When government officials chose Greensboro as the Guilford County seat in 1808, it wasn't a bustling metropolis so much as a…duck pond. The appeal? The 42 private acres––many of which were under water––lay at the exact geographical center of the county, inspiring area officials to snatch it up and set about turning the low-lying property into a sprightly frontier town. Today, Greensboro teems with a population of more than 270,000 and those looking for things to do will find the city overflowing with cultural, historical, and family-friendly attractions.
History buffs will know Greensboro as the birthplace of the Civil Rights sit-in movement, which sparked to life in 1960 when four local African American college students took seats at a whites-only Woolworth's lunch counter. Those four counter stools have never moved from their original spot around the bar, though the world surrounding them has certainly changed: the building is now home to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum. Here, exhibits delve into the history of racial inequality; visitors can see old voter registration forms, examine the mug shots of protestors, and step into a recreated Greensboro Rail Depot, a major stop on the train’s route into the Deep South.
Kids—and their parents—can let their hair down at the Greensboro Children’s Museum, a 37,000-square-foot space chockfull of interactive exhibits designed to sharpen young minds. At The Market exhibit, kids fill mini shopping carts with food and check out at registers, while The Health Center lets little ones pretend to be doctors and dentists and provides all of the costumes they need to fully immerse themselves in the role.
Just outside of Greensboro stands another kid-friendly destination: the Wet ‘n Wild Emerald Pointe water park. Daredevil Drop may be the most daunting slide, launching riders down a 76-foot drop steep enough to simulate the feeling of free-fall. Families can pile three to a tube on the Runaway Raft ride––a tube slide that sends groups splashing down a 600-foot flume––or seek out gentler thrills in the park's wave pool, lazy river, and children’s play area.
Greensboro also has parks that match the more traditional definition of the word. At The Bog Garden at Benjamin Park, a boardwalk winds over seven acres of natural woodlands home to many plants, birds, and other wildlife. The Greensboro Arboretum is also worth a visit: kids may be especially taken with the butterfly garden, where colorful plants have been specifically chosen for their ability to attract the winged beauties.
Of course, as the third largest city in North Carolina, Greensboro has no shortage of hip shops, clubs, and shows, many centered around its energetic downtown. For dancing, head to Elm Street, where clubs like Blue Martini and Artistika keep the beats going until 2 a.m. For a more traditional night out, take in a movie, concert, or live show at the historic Carolina Theater, a restored 1920s vaudeville venue conveniently situated within walking distance of many eateries and area hotels.