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
Looking for more day trip ideas near Greenville, SC? We have your Ultimate Guide to Day Trips Near the Upstate.
Things to Do in Gastonia, North Carolina
Schiele Museum of Natural History
We were recently invited to check out the Schiele Museum of Natural History, in Gastonia. This museum was the number one mentioned activity when we polled readers about what we should do on a trip to Gastonia. We enjoyed the museum and had enough time to explore more of the town after leaving the museum.
Knowing how I’m on a continual quest for awesome tacos, Reader Jes suggested we try Viva Tequis. I’m so grateful she did. In fact, I thought about the food from there for days after.
Ok, I’ll be honest. I actually detoured through Gastonia the following weekend on a trip to Charlotte, just to eat there again. If that’s not enough of a reason for you to want to go, let me tell you about the actual food. Viva Tequis offers tacos, tortas, tostadas and more. They serve coke soft drinks, horchata, jamaica and there’s a bar in the back. While there is no children’s menu, the menu items are ala-carte and kid-friendly. You can fill your belly with yummy food for under $10 and that’s another reason to love this place! Fresh ingredients top the food with your choice of sauces from the hot sauce bar. My favorite items from the menu are the carne asada tostada and the carnitas taco, both topped with the hot avocado sauce from the salsa bar.
Viva Tequis | 238 West Main Avenue, Gastonia NC 28052
The Parks Of Gastonia, North Carolina
After an early dinner, we headed on to explore the local parks. Gastonia has several parks with stuff to do to keep kids entertained any time of the year.
Gastonia’s first park, Lineberger Park has everything you could ask for in a park. Consisting of 18.5 acres, Lineberger Park is fun for families. You’ll find hiking trails that pass a Vietnam War Memorial, a playground, a mini-train ride, a splash pad, and a public pool.
The pool is open Memorial Day through Labor day and costs only $4 per person for a 2.5-hour session. That’s quite a deal because the park offers not only a pool, but a lazy river, a two-story waterslide, and an additional splash pad from the one in the park.
The splash pad in the park is open from mid-May through mid-September. The train is just $1 per person and has seasonal hours that can be viewed on the city website. The train doesn’t run during the winter months, December through February.
Lineberger Park | 632 East Garrison Avenue, Gastonia NC 28054
The splash pad at Lineberger was at capacity on the day we visited, so we went on to explore the next park on our list. Erwin park has a playground, a community pool, and a splash pad. The kids really enjoyed the dump bucket feature and the water cannons. Someone smart designed these water cannons. The kids kept trying to squirt the adults, but the water turns to a trickle when it’s pointed toward the perimeter of the splash pad.
Erwin park | 1000 North Pryor Street, Gastonia NC 28052
After the splash pad, we continued on to the next park on our “Gastonia Park Hop”. To say that I was shocked to see Martha Rivers park as we pulled up would be an understatement. It looks just like the castle design at Greer’s Century park, prior to the redesign. The huge castle playground has ample seating for parents, and a restroom adjacent to the playground. There are also fields for playing soccer and other sports.
Martha Rivers Park | 1515 Neal Hawkins Road, Gastonia NC 28056
We left the park at sunset and headed to the ice cream shop that our reader Rachel said to try. Tony’s Ice cream turned out to be a popular place! The fact that an article declaring it the “best place in all of North Carolina to grab a milkshake” was published that week probably lent to the insanity. We waited for nearly an hour with a lobby full of people for a hand-spun milkshake that was huge and sticking out over the cup! Over a century old, Tony’s Ice cream is the place to be seen on a weekend night in Gastonia!
Tony’s Ice Cream | 604 East Franklin Boulevard, Gastonia NC 28054
Things on our list for the next trip to Gastonia
Gastonia has catfish races. During the annual Carolina Catfish Festival, people pick out the catfish they think will be the quickest swimmer and then hope for the best as fish compete in heats over the course of the festival. The festival includes fishing activities for kids and more.
The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden was recommended by readers, and while it’s not technically in Gastonia, it’s off the same exit as the museum. Information about the garden and its events can be found on the official Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. During the holidays, they have a holiday light festival that looks awesome and is on our winter activity list!
Rankin Lake Park is a great stop for fans of disc golf! You can enjoy 18 holes of disc golf with the beautiful lake in the background. The park also has a newly redesigned playground that includes a zipline, a walking trail, picnic shelters, and boat rentals. Fishing is allowed at the lake and requires a North Carolina Fishing permit for those age 16 and over, and a fishing fee of $2/$3 per person for non-residents. Boat rentals start at $5 an hour and include the fishing fee for the lake. Swimming is not permitted at the lake.
Rankin Lake Park | 1750 Rankin Lake Road, Gastonia NC 28052
A great stop for homeschooling families and lovers of history, this relatively new museum focuses on the contributions of local African Americans to the area. The museum offers educational opportunities for all ages and a virtual tour on its website.
African American Museum of Gastonia | Loray Mill – 300 S. Firestone St., Suite P Gastonia, NC 28052
We enjoyed our time in Gastonia, and think you will too! I’m looking forward to the seasonal programs at the Schiele Museum and that Holiday Light Festival at the Botanical Garden.