Plan a weekend getaway in Hickory, North Carolina! Known for its furniture craftmanship, this town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains is also rich in history, hiking, and delicious eats. Read on for the best things to do for history lovers in Hickory!
Thank you to Visit Hickory Metro for hosting us for an amazing weekend in Hickory! As always, all opinions are my own.
Hickory is a small town situated between Charlotte and Asheville. It’s an easy weekend trip from Atlanta at only about a 4.5 hour drive.
Kevin and I were delighted to be invited to explore Hickory. The town is full of history, and it’s absolutely picture-perfect in the fall. We had a jam-packed itinerary of historic homes, easy hikes, local shopping, and dining around town. Check out all the best things to do in Hickory below!
Where to Stay in Hickory, North Carolina
For your weekend of exploring Hickory’s rich history, you’ll need a comfortable and unique place to rest your head.
We stayed at the 2nd Street Inn in Downtown Hickory. The inn is a converted textile mill with some of the old machinery built into the décor, but the rooms are modern and cozy.
You’ll book your room through Airbnb, but it’s really a hotel-like experience. The room and bathroom look like your standard hotel room, complete with a large TV and a mini fridge. There are two common kitchen areas with microwaves, an ice machine, and a vending machine.
2nd Street Inn is within easy walking distance of Hickory’s best sights, food, and shopping. It’s right on the City Walk, so you have easy access to Union Square and exploring Downtown Hickory.
More Places to Stay in Hickory
Looking for a different place to stay in Hickory, North Carolina? Check out these other great options.
- Where We Stayed: 2nd Street Inn
- Top Hotel: Hampton Inn Hickory
- Great Value: Best Western Hickory
- Unique Stay: Sweet Tea Bed & Breakfast
Things to Do in Hickory for History Buffs
If you love history, Hickory, North Carolina should definitely be on your bucket list! This hidden gem is home to fascinating historical sites that will delight history-lovers from all over.
The Harper House is a beautiful example of a Queen Anne style home, probably one of the best examples in the state.
The home was built in 1887 by Daniel Webster Shuler, who founded Hickory’s first bank. But the Harper family had the longest stay in the house, from 1923 to 2000. The Harpers appreciated the house’s architectural significance and preserved the home’s woodwork, intricate stained-glass windows, the ornate brass-work, and more.
In 2000, the Historical Association of Catawba County acquired the home and began to preserve and restore it to its Victorian state c. 1887.
The home is now open for guided tours. You won’t want to miss the speakeasy upstairs or the creepy fallout shelter in the basement!
When you visit the Harper House for a tour, you’ll first check in at the Bonniwell-Lyerly House. The Lyerly House is a Craftsman style house that was moved to its current location for preservation.
This home offers museum exhibits on Hickory’s history as well as a bookstore and giftshop featuring local goods. The house also serves as office space for the Hickory History Center.
The Lyerly House is free to visit.
The Propst House is a Second Empire style home built in 1882. You’ll find it within Shuford Memorial Park and Gardens.
The home was built by John “Summie” Propst for himself and his wife. As a master carpenter, homebuilder, and woodcarver, Summie built many of the wood furnishings, mantle pieces, and details that remain in the house today.
It’s free to tour the home. Don’t miss going up into the tower for a bird’s-eye view of Hickory.
Hart Square Living History Festival
Go back in time to the early 1800s at the annual Hart Square Living History Festival at Hart Square Village in Vale.
Hart Square Village began as the personal collection of Dr. Bob and Becky Hart containing historic log homes and early American antiques. Today, the village contains over 103 historic log structures, making it the largest collection of original historic log structures in the United States.
On festival day, every single structure is open for viewing! There are over 300 artisans and historic demonstrators dressed in period clothing (you can feel free to come dressed up as well). You’ll learn about the craftsmanship of Carolina’s pioneers and immerse yourself in early American history.
The Hart Square Living History Festival takes place every year in October.
Bunker Hill Covered Bridge
Over in Claremont sits Bunker Hill Covered Bridge. It is one of only two original remaining covered bridges in North Carolina.
And it’s the only remaining example in wood of the Haupt truss construction.
The bridge was originally constructed as an open span crossing Lyle Creek in 1895 and was covered in 1900. Now, you can access it from a short walking trail. At the parking area, you’ll also find picnic tables alongside the creek.
Lenoir-Rhyne University is a private liberal arts university that was founded in Hickory in 1891.
The campus has beautiful brick architecture and tree-lined paths. I loved exploring it!
My favorite part was definitely finding the bear statues, since Lenoir-Rhyne’s mascot is a Bear. There’s “The Charge”, a large statue near the Bears’ Lair off of 5th St NE. Then there’s one in front of the university bookstore in Shaw Plaza. There’s even a bear carved out of a dead tree on 7th Ave NE.
Hiking Lake Hickory Trails
Lake Hickory is a man-made freshwater lake that was created in 1927. It’s a popular spot for boating and fishing, but if you don’t want to go out on the water, you can stick to hiking and mountain biking the Lake Hickory Trails.
Lake Hickory Trails were designed and built by professional mountain bike trail builders, but some of them are also open to hikers.
Take the Geitner Trail paved greenway from the parking areas at either Hickory City Park or Geitner Park. Along this trail, you’ll find trailheads to other mountain biking and hiking trails with info telling you which are open to hikers and which direction to follow on the loop (typically counter-clockwise for hikers). We did the 1.5 mile Hickory Springs Loop.
Hickory’s walls are adorned with beautiful murals and works of art that depict the town’s history and culture.
I only found a few on my trip, but there are many more to find. Pictured here are the Welcome to Hickory mural showcasing some of the town’s famous sights; The Miracle of Hickory mural remembering how the town came together in response to the first polio cases in the area; the Historic Beginnings mural, depicting historic scenes of early industries in town; and Under the Umbrella, which makes for a fun photo op.
Hickory City Walk
Hickory City Walk spans Main Avenue from Lenoir-Rhyne University all the way through Downtown Hickory.
This pathway make Hickory super walkable and is a great way to get around the city.
The Hickory Farmers Market is a year-round market held in Downtown Hickory at Union Square. During the winter, it’s only open on Saturdays, but the rest of the year it’s open on Saturdays and Wednesdays.
This is where you can connect with local Hickory producers and buy things like fresh cut flowers (which were such a huge hit), honey, baked goods, preserves, vegetables, artisan crafts, and more.
Shops on the Square
Get your shopping done in Downtown Hickory at the shops on Union Square. The shops on the square offer a unique retail experience with options from antiques and boutiques to candles and ice cream.
Where to Eat and Drink in Hickory
Hickory is full of culinary delights! No matter where you choose to eat, you’re in for a treat. Check out some of the top places to eat and drink in the city.
Hatch Sandwich Bar
Hatch Sandwich Bar is a popular lunch spot for sandwiches in Hickory. Opened in 2012, Hatch serves simple and quick sandwiches at its expanding Downtown location.
We recommend the Pork Belly Cuban or the Club sandwich.
Hickory Wine Shoppe
Hickory Wine Shoppe is a cute wine bar and shop in Downtown that offers wines from small producers, natural wines made using organic and sustainable farming practices, and craft beers on tap.
You can shop from hundreds of bottles from around the world, enjoy a glass or a flight of wine, or grab a small bite and a cocktail (like wine slushies!). They have plenty of outdoor seating, cozy booth and bar seating, and more space downstairs in the cellar.
Fourk is an upscale new American dining experience where everything has a twist (that includes the intentional misspelling of their name — a combination of “fork” and “fourth” since they’re located on Fourth Street).
On the menu, you’ll find traditional items like steak, seafood, chicken, and salads, except everything is prepared with creative seasonings and sauces that you might not expect.
I highly recommend the Lamb Chops (made with yellow curry over sesame rice) and the Seared Scallops (served with sweet potato “scallops” and fried brussels with whipped goat cheese over jalapeno hummus), and the Apple Dumplings a la Mode (perfect for fall).
Olde Hickory Station
Olde Hickory Station is a restaurant and market in Downtown. The historic train station was restored and is operated by Olde Hickory Brewery. Olde Hickory Station is perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. In the market, you can find in-house bakery products, local beer and wine, cheese, and specialty items.
We chose Olde Hickory Station for breakfast and can recommend the Appalachian Benedict and their biscuits with sausage gravy (which I ordered off the kids’ menu, but it was still good just the same!).
Carolina Crafted Creamery
Carolina Crafted Creamery and Candles seems like an odd pairing, but the fact is, they serve delicious ice cream as well as deliciously scented candles and bath supplies.
They have 37 flavors to choose from, and they rotate flavors regularly. We decided to get the 4 Scoop Flight to share, which turned out to be some enormous scoops. It was well worth it!
Charolais Steakhouse is a Hickory institution. They’ve been in business since 1969 and are known for serving hand-cut, char-grilled steaks. You get to choose your cut from the cart they roll up right to your table.
We stopped here for cocktails and appetizers, like their Korean Lettuce Wraps with sautéed marinated beef and their Shrimp Cocktail.
Mas Amor Cantina
Mas Amor Cantina is a neighborhood Tex-Mex restaurant where everything is made with “more love”. They have homemade tortillas and sauces from scratch, fresh crushed cilantro and fruit purees, and bold flavors in every bite.
We stopped in for dinner and had the Mas Taco Trio and the Pollo con Queso Quesadilla. And drinks are a must! I heard the Pineapple Cilantro Margarita was good (if you don’t mind cilantro), but I went for a classic Mojito and Kevin had the Passion Colada.
Café Rule & Wine Bar
Café Rule & Wine Bar offers a menu of eclectic cuisine and an extensive wine list. This upscale eatery is perfect for dinner, Sunday brunch, or what we did — dessert and dessert cocktails.
I recommend the Lavenderberry Mule to drink. For desserts, we sampled four of their top offerings: Pumpkin Cheesecake, Carrot Cake, S’Mores Cast Iron Cookie, and their Popcorn Ice Cream.
Café Gouda is a breakfast, brunch, and lunch spot where you can get classic breakfast, sandwiches, soups, and salads.
We headed here for brunch and got the French Toast and a Club sandwich.
Mapping Out Your Weekend in Hickory
Ready to explore Hickory’s history? Use the map below to help plan out your weekend itinerary exploring Hickory, North Carolina.
Hickory, North Carolina truly holds a rich history waiting to be unlocked by those willing to explore its hidden treasures. After a weekend in the city, you’ll leave Hickory feeling historically and gastronomically satisfied, as well as reconnected with nature.
So, why wait? Start planning your own history lover’s dream itinerary and unlock Hickory’s best-kept secrets today.
More North Carolina Itineraries
Traveling around North Carolina? Check out these other top itineraries for your trip!
- 4 Days in Asheville Itinerary: Asheville, North Carolina Guide
- How to Spend 2 Days in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina
- One Day at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina
- 4 Scenic Drive Photo Ops Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Ready to visit Hickory, North Carolina? Plan your trip with these tips.
- Book Your Flight: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
- Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in Hickory using Booking.com.
- Start Packing: Check out my packing list resources so you’re prepared for your trip.
Are you a history lover planning a trip to Hickory, North Carolina? Let me know in the comments!