Bright and Bold Mural with Hickory on it

19+ Best Things to do in Hickory NC & Surrounding Area: 2023

Looking for things to do in Hickory NC?

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Hickory, North Carolina, is a decent-sized town that sits beside the Catawba River. While Asheville and Charlotte aren’t far from Hickory, this town has a fascinating history and a plethora of fantastic outdoor activities that will keep you busy. 

History of Hickory NC

Hickory, North Carolina, became an established town in 1870 after a log tavern was built under an old hickory tree. Hickory became an oasis for builders and merchants, and the town grew rapidly over the next 40 years.

Hickory is an important town in the history of North Carolina as it was the first town to have a council-manager form of government. It was also one of the first towns to install electric lights (1888) and a complete sewage system (1904).  

Best Things to do in Hickory NC

If you are searching for the perfect activity, you’ve come to the right place! Here is a list of things to do in Hickory. We’ve got everything from museums to parks to stadiums and more. 

Salt Block Sign

1. Catawba Science Center

Address: 243 3rd Ave NE, Hickory, NC 28601  

The Catawba Science Center is a 35,000 sq foot science and technology center. This children’s museum features dozens of hands-on exhibits, salt and freshwater aquarium galleries, a digital planetarium, and more. 

Outside the Arts & Science Center

Not only does this center have great exhibits and entertaining activities, but they also offer some marvelous educational programs and summer camps. If you are searching for something fun to do with the kiddos, this is your best bet, and trust me, parents, you will have fun as well.

Things to do in Hickory include visiting the Art Museum

You can’t visit the science center without stopping by The Millholland Planetarium. This planetarium seats 65 guests and has a giant screen with 30-foot-tall images with surround sound. This experience will transport you right into the milky-way and make you feel like you are floating amongst the planets. 

Outside the Millholland Planetarium

2. Hickory Museum of Art

Address: 243 Third Avenue NE, Hickory, NC 28601

The Hickory Museum of art opened in 1944, making it North Carolina’s second oldest art museum. The museum’s goal is to collect and display some of America’s most impressive works of art to share with the public. 

After 75+ years of adding art to its collection, the museum has 1,500 pieces. These pieces range from the 19th-21st century works of art, Hudson River School paintings, American Art Pottery, photography, stained glass, and Southern Folk Art.

Hickory Museum of Art Outside

3. Hickory Aviation Museum

Address: 3101 9th Ave Dr NW, Hickory, NC 28601

Sign for Hickory Aviation Museum

Take a trip to the Hickory Regional Airport and visit the Hickory Aviation Museum! This non-profit organization is free to visit and is one of Hickory’s favorite museums. At the museum, you can see artifacts and memorabilia ranging from World War 2 to the present day. 

Hickory Aviation Museum Jets

Get an up-close personal look at how airplanes began as well as all sorts of aviation history. The museum is open for private tours or a self-tour with the family. 

Jets at the Aviation Museum

4. Hickory Historic Center/ The Harper House

Address: 310 N Center St, Hickory, NC 28601 

The Hickory Historic Center and The Harper House is a beautiful Victorian home gifted to the city by the Harper family. The house, built between 1887-1890, gives guests a look at how Victorian life was lived, along with more details from the town’s past.  

It is free for individuals to enter and enjoy a self-guided tour. A Harper House guided tour is $10.00 for adults and $8.00 for children. 

Outside the Harper House

5. Lowes Food City Park

Address: 300-326 Main Ave NW, Hickory, NC 28602

Opened in 2017, Lowes Food City Park is the first park in Hickory of its kind. The park is located downtown and is a convenient and great place to bring the family. The park features unique “unrestricted play” equipment, large play spaces, interactive water installments, and comfortable places to sit and relax.

Lowes Food City Park is the perfect place to let the kids run around and enjoy themselves, especially on a hot summer day. 

6. Lake Hickory

Address: Lake Hickory, NC

Lake Hickory runs along the northern edge of Hickory and covers 4,223 acres with 105 miles of shoreline. The lake was built in 1927 with the help of the Oxford Dam and is a reliable water resource for Hickory, Conover, and Longview. 

Lake Hickory is a fully recreational lake which means visitors can enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, and jet skiing, and all motorboats are allowed. The Lake Hickory Marina (just 6 miles from downtown Hickory) offers boat rentals, other watersport equipment rentals, storage, gas, and a small store. 

View of Lake Hickory

There are 16 beaches found along the shoreline, including access to campsites with RV hookups and restaurants on the water. Whether you are looking for a boating trip or a beach to relax on for the day, Lake Hickory is where you’ll want to be! 

7. Hickory Motor Speedway

Address: 3130 US-70, Newton, NC 28658 

Are you a big NASCAR fan? Then you can not travel to Hickory without stopping by the Hickory Motor Speedway. The Hickory Motor Speedway is often referred to as “the world’s most famous short track” and “the birthplace of the NASCAR stars.”

Opened in 1951, the Hickory Motor Speedway is a place where some NASCAR legends got their start. Today, the speedway is still used as a venue for NASCAR’s club racing division, the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series, as well as several other stock car and late model racing events.

You can catch a practice or a race from February through November.  There is also an on-site campground with full RV hookups for those coming from far away. 

Hickory Motor Speedway

8. Glenn Hilton Jr. Memorial Park

Address: 2000 6th St NW, Hickory, NC 28601 

Glenn C Hilton Jr Memorial Park Sign

Glenn Hilton Jr. Memorial Park is a larger park but very peaceful. There are five picnic shelters, restrooms, two playgrounds, a 24-hole disc golf course, a paved nature trail, and a nature boardwalk. This is a great place to take a relaxing nature walk or enjoy a fun family picnic. 

Pavillion area in Glenn Hilton Jr Park

9. Fairbrook Optimist Dog Park

Address: 1560 4th Ave, SE Hickory, NC 28602 

Fairbrook Optimist Dog Park is Hickory’s best dog park. There are separate fenced areas for large and small dogs, obstacle courses, pet stations, water fountains, picnic benches, covered shelters, and restrooms. 

Fairbrook Optimist Dog Park sign

There is plenty of land for your dog to run around and be their happy dog self. Fairbrook Optimist Dog Park is a perfect place for everyone to get some exercise. 

10. Hickory Downtown Farmers Market

Address: Union Square NW, Hickory, NC 28601

The Hickory Farmers Market is a beautiful year-round market right in the middle of downtown Hickory. Join the community every Saturday (plus every Wednesday during the summer season) to meet the farmers and enjoy some of the best locally grown fresh produce. 

There are an average of 45 vendors (varying seasonally) offering everything from fresh produce to eggs, meats and cheeses to cakes, cookies, honey and so much more. During the summer, each day there will be live music and lots more fun to be had. 

11. Carolina Theater

Address: 221 1st Ave, Hickory, NC 28601 

The Carolina Theater was first built in 1943 with state-of-the-art surround sound and a stage for live performances or motion pictures. In 2005 the theater was first renovated to give a more modern feel, and again in 2011, to refinish the original hardwood floors and update the theater chairs. 

Today the theater holds its history and original atmosphere but with renovations to keep customers comfortable. All the newest movie releases can be viewed with a wide range of showtimes. 

Outside the Carolina Theater Things to do in Hickory

12. Hickory Greenway Trail

Address: 1515 12th St Dr NW, Hickory, NC 28601

The greenway trail is a well-maintained 1.5-mile city trail. Starting in Glenn C. Hilton Jr. Park, the trail also provides access to Hickory City Park and Jaycee Park. The trail is mainly paved and is suitable for runners, strollers, and bikers. The trail is mostly shaded under paths of trees. 

Paved Trail in the woods

13. Hickory City Park

Address: 1581 12th St Dr, Hickory, NC 28601 

If you are looking to get some quality exercise and have a great time, then you will want to visit Hickory City Park. The park has eight well-maintained tennis courts, a multi-purpose indoor facility, an outdoor covered shelter, restrooms, and access to several Lake Hickory bike and hiking trails. 

14. Geitner Park

Address: 2035 12th St Dr NW, Hickory, NC 28601

Geitner Park is conveniently located just outside of downtown Hickory and right on Lake Hickory. Here, there is a boat launch ramp, a fishing pier, restrooms, an activity building, a gazebo, a paved bikeway, and a few walking nature trails. There is also a small beach that visitors can relax on and use as swimming access. This is a great visit on a warm summer day! 

View of a pier at the Geitner Park

15. Henry River Mill Village

Address: 4255 Henry River Rd, Hickory, NC 28602

The Henry River Mill Village was once an old cotton village. It began in 1905 with 35 worker houses, a two-story boarding house, a company store, and a three-story brick mill building where all the yarn was produced.

Tours of the 72-acre property are available on Sat and Sun, where you can explore the land and its history. You can even see the village as it was shown to be District 12 in the Hunger Games films. 

Old Cabin at the Henry River Mill

Indian Springs Campgrounds is just down the road, but you can also stay in one of the original mill houses, which have been newly renovated. There is almost no better way to feel so close to history. 

Sign for Henry River Mills, only open 2 days a week on Sat and Sun

16. Kiwanis Park

Address: 805 6th St SE, Hickory, NC 28602 

Kiwanis Park Sign

Kiwanis Park is another great park for kids and families in the area. Inside the park, there are two picnic tables, a couple of grills, an outdoor basketball court, a tennis court, a small baseball field, a walking trail, restrooms, concession stands (open during ball games), a summer splash pad, two playgrounds, and a treehouse. 

Everything about this park screams family fun time, and everyone will surely have a blast. 

Playground at Kiwanis Park

17. L.P Frans Stadium

Address: 2500 Clement Blvd NW, Hickory, NC 28601

The large baseball stadium seats 4,000 visitors and is the home field to the Hickory Crawdads Minor League Baseball team. Games take place almost every day all year round. In addition to the stadium, there is an activity center, a playground, and walking trails.

Grab your peanuts and popcorn and enjoy a fun night out at the ballgame. 

Outside the L.P. Frans Stadium

18. Bakers Mountain Park

Address: 6680 Bakers Mountain Rd, Hickory, NC 28602

Bakers Mountain Park is located in Catawba Counties’ highest elevation of 1780 feet. There are over 180 acres of wilderness to roam and explore. You can walk amongst the Chestnut Oak forest and enjoy the 6 miles of designated hiking trails. 

The main loop around the park is 2.3 miles long and takes about an hour to complete. The hike isn’t challenging, only with a few steep areas. It is a very well-maintained path that is popular all year long for birding, running, and hiking. Dogs are welcome on the trail but must be on a leash.

Restaurants in Hickory NC

Visiting the attractions of the town is one thing, but seeing what kind of food the town has to offer is a whole other story! Luckily, Hickory has a variety of bars, cafes, and restaurants with different styles of food. These are some town favorites. 


Address: 1410 4th St Dr NW, Hickory, NC 28601

FOURK is a stylish modern venue with award-winning dishes. The cuisine is American-style foods with an array of seafood, desserts, and housemade cocktails.

Everything served at FOURK is served with a unique twist (hence the spelling of their name) in hopes that you are trying something you haven’t tried before. 

If you are interested in trying excitingly different foods and drinks, then you will love FOURK. 

Fourk Outside

🥣 Olde Hickory Station

Address: 232 Government Ave SW, Hickory, NC 28602

In the center of downtown Hickory sits the historic first train station, which has since been restored and renewed by Olde Hickory Brewery into this delightful restaurant.

Olde Hickory Station is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This includes a weekend brunch every Saturday and Sunday. 

outside Olde Hickory Station

The Olde Hickory Station has a casual, comfortable environment, with American-style foods, delicious house-made bread and pies, handmade cocktails and 50 different beers on tap.

Olde Hickory Station Taps

The majority of those 50 draft beers are produced by Olde Hickory Brewery themselves but they also offer a substantial number of regional and national beers as well. 

Shrimp and Grit Cake appetizer at Olde Hickory Station

Olde Hickory Station also has a market where you can purchase coffee, tea, beer, wine, sodas, cheese, charcuterie, and other local and imported specialties to go. You can’t go wrong with a trip to Olde Hickory Station. 

desserts at Olde Hickory Station
wine selection at Olde Hickory Station

🥣 Boca

Address: 74 8th St SE Suite 108, Hickory, NC 28602

Boca is an industrial chic-looking restaurant with ample amounts of space, a unique bar, and an outside patio. Not only is the food stunning and delicious, but you will also find the space to look stunning as well. 

Hickory not only specializes in American food but also has a variety of Spanish, Moroccan, and Mediterranean dishes. Not only is the food unique and cooked to perfection, but you will be so comfortable in the space as well.

Outside the Boca Restaurant

Best Places to Stay in Hickory NC

What’s a vacation without the perfect hotel room or rental? After your long days of exploring Hickory, you will need a great spot to put your feet up and relax for the night. There are plenty of hotels and rentals all around Hickory that will be perfect for you or your family. 

🏠 The Crowne Plaza Hotel Hickory

Address: 1385 Lenoir Rhyne Boulevard Southeast, Hickory, NC 28602

The Crowne Plaza Hotel is beautiful, only 9 minutes from downtown Hickory, and has state-of-the-art amenities, comfortable rooms, and a restaurant. All guests can enjoy the exercise room, indoor pool, and bar. Pets are allowed.  

Outside Crowne Plaza Hotel

🏠 Lake Hickory Haven

Address: 5250 36th Street Drive Northeast, Hickory, NC 28601

Just 9.3 miles from downtown Hickory, this beautiful rental home is the perfect way to spend a relaxing weekend, where the lake is at your back door. This fully furnished home has everything you might need to be comfortable during your stay.

There are three bedrooms, ideal for a family gathering. Enjoy the home and everything the lake has to offer. The marina is just a 20-minute drive away.

When you are done with Things to do in Hickory stay at the beautiful Lake Hickory Haven overlooking the water

🏠 Best Western Hickory

Address: 1520 South 13th Avenue Drive Southeast, Hickory, NC 28602

Right off interstate 40 and just a mile from downtown Hickory, Best Western Hickory is convenient, comfortable, and just right for a vacation.

Book your stay at the Best Western Here today!

The hotel offers amenities like an indoor and outdoor pool, a fitness center, lovely service, and calming rooms. There are dozens of restaurants and activities nearby. 

Outside the Best Western Hotel

🏠 Indian Springs Campground 

Address: 4361 Whitener Dr, Hickory, NC 28602

Indian Springs Campground is an RV-only campsite with full hookups. It is a small campground with only 30 sites, but it is comfortable and accommodating, with many attractions nearby. All sites have a picnic table and a fire ring per request.

Guests are welcome to explore the grounds and enjoy the picnic shelter, playground, horseshoes, a few small wilderness trails, and the catch-and-release pond. 

Annual Events in Hickory NC

Any good city with a strong community has annual events that hold the town together. They are a chance to let loose and celebrate the beautiful town and everything it has to offer. 

✅ Hickory Fair

Address: 1 American Legion Ave, Newton, NC 28658

This year (2023), The Annual Hickory Fair will be hosting its 110th event at the Hickory American Legion Fairgrounds. The fair will take place from August 30th to September 4th, with all kinds of fair games, fair food, live music/shows, and more each day. 

For over 100 years, this fair has given the community a chance to enjoy the town and have a fun weekend. You can meet all kinds of artisans from the area, enjoy trapeze shows, and even win a stuffed animal or two. 

✅ Living History Festival 

Address: 5055 Hope Rd, Vale, NC 28168 (Hart Square Village) 

On October 28, 2023, Hart Square Village will be hosting the 38th annual Living History Festival. Enter the village and be transformed into life in the 1800s.

The Living History Festival is similar to a renaissance fair; there will be over 300 vendors, live shows, workshops on crafts, live music, and tons of costumes. 

Join in the fun by dressing in 19th-century costumes. You can explore the 103 log cabins and visit any of the workshops or vendors. There are many fun events for the kids and the whole family.  

Things to do near Hickory NC

Even though there are plenty of things to do right inside Hickory, there are also so many interesting things to visit in the general area.

📍 South Mountains State Park

Address: 3001 S Mountain Park, Connelly Springs, NC 28612

Distance from Hickory: 36 minutes or 25.4 miles

South Mountain State Park is the closest state park to Hickory. It covers 20,949 acres of land with over 50 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, mountain biking trails, fishing, picnic areas, fishing areas, and an 80-foot waterfall. 

Jacob Fork Access is where you can find camping, bathrooms, a visitor center, and picnic shelters. Jacob Fork Access area is also where many trailheads start, including an access point to High Shoals Loop Trail. South Mountain State Park is a great place to be for day trips or weekend family camping trips. 

📍 Emerald Hollow Mine

Address: 484 Emerald Hollow Mine Dr, Hiddenite, NC 28636
Distance from Hickory: 38 minutes or 22.8 miles

Just 38 minutes from downtown Hickory, you can visit the world’s ONLY emerald mine that is open to the public. It is highly recognized as one of America’s most unique geological locations. 

There are over 60 varieties of gems and minerals available to be mined. Trained experts can give you tips, help you find the perfect souvenir, and even help you cut and customize the gem into jewelry. 

All other information like prices, permits, and bucket rentals can be found on their website. This may be one of the most unique experiences to be had in the area, and you definitely don’t want to miss out! 

📍 Bunker Covered Bridge

Address: 4160 US-70, Claremont, Hickory, NC 28610
Distance from Hickory: 20 minutes or 14.8 miles

The Bunker Covered Bridge is one of the last two remaining covered bridges in North Carolina. First built in 1900, this bridge has important ties to the Civil War and the American Revolution. The bridge can be found on a small section of the Carolina Thread Trail. 

The trail is a short 0.5-mile trail. Parking and the trailhead can be found at Connor Park off of US-70 in Claremont, NC. 

📍 Hart Square Village

Address: 5055 Hope Rd, Vale, NC 28168
Distance from Hickory: 22 minutes or 13.3 miles

Hart Square Village is home to the world’s largest collection of log structures. The founder of the village was a man named Bob Hart, a beloved man in the community. He delivered thousands of babies, taught many schoolchildren, and had a strong love for preserving history. 

On this 200-acre property, you can find over 100 restored log cabins, which include two churches, 30 homes, and trade shops. There is also a large nature preserve which guests are welcome to explore. Events and educational classes are held year-round in the village. 

Bright and Bold Mural with Hickory on it

Hickory NC: FAQs

Wanting to know more about Hickory? Here are a few more facts about the interesting and historical town. 

🔍 What county is Hickory NC?

Hickory is located in Catawba County. Hickory is the largest city in Catawba County. 

🔍 How far is Hickory from Charlotte NC?

Charlotte is 54 miles from Hickory and about 1 hour away.

🔍 What is Hickory NC known for?

Hickory is recognized for many things. Not only do people know it for its important Southern history, but it is also widely known for being the “birthplace of NASCAR”, and it’s deep history in stock car racing. Hickory is also known for its reputation in the furniture craftsman world. 

🔍 Does Hickory NC have a downtown?

Hickory has a small but booming downtown. In this downtown, you can find several restaurants, unique shops, a city park, and other business buildings.  

🔍 Does Hickory NC have a lake?

Hickory, NC, has a large and beautiful lake located at the northern edge of the town. Lake Hickory is one of the more popular lakes in the state.

🔍 What movie was filmed in Hickory NC?

The Henry River Mill Village, located in Burke County, was the location for District 12 in the Hunger Games films. 

You may also come across some articles stating that “The Last of the Mohicans” was filmed at Lake Hickory when in fact, it was actually filmed partially at Lake James in Burke County.

Final Thoughts

Hickory, NC, is a town full of curiosity, adventure, history, and fun. It isn’t just a place with old houses and timely restaurants, but a city that has grown into a hub of entertainment.

Not to mention the hundreds of hiking trails, and outdoor activities in this area, thanks to Lake Hickory and the city for creating some spectacular parks and walking paths. 

If you are in the Charlotte, or Asheville area, looking for your next stop in North Carolina, consider the wonderful City of Hickory to be the next stop in your travels. 

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