All of these things are awesome and impressive on so many levels, but this guide is going to take you beyond them.
How? By sharing local food, a whiskey prison, and Intimidator tributes, and even more fun! So buckle up for a fun-filled ride through Concord and beyond in Cabarrus County.
We want to give all our love to Concord and Cabarrus County in this post, but just want to mention that this area is mentioned in our guide to a weekend in Charlotte.
This post is part of our series covering Central North Carolina. We originally created it on October 23, 2019.
Things to Do in Concord and Cabarrus County for a Weekend (or More!)
Special thanks to Visit Cabarrus for providing us with complimentary accommodations, tours, and meals throughout our stay. All opinions within this article are our own.
Stay on the Main Drag
Whether or not you’re in town for a race, you should stay somewhere on Bruton Smith Blvd. Homewood Suites is close enough to zMax Dragway that we could hear cars running from our room, though it wasn’t that bad. Just a cool effect, in my opinion.
This hotel is in a perfect spot gave us easy access to I-85. That’s how we got in and how we got around Concord and elsewhere in Cabarrus County.
They also have friendly staff who are always happy to help. Homewood offers some familiar amenities like a nice workout room and a seasonal pool. However, I can’t think of too many places that have an on-site basketball court.
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Inside this huge complex, you’ll find five tracks that host some of the biggest events in racing, making a visit here among the most intense things to do in Concord alone.
The Oval, Short Oval, and Roval
Inside the main Speedway, you’ll find the 1.5-mile quad Oval, the .25 mile Short Oval, and 2.28-mile road course (Roval). Seating capacity here is 84,000, welcoming crowds each time NASCAR comes to town.
Across US 29 is zMax Dragway. After visiting this place a couple of times, I’m a bit hooked on drag racing and will never turn down an invitation. This 30,000 seater holds the first two-by-four-lane drag strip in the US.
Apparently, Las Vegas decided they needed one, too, after seeing zMax.
Watching the cars get put together on the first day of big events like the NHRA Carolina Nationals is almost as much fun. That’s when you get to see the teams in action and even meet many of the drivers.
We included the Roval 400 and Carolina Nationals in our guide covering October events in North Carolina.
The Dirt Track
Across US 29 is the Dirt Track, which is the smallest venue at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 14,000 can be seated at this stadium-style facility, which surrounds a 1,300 ft clay oval.
The biggest-named event that comes through here is the World of Outlaws World Finals. This always-exciting sprint car series brings the speed to the Dirt Track each year.
We included a visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway in our bucket list of things to do in North Carolina.
Also, we mentioned a few things to add to your calendar, but there’s something going on literally throughout the year. You can keep tabs on Charlotte Motor Speedway events here.
K1 Speed Indoor Karting
And after watching the races or prepping for the next one, you need to check out K1. Their only North Carolina location is in Concord and great for rainy days, hot days, or any day that ends in “y.”
I struggled during my first run, which is why I recommend at least five or six times going through the course. That way, you’ll get the hang of their 15 corner turns and that uber fun back straight to get up toward 45 mph.
And since you may know we like a good competition, who do you think had the fastest times around the track—me or Christina?
Hendrick Motorsports Museum and Team Store
Fans of racing’s best-known racing teams should visit the Hendrick Motorsports Museum and Team Store. It’s one of the best free things to do in Concord and perfect for fans of the history behind Hendrick and the team’s best-known drivers.
You can see cars from the 80s, when Rick Hendrick created the team, through today. I don’t want to spoil things, but big names’ cars on display include Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Jimmie Johnson.
Mustang Owner’s Museum
On the opposite side of the Speedway from Hendrick, you can also see dozens of pony cars at the Mustang Owner’s Museum. There are a variety of rotating exhibits throughout the year, which keeps the experience fresh for even return visitors.
Note: Admission is $15 for adults and free to kids ages 15 and under.
Things to Do in Concord Beyond Automotive Fun
Before a day at the races or if you’re enjoying things in Concord beyond cars, start with a visit to OMG Donuts. A dozen of their colorfully topped and filled creations go perfectly with a breweries coffee or Vietnamese Coffee if you’d really like a boost.
Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge also calls Concord “home” and is close to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Once you step inside, you’ll feel miles away from all the action.
They keep temps inside nice and cozy for you, at 84 degrees year-round. That way, you can enjoy all 11 waterslides, four pools, games, and much more in style no matter when you stay.
Add in Concord Mills and Cabarrus County begins to feel like the Texas of North Carolina. Since it’s our state’s largest outlet and retail shopping mall, I’m beginning to wonder if everything is purposefully built on a bigger scale here.
More than 200 stores reside here and we could go on about our favorites, but…Okay, here’s one.
But if you know anyone in this family, you’ll know we love trains. And that’s why we flocked to Lionel inside Concord Mills. It’s the famed toy train builder’s only directly owned store.
Here, you’ll find ready-to-run train sets, train cars, locomotives, and Imagineering for the little ones.
As parents and kids at heart, SEA LIFE is one of our favorite things to do inside Concord Mils. Visitors have 10 Interactive Zones to explore and 5,000 sea creatures to learn about at this fun-filled aquarium.
Special events throughout the year include a really cool Underwater Pumpkin Carving Dive Show in fall, Sea of Lights in December, and more during the year.
Sensory-Friendly Sundays are another reason to love SEA LIFE. During this time, sensory triggers are reduced throughout the aquarium and a safe place or comfort room is available.
If you’ve been to Concord Mills, do you have a favorite thing to do or place to go? Let us know about it!
If you love breweries as we do, you’ll know that Cabarrus Brewing is a pretty big deal around here. As Concord’s first full-scale production craft brewery, these guys know there’s pressure on them to deliver an experience.
And when you visit their 5,000 square foot taproom in Gibson Mill, you’ll see that Cabarrus Brewing goes above and beyond.
More Breweries in Concord
What’s your favorite? Let us know (nicely!) and we’ll see about including them here, too!
Eat at 44 Mills
Grab some good, honest food at 44 Mills where Chef Mike Watson keeps more than his ingredients fresh. He sources as local as possible, with examples including bread from Charlotte and pork from Boone.
And due to the local nature of his produce and meats, the 44 Mills menu changes twice daily—yes, you read that right. Even a week after visiting when I wanted to compare what we ate, I could find maybe one or two familiar dishes.
As you can see from Christina’s photos, the food alone at 44 Mills is worth a visit. Peruse the drink menu, too, and hopefully, one of your party will order a cocktail.
We look forward to eating at more restaurants in Concord and would love to know your go-to spots if you know the area. Let us know in the comments.
It’s easy to stay revved up when enjoying all the fun things to do in Concord, but you can also slow down here. And our favorite way to chill out for a bit (after enjoying breweries) is with a walk through Downtown Concord.
Here, you’ll find many buildings here on the National Register of Historic Places and quite a few places to eat and grab something to drink. Local 25 and Union Street Bistro are two of many places that stand out if I had to choose.
Needle through the Carolina Thread Trail
Most importantly, the folks behind the Thread Trail are actively working to preserve these natural areas so we can continue to enjoy them.
We also mentioned the Carolina Thread Trail in our guide to Shelby and Cleveland County!
Things to Do Around Cabarrus County
We can’t just focus on things to do in Concord because Cabarrus County is filled with interesting places to visit, too!
Reed Gold Mine
Head to Midland and you’ll find Reed Gold Mine, which is the site of America’s first documented commercial gold find. Today, there’s a visitor’s center with exhibits documenting the gold rush’s history and displaying mining equipment.
Outside, portions of the Reed Mine’s underground tunnels are open for you to explore. And for just a few dollars, you can pan for gold. If you’re lucky, you might just take something shiny home!
Kannapolis calls both Cabarrus and Rowan counties home and is one of our favorite small towns in the area. Since it’s the Earnhardt racing family’s hometown, there are a few reminders of their influence in town.
If you want to know more about the Earnhardts, check out the Dale Trail. It’s a self-guided tour with 19 stops along the way, where you can learn more about the Intimidator’s life, his career, and places where he hung out.
Start off by paying your respects to the nine-foot bronze statue of Dale Earnhardt inside Tribute Plaza on the corner of Main and West B Streets.
NC Music Hall of Fame
The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame is also in Kannapolis and free to those who visit during business hours. You can learn about our state’s musical heritage and the people behind it.
Some notable Hall of Fame inductees include the Avett Brothers, George Clinton, John Coltrane, and Earl Scruggs. Learn more about them here.
We mentioned the annual induction ceremony in our guide covering October things to do.
Mount Pleasant sits in Eastern Cabarrus County and NC Highway 73 runs through it. It’s also the hometown of NC Hall of Fame inductees The Avett Brothers.
We visited a couple of places here and look forward to coming back and see what pops up next.
73 and Main
If you’re looking for something to eat in Mount Pleasant, look no further than 73 and Main. The first thing to catch your eye is the interior, as this restaurant sits inside a former hosiery mill.
The focus and work to remain faithful to the early 20th century-era code are only a part of what makes this place such a special one. On the upper floor, a massive event space awaits to entertain weddings, class reunions, and networking events.
When sitting down to enjoy a meal, you’ll also find delicious steaks and elevated pub fare on the menu. They’re the perfect accompaniment to 73 and Main’s made-in-house brews and their antique bourbon bar.
I can’t decide on what I liked best about this restaurant, brewery, and massive event space. I’ll just say their PB & J Burger is something you must try.
Southern Grace Distilleries
We looked forward to visiting Southern Grace Distilleries for so long and the tour lived up to the hype. I really don’t want to spoil much for you, but if you’re interested in learning about award-winning spirits inside a former prison, visit this distillery.
The tour and kind people behind Southern Grace impressed us on so many levels. Stay tuned for more about this wonderful place and its story.
In the meantime, you can see why it’s one of our favorite distilleries in North Carolina.
There are quite a few vineyards and wineries scattered around Concord and Cabarrus County, too. A few that we’ll mention here include Rocky River in Midland, Cabo in downtown Concord, and Douglas in Kannapolis.
If you’ve visited any of these spots or others in the area, we’d love to know which ones you love!
Come Back Any Time
Anyone who’s visited Concord and Cabarrus County a few times will tell you that there’s always something going on here. That’s why you can come back at any time and find these things to do and even more.
Here are a few prominent events that we know will convince you to get out and enjoy Concord and other spots in Cabarrus County:
- Speedway Christmas (from November to January)
- Minor League Baseball Games at the Intimidators Stadium (from April to September)
- Riverbend Farm Pumpkin Patch (October)
The first time I visited Concord, I had no idea what we’d find. Now, I’m hooked and want to go back for more races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but more importantly at K1 so I can best Christina.
I’ll also be back for more at 44 Mills and other local restaurants, fun at Great Wolf Lodge, and anything else we find along the way.
We know there’s more and look forward to sharing it with you as we continue exploring. If you’re from the Concord/Cabarrus area or know it well, let us know.