Crowder's Mountain, located on the west side of Gastonia, is the highest point on Gaston County and is a great place to get away while visiting this part of North Carolina (i.e. Charlotte vicinity). There are miles of trails, soaring birds and beautiful views over the valleys below.
On the way to Gastonia, you'll notice the exit for Belmont where you'll see this small but beautiful campus and it's cathedral pictured here. If you have a few extra minutes, it's worth a stop. There are some nice stained glass windows in the church and the campus is worth a ten minute stroll.
Unless you're a military buff, I'd recommend skipping this place most of the year. But if you're in Gastonia around June 14 (Flag Day), you should make it a point to come and see the WORLD'S LARGEST AMERICAN FLAG! The museum only flies the flag on Flag Day and other special occasions, so call before you come to see if it's waving in the wind. The flag is 65 feet wide and 114 feet wide!
This beautiful sanctuary on the banks of Lake Wylie in Belmont, NC is one of the best gardens I've seen. The architectural centerpiece is the elegant Pavilion with beautiful stained-glass windows, but of course, the highlight is the flower gardens.
Redlair Farm & Forest is almost like stepping into a time-warp. This extraordinary nature preserve is home to over 70 miles of hiking trails and 4.5 miles of natural frontage along the South Fork River within its 730 acres. It is still privately owned so access is not available at all times but when you do visit, it is like stepping back at least 100 years to a much kinder, gentler (slower-paced) era. The wildflowers, birds, rare species of each of those plus a few animals which you may not have seen in the wild elsewhere make it very easy to forget that you are on the edge of a metropolis housing about a million people, and that can be a wonderful thing to forget sometimes. The best time to visit may be in early June when the Catawba Lands Conservancy usually holds their annual meeting and NatureFest. The preserve is open that day, usually the first Saturday in June, plus there are other attractions. This year, they had live music, guided nature walks, children’s activities, animals, hay rides, float trips, canoes for paddling on the South Fork, and 8k and half-marathon races. From beekeepers to blacksmiths, talented local artisans presented their crafts in celebration of our region’s cultural heritage. Great food was also available from regional to international favorites, such as barbecue, brick-oven pizza, and, a necessity for any hot, early summer day, ice cream.
This year marked the 19th Annual Meeting for the Catawba Lands Conservancy which started the day at about 10:00 AM when Executive Director Dave Cable reviewed last year’s successes and shared an overview of priorities for the coming year.
At 11:00 am, Redlair NatureFest festivities began.
DIRECTIONS: From Charlotte, I-85 South to Exit 26, Belmont Abbey College. TL (north) at the light at the College onto old NC 273/Belmont-Mt. Holly Road. TL at 1st stop light onto Woodlawn St. Woodlawn ends at Hickory Grove Road; turn right. Take Hickory Grove past North Belmont Park on the right & Rankin Road on the left. The next left is Redlair Lane.
Gastonia Lanes offers bowling, snacks, food, beer, and really good pretzels. The staff seems nice, the place looks clean, and it's a lot of fun if you like bowling. They have good prices during the daytime, and the have dollar mania specials and Extreme Bowling, which I would like to check out one of these nights.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve is filled with enough things to do to keep a family occupied for the whole day. When you drive into the park road, first up is a nature/visitor center that has a little walkthrough/ educational things, and sells fishing bait. A mile or so up the road on the left is the "Carolina Raptor Center" - this is a rehabilitation center for birds that hunt; for a small entry fee you can walk around and see the birds and exhibits. It's a small educational area, I rate it ok. Here's their web address: http://www.carolinaraptorcenter.org/
Next up is the Latta Plantation - If you like seeing living history, then you might find this interesting. It's a plantation dated from the 1800's, and they have a few old buildings to walk through. There is a guided tour of the house, and there's also a farm. Cost are currently listed on their webpage. I rate it ok. It was interesting to walk through the first time, but it's not something I'd go to every year. http://www.lattaplantation.org/visit/hours.shtml
Finally at the end of the road you have the main park parking lot. The park trails lead down to the Mountain Island lake. Fishing is allowed, although swimming is not. There's a few picnic tables, bbq grills, and a very scary bathroom (for some reason the bathroom stalls are huge).
The walking trails are very scenic.
Here are some things you can do at the park: fishing, horseback riding (at the equistrian center), hiking, walking, canoing (canoe rental sometimes available at the park), segway adventure tours, and birdwatching.
Bring food and drinks with you, because if there's one thing this place doesn't have it's food. There is a soda machine at the nature park office, and at the Raptor Center, but not at the plantation, unless it's changed since we went. Also, the only thing close to food in the park is ice creams you can buy at the Raptor Center.
Gaston County Museum of Art and History (in Dallas, NC)
Well, I've never actually been inside this museum, but it's housed in a great building that was once a hotel.