Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Rockingham, NC

  • Published 2023/03/24

Situated in the south-central end of North Carolina, Rockingham is a small but beautiful city.

The city got its name from the Marquess of Rockingham and is the county seat of Richmond County.

Rockingham is more or less an hour from major cities like Fayetteville, Raleigh, Greensboro, and Charlotte, making it an ideal destination for a short weekend getaway.

Check out this list of the 15 best things to do in Rockingham, North Carolina!

Follow the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail

Take the Hitchcock Blue Creek Trail from the busy streets of the metro for a welcome change of scenery.

The 14-mile trail offers locals and tourists a way to discover Rockingham’s natural wonders, with floodplain forests, remains of old mills, and flora and fauna.

Along the trail, you’ll also find a boat launch where you take your kayaks and paddle across the creek.

One of the highlights of the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail is the white cedar forest, one of the largest tracts of its kind in North Carolina.

Hike and get a chance to spot wildlife such as whitetail deer, wild turkeys, red foxes, rabbits, and waterfowl.

However, keep an eye out for venomous snakes on the trail.

Dine at Pattan’s Downtown Grille

Are you craving a delicious and juicy BBQ?

Look no further and head to Pattan’s Downtown Grille, conveniently located along E Washington Street.

This full-service restaurant offers tasty American comfort food in a relaxed setting, making diners feel welcome even if it’s their time dining here.

Eat at Pattan’s Downtown Grille and order their award-winning BBQ dishes, including the Pattan Special sandwich, smoked beef brisket platter, and pulled pork taco.

Aside from their savory BBQ, other customer favorites include brisket, hush puppies, and sweet coconut dessert.

You can also try their daily specials like shrimp burgers, ribeye sandwiches, chicken wings, chicken tacos, or shrimp tacos.

To complement your dining experience, order a glass of wine or an ice-cold glass of beer.

Shop at the Rockingham Farmers Market

The Rockingham Farmers Market is one of the best ways to support locals and discover the city’s finest produce.

You will also help small-to-medium farmers and vendors and take one step closer to maintaining a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

Fruits, vegetables, and other products sold here are typically organic, homegrown, and free from harmful chemicals and preservatives.

Check out what’s in season at the Rockingham Farmers Market and purchase fresh vegetable fruits, flower wreaths, and more.

You can also find other food items like raw honey, baked goods, cake slices, and other items you can eat as you move from one stall to another.

Other items sold at the farmers market include kitchen towels, wooden crafts, pillowcases, and crochet goods.

Take Your Kids to Discovery Place Kids-Rockingham

Treat your kids to a day of fun family bonding at Discovery Place Kids-Rockingham, a children’s museum that lets them satisfy their curiosity and try new things.

Located at E Washington Avenue, the museum lets young minds be creative through its various exhibitions.

This also allows your kids to socialize with same-aged children and possibly make new friends.

Visit Discovery Place Kids-Rockingham and let your kids play as an inventor, chef, or firefighter for the day at the exhibitions.

Some exhibitions teach about different parts of the body, while another area lets them push and pull various equipment while getting a deeper appreciation of science.

There’s also a play area for kids 36 months and below, allowing them to play, crawl, and roll around safely.

Satisfy Your Mexican Food Cravings at Los Mariachis Mexican Bar & Grill

Check out Los Mariachis Mexican Bar & Grill for your savory and delicious Mexican food.

The restaurant has a warm and welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of the small cantinas in Mexico.

It features previous-generation recipes, giving you that authentic Mexican dining experience.

In addition to its atmosphere and friendly service, Los Mariachis Mexican Bar & Grill is a local favorite for its generous servings of food, giving you good value for your money.

At the restaurant, order the salsa and chips, fajitas, or the enchiladas verde, made with poblano and jalapeno peppers and served with rice, beans, and guacamole.

When eating Mexican, don’t forget to order a tangy yet sweet margarita glass to cap off your meal!

Relax at Castlewood Park

Formally known as Castlewood Park, this park is an ideal place to unwind and enjoy a slow day with the family.

It may be relatively far from the main streets of Rockingham, but this is perfect if you want some peace without being too far from the city.

The park features a wooden children’s playground with a distinct castle-like structure.

As the name suggests, your children can play as knights, kings, and queens.

Castlewood Park is a dog-friendly park and offers tranquil views of Ledbetter Lake.

Two picnic shelters are available, but they’re on a first-come-first-serve basis.

You’ll have to arrive early to enjoy a small lunch or afternoon picnic.

Savor Home-Style Meals at Holiday Restaurant

If you’re craving a homey meal, have breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Holiday Restaurant in the heart of Rockingham.

The restaurant has been around since 1957, making it a staple for locals and tourists visiting the city.

Moreover, it opens at 5:30 a.m. so you can stop by the restaurant for a hot cup of coffee and an omelet or waffle.

Holiday Restaurant also serves a satisfying lunch with Carolina-style burgers, sandwiches, steak, and baby-back ribs.

You can also try their nightly specials as prime rib steak with potatoes, Texas toast, and a side salad.

Explore Hinson Lake

Leave the hustle and bustle of the city and surround yourself with pristine, natural surroundings at Hinson Lake.

The city park is an all-in-one destination for outdoor activities, perfect for nature lovers, adventure junkies, and those who want to relax.

Hinson Lake has over three miles of shaded trails going around the lake, suitable for jogging, walking, and going on nature walks.

Bring food and have a picnic at the tables and benches surrounding the lake for a meal with a view.

The park also has an 18-hole disc golf course, fishing piers, and observation decks for charming lakeside views.

Discover the Turbulent History of Great Falls Mill

Get a glimpse into North Carolina’s industrial past when you visit Great Falls Mill, a historical landmark along W Broad Avenue.

It’s one of the first few cotton mills in North Carolina, operating until 1865, when it burned down during the Civil War.

Eventually, the mill reopened and began spinning, dyeing, and weaving until it closed again in 1930.

Unfortunately, the mill burned in 1972, although much of the ruins remained, now covered in vines and bushes.

Although Great Falls Mill is on private property, you can still see its ruins along the highway on a scenic road trip across Rockingham.

Join the Locals for the Thursday Plaza Jam

Rockingham’s Thursday Plaza Jam is a seasonal event that brings together the locals for a relaxed yet fun day.

It’s held on the first Thursday of the month from May to October and features local bands and performers.

The concert is held at Cole Plaza, which is only a few minutes away from other tourist destinations in the city, like Discovery Place Kids-Rockingham and Hinson Lake.

Bring your foldable chairs, sit back, and watch live performances from local bands, some of whom you might haven’t heard of yet!

The Thursday Plaza Jam is a free event, so you can check it out and drop by the venue.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take a Dose of History at the Hamlet Depot & Museums

Exterior of the Hamlet Depot & Museums

Rick C Lanier /

From Rockingham, travel 12 minutes south and visit the Hamlet Depot & Museums in Hamlet, North Carolina.

This is arguably the most photographed train station in the eastern United States, featuring a timeless Queen Anne-style depot.

The site houses the active passenger depot, the Tornado Steam building, a visitor’s center, a Main Street park with an engine caboose, and a picnic area.

Old carts beside the Hamlet Depot & Museums

Rick C Lanier /

Visit the Hamlet Depot & Museums and discover the history of the Seaboard Railroad and Hamlet as you check out the hands-on exhibits and visual displays.

Drop by the visitor’s center to check out the rotating exhibits and find the Tornado Locomotive replica at the Tornado Steam building.

The depot is an active Amtrak location, so you can even watch trains passing by.

Facade of the Hamlet Depot & Museums

Rick C Lanier /

See the Fascinating Town Creek Indian Mound State Historic Site

The grounds of Town Creek Indian Mound State Historic Site

DrStew82, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Town Creek Indian Mound State Historic Site is one of North Carolina’s unique archaeological sites.

You can find it in Mt. Gilead, North Carolina, located 30 minutes north of Rockingham.

It features a platform mound with small huts and a defensive fortification, which the Pee Dee people built, for the American Indians of the Southern United States.

The site became an important ceremonial location and settlement for the Pee Dee people.

History plaque of Town Creek Indian Mound State Historic Site

DrStew82, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore Town Creek Indian Mound State Historic Site and see the reconstructed village site, including the mound itself, a townhouse, and several lodges.

The mortuary or burial house has an exhibit depicting a burial scene with an audio guide for an in-depth explanation.

Visitors can also walk along the nearby nature trail and spot ferns, plants, and other animal species native to the area.

Spend the Day at Uwharrie National Forest

A covered bridge at Uwharrie National Forest

Andy Fogelsonger /

Uwharrie National Forest is a sprawling forest near the town of Troy in North Carolina, 28 minutes from Rockingham.

With 51,000 acres of land, it may be the smallest of the four National Forests in North Carolina, but the forest is an outdoor lover’s paradise.

The forest has plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, equestrian riding, mountain biking, camping, and more.

Boardwalk at Uwharrie National Forest

Noemia Poole /

Immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere at Uwharrie National Forest and go swimming or boating on the lake.

There are also areas for disc golfing, target shooting, and fishing.

However, if you’d like to make the most of your trip to the national forest, spend the night at any available campgrounds.

The waters of Uwharrie National Forest

Noemia Poole /

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Cheraw State Park

View of the waters from Cheraw State Park boardwalk

Jimmor30, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cheraw State Park is a large nature area located at Cheraw, South Carolina, a 35-minute drive from Rockingham.

The state park boasts several hiking trails, a 360-acre lake, multiple campsites, a championship 18-hole golf course, and other facilities.

Whether you want to fish, hike, run, or laze under the sun, take a day trip to Cheraw State Park and enjoy various recreational activities.

Rent a kayak, canoe, or pedal boat, and paddle across Lake Juniper.

The lake at the park is an excellent place for anglers to fish for catfish, bass, and bream.

On the other hand, those who’d like to relax can go birdwatching, geocaching, or walking along the nature trails.

Walk along the Trails of Weymouth Woods – Sandhills Nature Preserve

Pine forest at Weymouth Woods - Sandhills Nature Preserve

bobistraveling, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Find solace among the rows of longleaf pine trees at Weymouth Woods – Sandhills Nature Preserve, a state park near Southern Pines, North Carolina.

The state park is 38 minutes from Rockingham and provides a tranquil environment for those who want to unwind and enjoy the fresh air.

As you explore the trails, find rare plants and animals like red-cockaded woodpeckers, fox squirrels, pine snakes, and purple pitcher plants.

The Weymouth Woods – Sandhills Nature Preserve trails are relatively easy and range between 0.1 miles to longer 2.6-mile routes.

Aside from walking or hiking, some trails can also be used for horseback riding.

Final Thoughts

Rockingham may not be as famous as North Carolina cities like Wilmington and Raleigh, but it’s worth checking out.

The city offers quaint hiking trails, must-try restaurants, historical sites, and family-friendly establishments perfect for every kind of traveler.

Its proximity to metropolitan areas in the state also makes it a good choice for a weekend getaway.

Plan a memorable vacation with this list of the best things to do in Rockingham, North Carolina!

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