North Carolina’s third-largest city may not have much name recognition, but it has a surprising array of attractions. Wildlife-filled parks, cutting-edge street art and historic sites that played a pivotal role during the fight for Civil Rights are all part of Greensboro’s diverse backdrop.
Whether you’re traveling solo or bringing the family along, Greensboro has plenty of variety, from treetop walks above the zoo to catching rock shows at tiny nightclubs. You can make the most of your time by penciling in these top experiences in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Visit the International Civil Rights Center & Museum
One of the watershed moments during the Civil Rights movement happened in a Woolworth's store in Greensboro. On February 1, 1960, four Black students from North Carolina A&T State University held a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter.
Others joined their cause, and soon sit-ins spread across the country, as non-violent protests brought the world’s attention to segregationist and deeply racist policies.
In 2010, on the 50th anniversary of the sit-in, the former Woolworth’s reopened as the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. News reels, photographs, film footage and audio narratives – along with the original lunch counter – tell the powerful story of the Civil Rights struggle, both in Greensboro and across America.
Look for wildlife in the Bog Garden at Benjamin Park
Northwest of the city center, a piece of verdant wilderness sprouts amid the urban landscape. Though small in size, the seven-acre Bog Garden at Benjamin Park provides a memorable setting to connect with nature.
A half-mile elevated boardwalk meanders through forest and wetland, passing a recirculating waterfall, trickling creeks and a lake where blue herons stalk their prey beneath towering black willows and bald cypress trees. Come in early morning or late afternoon for the best chance to see wildlife, from goldfinches and muskrats to foxes and woodpeckers, and even the odd river otter from time to time.
Peer back in time at the Greensboro History Museum
Set in a former Presbyterian church built in the 1890s, this Smithsonian-affiliated museum provides an illuminating perspective on major events that shaped the region.
Interactive exhibits inside the 17,000-sq-ft space delve into pre-colonial history, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and industries, like textiles, that shaped Greensboro in the 20th century.
Temporary exhibitions are among the best in town, and typically delve into pressing topics such as democracy, immigration and oral histories of marginalized people. The admission-free entry makes a visit here one of the best free things to do in Greensboro.
Sip world-class vintages at the Tasting Room
Planning a date night? Head to the Tasting Room (via taxi or rideshare) and sip your way through some outstanding wines from around the globe.
Staff can guide you through an ever-changing selection of varietals, from a refreshing vinho verde from Portugal’s Minho region to an exuberant Châteauneuf-du-Pape from France’s Rhône Valley. You can also pick up a bottle or two for a picnic the next day.
Stop and smell the roses at Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden
Greensboro is blessed with green space, thanks to the four distinct public gardens located on the northwest side of town. For a verdant, flower-filled stroll, the Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden is the pick of the bunch.
Across 7.5 acres, you’ll find thematic areas that include a wildflower stroll, rock gardens and a fragrance-filled azalea and camellia zone, plus various sculptures by Dutch artist Michiel VanderSommen.
There’s never an admission charge at the Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden, making it a great option for a free day out and about.
Take a walk on the wild side at Elsewhere
Greensboro embraces its art-loving eccentric side at Elsewhere. This three-story former thrift store is packed with ephemera gathered by collector Sylvia Gray over the span of 58 years – and transformed into delightfully bizarre installations by contemporary artists.
You’ll feel like you’re stepping through Alice’s looking glass while wandering through the Ribbon Room and the Alone Zone, or peering beneath vintage textiles in the Aviary. Given the thought-provoking designs on display, it’s no surprise Elsewhere is considered one of the most unique things to do in Greensboro.
Hear top local bands at Flat Iron
Greensboro's great nightlife begins (and perhaps ends) at the Flat, a convivial space downtown where you can catch some of the best bands around. The drinks are reasonably priced, and there's live music most nights, with a lineup that ranges from southern folk and indie rock to jazz and roots, plus the odd DJ session.
See creatures great and small at the Greensboro Science Center
The Greensboro Science Center is one of North Carolina's best activities for families, and its science museum, zoo and aquarium draw animal lovers and knowledge seekers of all ages. Creature highlights include waddling penguins, brilliantly hued poison-dart frogs and toothy Nile crocodiles.
You can also catch film screenings in the 40ft domed theater, or climb your way through the treetops at Skywild, an adrenaline-fueled ropes course set high above the zoo. If you’re traveling with small children in tow, don’t miss the farm, where you can interact with goats, miniature horses and chickens.
Paddle the placid waters of Lake Brandt
There are lots of fun things to do in Greensboro, with some of the best activities providing a hearty dose of nature with a bit of aquatic adventure. Grab a picnic lunch and head up to Lake Brandt, where you can hire a kayak, canoe or paddleboard for the day and explore the forest-backed waters of this 816-acre reservoir.
You can also hike or go for a trail run on an 11-mile loop that skirts along the shoreline. While it’s a great nature escape year round, don't miss the autumn blazes in mid- to late October, when birches, maples and beech trees blaze with color.
Take a backstage tour at the Carolina Theatre
Greensboro’s much-loved neoclassical theater has been around for nearly a hundred years, and it continues to stage a wide-ranging lineup of musicals, concerts, film screenings and comedy shows. It's also home of the Greensboro Opera and the Greensboro Ballet. But no matter what's on in the 1100-seat main hall, with its glittering chandeliers, ornate plasterwork and marble columns, it’s hard not to feel the magic in the air.
Upstairs, the Crown is a more intimate venue that stages theatre, dance, spoken word and jazz and folk concerts. History fans can book a private tour to learn about Carolina’s highs and lows over the years – in the 1970s it was nearly torn down to make way for a parking lot.
Hunt for eye-popping street art across town
You won’t have to strain to spot some of the best street art in Greensboro - or even the best street art in North Carolina. Kotis Street Art showcases the works of exceptional painters from across the country and beyond in some 200 installations dotting the city.
Don't miss Australian artist Adnate’s photorealistic portraits of Native American Lumbee members (1201 Battleground Ave and 1205 W Bessemer) or Dare Coulter’s inspiring mural of Black Cowboys at 1421 E Cone Blvd.
You might also like:
Top 12 beaches in North Carolina
Road trip through the Blue Ridge Mts.
Why Ashville is America’s next major music city