Content Produced in Partnership with Visit Mooresville, NC
You're looking for weekend getaway ideas and all the cliché destinations feel, well, cliché. You want something new, refreshing, and off the beaten path. We here at iExplore would like to kindly recommend Mooresville, North Carolina. It's known as Race City USA, but this town is much more than autosports. There are excellent breweries, decadent restaurants, amazing outdoor areas, and tons of other fun activities for you. Mooresville is a literal choose-your-own-adventure destination. All you need to do now is get there.
The Need for Speed
In addition to touring the racing facilities and pro shops, one of the coolest activities you can do in Mooresville is to get behind the wheel yourself and race your buddies in go-karts at the GoPro Motorplex. The motorplex has a 0.7-mile, 11-turn track that’s modeled after the Kartdromo Parma circuit in Italy. The rental karts boast 14 horsepower, capable of going up to 55 miles an hour. This is an authentic racing experience complete with head sock, helmet, and neck brace, so you feel like a real Formula One driver by the time you get behind the wheel. You can even rent a GoPro (or bring your own), strap it to your helmet, and record your own racing. A memory card comes with your rental and is yours to keep when you’re finished. The GoPro Motorplex even has a winner’s podium with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place positions, and you can opt to have your race results sent to your email so you can have proof of your big victory.
So, we’re talking motor sports, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you about a cool place to get a pick-me-up before exploring. After all, you need fuel just as much as any automobile. Not far from the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame is a coffee shop called Black Powder Roasting, which roasts all their beans in-house. Experience some of the freshest coffee you’ll ever have and walk into the back of the shop to experience where the magic happens. If you’re lucky, you can catch the roast master preparing beans. It’s a great cup of coffee to get you right on track before racing around Mooresville’s finest offerings.
Fun in the Forest
Ear-crushing horsepower isn’t the only thing offered in Mooresville. You can also take some time to enjoy the serenity of nature at Lake Norman State Park, home to North Carolina's largest manmade lake with more than 500 miles (!) of shoreline. Kayaks, paddle boards, paddle boats, and canoes are available at the Visitor Center if you want to get out on the water, or you can hike or mountain bike on more than 30 miles of trails. We recommend getting to the lake early in the morning, either for a hike or paddling the open water. That's a great time to see some wildlife, and the colors of the sunrise reflecting on the water are picture perfect. Try a short hike on Alder Trail while you're there, which you can access easily from the Visitor Center. Alder is a 0.8-mile loop that takes you along the shoreline then into the woods. Lake Norman State Park also has camping areas, if you're looking for a rustic getaway while in Mooresville.
I’m on a Boat
If lake excursions tickle your fancy, you can take a boat tour of Lake Norman and see some impressive homes currently or formerly owned by NASCAR drivers, team owners, and even a few celebrities like Burt Reynolds. Queens Landing offers several packages including dinner cruises and two boats to choose from. We recommend the Sightseeing Tour of Lake Norman, which you can do in the morning or afternoon. Drinks, food, and alcoholic beverages are for sale on the tour, which lasts about two hours. It doesn’t get more relaxing than an afternoon cruise while sipping on a cold beer in the open-air top of the Catawba Queen.
Dinner with a View
You don't have to leave the lakeside views behind when you head to dinner. Mooresville has no shortage of restaurants to choose from — and one of our favorites is The Prickly Pear, a waterfront Mexican restaurant that offers an upscale spin on the classic dishes plus great views. Surf, turf, poultry, lamb, pork, and vegetarian centered entrees will have something for you, and the tableside guacamole has a dash of jalapeños in it for just the right kick. If you're in the mood for a drink, The Prickly Pear has a menu of custom cocktails and margaritas to wash down your delicious dinner. We recommend pairing it with a patio seat outside to watch the sunset.
Have a Cold One
After a long day of racing and exploring, there's nothing better than a cold one — and Mooresville has almost as many local breweries as it does NASCAR memorabilia. Located near downtown Mooresville, Ghost Face Brewing has an impressive collection of beers, including some high gravity pours and gluten-reduced drinks that don’t sacrifice flavor. This cool space also has pizza and calzones, which is good news because you’ll probably find yourself staying a while in this cool, cozy neighborhood bar. When you stop in, make sure to try out the Tempted Angel, a favorite for those who enjoy Belgian-style beers.
Not too far from Ghost Face is another notable establishment known as (On) Tap Crafty Brews. Located right in the heart of downtown Mooresville, (On) Tap highlights some of the best beers crafted in North Carolina. (On) Tap also features a corner view of the vibrant downtown area, perfect for people watching. And if beer isn’t your thing, (On) Tap serves North Carolina and South Carolina ciders, wines, and craft sodas, too.
Sip and Swirl
Daveste Vineyards isn’t your average winery. This vineyard, a short drive from Mooresville in neighboring Troutman, has managed to create both delicious wines and beers. All the grapes used in the wine are grown on the property and the drive to the facility affords scenic views of the vineyards. Even better, Daveste showcases art from local artists both on the walls of the establishment and on the wine bottles.
And if you're still not convinced that a wine tasting is for you, Daveste Vineyards also has five in-house brews worth trying, all of which are made with water from a 600-foot well on the property. Their Krystalweizen is a take on the tradition Hefeweizen but is clearer, drinks like a pilsner, and is something you’ll be talking about months later. If you want a beer that you literally cannot find anywhere else, the trip out to Daveste is worth it.
A Swanky Night Out
For an exquisite Italian dinner, Caruso's is what you're looking for. The inside is full of ambiance and great food like the Chilean Sea Bass with a polenta crust and spinach in a lemon butter white sauce. If you want pasta, try the pappardelle osso buco with braised veal or the fettuccini alla bolognese. Like any respectable Italian restaurant, there's an impressive wine list for you to peruse. Its dessert menu is just as impressive, featuring homemade gelato, tiramisu and cannolis. You may find yourself going back for second helpings just to try all the options (and no judgment here if you do).