Looking for a Getaway Close to Home? Take a Staycation in Downtown Gastonia
A good getaway every now and then can be a blast. But what if you could enjoy all the excitement, fun and relaxation of a vacation without the plane trip or long car ride? Fortunately, the ever-growing downtown Gastonia has everything you need to plan a perfect staycation and get that vacation feeling while staying close to home.
Part of the joy of a staycation is that you don’t have to go far. If you prefer the comfort of your own bed, you can return home after a day of adventuring and head out to your next activity in the morning. For many, though, a big component of the relaxation of a vacation comes from escaping the responsibilities of home, getting away from things like the dishes in the sink and the pets who wake you up early in the morning, hungry for breakfast.
We've rounded up just a few of Gastonia's amazing accommodations, activities and dining destinations to get your wheels turning. Read on to discover our guide to staycationing in Gastonia. You might find these ideas doubly inspiring if you're planning to guide out-of-town guests through Gastonia in the future.
Where to Stay
If you like to get out of the house for a night or two, you’ll find an abundance of fun accommodations available in Gastonia.
From downtown bungalows to guest houses, you can find tons of unique and comfortable accommodation options on AirBnb. If you’ve never tried AirBnb before, a staycation is the perfect opportunity to give it a go. This online marketplace of vacation rentals allows property owners to rent out a single room or a whole home. You can find options for a variety of budgets.
168 W. Main Ave.
This absolute gem of a hotel opened in December 2019 after seven years of renovation. The building it occupies has played an important role in Gastonia's history since its construction over a century ago. Construction on the seven-story West Main Avenue building was completed in 1917, and the structure served as the First National Bank of Gastonia until 1933. After that, it housed multiple local attorney offices for several decades. By the time the current owners decided to transform it into a hotel, though, it had been vacant since the eighties. Through a meticulous restoration process that involved extensive research and massive amounts of creativity, the old “Lawyer Building” became The Esquire, one of the hippest downtown destinations for visitors and locals alike.
In each of The Esquire’s 35 rooms, visitors will find stunning details that pay homage to the location’s history. Each room features works of art created from antique money printed on the grounds years ago. The Esquire team worked with private collectors and museums to track down the bills, then consulted with the secret service to ensure that the replications they created were big enough to not be considered counterfeit. The results are a must-see.
At The Esquire, you’ll sleep in comfort with premium linens and a pillow-top mattress. Each room is outfitted with a Keurig coffee maker, flat-screen TV and a USB recharging station. The décor is stylish, yet understated enough to keep the spotlight on the gorgeous original window sills and hardwood floors.
What to Do
Some people love to laze around a hotel room on their staycations and soak in the luxury while others prefer to go out and about. If your vacationing style is all about the experiences, check out these activities.
1750 Rankin Lake Rd.
Daily, 9 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.
The only thing that can make fresh air and a beautiful lake view better is getting out on the water in a boat. At Rankin Lake Park, you can rent a 2-person pedal boat for $5 (30 minutes) or $8 (60 minutes). The rental office is just beside the wooden boardwalk and also offers canoes and kayaks. After boating, check out the park’s cornhole courses and picnic tables — the perfect place to feast on takeout food from local restaurants like Pita Wheel or coffee and snacks from Gaston Pour House.
There are several gorgeous murals to check out in downtown Gastonia, making the city streets into an open-air gallery year-round. Check out “Flourish” a series of three murals by artist Bree Stallings at the United Way of Gaston County. Next, visit the bee mural on Main Street.
111 W. Main Ave.
Monday -Thursday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Friday - Saturday, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Throw a treasure hunt into the mix of your staycation with a visit to Sleepy Poet Antique Mall. Enjoy an afternoon sifting through the wares for sale in 120+ unique vendor booths. You can find records, vintage clothing and jewelry, furniture, knick-knacks and so much more. No matter what kind of souvenir you’re imagining taking home from your staycation, you’ll likely find it in these walls.
Where to Eat
No staycation is complete without local food. Whether you’re looking for the classics or something new and unusual, downtown Gastonia has you covered.
168 W. Main Ave.
Barrister’s, the high-end eatery at The Esquire with options ranging from fried chicken to vegetarian options, is well beyond your run-of-the-mill hotel restaurant. Barrister’s is a sophisticated Southern eatery that puts enormous thought into every ingredient. Sitting on the patio with a cocktail (the Watermelon Fizz features Kings Mountain's Cardinal Gin with watermelon, tonic, and blueberries) and locally sourced food (don’t miss the squash casserole) is heaven close to home.
168 W. Main Ave.
The Notary is The Esquire’s coffee and breakfast addition in the basement of the building. Here, the bank’s vault has been repurposed into what General Manager Joy Dixon calls “one of the coolest walk-in coolers.” Hotel guests receive complimentary breakfast vouchers, but the avocado toast is worth the trip even if you’re not staying at The Esquire.
238 W. Main Ave.
Viva Tequis serves creative and innovative Mexican street food. Everything on the menu is intriguing, making it hard to choose just one thing to order. “After people come for awhile, they find their favorite,” said manager Francisco Vera. Whatever you choose, be sure to sample the six amazing sauces, particularly the fresh and bright jalapeno salsa, which pairs wonderfully with al pastor.
For many, a hallmark of vacationing is branching out and trying new foods. The team at Viva Tequis isn’t afraid to put options on the menu that you don’t usually find in Mexican restaurants in this region. For example, the nopal and black bean taco features the stems of the prickly pear cactus, a must for okra lovers as it bears a striking resemblance.
182 S. South St.
In a historic downtown movie theatre, you’ll find some of the most cutting-edge food in town, especially the brunch. The space still has its balcony, and it’s easy to picture how it looked in the days when silent films were projected here. There are many nods to the building’s history in the restaurant’s décor, making it a nostalgic place for many long-time Gaston County residents. Manager Christina Smith recalls hosting a couple for dinner on their anniversary and learning they’d had their first date at the movies in the exact same spot — and it's still a great date night destination.
Above the balcony, you’ll find the sign that used to be displayed on top of the building. The walls feature art made from old film reels, and movies are projected on a screen above the open kitchen in homage to the building’s history. Like the décor, the cuisine often involves a modern twist on traditional favorites. For example, kimchi adds a pop to the richness of egg omelette and short rib with sweet potato and prosciutto hash in The Big Short, available on the Sunday brunch menu.