When thinking about Cabarrus County, many envision NASCAR races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, water fun at the Great Wolf Lodge or shopping at the state’s biggest tourist attraction, Concord Mills.
They’re all popular draws for this area, which is located in south-central North Carolina and about 25 miles northeast of uptown Charlotte. However, there are many lesser-known gems that make Cabarrus County shine. Here’s a look at some of them:
Walking by the historic homes on Union Street in Concord gives visitors a glimpse into the early 1900s. There’s the circa 1928 home of textile magnate and Cannon Mills founder Charles A. Cannon. You’ll also see the Cabarrus County historic courthouse, erected in 1876 and located downtown.
Memorial Garden, two streets over on Spring Street, is a beautifully restored cemetery and garden on three acres of land. It belongs to the First Presbyterian Church and dates back to 1804. Well-manicured year-round, the tulip blooms at Easter are simply breathtaking.
Midland, home of Reed Gold Mine, offers tours of the mine located where the first documented gold find in the United States occurred in 1799. While there be sure to try your luck panning - many have found a flake or two.
Just up the road on N.C. 200 is Bost Grist Mill, built in the 1870s and moved in the early 1900s. The mill still grinds corn with stones and techniques used in the 1800s to produce cornmeal and grits for sale in their store.
Though most of the old textile mills have disappeared, downtown Kannapolis remains one of the largest mill towns in the south. The Gem Theatre, on First Street, is one of the town's crown jewels. Founded in 1936, it’s one of the oldest single-screen theaters in continuous operation in the southeastern United States.
Cabarrus County is home to many NASCAR teams which offer shop tours for their loyal fans. The hometown of legend Dale Earnhardt built a plaza with a statue of his likeness, right on Main Street in Kannapolis.
If science is your thing, follow the biotechnology, nutrition and health studies on the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. Researchers from Appalachian State University, Duke University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte and UNC Greensboro are working to find new discoveries that could help prolong life.
The Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium at Concord Mills displays many species of marine life while encouraging interactions between guests and some of the 5,000 sea creatures living there.
In addition to NASCAR and their Summer Shootout series, the Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts The Dirt Track and zMax Dragway for those who are looking for different kinds of racing action.
If you are looking for short-track racing, head south on U.S. 601 to Midland to find Concord Speedway, where locals drive street stock and modified race cars on the half-mile paved track or Bandoleros on a quarter-mile track. An alcohol-free family section and tailgating close to the track are two of the big draws for watching the local racers mix it up.
The Kannapolis Intimidators fill the summer nights with Class A South Atlantic League baseball, adding post game fireworks for special occasions at their stadium off Interstate 85.
Breweries at Gibson Mill
In addition to the shops housed there, the county’s two first craft beer breweries, High Branch Brewing Company and Cabarrus Brewing Company, recently opened in the renovated textile mill. Both breweries have incorporated the theme of the old mill - one of the few to avoid the wrecking ball - into their ambiance and offer their own, handmade libations.
The Cabarrus Arts Council houses a gallery and theater for live performances in the Cabarrus County historic courthouse. Their frequent art walks include several private galleries, eateries and shops in the downtown area, providing many opportunities to see and purchase works by local talent along with more famous artists.
Other opportunities to see and buy local art include Concord’s Spring Into Arts Festival, Harrisburg ARTwalk and the Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Festival in Kannapolis.
Music lovers of all ages will enjoy a trip to the N.C. Music Hall of Fame in Kannapolis, which is dedicated to displaying memorabilia and biographies of famous musicians from our state.
Enjoy water fun, and green spaces
There are public swimming pools at Camp T. N. Spencer Park and the Academy Recreation Center in Concord, but the splash pads at Rotary Square and Market in Concord and Village Park in Kannapolis are the newest way for children to cool off during the hot days.
If you’re in search of a scenic getaway drive, the outlying areas in China Grove, Landis, Midland and Mount Pleasant still have the large farms and open spaces that use to cover all of Cabarrus County.
Marty Price is a freelance writer and photographer who has covered Cabarrus County for more than three decades.