NC Small Town Travel Series · north carolina · Travel

Small Town Travel Series: The Best Things to do in Statesville NC


Why you should visit Statesville NC

Statesville completely blew any expectations I had for them out of the water. EVERYONE we met was kind and genuine. And while it is a small town, they did what it took to build their beautiful downtown into a true destination.

Honestly, I have a bit of anxiety writing this because they did such a great job and I want to make sure that I do it justice. Also, it was my last trip of 2019 – and while that might not mean much to you.. 2019 gave me the highest highs and the lowest lows of my life. But I’ve learned a lot from it all and I’m here, ready and eager to dive into 2020 and all that comes with it. So here are The Best Things to do in Statesville NC:

During a time when most small towns and businesses were not doing very good financially, Statesville decided to invest in itself with a gorgeous streetscape renovation in 2013. This has changed the game for the town of Statesville and has opened the doors to over 53 unique shops and 22 restaurants and bars.


We were able to stay in an Airbnb called Tower View Suites and were welcomed inside of it with goodies from the folks at Visit Statesville and gorgeous flowers from Johnson Greenhouses. The location was perfect – right downtown and walkable to 85% of our itinerary. Everything was tidy and clean, and the bed was super comfy!


Sky Mountain Coffee

We started night #1 at Sky Mountain Coffee, which was probably one of my favorite businesses that we got to work with. When we arrived I tasted a variety of the local beers that they have on tap. But I soon found out that their Iced Coffee with expresso is truly what my heart wanted. We stopped by each day for coffee and made some great friends with many of the locals inside.


Local Music Scene

Since the streetscape renovation, many of the businesses have become venues for local talent and musicians. Another great addition to the Statesville music scene is 92.9 WAME – a local country music radio station and home to the “chillbillies.” They welcomed us into the studio and gave us plenty of laughs (even though we butchered their name on live radio LOL). It was all hilarious and we now have real friends in the area!


Shop & Stroll

Clearly, we visited during the Christmas season. The town of Statesville does a great job because the streets really came to life with all of the lights and decorations. Plus, Downtown Statesville did an awesome job with their annual “Shop & Stroll” event, which was happening on Friday evening when we got into town. We were able to check out many of the beautiful downtown shops, grab some hot chocolate, and even ride on a horse-drawn carriage!


Dinner at The 220 Cafe

We had such a fun time at The 220 Cafe. We sat and talked with the owner for a long time about everything from how she bought the place to just life itself. She even let us go back to the kitchen to get some footage of her husband (the chef) cooking their famous Shrimp and Grits. And LET ME TELL YOU… they were hands down the best I’ve ever had! The filet was another amazing dish. And we were also treated to some incredible bacon-topped scallops, fried goat cheese, and an apple fritter.

They’ve made this small eatery an amazing business with local music, support of local farmers, many vegetarian and vegan options, and in-house desserts made by their amazing high-school-aged pastry chef.


Red Buffalo Brewing Co.

I think the entire town came out to Red Buffalo Brewing Co. on Friday night. The owner, Joe, and his fiancee Val are such fun people to be around and the beer was excellent. We also ran back into the “chillbilly” gang while we were there. They even had a great band playing live music – everyone was dancing and enjoying the night in the beautiful town of Statesville.

Bristol Cafe

After a run downtown, we spent our first morning at Bristol Cafe. The owners are a husband and wife team from Charleston – hence all of the charleston inspired food on their menu! I couldn’t decide between their Jalapeno Chicken and Waffles or the Charleston Omlet, and they were too kind to actually bring me both!! But let me tell you… I think I died and went to heaven when I tasted the jalapeno chicken and waffles (they even marinate their chicken in sweet tea OMG).

We talked with co-owner Jeff for a long time about the history of the location and building that the Bristol Cafe is in. The alley used to be known as “Whiskey Shoot Alley” and was the home of many bars and “hell raisers” of the early 1900s. They even have a lot of historical photos along the walls that showcase what the area used to look like.

The Best Things to do in Statesville NC

Southern Distilling

Another one of my favorite stops was Southern Distilling, which is a local family-owned-and-operated distillery that produces incredible high-quality whiskey. I’ve taken part in plenty of distillery and wine tours in my life… and the operation at Southern Distilling is on a completely different level of sophistication. They truly took the time to invest in the best of the best equipment and technology to be able to produce consistent and top-notch whiskey.

Before our tour, I enjoyed a delicious drink made with their Double Shot Coffee Cream Liqueur. We talked for a while about the history of whiskey making in the Statesville area – and to my surprise, there is a ton of history to learn about.

Later, the owner (Pete) showed us around the distillery and talked about their specific distilling methods and the awesome technology that they use. I especially loved the fact that his daughters walked around throughout the tour with us and they know a lot about the process and the business. Plus, they had their dog on site (so I was definitely sold at that point). Southern Distilling has a convenient location right off of Interstate 77, so it’s a great stopping point for anyone traveling through.

Fort Dobbs

While I’m not big on history tours, Fort Dobbs was a neat experience. We missed the real “tour” because we started running behind on our time. However, I’m honestly glad because we were able to talk with the guy working about the highlights of what Fort Dobbs was and what life was like for the soldiers back then. Fort Dobbs was the only permanent frontier fort in North Carolina at the time. It was finished in 1756 and served as the military headquarters. Later, the fort was attacked in 1760 by 60 Cherokee Indians. Eventually, the fort was abandoned and later ruined by 1766.

The Best Things to do in Statesville NC

Lunch at Groucho’s Deli

Honestly, we were stuffed by the time we got to Groucho’s Deli…. but I’m not one to turn down an opportunity to try new food. I ordered their Mid East Sandwich, which was HUGE but DELICIOUS! Amber ordered the tomato bisque soup which was also super tasty!! They took great care of us here and it was a great local spot to regroup for the rest of our day ahead.


Wine Maestro

Okay, so we already know that I was a fan of the boutique wine bar that allows dogs!! I really wanted to take home the really large, gray, fluffy dog that I made friends with. But in all seriousness, Wine Maestro is totally adorable and also has nice outdoor seating. They even offer space for local events and carry local beer and imported cheeses. I enjoyed a glass of prosecco and Amber had a glass of her all-time favorite, Moscato.


A Christmas Carol: Statesville Theatre

Not only did we get to see Statesville’s local theatre company perform A Christmas Carol – but we got to walk through town and experience the play through various scenes put on at different spots in town. This was an incredible experience and the cast did an outstanding job! I highly recommend checking out the Statesville Theatre if you find yourself in town.


Twisted Oak American Bar & Grill

After the play, we were able to try so much good food at Twisted Oak American Bar & Grill, and we left feeling so full! We started with a delicious pimento cheese appetizer and salads. I ordered the pesto chicken and it was out-of-this-world! Amber had the Harvest Pear salad and it was huge!! They even brought out their famous Shrimp & Grits dish for us, which was actually deep-fried and smothered in an incredible sauce! My favorite part of Twisted Oak though was the cozy outdoor fireplace and patio seating. Even though it was cold, we sat outside by the fire and talked for a while after getting some photos.

Fourth Creek Brewing

We were honestly exhausted by the time we got to Fourth Creek Brewing. BUT we had heard SO many amazing things about both the brewery and the owner already, so we made it over there… and we were so glad that we did! I had a glass of their Tiramisu stout (SO GOOD) and we talked with the owner, Jonathan, for literally hours about how he transitioned through life multiple times to get to the point that he is at now. Fourth Creek is all about community and helping others out, and it pours over through both their beer and their hospitality.

The Best Things to do in Statesville NC

Brunch at D’Laney’s

D’Laney’s looks like your average sports bar… but you’d be surprised at how tasty their menu is! We had brunch at D’Laney’s on morning #2 and it was a great way to start the day. I ordered the “Boxty” – which is their deliciously incredible take on potato cakes. And Amber ordered her usual favorite, Egg’s Benedict!


After leaving D’Laney’s, we had some free time to explore the town further until the annual Christmas parade!


Key to Escape

First of all, this place is incredible. Hands-down the best escape room I’ve been to, and I’ve been to about 4-5 of them all over the country. Key to Escape is reason enough to drive to Statesville for the day, or for the weekend. And the best part is, WE ESCAPED! Of all of the escape rooms that I’ve done in the past… I’ve never made it through. It was challenging, but oh so fun!!


Vesuvio’s Italian Restaurant

We had our last dinner at another family-owned local restaurant in town, Vesuvio’s! The owners were so sweet. Plus, the food was authentic and delicious. But I will definitely say, my favorite part was their homemade tiramisu!! I told Amber earlier in the weekend that I was craving it – so this was the perfect treat to end the weekend.


Zootastic Park

YALL, WE GOT TO PLAY WITH A BABY LEOPARD!!!! So Zootastic Park is a local zoo that sets up an incredible drive-through Christmas Light show as you enter the park. Then eventually, you get to the parking lot and can get out and explore the zoo (which also is covered in Christmas lights). BUT – the best part is that the town of Statesville was so kind in gifting us a 15-minute animal encounter and we choose baby leopards!! The leopards were playful, but yet also cuddly and so fun to watch and play with. Amber and I literally left researching how we could adopt one. LOL!


Rx Pharmacy & Grill

It might sound a bit strange, but this local favorite is a true hidden gem! Yes, it is and has been a working pharmacy for years. But it’s also a local ma-and-pop style grill with delicious breakfast favorites! We were sad that our trip was ending, but had a great time discussing our trip with the fabulous people that made this trip possible.


Rescue Ranch

Owned by NASCAR driver, Ryan Newman and his wife Krissie – the Rescue Ranch is an animal safe haven for animals when their owners decide to give them up or can’t take care of them any longer (for whatever reason).

While some of the animals do have a sad past, they are now thriving at Rescue Ranch with all of the amazing staff and other animal friends. They have all kinds of animals, from reptiles to birds to rabbits to larger animals such as cattle and pigs.

My favorite animal was Lover Boy, the adorable white cockatoo! He is still in training – but he’s very smart and loves to play. The Rescue Ranch also does educational training for children and school groups. It is truly an awesome establishment and worth a stop in!


Thanks for reading about “The Best Things to do in Statesville NC.” Again, this was a magical trip for MANY reasons! Amber and I are currently in hibernation mode – which actually means we are working hard from home planning what kind of fun adventures we can get in on in 2020. We hope to return to Statesville and see many of the friends that we made again in the future! So follow @visitsvlnc, @katie.wineandweekends, and @ambermiller9 on Instagram for more adventures in the future!

And a huge THANK YOU to Statesville & its Convention & Visitors Bureau for sponsoring this project and this blog post!

Until next time,

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