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Enjoy an adrenaline rush and family fun with these 8 great things to do on a Cabarrus County getaway to North Carolina, home to NASCAR, drag racing, whiskey prison, and much more. With the tag line “where racing lives” you know a Cabarrus County getaway offers plenty of motorsports fun. But you’ll also find cool downtowns, unique history, outdoor adventures, and quick access to Charlotte for a dose of city time.
Here are 8 great things to do during a Cabarrus County getaway.
1. Head to the Racetrack
The Charlotte Motor Speedway is an extensive complex of racing fan fun that is the centerpiece of an adrenaline-filled Cabarrus County getaway. The 1.5-mile superspeedway hosts three major NASCAR races each year along with a variety of other events for auto enthusiasts.
If your visit doesn’t coincide with a race day, you can still tour the track and snap a pic in the Winner’s Circle. Our Over the Wall tour included a fun ride around the track and a behind the scenes peak at a luxury suite, the press box, and the on-site broadcast studio.
If the timing is right, follow your tour with lunch at The Speedway Club, offering tasty, up-scale dining with an incredible view of the track. Be sure to make reservations in advance.
Just across the road, the “Bellagio of drag strips” fires up fans with four lanes of drag racing drama. The zMAX Dragway hosts the only four-wide race on the NHRA schedule, three days of races featuring funny cars, nitro-fueled machines. Every ticket is also a pit pass, so arrive early to check out the cars and drivers (both the famous and the up-and-coming) before the race.
2. Visit a NASCAR Team Shop
Ninety percent of NASCAR teams have shops in and near Cabarrus County. The Hendrick Motorsports campus supports four full time teams, and welcomes visitors (free!) to their race shop, museum, and store. It’s a cool spot to view some racing history and state-of-the-art technology before you head to the track on race day.
3. Explore the Dale Trail
Fuel up for the day at Punchy’s Diner, a 50’s style American diner, then head out on the Dale Trail. Kannapolis is Dale Earnhardt’s hometown, and the Dale Trail includes landmarks related to his NASCAR career and life in the county. Don’t miss a photo opp at the 9 foot statue of Dale in the downtown Dale Earnhardt Plaza.
4. Visit a Gold Mine and Sample Local Wine
Step back in time at the Reed Gold Mine, site of the first documented discovery of gold in America. Guided tours through restored parts of the mine are a fun and interesting opportunity to learn about the miners difficult and dangerous job. After your tour, allow time to try your luck panning for gold. Start with a pan full of dirt then swirl, rinse, and swirl until you uncover shiny specks of gold to take home.
All that swirling is hard work, so reward your efforts with a stop down the road at Rocky River Vineyards. This family-owned vineyard grows native muscadine grapes, and serves sweet North Carolina Muscadine wine along with other varietals.
5. Tour and Taste at the Whiskey Prison
Enjoy an entirely unique and tasty tour at Southern Grace Distilleries, aka Whiskey Prison. The former prison turned distillery tour begins with a short film narrated by former prisoners and staff, and a chance to take your own mug shot. Explore the prison buildings and learn about how this abandoned site has come back to life as a local craft business.
At the end of your tour, sample Southern Grace favorites, including the powerful Sun Dog 130 Uncut North Carolina Moonshine and the delicious Sun Dog Pink Lemonade. You can even enjoy a sip from inside one of the original solitary confinement cells. Haunted site fans can visit during one of the popular After Dark Tours.
6. Stroll and Eat in Downtown Concord
There are plenty of chain restaurants near the speedway, but we recommend a visit to historic downtown Concord. Neighborhood favorite Gianni’s Trattoria is a good bet for tasty pasta and European Italian inspired dishes.
After dinner, stroll over to Cabarrus Creamery and choose a scoop or three of ice cream in a wide range of flavors.
7. Visit the City
Charlotte Marriott City Center is an ideal hotel for a downtown overnight. The location is perfect for walking around the downtown neighborhoods, and the suite-style rooms are spacious and comfortable. Downstairs, the open lobby boasts chic spaces to hang out, an excellent breakfast, and the on-site restaurant, STOKE.
STOKE serves delicious, locally-sourced meals from an open kitchen with wood-fired oven, and an up-scale but relaxed vibe. Sit back with a cocktail and watch the chefs work their magic, then order a mix of plates to share. Tip—the Sticky Pork Shank is a plate of fall-of-the-bone yumminess. After dinner ask for directions to the hidden speakeasy, The Dock, for more unique cocktails with an old school flare.
8. Raft, Zip, Climb, and Play at the National Whitewater Center
Work off your meal with a day of adventure fun at the National Whitewater Center. A single fee covers all-you-can-play experiences including whitewater rafting and kayaking, zip-lining, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, jumps, and ropes courses. Friendly, expert guidance helped us overcome fears as we climbed the tower and zip-lined for the first time. Allow time to chill with a local brew and a healthy meal at the Pumphouse Biergarten and River’s Edge Restaurant as you watch the action all around you.
Where to Stay During a Cabarrus County Getaway
Concord is at the heart of racing activity, and the Hampton Inn and Suites is a great home base for your visit. The property is close enough to hear raceway practice runs, but not so close you’ll be in the middle of the crowds on race days. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, with free wifi and breakfast included.
Our stay, activities, and some meals were hosted by Visit Cabarrus and Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. All opinions are our own.
Article by Julie McCool, whose Virginia travel site FuninFairfaxVA.com helps locals and visitors find fun places to explore, dine, drink, and play in the Virginia, Washington DC, and mid-Atlantic region. Follow Fun in Fairfax VA on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.