Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on February 29, 2024.
When many people think about things to do in Concord, North Carolina, mental images quickly flash to races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, waterpark fun at Great Wolf Lodge, and shopping at Concord Mills.
These things are awesome and impressive on so many levels, but this guide will take you beyond them.
We’ve organized the guide into the following sections:
- Where is Concord NC?
- The History of Concord
- Visiting Today (and Where to Stay)
- Things to Do in Concord NC This Weekend (Racing-Related and More)
- Where to Eat
- Where to Drink Craft Beer
- Things to Do Near Concord (Kannapolis, Mount Pleasant, and More!)
Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the Concord area and are wondering, “What are the best things to do near me?” we know this NC travel guide will help you!
Read More: The Best Day Trips from Charlotte
Where is Concord, NC?
Concord, North Carolina is located in the south and center of North Carolina in Cabarrus County. It is the county seat of Cabarrus County, which borders five NC counties, including the following:
- Iredell County (north)
- Rowan County (north)
- Stanly County (east)
- Union County (south)
- Mecklenburg County (west-southwest)
I-85 passes through Cabarrus County and connects Concord to Charlotte and other cities further north. US-29 is an alternative to the interstate if you’re seeking a more scenic drive.
Concord is less than an hour north of Uptown Charlotte (40 Minutes Away), 1 hour away from Winston-Salem, 1 hour and 10 minutes away from Greensboro, and within a short drive from many of our favorite places to visit in Central NC, including:
- Kannapolis (20 Minutes Away)
- Salisbury (30 Minutes Away)
- Davidson (35 Minutes Away)
- Lexington (40 Minutes Away)
- Mooresville (40 Minutes Away)
- Gastonia (50 Minutes Away)
- Lake Norman (1 Hour Away)
- Lake Norman State Park (1 Hour Away)
- Statesville (1 Hour Away)
- Asheboro (1 Hour 10 Minutes Away)
If you’d like to plan your trip visually, check out the following maps created with Google Maps by NC Tripping:
- Map of things to do in Concord and Cabarrus County
- Central North Carolina Map
- North Carolina Travel Map
The History of Concord NC
Before planning your trip to Concord NC, we think you should know a little bit more about the Cabarrus County seat. Here are some important points in the history of Concord, North Carolina:
- Native Americans inhabited the area for thousands of years before European settlement in the 1700s.
- Among others, the Catawba Indians were the people encountered.
- Scotch-Irish and German immigrants began settling in the area in the mid-1700s.
- Cabarrus County (named after Stephen Cabarrus) was formed in 1792 from Mecklenburg County.
- In 1796, The Town of Concord was founded.
- The Reed Gold Mine in what is now Midland was discovered by locals in 1799. This historic place is where the North Carolina Gold Rush began.
- North Carolina remained the largest producer of gold in the United States until the California Gold Rush began in 1848.
- Textiles were the next industry to dominate the scene, with Coleman Manufacturing Company in Concord (1896-1904) the first textile manufacturer owned and operated by African-Americans.
- Although the textile industry’s decline in the 20th century led to significant job losses, the rise of Charlotte nearby has economically benefited Concord and Cabarrus County.
- In 1959, Charlotte Motor Speedway was built and hailed as one of the earliest “superspeedway” tracks. It remains a huge economic driver to the area, with thousands of fans visiting every year for NASCAR and NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) races.
Read More: 20+ Awesome Museums in Charlotte and Nearby!
Visiting Today (and Where to Stay)
Today, Concord and its surroundings in Cabarrus County are among the fastest-growing in North Carolina. You might be one of those fortunate souls moving to the area, but if you plan on visiting, you’ll need a place to stay.
Whether or not you’re in town for a race, you should stay somewhere on Bruton Smith Blvd near Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each of these hotels are in a perfect spot, with easy access to and from I-85.
- Homewood Suites (7300 Scott Padgett Pkwy, Concord, NC): 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.
- Embassy Suites (5400 John Q. Hammons Dr NW, Concord, NC): We’ve also stayed at the Embassy Suites next to the Concord Convention Center. It’s a huge golf resort hotel and spa, also fun to watch from above as you ride the glass window elevator. There is a nice restaurant and bar inside, too, which will keep you from venturing out during busy evenings.
- Great Wolf Lodge (10175 Weddington Rd, Concord, NC): is another perfect accommodation option, especially if the whole family is traveling. You can hang out at the waterpark before you check in and after you check out. Why is that great? Because you always need one more exhilarating ride down a waterslide.
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:
- April to November: The NHRA Four-Wide Nationals is the first of many Charlotte Motor Speedway races that keep bringing people back to Concord. We’ll share more about the Speedway in our next section.
- Minor League Baseball Games at Atrium Health Ballpark in Kannapolis (from April to September).
- October: The Riverbend Farm Pumpkin Patch in Midland is open from October 1 to 31. It’s possibly the coolest collection of slides and play structures. We also mentioned this in our guide to kid-friendly events in North Carolina.
- November: The Concord Christmas Parade is a wonderful celebration of Concord and surrounding towns in Cabarrus County. Held in downtown Concord for more than 90 years, this is one of North Carolina’s oldest Christmas parades.
- November to January: Speedway Christmas is an awesome kid-friendly event and among our favorite displays of Christmas lights in North Carolina.
Things to Do in Concord NC This Weekend (and All Year!)
Those events are amazing but these are mostly things to do in Concord NC today, this weekend, and throughout most of the year!
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Address: 5555 Concord Pkwy S, Concord, NC
We wrote that you could find something to do in Concord beyond racing, but we also think you should investigate the excitement in and around Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Speaking of which, Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the first things to do in Concord for so many people.
This huge complex is often called “the Home of NASCAR.” That’s because many teams are based in the area.
Five tracks officially make up Charlotte Motor Speedway. They host some of the biggest events in racing, making a visit here a must if you’re into cars and driving them fast.
We’re going to break down each part of the Speedway, with each of its parts hosting some the best events in Concord.
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.
The best-known events include the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race, Memorial Day’s Coca-Cola 600, and the Bank of America Roval 400.
Address: 6570 Bruton Smith Blvd, Concord, NC
Across US 29 from the Oval 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.
Some of the noisiest and fastest cars on the planet zoom down the strip, and boy is it fun to watch them. Just don’t forget your earplugs and for your little ones, noise-canceling headphones.
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.
The Dirt Track
Address: 5500 Concord Pkwy S, Concord, NC
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.
K1 Speed Indoor Karting
Address: 800 Derita Rd #K, Concord, NC
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.
Hendrick Motorsports Museum and Team Store
Address: 4411 Papa Joe Hendrick Blvd, Concord, NC
Fans of racing’s best-known racing teams should visit the Hendrick Motorsports Museum and Team Store. It’s one of the coolest 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
Address: 4001 Dearborn Pl NW, Concord, NC
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 $10 for adults, $8 for military/veterans and seniors aged 62 and over, and FREE to kids ages 12 and under.
More Things to Do in Concord NC This Weekend
For this section, we’ll include other big names in the area (Great Wolf Lodge and Concord Mills) before moving onto some more of our favorites.
Great Wolf Lodge
Address: 10175 Weddington Rd, Concord, NC
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 the 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.
Read More: Unique Luxury Resorts in North Carolina
Address: 8111 Concord Mills Boulevard, Concord, NC
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.
Address: 8111 Concord Mills Boulevard, Concord, NC
As parents and kids at heart, SEA LIFE is one of our favorite things to do inside Concord Mills. Visitors have 10 Interactive Zones to explore and 5,000 sea creatures to learn about at this fun-filled aquarium.
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!
Address: 325 McGill Ave NW, Concord, NC
Gibson Mill once housed a huge manufacturing company (Gibson Manufacturing) and has since transformed into a multi-purpose space, with shops, breweries, and more.
Here are a few places you should visit at Gibson Mill:
- Antique Mall: This is the largest collection of antiques in the South. Walk through here and you may get lost or easily distracted with all the cool stuff at each booth.
- Cabarrus Brewing: This is Cabarrus County’s first full-scale craft brewery and a major part of the community. They host events throughout the year to go with great beer and food.
- High Branch Brewing: They share the building in the back of the complex with Luck Factory next door. HBB has an excellent and diverse selection of beers and a beautiful space for consuming them.
- Luck Factory: Speaking of Luck Factory, this is a fun place to play some board games with your friends and family. They have over 1,000 games for all ages, food, drinks, draft beer, and wine for sale!
- Market: The Gibson Mill Market opened in 2022 and has local food vendors ready to serve you. Taco Street and Kuni’s Kitchen (dumplings, noodles) are a couple of names that we always have on our mind, and you can choose between them and the other delicious tenants at Gibson Mill.
Explore Downtown Concord
We think downtown Concord gets overshadowed when discussing fun things to do in Concord, but you can also slow down here. We love walking around and checking out the many buildings that appear on the National Register of Historic Places.
We always stop to admire the amazing Avett Brothers mural before continuing our walk around downtown.
Frank Liske Park
Address: 4001 Stough Rd, Concord, NC
Before we get to restaurants, we think you’ll want to know about Frank Liske Park. This 238-acre park has multiple playgrounds, a disc golf course, mini-golf, paddleboats, and much more.
We highly recommend adding Frank Liske Park to your Concord itinerary.
Read More: Things to Do in Shelby and Cleveland County
Where to Eat (Restaurants)
Eating at awesome restaurants is one of our favorite things to do in Concord. Here are a few places that explain “why!
- Johnny Roger’s BBQ and Burgers (3709 Concord Pkwy S, Concord, NC): Johnny Roger’s BBQ and Burgers uses an old family recipe for their BBQ seasoning and sauce, and their burgers are hard-to-beat, too!
- What-a-Burger: There are multiple What-a-Burger locations in Cabarrus County, with two great ones in Concord. By the way, this is not to be confused with the Texas-based What-a-Burger chain.
- OMG Donuts (10005 Weddington Road Ext, Concord, NC): 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 brewery’s coffee or Vietnamese Coffee if you’d really like a boost.
- 44 Mills (6189 Bayfield Parkway, Concord, NC): Grab some good, honest food at 44 Mills, sourced 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.
Responsibly drinking at local breweries is one of our favorite things to do in Concord at night.
Including Cabarrus Brewing (which we mentioned in the “Gibson Mill” section above), here’s where to grab NC beer in Concord:
- Buzzed Viking Brewing Co. & Meadery (1048 Copperfield Blvd NE #101, Concord, NC)
- Cabarrus Brewing (329 McGill Ave NW, Concord, NC)
- High Branch Brewing (305 McGill Ave NW # 100, Concord, NC)
- Twenty-Six Acres Brewing Company (7285 W Winds Blvd NW, Concord, NC)
- Southern Strain Brewing (165 Brumley Ave NE Suite 3001, Concord, NC)
Wineries and Vineyards
There are quite a few vineyards and wineries scattered around Concord and Cabarrus County, too. A few that we’ll mention here include:
Ready to Find Your Favorite Things to Do in Concord (and Cabarrus County)?
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.
If you’ve visited any of these spots or others in the area, we’d love to know which ones you love! Before you do that, here are some more things to do near Concord.
Things to Do Near Concord NC (Kannapolis, Mount Pleasant, and More!)
While Concord is where a lot of the action is, the towns of Kannapolis, Mount Pleasant, Midland, and Harrisburg also have lots to explore. Here are a few highlights:
- The Carolina Thread Trail (County-Wide)
- Irish Buffalo Creek Greenway
- Reed Gold Mine
- The Dale Trail
- The NC Music Hall of Fame
- Mount Pleasant
- 73 and Main
- Southern Grace Distilleries
Read More: Things to Do in Charlotte
- The Carolina Thread Trail: The CTT runs through 15 counties between North and South Carolina, including Cabarrus. There are hiking trails and bike paths, which you can find here. One of our favorites is Irish Buffalo Creek Greenway in Kannapolis. It’s currently 2.7 miles and connects Bakers Creek Park, Safrit Park and Vietnam Veterans Park. The Thread Trail continues to grow, thanks to the tireless efforts of the people behind it.
- Reed Gold Mine (9621 Reed Mine Rd, Midland, NC): 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!
Read More: The Best North Carolina Road Trips
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.
- The Dale Trail: 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.
- The 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
- Earl Scruggs
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.
- 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.
More of the Best Things to Do in Concord NC and Nearby
We’ve featured the best things to do in Concord in many of our NC Travel Guides. Here are a of them!