photograph by Revival Photography

Visitors to Lowes Foods City Park on Main Avenue in Hickory can’t resist the xylophones. The oversize instruments tempt tiny percussionists and those who fondly remember the toy of toddlerhood. Bang away, or watch the joyful abandon from a bench backed with a multicolor mosaic. The swirling inlaid messages are ones that both young and old can decode: “Come sit with us and make new friends.”

Here, kids are encouraged to use their imagination on unique “unrestricted play” equipment. Intrepid climbers can reach the “North Pole” on a giant, Epcot-like geodesic dome filled with rods, ropes, and netting. Explorers can take a tour of the Catawba River by following a twisting, turning map, complete with a splash pad; geography and history lessons; and a compass pointing toward Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Blowing Rock. Or you can just sit in the shade with a treat from one of the slew of eateries steps away on Union Square, dig your heels into the spongy surface that covers the park, and reflect on how nice it is to know there’ll be no skinned knees or muddy feet, just pink cheeks and lots of giggles. 


Lowes Foods City Park
300-326 Main Avenue Northwest 
Hickory, NC 28602

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Susan Stafford Kelly was raised in Rutherfordton. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill and earned a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. She is the author of Carolina Classics, a collection of essays that have appeared in Our State, and five novels: How Close We Come, Even Now, The Last of Something, Now You Know, and By Accident. Susan has three grown children and lives in Greensboro with her husband, Sterling.

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