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  • Camille Renner

Live Like a Local: Check these must-do activities off your bucket list

The summertime is always filled with special events and celebrations, from pop-up markets to work-out classes, but luckily for Gaston County residents, the fun doesn't stop in the summer. All year round, there are activities for foodies, exercise enthusiasts, art lovers and families to enjoy in Mount Holly, Belmont, Dallas and beyond. Here's our round up of the top 15 attractions and activities for you to check off your Gaston Bucket List.

1. Hike Crowders Mountain

Gaston Outside

4611 Linwood Rd., Gastonia

Daily 8 a.m.-9 p.m. (May-September)

A popular attraction for Gaston County and the surrounding region, Crowders Mountain State Park offers hiking trails varying in difficulty, fishing spots and camp grounds—all in our home county. Starting at the Linwood Rd. access area, hikers can choose between two trails, one being two miles round trip and a strenuous, steep trek up the mountain and the other a much longer trail that requires less exertion. Whichever trail you choose, the vista at the top is worth it with 25 mile views in all directions and the Charlotte skyline can even be seen poking out of the horizon. While this hike is quite the workout, many would consider it a family friendly activity, bringing their kids out to enjoy all that our natural landscape has to offer.

2. Eat at Groovy Beast

Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

109 E. Hudson Blvd., Gastonia

Tuesday-Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sunday-Monday, Closed

For burgers, breakfast, vegetarian options and some of your favorite southern delicacies, like grits, look no further than Gastonia's Groovy Beast. An unassuming eatery that shares it's space with a convenience store, Groovy Beast has become a cult-favorite for Gaston County residents. With fresh ground meats, unique daily specials, a kid's menu and an always friendly staff, it is no surprise this hidden gem is so popular.

3. Take a mural tour

Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

Various Locations

An important piece of Gaston County's vibrant art scene are the murals that line the streets of Gastonia, Bessemer City, Cherryville and many of our local townships. On the next beautiful day when you have no plans, pack the family in the car, put the windows down and drive all around our county to learn about history through these pieces of art, snap a picture in front of giant painted bees and stop in to Pita Wheel for lunch (be sure to sit in front of their iconic Lucille Ball mural!)

4. Grab a drink at Jailhouse

Chris Rodarte, Gaston Outside

23 S. Main St., Belmont

Wednesday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday-Tuesday, Closed

Located in what once was Belmont's city jail, The Jailhouse serves up unique craft cocktails, whiskey flights, cigars and rare beers and wine in a cozy lounge setting—complete with iron cells and scribbles from prisoners of the past on the walls. The Jailhouse is located behind Old Stone Steakhouse, their sister concept (located in Belmont's old police station building,) and Jailhouse guests can order food from Old Stone. To gain entry to the spirit and lounge bar, membership is required, costing $2 per day or $12 for an annual membership.

5. Visit the U.S. National Whitewater Center

Grant Baldwin, Gaston Outside

5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy., Charlotte

Open 24 hours a day

With 1,300 acres of land, 50 miles of walking trails, access to the Catawba River, the worlds largest manmade whitewater river, ropes courses and more outdoor fun activities, the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) is a huge regional attraction. The USNWC offers daily activities, like guided hikes, outdoor yoga, kids classes and climbing on their outdoor rock wall, but also hosts a variety of seasonal events. In the winter, the center is transformed into a wonderland, with the walking trails lit up with spectacular lights and ice skaters on the Upper Pond. In the summertime, a live music event called River Jam takes place three days a week, where guests dance, relax, drink beer and take in the beautiful surroundings. We are so lucky to have USNWC, and all the fun that goes on there, right in our home county.

6. Relax at Goat Island Park

Grant Baldwin, Gaston Outside

141 8th Ave., Cramerton

Daily 7 a.m.-9 p.m.

In the heart of Downtown Cramerton, Goat Island Park and Greenway gives residents a space to walk, play, workout, sit with a coffee, get on the water or just relax. Goat Island is home to a walking trail, two playgrounds, ping pong tables, corn hole courts and picnic shelters, making it a great place for individuals, friends couples or families to hang out. Plus, Floyd & Blackies Bakery and Coffee Shop sits just across from the park, so grab a yummy coffee or pastry treat on your way in.

7. Explore the Schiele Museum

Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

1500 E. Garrison Blvd., Gastonia

Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

The Schiele Museum of Natural History and Planetarium is one of the numerous museums in Gaston County where people of all ages can learn and grow their worldview. The Schiele has been providing the Gaston County community with interactive exhibits, kid's educational programs and exciting events for 60 years this month. Besides the natural history exhibits, complete with authentic artifacts, the museum is home to an outdoor walking trail and a planetarium with rotating programs showing. Currently, the planetarium is showing a children's magic treehouse animated show and programs about the ocean reef and the sky.

8. Enjoy Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens

6500 S. New Hope Rd., Belmont

Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Monday-Tuesday, Closed

Sitting lakefront in Belmont, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is a must visit for outdoor enthusiasts, plant lovers, artists and families. Daniel Stowe has 9 different gardens within their 380 acre property, including a children's, orchid and perennial gardens. The garden also is home to a 3.2 mile walking trail and seasonal events and exhibits.

9. Indulge at Shake Shop

Evey McFadden, Gaston Outside

505 W. Church St., Cherryville

Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 4 p.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday-Monday, Closed

Another cult-favorite of Gaston County foodies, Shake Shop is Cherryville's go-to spot for your burger and fry fix. Since 1943, Shake Shop has been serving up their iconic burger style, now dubbed "lotta style" burgers that are delectable and beloved. While the shop doesn't serve milkshakes anymore, we suggest you grab a Cherry Lemon Sundrop with your lunch or dinner.

10. Walk the Carolina Thread Trail

Stowe Park — Camille Renner, Gaston Outside

Various Locations

For avid walkers, runners or simply just nature lovers, the regional Carolina Thread Trail is a must-visit for Gaston County's outdoorsy residents. Our local City Planners have made the cognizant goal to develop miles of greenways to provide free outdoor recreation for county residents. While future goals include over a hundred miles of connecting greenway trails right in our home county, Gaston is already home to an impressive amount of trail systems. From the Goat Island Greenway in Cramerton to Mount Holly's Linear Trail, there are already so many Carolina Thread Trail access points in Gaston County.

11. Shop Downtown

Catalyst Mercantile - Liz Logan, Gaston Outside

Various Locations

If you have been following our "Walk Down Main Street" series, you'll know we love the small coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques that line the idyllic downtowns of our townships. Bessemer City, Mount Holly, and Lowell are all home to eclectic and fashion-forward shops that are perfect stops during a weekend stroll through our downtowns. You can peruse through vintage and antique goods on W. Main St. in Gastonia, shop for candles and flowers at Belmont's Meraki's and support a small women owned business in Lowell. So next time you have a free day, head downtown for a stroll, bite to eat and a shopping spree.

12. Wine down at Veronét Vineyards

DeLauren Everett, Gaston Outside

1549 Ike Brooks Dr., Kings Mountain

Friday-Monday, 12 p.m.-6 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, Closed

When Veronét Vineyards opened in 2018, they were the first and only winery in Gaston County. Just three short years later, the first time wine makers have become experts in the craft and produce impressively tasty local wine. The farm is completely organic, using no pesticides or other toxins while growing their grapes, which is something that follows the ideals and mission of the family-owned business. Besides the actual wine, the 72-acre property boasts gorgeous views of Crowders Mountain, and holds various events—many complete with tasty wine slushies.

13. Check out a Distillery

Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

Muddy River Distillery

1500 River Dr., Belmont

Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday, Closed; Saturday 12:30-4 p.m.; Sunday-Monday, Closed

The first rum distillery to operate in the Carolinas lives in our very own county, sitting right off the Catawba River in Belmont, hence the appropriate name of "Muddy River Distillery." Muddy River produces 6 types of rum and their O.G. rum (the Silver Carolina) is even award winning. The distilling team has also created two flavored rums, basil and spiced, and accompanying hand-crafted cocktail recipes can be found on their website. For patrons interested in learning more about the distilling process, Muddy River offers distillery tours every Saturday.

14. Plan a brewery crawl

Cavendish Brewing Company — DeLauren Everett, Gaston Outside

Various Locations

It's no secret that Gaston's beer scene is a force to be reckoned with and our local breweries are brewing up some great drinks. In order to experience our local breweries in one evening, plan a bar crawl with a twist—plan to only visit breweries. From Primal Brewing in Belmont, Cavendish Brewery in Gastonia, Ole Dallas Brewing in Dallas and more, a brewery crawl is the perfect way to try some unique beers while checking out all our county's municipalities. So, grab some friends, some brews and drive safely!

15. Skate, bike or scooter at Skate Parks

George Poston Pump Track — Randy Rivera, Gaston Outside

Various Locations

A beloved attraction for Gaston residents, both children and adults, are the various skate parks sprinkled around the county. Funded by parks and recreation departments, our Skate Parks are not only blast for you and your family, but are also placed near other attractions, such as playgrounds and greenways. Heading to the skatepark can be an all day attraction, just pack a picnic and hang out at the park all day. There are skateparks located in Ranlo, Cherryville Gastonia and Belmont.

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