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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Car-crazy Cabarrus County, N.C. is on the fast track

All photos courtesy Visit Cabarrus

Where is Cabarrus County, N.C.?
Cabarrus County is on the northern edge of Charlotte in south-central North Carolina, halfway between the Atlantic coast and the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains. The county’s population is 173,000; its largest city, Concord, is 20 miles north of Charlotte and has 71,000 residents. Home of Charlotte Motor Speedway, Cabarrus County is a major racing destination, home to 90 percent of NASCAR teams.

How do I get to Cabarrus County?
Because of its proximity to Charlotte, air connections are excellent. Charlotte Douglas International Airport is 20 minutes southwest of the county and is the national hub for US Airways. The airport has 600 departures each day. Concord Regional Airport serves corporate and private jets; it is also home to many NASCAR team planes. Interstate 85 runs along the county’s edge; I-77 is 14 miles east, and I-40 is 30 minutes north. Amtrak has a station in Kannapolis, 10 miles north of Concord.

What types of meetings best suit Cabarrus County?
The presence of the speedway and its facilities as well as a new arena and events center allows the county to target large meetings and events. Because it is a major tourist destination, Cabarrus County has more than 2,500 rooms in 28 hotels, including two newer properties with significant meeting space.

What’s new?
The 118-room Hilton Garden Inn-Charlotte/Concord opened in March off I-85 near the speedway and Concord Mills shopping center. It has 3,700 square feet of meeting space and a courtesy shuttle.

Tell me about the main meeting venues?

  • Great Wolf Lodge is the area’s newest meeting property. In addition to the massive water park that is the signature of this full-service resort chain, the Concord location has a 20,000-square-foot conference center. Guests choose among 402 all-suite guest rooms. There’s plenty of entertainment between a spa, an interactive outdoor miniature golf course, a fitness center and dining options that include a gourmet buffet and bar, Dunkin’ Donuts and Pizza Hut Express.
  • The 308-suite Embassy Suites Hotel Resort and Spa is next to the Concord Convention Center. The complex has 42,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 28,800-square-foot ballroom. Well located, the hotel is a half-mile from the speedway, near downtown Concord. It overlooks Rocky River Golf Club,  and has its own full-service spa and restaurant.
  • The area’s newest and largest event venue is the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center in Concord. Already, dance and cheerleading competitions are lining up to use the facility, which includes an arena with seating for 3,500 for sports events, a 71,700-square-foot events center for trade shows of up to 355 10-by-10-foot booths, another 30,000-square-foot exhibit hall and 4,800 square feet of meeting space. The center has 2,500 free parking spaces, and limited-service hotels are nearby.

Tell me about some interesting places for off-site events.
If there’s one theme that dominates in Cabarrus County, it is auto racing. Even Concord Mills, a shopping complex that is the state’s No. 1 tourist attraction, is built in the shape of a race course.

Here are some racing-related event possibilities.

  • Combine a dinner for up to 400 at the speedway’s Speedway Club with rides around the track in pace cars for guests.
  • Dale Earnhardt Inc., one of the most prominent race shops in NASCAR, books its Trophy Room for dinners for up to 100 or its showroom for groups of 450.
  • Sip cocktails among a collection of stock cars, sports cars and championship trophies at Hendrick Motorsports Museum. As many as 200 people can mill about the 10,000-square-foot museum and see Jeff Gordon’s Daytona 500-winning car and other automotive masterpieces.

Tell me about some ways to spend my free time.

  • Follow the trail of the late Dale Earnhardt. The Dale Trail is a self-guided tour that includes Car Town, the neighborhood in Kannapolis where Earnhardt grew up; Dale Earnhardt Plaza, with its statue of Earnhardt in his Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots; and Punchy’s Diner, where his favorite sandwich, sliced tomato on white bread, is served. Two new stops are the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Paramount Carowinds park, home of the Intimidator, a roller coaster inspired by Earnhardt.
  • Take a tour of NASCAR race shops with Adventures in Motorsports or Garage Pass Shop Tours. You might even bump into Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Jimmie Johnson at Hendrick Motorsports.
  • Get into the driver’s seat at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, where guests can sign up for driving lessons.
  • A different sort of race was on in Cabarrus County in the 1800s when gold was discovered there. Today, Reed Gold Mine, named for the young man who found the first nugget in a creek bed, gives visitors the chance to pan for gold and explore the old mine. Don’t get too excited, though. It has been 100 years since any gold was found there.

For a true taste of Cabarrus County…
Wander into its two dominant towns, Concord and Kannapolis. Each has its own flavor. Concord is a harmonious blend of shops, restaurants, museums, galleries and theaters in a historic downtown.

Worth a stop is Emma’s Carolina Cuisine and Spirits, where the smell of Southern dishes like homemade chicken salad and pulled pork barbecue waft from the restaurant’s home in the historic Belk building. Follow lunch with a stop at Cabarrus Creamery, where sliced lemon and Moon Pie ice cream are out-of-the-ordinary delights. For upscale dining, there’s Union Street Bistro, where Europe and the South meet and shake hands; baked brie and chicken Chasseur share the table with fried green tomatoes, and shrimp and grits.

In Kannapolis, where residents live in the restored homes of the former textile mill village, Forty Six is a science-themed restaurant named for the number of chromosomes in the human genome. The restaurant’s name and theme fit its location near the North Carolina Research Campus. Cocktails like the Marie Curie Mojito continue the idea.