Outdoor Activities in Kinston, NC

The Exchange Nature Center in Kinston, NC
The Exchange Nature Center in Kinston, NC

Outdoor Offerings

With 11 parks‚ the Kinston/Lenoir Recreation Department has plenty of offerings – among them golf‚ tennis‚ basketball‚ softball‚ bridge‚ aerobics‚ line dancing and crafts for adults.

Kids have options galore‚ with the community hosting several baseball and softball tournaments each summer‚ some with 100 teams‚ according to Bill Ellis‚ the department’s director.

The department owns its own nature center on 55 acres along the Neuse River‚ with trails‚ ponds stocked with catfish‚ an 18-foot wall for rock climbing and a saltwater “touch tank” where wee hands can feel sea urchins‚ starfish and other creatures. There are native and exotic animals‚ including lots of snakes.

In addition, the department has opened the 26-acre Rotary Dog Park‚ tailored to host retriever competitions. The space also has a more traditional-style dog park area for family pets to romp off-leash.

The land is part of 1‚600 acres of floodplain claimed by Hurricane Floyd in September 1999. The Federal Emergency Management Agency bought the flooded homes in the low-lying area near the river and relocated the residents‚ Ellis says.

That left a hefty parcel that landed in the public’s hands. Most of it‚ Ellis says‚ will be left to grow into a natural area‚ though plans are underway to develop areas for skeet shooting and hunter safety courses.

The additions will augment the region’s already impressive line-up of outdoor activities. The area has 18 baseball fields for Little League and eight high school-sized fields. Lenoir County also has two private‚ one public and one disc golf course, located at Barnet Park.

Enjoy the Environment

Nature lovers can easily spend a full day at Neuseway Nature Center. Mile-long trails are family-friendly. The park allows tent and RV camping as well as picnicking. The playground looks like a jungle‚ with new equipment every year.

Bobby Cox‚ the center’s naturalist and curator‚ also plans to add a train big enough for even adults to ride near the playground area.

New attractions help bring in visitors – the center hosts 75‚000-80‚000 people each year – but old standards still have their draw. “They love to come in and see the rattlesnakes‚” Cox says.

Admission is free to the county-owned center, and rock climbing is just $2 per person.

Road Racing

Residents and visitors alike can enjoy participating in the annual 8K Run for the River, a 4.97 mile race that attracts runners throughout the southeast. Participants run along the Neuse River and through Kinston.

The race is the product of a partnership between Pride, the City of Kinston’s Public Safety Department and the Kinston-Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Department. In addition, the event attracts a variety of sponsors and 150 community volunteers.

For those interested in a completely different form of racing, the Kinston Drag Strip serves as a place where spectators can watch drivers speed around the racetrack.

The Kinston Drag Strip was originally built as a quarter-mile dragstrip in 1960 and has been owned by Kinston native Bobby Smith since 1977.

Find more on recreation opportunities in Kinston, NC.

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