Smithfield/Johnston County Neighborhood Guide

By Jessica Walker on April 28, 2011 at 9:31 pm EST

PHOTO CREDIT: Todd Bennett

Home to several towns, each with unique attractions and atmospheres, Johnston County is a flourishing area perfect for settling or visiting.


Smithfield serves as the county seat for Johnston County and offers the Johnston County Heritage Center, where visitors can study local history and genealogy through public records, manuscripts, family histories, photographs, vintage newspapers and artifacts. The town is also home to Carolina Premium Outlets, offering 80 outlet stores, as well as the Ava Gardner Museum that showcases memorabilia of the late actress, who formerly lived in Smithfield.


With a thriving downtown and safe, pedestrian-friendly streets, Benson is an ideal place for raising a family. The town sits at the intersection of I-95 and I-40, with Raleigh, Fayetteville and the Research Triangle Park within an hour's drive. In addition, planning a getaway is simplified, as the nearest beach is an hour and a half away and the mountains are approximately three hours away. Benson is home to more than 30 churches, the Mary Duncan Public Library and the Benson Civic Center, offering residents access to exercise equipment, tennis courts, horseshoe pits and other amenities.


Ranked number 10 in the nation by BusinessWeek magazine as an area with "The Best Schools in the Most Affordable Zip Codes," Clayton offers a prosperous community with affordable living and quality schools. The town is located about 20 minutes from Raleigh and is near the Research Triangle area. Clayton's Parks and Recreation Department is active, offering a wide range of programs including arts, athletics and summer camps. Residents also have a variety of options for enjoying arts and culture; the Clayton Center offers musical, theatrical and comedic performances throughout the year, and the Hocutt-Ellington Library serves as one of the only municipal libraries in the state.


Cleveland is a suburban town in northwestern Johnston County that serves as a flourishing business community, as it is located at a major interchange on Interstate 40. In addition to a variety of businesses, the town offers a free public library, the Cleveland Library. One tasty spot is the Cleveland Cake & Coffee Company that serves as a bakery and cafe while also providing custom and wedding cakes. The area also hosts the Cleveland Strawberry Festival each year, an event that consists of carnival rides, games, food and, of course, fresh strawberries.

Four Oaks

Four Oaks is a relaxed, community-minded town, hosting a variety of festivals and events each year, including the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site anniversary re-enactments, Oaktober Fest and a tree lighting and Christmas parade. The Acorn Festival is also held annually in May and includes a parade, live entertainment and art exhibits.


Known as "Friendly Kenly," the town is located on the northeastern edge of Johnston County. Kenly offers the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, which features exhibits on farm life, southern medicine, domestic skills, rural social life and artifacts.


A railroad town from its beginning, Selma's heritage is still clear today and is home to what is thought to be the oldest surviving train station in North Carolina, Mitchener Station. The town hosts a Railroad Days Festival during the first weekend of October each year, featuring live entertainment, food, a parade and other events.

Learn about more areas around Smithfield, NC.

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