Hidden Gems: Greenville Travel Guide

Explore the hidden gems of Greenville, N.C. in this travel guide from a local! It’s a lovely, off-the-beaten-path spot, and so much more than a college town. 

Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide

Today’s Hidden Gems travel guide to Greenville, N.C. comes from Erika Gibson

Having lived and worked  in my hometown of Greenville, N.C., for nearly two-and-a-half decades before we bought a house in a teeny town about 20 miles away, I’ve gotten to see restaurants and shops come and go.

Since I’ve been here so gosh-darn long, I have a lot of favorite places to share in this Greenville travel guide!

Greenville, North Carolina (not South Carolina!) is sometimes expected to be a sad little redneck farming town in Sweet Tea Central, USA. People anticipate dilapidated barns and abandoned plantations, but Greenville is a growing and flourishing city.

The America’s Promise Alliance recently named Greenville one of the nation’s 100 Best Communities for Young People and Forbes Magazine also ranked it among the top 30 of the nation’s Best Small Places for Business and Careers.

Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide

Greenville was originally founded in 1771 as ‘Martinsborough’ after the Royal Governor Josiah Martin. In 1773 the town was moved 3 miles west of its original site.

In 1786 the name was changed to ‘Greenesville,’ in honor of Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene, before eventually being shortened to Greenville. The town was largely supported by cotton and tobacco farms in the 19th century, until East Carolina University (then East Carolina Teacher’s Training College) was established in 1907.

Above all, Greenville residents bleed purple and gold — football games are not to be trifled with — and we like our barbecue with vinegar (and all of the hog except the squeal), thankyouverymuch.

Click below to see the hidden gems in this Greenville travel guide! 

Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide
East Carolina University
Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide


One of my favorite places is The Scullery Coffee House & Creamery. Between their fantastic meals, delicious coffee and handmade ice cream, it’ll be hard to pick your favorite. I highly recommend the smoked salmon bagel or the egg-in-a-grilled-cheese. (Pro-tip from a local: If you’re like me and think bleu cheese is devil food, make sure to ask if what you’re ordering has it included anywhere — these guys love their icky bleu cheese!)

At aTavola! Market Cafe, a diverse menu with fresh ingredients makes for a great lunch or dinner.

Tipsy Teapot opens early and closes late so you always have a place to stop for coffee or tea. Tipsy has recently added a breakfast menu (served all day) and a full bar.

A small cinderblock building near the medical district, B’s Barbecue is the place to be for lunch. The only catch? They close when they run out each day. Get there early to get your spot in line!

With your food prepared right before your eyes by some of the most personable and entertaining chefs on the east coast, Sappari Japanese Steak House is the perfect choice for a special dinner.

Sup Dogs has the competition beat for hot dogs and burgers thanks to their secret Sup Dogs Sauce.

Fitzgerald’s is one of the newest additions to Uptown Greenville — an American tavern with an Irish twist.

One of the standards for lunch breaks where I work is Cinnamon Indian Cuisine (formerly known as Dale’s). It offers a great lunch buffet at a reasonable price.

Starlight Cafe & Farm supports local farmers and marketplaces with constantly rotating specials in their upscale restaurant in the heart of uptown Greenville.

Winslow’s Wine & Beer Market offers a tapline of more than 40 American craft beers and micro-brews, more than 20 wines by the glass and the area’s largest selection of fine bourbons and whiskeys.

Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide
The Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge
Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide
The Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge


The First Friday ArtWalk is hosted, as it sounds, on the first Friday of each month. Between new exhibitions, deals at local restaurants and the Jolly Trolley making it easy to get wherever you’re going, there’s no reason to skip this fantastic event.

The Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge is a non-profit arts organization that has a constantly rotating gallery and an ever-changing calendar of classes and events.

Is it the Friday before a home football game? If so, check out Freeboot Friday at Five Points Plaza for music, grub and fun. (If you hear someone yell “Purple!,” you better be ready to yell “Gold!” right back.)

River Park North is a nature park offering camping, hiking, fishing and more.

Wellington B. Gray Gallery, located inside ECU’s Jenkins Fine Arts Center, has oft-changing exhibitions throughout the school year.

Is it a Wednesday afternoon in the summer? Then Five Points will have all the greatest local food and crafts at the Umbrella Market.

The Greenville Museum of Art works to provide and promote the visual arts through their collection, rotating exhibitions, workshops and classes.

Every year PirateFest draws an estimated 30,000 people to celebrate eastern NC’s pirate history with two days of live music, original art, unique food and, of course, pirates. Arrrrgh!

ECU’s School of Theatre and Dance is offers concerts, plays, musicals and other performance arts throughout the year. Those with children should especially check out Family Fare.

Sunday in the Park is a free outdoor concert series held on Sunday evenings in the summer and into early fall at the Town Commons.

Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide
Art Avenue Contemporary Art Center
Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide
Art Avenue Contemporary Art Center
Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide
Dapper Dan’s
Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide
Hobby Horse


Art Avenue Contemporary Art Center is a gallery, retail shop and studio space with lots of great art and gifts for sale.

If you need some pirate apparel, University Book Exchange is the place to go.

In the heart of the up and coming Antiquing District is Dapper Dan’s, a fantastic shop with lots of antique furniture and second-hand clothing.

Uptown Art Supply & Gallery has discounted, quality supplies for the professional and student artist, as well as apparel and accessories for those that like to admire art from afar.

The Hobby Horse is the studio of local sculptor Jonathan Bowling. He uses repurposed steel to construct huge sculptures that lend themselves well to public spaces.

Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide
Uptown Art
Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide
Coastal Fog

Coastal Fog is a shop and boutique with home and interior wares as well as handmade jewelry, artwork and furniture.

East Coast Music and Video is Greenville’s only independently-owned video and record store with a huge selection of new and used CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray and Vinyl.

Artisan’s Decorative Accessories and Fine Gifts is a multi-vendor retail store offering over 75 exclusive independently owned shoppes in one 12,000-square foot space.

Hidden Gems: Greenville, NC Travel Guide
The North Carolina Coast


20 minutes: Ayden, N.C. — Take the quick drive out to Simply Natural Creamery to get ice cream made from cows so close you can take a tour of the farm!

30 minutes: Grifton, N.C. — Head out early Saturday morning to catch your spot in line for brunch at Yoder’s Dutch Pantry. Order the french toast that’s made with freshly baked bread and their unique syrup, and get ready for that food coma that’s headed your way.

40 minutes: Kinston, N.C. — If you’re looking for a fantastic night out, Chef and the Farmer is the place to go. The star of PBS documentary series A Chef’s Life, chef Vivian Howard brings a dining experience like no other to downtown Kinston. With a constantly changing menu of entirely local food served in a renovated 100-year-old mule barn, Chef and the Farmer is sure to be worth the travel.

1 hour, 20 minutes: Raleigh, N.C. — If you head west, you can visit the beautiful North Carolina Museum of Art or take your kids to Marbles Kids Museum — not to mention the local breweries and fantastic cafes in the state capitol.

1 hr, 30 minutes: Outer Banks, N.C. If you head east, the gorgeous beaches await you. Grab some chowder at Channel Marker Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, enjoy traditional southern cuisine at Floyd’s 1921 Restaurant and Catering in Morehead City, or stop for tapas at Aqua Restaurant in Beaufort. The North Carolina Aquariums await you at Pine Knoll Shores, while the Civil War fort and historic landmark Fort Macon in Atlantic Beach is always worth a visit.

2 hr, 45 minutes: Winston-Salem, N.C. — Pick up a coffee at Krankies Downtown or Krankies Airstream, then head out to Sawtooth School for Visual Art to check out the galleries, shops and classes. If you prefer your skin with a little ink on it, stop in to BookMistress, a bookstore that specializes in the art and history of tattooing. BookMistress is part of The Tattoo Archive, a tattoo museum and studio.


Erika GibsonErika Gibson // hg-facebook hg-facebook hg-instagram

Erika is an artist + maker from eastern North Carolina. She writes for crafty and creative makers who want to bring original beauty to their home. 

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  1. Jordan says

    Ahhh I love this! It made me so nostalgic for all the time I spent in Greenville senior year of college. Thanks for doing this!

  2. Vincent says

    What about crystal connections! The owner Michael is a wonderful fella and makes you feel welcome every time you come in, regardless if you’re a new customer or a returning one. They have a wonderful selection of jewelry, incense and oils, and an assortment of neat statues and decor.

    Sakuras on S. Memorial is also another hidden gem, and while their service may take a little while longer, the food is just so good. She serves a variety of different style of asian cuisine, but my favorites are the Indian Noodles and the Curry Potato Ravioli. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

    • Erika Gibson says

      I am only one person and, I admit, there are LOTS more hidden gems in Greenville that I don’t know about! I’m sure there could be another half-dozen articles like this one, easy-peasy. As you can tell, I am pretty heavy into Uptown Greenville and the Arts – gotta write what I know about.

      I have heard good things about Sakura, though. I need to go by there sometime!

      Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  3. Lisette Fee says

    Thank you so much for your great feature about eastern NC, especially Art Avenue; it’s wonderful to see someone celebrate the wonderful places and spaces of Greenville.
    thank you!!!

  4. Tayler says

    Thank you so much for this guide! My husband, baby and I are moving to Greenville this summer for my hisband’s job (we’re from Seattle and have been living in WV for the last few years) and this really helped us get excited to explore a new area! Can’t wait to be in Greenville and check out all of these great things!

    • Susannah says

      Hey Tayler! I’m so glad this guide got you excited for your big move! Erika surely knows her stuff. I owe her a visit one of these days so I can check out some of these spots myself! 🙂

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