20 Things To Do In Hickory NC

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Hickory, North Carolina, is in the western part of the state, lodged in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. This historic town is steeped in mountain traditions that have passed from generation to generation. Visitors to Hickory can see the importance of this area’s history to the community. They dedicate themselves to preserving places like the Henry River Mill Village, Harper House, Hickory History Center, the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge and Historic Murray’s Mill.

This region is also revered for its art appreciation and science education. The Catawba Science Center, Hickory Art Museum, and the Hickory Community Theatre bring art and science to the community. Green spaces and natural areas also abound around this region in the many parks and gardens open to the public. Hickory invites people to visit and enjoy the many sights that Western North Carolina has to offer. Here are some things to do in Hickory, NC.

Hickory, North Carolina

20 Things To Do In Hickory NC

things to do in hickory nc
Looking for things to do in Hickory NC? Here are 20 to get you started.

1- Enjoy The Charm Of Henry River Mill Village

Henry River Mill Village is all that remains of an early textile town that popped up in the early 1900s.

Now a gem on the National Register of Historic Places, this village died because the textile industry moved overseas.

All that remains of the town are around 20 millhouses.

Residents of Hickory purchased the property with the intent to restore many of the buildings and create a museum to educate people about the history of the textile industry and the people who once lived here.

A restaurant and overnight lodging are available to visitors who want to explore this village.

Fans of the Hunger Games movies might recognize the village as the filming location of District 12.

The Henry River Mill Village is at 4255 Henry River Rd., Hickory, NC 28602.

2- See Historic Aircraft At Hickory Aviation Museum

things to do with kids in hickory nc
Visiting the aviation museum is one of the things to do in Hickory, North Carolina.

The Hickory Aviation Museum contains many artifacts from World War II to the present day.

Many aircraft models on display show visitors how flight and aircraft design have changed over time and how they push the boundaries of science.

Uniforms, flight suits, cannons, photos, and more provide visitors with a glimpse of the lives and efforts of military airmen.

A hangar with several aircraft, including fighter jets and helicopters, provide guests with an up-close look at some of these interesting aircraft.

Visitors can tour the museum with or without a volunteer guide; however, a guide is required to see the P-3C Orion.

The Hickory Aviation Museum is at 3101 9th Ave Dr. NW, Hickory, NC 28601.

3- Take The Kids To Catawba Science Center

fun things to do in hickory
One of the fun things to do in Hickory with your kids is to visit the science museum.

The Catawba Science Center is a children’s museum where kids can spend hours exploring the exhibits and interacting with the different topics in ways that further their understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Permanent exhibits like the shark and stingray tank, Amazonian fish habitats, and a coral reef allow kids to discover freshwater and saltwater species from all over the world.

The Herpetarium provides children with a chance to see many reptile species.

A nano lab, greenhouse, and naturalist area are all part of the permanent exhibits on display.

The Millholland Planetarium offers shows and programs perfect for teaching kids all about the night sky. The Catawba Science Center is at 243 3rd Ave. NE, Hickory, NC 28601.

4- Visit Harper House And Hickory History Center

Harper House is a beautifully-preserved example of Victorian-style craftsmanship.

The house’s interior was decorated in a Queen Anne style and kept in pristine condition throughout its history.

Adjacent to the Harper House is the Bonniwell-Lyerly House or Hickory History Center, built in the Craftsman style and well-preserved since it was first remodelled in the 1930s.

It was moved to this lot as a way to preserve two beautiful examples of early 20th-century architecture in one historic property.

Admission into the Hickory History Center is free, but there is a fee to tour through the Harper House.

Tours are available Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Harper House and Hickory History Center are at 310 N Center St, Hickory, NC 28601.

5- Admire Art At Hickory Museum Of Art

The Hickory Museum of Art collects and preserves American art.

Founded in 1944, this museum strives to provide the community and region with a place to see, experience, and learn about art in all forms.

Its collection of over 1,500 objects represents many art categories, including Hudson River School paintings, American Art Pottery, Folk Art, Studio Art Glass, Photography and North Carolina artists.

The museum also hosts public events and classes where people can gather together.

Admission into the museum is free, although donations are suggested.

The museum operates from Wednesday through Sunday.

The Hickory Museum of Art is at 243 3rd Ave NE, Hickory, NC 28601.

6- Take A Drive To Bunker Hill Covered Bridge

things to do near hickory pisgah
One of the things to do in Hickory is to see the historic Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, which is one of two left in North Carolina. The other is Pisgah Bridge (pictured here).

The Bunker Hill Covered Bridge is a historic site maintained by the Catawba County Historical Association.

This bridge is a National Civil Engineering Landmark that was constructed in 1895.

You can visit the bridge from sunrise to sunset.

Sometimes, the gates are closed, so vehicles cannot drive closer, but you can park at on the hill and walk down to the bridge.

The architectural design used to construct it is the Improved Lattice Truss, patented by Brigadier General Herman Haupt.

It’s one of two covered bridges to admire in North Carolina and the only remaining wooden bridge of this design in the United States.

The bridge crosses Lyle’s Creek over an old Native American trail.

The Bunker Hill Covered Bridge is at 4160 US-70, Claremont, NC 28610.

7- Step Back In Time At Historic Murray’s Mill

things to do in hickory yates water mill
Grist mills and water mills (like Yates Water Mill pictured) dot the landscape in North Carolina and one of the things to do in Hickory is to check out the historic Murray’s Mill.

The Historic Murray’s Mill is a collection of buildings that centre around an old gristmill built in 1913.

The restored mill sits on the bank of Ball Creek.

Additional historic buildings on the property include the Murray & Minges General Store, built in the 1890s, the John Murray House, built in 1912, Wheathouse from the 1880s and several outbuildings.

John Murray House was restored and furnished with period furniture.

The Wheathouse is an Exhibition Gallery that displays regional artists and hosts visiting exhibits during the year.

This National Register Historic Site is cared for by the Catawba County Historical Association, which permits tours throughout the buildings and grounds.

The Historic Murray’s Mill is at 1489 Murrays Mill Rd, Catawba, NC 28609.

8- Step Back In History At Hart Square Village

Hart Square Village is the largest log-cabin museum in the United States.

More than 100 historic buildings were moved from the Piedmont and Western areas of North Carolina and preserved in the village.

These cabins were built in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Guides dressed in period clothing demonstrate artisanal crafts, such as blacksmithing and pottery to entertain and educate visitors.

Classes of artisanal crafts, survival skills, and other pioneer skills are available to the public.

Several festivals throughout the year bring people from the community together with regional artists and demonstrators.

During the Christmas Festival, you can enjoy eating historic dishes while observing some of the popular Early American Yuletide traditions.

Hart Square Village is at 5055 Hope Rd, Vale, NC 28168.

9- Learn Something New At Catawba County Museum Of History

The Catawba County Museum of History tells the stories of the many peoples who settled in this region.

The museum is in the old Catawba County Courthouse, built in 1924.

Many permanent exhibits contain rare and unique artifacts, including the red coat of a British uniform from the Revolutionary War and a race car from the 1930s.

Household items, agricultural tools, a recreated doctor’s office, and two recreated antebellum parlours from the 1830s and 1840s are on display.

The museum also tells the history of polio in the area and Hickory’s polio hospital during the height of the epidemic.

Admission into the museum is free, but donations are welcome.

The Catawba County Museum of History is at 30 N College Ave, Newton, NC 28658.

10- Explore Nature At Bakers Mountain Park

things to do in hickory north carolina
Relaxing among the oak trees is one of the things to do in Hickory NC.

Bakers Mountain Park contains 189 acres (76 hectares) of forest comprised of mature chestnut and oak.

Almost six miles (10 km) of hiking trails wind through the property, giving visitors a place to experience nature and see wildlife.

There’s a one mile (1.6 km) section that is part of the Carolina Thread Trail.

Visitors who hike through the woods will find the remains of two old homesites, monuments, a waterfall, and scenic views of North Carolina’s Piedmont Region.

A park ranger can often be found on-site and educates visitors about the native birds, wildlife, plants, and history of the area.

Bakers Mountain Park is at 6680 Bakers Mountain Rd, Hickory, NC 28602.

11- Go Hiking In Geitner-Rotary Park

The Geitner-Rotary Park is a public park with shady hiking trails that border Lake Hickory, a fishing pier and a boat launch.

A challenging 4.7-mile (7.6-km) trail loop provides a place for hikers and mountain bikers to test their skills.

An easier and shorter trail of 1.8 miles (2.9 km) offers a place for beginners to mountain bike.

Many anglers enjoy fishing for catfish in the lake and find consistent success catching them.

Amenities at the park include restrooms, picnic tables under a shelter, grills, and a gazebo.

Geitner-Rotary Park is at 2035 12th St Dr. NW, Hickory, NC 28601.

12- Shop In The Farmers Market

fresh vegetables
Another thing to do in Hickory is to visit the farmer’s market.

The Farmers Market in Downtown Hickory provides local vendors with a central place to sell a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, local meats, honey, cheese, preserves, flowers, potted plants, baked goods and artisanal items.

This market is open year-round on Saturdays, and from April through October, they are also open on Wednesdays.

Many local vendors sell ready-to-eat street foods and beverages.

Some of these foods are gluten-free, sugar-free, nut-free, and more, appealing to people with various food allergies and intolerances.

Artists sell their work, and live musicians perform during market hours.

The Downtown Hickory Farmers Market is at Union Square NW, Hickory, NC 28601.

13- Relax In Glenn C. Hilton Jr. Memorial Park

The Glenn C. Hilton Jr. Memorial Park is a family-friendly park with two miles (3.2 km) of trails that winds along a shady path.

This easy hike is great for hiking, jogging and mountain biking.

The trail is paved and lighted, so it’s suitable for night walking and accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.

The park is open all year and is dog friendly. It has a frisbee golf course, two playgrounds, a nature boardwalk, a gazebo, a memorial garden and horseshoe pits.

Amenities include restrooms, five picnic shelters with tables and grills, and a canoe launch.

The Glenn C. Hilton Jr. Memorial Park is at 2000 6th St NW, Hickory, NC 28601.

14- Explore Maple Grove

Maple Grove is a historic farmhouse built in the Italianate style in 1885.

Originally owned by the Shuford Family, that worked a dairy farm on the property, one of the descendants eventually gifted the house to the Hickory Landmarks Society.

This house was restored with interior furnishings in the style from the mid-1890s, with the furniture and items that once belonged to the original family.

It is on the National Register of Historic Places and opens to the public Monday through Friday for self-guided tours.

Guided tours are available by appointment.

Admission into the house museum is free. Maple Grove is at 542 2nd St., N.E. (Hwy. 127N), Hickory, NC 28601.

15- Visit The Caldwell Heritage Museum

The Caldwell Heritage Museum is housed in the last existing building of Davenport College and is a museum that preserves the area’s history from the pre-Colonial period to the present day.

With more than twenty permanent exhibits and several special exhibits, the museum educates the public about the chronological history of the Caldwell County area.

Some artifacts on display in the museum include Native American arrowheads and spearpoints, photos, early maps, and property deeds.

Their exhibits contain collections of medical history, music history, and military artifacts.

Admission into the museum is free, but donations are accepted.

The Caldwell Heritage Museum is at 112 Vaiden St, Lenoir, NC 28645.

16- Have A Picnic At Kiwanis Park

Kiwanis Park provides all families with a place to spend a day outside together.

Two playgrounds at the park give kids plenty of space to play. One of the playgrounds is the Zahra Baker All Children’s Playground and Treehouse.

It provides all children, including differently-abled individuals, a place to play. 

The Charles D. Dixon Memorial Splash Pad gives kids a safe place to play in the water and cool off in the summer.

A tennis court, basketball court, baseball fields, and batting cages give adults and children a place to enjoy sports.

The walking trail gives visitors a shady place to stroll.

Amenities at the park include restrooms, two picnic shelters with tables and grills, and two concession stands.

Kiwanis Park is at 805 6th St SE, Hickory, NC 28602.

17- Go Kayaking At Henry Fork River Park

The Henry Fork River Park promotes outdoor play with several soccer fields and two playgrounds.

An Alpine Tower ropes course provides a thrilling activity for visitors.

River access is available for people who want to fish from the bank or launch kayaks or canoes for a paddling adventure.

A paved pathway for walkers and joggers follows the park’s perimeter and meanders along the river.

Amenities at the park include a large picnic shelter with tables and grills, restrooms and a horseshoe pit.

A concession stand is sometimes open at the park.

The Henry Fork River Park is at 5655 Sweet Bay Ln, Hickory, NC 28602.

18- See A Performance At Hickory Community Theatre

The Hickory Community Theatre engages with the community by producing and performing diverse classic and contemporary theatre art productions.

They performed their first live performance in 1949 in the old City Hall building.

When City Hall eventually moved to a new building, the theatre took over the entire old building and built two stages.

They foster inclusivity in their productions and have open auditions for people of any race, ethnicity, body type, identity and abilities.

They offer both musicals and plays on their two performance stages.

Visitors and residents of Hickory can usually find a performance almost every week.

The Hickory Community Theatre is at 30 3rd St NW, Hickory, NC 28601.

19- Lowes Foods City Park

Lowes Foods City Park is a community park dedicated to providing the community with a safe place for children ages 2 through 12 to play.

This green space is in downtown Hickory, close to businesses, shops and restaurants.

Modern play spaces incorporate unrestricted play equipment where children’s play is only limited by their imaginations.

In addition to the play equipment, an interactive water feature cools people off in the summer months.

Amenities at this park include restrooms, benches, picnic tables, and a paved walking path around the park’s perimeter.

The Lowes Foods City Park is at 300-326 Main Ave NW, Hickory, NC 28602.

20- LP Frans Stadium

The LP Frans Stadium is a Minor League Baseball Stadium that is the home field for the Hickory Crawdads baseball team.

The Texas Rangers are the Major League Parent Club of the Crawdads.

This stadium was named for the local Pepsi-Cola bottler who helped to fund its construction in 1993.

The stadium seats around 4,000 people and sometimes hosts the South Atlantic League Finals.

This modern, renovated stadium contains a large LED Video Board, a VIP area, a playground, and outdoor party areas.

The LP Frans Stadium is at 2500 Clement Blvd NW, Hickory, NC 28601.

For more places to visit in the Southern states, see:

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Angie Grier is a spicy señora living in central Mexico with a penchant for freelance writing. Having spent most of her adult life writing as a scientist and then as a teacher, she now contributes articles on a wide variety of topics for print and online media. Originally from the US, she has lived in several different states on the US West and East coasts, the Gulf Coast, and the Upper Midwest. These days, when she’s not camping in the woods in a US national park or shopping in Tonalá or eating chilaquiles, she writes a travel blog detailing her life and adventures in Mexico at www.onaroadleadingsomewhere.com.