Once a manufacturing hub for furniture and textiles, Hickory, North Carolina, is reinventing itself into a "well-crafted" destination filled with cultural and recreational attractions. Situated close to the Appalachian Mountains, the state's largest system of lakes and other metropolitan areas, Hickory is a great waypoint for travelers. The city's unique variety of parks, museums, theatre, shopping and dining also make Hickory a location worthy of an extended visit.
Must see in Hickory
The SALT Block is a perfect day trip destination for families thanks to the Catawba Science Center, Hickory Museum of Art and Patrick Beaver Memorial Library, all conveniently situated around one city block. Union Square and the city's downtown business district combines locally owned retail shops with restaurants and pubs offering diverse menus and celebrating the city's blossoming craft beer scene. A trip to Hickory is incomplete without a visit to the region's extensive collection of furniture retail businesses that dot the city map and extend along the shoulders of U.S. 321 north toward the mountains.
Where to stay in Hickory
Hotel accommodations are almost entirely limited to the commercial area near the intersection of I-40, U.S. 70 and Lenoir-Rhyne Boulevard. Numerous lodging options here range in price from most affordable to luxury. All are situated close to the Hickory Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as a broad selection of dining and shopping venues. This hotel zone is a short drive from Hickory's downtown district and other attractions. Travelers seeking a quick escape to the mountains should explore limited options available on the city's northern U.S. 321 corridor. A limited number of private homes and apartments are available for rental to the savvy traveler seeking a place to stay closer to Hickory's more attractive amenities, such as downtown and Lake Hickory.
Best and worst time to go to Hickory
September to November is the best time to visit thanks to the seasonal leaf color change and an active schedule of festivals throughout the Hickory region, including Oktoberfest and the weekly Hickory Farmer's Market downtown. Baseball fans will enjoy a visit in April-August when Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers Class A affiliate Hickory Crawdads are playing at L.P. Frans Stadium. Avoid Hickory in January and February, when the city experiences its coldest temperatures and best opportunities for snowfall.
Where to get lost in Hickory
Hickory's Lakeland Park Neighborhood surrounds four inter-linked parks that make this area perfect for wanderers: Glenn C. Hilton Jr. Memorial Park, Geitner Rotary, Hickory City Park and Jaycee Park. Closer to Hickory's downtown area, a cruise along 6th Street NW and surrounding neighborhoods reveals some of the city's more beautiful homes. In this area, Shuford House and Garden is a perfect place for a picnic.
The best deal in Hickory
Glenn C. Hilton Jr. Memorial Park offers a little something for everyone, all at no charge. Hiking trails and a boardwalk path wind around the woods that surround acres of open play spaces. A disc golf course, playgrounds and picnic shelters add to the amenities that make this sprawling park appealing to families and individuals seeking an outdoor escape.
Transportation in Hickory
Fixed routes in Hickory's Greenway Public Transportation system are an affordable way to access key parts of the city, but the bus service isn't terribly fast or efficient. Traffic congestion is rarely a problem, so a personal automobile or rented vehicle is a better option that allows visitors to explore the city and surrounding areas at their own pace.
Getting in from Charlotte Douglas International Airport
The Hickory Hop shuttle service connects Hickory to the Charlotte airport with 13 scheduled trips, seven days per week. Reservations made 48 hours in advance are required to guarantee service, but this is an affordable, low-stress option to make the hour-long trip from Charlotte to Hickory's regional airport, which does not offer commercial air service.
Local tip for visitors to Hickory
The Sails on the Square in the heart of Hickory's downtown is a regular venue for an active calendar of events. From the Hickory Farmer's Market on Wednesdays, Saturdays and every third Thursday, to a wide range of concerts and festivals, the Hickory Downtown Development Association's events calendar has something for every interest.
Author's bio: Michael Willard is a resident of the Hickory, N.C., Metro, where he contributes to local, regional and statewide print and broadcast media. He enjoys discovering outdoor adventures with his family and attending live sporting events.