Road Trip: Hickory, North Carolina


In the foothills of North Carolina, between Asheville and Charlotte, resting at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is the city of Hickory. This artsy community is the perfect road trip destination for those looking to explore North Carolina’s major cities and mountain ranges while still enjoying the charm that can only be found in small mountain towns like this one. While we definitely recommend blocking off a couple of days to explore Hickory’s surrounding areas, you simply cannot leave without seeing all there is to do right in town.

If you’ve got a car full of kiddos, there’s fun to be had at the SALT Block. With a museum, science center, library and more, little ones can spend hours in awe of the exhibits and hopefully learn something new while they’re at it! The Arts & Science Center, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the main attractions here. Inside the Catawba Science Center, you’ll find hands-on exhibits and aquarium galleries galore, plus a state-of-the-art digital planetarium theater. Meanwhile, the Hickory Museum of Art features rotating artwork exhibits from all over the world. It is home to the Southeast’s most extensive collection of Folk Art.

For more adult-geared fun, head to the Rock Barn Country Club & Spa, which offers many high-class amenities open to the public. Take in the North Carolina landscape as competition heats up on the 36-hole Jackson golf course, or spend the day at a slower pace (while having just as much fun) at The Spa at Rock Barn. Packed with rejuvenating options such as a saltwater pool with underwater music, therapeutic waterfalls, jacuzzis, saunas, steam rooms and a cold-water pool, you’ll emerge a new person after undergoing one of their health and beauty treatments.

To get a taste of Hickory’s true character, make your way to Downtown Hickory, the heart of the community. You may find yourself here more than once during your visit as their
downtown is home to various parks, trails, shops and restaurants bursting with popular local cuisines. As you stroll through the town and the Social District, don’t be afraid to stop, sip and shop. With a soapery, wine shop, bottle shop, plant and decor shop and plenty of boutiques, there are bound to be unique finds you won’t happen upon anywhere else.

When it comes to finding a place to stay, Hickory has got you covered. From upscale hotels like the Hilton Garden Inn or the Courtyard Marriott to quaint, historic B&Bs with prime locations like Loft 220 in the center of town or Sweet Tea Bed & Breakfast in Conover, there are plenty of places to rest your head at the end of the day.

Since you’ll already be exploring downtown, you might as well take this opportunity to take a little stroll down the City Walk, which runs directly through downtown and passes by plenty of shops, sights, businesses and more. The City Walk connects to the River Walk and other pieces of the Hickory Trail, which stretches over ten miles.

For a fancy evening out, enjoy a show from the Green Room Theatre, Hickory Community Theatre or Hickory’s newest music venue, The Hum. You’ll enjoy entertainment from acclaimed
guest artists and a host of talented, professional musicians. Hickory’s music scene is one of the high notes in the area.

If you’re looking to get a taste of Hickory, the best spot for this is downtown. With an ice cream shop, coffee shop, casual cafe, vegan joint and an elevated farm-to-table restaurant, they’ve got all the essentials covered within walking distance. Make a stop by the Olde Hickory Station and Market featuring a local market stocked with baked goods, meats and cheeses; a full-service cocktail bar; and restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch (on the weekends) for a little of everything!

For a boozy beverage to close out the night, check out the wine bar at Duke’s, The Vintage House or the Olde Hickory Taproom. With an interior dressed to the nines, The Vintage House is a perfect hangout for those looking to wind down at an ambient spot. Meanwhile, the Olde Hickory Taproom offers a lively but casual atmosphere for beer lovers and socializers alike.