Concord, North Carolina, is one of the ten most populated cities in the state, which might be surprising to some people. Did you know that Concord has more people than Asheville? And there are several fun things to do in Concord, NC, so we recommend that you add it to your list of cities to visit.
Still, Concord offers a small-town feel, even though it is only 20 miles from Uptown Charlotte. That’s part of the city’s charm, but don’t let that fool you. There is a lot to discover in Concord and Cabarrus County.
Top 5 Things To Do in Concord, NC
Concord is known for racing and Concord Mills, so those make the list of the best things to do in Concord, but there are several other surprises worth uncovering. Come for the racing, stay for the small-town charm, and uncover several other reasons to love the city along the way.
1. Catch A Race At Charlotte Motor Speedway
Charlotte Motor Speedway is known as “America’s Home for Racing,” and that represents more than just a catchy slogan. NASCAR is headquartered in nearby Charlotte, where you will also find the NASCAR Hall of Fame. But NASCAR has also built up operations in the Concord region.
Concord is home to NASCAR’s Research & Development Center and a new Production Facility, which houses Motor Racing Network and NASCAR Productions employees.
And it’s not just NASCAR. Several of the racing teams are headquartered in Concord, NC, including Hendrick Motorsports and RFK Racing (Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing). If you like racing, you can actually visit some of the team headquarters to see a museum and get a limited tour.
Of course, you might want to time your visit so you can catch a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway too. The speedway was previously home to the annual NASCAR All-Star race, and while that race now rotates, there are several other premier events on the annual circuit.
The Coca-Cola 600 is one of the big races that drivers and fans look forward to each year, but we are partial to the Bank of America Roval 400. What’s a roval? We are so glad you asked. The roval course at Charlotte Motor Speedway utilizes the main racing track (an oval), but adds road course elements that cut through the infield.
Add road race and oval together, and you get roval.
If you like racing, then Charlotte Motor Speedway is just the start. The grounds are also home to the ZMAX Dragway and a dirt track. You will also find a Mustang Owner’s Museum nearby.
2. Visit Historic Downtown and Gibson Mill
Head over to historic downtown Concord, NC, when you are ready for a change of pace. The streets are lined with old brick buildings that are charming and inviting. Better yet, downtown Concord is bustling with small businesses and things to do.
There are several popular restaurants, including 2 Gal’s Kitchen and Gianni’s Trattoria, and there are several options for dessert and coffee, too. While I am partial to cupcakes that you can find at The Sweet Life, locals love the ice cream at Cabarrus Creamery.
When you are done walking the streets to admire the architecture and the massive Avett Brothers mural (they are from Concord), sit down to relax at Press & Porter. They serve coffee by day, and beer and wine by night, so it’s the perfect place to hang out.
And while downtown Concord is fun, we like Gibson Mill even more. Gibson Mill sits just a few miles from downtown Concord. In its past life, its workers milled out fabrics, towels, and sheets. But times change, and the mill closed in 2003.
It didn’t sit dormant long. Today, Gibson Mill is home to a fun food hall (called Gibson Market), the largest antique store in the south, classic car storage at the AutoBarn, and much more. You will also find a brewery, several other small businesses, and even an axe-throwing range.
Truly, Concord is one of the best cities near Charlotte NC.
3. Drive Over To Pan For Gold At Reed Gold Mine
Ok, so this one might be cheating a little because Reed Gold Mine is in Midland, North Carolina. Still, it is only a 20-minute drive from Concord and also sits in Cabarrus County, so we say it counts.
We all know about the California gold rush. But did you know that the first documented gold find in the United States was at Reed Gold Mine? It wasn’t just a little dust, either. The Reed family reportedly found a 17-pound gold rock! They didn’t know what they had and used it as a doorstop for years.
Sections of the underground tunnels at Reed Gold Mine are open for guided tours. At the visitor center, you can learn more about the Carolina Gold Rush. You can also pan for gold between April and October.
Plan ahead because there are seven panning sessions throughout the day. Who doesn’t want to pan for gold?! This is a must-visit location when you are near Concord.
4. Go Shopping At Concord Mills Mall
You might initially roll your eyes that I included a shopping mall on this list, but consider this: Concord Mills has a floor area of more than 1.3 million square feet and is the largest single-site tourist attraction in the state of North Carolina.
The mall looks like a massive ‘O’, and more than 200 retailers line the main hallway. Still, shopping is only part of the reason you might visit the mall. Concord Mills is also home to an AMC/IMAX theater, Sea Life Aquarium, Dave & Busters, and The Speedpark (go-karts).
And the tenants include all of the clothing retailers you would expect, plus a Lego Store, a model train store, and a Bass Pro Shop featuring an aquarium. I list these last three because I take my kids to explore Concord Mills when we need to get out of the house for a while – and they love it.
Concord Mills is so popular that the state installed an entire ramp for traffic turning left from the main road into the outlet mall. This has helped to unclog traffic but think twice before visiting on Black Friday.
Other shopping experiences have sprouted up around Concord Mills, so you can spend an entire day shopping in this little corner of Concord, which is only a few hundred feet from Charlotte. It’s also just across the interstate from Great Wolf Lodge and the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
5. Take A Ride At Great Wolf Lodge Water Park
Great Wolf Lodge is a resort between Concord Mills and the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It is best known because of the indoor water park, but guests love MagiQuest, the themed suites, the free kid’s events, and the family dining options, too.
You might think of a pool with a few small slides when you hear the term “indoor water park.” But the Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park is much more than this. To start with, Fort Mackenzie is a four-story water fort treehouse!
You will also find rides like the River Canyon Run, Alberta Falls, and the Howlin’ Tornado. The Howlin’ Tornado is a signature water slide that is six stories tall!
Don’t fret; there are smaller, safer rides for small children, too.
Other on-site attractions include mini golf, miniaturized bowling, a ropes course, an arcade, and MagiQuest. MagiQuest is a popular live-action game in which you have the chance to explore the lodge with a magic wand. It’s one of those attractions that you need to experience to understand fully.
With on-site dining options, your family could spend an entire weekend inside the Great Wolf Lodge. You might never have the need to leave.
Other Things To Do Near Concord
There are plenty of things to do in Concord, NC, such that you could spend an entire week exploring. Still, one of the benefits of visiting Concord is that it borders Charlotte, and there are even more things to do in Charlotte.
You can go rafting at the Whitewater Center or attend a Broadway musical at Belk Theater. Plus, you can check out Carowinds if you need additional adventure to pair with a stay at Great Wolf Lodge.
For the true Charlotte experience, we recommend that you ride the light rail. Stop in South End and go for a walk around the Rail Trail. Then visit Camp North End or Optimist Hall when you are ready for fast casual food and drinks.
How Close Is Concord to Charlotte?
Downtown Concord is about 20 miles from Uptown Charlotte, but the two cities border each other. Concord Mills is only a few hundred feet from Charlotte. If you head south from the Charlotte Motor Speedway (which is in Concord) along N Tryon St, you will quickly see a skyline view of Charlotte before you even hit I-485.
Is Concord Close To The Mountains or Beaches?
Concord is located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, which is defined by rolling hills. Still, mountain towns like Boone are only two hours away. The beach is a little further, but you can find your way to Wrightsville Beach in about 3.5 hours. So, you can make a day trip to the mountains or the beaches from Concord.
Top Reasons To Visit Concord, NC
Concord, NC, features a beautiful downtown and historic old mills. But you would be mistaken to assume this is a sleepy suburb of Charlotte. Concord defines racing. It is home to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, ZMAX Dragway, car museums, racing team headquarters, NASCAR operations, and more.
Plus, Concord is known for its other big attractions, including Concord Mills and the Great Wolf Lodge. To go off the beaten path, we recommend that you visit the Reed Gold Mine. It is the first documented location of a gold find in the United States.
There are plenty of things to do in Concord, NC.