9 Unforgettable Adventures for Your Weekend Escape to Greenville North Carolina

Are you looking for adventurous things to do in Greenville, North Carolina? Maybe you’re already coming to visit ECU, go to a Pirates game, or just want to make a day of shopping at the Greenville Mall. No matter what brings you to Greenville, we’ll tell you about some fun activities and what you need to know to anchor a weekend getaway to the Emerald City.

Kayaking the Tar River

Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

The Tar River was the lifeblood of Greenville during the age of riverboats. The town’s economic prowess waned as roads replaced rivers and the river returned to its natural state. Today, you can explore the river with flat water kayaking that gives you access to paddle backwater cypress swamps.

We took a guided trip with Kelsey from Knee Deep Adventures while in Greenville. She was a consummate guide who loved the river and was very knowledgeable about the best backwaters for paddling.

Looking at the map, Parker Creek and Greens Mill Run are obvious choices, but the best paddling was on the unmarked trail on the east end of the River Park. We saw ancient cypress trees and the pilings of a historic riverboat landing. We were also impressed with the quality of her kayaks and paddling-specific life vests. All in all, Knee Deep Adventures is a top-notch operation.

Bike the Greenville Greenways

Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

The Greenville Greenways are a tribute to concerned citizens making a difference in their community. The idea first came to the city council in 1985, but it took a decade of dedicated work before the first greenway, The Green Mill Greenway, was completed in 1995. Over time, the greenway expanded down Greens Mill Run and the Tar River until it reached Town Common Park with an end-to-end length of ~5 miles from the ECU campus to the Greene Street Bridge. The Greenville Greenway reminded us more of biking on the short and sweet Cape Fear River Trail in Fayetteville than the sprawling, interconnected Raleigh bike trails.

The Greenville Greenways (Green Mill Greenway / Tar River Greenway) are short enough that you can ride them as an out-and-back. However, Uptown Greensville is very bikeable and cute enough to justify a ride. That’s why our Greensville Greenway Route is a loop starting from Town Common Park and following the greenway until it reaches 8th. Instead of following the road connector across 10th St (a relatively busy street), you take 8th and Forrest Hills back to the dedicated bike lanes on 5th St and then into downtown Greenville. This 6-mile route is fun, flat, and makes the most of the greenway. It also lets you see some historic Greenville homes along the way.

Take a Hike at River Park North

Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

River Park North has 324 acres of wetlands across the Tar River from Uptown Greenville. It has a small nature center (Walter L. Stasavich Science & Nature Center), fishing, camping, and river access. It also has about 3 miles of hiking trails that form a loop through the park.

Wetland trails are wonderful for birdwatching, and hikes by the water at sunrise and sunset are always beautiful. There’s something magical about the way the light mixes with the mists. As we were paddling, we saw the flagging for a planned boardwalk into the swamp. This boardwalk would provide excellent access and awareness of a beautiful, natural area. We hope that they consult the appropriate naturalists to complete this project in harmony with the needs of hikers and nature of the swamp

Dine Around Downtown

Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

Downtown Greenville, or rather, Uptown Greenville, per their publicists, is a thriving collection of shops, restaurants, and activities around the city center. The proximity to ECU and student housing (and appetites) allows for a much better foodie scene than you would expect in a town the size of Greenville.

We loved the farm-to-café concepts of Starlight Café and thought this was the best fine dining in town. Also, the taco truck meets shipping container hipster vibe of Amante Tacos and Spirits made us feel like we were back in the OC. Luna Pizza Café has thin-crust pies with premium toppings, and the snickerdoodles at Insomnia Cookies were unbelievable. These were just our experiences, but our friends at Uptown Greenville keep an updated list of uptown restaurants for you to choose from.

Caffeinate Consciously

Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

We love coffee, and we love socially conscious companies. So socially conscious coffee companies are the bomb. Remember, friends don’t let friends drink chain coffee.

Coastal Fog is a local market and bakery that offers the highest quality, sustainably sourced coffee with simple and nourishing food. We paired our coffee with quiche and a lemon bar that was out of this world.

The Scullery Coffee House and Creamery serves more traditional breakfasts, but that doesn’t mean they shortchange their coffee. They serve locally roasted, single-source Lanoca Coffee, which paired perfectly with our fried avocado tacos.

Pop in for a Pint

Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

This might surprise you, but a college town has a good brew pub scene. Uptown Brewery is “your friendly neighborhood brewery” for when you need a beer more than Spiderman. Pitt Street Brewing Company is the NC Brewers’ Cup 2021 Gold Medal winner for best Scottish & Irish Beer, and MPourium is a tap room with 52 self-pouring taps. Then, there’s Sup Dogs.

What’s Sup Dog? Apart from being the setup to one of my favorite dad jokes, it’s a hot dog stand/bar in Greenville that was voted the ‘Best College Bar’ by Barstool Sports. Best of all, after you pop in for a pint at any of these establishments, you are a walkable distance from your Uptown lodging.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

Uptown Greenville has unique and boutique shopping to complement the thriving food and drink scene. We felt like we walked onto a set of an HGTV show when we were window shopping at Coastal Fog while we waited for our coffee. We loved all the local North Carolina products at the Dickinson Avenue Farmers & Makers Market.

If my sister had been with us, she would have insisted that we go across the street to the Dickinson Avenue Antique Market. We tried going to the Uptown Greenville Umbrella Market, a Wednesday night open-air farmers and makers market, but it was rained out. Still, we hit our mark of shopping until dropping and felt fully satisfied with our Greensville shopping experience.

Explore the Arts

Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

College towns are also known for their art scene, and Greensville is no exception. The Greenville Museum of Art has fixed and revolving exhibits. During our visit to GMOA, there was a progressive exhibit on ‘Growing Up Queer’ in the South. We also loved the Johnathan Bowling statues that we saw all around town. Bowling moved to Greenville to pursue an MFA in sculpture at East Carolina University in 1999 and has been making Greenville a sculpture city ever since. You can also find other local artwork on display at Emerge Gallery.

The University has a wide variety of art spaces and performance venues open to the public. The Wellington B. Gray Gallery hosts artwork by students, faculty, staff, and local artists. Plus, you can catch shows and performances at the John D. Messick Theatre, Hendrix Theatre, and the Wright Auditorium.

Stay at a Historic B&B

Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

A new, 101-room Hilton Garden Inn is under construction in Uptown Greenville, but that can never replicate a stay at The Music House. This unique bed & breakfast is a turn-of-the-century Victorian home meticulously preserved and decorated in period style.

Your host, John O’Brien, is an ECU Music Professor and lover of all things Greensville. There are new boutique hotel people, and then there are those that will adore The Music House.

Wrapping up Things to do in Greenville NC & FAQs

Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

Greenville, North Carolina is filled with fun stuff to do and unique places to explore, from day-trips on the Tar River to Wednesday evenings at the Umbrella Farmer Market. You’ll find green spaces, smiling faces, and outdoor recreations spring-summer-fall. We’ll wrap up this article with some FAQs to help you plan your romantic and adventurous getaway to Greenville NC.

Is Greenville NC a walkable city? The Uptown District and East Carolina University are very walkable. As you get far outside of town, you’ll become more car reliant.

Is Greenville NC close to mountains? Greenville South Carolina is nestled up against the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the heart of South Carolina’s Upcountry. Greenville North Carolina is in North Carolina’s Tidewater and Coastal Plain and not a mountain destination.

How close in Greenville NC to the beach? There are some “beaches” an hour and a half away in New Bern, but you’ll be swimming in the Neuse River. If you want a proper beach, Emerald Isle is a barrier island with beautiful beaches on the Atlantic Ocean about two hours away.