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10+ Things to Do with Kids Near Concord, NC in Cabarrus County

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Have you visited Cabarrus County in North Carolina? Just a short two-hour drive from the Upstate, Cabarrus County offers tons of fun for kids from a historic gold mine you can tour, to a famous NASCAR speedway and NHRA dragway. In this article, we’ll share more than 10 places you can take your kids near Concord plus all the tips you need to make it a family memory you will never forget.

Thank you to Explore Cabarrus for providing lodging and some of these experiences.

This article includes:
Charlotte Motor Speedway
ZMAX Dragway
Reed Gold Mine
Great Wolf Lodge
Concord Mills
SEA LIFE Aquarium
The Speedpark
Lionel Retail Store
The Percantile & Creamery
iFly Concord
Hendrick Motorsports Museum and Team Store
K1 Speed Indoor Karting
Kannapolis, NC: Village Park and More
Sunflour Baking Company


Cabarrus County Trails: Hiking, Biking, and Paved Walking Trails

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Are you looking to explore some hiking and biking trails in Cabarrus County, NC? Cabarrus is home to dozens of trail systems, and explorers are rewarded any time of year with the naturally beautiful landscapes the trails carve their way through.  From family-friendly hiking and mountain biking to leisurely strolls and water recreation, Cabarrus County has a nature trail for you to fall in love with!

Located just Northeast of Charlotte, Cabarrus County may be synonymous to some as the hub for NASCAR enthusiasts. However, the natural beauty of the rolling countryside throughout the county balances out nicely against the backdrop of major cities like Concord and Harrisburg. Many of the trail systems listed below highlight the ability of nature and civilization to combine positively, in a way that is beneficial to the natural system while keeping the growth and expansion of nearby cities in mind. So, lace up those boots and check out some of the top trail systems to hike or bike throughout Cabarrus County in the list below!

Natural Trails to Hike and Bike in Cabarrus County

Carolina Thread Trail

Length: 12.6 miles of completed land trails in Cabarrus County
105.1 miles planned for construction
Difficulty: Easy to strenuous 
Offers: Running, walking, mountain biking, and hiking

The Thread is a multi-county, regional trail system that offers 11 segments in Cabarrus County alone! There are over 300 miles of land trails to explore and 170 miles of water trails, with stunning views. The public can access launch points throughout the system to kayak, canoe, and participate in other watersports that connect to other land trails across North and South Carolina. The Carolina Thread Trail is expanding, with a master plan to eventually join the current 11 segments in Cabarrus for a total of 105.1 miles of trail in Cabarrus County. 

The Buffalo Creek Preserve Trail

Length: 2.1 miles one way
Difficulty: Moderate
Offers: Hiking, walking, mountain biking, running

The Buffalo Creek Preserve Trail is one of The Thread’s featured trails. The trailhead is particularly interesting due to conservation efforts by the Catawba Lands Conservatory, being made up of a restored Piedmont Oak Savannah. The trail continues past streams and wetlands, through working farmland, into serene habitats, and finally through young forests. The trail is also part of the Butterfly Highway, a conservation initiative to create networks of pollinator-supportive plants and habitats. 

Trails for Mountain Biking in Cabarrus County

Brown Mill Mountain Bike Trail

Length: 4.25 trail miles
Difficulty: All skill levels 
Offers: Mountain Biking

Located just a few miles from Downtown Concord, NC, the Brown Mill Mountain Bike Trail has something for all skill levels to enjoy. There are multiple dips, flow sections, jumps, switchbacks, rock features, and a gravity cavity that make it a premier spot for mountain biking. The trail is suitable for most riders and is perfect for biking multiple laps to hone your skills.

Rob Wallace Park

Length: 3.5 trail miles total
Difficulty: All skill levels
Offers: Mountain biking, walking trails, playground, picnics, fishing

Rob Wallace Park is located in Midland and offers a skills area for beginner to expert mountain bikers to perfect their skills along with balance features and berms. Within the park is the Powder House Trail, a one-mile-long riding trail, as well as the 0.7-mile Quarry Loop. 

Village Park Paved Trails

Paved Trails in Cabarrus County

Hector Henry Greenway

Length: 5.7 miles total
Difficulty: Easy
Offers: Walking, hiking, biking

The Hector Henry Greenway runs along the Rocky River and connects three segments, The Mills at Rocky River, Riverwalk, and Moss Creek. The trails are primarily paved and are considered easy for biking and walking. The Greenway is part of The Thread trail system and offers wildlife viewings, boardwalks, educational displays, and gorgeous views of the surrounding wetlands. 

Village Park

Length: Multiple paved trails throughout the 16-acre park
Paved walking paths throughout the park

Located in Kannapolis, Village Park offers over 16 acres to explore. There are paved walking paths throughout the park through green space, perfect for picnics and outdoor recreation. The park also offers a splash pad and a ride-on train, the Rotary Express Train, which is a g-24 scale replica. The cost for the train is $1.50 per person and it is open on weekends from April until September. In addition, there are picnic shelters, a carousel, music concert series, and special events at this park to enjoy during your walk or bike trip.

Harrisburg Park

Length: 2.5 miles of trails for hiking and biking
Difficulty: Easy, Moderate, and Difficult trail offerings
Offers: Hiking, biking, playground, amphitheater, splash pad (summer)

Harrisburg Park has over 2.5 miles of both paved and natural trails to explore for both hiking and biking. The Ball Field Loop is considered easy and is approximately 0.5 miles long, perfect for strolling or letting your kids join you on your walk. If you’re looking for something more difficult, the Harrisburg Extension Loop offers 1.5 miles of trails with some moderate to difficult hills to climb as you venture through the forest and across three creek crossings. In addition, the park offers a large playground, a splash pad in summer, and special events at the amphitheater.

Are you ready to explore the outdoors in Cabarrus County?

Lake Glenville is a Hidden Gem in Western NC

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Lake Glenville in Jackson County, NC is truly a hidden gem, perfect for families especially who love the outdoors, and a peaceful retreat away from our busy lives.

Thanks Jackson County, North Carolina for inviting us to spend a weekend at Lake Glenville.

The Cashiers area of Western North Carolina has held a special place in my heart since my family moved to South Carolina more than eight years ago because it was the first place we took a family vacation. And it was just amazing – we hiked, ate at delicious restaurants, went swimming in waterfalls, tried out paddle boarding, and had that relaxing family trip I had envisioned. Now, even years later and after many day trips to the area, I’m still in love with this piece of heaven and was delighted to explore a part of Jackson County that I had yet to check out: Lake Glenville.

My two daughters, ages 11 and 8, packed as much as we possibly could into the weekend and left reluctantly because we had such a great time together. I already have a list of things I want to do that we didn’t get to. But, for now, let me tell you about why Lake Glenville should be on your family’s list of places to go, especially if you’re searching for that hidden gem of a spot to relax and enjoy each other. And one of the best parts: we did our entire weekend trip on just one tank of gas.

If you need more ideas of places to go and things to do in the Cashiers area, see our big guide!

Pines Rec Lake Glenville
Pines Recreation Area at Lake Glenville

Take a Boat Ride on the Highest Lake East of the Mississippi River in Jackson County, NC

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You can explore Lake Glenville, the highest lake in Eastern US, in Jackson County, NC by boat with Lake Glenville Scenic Boat Tours. We did the beautiful boat tour and will tell you all you need to know to enjoy the scenic lake.

Thanks to Jackson County, North Carolina for hosting us and providing the opportunity to take the boat tour.

Created in 1941, Lake Glenville is the highest lake east of the Mississippi River at more than 3,400 feet. But really, even if you didn’t know this cool information, you would be just as enamored as I was seeing it because it’s spectacularly gorgeous and serene. That’s what drew me in the most. There’s something really special about mountain lakes (besides the amazing fact that they are free from sharks). Maybe it’s that crisp mountain air, the ancient hills that loom in the distance, that clear water – whatever it is, that’s where I want to be. 

So when I had the opportunity to take a boat tour with Captain Mark and his scenic boat cruise on Lake Glenville – the only boat tour company that operates on the lake – I was all in. We got to see waterfalls, a bald eagle nest, and enjoy the beauty of the lake. 

Lake Glenville Boat Tour

French Broad Chocolate Factory Tour: Bean to Bar in Asheville, NC

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Have you heard of French Broad Chocolate? The Asheville, NC-based chocolate company gives tours of their factory complete with a chocolate tasting. And while you won’t see any Oompa Loompa’s on this tour, or float down a river of chocolate on your way to rooms in the factory, you will learn where cacao beans come from and see how French Broad Chocolate turns the beans into their delicious bars, bonbons, and sipping chocolate. We attended the Bean-to-Bar tour and we have everything you’ll want to know about this educational and delicious family activity.

Thanks to French Broad Chocolate Factory and Cafe for providing complimentary tickets so we could bring this review to our readers.

Cacao Beans waiting to be made into chocolate at French Broad Chocolate

Pick apples, explore a corn maze, and eat pumpkin donuts at Stepp’s Orchard in Hendersonville, NC

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This family-owned orchard in Hendersonville, NC has u-pick apples, lots of fun family activities on weekends, and pretty amazing cider and pumpkin donuts.

Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard is the very first u-pick apple orchard in Henderson County and has been in operation for more than 50 years. They know what they’re doing and we had to go check it out for ourselves. Honestly, I went for the pumpkin donuts. I love apple cider donuts but pumpkin? Yes, please!

One thing that stood out to me immediately was just how super nice and helpful everyone at the orchard was. They have u-pick apples, pre-picked apples, a big store that sells homemade soap, t-shirts, and honey, a bakery, corn maze, pumpkin patch, jumping pillow, apple canon, and wagon ride. Some of these activities are only available on weekends, which I’ll tell you about in this review.

Stepps Orchard

See Dinosaurs, Critters, Minerals, and More At The Schiele Museum of Natural History In Gastonia, North Carolina

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Have you visited the Schiele Museum of Natural History? Located in Gastonia, North Carolina the museum makes a great day trip. Kidding Around’s Melanie had a lot of fun visiting the museum with her children. They enjoyed exhibits on dinosaurs, minerals, animals, critters, nature and so much more! If you haven’t been yet, you should definitely add it to your museum bucket list.

Thank you to the Schiele Museum for providing admission to the museum so we could bring this review to our readers! The words and opinions in this article are that of the writer.

Read our Guide to fun In Gastonia, NC for more fun you can have while visiting the museum.


Celebrating Halloween With A Getaway or Day Trip

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Make a Halloween day trip! Wondering what to do for Halloween this year? Here’s a list of destinations with Halloween events that are worth the drive. These make a stellar day trip and an even better weekend getaway.

Don’t forget to let us know how you’re celebrating Halloween in 2022 in the comments.

If spending the night in a haunted cabin or hotel sounds like an excellent way to spend Halloween, don’t miss our list of Haunted Cabins, Hotels, and Tours.

This article includes:
Halloween Events in Georgia
Halloween Events in Tennesse
Halloween Events in South Carolina


10 Fabulous Things to Do in Gastonia, North Carolina

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Looking for a town to explore on a day trip? Just an hour from the Upstate is Gastonia, NC. We discovered this town is full of things to do. There is a fabulous museum, parks, and some of the best milkshakes in the country according to USA Today. Since Gastonia is so close to the Upstate it makes a great day trip!

Looking for more fun in the area? Check Out The Ultimate Guide To Fun With Kids in Charlotte, North Carolina


Pan for Real Gold at Lucky Strike in Western North Carolina

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Have you ever panned for gold? Parts of Western NC are known for gems and gold mining and Lucky Strike in Marion, NC has both. We tried our hand at gold panning, and here’s how it went!

During our wonderful stay at Gold River, a glamping campground in Western North Carolina, only 90 minutes from Greenville, the kind owners recommended we go gold panning at Lucky Strike Gold and Gem Mine, just two miles down the road. I’ve done gem mining on a flume a couple of times, which is pretty fun, but it’s fast and not too hard. I thought gold panning would be the same. And did I think we would find gold? Absolutely not. 

I was wrong on both accounts!

Lucky Strike Gold Panning
Where’s that gold?

Lucky Strike Gem Mine & Campground

Lucky Strike is located on the Second Broad River, a shallow, bubbling creek that apparently is rich in gold and mineral deposits. The place is a campground that has tent sites, camper pads, and cabins. It used to be a mining operation but switched in the late 90s to open up more to the public and amateur prospectors. 

The owner, Liz McCormick, is one of the nicest people I think I’ve ever met. The woman is a wealth of knowledge about gold panning and the local area. She was so patient in teaching my kids and I how to properly pan for gold and sift through the massive bucket of dirt that we got. 

The Miner’s Diner

I love me a good diner and Lucky Strike has a small diner with prices that will have you believing that you stepped back to the 1950s to match. They have coffee and breakfast sandwiches, grits, burgers, fries, hashbrowns, and sweet tea. It was too early for lunch when we went so we ordered a couple of bacon and egg sandwiches on biscuits. They were delicious!

Liz told us the burgers are what customers come back for. I almost went back there for dinner just to try the burgers (at $3 each, why not, right?) but we were so wiped out that we stayed back at Gold River to relax. Next time. 

Panning for Gold

I honestly was not thinking we would find any gold. I mean, didn’t that already happen like decades and decades ago? Well, there is some gold left for us! 

Lucky Strike Gold Panning
Gold panning lesson

First of all, panning for gold isn’t like gem mining. Gold flecks are a lot smaller than gems and precious stones so you can’t use those square pans with holes in them. You have to use concave discs that have ridges you use to create little sandy beds with the dirt. Then it is then sifted over with water and spun around a bit to separate any gold you may have from the sand. Liz explained this a lot better than I am.

There is definitely a method to figuring it out and it’s a slow process. I initially thought we would go through two 4-gallon buckets of dirt. We ended up getting one of them ($15) and more than two hours after we started panning for gold, we still had more than a third of the bucket left! I ended up giving the rest to a couple near us since we had to move on to another excursion. Between gold panning and eating at the diner, you could easily spend several hours here. 

And we did find gold! When you do gold panning, you get a little suction thing to grab the gold and a small container to put it in so you can see your prize up close. It was so cool and my kids and I had such a blast doing it. 

Lucky Strike Gold Flakes
The gold we found

My kids, ages 11 and 8, really enjoyed it as well although my youngest seemed to be getting bored over an hour into it because she was having some trouble figuring out the whole panning technique. I think a lot of the interest will depend upon each individual kid. 

Another cool thing about either choosing gem mining or gold panning is that you can do it rain or shine since the flumes are under a big, covered shelter. 

Visiting Lucky Strike Gold & Gem Mine

Lucky Strike is open daily 8 am – 7 pm except for Christmas Day. They have other things related to panning there as well but I honestly have no idea what they mean: high banking, group digs, and dredging. I did see a lot of heavy machinery there and big tubes and hoses but I don’t know anything about this topic to even guess how they are used. My gold mining knowledge only extends to a couple of Discovery Channel shows. 

Lucky Strike has restrooms and a little gift shop on site. 

If you’re up in the area, I highly recommend checking out Lucky Strike for the sheer excitement of trying your luck panning for gold and of course, grabbing a burger while you’re at it. 

The Lucky Strike
251 Lucky Strike Lane, Marion, NC 28752

Charlotte Guides