9 Adventurous Things to do in Greenville NC – Plan Your Weekend Getaway

Downtown Greenville North Carolina-2

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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.

City of We Mural - Greenville NC
Starlight Cafe Mural

Kayaking the Tar River

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 paddling that gives you access to 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.

Kayaking the Tar River with Knee Deep Adventures Greenville North Carolina
Entering Greens Mill Run of the Tar River
Kayaking into the backwaters of the Tar River with Knee Deep Adventures
Kayaking the cypress Swamps in the backwaters of the Tar River

Bike the Greenville Greenways

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.

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Riverside trail on the Tar River Greenway
Bridge over Greens Mill Run on the Greenville Greenway
Green Springs Park on the Greenville Greenway

Take a Hike at River Park North

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 seeing the water at sunrise and sunset is 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 and nature of the swamp

Cypress Swamps in the backwaters of the Tar River

Dine Around Downtown

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.

😋 Taste Downtown Greenville

Discover downtown Greenville by foot, learn some fascinating facts about it and ENJOY delicious food, cocktails and libations on Friday lunch tour.

Book the tour HERE

Starlight Café Greenville North Carolina- exterior
Starlight Café Greenville North Carolina-stuffed avocado
Amante Taco & Spirits Greenville North Carolina, Taco Truck meets shipping container
Yummy street tacos at Amante Taco & Spirits Greenville North Carolina
Woodfired pizza ovens at Luna Pizza Greenville NC
Thin crust pizza with premium mushrooms at Luna Pizza Greenville North Carolina

Caffeinate Consciously

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.

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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.

Coastal Fog Market breakfast menu and baked goods
Coastal Fog Market Greenville, lattes, quiche, and lemon bar
The Scullery Greenville NC - exterior

Pop in for a Pint

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.

Uptown Brewing Company exterior
Uptown Brewing Company interior

Shop ‘Til You Drop

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.

Coastal Fog Market interior design showroom
The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions
Dickinson Avenue Farmers & Makers Market Greenville North Carolina

Explore the Arts

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.

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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.

Growing Up Queer in the South exhibit at the Greenville Museum of Art
Downtown Greenville Murals
Jonathan Bowling Sculptures
Jonathan Bowling Sculptures

Stay at a Historic B&B

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.

The Music House Greenville NC-a turn of the century Victorian home
The Music House Greenville NC- Beethoven Room
The Music House Greenville NC- preserved and decorated in period style

Interactive Map of Things to do in Greenville, North Carolina

This is the part of the piece where we wrap up our storylines and encourage you to come and experience the trip for yourself. We thought the best way to do this was to put all of the things to do in Greensville we mentioned in this article onto an interactive map. We used native Google pins so you can click around for a virtual tour. If the map doesn’t load, just hit the refresh button, and it should come up.

Notice how compact Uptown Greensville is with about a 1 square mile area. Also, the entire map is only 3-miles wide, so your Greensville getaway will be focused on relaxation and recreation, not driving around to find fun things to do in Greenville, North Carolina.

Disclosure: A big thank you to Visit Greenville NC for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more travel inspiration check out their InstagramFacebook, and Twitter accounts.

As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.

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Kayaking on the Tar River Greenville NC
Photos of Greenville NC; the Tar River, tacos, and metal sculptures
Greenville Greenway wooden bridge

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We deeply believe in the transformational power of travel. Our tagline is amazing adventures for ordinary people because we believe that you don’t have to be super rich, super fit or super anything to have an amazing adventure. Expanding your comfort zone and trying new things will pay huge dividends in both health and happiness.

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