Wondering where to go on your next weekend getaway? Consider adding Shelby, North Carolina, to your list of destinations! Just a short distance from Charlotte, and only a few hours from Durham, Shelby becomes a perfect weekend getaway destination. With so many things to do in Shelby and surrounding areas, you can achieve the perfect blend of relaxation and sightseeing.
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During the late 1800s and the early 1900s, Shelby was a popular resort town, renowned for its healing springs. If you’ve ever heard of lithium, then you can understand that the lithia springs in the area provided unique healing possibilities. While no longer flowing freely, there are still local springs for guests looking for them (we did!). You could say that there’s something special in the air in Shelby.
Located 40 miles west of Charlotte, and about three hours drive from Durham, Shelby should be added to your list of weekend destinations. The historic downtown area, known as Uptown, has been restored and reinvented, attracting visitors from near and far. I love a town in which the downtown (here, Uptown) which is easily walkable!
Here are some great things to do, see, and where to eat during a weekend visit to Shelby and surrounding areas:
THINGS DURING A WEEKEND IN SHELBY, NC
FOOTHILLS FARMERS MARKET
City Pavilion – 126 W. Marion Street, Shelby — Website
Every Saturday morning from April to October, 8 am to noon, you’ll find local farmers and artisans selling their wares at the Foothills Farmers Market. Typically 30 vendors showcase their goods on any given Saturday, though that number easily doubles during the summer months. Twice a month, local musicians perform during the event. You’ll also find local food trucks, like T’s Tiny Farm food truck where you’ll find the best grilled cheese in town! Whether you’re looking for fresh tomatoes, baked pies, fresh-made cheese, or other artisanal products, you’ll find them here.
EARL SCRUGGS CENTER
103 S. Lafayette Street, Shelby – Website
Best known for his three-finger banjo picking style of bluegrass music, Earl Scruggs was a music legend. Housed inside the former courthouse, the Earl Scruggs Center pays homage to this musical maestro. Admission costs only $12 for adults ($8 for senior or college students; $5 for 6-17). Even better? Active duty military and veterans with proper identification receive FREE admission between Memorial and Labor Day. Visitors start by watching a short film describing Earl Scruggs’ career. Exhibits, including interactive exhibits, regale visitors with tales of what life was like in Shelby during Earl Scruggs’ career and during his days in show business. Plan on spending about two hours here.
DON GIBSON THEATRE
318 S. Washington Street, Shelby – Website
A country music legend, local Don Gibson lived from 1928 to 2003. Most popular from 1957 to the mid-1970s, Don Gibson has been recognized for some standards such as “Oh Lonesome Me,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and “Sweet Dreams.” The city of Shelby’s art deco theater first opened its doors in 1939. It became a movie house and eventually fell into disrepair. Ten years ago, the Don Gibson Theater re-opened its doors as a 400-seat venue. While we visited, Shelby High School was holding its 35-year reunion here. Today, you’ll find comedy, music acts, and movies being played at this lovingly restored theater.
The city also pays homage to Don Gibson with commemorative and decorative records placed throughout Uptown. Guests have the option to push a play button to hear the record made famous by Don Gibson. What a unique way to celebrate his legacy and introduce the rest of us to his music!
SHELBY CITY PARK
850 W. Sumter Street, Shelby – Website
The street address is for the front entrance to the park. You’ll need to drive towards the back (to the right as you face the building) in order to access the parking near the carrousel and miniature train ride.
Built around 1919, the Shelby carrousel is one of the nation’s few year-round carrousels within a traditional park location. Beautifully restored by volunteers, the carrousel re-opened in 1998. A 50 cent admission allows guests to ride on one of the horses or carriages transporting you to a bygone area.
MINIATURE TRAIN RIDE
A miniature train company train with three coaches with an actual conductor. We went around the track (there’s a children’s accessible playground in the middle) about seven times in a several minute ride. Our favorite part was the conductor yelling “All Aboard” and blowing the horn through the tunnel. Yes, even adults can have fun on this ride!
This was the best $1 we spent all weekend! Seriously! And no one minds if you’re an adult on these two iconic rides, so why not? But please bring cash and double-check the hours during the weekend you’ll be visiting as seasonal hours may vary. Or rent each location for two-hours for a private function.
HIKING SHELBY TRAILS AT BROAD RIVER GREENWAY
126 Broad River Drive, Shelby – Website
Whether you enjoy a leisurely hike, walk, run, bike ride, or even a horse ride, the trails at Broad River Greenway offer many options. During the summer, paddlers can launch from this area as well. For us, it was a great way to stretch our legs after the three-and-a-half hour drive from Durham.
TWIN TRESTLES TRAILHEAD IN SHLEBY, NC
940 West Grover Street, Shelby – Website
This nice and shady trail in town is an easy two-mile hike. Between concrete, dirt trails or suspension bridges, this trails offers something for those of us who want to move without being too strenuous. Unfortunately, the downpour we experienced prevented us from going out on the trail itself. This would be another great way to stretch your legs after a drive, or a way to burn off all the barbecue you’ll be eating!
THE PINNACLE AT CROWDERS’ MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
522 Park Office Lane, Kings Mountain – Website
Looking for spectacular views of the area? Plan on a two-hour hike up the Pinnacle Trail at Crowders’ Mountain State Park. Casual hikers are warned that the last bit of the trail is pretty steep and difficult. But the views! Unfortunately, during our weekend, we had planned on hiking Sunday morning and woke up to a torrential downpour. Next time!
NEWGRASS BREWING COMPANY IN SHELBY NC
213 S. Lafayette Street, Shelby – Website
The only brewery in Cleveland County, Newgrass Brewing Company brought craft beer to the Uptown Shelby area. Located in the former Hudson’s Department Store, Newgrass brings local farm products to tasty craft beer and food. And, of course, the brewery preserved the strong bluegrass roots of the area. The stage features a variety of live music most weekends with bluegrass often in the mix! Fostering a family-friendly atmosphere, not only can you drink your beer here, but the food is pretty spectacular. Offering farm to table specials (each farm is even listed on their weekly board), all types of appetites will be satisfied. We sampled the hummus plate, the Guernsey cheese curds, and the Swig & Swine Pimento Cheese, perfect accompaniments to our pints. Unfortunately, we ate them too fast for photos!
BAKER BUFFALO CREEK VINEYARD & WINERY
3521 Fallston-Waco Road, Lawndale – Website
Long-time readers will know that I am not a huge connoisseur of wines. But this winery was different. For the last decade, Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard and Winery offers the whole package — from special events to tastings. Part of the Ridgeline Craft Beverage Trail, Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard is the only winery to offer a dozen wines to taste. With an iconic red barn (Hickory Farms even used it in its advertising!) the grounds of this beautiful winery provide the perfect respite from our fast-paced lives. Owners Ann and her husband Charles explain each wine, from the history of how they came to cultivate the grapes, how they made the wine, and describe to us neophytes what to look for in each wine. Enjoy this wonderful stop! (PS: leashed pets are welcome.)
J-BIRD’S DELI & ALES IN SHELBY NC
106 W. Marion Street, Shelby – Website
Another local staple for sandwiches during the day and live music in the evenings. Offering a large selection of beers, including ten taps, several locals directed us to J-Birds. Enjoy one of their artisanally crafted sandwiches while getting to know local residents. With musical acts on the weekend, this is a fun place to hang out whether you’re a local or a visitor.
PLACES TO EAT IN AND AROUND SHELBY NC
220 S. Lafayette Street, Shelby – Website
A classic, the Shelby Cafe opened its doors in 1922. Serving breakfast all day long, the Shelby Cafe enjoys both a local and national reputation. If you’re looking to try some livermush while in the area, consider the Shelby Cafe — where the waiters wear t-shirts with “I got mushed at the Shelby Cafe” emblazoned on their backs. Between daily specials and their low everyday rates, Shelby Cafe is an affordable way to experience a true Shelby classic. While many tried to steer us towards the Mayor’s Special, I tried the garbage plate, and my friend tried their grits and eggs and don’t think you can go wrong with any item on the menu. We were told by long-time residents that this was THE place to try the livermush.
IZZI QUE BARBECUE
127 W. Marion Street, Shelby – Website
The only upscale casual dining restaurant on our list, Izzi Que combines food and great music with an emphasis on blues. The backroom serves a large variety of craft brews and even has a cozy patio area. A bowl of pork rinds is brought to every table. We shared the Pork Fries – potato wedges piled high with pulled pork, pepper jack, cheddar cheese, scallions, and sour cream. The generous portion only set us back $8.75 and we were too full after to eat our sliders. We hear the wings are good too!
THE FLYING PIG
901 College Street, Shelby – Website
Since 2006, The Flying Pig has been serving delicious western Carolina barbecue in the area. Guests rave about the beef brisket, pork, and hush puppies. A local recommended this restaurant to us — suggesting that this is where her family liked to dine, and you can’t beat that type of recommendation! It seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere, though it was an easy location to access if you’re traveling to the Broad River Greenway. Prices are extremely reasonable but you won’t find an active presence online — this is a word-of-mouth type discovery. Sadly, The Flying Pig was closed for a family emergency. We hope that everything is okay and look forward to trying it during our next visit.
RED BRIDGES BARBECUE LODGE
2000 E. Dixon Boulevard, Shelby – Website
The Red Bridges Cafe has the best hush puppies I’ve ever eaten in my entire life! Some version of this restaurant has been open since 1946. This family-run business moved into their current location in 1953. This restaurant credits its success to slow cooking their pork over hickory all night long. I tried it chopped, with red slaw. This family-friendly restaurant offers their jumbo plate for only $11.25. Their sweet tea made by dining companion drool (and bonus points for leaving a small pitcher at the table so we could refill our own glasses).
THE HONEY HOG
4629 Fallston Road, Lawndale – Website
Another suggestion by locals and not-so-locals. We were told not to miss the cheese curds, but sadly, there were unavailable during our visit (the guests at the table next to us were downright offended that they had run out of this popular menu item!). Priding itself on serving locally-sourced food, The Honey Hog has become a staple of the community. As the only restaurant serving what is best described as Texas brisket, The Honey Hog offers something a little different from the other barbecue places in the area. Ask for a side of their livermush to try a different version from that found at other places. The transformed farmhouse fills up fast, so avoid weekend evenings and be there early when the doors open! We were told to order their burgers, but the sliced brisket sandwich made me so happy.
PLACES TO STAY FOR A WEEKEND IN SHELBY NC
MORGAN AND WELLS BED & BREAKFAST
400 N. Morgan Street, Shelby – Website
The only place to stay within walking distance of Uptown Shelby is the Morgan and Wells Bed & Breakfast. The Craftsman Style home was converted to a bed and breakfast almost fifteen years ago. Offering an intimate experience with only five guest rooms, this is Southern hospitality at its best. The spacious rooms offer memory foam beds, private baths, and upgraded amenities. You can even arrange for spa services during your stay! Check out their special packages for a romantic, anniversary, or weekend package.
FAIRFIELD INN BY MARRIOTT SHELBY
1715 E. Dixon Street, Shelby – Website
We stayed at the Fairfield Inn Shelby, located just a few miles from Uptown. The hotel is newer (opening in 2017). Marriott Hotels can always be counted on to deliver a consistent guest experience and the Fairfield Inn in Shelby is no exception. From a 24-hour gym to the firepits with seating areas near the pool, the Fairfield Inn offered affordable comfort. Several big groups also stayed in the area — one the 35th high school reunion that enjoyed a party at the Don Gibson Theater, and alumni attending a football game at Gardner-Webb University. Offering breakfast. Rooms include a small fridge, microwave, and coffee maker.
WHAT THE HECK IS LIVERMUSH?
Thrillist and Andrew Zimmerm (Travel Channel’s Bizzare Foods) declared the local staple – livermush – the grossest food in North Carolina. Made up of pig parts (think liver, head parts) and cornmeal, it is formed and sliced. Resembling a dark rye bread slice, the consistency is softer, so that you need your fork to eat it. If you don’t think about it too much, it is actually pretty tasty.
Locals suggest you eat it with grape jam or ask for it “split and dropped” – making it thin with a crispy outside. I think if the name was changed, it would stand a better chance of being accepted by outsiders!
SUGGESTED ITINERARY FOR A WEEKEND IN SHELBY, NC
Arrive Friday night. Stretch your legs after the drive with a short hike at the Broad River Greenway. Follow it up with dinner at The Flying Pig. Enjoy a drink and some live music at J-Birds.
Begin your Saturday morning at the Shelby Cafe for a local legendary breakfast. Follow it with a visit to the Foothills Farmers Market. Enjoy coffee at Hannah’s Coffee House, which has a stall at the market. Visit the Earl Scruggs Center. On your way out of town, enjoy eating barbecue at one of the local spots, such as Red Bridges, before enjoying a relaxing afternoon tasting local wines at Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard & Winery. Make your way back to town and try one of the local dining options, such as Izzi Que, before walking over to Newgrass Brewing to enjoy the night’s entertainment.
Begin your Sunday morning with a tea or coffee beverage from Lily Bean Cafe. Now that you’re energized, take a leisurely hike up Kings Mountain to enjoy the awesome views. Make your way to The Honey Hog before embarking on your trip back home.
With easy access off of Highway 74, for travelers from Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, Shelby, North Carolina makes for an easy stop along your travels or enjoying a weekend getaway.
Whether you’re traveling to Shelby for a Girls’ Weekend (like I did), a Romantic Weekend, or just a Weekend Getaway, you’ll find plenty to keep you interested! While you’re in the area, you may also want to check the new Ridgeline Craft Beverage Trail.
I’d like to thank Visit Cleveland County for sponsoring my weekend in Shelby and Cleveland County. As always, my posts are an accurate reflection of the experiences I had.
Annick, The Common Traveler