Greensboro is a town steeped in history. Once the contact point of the British and Revolutionary armies during the American push for independence in the late 18th century, the city’s outer districts are still marked with battlefields and monuments to the fallen.
When the Civil War erupted, the area was divided, half Dixie half Unionist, later becoming the final spot where the Confederate government met in the last days of the conflict.
Subsequent decades brought railroad wealth and industrial boom, with the powerhouse of the Piedmont Triad fuelling urban growth and prosperity that did well even in the face of the Great Depression.
Today, Greensboro is a city firmly on the up, emerging as a town with quirky art galleries, interesting museums and more than its fair share of pretty urban parks.
Add to that one of America’s most acclaimed water parks, throw in a mouth-watering medley of taco joints and coffee shops, and a lively university population, and it’s easy to see why the onetime Gate City is now a real magnet for travelers making their way across the continental United States!
Here are the best things to do in Greensboro!
1. Between the rainforests and the cosmos at the Greensboro Natural Science Center
Set over four separate sections and awash with more immersive, child-friendly, interactive exhibits than you can shake a preserved prehistoric vertebrae at, the Greensboro Science Center is arguably the finest and most eye-opening institution on the line-up in the city.
Ranging from the museum, with its reptile and rattlesnake exhibits, to the zoo, complete with swinging gibbons and uber-rare lemurs, the collections here are vast and eclectic.
Oh, and don’t miss the adrenaline-pumping shows that take place in the adjoining Time Warner Cable OmniSphere Theater; mind-boggling three-dimensional films that unravel the mysteries of black holes and dinosaurs alike!
2. Seek out Greensboro’s artistic side at Elsewhere living art museum
Part artists’ collective, part quirky art gallery, part workshop, part educational facility, the Elsewhere living art museum is perhaps the piece de resistance of Greensboro’s new artistic wave.
Inhabiting a former thrift store on Elm Streen in the downtown, the spot offers an eclectic range of exhibitions and shows throughout the year.
The idea is to get the public thinking about reclaimed and recycled materials in a whole new way, and the resident artists here have worked hard to craft a new aesthetic philosophy, using at-hand, often mundane and found objects to create thought-provoking works that tell a story.
Pop in to participate or just to wonder at the great work being done!
3. Sip coffee with the students at Tate Street Coffee House
Located just a stone’s throw from Greensboro’s university buildings, amidst the happening streets of College Hill, this hearty and welcoming little coffee shop touts fair trade brews and oodles of homemade cakes and vegan sandwiches.
A popular hit with the students out of the lecture halls of the University of North Carolina, the joint focusses on sourcing Fair Trade, organic and ethical beans from coffee destinations right across the globe.
Oh, and the weekend means jazz nights and wine tasting sessions galore – so be sure to head in early on Saturdays when the bebop’s about to begin!
4. Stroll through the pretty Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden
When the urban streets get just a little too much and you find yourself in need of some peace, quiet and North Carolinian greenery in Greensboro, be sure to head for the secluded and soothing gardens of the Tanger Family Bicentennial.
The small clutch of grassy lawns and manicured flowerbeds here come criss-crossed by babbling streams, while a shady gazeebo sits hidden below the canopies – a popular spot for local weddings and events.
There’s history too. The park was inaugurated in 1976 to mark the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the United States. Hence the countless bronze statues and plaques peppering the pathways and greenery.
5. Check out the gourmet taco at Crafted – the Art of the Taco
Rarely has Mexican cuisine been quite so precise and, well, crafted, as at this enticing little grassroots taco joint on Elm Street in the heart of Greensboro.
With a deference to organic, tasty ingredients, the foods here are packed full of all the fresh and zingy taste-bud-tingling treats of Central America.
There are ‘Taquitos’ with banana dressing and kim chee, queso-topped salads to kick things off, while a medley of unusual tacos brings up the offering of mains, ranging from the curiously Oriental Wayfarer, with its onion relish and Korean marinade, to the smoky brisket of the southern-inspired Fixie. In short, this is one of the top spots in NC to taste authentic, fusion tacos!
6. Entertain the little ones at the Greensboro Children’s Museum
Perfect for travelers hitting Greensboro with kids in tow, the city’s children’s museum is a place of quirkiness and curiosity.
The main exhibit is Our Town; a small-scale replica of a US city that comes complete with pizza take-outs and bustling main streets – perfect for a spot of make believe. There are plastic planes to clamber over too, with cockpits and exit slides at the ready, not to mention a replica of a 1930s home inspired by a classic Fisher Park dolls’ house.
What’s more, the museum also boasts its very own gardens, where visitors can come and explore planting, growing and gardening techniques with experts, all whilst learning about the benefits of organic foods and horticulture!
7. Unravel North Carolina’s military history at the Guilford Courthouse
Sprawled out over more than 200 acres on the northern fringes of Greensboro, the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park draws a whopping 200,000 visitors each year.
The site was consecrated to commemorate the eponymous Battle of Guilford Court House, which marked the start of the campaigns that would later flower into full-blown victory in the American Revolution.
There are statues honouring the revered US general Nathanael Greene, along with regular tours which point out where Continental forces clashed with the formidable Redcoats of Cornwallis’ British divisions.
Pretty and peppered with plane trees, the area is also a great place to jog, stroll and picnic in Greensboro.
8. Get soaked at Wet ‘n Wild Emerald Pointe Water Park
North Carolina’s outlet of the iconic Wet ‘n Wild name makes its home on the southern fringes of Greensboro city.
Here, it comes complete with soaring waterslides and plunge pools, bubbling Jacuzzi baths and lazy rivers alike.
A fine place to come and escape the sultry temperatures of the Atlantic Southeast’s summer, the sprawling theme park also boasts some of America’s most adrenaline-pumping water slides. Take the appropriately-named Daredevil Drop – requiring sliders to go down head first and backwards – or Dr Von Dark’s Tunnel of Terror, a medley of 360s and spooky turn sections.
There are also oodles of children’s slides, a wave pool and relaxation cabanas for the adults.
9. Go board walking at the Bog Garden at Benjamin Park
Open all year round, this seven-acre haven of greenery offers a taste of the North Carolinian wilds just a stone’s throw from the center of the city.
A winding boardwalk takes visitors deep into the bayou-esque woods, past bubbling bogs and fern-dressed wetlands, all the while the gushing sounds of the park’s manmade waterfall babbling away in the background.
There are groves of wild bamboo to explore, along with beds of blooming roses and meadow flowers, not to mention gnarled tree trunks and the nests of native owls to spy out between the canopies and undergrowth.
There are also oodles of ducks and wild birds flitting between the trees – great for the budding birdwatcher.
10. Enjoy burgers and bottles at Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing
The second of Greensboro’s two great microbreweries is Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing, which can be found nestled on the lively side of Elm Street right in the heart of the city.
Hearty and welcoming, the spot touts a whopping 12 beers on tap, ranging from the hefty General Stout to a North Carolinian beer of the month that changes regularly.
There are also oodles of IPAs and AIPAs padding out the drinks menu, while it’s burgers and Southern flavours that bring up the food offering.
Expect the likes of barbecue and Cajun buns, next to spicy veggie patties, slow-roasted pork pulls out of Tennessee and more deep-friend chicken wings than you can shake an in-house Guilford Golden Ale at!
11. Get a fix of local history at the Greensboro Historical Museum
Housed in the gorgeous former First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro, the city’s historical museum immerses visitors in heritage from the get go – the very building itself was constructed in 1892 in the classic Romanesque Revival style.
Inside and the exhibitions take over, chronicling everything from the earliest years of the Gate City to the days of the American Civil War in North Carolina.
Visitors can delve into reconstructions of how Greensboro looked back in the early 1900s, when its railroads drew monies developers from the east, or seek out the curious miniature rooms of revered interior designer Otto Zenke.
12. Trace the Greensboro Four at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum
Housed in the very same spot where the so-called Greensboro Four – David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair and Joseph McNeil – first initiated the routine of sit-ins during the American civil rights movement at the start of the 1960s, this fascinating museum is dedicated to both showcasing the realities of living in a segregated
America and celebrating those who helped to create change across the country. The exhibitions are at once sobering and engaging, containing Ku Klux Klan robes next to bona fide historical documents related to the reforms that legalised black voting in the mid-60s.
In short, it’s a great stop-off for any travelers interested in American history and civil rights.
13. Go shopping at the City Market
If you’re lucky enough to be around town on the third Thursday of the month during the summer, then be sure to make a beeline for Greensboro’s City Market.
This lively event erupts on the streets of the happening South End district for one night only, offering a medley of farmer’s stalls and food trucks, artisan crafts and live music, all of which is local to the greater area of the Piedmont Triad that surrounds Greensboro proper.
Visitors can sample BBQ and Tex-Mex, listen to ad hoc jazz shows and see grassroots artists at work. There’s also plenty of scope for mixing and chatting to the local folk of the Gate City – friendly and welcoming one and all!
14. See global artworks at the Ambleside Gallery
This independently-owned private gallery actually started life in Manchester, England back in the early 80s.
It’s since moved to specialise in showcasing English and European art in America, with its most recent manifestation gracing the sides of the much-loved South Elm Street of central Greensboro.
Currently, the exhibition covers a wide range of mediums and schools, ranging from the humanist realism of Guan Weixing (an artist who’s exclusive to the Ambleside!) to the Romantic and impressionist oil and pastel landscapes of Sarah Watts.
Drop in for regular events, and to see one of the most eclectic collections of art in the Gate City as a whole!