North Carolina's Eastern Region Has Distinct Cultural Destinations
From its rivers, sounds and seaside hideaways to its jazz-rich culture, burgeoning art scenes, eclectic festivals and world-class barbecue, North Carolina's Eastern Region is full of attractions that make it an unforgettable place to live and to visit.
Arts and culture thrives throughout the region – and communities recognize its importance in creating a good quality of life. Groups like the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge, which organizes and backs art programs that aid local economic development, work to foster an even greater appreciation for it.
“We host First Friday Art Walks that bring hundreds of people to the Uptown Greenville district,” says Holly Garriott, Executive Director of the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge. “The Arts Council is also helping to establish a cultural arts district in Greenville, with plans to open a longtime closed theater building that would make the district ideal for seeing a show, frequenting restaurants, shopping, and visiting galleries and museums.”
East Carolina University is known for its top-notch arts program, thanks to its individual schools of Art and Design, Communication, Theatre and Dance, and Music. The university's jazz program is nationally renowned, and its ensemble was recently selected by the Duke Ellington family to record one of the famous musician's "lost" unrecorded songs. The university also honors Ellington's mentor and famed jazz pianist and composer the late Billy Taylor with its Billy Taylor Jazz Festival, held annually on the Greenville campus.
One-of-a-Kind Festivals, Attractions
Adding to the region's cultural flair are other distinctive festivals, including Wings Over Wayne in Goldsboro, MCAS Cherry Point Air Show, Ayden Collard Festival and the North Carolina Pickle Festival in Mount Olive. Morehead City hosts both the North Carolina Seafood Festival and the Carolina Chocolate Festival.
For adventurists and pleasure seekers, the Eastern Region offers a diverse landscape full of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including 65 miles of beaches ideal for sailing, fishing, swimming and kayaking, plus several venues where fresh air enthusiasts can enjoy golf, cycling and hiking. For scuba divers, the famous Graveyard of the Atlantic in the Outer Banks – the site of many shipwrecks – is known as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. Along the Shackleford Banks in Carteret County, visitors can also catch a glimpse of wild horses descended from the Spanish mustangs European explorers brought to the New World centuries ago.
Fine Dining and Lots of 'Cue
The Eastern Region is also resplendent with top eateries, including chopped pork barbecue hot spots such as B’s BBQ in Greenville, Pete Jones' BBQ in Ayden, Wilber's Barbecue in Goldsboro, and Parker's Barbecue in Wilson. Highly regarded independent restaurants include On the Square in Tarboro and Chef & the Farmer in Kinston – both recognized among the nation’s top 100 eateries by OpenTable restaurant reservation service and featuring chefs who were successful on the Manhattan restaurant scene before returning home to Eastern Carolina. Christinne's Seafood Grille and Chophouse in Greenville has also been recognized on Wine Spectator's top 100 list. From the coast to inland cities, the region is full of plenty of other independent restaurants, and fresh seafood abounds in all seasons.
Beaufort Named Coolest Small Town in America
Known for its majestic ocean views, antebellum homes and decadent cuisine, Beaufort, N.C. was voted Coolest Small Town in America by readers of Budget Travel magazine. Along with its coastal charms, Beaufort was recognized for its notoriety as the hangout of the pirate Blackbeard three centuries ago. Visitors today can view artifacts salvaged from Blackbird's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, at the North Carolina Maritime Museum or walk past the moss-draped oaks and cracked tombstones of city's Old Burying Ground – the resting place of some of the town's nautical pioneers. Beaufort's Inlet Inn and Blue Moon Bistro were also spotlighted for their quaint atmosphere.