Hey Asheville, Audra here.👋 Before calling Asheville home, I lived about an hour and twenty minutes east on I-40 in the historic city of Hickory (a.k.a the lower #828). Despite a pretty rich history, Hickory is very well-known for two things: the furniture business and being an ideal central location (one hour from Winston-Salem + Charlotte, 40 minutes from Boone, slightly over an hour from Asheville + 30 minutes from Statesville).
While it’s ideal for those wanting access all over N.C., it’s a growing, sweet town on it’s own. As is a story as old as time, I never truly gave it as much credit as it deserved growing up there (I mean, come on...I was stoked to leave for UNC Asheville).
But now, I enjoy my day trips visiting my dad, hitting up my favorite spots, and seeing all the exciting changes that have come to the area.
So, if you want to venture an hour east to what is still part of the #828, here is a 24-hour guide of things to do while in Hickory (HKY, as the locals know it).
👨👨👧👦 Population 2015: 40,374
📍County: Catawba County
- Hickory was founded by Henry Robinson in the 1850s when he built the log tavern under a Hickory tree which became known as the Hickory Tavern (part of the chimney has been preserved as a monument). Hickory Tavern became incredibly popular and in 1859 when the first train stopped through, the city became known as just Hickory.
- Hickory began using a city manager type of government in 1913 which made Hickory the first in N.C. and the city third in the country to use the “weak mayor” organization of government.
- Historically known for the most cases of polio in N.C. and as the Miracle of Hickory, Hickory had to build an entirely new hospital to handle the abundance of polio patients that arrived during the WWII era. Bonus: My favorite book, which is about this? Blue by Joyce Moyer Hostetter
- National Geographic Travel recognized Hickory as one of 2018’s Best Small Cities in America being noted as a “hipster-friendly” city.
Now that you know the basics, here’s how to spend all day, from breakfast to dinner + beyond. Where to eat + shop, plus what to do + events to bookmark in this All-American, foothill city here. ⬇
Where to eat: breakfast–dinner
🍳Cafe Gouda |💲| 2960 N Center St. | So. Many. Food. Options. Try the omelette or Rapp for a filling breakfast.
🍳Windy City Grill |💲| 2514 N Center St. | This is your go-to for a southern diner experience.
🍳Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse |💲| 29 2nd St. NE | Pick between a slice of quiche, breakfast burrito, oatmeal made your way, specialty late + more. Fun Fact: This where I worked throughout high school.
🥪Hatch Sandwich Bar |💲| 268 1st Ave. SW | Try the Thanksgiving Turkey or Veggie Reuben sandwich. Plus, their brussel sprouts are worth writing to mom about.
🥪Hot Potato |💲| 10 1st Ave. NW | Pick your fries, toppings + more. The pizza fries are my favorite late-night guilty pleasure.
🥪Shell’s Bar-B-Q |💲| 2609 Springs Rd. | Having been around since the 1970s, Shell’s offers everything from burgers to salads + bar-b-que.
🍽Olde Hickory Tap Room |💲| 222 Union Square | The Tap Room has always been my go to for the traditional pub food + beer.
🍽Olde Hickory Station |💲💲| 232 Government Ave. SW | Enjoy dinner, cheese platters, bread + select beer and wine all while sitting right beside the historic train track. Bonus: The dessert case is full of mouth-watering treats.
🍽FOURK | 💲💲| 1410 4th Street Dr. NW | All American cuisine that is full of special seasonings + sauces. Try the Honey-Chipotle Salmon.
☀Glen C. Hilton, Jr. Memorial Park | 6th St. NW | Glenn Hilton is a park with multiple play areas, picnic spots, a nature boardwalk, trails, a canoe launch + an 18 hole disc golf course. Fun fact: The only bone I’ve ever broken was my wrist while playing on the monkey bars here when I was 5.
☀Bakers Mountain Park | 6680 Bakers Mountain Rd. | Bakers Mountain is located on the highest elevation point in Catawba County (1780 feet). Trek the 6 miles of trail within this Chestnut Oak forest.
☀Kool Park | Kool Park Rd. NE | My favorite place to go to during the summer. Kool Park has multiple swim areas, picnic spots, diving boards + a waterslide.
☀Lowes Foods City Park | 326 Main Ave. NW | This new park has been all the talk lately, mixing art, music + science with an interactive water feature. Bonus: It’s located at Union Square in the center of downtown.
☀Hickory Crawdad’s Game | 2500 Clement Blvd NW | Head to L.P. Frans Stadium to catch Hickory’s MiLB team in action. Bonus, they’re in the same league as the Asheville Tourists and will be at McCormick Field August 15-17.
☀Bunker Hill Covered Bridge | 4160 US-70, Claremont | This covered bridge is 20 minutes outside of Hickory but is a National Civil Engineering Landmark and one (of two) last covered bridges in N.C. (the other is Mt. Pisgah in Randolph County).
Museum + Education
🖼Catawba Science Center | 243 3rd Ave. NE | $6+ | A planetarium, aquarium, butterfly exhibit, and all the science fun you could imagine. I went on a field trip here every year during school and never got tired of it.
🖼Hickory Museum of Art | 23 3rd Ave. NE | Free | The exhibits + concerts change out frequently, but there is always something new and exciting here. Fun fact: Three of my paintings during grade school have been featured here.
🖼Hickory Aviation Museum | 3101 9th Ave. Dr NW | Free | Located at the Hickory Regional Airport, this museum features all the facts + fun about the Golden Age of Aviation.
🖼Harper House | 310 N Center St. | $5 | Opened Thursday–Saturday only. This preservation house, venue + museum is noted as having “the finest Queen Anne interior styling in the entire state.”
🖼Hickory Community Theatre | 30 3rd St. NW | Prices vary | The first performance at HCT was in 1949 and numerous plays have been going on ever since. Fun fact: My first play at HCT was Ramona Quimby and I played a girl scout.
Where to shop and events to note:
🛍Union Square | Union Square NW | In the center of downtown, Union Square has plenty of local shops, boutiques, music stores + vintage clothing shops to choose from.
🛍Antique Mall | 348 U.S. Hwy 70 SW | For all you vintage shoppers, this is the largest selection of antiques in HKY.
🛍Valley Hills Mall | 1960 US Hwy 70 SE | Your go-to for your typical retail area. H&M, Victoria’s Secret, Belk, JCPenny + more.
🛍Farmers Market | Union Square NW | Every Wednesday and Saturday morning the Sails at Union Square are full of local farmers + vendors. Fun fact: I used to sell coffee at the Farmer’s Market every Saturday for Taste Full Beans.
📆Oktoberfest | Union Square NW | For over 30 years the Oktoberfest takes place in October as an all weekend festival full of beer, food, fun + more.
📆Hickory Hops | Union Square NW | With over 50 microbreweries, Hickory Hops has been taking over downtown in April for the past 16 years.
📆Sails Original Music Series | Union Square NW | Similar to what was Hickory Alive (which is now Conover Alive), the Sails Music Series takes place every Friday evening in June + September.
I will admit, Hickory isn’t as eventful as Asheville, but there’s plenty to do in a day–especially over the summer.
So grab the fam or the squad and take a trip to the lower #828 to get a feel for HKY yourself. I’m sure you’ll learn plenty about N.C. and the Foothill region.