If you are looking for a fun escape from Charlotte, NC you will be surprised at the number of things to do in Hickory, just an hour’s drive away! I grew up not far from Charlotte, and have spent many years exploring the small towns around the area like Hickory.

Hickory has grown and changed so much in the last 10 years. With a bustling downtown and many small businesses and outdoor recreation opportunities, there is no shortage of things to do during a weekend or day trip to this North Carolina town!

I recently spent a full weekend exploring Hickory and put together the perfect itinerary for your next visit.

Keep reading for the ultimate guide to Hickory, NC.

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Visit Hickory Metro, who hosted me during my stay. All statements are my own honest opinion. This post may contain affiliate links, which help keep the blog running at no cost to you. Thank you for helping support Adventures Abound so I can keep creating free content for your adventure planning!

A scenic forest path on a sunny day, surrounded by tall pine trees on the left and bright green foliage on the right. The paved walkway curves gently, inviting a peaceful stroll through the natural landscape.

Best Things to Do in Hickory Outdoors

With Lake Hickory, Lake Norman, the Catawba River, South Mountain, and even the nearby Pisgah National Forest, there is no shortage of outdoor adventure in the greater Hickory Metro area.

A wooden boardwalk leads to an observation deck overlooking a serene lake under a clear blue sky. The lake is surrounded by lush greenery and a few houses are visible in the distance, adding to the tranquil, scenic view.

1. Start with a leisurely stroll along Lake Norman at Mountain Creek Park

Within Catawba County, there are many parks that are perfect for a short hike during your visit. We enjoyed Mountain Creek Park on Lake Norman with its 18+ miles of flat trails, and even a pump track for cyclists to enjoy. 

The park is so peaceful you will want to pack a hammock or picnic to enjoy the solitude and forget you’re near a major metro area. Mountain Creek Park also has a kayak launch for those who wish to explore more of Lake Norman.

Mountain Creek Park is pet friendly and includes a dog park as well as a pickleball court and playground for families of all shapes and sizes to enjoy.

2. Kayak on Lake Hickory

Closer to town, visitors can rent a kayak to go out on Lake Hickory. Paddleboards are also available for those looking to spend time on the lake.

If you aren’t feeling up for rowing, you can rent a pontoon boat or have dinner on the lake at Lake Hickory Pub and Marina. Here visitors can also play mini golf and enjoy ice cream on the water.

A close-up of a hand holding a small rock with shiny, metallic specks against a backdrop of dry, rocky ground. The rock's reflective surface is a property of Mica.
Michele stands with long blonde hair, wearing a backpack, on a wooden observation deck pointing towards the expansive landscape below. The viewpoint in Baker Mountain Park offers a sweeping vista of rolling hills and distant mountains under a clear blue sky.

3. See Hickory from above at Bakers Mountain Park

If you are looking for a hike with more elevation, Baker’s Mountain Park has the tallest point in the county, at 1,780 feet. 

The 6 miles of trails are sure to get your heart pumping, and you’ll be treated to views of the surrounding area flanked by mountains in the distance. 

I also enjoyed seeing the trails lined with sparkling mica, since the area used to host several mica mines before being converted into a park.

A paved walkway curves alongside a tranquil lake, bordered by a black metal railing and tall trees. The clear blue sky and lush greenery create a serene atmosphere, perfect for a peaceful walk in Hickory.

4. Check out the Hickory Trail

Closer to downtown, the Hickory Trail is a growing project that will eventually connect Lake Hickory to downtown’s Social District, art murals, and even the aviation district.

The River Walk is the most recently completed portion of the Hickory Trail. A beautiful new boardwalk begins at Rotary-Geitner Park, connecting to the trail that runs along Lake Hickory and further to additional mountain bike trails. 

I enjoyed picking up an iced coffee from the affordable and popular Taproot Coffee Bus before heading out on a leisurely stroll – it’s the perfect way to begin a day of exploring in Hickory.

Michele in a black dress and sunglasses walks across a rust-colored metal bridge under a clear blue sky. The bridge is part of Hickory's City Walk, surrounded by lush green trees and bathed in bright sunlight.

Another section of the Hickory Trail that is already completed is City Walk which connects key points in downtown Hickory from the university to the Social District

Stop by the many shops and murals along the trail, and, in warmer months, even the Downtown Hickory Farmers Market. I enjoyed grabbing a glass of wine at Hickory Wine Shoppe and listening to the live music on a warm spring day.

Bouquets of colorful flowers, including red and yellow tulips and white daffodils, are displayed in white paper wraps at an outdoor market. Pussy willow branches add a touch of texture, while blurred background elements indicate a busy day at the Hickory Farmers Market.
Musician Cesar Cruz wearing a hat and sunglasses sits on a metal chair, playing an acoustic guitar and singing into a microphone. The background features parked trucks and tables at the Hickory Farmers Market, one of the best things to do in Hickory on a Saturday.

The farmers market is every Saturday during warm months, and has local vendors selling anything from fresh flowers to stained glass.

I was excited to see Summer Fresh Flower Farm selling bouquets of tulips, and Hedge Family Farm with their certified all-natural produce stand.

Take it all in while strolling downtown, with a live musician playing. When I was there, Cesar Cruz was picking out soft tunes on his guitar, sometimes even singing in Spanish.

Take in some history

A rustic log cabin with a wooden fence in the foreground, surrounded by lush greenery and tall trees under a bright sunlit sky. The cabin exudes a historic charm, with sunlight creating lens flares and enhancing the picturesque scene.
An interior wall of a wooden cabin adorned with various colorful quilts hanging in a row. The quilts feature intricate patterns and vibrant colors, adding a cozy and artistic touch to the rustic wooden setting.

5. Hart Square Village

Hart Square Village houses the largest collection of log structures in the nation. This fascinating village showcases over 100 beautifully restored log cabins and buildings dating from 1890 as far back as 1760. 

While generally closed to the public and available by membership only, the foundation opens to the public regularly during events they host throughout the year.

I was able to attend during the quarterly public tour, where we were walked around the property learning the history of key points of interest, and then allowed to further explore the ground. 

During events ranging from the Heritage Festival to Christmas in the Village, visitors have a chance to visit the grounds. You can see these historical structures brought to life with demonstrations of early American crafts, such as Appalachian toy making, gunsmithing, or moonshining.

A vintage black Model T is parked in front of the charming, historic Harper House with a well-maintained garden. The bright, sunny day highlights the classic design of the car and the architectural details of the house, creating a nostalgic scene.
An elegantly furnished room is seen through an open doorway draped with rich, red velvet curtains. The room features vintage furniture, including a gold-upholstered sofa, ornate wallpaper, and a chandelier, capturing the luxurious, historical ambiance of Harper House in Hickory, NC.

6. Harper House

Another historical gem in Hickory is the Harper House, a carefully restored Queen Anne-style mansion dating back to 1887. 

Operated by the Catawba County Historical Association, this house offers guided tours by appointment that provide fascinating insights into Victorian-era architecture, interior design, and daily life in Hickory’s past.

I was charmed by the detail with which the home is decorated, from the velvet drapes to the vibrant wallpapers modeled after designs of the time period.

Visit Downtown Hickory

Explore downtown Hickory by visiting the Social District along the City Walk. While you’re strolling the murals, stop in to grab a drink or to peruse a museum.

A charming brick building labeled "Olde Hickory Station" is seen through branches adorned with pink blossoms. The setting includes a patio area with tables and chairs, capturing a quaint, inviting atmosphere on a partly cloudy day.
A delicious breakfast plate featuring Eggs Benedict with creamy hollandaise sauce, served alongside a bowl of scrambled eggs. A glass of iced coffee with the "Olde Hickory" logo is in the background, set on a table in a cozy dining area with large windows.

7. Stop by Olde Hickory Station

This old train station still sits along active railroad tracks but has long been converted into this hybrid market-restaurant. 

On one side, a market boasts a wall full of wine and beer selections – over 500 options to be exact. A center counter also offers the perfect pairing of cheeses and desserts.

On the other side of Olde Hickory Station is a tap wall serving up Olde Hickory Brewery made just around the corner. 

Take a seat at the bar and sample one of their tasty local craft beers, or if you’re feeling hungry, try one of their many dishes for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I enjoyed the eggs benedict, made with English muffins freshly baked in-house.

A vibrant mural on the side of Dive Bar Hickory reads "Welcome to Hickory" against a backdrop of green trees and a blue sky with clouds. The mural features a black bear, an airplane, and colorful, block-style letters, creating a welcoming and artistic display celebrating the heritage of Hickory, North Carolina.

8. Try your hand at retro arcade games in Dive Bar Hickory

Nestled in downtown, right next to Olde Hickory Station, Dive Bar Hickory is a must-visit spot for a fun evening in Hickory, NC. From 5-8 PM, the atmosphere is kid-friendly, providing a fantastic opportunity for families to bond over classic games in a safe and lively environment.

After 8 PM, Dive Bar Hickory transitions to a 21+ venue with vibrant nightlife, including a full bar onsite that serves a delightful array of drinks.

Whether you’re sipping on a creatively crafted cocktail or engaging in a friendly competition on one of the vintage arcade machines, Dive Bar Hickory offers an immersive experience that blends nostalgia and modern fun.

9. Hickory Museum of Art

The Hickory Museum of Art is the perfect stop for art enthusiasts. The museum was founded in 1944 and is the second oldest in North Carolina.

With rotating exhibitions that feature local and national artists, as well as permanent collections showcasing American Folk art from the 19th century to the present day, there is always something new to see here.

A historic building with tall columns and an inscription that reads "City of Hickory," once serving as city hall and now housing the Hickory Community Theatre. The bright sun shines above, casting a lens flare, and green awnings adorn the windows, adding to the building's classic charm.

10. Catch a show at Hickory Community Theatre

Located in the heart of downtown, this historic venue was once the town’s city hall. Though they only moved into the building in the 70s, the theater group is celebrating 75 years of bringing art to Hickory, NC.

Hickory Community Theatre brings a rich tradition of showcasing an impressive variety of performances, from classic plays and musicals to contemporary dramas and comedies.

Tickets are $16 for adults at the time of writing in 2024. Don’t miss the chance to catch a show and support the thriving arts scene in Hickory!

11. Explore NC’s flight history at the Aviation Museum

For travelers on a budget, the Aviation Museum in Hickory, NC offers an inexpensive adventure into North Carolina’s rich aviation history. 

Located at Hickory Regional Airport, the museum features an impressive collection of aircraft, memorabilia, and exhibits detailing the evolution of aviation.

Admission is free with donations encouraged, making it an accessible outing for any visitor.

Where to Grab Breakfast in Hickory

A plated dish featuring a gourmet Eggs Benedict with hollandaise sauce, garnished with green onions and served on a bed of mixed greens. A frothy cup of coffee sits beside the plate on a wooden table, creating an inviting breakfast scene in a cozy café setting.
A breakfast table featuring a fried chicken sandwich topped with pickles on a brioche bun, accompanied by a plate of pancakes with syrup and berry compote. A glass mug of coffee sits beside the plates, set in a modern café with a light and airy ambiance.

12. Brunch at the Frothy Rooster

I had one sip of the Chai’r Grounds Latte and couldn’t stop thinking about it. My visit to the Frothy Rooster was so good that I had to return one more time on the last day of my trip.

The great part about this restaurant is that they offer coffee and pastries to-go, as well as breakfast and lunch plates in a bright and airy cafe, just next door to sushi place Cowasake.

You and your friends can order from either restaurant making this the perfect stop for brunch in Hickory.

I particularly enjoyed the mini hot chicken sandwich!

A colorful plate with a slice of quiche, garnished with orange slices and pineapple, is set on a table outside of Tastefull Beans in Hickory, NC. Beside it is a glass of iced coffee and a cup of chia pudding topped with cinnamon.

13. Try something new at Tastefull Beans

This coffee shop has a little of everything and something for everyone. Seriously – there are over 60 latte flavors on the menu, in addition to specials tacked up to the walls and beside the register.

The food menu at Tastefull Beans is made from scratch, using organic ingredients that are locally sourced whenever possible.

They also pride themselves on their selection of gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options! I was surprised to see chia pudding on the menu, which made a refreshing accompaniment to my quiche and iced oat milk latte.

Catch their poetry reading and open mic every 2nd Tuesday.

A hand holding a cup of iced coffee in front of a converted school bus coffee shop with a sign reading "Coffee Bus" in the window. The bus is parked in an open lot under a clear blue sky, adding a unique and mobile twist to the coffee shop experience.

14.Grab coffee from Taproot Coffee Bus and head on a stroll

The buzz in Hickory is that Taproot Coffee is the place to be, so I was excited to randomly find them on a drive to a nearby park.

I happily stopped in to grab an iced latte to go, and was surprised to find that it was only $4.

Not only is the coffee affordable by today’s standards, but it is also delicious. Taproot only offers a handful of flavors, so I ordered a vanilla. While I am normally not a fan of this basic flavor, I actually found it to be quite good!

A plate of fresh oysters on ice, served with lemon wedges and sauces, sits on a bar counter. Beside the plate is a martini garnished with a lemon twist, and a menu for the oyster bar is visible in the foreground. The background features a well-stocked bar and a chalkboard with drink specials, creating a lively and upscale dining atmosphere.

15. Try an oyster flight at Standard Oyster

If you’re a fan of seafood, particularly oysters, then you absolutely have to stop by Standard Oyster. Here you will find a fantastic variety of fresh oysters from all around the country.

Whether you’re in the mood for East Coast brininess or West Coast sweetness, there’s a perfect oyster just waiting for you to savor. I learned I am a fan of the Washington sweet oysters (thanks to Taylor Shellfish!)

Their brunch menu is also excellent at Standard Oyster. The Bloody Mary comes highly recommended, or if you’re like me you’d prefer the Champagne Super Nova cocktail for a bubbly twist.

Don’t miss the cheesy fried gritcakes!

Other Hickory Restaurants

A tray with a pulled pork sandwich topped with shredded carrots and cilantro, accompanied by a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. Beside the tray is a can of "Never Calm" beer and a glass of the beer which is thick and golden orange, set on a table in a casual, lively restaurant with patrons in the background.

16. Hatch Sandwich Bar

Hatch Sandwich Bar is a fantastic lunch option in Hickory, NC with a sustainable bend.

Known for their innovative and delicious sandwiches, Hatch sources many of their ingredients locally including produce when it’s in season and meat in their sandwiches.

Hatch Sandwich also offers a wonderful selection of both wine and beer, making it a great spot to unwind with a drink. I enjoyed a thick passionfruit sour with the Cuban stacked high with locally sourced pork and their famous glazed Brussels sprouts.

Note that they are closed on Sundays.

A wooden flight board holding three colorful margaritas garnished with lime wedges, set on a table in a vibrant restaurant. The cocktails include a red strawberry margaria, a classic margarita, and a blended mango margarita, each with a straw, creating an inviting and festive atmosphere
A plate of three tacos filled with grilled meat, guacamole, pickled onions, and fresh greens, accompanied by a side dish of rice and black beans topped with cheese at Mas Amor Cantina in Hickory. NC.

17. Live music at Mas Amor Cantina

Mas Amor Cantina features a large space with fun, eclectic decor that is the perfect vibe for dinner with friends.

The menu is loaded with flavorful Tex-Mex dishes from old favorites to new twists you will love. I especially enjoyed the elote, which was perfectly seasoned with cotija cheese and house-made tequila butter.

For a refreshing drink, don’t miss out on the margarita flight; it’s a delightful way to sample a variety of their delicious margaritas.

Don’t miss the patio perfect for warmer months, and live music on weekends.

A wooden serving board with a flatbread pizza drizzled with balsamic glaze, topped with fresh greens, sits on an outdoor table at Hickory Wine Shoppe. Beside it, a glass of orange wine catches the sunlight, and the background features a grassy area and tents covering the Hickory Farmers Market.

18. Grab a glass of wine and sit in the sun at Hickory Wine Shoppe

Like a library for wine, the walls of Hickory Wine Shoppe are lined with bottles from every storied corner of the world. Grab a glass and head outside to sip it on the patio.

Pair your glass with a charcuterie board or a flatbread, and enjoy live music from the Hickory Farmers Market on Saturdays.

Sitting with a glass of orange wine, drenched in sunshine, with the sounds of Spanish tunes wafting into the air from local musician Cesar Cruz, it was a vibe I wished would last all afternoon.

A hearty salad topped with shredded smoked chicken, cheese, and croutons is served on a rustic wooden table at Cranford Brothers BBQ in Hickory.

19. Try classic southern BBQ at Cranford Brothers BBQ

Cranford Brothers BBQ serves up classic southern fare with their pit-smoked meat, prepared daily to ensure it’s always fresh and flavorful.

Complementing the smoky tenderness of the meat, you’ll find a variety of house-made barbeque sauces that pair perfectly with your brisket, chicken,  pulled pork, or even sausage.

Make sure you complete your meal with a cold beer brewed next door at City Walk Brewing, offering the perfect local pairing for your barbeque feast.

Ice Cream

A hand holding a classic milkshake topped with whipped cream and a cherry, set against a backdrop of vintage soda signs and coolers in an old-fashioned soda shop. The nostalgic decor includes 7-Up and Coca-Cola memorabilia, enhancing the retro atmosphere of Cherry Pops Soda Shop in Catawba, NC.

20. Step back in time at Cherry Pop Soda Shop

Cherry Pop Soda Shop is more than just a place to grab a sweet treat. Built in 1909, this historic gem retains all its original fixtures, transporting you straight back to a bygone era.

As you step inside, you’ll be greeted by interesting objects and decor from throughout the century, including a vintage jukebox and an old-fashioned milkshake machine.

Indulge in their classic offerings, such as old-timey shakes with sour phosphate and decadent sundaes, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a vibrant piece of Americana.

Cherry Pop is a short drive from Hickory but makes the perfect stopping point after a hike in Mountain Creek Park. I enjoyed the Elvis, made with fresh bananas and peanut butter on the spot – a nice touch that made all the difference.

Don’t miss the Pepsi Mural and parking lot on the side of the building, and spend some time wandering the cute downtown area of Catawba while there.

A hand holding a large waffle cone filled with cookies and cream ice cream, in front of a brick storefront with a cow-patterned awning that reads "Udderly Delicious Ice Cream." The sunny day and inviting shop exterior create a perfect setting for enjoying a cold treat.

21. Udderly Delicious

Fancy a quick scoop of ice cream instead? Stop by Udderly Delicious, which offers a few locations around town.

I enjoyed a scoop of cookies and cream – always my go-to – before heading off on a heart-pumping walk in Baker’s Mountain Park.

Where to grab a drink in Hickory

22. Taste your way through the Catawba Valley Ale Trail

The Catawba Valley Ale Trail features local breweries in four counties along the Catawba River: Catawba, Caldwell, Burke, and McDowell Counties.

The trail includes the standout breweries in Hickory: Olde Hickory Brewery and City Walk Brewery.

To enhance your experience, download the digital passport and check in at each brewery you visit along the trail. Not only will you get to taste a variety of excellent craft brews, but you can also collect stamps to win exciting gifts.

A freshly baked pizza topped with bacon, green onions, and basil is served on a stone board, accompanied by a glass of beer with a lemon wedge on the rim.

23. Blowing Rock Drafthouse

Update: as of June 28, Blowing Rock has announced they are closing this location.

Blowing Rock Drafthouse in Hickory, North Carolina, is a lively spot that’s perfect for enjoying great food and drinks with friends. The draft house features both indoor and outdoor seating, giving you the flexibility to choose your preferred atmosphere.

Outside, you can play a friendly game of cornhole while soaking up the sunshine with your beer.

Their menu offers pizza and wings, among other options, making it a great place to get together with friends. I asked what was most popular and enjoyed the White Cap pizza with chicken, alfredo sauce, bacon, and basil among other ingredients, along with a pint.

A glass of beer with a lemon wedge from Olde Hickory Brewery sits on a bar counter, with an extensive selection of bottled liquors and draft taps visible in the background. Hundred, if not thousands, of metal steins line the ceiling.

24. Olde Hickory Taproom

Olde Hickory Brewery doesn’t offer a room for tasting, but their beer can be found at their two restaurants: Olde Hickory Tavern mentioned earlier, and Olde Hickory Taproom.

Olde Hickory Taproom is a cozy spot downtown serving up pints from the second-oldest brewery in the state. The taproom boasts an impressive beer stein wall, lined with pewter steins, each stamped with a number and belonging to a specific resident.

This unique feature adds a sense of community and tradition, making each visit warm and personal. Only the owner of that stein may drink from it, and the waitlist to get one is years long.

A flight of four beers from City Walk Brewing is served on a tray, with each glass displaying the brewery's logo. The outdoor setting features string lights and wooden tables, creating a festive and inviting atmosphere for enjoying a variety of craft beers.
A close-up of loaded nachos with melted cheese, shredded meat, banana peppers, and diced tomatoes being pulled apart, with a glass of beer from City Walk Brewing in the background. The deliciously cheesy dish is served on a metal tray, perfect for sharing in a casual dining setting.

25. City Walk Brewing

City Walk Brewing in Hickory, NC is a charming destination located in a repurposed old pawn shop, giving it a unique and historic vibe.

The brewery’s outdoor patio is a highlight, adorned with string lights that create an inviting ambiance for evening relaxation. I enjoyed sitting outside with a flight to try a variety of beers while working from my laptop in the sunshine.

In addition to beers, City Walk Brewing offers some bar bites, including this tray of nachos featuring smoked brisket from Cranford Brothers.

Visitors can enjoy playing cornhole or unwind while listening to live music on the patio stage. To top it all off, City Walk Brewing is conveniently connected to Cranford Brothers BBQ, making it easy to grab some delicious barbecue to pair perfectly with your craft beer.

Other Spots to Grab a Beverage

26. Enjoy speakeasy vibes at No Entry

Tucked away in the back of City Walk Brewing, No Entry at City Walk Distilling is a hidden gem. This speakeasy-styled bar specializes in creating bourbon, vodka, and gin, all distilled on-site.

Step inside and you’ll be greeted by a cozy, intimate setting where skilled bartenders craft exquisite cocktails using their house-made spirits.

The ambiance is both sophisticated and welcoming, making it a perfect spot for a relaxed evening out. Pair your drinks with their artful bites, which are as delightful and thoughtfully prepared as the beverages.

A bourbon and lemon cocktail garnished with a lemon slice sits on a small wooden table next to a vase of colorful flowers. The cozy setting features a cushioned chair and creates an inviting atmosphere perfect for relaxing and enjoying a refreshing drink at Warehouse Distillery.

27. Taste local whiskey at the woman-owned Warehouse Distillery

Located in Newton, North Carolina, Warehouse Distillery is a remarkable woman-owned establishment that offers visitors a unique and enjoyable experience.

Within the distillery, you’ll find a cozy lounge and cocktail bar where you can savor their expertly crafted spirits. Often, food trucks are on-site, providing a variety of delicious bites to complement your drinks.

Adding a touch of local flair, the labels on their bottles are designed by a local artist, featuring intricate details of the mash used in their spirits along with beautiful depictions of local flora.

Don’t forget Hickory Wine Shoppe and Dive Bar Hickory, mentioned earlier and located right in the heart of downtown!

Where to Stay in Hickory, NC

For those looking to splurge a bit, the Hampton Inn Hickory has a high rating and sustainability certificate – two reasons this would be our first choice! Stays include breakfast, there is an indoor pool perfect for rain or shine, and the hotel is conveniently located close to downtown.

A great mid-range option is the Holiday Inn Express which is close to the convention center and has great reviews. This hotel comes with free breakfast and is an IHG hotel so you can earn points or book using them as well.

And for those looking for a great option on a budget, bring a few friends and split this Lakehouse for a weekend of fun! It comes with 3 separate bedrooms and sleeps 6 people, has direct lake access, and even comes with a hot tub!

A vibrant mural titled "Miracle of Hickory" depicts a nurse caring for a child, with the year "1944" prominently displayed. The mural is set against a bright yellow background and surrounded by lush greenery and a cobblestone walkway.

Wrapping up this Guide to Hickory, NC

Hickory might be a smaller town, but as you can see there is plenty to do in the Hickory Metro area!

From live music, to stunning views, kayaking on the lake, and even tasting your way along a brew trail, there are plenty of options.

Hickory makes a great day trip from Charlotte or a perfect weekend getaway!

Looking for more things to do around Hickory? Check out these posts:

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