To know: Known as the birthplace of NASCAR, Cabarrus County is also home to the first documented discovery of gold in America and one of the most-visited tourist destinations in the state: Concord Mills. But the area’s once-thriving textile industry has morphed into so much more than a motorsports mecca built around Charlotte Motor Speedway and zMax Dragway.
To eat: One word: Barbecue. The Smoke Pit, known for its award-winning barbecue, is a savory den of deliciousness loved by die-hard barbecue enthusiasts and local critics. Then there’s Local 25, which serves up artful dishes that feature locally-grown produce and humanely-raised meats and seafood.
To drink: Cabarrus’ brewery scene is booming with Cabarrus Brewing, High Branch Brewing, Red Hill Brewing and Twenty-Six Acres Brewing, all opening in the past few years. For a larger selection, go for the 20-plus rotating taps (and perhaps the open mic) at Lil’ Robert’s Place in downtown Concord. Or sample wines at Dover Vineyards, and the Sun Dog 130 moonshine at Southern Grace Distilleries, which is housed in a former N.C. prison.
To do: Pan for gold at Reed Gold Mine, the only underground gold mine in North Carolina open to the public. Then see gold records at the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, which features exclusive exhibits of Carolina-based artists from every genre and throughout every era of the music industry. Feeling artsy? Catch a play at Old Courthouse Theatre’s Main Stage in Concord.