Favorite thing: Gastonia's main street is Franklin, but you'll also see some interesting businesses along Main Streets and York. It's an industrial town, so you'll see old, brick factory buildings are predominant in the downtown area.
If I feel like going to the mountains and doing some hiking, I usually set aside a weekend and drive up to the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville or I'll drive to the Smoky Mountain National Park.
There are occasions however, when I don't have enough time to drive 2 or 3 hours from home, that I'll simply pack a small backpack and head to Crowder's Mountain in Gastonia. It provides some great hiking trails, a beautiful lake, and some great views from the top.
Favorite thing: Crowder's Mountain provides some great hiking trails and some good photo opportunities. Too bad I wasn't there at the height of the fall foliage.