Smithfield, in the heart of Johnston County, is a rural destination just outside of Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina's famed Research Triangle. Perhaps most famous as the home of Hollywood legend Ava Gardner, this convivial community situated along the Neuse River also has a historic downtown where the annual Ham & Yam Festival takes place. Smithfield event venues include the Ava Gardner Museum; nearby attractions are the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center, Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail and Hexagon Wake Park at Lake Tucker. Carolina Premium Outlets is just outside of town.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport is about a 20-minute drive from Smithfield.
Chief convention venues in Smithfield and nearby include Johnston County Agriculture Center, which features the largest ballroom space in the area, at 4,900 square feet. The Paul A. Johnston Auditorium, at Johnston Community College, is a 1,000-seat facility with state-of-the-art sound and lighting. In nearby Clayton, the Clayton Center Auditorium and Conference Center is a popular entertainment venue that offers groups a 600-seat historic auditorium and 12,000 square feet of meeting space in eight rooms.
Four hotel venues in Smithfield and environs cater to meetings in Johnston County. Becky's Log Cabin Motel & Restaurant has 60 guest rooms and meeting space for up to 300 people; the 72-room Comfort Inn can handle a meeting for 45 people; the 80-room Holiday Inn Express – Smithfield has meeting space to accommodate 90 people; and the 74-room Sleep Inn & Suites can host meetings for up to 90 people.
The unique venues of Johnston County include a museum, historic homes, wineries and even an upscale horse barn. At the Ava Gardner Museum, which honors Smithfield's hometown girl who became a movie legend, groups of up to 150 people can host a gathering amid priceless Hollywood memorabilia. Atkinson-Smith House, a restored antebellum home that is on the National Register of Historic Places, can host receptions of up to 150 people. And a flare of sophistication is found at the Piazza at Portofino or Ali2 Equestrian Center, both of which are part of the 400-acre Clayton Portofino planned community. Groups of up to 100 people can have a reception indoors and an unlimited number can be accommodated outdoors.
Across the rolling hills surrounding Smithfield are a number of wineries, most of which are open to group visits. Three that cater particularly to group functions are Hinnant Family Vineyards, Gregory Vineyards and Enoch Winery.
When it comes to dining, North Carolina is known for its barbecue and Smithfield has some tasty versions: Both Holt Lake BBQ & Seafood and McCall's Bar-B-Que & Seafood serve up old fashioned barbecue and down-home ambience. For a true Southern family-style restaurant, Parkside Cafe is the place to be, and Robbins Nest is the Southern buffet at its finest, an abundant feast that has to include fried chicken and every type of pie imaginable.