For frequent business travelers, keeping a healthy routine is difficult, to say the least. Separation from familiar running routes, biking trails, and athletic facilities makes the thought of grabbing an after-work jog a bit daunting. The trend among some savvy travelers is to choose lodging that makes it easy to enjoy a bit of outdoor therapy after a day on the road.
If kayaking alongside great blue herons or running through forested trails sounds like a good way to spend your post-work evening, then perhaps Gaston County could be your home base when working in the Charlotte area. A great range of lodging options in Gaston means you’re sure to find your favorite digs. And since the Gaston County line is 10 minutes from Charlotte Douglas Airport and 20 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, they’re super convenient for your workday.
When the client meetings and site visits are done, you’ll be glad you chose to stay in a place with so many ways to stay active while away from home. The quaint and friendly towns of Gaston County—which sit directly to the west of Charlotte—are surrounded by a host of natural amenities and filled with plenty of local restaurants and craft coffee shops. Here, we offer a list of some of the best activities waiting for you to explore.
1. A Run on a Manicured Greenway
Downtown Gastonia, the largest town in Gaston County, has seen a lot of growth in recent years. New restaurants such as Webb’s Custom Kitchen (think maple-glazed duck breast) have joined Gaston County icons like Tony’s Ice Cream and Zoe’s Coffee House (home to inventive java creations and craft beer).
Before dinner, swap your dress shoes for runners end enjoy a jog on the Highland Rail Trail. The smooth, flat path begins in downtown Gastonia. At just over 1.5 miles this is an excellent option for getting a quick 5K before tucking into lobster corn risotto at Webb’s. For a little longer run, the paved loop around Rankin Lake Park adds a scenic mile-and-a-half to your workout.
Several other paved and natural surface greenways run through Gaston County, each offering a brilliant way to spend an afternoon.
2. An Evening Paddle
It’s scientifically proven, probably, that work stress cannot survive a peaceful paddle along a tree-lined shore. Ducking into the coves and streams that line the Catawba River—watching turtles hop from their log-top perches and ospreys call from nests overhead—is fatal to the frustration of even the worst days in the office.
Of course, it’s not terribly convenient to tote a boat on a business trip, and that’s where Tailrace Marina comes in. Set atop a historic section of the Catawba known as Tuckaseegee Ford, where centuries of travelers crossed the wide river, Tailrace’s fleet of kayaks and stand up paddleboards is ready for your exploration.
For a surprising mix of laid back atmosphere, incredible wine and beer list, and well-crafted dishes, The String Bean in Belmont is the choice. The “Bean” offers a diverse menu, plus creative daily specials. But if you like, you can simply point to a deep red tuna steak or aged rib eye at the meat/seafood counter and ask them to do something great with it.
3. A Challenging Trail Run
There is no shortage of hills to climb in the western piedmont of North Carolina. Anyone who trains on the challenging singletrack trails of George Poston Park in Gastonia will readily agree. For more than 10 miles the twisty, turny trails at Poston cut through dense and shady forest, rarely offering respite in the form of flat. Never boring and always well maintained, the dual purpose trail system—runners and hikers share these paths with mountain bikers—is a favorite training ground for many of the best runners in the area.
Trail running burns calories fast. Great BBQ replaces them faster. Kyle Fletcher’s is a local secret that’s been out for years. Tender pulled pork with just enough smoke anchors a menu that includes fall-off-the-bone ribs and absolutely giant burgers. The onion rings are the must-get side. Don’t expect a lot of fancy at KF’s. Then again, after running the trails at Poston, fancy won’t be high on your list.
4. A Relaxing Round of Disc Golf….on an Island
Sometimes the day calls for a more relaxed way to spend time outdoors, and disc golf is just such an activity. Requiring little more than a couple golf discs and a laid-back attitude, packing for a round on the road is easy.
Gaston County offers a beautiful and unique location from which to fling your discs. Running through Goat Island, a strip of land surrounded by segments of the South Fork River, the 18 hole course is well maintained and fun to play. Sharp doglegs and narrow fairways provide the challenge; serene and shady surroundings provide the relaxation.
A new pedestrian bridge leads from tee boxes to downtown Cramerton and a fantastic meal at The South Fork Deli and Market. This is the place for well-constructed sandwiches, homemade soups, and craft beer. The peppered bacon sandwich (with mozzarella and apple butter) and cast iron buttermilk chicken are pretty special ways to close out a great day.
5. Mountain Biking and Free Concerts at the USNWC
Just across the Catawba, and an easy drive, from Gaston County, the U.S. National Whitewater Center has established itself as the premier outdoor adventure facility in the Southeast. The man-made river, huge outdoor climbing walls, and thousands of feet of zip-lines bring adventure-seekers from all over the country.
For many visitors, however, it’s the ever-growing mountain bike trail system that’s the start of the center. More than 25 miles of impeccably groomed and well-marked singletrack lace the center. Each trail is signed for difficulty (green = easy, blue = intermediate, black = advanced) and the variety is such that every level of rider can have fun. Since the center provides a huge fleet of rental bikes, there’s no need to haul yours.
In addition to the plentiful outdoor activities, the center has become a food and entertainment hub as well. Every Thursday night through summer, the USNWC presents a free concert (save for the $5 parking fee). Several bars (including a huge, outdoor Biergarten) supply a huge craft beer selection. And athletes are refueled via a sit-down restaurant, food trucks, and a grab-and-go sandwich situation.
This is just a taste of what Gaston has to offer an active business traveler. There are so many options, your next trip may just leave you healthier than when you arrived.
Originally written for Gaston County Gov.