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25+ of the Best Things to Do in Shelby and Cleveland County (Liver Mush, Music, and Much More!)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on March 12, 2024.

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Shelby and its surroundings in Cleveland County are nestled at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina. The area sits in a sweet spot between Charlotte and Asheville, and it’s dotted throughout with small towns known for music and liver mush.

However, those two treasures hardly encapsulate this wonderful part of North Carolina. Many folks flock to the iconic Don Gibson Theatre and the impressive Earl Scruggs Center.

SHELBY DRONE Earl Scruggs

But these are just a few things from this area that make our NC Bucket List!

As many travelers know, there are many things to do in Shelby, small towns like Kings Mountain, and the rest of Cleveland County over a weekend. This guide features our favorites in the area, including some important info to help you understand the area better.

Here’s how we’ve organized this guide:

  • Where is Shelby?
  • The History of Shelby (and Cleveland County)
  • Where to Stay in Shelby
  • Annual Events
  • Things to Do in Shelby This Weekend (and Year-Round)
  • Restaurants
  • Wineries
  • Craft Beer
  • Things to Do Near Shelby

We want to share this guide with you because we think it’s a special place to visit!

Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the area and are wondering, “What are the best things to do near me?” we know this guide will help you out!

Read More: 75+ Fun Day Trips from Asheville (Within a 2-Hour Drive)

Where is Shelby NC?

Map of North Carolina highlighting Cleveland County Created by David Benbennick Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Shelby NC is in Cleveland County near the South Carolina border.

The town and its surroundings sit in the Foothills region of North Carolina, just below the Blue Ridge Mountains. The county borders two counties in South Carolina (Cherokee County and York County) and four NC counties, including the following:

  • Burke County (North)
  • Lincoln County (East)
  • Gaston County (East)
  • Rutherford County (West)

If you’re wondering, “how far is Shelby from me?” here’s the answer from the following places:

You can visually travel to the Shelby attractions mentioned in this guide via our North Carolina Travel Map and our Western North Carolina Map.

The History of Shelby NC (and Cleveland County)

North Carolina Tourism Uptown Shelby NC Mural Image

Before we dig into all the things to do in Shelby, it’s important to understand the area’s history.

  • Before European settlement of the area, the Cherokee and Catawba people were the last known inhabitants.
  • The Revolutionary War had an important impact on Cleveland County, so much so that you might recognize all of the streets in Shelby are named after Revolutionary heroes.
  • Cleveland County was formed from parts of Rutherford and Lincoln counties in 1841.
Shelby sit ins
  • Moving into the 20th century, Cleveland County also hosted a political powerhouse known as the “Shelby Dynasty” which sent two governors to Raleigh and representatives to the House and Senate in Washington. This led the way to great economic development and growth for the county and made it into the beautiful historic area it is now.
  • Another essential historical contribution from Shelby is the sit-ins in February 1960. Taking the lead from the famous Greensboro Four, high school students held sit-ins and protested at local businesses to undo desegregation in the area.
  • Many parts of North Carolina have been used for filming both TV shows and movies and Shelby has featured in both. One example is 2012’s The Hunger Games, which used Shelby for parts of its filming.

Read More: 125+ Important Facts About North Carolina You Should Know (History, Geography, and More!)

Where to Stay in Shelby

Looking for where to stay in Shelby? These accommodations in Cleveland County are our top picks, so you can go and explore all the fantastic things to do in Shelby!

Broad River Campground Shelby Glamping
  • We stayed at the Broad River Campground (120 Broad River Campground Rd, Mooresboro, NC) near Boiling Springs in the Fall and can honestly say it is a fantastic hidden gem! The campground has brand-new cabins, glamping domes with hot tubs, and traditional RV and tent sites. They have trails to the Broad River and a fantastic pool and playground area.
  • And for fans of smaller, more intimate settings, check out Morgan and Wells Bed & Breakfast (400 N Morgan St, Shelby, NC). It’s not far from the Cleveland County Arts Council and other Downtown favorites that we’ll mention shortly.

Do you have a favorite place to stay in Shelby or elsewhere nearby? Let us know about it in the comments!

Read More: 25+ Best Day Trips from Charlotte (Within a 90-Minute Drive)

Annual Events

The first of these annual events is worthy of everyone’s calendar, including yours.

Music, Mush, and Mutts

Liver Mush Festival 2023

And there’s a reason we specifically mention eating liver mush as a thing to do in Shelby and around. Every October, Uptown Shelby swells with over 15,000 people to the Mush, Music and Mutts Festival.

You might even catch a glimpse of the reigning Little Miss Liver Mush!

During the annual NC Liver Mush Festival, visitors can enjoy vendors, pet costumes, live music, and much free family fun!

We attended in 2023 and can recommend going. Even if you don’t fancy liver mush, there is plenty to do for everyone!

Read More: 60+ Kid-Friendly Events in North Carolina for the Whole Year

More Events in Shelby NC, and Nearby

Read More: The NC Tripping Events Calendar

Things to Do in Shelby NC This Weekend

Those events (especially Music, Mush, and Mutts) are worthy of your calendar but these are things to do in Shelby throughout the year, including this weekend.

  • Earl Scruggs Center
  • Don Gibson Theatre
  • Shelby City Park Carrousel
  • Foothills Farmers Markets (Saturdays)
  • Livermush

Earl Scruggs Center

Address: 103 S Lafayette St, Shelby, NC

North Carolina Attractions Shelby NC Earl Scruggs Center Images

In a former Cleveland County Courthouse, the Earl Scruggs Center is in the center of Uptown Shelby. Detailing the life and impact of Cleveland County native, Earl Scruggs, visitors learn about the life and history of early American Southern music.

Things to Do in Shelby NC Earl Scruggs Center Image
You can also walk around the beautiful exterior of the Earl Scruggs Center in Uptown Shelby.

Scruggs-style picking revolutionized bluegrass music; you can learn about it with state-of-the-art hands-on and audio exhibits. Visitors can interact with music and history throughout the building. This museum isn’t just for anyone who likes Earl Scruggs, it’s for anyone who loves music!

Read More: The NC Museum of History in Raleigh (+7 Things We Love About It!)

Don Gibson Theatre

Address: 318 S Washington St, Shelby, NC

Things to Do in Shelby NC Don Gibson Theatre Image

Step back in time to simpler days in the majestic Art Deco Don Gibson Theatre. The 400-seat venue is small but mighty! Inside, you’ll find a stage that has hosted Grammy Award-winning acts.

Along with a visit to the Earl Scruggs Center, seeing a show at the Don Gibson Theatre is one of the most popular things to do in Shelby.

Don Gibson Theatre Shelby

You’ll also learn more about Shelby native and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, Don Gibson. Gibson wrote over 350 songs in his lifetime, and 75 of those hit the charts. As you walk around Uptown Shelby, you’ll see beautiful artwork displays of his LPs.

You can keep tabs on upcoming acts or one of their Throwback Thursday Movies here.

Shelby City Park Carrousel

Address: 850 W Sumter St, Shelby, NC

Things to do in NC Shelby City Park Carousel Images

Feel the joy and excitement of childhood at the Shelby City Park Carrousel! With thirty-two jumping hand-painted horses and an authentic working Carousel Band Organ, every child should take a ride on this 100-year-old piece of art.

Costing only 50 cents to ride, the carousel is one of the few open year-round. In good weather, also go for a ride on the Rotary Special Miniature Train.

The 1952 train circles a large and impressive playground, making this park a must-stop when traveling with kids!

Foothills Farmers Markets (Saturdays)

Address: 126 W. Marion St, Shelby, NC

Hang out with the local folks of Shelby at the Foothills Farmers Market every Saturday! With local produce, handcrafted pottery and artisanal products, there is something for everyone at the market.

We felt like the pulse of Cleveland County was under this pavilion of twinkle lights.

Uptown Shelby Don Gibson Mural

So many people stopped to talk to us. One little girl even grabbed Charlotte’s hand and they ran off together playing! The people of Shelby are reason enough to visit. And you’ll find many of them at the market on Saturdays throughout the year.

Don’t Squeal About Livermush

SHELBY DRONE liver mush festival

When in Cleveland County, you need an order of livermush, “split and dropped.”

This deliciously seasoned and fried breakfast meat isn’t something you can describe without it sounding unattractive. “Everything by the squeal” of the pig is one way we’ve heard it.

But despite the description, liver mush is incredible. With a crispy outside and a smooth savory inside, liver mush is perfect alongside a plate of eggs or even sandwiched between a biscuit.

Eat at Local Restaurants in Shelby and Cleveland County

Speaking of livermush, One of the best weekend things in Shelby is supporting the local food scene. Come hungry to Cleveland County, and you won’t be disappointed!

Note: Please check with these local businesses for open hours and days before you visit.

Where to Eat Livermush

Shelby Cafe Livermush Image
  • Livermush isn’t just an odd-sounding word. It’s a way of life in Cleveland County! Split and dropped, you can find this delicious delicacy at The Shelby Café (220 S Lafayette St, Shelby, NC) and Ken and Mary’s (1628 S Dekalb St, Shelby, NC).
  • Also, Snack Shop Family Restaurant in Boiling Springs (103 S Main St, Boiling Springs, NC) serves up some yummy liver mush. 

Read More: Our Favorite Breakfast Restaurants in North Carolina

Where to Eat Barbecue in Shelby and Cleveland County

Restaurants in Shelby NC Red Bridges Barbecue Image
Red Bridges.

With several must-eat destinations for smoked barbecue and plenty of love for the county’s famed liver mush, there are more places to eat than there are days.

Perfecting wood-fired Lexington-style barbecue, there are two historic barbecue restaurants in Shelby. Glistening over coals, pork shoulders are chopped and served with a red sauce and tangy red slaw.

Eat at Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge (2000 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC) and Alston Bridges (620 E Grover St, Shelby, NC), and decide which is better!

Johnny Rays Smokehouse
Johnny Ray’s Smokehouse
  • Or head out to Fallston and eat at Johnny Ray’s Smokehouse (4629 Fallston Road, Fallston, NC), a farm-and-table restaurant with incredible pork, brisket, and burgers.
  • Uptown Shelby has a barbecue joint with excellent service at Izzi ‘Que Barbecue (127 West Marion Street, Shelby, NC).

Explore More Places to Eat in Shelby, NC

Restaurants in Shelby NC Pleasant City Wood Fired Grille Image
Pleasant City Wood-fired Grille.
  • For more of a variety of eats, check out J-Bird’s Deli and Ales (106 W Marion St, Shelby, NC) for fresh-made sandwiches.
  • Pleasant City for wood-fired pizzas with unique flavor combinations.
  • If you’re looking for something upscale, make reservations at Bistro 214.

We spent most of our time exploring restaurants in Shelby but we would love to know your go-to bites throughout Cleveland County!

Drink North Carolina Wine near Shelby, NC

You can add a visit to area vineyards to your list of things to do in Shelby too!

Veronet Vineyards

Address: 1549 Ike Brooks Dr, Kings Mountain, NC

Verondet Vineyards

With two very different yet incredible vineyards, Cleveland County is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of vino. The rustic and beautiful Veronét Vineyards outside of Kings Mountain give picturesque panoramic views of Crowders Mountain with sips from their 5 acres of vines. 

Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard

Address: 3521 Fallston-Waco Rd, Lawndale, NC

Fallston NC Buffalo Baker Creek Winery Image

Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard in Fallston has been growing grapes since 2003. With eight different grape varietals, Baker Buffalo has a wide range of wines from sweet muscadine to the peppery cabernet franc.

Enjoy the peaceful scenery and keep a lookout for their annual pig pickin’! 

Read More: The Best North Carolina Wineries and Vineyards

Dragonfly Wine Market

Address: 101 W Warren St, Shelby, NC

Want a place to sip wine in Uptown Shelby? Dragonfly Wine Market carries local wine, craft beer, spirits, and cigars! If you’re looking for something specific, they’ll be able to help you! Or hang around for their live music from local artists. 

Read More: 20 Awesome Wineries near Charlotte (Vineyards Within 2 Hours)

Craft Beer in Shelby NC (Newgrass Brewing)

Many local NC craft beers can be found at restaurants and bars in the Shelby area. However, Newgrass Brewing (213 S Lafayette St, Shelby, NC) is where you should go for genuinely local beer in Shelby.

North Carolina Breweries Newgrass Brewing Image

Farm-to-table isn’t something you usually think about when it comes to beer. But at Newgrass Brewing, they partner with local farmers to create the flavor profiles they are searching for.

Handcrafted in small batches, Newgrass knows that beer and food need quality ingredients to be great.  

Newgrass Brewing Co. also serves food! We hear it is one of the best places for brunch in Shelby!

Things to Do Near Shelby NC

We mentioned Shelby is within a drive from Asheville, Charlotte, and some of our favorite mountain towns. Shelby is surrounded by some lovely small towns and one of our favorite state parks within Cleveland County.

  • Kings Mountain
  • Boiling Springs
  • Carolina Thread Trail
  • Crowders Mountain State Park

Kings Mountain

Originally known as White Plains due to the amount of mica in the soil, Kings Mountain is named after the famous Revolutionary War battle seven miles away in South Carolina.

Kings Mountain Joy Theatre

The town began to grow in 1872 when the Southern Railway was completed and is now known as the gateway to Cleveland County’s parks. 

Read More: 25 Wonderful Wineries Near Asheville (Vineyards Within 2 Hours)

Kings Mountain Historical Museum

Address: 100 E Mountain St, Kings Mountain, NC

Kings Mountain Historical Museum is housed in a 1939 Georgian Revival Style Post Office and provides free exhibits and experiences for the public surrounding the city’s history as well as rotating exhibits for all ages.

With exhibits ranging from a collection of books that have shaped America to the Gilded Age, the museum curates through their extensive archival collection. 

Things to Do in Kings Mountain NC Historical Museum Image

Annual exhibits include “Trains, Trains, Trains,” which features antique and interactive model trains.

Also, you’ll find an “Honor Our Veterans” exhibit that displays Revolutionary War- to Operation Iraqi Freedom-era weapons, uniforms, and personal memorabilia. 

The Arts in Kings Mountain

  • Just outside of town, Kings Mountain’s Southern Arts Society (301 N Piedmont Ave, Kings Mountain, NC) features works from 75 local and regional artists in their gift shop. The Society’s exhibits rotate every six to eight weeks, and they also provide affordable classes and programs for the community. Classes include painting, collage, colored pencil, mixed media and pottery for budding artists of all levels. 
Things to Do in Kings Mountain NC Arts Image
  • Every summer, the Joy Performance Center (202 S Railroad Ave, Kings Mountain, NC) puts on a riveting rendition of Liberty Mountain. This story captures Kings Mountain’s history and the battle that named it.
  • Before the performance, cross the border to Kings Mountain National Military Park (2625 Park Rd, Blacksburg, SC), tour the museum, and walk the battlefield. Note: this is one of the few times we’ll mention visiting South Carolina, so consider this an easter egg! Tip: Arrive early to the show and enjoy the Pre-Show Experience with a live weapons demonstration and a chance to try on Revolutionary period clothing without any extra cost.  

Read More: 10 Things We Love About Guilford Courthouse National Military Park In Greensboro

Boiling Springs

Boiling Springs NC Things to Do Image

Boiling Springs was named after the natural spring that feeds into the small lake on Gardner-Webb’s campus. While in town, explore the quaint downtown across from the university.

While driving into Boiling Springs, you’ll see throwback-era general stores and get a sense of neighborly love through the surrounding rolling farmlands.

Read More: Gorgeous Waterfalls near Cherokee (Within 2 Hours) 

Gardner Webb University

Address: 110 S Main St, Boiling Springs, NC

Boiling Springs NC Gardner Webb University Image

If you are looking for some rolling hills and historic brick buildings, take a lovely stroll through the Gardner Webb University campus. Even though it’s a small school of under 3,000 students, Gardner Webb is a fantastic spot to get some exercise and enjoy beautiful campus life.

Hop on the Carolina Thread Trail

The Carolina Thread Trail extends through 15 counties across North Carolina, including Cleveland County. Here are a few stops along the Thread Trail that you should know about.

First Broad River Trail

Address: First Broad River Trail Trailhead, 47007, Shelby, NC

Things to Do in Shelby NC First Broad River Trail Image

The First Broad River Trail is a 1.5-mile-long path and is a beautiful way to walk off some liver mush.

You will first cross a 120-foot-long suspension bridge that is the perfect bird-watching location. My favorite part of this trail is the two historic wooden railroad trestles that might be overgrown but still so magical.

Read More: 100+ of the Best Hiking Trails in North Carolina

Broad River Greenway

Address: 126 Broad River Dr, Shelby, NC

Boiling Springs NC Things to Do Broad River Greenway Image

You can hop on the Thread Trail at the Broad River Greenway from Boiling Springs. Walking along the Thread Trail is one of the most beautiful things to do in Shelby.

The Broad River Greenway consists of 1,500 acres to hike, picnic, and soak up the solitude of nature.

Also, a part of the Carolina Thread Trail is the Cottonwood Trail on the Broad River Greenway. The 2.2-mile Cottonwood Trail is well maintained and has stops along the way, including picnic shelters, an all-wooden playground, and even a BYOHammock lounging station!  

Read More: 75+ Great Hikes Near Asheville (Within a 2-Hour Drive)

Kings Mountain Gateway Trail

Address: 807 S Battleground Ave, Kings Mountain, NC

Things to Do in NC Carolina Thread Trail Kings Mountain NC Images

One more point to access the Thread Trail in Cleveland County includes the Kings Mountain Gateway Trail. Connect to it from Downtown Kings Mountain.

This trail plans to connect Kings Mountain and Crowders Mountain State Park, but hikers and bikers can now wander through 8 miles of ADA-accessible trails. The trailhead includes parking, a picnic shelter, and a beautifully maintained restroom and office facility.

As you can see, Cleveland County always has plenty of outdoor things to do!

Read More: Outdoor Things to Do in Charlotte

Crowders Mountain State Park

Address: 522 Park Office Ln, Kings Mountain, NC

Just outside of Kings Mountain are the beautiful vistas and trails of Crowders Mountain State Park. Half in Cleveland County and half in Gaston County, the trails and views are stunning from end to end of this state park.

NC State Parks Crowders Mountain Image

On a clear day on the Crowders Trail, you can see Uptown Charlotte! Access the park from Kings Mountain via the Boulders Access Area to hike the Ridgeline Trail or head to the main visitor’s center (which is in Gaston County) at Sparrow Springs Access. 

Read More: Christmas Town USA (How to See the Wonderful McAdenville Christmas Lights)

Ready to Enjoy these Things to Do in Shelby (and Cleveland County)?

Shelby and Cleveland County captivated us in a way that not many small towns have. This community of people loves where they live, and we can see why!

With a rich history in music between Earl Scruggs and Don Gibson, the beat is still pulsing through the streets. Live music can be found in many restaurants, and soft, soulful melodies waft through the streets.

With great food, plenty of outdoor trails, and many events, we know we’ll keep returning to expand on our favorite things in Shelby and Cleveland County this weekend and throughout the year!

If you’re familiar with the area, we’d love to hear from you in the comments. Don’t forget to share your Shelby adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

More Things to Do in Shelby (and Nearby)

We’ve created many more NC Travel Guides that feature these Shelby attractions, as well as nearby places. Here are a few of them.

6 thoughts on “25+ of the Best Things to Do in Shelby and Cleveland County (Liver Mush, Music, and Much More!)”

  1. I love this💗From places to stay, eat and hike! You hit everything that I needed for a weekend away! Awesome job👍

    Reply

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