A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

    What We Love About Hickory Hickory’s “Life. Well Crafted.” motto may have been inspired by its early days as a town built around furniture manufacturing. Today, the idea

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

    What We Love About Hickory Hickory’s “Life. Well Crafted.” motto may have been inspired by its early days as a town built around furniture manufacturing. Today, the idea

Man kayaking in Hickory, NC

Your Guide to Hickory



What We Love About Hickory

Hickory’s “Life. Well Crafted.” motto may have been inspired by its early days as a town built around furniture manufacturing. Today, the idea of “well crafted” encompasses and extends beyond the city’s artisans. Hickory brims with inspired features that elevate the everyday: Brick sidewalks line the streets of downtown’s bustling Social District. A riverwalk nature path encourages peaceful contemplation. Friendly business owners stand at the helm of local bistros and shops. To make the most of this riverside city, read on for a list of our own Hickory-crafted favorites.


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Explore Downtown

Sip and Stroll: With open container laws permitted within marked boundaries, folks can enjoy libations in downtown Hickory’s Social District. Grab a chilled Death by Hops IPA from Olde Hickory Brewery, and explore shopping, dining, art galleries, and common park space within the multi-block radius.

Feel the Beat: Live entertainment keeps the scene fresh in Hickory, whether it’s a band at The Hum, the eclectic outdoor music venue, or a show at The Premier, an indoor venue and bar. The Premier is a great place to test your knowledge at trivia night or try your hand at one of its cornhole tournaments. They even have comedy shows and concerts. If you schedule your visit around Hickory’s free Sails Original Music concert series in the spring and fall, you can sip your vino on the lawn and tap your toes to the beat.

Home Grown: If you’re looking for local flowers, fruit, jam, or eggs, the Hickory Farmers Market is the place to go. Located in Union Square, the Under the Sails Farmer’s Market is open year-round and features top-quality homegrown and handmade delicacies. For an unbeatable spicy-savory combo, grab a cheddar-jalapeño loaf from the Knob Hill Bakery. With specialty artisan cheeses, marinades, and buttery baked goods for sale, you won’t leave hungry.

Shopping: Hit up Ella Blu for trendy women’s clothing, accessories, and shoes. Lou Lou’s Corner is a child’s (and parent’s!) dream, with toys and clothing up to size eight. If thrifted finds are your thing, ACME Antique Market offers vintage gems, ranging from collectible toys to retro kitchenware.




Where to Eat

Frothy Rooster: There’s no better start to the morning than an order of yeast roll doughnuts paired with a macchiato. For your breakfast main course, the hash plate — a delicious combination of pork belly and grilled veggies all drizzled with their house-made chipotle ketchup — will keep you going for the rest of the day. If you’re feeling more traditional, try the Angry Bird, a Frothy Rooster signature with buttermilk-and-pickle-brine fried chicken.

Breakfast dishes at Frothy Rooster and a burger from Cowa-Sake in Hickory, NC

Kick-start your day with a hearty, Southern-style breakfast at Frothy Rooster. If you work up an appetite again after a day of activities around town and on the water, take your pick between burgers or sushi (or both!) at Cowa-Saké. Photography courtesy of Hickory Metro CVB

Cowa-Saké: Unlikely pairings often yield perfection. Cowa-Saké, the sushi-meets-burger place in the heart of the Social District downtown, is one of those combinations. Discover your favorite Cowa-cocktail as you settle in; Rajah’s Paloma, with the house-made green tea syrup, always hits the spot. For food, a Cowa-Saké Bento Box is the best of both worlds, featuring sushi and beef in a perfect little package. Be sure to include an order of kimchi fries.

Cranford Brothers BBQ: Zach and Tucker Cranford know a thing or two about good food. The brothers behind Cranford Brothers BBQ smoke their meats daily in custom-built pits, and the smell alone will draw you in. They serve from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day — or “until we’re out.” Their beef brisket is one of the best around, and be sure to add a side of the Scott Family Cheezy Apples and collard greens.

Smoked meats and sides from Cranford Brothers BBQ in Hickory, NC; plate of scallops and vegetables at FOURK in Hickory, NC

Bring a group and order a feast of house-smoked turkey, pulled pork, barbecue chicken, and cheese-stuffed sausage from Cranford Brothers BBQ. And don’t miss the eye-catching presentations of seafood and seasonal vegetables on the menu at FOURK. Photography courtesy of Hickory Metro CVB

FOURK: A Hickory staple since 2015, FOURK uses creative seasonings and homemade sauces to put a special twist on every menu item. Ever tried mahi mahi on your BLT? It’s a must. And the lamb chop entrée with the harissa-roasted veggies will have you licking your plate clean.

Boca: A Spanish tapas place where ambience abounds, Boca takes local ingredients and turns them into Mediterranean masterpieces, based on family recipes the owner grew up enjoying in Morocco. Order multiple plates to share amongst your crew.



Get Outdoors

City Walk: The Hickory Trail connects 10 miles of Hickory. Even if you don’t have time to traverse the entire path, be sure to cross the Riverwalk section, a unique suspended bridge walkway that allows pedestrians and on-leash pets to traverse the Catawba River. The Riverwalk connects a network of beloved nature destinations, like the Lake Hickory Trails, paved Geitner Trail greenway, and Boy Scout Cabin at Rotary-Geitner Park.

People explore the Riverwalk and kayak in Hickory, NC

Lake Hickory is a paddler’s dream, but if you don’t have time for a full-blown water adventure, you can still immerse yourself in greenspace by strolling along downtown’s Riverwalk. Photography courtesy of Hickory Metro CVB

Riverbend Park: The main entrance to Riverbend Park yields sweeping views of the Catawba River. Come fly-fish, let your pup splash around, or relax and enjoy the sound of trickling water. If you’re the hiking type, check out Hickory Hikers, a group organized through Hickory Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism Department that regularly starts their hikes at Riverbend.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Grab your glove and head to the Hickory Crawdads stadium to catch a game with the local class-A, minor league baseball team. Featuring theme-night baseball games, promotions, and special events, this stadium has it all!

Baseball game at Hickory Crawdads stadium; Hickory Speedway in Hickory, NC

Head to Hickory Crawdads stadium to cheer on the home team or listen to the roar of engines as racecars whip around the Whelen All-American Series short track. Photography courtesy of Hickory Metro CVB

Start Your Engines: Often referred to as the “Birthplace of the NASCAR stars,” Hickory’s Motor Speedway boasts a rich history of stock car racing. Check out one of the country’s most famous short tracks, the Whelen All-American Series, which is still used for NASCAR’s club racing division.




Grab a Drink

Warehouse Distillery: This family-owned and -operated distillery in Newton sits so close to Hickory that it’s an easy drive over to experience their bourbon, rye, and whiskey. The special maple rye whiskey remains a fan favorite. A pet-friendly, all-indoor cocktail lounge features local craft beer and a full wine list. Munch on North Carolina-made Poppy Popcorn, a small charcuterie plate, or order from a steady list of rotating food trucks to keep you satisfied while you sip.

Women sample spirits and cocktails at Warehouse Distillery

Sample the selection of craft spirits at Warehouse Distillery and ask the bartender to mix your favorite into a creative cocktail. Photography courtesy of Hickory Metro CVB

City Walk Brewery: If you’re a Hickory native, you know that “the old pawn shop,” where City Walk Brewing and Distilling is located, just so happens to be in the heart of the city’s Social District (talk about great city planning!). Enjoying a Reasonably in Shape Vienna-style lager in the outdoor beer garden with live music and friends is exactly what weekends are made for.

City Walk Distillery: Just steps away from the brewery, City Walk Distillery’s menu features craft bourbon, gin, and vodka — and weekend tours available by appointment. While you’re there, grab a Tea for One cocktail at No Entry Lounge, a genuine speakeasy with more curated cocktails and bar snack options.

City Walk Brewery and No Entry Lounge in Hickory, NC

In the heart of downtown Hickory’s Social District, City Walk Brewery is a popular spot to gather with friends over craft beer and bar snacks. Just steps away, the No Entry Lounge at City Walk Distillery welcomes those looking for an upscale bar scene. Photography courtesy of Hickory Metro CVB

Battle Axe Mead House: After one stop in the Battle Axe Mead House, the fermented combination of honey, water, and spices in their house-made meads will get your taste buds tingling. For those new to mead, Battle Axe offers a wide assortment of flight options to provide your palate with endless options. If “comfort food” came in a beverage form, it would be the house-fermented French Toasted style, with notes of maple, vanilla, cinnamon, and allspice. The menu also includes beer, wine, and nonalcoholic options.

Hickory takes pride in cultivating a small-town community with big-city flair; ready to experience it for yourself? Click here to start planning your trip to this well-crafted city along the Catawba River.




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This story was published on Apr 04, 2024

Beth Ellsworth

Beth Ellsworth is a North Carolina native, raised on a large tobacco farm in Wilson. She lives with her husband, three kids, and two dogs in downtown Raleigh.