GASTON COUNTY, NC
In the past, Gaston County was known for its idyllic rural setting, small towns and proximity to Charlotte (a good area to live and raise children, while being close to the Queen City). Today, there’s so much to offer folks who enjoy a variety of experiences. Plan to spend several days enjoying the attractions and sites – at your own speed.
The Villa at Water’s Edge is a bit unique – a luxury villa which allows you to cook and enjoy fabulous gathering areas and beautiful views. It’s on a secluded cove on Lake Wylie, and there’s a gravel road, so plan to arrive during daylight hours. Melanie is the host and guests praise her care and thoughtfulness. Just four guests, so this is not for a large family gathering – more like a lovely retreat, with all the conveniences.
There are more options. Gaston County is filled with charming towns and villages including Gastonia (the county seat), Belmont and Mount Holly, which all have excellent hotels. For those staying in Belmont, the Hampton inn is adjacent to campus at Belmont Abbey and its architecture blends with the Abbey’s charming aesthetic.
HAVE SOME FUN
Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. We must begin with these beautiful gardens where, year round, visitors explore almost 400 acres on the banks of lovely Lake Wylie. The Gardens are varied, and the Conservatory will take your breath away with its lush displays of orchids and tropical plants. Don’t miss the bromeliads in this magnificent, 8,000 square foot glass house. Outside, a favorite is the Four Seasons Garden, with texture, color and year-round inspiration for the home gardener. There are plenty of diversions for younger children as well (such as the Allee Garden), so don’t leave the youngsters at home. And don’t miss the Cottage Garden where aromas will transport you to your childhood and Nana’s house. Check their website for special events and exhibitions.
US National Whitewater Center is a playground for all ages and skill levels. The key is active, outdoor lifestyles which may include whitewater rafting and kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, rock climbing, zip lines, ropes courses, a canopy tour and mountain biking. Even in winter, the center is open (the water channel is closed) and special events and programs keep things lively.
Not an extreme athlete? You’ll still enjoy the center. Outdoor festivals and live music offer great entertainment, along with people watching. Perhaps you want to increase your athletic skills through their skill development programs, and summer camps for children and teens. And, don’t forget The River’s Edge Bar & Grill, Pump House Biergarten and Adventure Dining opportunities.
Not far away, Crowder’s Mountain offers trails for all skill levels, with campsites and a lake. Nearby, you can rent boats (including kayaks and Stand-up Paddleboards) and enjoy the River District of Lake Wylie, very accessible from the town of Mount Holly.
A great appeal of the Carolinas is found in its many historical sites and museums and learning from our past is abundant in Gaston County. Plan to stop at Belmont Abbey, a four-year college listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In Gastonia, Schiele Museum of Natural History features habitats of North Carolina, past and present, as well as cultural exhibits showcasing the history of North American Native Americans. Outdoor exhibits (open seasonally), a typical Catawba village, as well as a artifacts from a backcountry farm active in the 1700s.
The Gaston County Museum, located in the small town of Dallas, provides more history of the textiles era, as well as carriages. The Hoffman Hotel is a Greek revival structure which is part of the museum.
Plan to take some time to visit the many small towns in the county. Bessemer City, Cherryville, Cramerton, Dallas (home of the Gaston County Museum), High Shoals, Kings Mountain, Lowell, McAdenville, Ranlo and Stanley are all worth your time. Unique and charming, they all have walkable downtowns with plenty of shopping. You’ll find collectibles and antiques, plus local gifts and crafts to take home.
If you visit Gaston Country in the late fall, find time to go to Christmas Town USA, in McAdenville. From November 30-December 26, hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights sparkle and 300,000 vehicles arrive to see the show.
You’ll find great restaurants, pubs and bistros during your stay. Here are some insider tips and visitor favorites.
Webb Custom Kitchen is in an old theatre, but don’t let the down-home name fool you. Accompanied by old movies and memorabilia, they feature creative cuisine, enhanced by custom cocktails, craft beer and unique creations. (Try Charlotte’s Web, with Hendricks Gin, or perhaps a Total Eclipse, with Jack Daniels mash, Chambourd and other delightful ingredients.) We were intrigued by their grilled artichoke with lemon sorrel vinaigrette, and their slow-roasted prime rib. The wine list is ample and the craft beers local. Old movies play while you dine.
Jia Asian Fusion and Sushi Bar offers a different approach. Sit at their “famous” sushi bar or in the dining room. It’s been voted best in Gaston County, and locals love the spicy basil mussels and the bourbon shrimp, in addition to a variety of beef dishes. (Spicy Thai curry chicken is another favorite.) The Chef’s recommendations include vegetarian and seafood specialties and consider Crab Rangoon and Spicy Mango Chicken (ask for extra spice and they will accommodate.)
Ray’s Smokehouse offers a more laid-back atmosphere, which is a good thing when you’re talking about barbeque and bacon cheeseburgers. Locals know that Ray will cut you a steak to take home for a special night beside the grill. Three generations of family have taken it from being a great little grocery store to a super barbeque and meat restaurant. Open since 1960.
Lily’s Italian Bistro is open Monday through Saturday, for lunch and dinner. You can order the usual suspects, including pizza and pasta, but there’s so much more going on here. Their bar menu includes arancini, crabcakes and Maine lobster sliders, for example – a cut above most bar food. For dinner, consider the half-duck, or the pork osso bucco. Whatever you do, save room for Tiramisu. We’ve been told it’s the best ever!
Kyle Fletcher’s BBQ and Catering (704.824.1956) is the kind of restaurant you frequent for the food, not the atmosphere. The onion rings receive endless accolades, and the burgers have been lauded as best in town – and that’s before you get to the cue. This is cash or check only, so come prepared, although it won’t set you back much. For the sauce-averse among us, you add your own at your table – just right.
Lotus is a drink lover’s library, with signature cocktails, 80+ micro-brews, 40+ wines by the glass, and sake, just for fun. You can find classic American comfort food, here, plus some great sushi and other Asian options. The fresh catch comes from the coastal Carolinas, and the duck spring rolls are praised by many. Open for lunch and dinner, Mon-Sat, and Sunday brunch.
Tavern 24 offers quality food in a casual atmosphere that welcomes the entire family. Make no mistake, this is a pub, but sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed to relax, watch a game and enjoy good food. You can order wings or quesadillas, but there are also homemade soups and salads, mighty fine dressed-up burgers, and a variety of steak, seafood and chicken dishes.
Nellies Southern Kitchen is inspired from a much-beloved grandmother who lived in Belmont and was known for her cooking. Her great-grandchildren opened the Kitchen and locals love the atmosphere and food. Open for lunch and dinner (and Sunday brunch), the choices are southern, with a nod to fresh and local. At dinner, start with a Bel-Mint Julip (the secret is the cucumber soda), then choose from dishes such as NC pulled pork, Carolina Trout, local chicken and dumplings, or a vegetarian option.
Peace N Hominy Q Shack bills itself as a casual neighborhood barbecue joint that works hard to be green and local. Reviewers love the brisket and ultra-tender pork, as well as the sides. This is not fancy eating, but if Charlotte locals will leave the Queen city for the short drive, that’s a testament for sure. Open for lunch and dinner. Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
Old Stone Steakhouse is upscale and if the weather invites, plan to dine on the patio. Formerly the local police station, the historic inside is appealing, too, so you have options. It’s a steakhouse, and they do beef very well indeed, but they serve salmon and even a turkey burger with poached pears for alternative palates. Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Sundays.
Addley’s Bagels is a relative newcomer to the area, but locals love the fresh bagels which compare favorably to New York options. They have single source coffee and lunchtime treats as well. Open from 6am-3pm.
String Bean is a Southern Bistro which regularly receives Wine Spectator accolades and offers original recipes and tasty bites. Try the duck fat fries, and anything with one of their signature dips. For dinner, the chef’s daily creations are spot on. There’s a market, too, with deli items and fresh-made treats. Open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday-Saturday. For their Saturday brunch menu, consider the filet benedict, or perhaps the omelet station.
Twin Tops Fish Camp is tops for pure nostalgia and delicious fish, including perch, flounder, catfish and Alaskan whitefish, among others. You can order a delicious salmon, shrimp or crab legs, but make sure somebody in your party orders the real deal. Family friendly and casual. For locals, it’s a longtime favorite. Open at 4pm, Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Queen Bee Bakery opened in 2013, but ever since, it’s been named best bakery in Gaston County every year. Remember the small town, old-fashioned bakeries where everything is made from scratch and the aroma is knock-you-down delicious when you step through the door? Stop by for a sweet cupcake. (We like the blackberry lemonade and German chocolate flavors.) For a smaller treat, their toasted coconut caramel truffles are divine.
J Peters Grill and Bar on Lake Wylie offers great views and excellent food. Make sure you find a spot outside, overlooking the water. Start with their Carolina Peach Cocktail, then try the black and bleu salad, with perfectly grilled ahi tuna. If you’re really hungry, the J Peters chicken, covered in bacon, pork, honey BBQ and cheese is a filling winner. Open Sunday-Thursday, 11-9 and Saturday and Sunday, 11-10.
Learn more about Gaston County.