Make the most of a brief visit in the place “Where Southern Charm Blossoms”
By Hope S. Philbrick
We spent less than 24 hours in Belmont, North Carolina—eight of them asleep. And yet it was enough to fall head over heels for the place.
Though a longer visit is in order, if your road trip from Point A to Point B passes through Belmont—which is located in Gaston County, about 15 miles west of uptown Charlotte—heed our advice to make most of an overnight stop.
Welcome to Belmont!
Stop by the Gaston County Visitor Center, located just off of I-85 at exit 26 (620 North Main St., Belmont NC 28012; 704-825-4044). Pick up maps, guides and other publications to inform your visit, get answers to any specific questions from local experts, and/or learn some facts about Belmont (e.g., it was founded in 1895 and is home to several historic sites).
Check into the hotel Hampton Inn Charlotte/Belmont at Montcross (820 Cecilia Alexander Drive, Belmont, NC 28012; 704-825-6100)—you’ll see the hotel across from the Visitor Center.
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, this Hampton Inn provides everything you need for a comfortable overnight stay: clean, cozy comfort and attentive service from friendly staff members will make you feel welcome.
- Free parking
- Free Wi-Fi
- Free breakfast
- Located one mile from Belmont Abbey, seven miles from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport and eight miles from the center of Charlotte, NC
- On-site convenience store
- 85 guest rooms; suites and accessible rooms are available
- Outdoor pool
- Some rooms offer tubs; others offer showers only
- On-site fitness center
Head to Rivermen Brewing Company (1500 River Dr., Belmont NC 28012; 704-363-4698) for a tasting (current hours are every Thursday through Saturday, 4:30-8:30 p.m.) Brewery tours are held on Saturdays at Noon, 1:30 and 3 p.m., but if you’re there some other day don’t fear that you’re missing something: This nanobrewery is so small you can see the whole operation from whatever stool you choose to sit upon in the tiny tasting room. While perched there sampling the portfolio of craft brews or sipping on a pint of your favorite style, odds are you’ll rub elbows and engage in friendly chatter with beer-loving locals.
21 Plus Salute! Tasters must be age 21 or older.
Walk over to Muddy River Distillery (1500 River Dr., Suite 100, Belmont NC 28102; 336-516-4190) for a tour and tasting (check website for specific hours of operation, generally Wednesday through Saturday late afternoon/early evenings). The oldest legal rum distillery in the state of North Carolina (opened in 2011), Muddy River Distillery does everything in-house including fermenting, distilling, aging and bottling. Public tours show off the whole operation plus include tastings and are priced from $5 to $8.50; a new private tour is $140 for groups of 15 or more.
21 Plus Salute! You must be age 21 or older to enter the facility. No children or babies allowed.
It’s dinner time at Old Stone Steakhouse (23 South Main St., Belmont NC 28012; 704-825-9995). Housed in a building that’s stood on Belmont’s Main Street for over 100 years—it’s the former police station and jailhouse, converted into a restaurant in 2007—the dining room is warm and inviting and, especially on a Friday or Saturday night, vibrantly abuzz with energetic locals. The menu offers upscale preparations of classic dishes featuring steak, seafood, chicken, chops and ribs. Meats are seared to order, produce is fresh and crisp, flavors mouthwatering and serving sizes generous. The full bar boasts an extensive assortment of cocktails, wine and beer. This is a restaurant where you can expect to comfortably sit and relax over a satisfying meal.
After dinner, stroll the streets of downtown Belmont and through Stowe Park.
Depending on the timing of your visit, you may also want to check out whatever special events may be happening downtown. For example, if you’re visiting on any Friday evening May through August, dance in the street with Friday Night Live, a free concert series that showcases a variety of bands in different genres (7-9 p.m.). It’s wildly popular, filling the street with thousands of attendees who watch, listen and even dance. You might discover that shagging in the South is very different from Austin Powers’ use of the word (hint: it’s a Carolina dance). The street is closed for the band, concert goers, dancers and vendors selling beer and snacks.
When you’re ready to call it a night, head back to the hotel.
Rise and shine, shower and shave.
Enjoy complimentary breakfast at the hotel. This isn’t just a continental breakfast—though you can have that, if you prefer. The buffet features a variety of hot items plus fresh fruit, yogurt and more.
Check out of Hampton Inn, load up your car, and drive to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.
Arrive at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden (6500 South New Hope Rd., Belmont, NC 28012; 704-825-4490; admission is $12.95 per adult).
This garden sits on 380 acres along the banks of Lake Wylie and it’s the bomb—I literally cannot say enough good things about it, it’s one of my personal favorite places. There are walkways meandering through several different styles of gardens, from formal to “wild,” in all of which statues and fountains are intermingled among the flowers, shrubs, trees and grasses. There’s always something pretty to look at, always something new to discover. Don’t worry if it’s pouring rain, the place is still worth a visit since there’s a spacious conservatory on site that’s bursting with blooming tropical plants and orchids. Get your camera ready and prepare to say ooooh and ahhhh. If you can’t relax while you’re here, see a doctor immediately.
Or, if you’re visiting on a Saturday Morning, join “Yoga in the Garden,” which begins at 9:30 a.m. Where better to slow down, stretch, breathe deep and find your zen than a gorgeous garden? This class, suited for beginners or seasoned practitioners, teaches how to connect breathing to yoga postures and proper alignment. (Yoga is $15 for non-members and offered on select dates; reservations required.)
Depart Belmont. Drive carefully: Don’t text and drive! Do plan a return visit to Belmont!
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.