Last Updated on December 8, 2020
Last Updated on December 8, 2020
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From North Carolina history to hot air balloons, Statesville is a wonderful small-town escape. There are so many fun and unique things to do in Statesville that you can easily spend an entire weekend exploring!
Our guide will share just how you can do that, with some area history to accompany the seasonal events and year-round fun that keeps Statesville on our bucket list.
If you need to find something specific in this guide, we’ve organized it into the following sections:
- Background (History and Area Information)
- Annual Events
- Year-Round Things to Do in Statesville
- More Things to Do in Statesville and Nearby (Related Posts)
This post is part of our series on day trips from Charlotte, as well as all the awesome places to visit in Central North Carolina.
Things to Do in Statesville
Special thanks to Visit Statesville for hosting our stay. Check them out here, in case you need help planning your trip to the area.
Background (History and Area Information)
Statesville was born with the construction of Fort Dobbs in 1755 and officially established in 1789. Soon after in 1788 Iredell County was named after the Associate Justice of the first Supreme Court, James Iredell.
In 1833 Statesville began laying railroad track and served as an important connection between North Carolina’s Piedmont and the rest of the South. The railroad was an integral part of Statesville’s economic future and soon they became the leader in tobacco production, whiskey, and distribution for roots and herbs.
The last railroad stop before heading west, Statesville became known as the “liquor capital of the world” in the late 1800s. There were over 250 legal stills in Iredell County before the ban on alcohol took place, but after prohibition, Statesville fell on hard times.
A long 70 years later, the liquor ban was lifted. Today, there is only one distillery (Southern) keeping this legacy alive.
For more on the area’s distillery (and history and cultural sites to visit), scroll down to our “Year-Round Things to Do in Statesville” section.
Annual Events in Statesville
Note: 2020 events have been cancelled.
- Carolina BalloonFest: Roughly 50 hot air balloons and pilots from around the world convene in the skies for the Carolina BalloonFest held every year in October.
- Art Crawl: Twice a year local artists and businesses fill up Historic Downtown Statesville for an evening of fun, shopping, and community gathering.
- Friday After Five: Friday after Five is a fun and free concert series during the summer in Statesville! Come by for music and dancing!
- Hops & Harmony Craft Brew Fest: Sample North Carolina craft beer while listening to amazing live music! The Hops & Harmony Craft Brew Fest is held annually in October.
- Pumpkin Fest: Celebrate all things Fall at the Statesville Pumpkin Fest! Every November Downtown Statesville comes alive with music, food, and a pumpkin pie eating contest.
Year-Round Things to Do in Statesville
Where to Stay
We were extremely lucky to be hosted by The Kinsleeshop Farm in their farmhouse. The Kinsleeshop Farm is a family-owned and operated event venue space that also provides a beautiful home for on-site accommodations.
The farm dates back to 1939, and the event space is a fully restored barn with 1870s stained glass. The property is absolutely picturesque and provides a haven of rest and relaxation while still being close to downtown Statesville.
We enjoyed sitting on the front porch in the rocking chairs and watching the sunset completely disconnected from work.
While there are plenty of Airbnbs and hotels in Statesville, the best place to stay in downtown Statesville is the Inn on Front St (previously Clichy Inn). This historic bed and breakfast built in 1917 was newly renovated and opened in 2005.
The main house is perfect for business travelers, romantic couples, and weekend getaways, and the Carriage House is ideal for families. The prices are reasonable and full breakfast is available daily.
History & Culture Sites
Fort Dobbs Historic Site
Travel back in time to what was an important outpost for British settlers during the French and Indian War. Fort Dobbs Historic Site consists of the fort, 19th-century log structures, and a mile-long outdoor trail.
The fort was reconstructed for historic accuracy because of its popularity as one of the best things to do in Statesville. Events are held often with live reenactments. This is the only historic site in North Carolina for the French and Indian War.
Full of interactive exhibits for both children and adults, Iredell Museums has been an integral part of Statesville’s community since 1956. Providing important local history information, Iredell Museums has wonderful rotating exhibits and programs for visitors and community members alike.
Get hands on with history, science, and art at Iredell Museums!
Historic Sharpe House
Home of Statesville’s first mayor, the Historic Sharpe House is a testament of perseverance and Southern grace during the post-Civil War era. Private tours are available by appointment in this beautiful home built in 1866.
The monthly events held at the Historic Sharpe House are what really make this a wonderful place to visit in Statesville!
Outdoor Things to Do in Statesville
Lake Norman is the largest man-made lake in North Carolina and has an access point in Troutman just south of Statesville. There are campgrounds, boat access launches, and a public swimming beach at Lake Norman.
From the Troutman Visitors Center, travelers can explore several trails including the kid-friendly Dragonfly Trail or the adventure-filled Itusi Trail, which is perfect for biking and hiking.
Iredell Quilt Trail
There are beautiful quilt blocks on barns all across America, but did you know there are several in North Carolina? A barn quilt is a large piece of wood painted with a quilt pattern and hung on various buildings throughout the community.
A quilt trail is a perfect way to social distance and enjoy a fun scavenger hunt to locate beautiful works of local art! Maps and addresses can be found on the Quilt Trail of Iredell County’s Facebook page.
Looking for more Quilt Trails? We shared more barn quilts in our guide covering things to do in Burnsville!
Balloon Ride with Big oh! Balloons
Flying in a hot air balloon above the beautiful landscape of Iredell County belongs on your North Carolina bucket list! Owned by pilots Charles Page and Kristie Darling for over 36 years, Big oh! Balloons provides adventure and memories that will last a lifetime!
The balloon flight will cover anywhere from 2 to 10 miles depending on the wind speed and direction. On a clear day, you can see Charlotte and its surroundings, Winston-Salem, and even Pilot Mountain at either sunrise or sunset!
Pick Scuppernong and Muscadine grapes
Did you know that North Carolina’s official state fruit is the Scuppernong grape? Picking these delicious muscadine grapes is a popular thing to do in Statesville during August and September.
We picked our own at Hazy Red Vineyard‘s two-acre property. The family-owned vineyard features a variety of grapes that are perfect to pick for the whole family.
Another great place to pick muscadine grapes is at Grietje’s Garden Vineyard, which is part of a larger agritourism facility, Rocky Ridge Farm. Grietje’s Garden also has u-pick blueberries, blackberries, and self-produced products like juice, jelly, and honey.
Rescue Ranch is a non-profit animal welfare organization with 87 dedicated acres. Founded by NASCAR driver Ryan Newman and Krissie Newman, Rescue Ranch offers tours and hands-on learning about animal care.
This isn’t a petting zoo or an animal experience; Rescue Ranch really focuses on education. Tours must be booked in advance and include a personal guide to provide detailed information about the education facility.
If you find yourself unable to schedule a tour, they also have an amazing playground facility for $3 per child!
Perfect for mountain biking and hiking, BigLeaf Slopes Park offers miles of trails with beautiful Big Leaf Magnolias lining the paths. Built by collaboration between Iredell County and the Tarheel Trailblazers, the 104 acres of designated park land were developed largely by volunteer efforts.
Part of the Carolina Thread Trail, the Statesville Greenway is a paved path that weaves through Iredell County. Following along Fourth Creek, there are several access points and passages that go under roads and through neighborhoods.
This trail is a perfect outdoor activity in Statesville with kids and the whole family can go on a bike, walk, or run!
Emerald Hollow Mine
Only 25 minutes from downtown Statesville you will find a family-friendly mine with over sixty different types of naturally-occurring gems. While many people search for emeralds, sapphires, or amethyst, one of the rarest gemstones found at Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite.
Prices vary based on size and type of gems, and the mine’s visiting hours are weather-dependent. Sifting through the buckets is a fun, family-oriented thing to do in Statesville!
Drinks in Statesville
Note: Please drink responsibly and arrange a designated driver when visiting these establishments.
Southern Distilling Company
The grain-to-glass distillery, Southern Distilling Company, is one of the Southeast’s largest craft distillers. Their whiskey is made from local farmers and exemplifies the 100-year-old Statesville tradition of distilling.
Southern Distilling Company produces bourbon, rye whiskey, and brandy in their 25,000-square-foot facility located on 20 acres, with the tallest stainless steel and copper still in North Carolina.
We’ve also included Southern Distilling Company in our North Carolina Distillery guide!
Fourth Creek Brewing Co
The Scots-Irish who settled in the area prior to its name of Statesville named the area Forth Creek Congregation after the stream that runs through the center of town. Today, a small, independent brewery Fourth Creek Brewing Co produces beers with big and bold flavors to honor that name.
To keep things hyperlocal, everything they use to brew their beer also comes from within a 20-mile radius! The vibe inside is very family-friendly and the beers are fun and inventive.
Plus, they also brew hard seltzers!
Red Buffalo Brewing Co
Red Buffalo Brewing Co was born the way most amazing craft breweries are, starting in a garage fermenting old world style beer with an innovative twist.
The vibe at Red Buffalo is just as important as the hops—with live music and a chill, laid-back atmosphere. It’s a place where you can share a couple of pints and laugh with friends.
We included these awesome beer establishments in our guide to North Carolina breweries!
Want to shop local but don’t know what kind of wine you’re looking for? This is where wine enthusiasts need to go!
Wine Maestro in downtown Statesville carries over 800 wines from around the world.
Their 10 craft beer taps and a large selection of packaged beers also make this the place to go in Statesville for all of your alcohol needs!
The first vineyard in Iredell County, Davesté Vineyards started on 52 acres with a beautiful barn, tasting room, and art gallery. The property is absolutely stunning with plenty of green spaces for a picnic.
Artisanal cheeses are available for a perfect picnic supplement. We felt like Davesté Vineyards was very family-friendly and an ideal place to spend an afternoon with a quality North Carolina wine.
Where to Eat in Statesville
From casual eats to upscale dining, there are plenty of delicious restaurants in Statesville. Grab barbecue from Ol’ Bob’s BBQ who has been serving Iredell County for over 20 years or stop by the cash-only Randy’s Barbecue for a chopped tray.
Another fantastic (and romantic) place to eat in Statesville is Unwined Bar & Eatery. Its large drink and cocktail list pairs well with steaks, burgers, and pastas. This is even a great location for lunch!
If you are searching for a date night restaurant in Statesville, look no further than Twisted Oak Bar and Grill featuring North Carolina beers and a bourbon list. Here hungry travelers will find American classics at an affordable price.
For brunch (and lunch and dinner!) check out The Bristol Cafe. They provide upscale Southern food and delicious drinks in a relaxed environment.
Fresh ingredients and traditional Japanese dishes can be found at Katana Kitchen in West Statesville. The portions are huge, and they have a wide selection of menu items for everyone.
You can see we loved the Statesville food scene and will be sharing more very soon!
Ready for these Fun Things to Do in Statesville?
Whether you are coming to Statesville to ride in a hot air balloon or looking for a quiet escape from the city, there are plenty of fun, unique, and bucket-list-worthy things to do in Statesville.
Sip on delicious brews or learn about whiskey, pick muscadines or chow down on legendary foot-long hot dogs. There are so many ways to enjoy Statesville and we hope you share your experiences with us!
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or tell us by email what you found while exploring Statesville and how you liked it!