things to do in Goldsboro at night
  • Visiting Seymour Johnson Air Force Base

Happy travels! Annick, The Common Traveler

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

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16 Comments

Francesca

I really love the decor of the hotel you stayed at! I really enjoy places with character. I had never considered visiting Kinston before but it looks nice! The Red Room sounds like a fun way to end the night

Clarice

The food looks really delicious. Will keep this in mind if we’re headed to Kinston. Happy to know that they’re affordable. I am so craving for oysters right now.

Arnav Mathur

Haven’t been to the States yet, but Kinston in North Carolina looks like a lovely place to spend the weekend in. With all the yummy looking food, brewery tours, and such amazing accommodation options – what more could any one ask for 🤪

Laura Pedlar

You have definitely shown that there is plenty to do in Kinston. I think I would do the brewery tour as it’s looks like a fun activity. It seems like a great place for food and drinks – sounds like my kind of place to visit!

Rachelle Gordon

I haven’t spent that much time on the East Coast, and admittedly haven’t heard of Kinston. It sounds like a fun town and I can see why it’s becoming a more popular weekend getaway destination. The Mother Earth Motor Lodge looks so rad! And you’re right – 70s Miami vibe for sure!

Jennifer Morrow

The converted bank building looks so cool! I would stop in for a drink, even if I wasn’t staying there. Kinston sounds like a great place for a road trip. What a fun east coast stop.

Sreekar Harinatha

This surely seems like a memorable trip. I especially loved the O neill Hotels dm the display of art by local artists is a nice touch. Add a dash of history in the mix and no wonder it’s a great place for a weekend.

Parnashree Devi

Wow..Kinston, North Carolina is exactly the kind of place I would love to spend the weekend. The Mother Earth Motor Lodge looks absolutely inviting and I am a big fan of heritage and old converted hotels. I see why Chef and the Farmer required advance booking. I am completely sold on this destination. Perfect weekend gateways for people like me. Thanks for introducing me to this destination.

Yukti

I have never been to North Carolina and therefore Weekend trip to Kinston looks worth. I loved your 70’s hotel stay and especially that painting which shows local scene. Date at Red Room looks hot and romantic. I would love to go for a date night with my husband. Thanks for tipping us that we have to book Chef and Farmer restaurant in advance.

manjulikapramod

Well I had never heard about Kinston but it looks like a worthy getaway or a stop-over. I hear there is lot of history for me too. I like hotels with a theme and both O’Neil Hotel and Mother Earth Motor Lodge look cozy and inviting. Intimate settings and modernist looks are meant to woo travelers like me. And the amazingly fresh food from the farm. I would love to stroll around and find out more about Neuseway Nature Park, Neuse River and CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center.

blair villanueva

Wow of wow, this your hotel is like a combination of the old and the new. I am feeling sold just seeing your gorgeous fluffy bed and those charming furniture. You are right, having a weekend in Kinston is such a treat – oh boy if only I am just few km. away!

umiko

I like how the small towns revitalized themselves all around the US, including Kinston. I’ve never been here, but your description and pictures tells a lot about the city. The room in O’Neil Hotel looks so beautiful and cozy. The bed is so inviting! I love seafood, so a stop at Vivian Howard’s with its fresh seafood I think is a must for every traveler visiting Kinston.

Jane Dempster-Smith

I haven’t travelled much in the US but North Carolina has been on our travel list for ages. I can now add Kinston to that list as well. I haven’t seen the show A Chef’s Life – it has not made it to Australia yet but I am keen to see it and also visit The Chef and The Farmer Restaurant – the food looked excellent.

Sinjana

what an amazing fun-filled weekend getawat in Kinston nc. I love the motel and the retro style of it. I would love to check out the historic CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center.

kavitafavelle

I do remember passing through North Carolina but I don’t think we stopped in Kinston on our trip. The revitalisation of the town makes it a lovely stop. I love the look of both the O’Neil Hotel and the Mother Earth Motor Lodge. I do enjoy seeing the work of local artists and I appreciate historic attractions too.

Bhushavali

Kinston looks so classic. The hotel has such a vintage charm to it. Indeed a perfect, romantic, weekend getaway. I have friends staying in NC Uni. Will let them know about this place!

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Top Things to Do In Kinston, North Carolina

I was heading towards Eastern North Carolina and, filled with visions of farmland, quaint downtown shops, and farm-to-table cooking courtesy of PBS’s A Chef’s Life, thought Kinston would be a great place to visit. 

When visiting small towns in North Carolina like Kinston, research the area before you go, paying special attention to hours of operation for activities you’d like to experience. Many places are closed on Sundays and Mondays, and small museums may operate once a week with private tours available if you schedule in advance.  

Art and flowers along path in Tiffany Park

Be sure to check the venue’s site directly. Some update more frequently on their Facebook sites.  

With many places closed Sunday and Monday, is it still worth visiting? Yes! 

I love exploring North Carolina and small towns are a must on my list.

I found Kinston a great town with a lot to offer. You’ll just need to put effort into building an itinerary around what is open during your trip and be flexible.  

How to Visit Kinston, NC  

Visiting kinston as a day trip  .

Kinston is a great location for a day trip from the Raleigh-Durham area. It’s less than 2 hours with plenty of outdoor activities and good food.  

Drive out Saturday morning, visit downtown, and see the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center and full-size CSS Neuse II replica. Hang out at Neuseway Park, enjoy a little fishing, or just sit on one of the swings by the water.  

If you’re a music lover the Kinston Music Park provides an outdoor experience that’s innovative, fun, and has great information about the musical history of the city.  

Be sure to stop by one of the restaurants in town for dinner before heading home.  

Mural of butterfly at Nature Exchange Center

Visiting Kinston as an Overnight Getaway  

If you’d like to get away from it all and go camping, you can head to Neuseway Nature Park and pay $20 for a site with electrical, or $10 for a tent site. The beautiful park is along the Neuse River where you can enjoy your morning coffee on a bench swing as you watch the peaceful river.  

Arrive on Friday in time for dinner and grab a spot. It’s first-come, first-serve. Tent campers should be fine, but with only 18 RV spots, it could fill if there’s an event happening. You can call ahead to see if there’s space.  

Saturday morning, explore the town before heading home.  You could even stop at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park 30 minutes away if you’d like to spend more time outdoors.  

Neuse River as it bends around Neuseway Nature Park

Kinston as a Stopover on Your Way Further East  

Kinston is ideally located between Raleigh and many beach destinations including, New Bern, Croatan National Forest, Morehead City, and Emerald Isle. It’s perfect for getting a jump start on your beach vacation.  

You could head out Thursday night and stay in Kinston. Enjoy breakfast in the morning, tour downtown, explore the art walk, maybe get some lunch to-go, then continue on your way to the beach.  

A nice, leisurely way to get out a bit faster, but without the rush.  

Looking for more small towns to visit in North Carolina? Click here to read about Hillsborough, NC.

Incorporate Kinston as Part of a Larger Trip in the Area  

When I visited, I spent time in Kinston, then headed to Cliffs of the Neuse Park only 30 minutes away, then finished up in Wilson, NC.  

It seems like a lot, but it was easy to cover in a weekend and I wasn’t rushed.  

I spend Friday afternoon and Saturday morning in Kinston, spending the night at Neuseway Nature Park. Saturday Afternoon, I headed to Cliffs of the Neuse and hiked around before staying at their campground.  

You can read about Cliffs of the Neuse State Park here.

Sunday morning, I finished up at the Whirligig Park in Wilson.  I saw a few more things in the city, then came home.  

Things to do in Kinston, North Carolina  

The kinston music park  .

Location: Intersection of Springhill and South Queen Streets 

Parking: Free parking on the street along S. Queen Street 

Hours: Dawn to dusk daily 

Cost: Free 

Main sculpture at Kinston Music Park

The Kinston Music Park is an outdoor park celebrating African American Musical Heritage. The Sugar Hill district of Kinston was once a hub for African American music, hosting musicians like Louis Armstrong, and The Duke.  

The park has beautiful sculptures to view and is interactive. There’s a section that looks like a field for racing, but it has stones with etched lyrics and quotes. It’s the most innovative and creative art park I’ve seen.  

While not large, it’s a great place to stretch your legs, appreciate the musical history of Kinston, learn a little, and let children run free.  

Overall, you can spend about 30 minutes here, possibly longer if you have little ones that are enjoying themselves.  

On a sunny day, it makes for great photos.  

Learn more about the Kinston Music Park here .  

Thomas Sayres Art Installation, “Flue”  

Location: Intersection of Mitchell and Blount Streets 

Parking: Free parking next to the installation or on street 

Hours: Always open 

Thomas Sayre's Flue Installation with shadows casting

Thomas Sayre is a world-famous artist living in Raleigh, NC.  While he works with different mediums, he’s most well-known for his unique process called Earth casting where the mold is created in the earth by digging out the shape in the dirt. It’s then filled with concrete and stabilizers and allowed to set.  

His Earth casting projects are described as construction sites where everyone involved with creating the cast and hoisting the final piece into place, has a role in its final shape. These installations are huge. You may be familiar with Gyre, the giant rings at the NC Museum of Art Park in Raleigh.  

Flue is an installation of several 28 feet tall tobacco barn shapes. The light casts shadows from one to the next, creating unique patterns and textures throughout the day. The design was built to capture the distinct proportions and shapes of tobacco barns that played a role in the south, many of which still stand in areas around Kinston.  

You can read more about Thomas Sayre and Flue here .  

Explore the Art Throughout Town  

Location: Throughout downtown 

Parking: Plenty of free on-street parking 

Murals on a building in downtown Kinston, NC

As you walk through downtown Kinston, it’s hard not to notice the murals. They’re well done and celebrate the city. In 2019, the city received funding to commission seven original public murals. You can find a map with their locations here .  

Beyond the murals, there’s also an incredible piece of ironwork in Tiffany Park along Queen Street near the Neuse River.  It’s a painter next to an easel, but the frame is empty. The view you see through the frame is the photo.  It’s remarkably done.  

As you continue along the path in this area, you’ll walk through the Walk of Honor Memorial which pays tribute to the men and women who have served their country.  

The path from Tiffany Park, through the Walk of Honor, and into Pearson Park appears as one, seamless path. It runs along the Neuse River the entire way.  

The CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center  

Location: Intersection of W Caswell and Queen Streets 

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9 am – 5 pm (closed most holidays) 

Cost: $5 per person 

The museum houses the remains of the CSS Neuse, an ironclad gunboat that served during the Civil War. The boat has an interesting history. Had construction been completed on time, it may have been able to support its sister ship, the Albermarle, in an offensive attack against Union troops in New Bern.  

Due to a slew of delays, then the water receding and the boat becoming stuck, its only action was being scuttled as a diversion to cover the evacuation of Confederate leaders from Kinston.

Click here to learn more about the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center and confirm their hours.  

CSS Neuse II Replica  

Location: Intersection of W Gordon and S Herritage Streets 

Parking: Free parking on the street and a parking lot across N. Herritage Street 

Hours: Saturdays 10 am – 4 pm 

Cost: Donations accepted 

CSS Neuse Replica

This is an amazing, life-size replica of the CSS Neuse. It’s the only known full-size replica of a Confederate Ironclad.  

While you can’t tour the ship outside of working hours, you can see the exterior anytime. As you’re walking down N. Herritage Street, you’ll pass the Farmers Market, and then, well…. a giant ship appears. 

You can request a private tour, and they have fundraisers, including an annual breakfast on the ship.  If you’re a Civil War buff or know one, this could make a great gift.  

For details on operating hours and to learn about fundraising events for the CSS Neuse II Replica, click here .  

Have lunch at Sugar Hill Pizzaria  

Location: Intersection of N Herritage and W North Streets 

Parking: Free parking on the street 

Hours: Monday – Saturday 11 am – 9 pm, Sunday 12 pm – 8 pm (Closed most holidays) 

Piece of pizza from Sugar Hill Pizzeria

I’m originally from New York, so when I say they nailed NY pizza, I mean it. It’s not “close”, or “the closest I’ve seen”, it’s exactly like what I’ve had in Brooklyn.  

The crust is thin, and the end has a light cracker crispiness to it. The cheese and sauce blend into a single unit. Slices are large, wanting to fold on their own, and served one slice per paper plate with a piece of wax paper in between the plate and the pizza.  

Under the toppings, the crust is mellow and has little bubbles.  New Yorkers know what I mean.  

There’s even a little bit of grittiness from the cheese and sauce.  

You can get a whole pie or just a slice and it’s reasonably priced. They have indoor and outdoor seating, or you can get it to go.  

To find out more or order online, click here .  

Grab a drink at Mother Earth Brewery  

Hours: Monday – Thursday 3 pm – 10 pm, Friday – Saturday 12 pm – 10 pm, Sunday 1 pm – 8 pm 

Mother Earth Brewery is known for brewing its beer sustainably.  They’re the only brewery in the country that has been awarded a Gold certification in the LEED program, meaning they have effectively minimized their eco-footprint.  

While they’re not currently running tours, you can see the tanks through the windows in the manufacturing plant. Next door is their taproom where you can fill up your glass and enjoy some of their brews.  

There’s no food served in the taproom, so eat up before you drink up.  

Click here to check on tours and operating hours .  

The Chef and the Farmer (Reservations Required)  

Location: Intersection of S Herritage and W Gordon Streets (in the building across the street from the CSS Neuse II replica) 

Parking: Free parking lot on site 

Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 4 pm – 9 pm, reservations required 

The restaurant was made famous thanks to the PBS show A Chef’s Life. Chef Vivian Howard famously moved to New York to become a chef and learn the business.  Her parents lured her back with the promise of helping her start a restaurant in her hometown area.  

Serving fresh farm-to-table food, as locally sourced as they can, it’s known for fresh ingredients and a twist on elevating and delivering everyday foods in new ways.  

You will need a reservation and they book out quite a bit in advance.  

Walk Around Downtown Kinston  

It’s always fun to walk around downtown. The architecture is interesting, seeing the storefronts, and exploring the businesses. Finding little nooks and new favorite spots to come back and visit.  

There’s Mother Earth Hotel, an old motel that has been revitalized and decorated in unapologetic retro splendor.  

Check out the old Victorian homes on Mitchell Street.  Some are fixed up, and others are waiting for their turn, but it’s peaceful and beautiful.  While you’re there, walk down to Blount Street and visit Thomas Ayre’s Flue installation.  

To learn more about the restaurant or make a reservation, click here .  

Play at Neuseway Nature Park  

Location: 401 W Caswell Street 

Parking: Free lot 

Hours: Monday – Saturday 9:30 am – 5 pm, Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm (if you’re camping and it’s outside hours, just pull in and head to the camp host at site 18. There’s no gate to block you) 

Cost: The park is free. Camping is $20 per night for a site with electricity, $10 per night for a tent site 

Railroad crossing sign near old train at Neuseway Nature Park

Neuseway Nature Park is a great place to spend an afternoon, or camp out for the night.  You can walk along the river, go fishing, head to the playground, visit the old train, check out the planetarium, or visit the animal house.  

That’s a lot for one day! 

There are wide open spaces for the kids to run, and plenty of shade if you need to cool off from the sun.  

I found it serene and calming. It was easy to grab a swing and just sit and relax by the river. My campsite was under an old oak tree in the grassy area and the people camping nearby were friendly, polite, and quiet.  

The camp host, Ron, was the nicest camp host I’ve met. He does his job, but also serves as a bit of a guide to the area, letting you know where you should go.  

If you’re camping, there are 2 restrooms with showers. With 18 campsites, plus tents in the meadow, you would think it could be difficult to grab a shower, but I found it was pretty easy.  

You can walk downtown from the park. There’s a shortcut behind the train, but you’ll have to walk up a short, steep hill to the road.  

To learn more about Neuseway Nature Park, Ellis Planetarium, and the Exchange Nature Center, click here .  

Visit the Ellis Planetarium/Health and Science Museum  

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 am – 5 pm, Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm 

Cost: Entry is free. Planetarium shows are $1 per person 

Exterior of  Ellis Planetarium and Health and Science Museum

The building is inside Neuseway Nature Park, and viewable from the parking lot. Entry is free and children can enjoy the interactive Health and Science Museum.  

If you’d like to see one of the Planetarium shows, it’s $1 per person.   

The Health and Science Museum is aimed at children. The exhibits change, but there’s a small replica of the local hospital and an underground tunnel that represents a blood vessel. They can also learn how crops are grown and how to choose healthy foods.  

On a hot day, this is a great place to take the kids. They’ll have fun learning and you’ll stay cool.  

To learn more about Neuseway Nature Park, Ellis Planetarium, and the Exchange Nature Center, click here . 

Making the Most of Your Trip to Kinston, NC  

Kinston may be a small town, but there’s a lot to do and it’s full of friendly people.  

It’s the perfect place for a quick, out-of-town getaway when you just need to head somewhere.  

Be sure to time it so you’re there for most of your activities Friday afternoon or Saturday. Leave Sunday for the Art Walk, Music Park, and Neuseway Nature Park.  

If you’re looking for family or solo fun, this should be on your list.  

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Creator and Editor at Exploration Solo

Hi, I'm Alison. I've been living in North Carolina since 2007 and love getting out to explore the area. I'm a local hiking and backpacking guide and have helped over 100 backpackers get started on their adventures through an Intro to Backpacking course. I have a Wilderness First Responder Certification. My passion is to help everyone get out and explore their world.

Lenoir County, North Carolina

  • About Lenoir County
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Lenoir County, North Carolina | Official Website

Lenoir County’s deep-rooted tobacco, mercantile, and farming history has emerged into a resurgence featuring farm-fresh, award-winning dining, a vibrant arts scene, and music that touches the soul and lifts the spirit. Arts Neighborhoods, the African American Music Trail, a Music Park, Civil War battlefields and museums, gunboats and our riverwalk create adventures at every turn. America’s game is in full swing when the Down East Wood Ducks Minor League Baseball team is in town. Our way of life entices visitors to come and break bread, enjoy libation and recollect a simpler time.

Lenoir County offers visitors “gracious plenty” whether at the table, family fun, discovering the past or a special night out! Stroll along the streets of downtown Kinston and you will develop a new appreciation for the unique culture, heritage, history and flavors of southern life.

Civil War historians and travelers, Art Trails, African American Music Trail, Farm to Fork Culinary tours, breweries and distilleries, all have a home base here. Guests are welcomed into distilleries, shops, art galleries, restaurants, breweries and pubs in historic downtown buildings. A former bank now welcomes guests as a boutique hotel and a retro motor lodge is just a few blocks away.

We invite you to bring your family or business to Lenoir County and experience for yourself the charm and beauty of our county. After a trip to the area, you’ll want to join the local businesses and families who already call the area home.

For dining, lodging, events, shopping and entertainment information, please go to VisitKinston.com , the official website of the Kinston-Lenoir County Tourism Development Authority.

visit kinston nc

Phone: 252-559-6450 Fax: 252-526-6454

Physical Address: 130 South Queen Street Kinston, NC 28501

Mailing Address: PO Box 3289 Kinston, NC 28502

Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday: 7:30am – 4:30pm

VacationIdea

  • Destinations

12 Best Things to Do in Kinston, North Carolina

Css neuse civil war interpretive center, mother earth brewing, kinston, north carolina, grainger stadium, kinston, north carolina, harmony hall, kinston, nc.

  • Complete List & Map

CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center

100 N Queen St, Kinston, North Carolina 28501, Phone: 252-526-9600

Mother Earth Brewing, Kinston, North Carolina

311 N Herritage St, Kinston, NC 28501, Phone: 252-208-2437

Grainger Stadium, Kinston, North Carolina

More North Carolina weekend getaways

Harmony Hall, Kinston, NC

109 E King St, Kinston, North Carolina 28501, Phone: 252-522-0421

Community Council for the Arts

Community Council for the Arts

More North Carolina day trips

Kinston Music Park, Kinston, North Carolina

Kinston Music Park, Kinston, North Carolina

More ideas: North Carolina beaches

King's Restaurant Incorporated, Kinston, NC

King's Restaurant Incorporated, Kinston, NC

405 E New Bern Rd, Kinston, NC 28504, Phone: 252-527-2101

Lovick's Cafe, Kinston, North Carolina

Lovick's Cafe, Kinston, North Carolina

More ideas: North Carolina lakes

Ellis Planetarium, Health and Science Museum

Ellis Planetarium, Health and Science Museum

403 W. Caswell Street, Kinston, North Carolina 28501, Phone: 252-939-3302

Kinston Battlefield Park

Kinston Battlefield Park

More ideas: North Carolina islands

GI Joe’s Military Living History Museum

GI Joe’s Military Living History Museum

More ideas: North Carolina lighthouses

Lion's Water Adventure

Lion's Water Adventure

2602 W Vernon Avenue, Kinston, North Carolina 28504, Phone: 252-699-3009

Lion's Water Adventure

  • 1. CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center
  • 2. Mother Earth Brewing, Kinston, North Carolina
  • 3. Grainger Stadium, Kinston, North Carolina
  • 4. Harmony Hall, Kinston, NC
  • 5. Community Council for the Arts
  • 6. Kinston Music Park, Kinston, North Carolina
  • 7. King's Restaurant Incorporated, Kinston, NC
  • 8. Lovick's Cafe, Kinston, North Carolina
  • 9. Ellis Planetarium, Health and Science Museum
  • 10. Kinston Battlefield Park
  • 11. GI Joe’s Military Living History Museum
  • 12. Lion's Water Adventure

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Wander With Wonder

Five Wow History Moments in Kinston, North Carolina

Written by lara dunning, north carolina | travel.

What's in This Article:

Wander the history spots sure to wow in Kinston, NC. Here are five must-see historical moments on your Kinston adventure.

Set along the banks of the Neuse River, Kinston, North Carolina is one of the oldest towns in the state. It has seen its share of wars, including the Tuscarora War, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War, and is part of the African American Musical Heritage Trail. On a recent trip, I discovered it has some history spots that are sure to wow—like the remains of an ironclad warship, a Civil War battlefield, and a pre-American Revolution home. Here are my five must-see historical moments on your Kinston adventure.

1—The African American Music Trail

One of the most surprising moments I had in Kinston was learning about the African Ameican Music Trail and how deep Kinston’s musical roots run. During its tobacco days, Kinston was a hotbed of music, and musicians traveled from all over to play in the tobacco warehouses. One of those singers you’ll know, James Brown, who traveled with his band members from Kinston like Maceo and Melvin Parker, and Dick Knight. It is said they brought “a Kinston sound” to Brown’s music.

A great way to learn more about Kinston’s African American music scene is at the Kinston Music Park . Located near the Neuse River, visitors can stroll through the park, read lyrics and quotes, and admire colorful music-inspired mosaics. You can also enjoy the park’s sculpture  Intersections, which has images of famous jazz, soul, gospel, and rhythm and blues musicians from Kinston and nearby communities.

Kinston

Musical greats such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong played in Kinston. Photo by Lara Dunning

2—First Battlefield of Kinston Park

Kinston saw its share of bloody battles during the Civil War, and during my visit, I got to see where the heaviest fighting took place. In 1862, 2,400 Confederates troops and 12,000 Union troops faced off at a site known as Harriet’s Chapel. The church is part of The First Battle of Kinston Park, which includes more walking paths and interpretive signs, earthworks, and markers.

Kinston

This 1860s chapel replaced the original one destroyed during the battle. Photo courtesy Jane Phillips, President of Historical Preservation Group

3— CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center

Before my Kinston visit, I had heard of an ironclad warship but had never seen one. The CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center houses the remains of the CSS Neuse and tells the story of the warship that got stuck on a sandbar on the Neuse River. The center also explains how the Neuse was recovered, and the importance of ironclads in battle. If you think all you’ll be looking at is the remains of the ship, think again. During its recovery, they found more than 15,000 artifacts, including shells and what they believe to be the ship’s wheel. There is also information on Kinston, the wars that came to its front door, and historical figures.

Kinston

The CSS Neuse was one of 26 Confederate ironclads built. Photo by Lara Dunning

visit kinston nc

Another part of the museum I found fascinating was the displays on Civil War social customs, particularly the collection of jewelry made out of human hair. Sweethearts, close friends, and family exchanged unusual jewelry, which was also worn during periods of mourning.

Kinston

Jewelry made from a loved one’s hair kept them close to you. Photo by Lara Dunning

visit kinston nc

4—Reconstructed Ironclad Warship

There is nothing quite like the wow factor of stepping inside an ironclad. That is exactly what you can do at the  CSS Neuse II , which is the  only full-sized replica in the world. Some adjustments were made for visitor access, like stairs and a side entrance, but the rest of the ship (built by an all-volunteer crew) was built to the specs of the original ironclad plans.

Kinston

The original Neuse was built to help the Confederate army recapture New Bern. Photo by Lara Dunning

During the tour, you’ll get to see what living and working on one of these steam-powered warships was like from guides who know the boat inside and out. An ironclad warship had 200 men assigned to it, and it took 20 men to operate each gun. Its steam-powered engine kept the boat at a constant temperature of 130 degrees, and because of this, its crew slept on shore.

Tours run on Saturdays and include the central and lower level of the ship, including the gun deck, pilothouse, and cabins.

Kinston

It took 20 men to work each gun on an ironclad. Photo by Lara Dunning

5—Harmony Hall

One of the oldest homes in Lenoir County, Harmony Hall , is a restored pre-American Revolution home built in 1772 by Jesse and Elizabeth Cobb. Throughout its life, it has housed political figures such as James Glasglow, the Secretary of State, and Richard Caswell, the first governor of North Carolina after the state gained its independence. It has also served as a Civil War hospital, church, and public library, and is said to be haunted.

Kinston

Harmony Hall’s rooms are decorated with 18th and 19th-century furnishings. Photo by Lara Dunning

Tours are arranged with the museum and share the history of its occupants, such as  Captain Cobb, who served with George Washington and endured a cold winter at Valley Forge. There are also plenty of interesting historical facts like Harmony Hall being a secret meeting place for sessions of state during Caswell’s time. As you can imagine, a house with this much history also had its share of tragedy from suicide to children who met an early grave.

Kinston

Richard Caswell’s portrait hangs above the fireplace in the great room. Photo by Lara Dunning

Articles Related to Visiting Kinston, NC

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When You Visit Kinston, North Carolina

With more than 300 years of history, Kinston charmed the history lover in me. I felt it is one of those places you can return to again and again and keep learning more.

Not only is Kinston’s history impressive but so is its food scene, and you’ll want to check out The Chef and The Farmer, The Boiler Room Oyster Bar, Sugar Hill Pizzeria, Mother Earth Brewery, and King’s BBQ (just to name a few). If you are looking for unique stays in historic downtown I recommend The O’Neil , a 1920s bank turned boutique hotel. Another great option is the retro Mother Earth Motor Lodge .

To learn more about Kinston, visit their website . And, enjoy more things to do and see in North Carolina by Wander writers.

Kinston, North Carolina

Art | Cultural Travel | History | Music

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Dominic Gramatte

I’ve never heard of Kinston, North Carolina before – so very cool to learn more about it and it’s historical significance. Nice list of things to see and do there – looks like a great stop on a Southern US road trip. You’ll find me at the Boiler Room Oyster Bar. 🙂

Danik

Fantastic sights to check out but first thing is first, I am on Google Maps looking for Kinston. I never heard of the place :O Who knows, one day might be in the area but if I am, would defo check out the Civil War sight. That interests me the most.

Jenn and Ed Coleman

I was always a fan of military history and the Monitor vs Merrimack battle always sticks with me. It sealed the fate of wooden ships and ushered in a new era of Ironclads. I never knew just how how miserable it was for the crew with cramped quarters and extreme heat (and that is before being shot at). I was fascinating to see the Neuse II below the water line. It doesn’t look like an extremely sea worth ship either. Yet another misery the crew would have to endure.

Krupa

Never heard about kinston, North carolina before but its always great to read about new places and new cultures. African American music trails sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Martina

Honestly, I haven’t read about this place before, but it sounds really interesting. Maybe I will catch up with it one day. Thanks for sharing Martina

Danila Caputo

We love to explore the historical side of a place we visit and we had no idea Kingston had so many highlights. My husband would definitely enjoy visit the CSS Neuse II and the Civil War battlefield so we’ve noted it down on our bucket list!

Josh

One of the coolest people i’ve ever met on my travels was from North Carolina and she told me loads of crazy stories from home, so it’s definitely on my list! The African-American music trail sounds rad, anywhere with James Brown and i’m there!

Angelina

Great tips and details on the history of Kinston, NC. It’s amazing how much information we can gather from these old battle grounds and restorations. I enjoy visiting places like this, it reminds me how hard our forefathers fought to settle here. Great article.

Katie from Russell's World

Being from Nashville, TN, I love reading about places in the United States. Such a great read and I loved learning about some of the history in North Carolina.

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14 Best and Fun Things To Do In Kinston, North Carolina

visit kinston nc

Kinston, situated along the Neuse River in eastern North Carolina, boasts a rich history in the Civil War. The city is a wonderful destination for exploring its historic architecture, museums, and parks. It is also a favored day trip option for neighboring cities such as Fayetteville and Raleigh.

There are many things to do in Kinston. Visitors can stop by the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center or the Civil War Battlefield Park to learn more about the area’s vibrant past. Depending on the time of year, there may also be festivals or other events happening in the area.

Keep reading for the best and most fun things to do in Kinston, North Carolina, listed below

The 14 Most Popular Things To Do In Kinston, North Carolina

14. tiffany west park.

4.7 ★★★★★  (3 reviews)

5132749873 9656fa2cf9 h

Credit:   J. Stephen Conn , License , Flickr

Location: Kinston NC

Tel:   252 939 3332

Web Address:   http://kinstonrec.com/

13. Caswell Number 1 Fire Station Museum

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Credit: Martin Brossman, Google Maps

Location: 118 S Queen Street Kinston NC

Tel:   252 527 1566

12. First Battle of Kinston Civil War Battlefield Park

4.5 ★★★★★  (15 reviews)

Af1qipp2dqsbxtl6 ysatj81nbot5m1wssgu0-m7yojh=w296-h202-n-k-no

Credit: Linda D., Google Maps

Location: 1400 Harriette Dr Kinston NC

Web Address:   http://historicalpreservationgroup.org/wil_park.htm

11. The Exchange Nature Center

4.4 ★★★★☆  (17 reviews)

Af1qipo9lqiag2szrfptbhegy8uqhncxn1q-ttr0zdoj=w296-h202-n-k-no

Credit: George Randy Bass, Google Maps

Location: 401 W Caswell Street Kinston NC

Tel:   252 939 3367

Web Address:   http://kinstonnc.gov/463/Exchange-Nature-Center

10. Community Council for the Arts

4.8 ★★★★★  (105 reviews)

Af1qipp0ezbvxjir51i0moyelntyvo6dc7vkplq-g-hg=w296-h202-n-k-no

Credit: Shawn Robinson, Google Maps

Location: 400 N Queen Street Kinston NC

Tel:   252 527 2517

Web Address:   http://kinstoncca.com/

9. Kinston Rotary Dog Park

4.5 ★★★★★  (123 reviews)

Af1qipoifhmzksvn3bvzxi9kuyzjzbdhdpb-rqfx0lpw=w296-h202-n-k-no

Credit: Casey Schultz, Google Maps

8. Pearson Park

4.5 ★★★★★  (171 reviews)

Af1qipnj7khcu0vpz8vu5i32du-a6ivsgtkv0dntn90=w296-h202-n-k-no

Credit: Jacob Smith, Google Maps

Location: 210 W Gordon Street Kinston NC

Tel:   910 336 8783

7. Harmony Hall

5.0 ★★★★★  (3 reviews)

800px-peebles house

Credit:   Tradewinds , License , Wikimedia commons

Location: 109 E King Street Kinston NC

6. Kinston Music Park

4.6 ★★★★★  (31 reviews)

Af1qipmpfuqsk2frckwz5fv5boayyjzo3rifcajdzsad=w296-h202-n-k-no

Credit: JD Jorgensen (141.7kph), Google Maps

Web Address:   http://africanamericanmusicnc.com/kinston-music-park/

5. Ellis Planetarium, Health & Science Museum

4.2 ★★★★☆  (44 reviews)

Af1qipm4gkac4galp9x10wyst8bxdi8wr qppcxshvfv=w296-h202-n-k-no

Credit: John Wolfson, Google Maps

Location: 403 W Caswell Street Kinston NC

Tel:   252 939 3302

Web Address:   http://kinstonnc.gov/455/Health-Science-Museum

4. CSS Neuse II

4.7 ★★★★★  (64 reviews)

800px-neuse ii replica kinston nc

Credit:   ncculture , License , Wikimedia commons

Location: 118 N Herritage Street Kinston NC

Tel:   252 560 2150

Web Address:   http://cssneuseii.org/

3. CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center

4.7 ★★★★★  (210 reviews)

Af1qipo8c6oy3 uzzkf uefulyvmdfcsrrbcklxs7kxd=w296-h202-n-k-no

Credit: CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center, Google Maps

Location: 100 N Queen Street Kinston NC

Tel:   252 526 9600

Web Address:   https://historicsites.nc.gov/all-sites/css-neuse-and-governor-caswell-memorial

2. Neuseway Nature Park

4.6 ★★★★★  (467 reviews)

Af1qipnnh-zqjqob3hi9mqnfcymskotrni6wsq7ufs1r=w296-h202-n-k-no

Credit: Chad Thomas, Google Maps

Web Address:   http://neusewaypark.com/454/Neuseway-Nature-Park

1. Lions Water Adventure

4.3 ★★★★☆  (726 reviews)

Af1qipol1poj86guzggsfirtvb4ne2efi4ts0asjz4f2=w296-h202-n-k-no

Credit: John, Google Maps

Location: 2602 W Vernon Ave Kinston NC

Tel:   252 699 3009

Web Address:   http://lionswateradventure.com/

Final Words:

Thank you for reading our list of the best things to do in Kinston, North Carolina! We hope it helped you plan the perfect itinerary for your next trip to this fantastic destination. Happy travels!

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Kinston City Council to discuss NCDOT proposal to remove traffic lights on Queen Street

K INSTON, N.C. (WITN) - The North Carolina Department of Transportation wants to remove three traffic lights on Queen Street in downtown Kinston. Kinston City Council members are scheduled to talk about what it could mean for the downtown area at the city council meeting Tuesday night.

Howard Freeland, a longtime Kinston Resident says, “I get from one light and then five seconds later I’m at another light for another minute when I really need to get to my destination.”

In downtown Kinston, NCDOT wants to make the traffic lights on Queen Street at the intersections of Caswell, Gordon, and North Streets.

“We’ve looked at the sight distance to make sure the sides streets will be able to look to the right and to the left and the sight is clear. It’ll help the flow of traffic on Queen Street. Right now, there’s 45 seconds of green and the flow traffic on the side streets will be 18 seconds of green so right now, Queen Street is actually still stopping even if there’s no traffic on the side streets,” Jim Evans, NCDOT Division II Traffic Engineer told WITN.

Howard says he’d look forward to the potential removal due to less foot traffic downtown and better flowing traffic. “That would actually help the flow of mobile traffic, to move through smoothly and keep the traffic moving much better. A lot of the businesses are not here anymore. Pedestrian traffic has reduced tremendously in the area so there’s not a lot of pedestrian traffic in the area walking up and down Queen Street like there used to be.”

Though the proposal is still in the early stages, Evans says that safety is the number one concern.

“Safety is the most important for everything. Nothing will be changed, they’ll still have high-visibility crosswalks at the intersections. The pedestrian will have to make sure they have their way clear before proceeding,” Evans said.

WITN reached out to city council members for a comment ahead of Tuesday’s city council meeting. However, did not hear back, or was told no comment until after the meeting.

If the city decides to move forward with the proposal, the city and Lenoir County Transportation Committee will send a resolution to the NCDOT, to then remove the signals.

The city council meeting is Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the town hall.

NCDOT proposal to remove certain traffic lights on Queen Street in Downtown Kinston

IMAGES

  1. 18 Awesome Things to Do in Kinston NC and Why We'll Be Back!

    visit kinston nc

  2. Top Things to Do In Kinston, North Carolina

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  3. Top Things to Do In Kinston, North Carolina

    visit kinston nc

  4. 18 Fun Things to Do in Kinston NC for a Weekend (or Any Time)

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  5. Only in Kinston

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  6. Kinston

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COMMENTS

  1. Visit Kinston

    © 2024 Lenoir County Convention & Visitors Bureau. 101 East New Bern Road, Kinston, NC 28504 252-523-2500 252-522-0004 [email protected] About Us 252-522-0004 ...

  2. Visit Kinston

    For more information about all that Kinston/Lenoir County has to offer go to visitkinston.com. Website (252) 522-0004 Directions. Home to North Carolina's largest public art trail, a unique arts district, the African American Music Trail, Heritage Trails and voted the #5 Food Town in the South we invite you to Visit Kinston and Expand Your Palette!

  3. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Kinston

    Things to Do in Kinston. 1. CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center. We left there to visit the civil war battlefields in Kinston. 2. CSS Neuse II. The replica is great, and the staff are knowledgeable and friendly! 3. Mother Earth Brewing.

  4. 18 Awesome Things to Do in Kinston NC and Why We'll Be Back!

    Visit NC's Largest Public Art Trail. The "Flue.". The cooperative has also led to painted murals and crafted sculptures all around downtown, making it the largest public art trail in North Carolina. Stroll along the Riverwalk or wander Blount Street and see Kinston's renaissance in progress.

  5. Top 18 Things To Do In Kinston, North Carolina

    5. Visit the renovated CSS Neuse II ship from the Civil War era. Your visit to this town won't be complete without a visit to the renovated CSS Neuse II ship, a remain of the civil war era in the United States. The center is just two blocks away from the CSS Neuse Interpretive Center.

  6. 20 Best Things to Do in Kinston, NC

    Thanks to its combination of rich history and warm community, Kinston is a popular place to visit. Here are the 15 best things to do in Kinston, North Carolina, to make the most out of your stay: Learn about History with the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center. Katyrw, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

  7. Kinston, NC: All You Must Know Before You Go (2024)

    A mix of the charming, modern, and tried and true. See all. 2024. Mother Earth Motor Lodge. 251. from $139/night. Hampton Inn Kinston. 583. from $109/night.

  8. Things to do in Kinston, NC

    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.

  9. Top Things to Do In Kinston, North Carolina

    How to Visit Kinston, NC Visiting Kinston as a Day Trip . Kinston is a great location for a day trip from the Raleigh-Durham area. It's less than 2 hours with plenty of outdoor activities and good food. Drive out Saturday morning, visit downtown, and see the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center and full-size CSS Neuse II replica. Hang out ...

  10. Visitors

    Phone: 252-559-6450 Fax: 252-526-6454 Physical Address: 130 South Queen Street Kinston, NC 28501. Mailing Address: PO Box 3289 Kinston, NC 28502. Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday: 7:30am - 4:30pm

  11. Best & Fun Things To Do + Places To Visit In Kinston, North Carolina

    As you explore Kinston, you'll quickly learn that the Civil War played a significant role in shaping the area's history. One must-visit attraction is the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center, which houses artifacts from the CSS Neuse, a Confederate ironclad that sank in the nearby Neuse River during the Civil War.

  12. 12 Best Things to Do in Kinston, North Carolina

    109 E King St, Kinston, North Carolina 28501, Phone: 252-522-0421. ... Resources: Visit North Carolina, Explore Asheville, Instagram. More Features. 16 Most Beautiful Resort Spa Baths and Pools. 10 Best Beaches Near Jacksonville, NC. 20 Best Raleigh Breakfast and Weekend Brunch Spots.

  13. Five Wow History Moments in Kinston, North Carolina

    What's in This Article: Wander the history spots sure to wow in Kinston, NC. Here are five must-see historical moments on your Kinston adventure. 1—The African American Music Trail. 2—First Battlefield of Kinston Park. 3—CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center. 4—Reconstructed Ironclad Warship. 5—Harmony Hall.

  14. 14 Best and Fun Things To Do In Kinston, North Carolina

    Credit: Martin Brossman, Google Maps. Location: 118 S Queen Street Kinston NC Tel: 252 527 1566 12. First Battle of Kinston Civil War Battlefield Park. 4.5 ★★★★★ (15 reviews)

  15. Kinston, North Carolina

    Kinston is a city in Lenoir County, North Carolina, United States, with a population of 19,900 as of the 2020 census. It has been the county seat of Lenoir County since its formation in 1791. Kinston is located in the coastal plains region of eastern North Carolina. In 2009, Kinston won the All-America City Award.This marks the second time in 21 years the city has won the title.

  16. Things to Do in Greenville, Goldsboro, Kinston

    Plan your trip to North Carolina's Inner Coastal Plain (of "A Chef's Life" fame). Search things to do, barbecue hot-spots, hotels, restaurants, muscadine wineries and weather. Plan your trip to Greenville, Goldsboro, Rose Hill and Kinston, of &A_Chef's_Life; fame.

  17. Visit & Contact Us

    Park & Recreation Department 2602 W Vernon Avenue Kinston, NC 28501 Phone: 252-939-3332 Fax: 252-939-3129 Hours Monday - Friday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

  18. Visit Kinston

    Visit Kinston, Kinston, North Carolina. 5,068 likes · 174 talking about this · 18 were here. Attractions, recreation, shopping, dining & events in Kinston and Lenoir County, North Carolina. Visit Kinston | Kinston NC

  19. Travel Nurse RN

    Travel Nurse RN - Psych in Kinston, NC - Excellent Benefits 2024-06-04 TravelNurseSource Kinston, NC. Apply. JOB DETAILS. LOCATION. Kinston, NC. POSTED. 11 days ago. TravelNurseSource is working with Favorite Healthcare Staffing to find a qualified Psych RN in Kinston, North Carolina, 28504!

  20. Kinston City Council to discuss NCDOT proposal to remove traffic lights

    K INSTON, N.C. (WITN) - The North Carolina Department of Transportation wants to remove three traffic lights on Queen Street in downtown Kinston. Kinston City Council members are scheduled to talk ...