Cabarrus County offers an array of adventure and a memorable escape
PHOTO: The seat of Cabarrus County, Concord blends history and tradition with the countywide legacy of racing.
It’s the cosmic irony of life on the Grand Strand: While millions flock to our shores to take advantage of its natural beauty and dozens of attractions, we locals sometimes need to escape. And when we seek that deliverance, we pursue entertainment entirely removed from our otherwise fabulous surroundings.
Mountains? City? Theme park? A destination just a few hours away offers a sampling of each, complete with an environment and culture all its own. Cabarrus County, North Carolina, and the area surrounding Charlotte combines a legacy of motorsports with history, music, outdoor adventures and family fun that keeps visitors blissfully entertained and, just as importantly, fully checked out from the hectic pace of summer in our hometown.
Cabarrus County means racing, and the legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord is just one way to experience the fast lane. Tours of the raceway run daily, and Tuesdays in June and July feature Summer Shootout short-track series racing. Nearby Concord Speedway offers track action each Saturday, while an array of NASCAR race team shops, including Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing, provide enough cars, apparel, artifacts and memorabilia to raise the pulse and drop jaws all around. For those interested in hitting the track in an indoor environment, K1 Speed provides the desired adrenaline rush with all-electric karts on a professionally designed track complete with pit crew, safety helmets and race results with laptime data posted and printed.
Entertainment occurs at a slower pace and a lower decibel a few miles away at Reed Gold Mine in Midland, where 12-year-old Conrad Reed’s discovery of a 17-pound nugget in 1799 while fishing in Little Meadow Creek was the first documented gold find in the United States. This attraction involves a smattering of education to please parents balanced with enough open space and promise of treasure to thrill the kids. Visitors learn the basics of gold mining, including its technology and history, in the museum and can tour the mine itself, featuring several hundred feet of mine tunnels, before panning for gold just like the old-timers did it.
In addition to family entertainment, Cabarrus County also boasts signature music and cultural highlights. The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, featuring Concord’s very own Avett Brothers as well as artists as eclectic as James Taylor, Charlie Daniels, Andy Griffith and Ronnie Milsap, offers interactive exhibits and free guided tours.
The area’s artisan scene is vibrant as well, with galleries and boutiques scattered throughout Concord as well as a sizeable assemblage of craft breweries. If Mom and Dad have a few hours on their own, a tour of Southern Grace Distilleries, the only distillery in the United States housed in a former prison and affectionately dubbed “Whiskey Prison,” is well worth the time behind bars. Its award-winning, handcrafted small batch bourbon whiskey and quirky variety of spirits, combined with the essence of nostalgic Southern culture, make for a charming and memorable experience.
For speed and thrills of the natural, outdoor variety, the nearby U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) offers a dizzying array of adventures spanning water, land and sky. The whitewater rafting facility, site of training for the U.S. Olympic team, is the largest constructed whitewater river in the nation and features class II–IV rapids on multiple channels. For a quieter water experience, try kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding on the Catawba River. Thrills reach the treetops at USNWC as well, with a selection of eight ropes courses and four ziplines of varying difficulties that cross open sky, water and tree canopies, while mountain biking provides an off-road adventure through the woods complete with berms, bumps and downsides.
Cabarrus County has plenty of excellent lodging options, but parents who are in it to win it will choose Great Wolf Lodge, where options for adventure center on the 84-degree indoor water park but extend far beyond the pool. Even pint-sized Myrtle Waves aficionados will spend hours at the Howlers Peak ropes course, the Fort Mackenzie tipping bucket and Howlin’ Tornado raft ride, in addition to the outdoor portion of the water park open during summer months. When the gang is waterlogged and whooped, there’s more fun to come with a MagiQuest course that spans the resort, a Great Clock Tower Show featuring all the Great Wolf characters, an arcade, a bowling alley and a spa that will delight kids and adults equally. Fun and convenience seem to be twin goals here, as the resort offers touches such as wine and dessert pairings via room service for after the little ones conk out, waterpark access all day after checkout, and a Paw Pass that covers a wide range of on-site entertainment options for a reasonable price.
When the time inevitably arrives that a getaway beckons, head to Cabarrus County for a fun, immersive experience fully removed and full of renewal.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF VISITCABARRUS.COM