Gastonia is a historic textile manufacturing center.
The city gained prominence when Robert Calvin Grier Love and George A. Gray and his business partners founded the Gastonia Cotton Manufacturing Company in 1877.
Since then, the city has never stopped developing, with at least five mills built in 1900.
Then again, these mills and their rich histories are not the only things that defined Gastonia and put it on the list of exciting tourist hotspots.
If you’re looking for a place to visit where you can enjoy the great outdoors, explore the city, and find unique activities indoors, then you might as well put Gastonia on top of your list.
Now let's look at the 15 best things to do in Gastonia, North Carolina:
Appreciate Nature and Science at the Schiele Museum of Natural History
At the heart of Gaston County, North Carolina, you will find this nature and science museum with exhibits, research, and programs that offer an exceptional learning experience.
It may be a museum, but you can never equate it with the adjectives ‘dull’ or ‘boring,’ as the people behind its programs also incorporated outdoor and indoor exhibits to its existing standard offerings.
Any science aficionado would surely be amazed by the museum's high-definition science and planetarium.
And if you love horror fiction, you should never miss this place, as they have special exhibits dedicated to the natural occurrences and evolution of horror fiction concepts such as zombies and alien invation.
The kids will also love the Dino Safari exhibition, wherein they could go back to the past and relive the times of the dinosaurs.
Watch a Concert at the Rotary Centennial Pavilion
You can find the Rotary Centennial Pavilion at 111 N South St Gastonia, NC 28052, and this is where all the magical events happen.
This is the hotspot for city events like festival celebrations, community salsa dancing, concerts, parades, flea markets, tree lighting, and more.
If you visit this place in December, you might want to join their ‘Christmas in the City’ celebration that includes a city parade, a marketplace, and Christmas tree lighting.
If you’re planning to visit later in March, you can catch the multicultural art event at the Rotary Centennial Pavilion.
When you chance upon this place on these events, note that the crowd can get pretty overwhelming, so you might have to be careful if you have your kids with you.
Go Fishing at Rankin Lake Park
Rankin Lake is Gastonia’s 242-acre beautiful park that serves as the county’s landmark, which provides a great tourist destination.
The developers who created this gorgeous park around the city’s reservoir was tapped as the local’s source of fresh drinking water.
Since it’s within the reservoir, the locals and tourists found it fun to sit down and go fishing along the reservoir banks.
While the fishing aficionados enjoy a quiet time catching fish, the others could simply spread their blankets on the ground, take their food out, and enjoy a relaxing time communing with nature.
Because it’s far from the hustle-bustle of the city, you can expect the place to be tranquil and peaceful, making it easier to relax and lounge.
You can also use the park’s clubhouse, equipped with chairs, tables, restrooms, and a warming kitchen.
If you intend to stay longer, you can also take advantage of their small shelters, lakeside picnic kiosks, vast hall, 18-hole golf course, and horseshoe courts.
They also have a trailhead linking them to the Highland Rail Traill.
And the fun doesn’t end there, as you can also access the Kaylor Creek boardwalks, the boardwalk over the lake spillway, fishing piers, and the lake’s paved and scenic trail.
Feast Your Eyes on the Astounding Art Pieces at the Curtis Lee Butler Studio
If you’re looking for something to feast your eyes on, Curtis Lee Butler Studio is perfect for you.
Curt Butler earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree in fine arts from The Savannah College of Art and Design and Kent State University, and after he graduated, he moved to Gastonia and set up his studio.
Aside from marveling at Butler’s moving art pieces, you can also take his masterclasses that only cater to eight students per session.
If you’re looking for a studio that is as artistic and impressive as its art pieces, then this is the place to be at.
The structure boasts original vintage wood flooring, plaster brick walls, and exposed wide roof beams.
If you want to catch the artist in action, you can schedule an appointment to discuss the possibility of painting purchases.
Go Hiking With Friends at Lineberger Park
Lineberger Park is the first-ever park of Gastonia, and it’s 18.5 acres wide.
Imagine what you and your family can do in these acres of land.
You can take a hike down the park’s hiking trail that passes by a public pool, splash pad, multi-train ride, playground, and the Vietnam War Memorial.
You can also dip your feet on their pool as it’s open from Memorial Day until Labor day, which only costs $3 each for every 2 ½ hours swimming session.
You won’t regret paying $3 per person because aside from the pool, the park also offers a lazy river, an extra splash pad, and a giant, high-rise waterslide.
The park’s splash pad is open from May to September, so you might as well check your calendars and plan accordingly.
As for the train, it only costs $1 each and operates on seasonal hours, which you can check on the city’s website.
Note that the train won’t operate during the winter months, particularly from December to February.
Play Golf at Adventure Landing
Yes, you don’t need to travel to a different city just to play golf, but when you’re already in Gastonia, you have every reason to stop by the Adventure Landing.
What sets Adventure Landing’s golf course from the rest is that its 18-hole golf courses each sport a different theme.
If you’re up for batting cages, you will surely love it here, as the place also has an arcade for ball games.
No matter what outdoor activity you wish to do, Adventure Landing indeed has your needs covered.
And if you’re famished, you can also satisfy your cravings at their on-site restaurant that features adult and kid-friendly menu options.
Adventure Landing is open from 9 A.M. to 11 P.M. from Monday to Thursday and 9 A.M. to 12:00 midnight on Saturdays.
They’re also open on Sunday, from 10 A.M. to 11 P.M.
Enjoy an Exciting Racing Night at the Carolina Speedway
If you visit Gastonia from March to October, you can participate in the exciting Friday night races at the Carolina Speedway.
This may be the South’s oldest dirt racetracks, but it never failed to disappoint onlookers, as it features six different dirt track divisions that would surely keep everyone’s adrenaline pumping even while watching.
You can also check out and explore the Late Models since the racetrack still allows this kind of car to race.
Apart from the Late Models, you can also check out four cylinders and open-wheel modifieds.
Catch up With Friends at the Cavendish Brewery
Cavendish Brewery is the only brewery in Gastonia, so you should never miss the chance to enjoy the fresh and crisp beer from their cellar.
Gather up your friends and head to the Cavendish Brewery to do some catching up, share stories, and have fun over a few bottles of signature Cavendish Brewery beer.
If you’re lucky, you and your friends can also team up and ace the trivia nights hosted by the brewery owners.
Apart from that, Cavendish Brewery also has other fun activities in-stored for you, like open jam nights, open mic comedy nights, and live music.
Go on a Bowling Date at George Pappas' Liberty Lanes
When you’re tired from all the outdoor sports and if you’re looking for some chill evening activity, go on a bowling date at George Pappas Liberty Lanes.
Unleash your competitiveness by battling out for the king or queen of the bowling alley title.
The bowling lane offers enormous discounts for big groups, so bring the whole gang for a group date with a twist.
Stroll With the Kids at Martha Rivers Park
The great thing about Gastonia is that it’s not only for adults but also for the whole family.
Another exciting activity you can share with your kids is taking them to this 48-acre lush green area known as Martha Rivers Park, which was established in 1955.
It started as a 20-acre park, and from there, the city purchased another 34-acres land that they added to the said park.
It features picnic shelters, hiking trails, a castle-themed kids’ playground, and a sports complex.
The playground also features climbing spots, hiding areas, sandpits, swings, race car tracks, ships, and a fort.
Animal-Watching at R.J. Rednour Farms
Bring your kids to R.J. Rednour Farms for an up-close and personal encounter with the animals they raise and house.
The kids can enjoy activities like hayrides, horseback riding around the property, and animal feeding.
Teach them how to properly treat animals by bringing them to the petting zoo to play with these farm animals.
Your young ones will surely squeal in delight as they feed the goats and other animals on the farm.
Hunt for Treasure at Gastonia’s Sleepy Poet Antique Mall
If you love anything antique, you should consider the Sleepy Poet Antique Mall your haven.
What’s exciting is you’ll never know what you’ll stumble upon and purchase until you step on the mall premises.
If you love vintage furniture, you don’t want to miss this place, as different unique vendors frequently put them on display.
You can also find discount booths scattered around the mall, so get those feet working and commence the hunt!
Have Fun Biking at the George Poston Park
If there’s one thing Gastonia is full of, that would be the great outdoor.
The George Poston Park is one of the many parks in Gastonia where you can go biking alone, with friends, or in the company of like-minded strangers.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a seasoned biker, as you'll find the terrain challenging yet fun.
What’s even better is you get to enjoy the scenic views and astounding landscape as you work your way through the park terrain.
Learn about Military History at American Military Museum of Gastonia
The city of Gastonia erected Memorial Hall in 1930 as a gathering place and museum for the city's veteran population.
Currently known as the American Military Museum, it houses important artifacts from the American armed forces' past.
The monument honors the military commanders that battled for the nation to be what it is today.
There are exhibits from the Indian War, the Civil War, Korea, Vietnam, World Wars I and II, and the Iraq War, as well as a comprehensive collection of military history books.
Models of airplanes and ships, as well as documents and pictures, portray the narrative of the American military at the American Military Museum.
It demonstrates the significance of defending one's nation and the worth of patriotism.
Play Horseshoes at Smyre Millenium Park
Smyre Millenium Park is a 1.9-acre public park that welcomes visitors of all ages.
It offers a peaceful green space ideal for social gatherings and unwinding with loved ones.
The park has a walking track if you prefer to exercise alone or with your dogs and a play area for the kids.
The horseshoe court at Smyre Millennium Park is excellent for kicking back and taking in the scenery.
A small picnic shelter with bench seating and picnic tables is available for you and your family to use during your visit.
Catch a Movie at Regal Franklin Square
One of the best things to do in Gastonia is to see the latest movies at Regal Franklin Square.
It has 14 screens with stadium seating for moviegoers.
Enjoy your movie experience to the fullest with RealD 3D and digital projection at Regal Franklin Square.
There's also a gaming area where users may try out the many entertaining games provided; these games receive regular updates that keep them fresh and challenging.
When you feel hungry, you don't have to leave the venue because it has a restaurant and bar on site.
Solve Mysteries at Xtreme Xcapes
Visit Xtreme Xcapes for some thrilling mind-tasking and brain-challenging activities.
At Xtreme Xcapes, you and your team will be locked in a room for sixty (60) minutes and challenged to find clues, brainstorm solutions, and solve riddles to escape.
You'll need quick, logical thinking to break past the game's obstacles and find an exit.
The game requires two to 10 people.
Xtreme Xcapes will surely put your teamwork skills to the test and is a perfect way for young couples, families, and friends to bond over puzzles.
Release Your Tensions at Ella's Therapeutic Baths & Spa
Among all of Gastonia, Ella's Therapeutic Baths & Spa provides an experience that is second to none.
Using more natural products, it provides the city's most fantastic massages, facials, and specialized body treatments.
Ella's Therapeutic Baths & Spa professionals are well-trained and dedicated to providing a memorable visit.
Individuals and couples alike might find the ideal bundle among those they provide.
After a hard day at the office or taking care of the kids, you deserve a day at Ella's Therapeutic Baths & Spa, where you can unwind and let the staff pamper you.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Wander Around the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
It doesn’t matter when you intend to visit Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden because its acres of flourishing plants and flowers bloom all year long, making the garden one of the most beautiful sights in Gaston County.
Whether you’re staying for a couple of days or longer, take time to visit here and stroll down the dreamy orchid conservatory and garden.
If your kids come along on your Gastonia tour, they are most welcome to roam around the garden as you take pictures and make memories around the conservatory.
Everywhere you go, you always have the perfect spot for Instagrammable photos!
Unleash Your Rock-Climbing Skills at Crowders Mountain
If you’re looking for some adrenalin-pumping activity on your trip to North Carolina, you shouldn’t miss Crowders Mountain, which is only a few hours away from Gastonia.
It has a 495-meter or 1,625-feet total elevation, making it the perfect place for outdoor activities like hiking and, of course, rock climbing.
The mountain peak is also named Crowders Mountain State Park, and it’s where you can enjoy glamorous views of the summit.
But if you’re still hungry for some active outdoor moment, check out the nearby mountain called The Pinnacle.
They’re open from 7 A.M. to 6 P.M. every day.
It’s an understatement to say that Gastonia, North Carolina, has so much to offer.
With all the hiking spots, challenging trails, scenic views, breathtaking landscapes, you could say that Gastonia made a name for itself as one of the best tourist destinations.
Indeed, Gastonia is a destination you should visit.
So, what are you waiting for?
Schedule your trip to Gastonia and see its great offerings yourself.