Cabarrus County NC Tourism Picks Up Steam
Concord Mills shopping complex in Concord, NC, is the No. 1 tourism destination in North Carolina. Cabarrus County's unique cultural and recreation opportunities have also made it a major visitor destination and built an impressive tourism sector that is a key component of the region's economy.
From panning for gold at the Reed Gold Mine to enjoying the best in auto racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway to shooting through the Howlin’ Tornado at the family-focused Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park and hotel, visitors to North Carolina's Cabarrus County are making a loud splash in the region's economy.
“Tourism is a vital industry to Cabarrus County and has experienced exponential growth in recent years,” says Donna Carpenter, president and CEO of the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “In fact, the economic impact from tourism has more than quadrupled in just two decades.”
The region’s tourism industry joins a diverse and sophisticated economic base that includes advanced manufacturing, logistics and life sciences. Its unique cultural and recreation opportunities have made Cabarrus County a major destination for visitors, generating a $313 million economic impact supported by a visitor industry job base of almost 4,000 employees.
Cabarrus: Motorsports Mecca
Cabarrus County is a motorsports mecca, with more than 200 motorsports-related businesses, including the Charlotte Motor Speedway and a Who’s Who of NASCAR race teams.
“We have a variety of race-related activities to keep any race fan entranced for days,” Carpenter says. “There’s NASCAR at Charlotte Motor Speedway, drag racing at the zMAX Dragway, monster truck at the Dirt Track, plus the many race shops and museums to experience. If you’re a daredevil, you may even try your hand at one of our driving experiences.”
Shop and Dine, Pan for Gold
Retail is a major draw, with a “shop 'til you drop” experience at Concord Mills that can be followed up with a relaxing spa getaway at one of the county’s 28 hotel properties or a delicious meal at more than 200 restaurants. A wealth of cultural and historic attractions, from art galleries to museums to performing arts, are located in the historic 1876 Cabarrus Courthouse, while the Reed Gold Mine is the site of the first documented gold find in the United States.
Now drawing thousands of visitors annually to restored underground tunnels and a reconstructed stamp mill, visitors can learn about the glory gold rush days of North Carolina and actually pan for gold.
“Visitors can find gold almost every day from the panning area,” says Larry Neal, site manager, noting that recently a nugget weighing almost a half-ounce was found by a lucky gold seeker.
With several special events, including spring and fall festivals and June’s Pan-O-Lympics, visitors find plenty of opportunities to explore the mine’s exhibits and enjoy the constant 55-degree underground temperatures.
Future plans include redeveloping the Talking Rocks Trail, additional hands-on activities and a return of costume interpretation, Neal says.
The CVB has launched a new website (visitcabarrus.com) to provide visitors with more dynamic information on everything Cabarrus County has to offer, plus numerous resource guides and maps that are available at the primary visitor information center on Bruton Smith Boulevard.
“We’re lucky to have so many wonderful attractions that draw millions of visitors to Cabarrus County each year,” Carpenter says.
Cabarrus County Tourism by the Numbers
Economic impact from domestic tourism $313 million, up 6.88% from 2009
3,680 jobs attributed directly to tourism and travel industry
$68.9 million payroll
State and local tax revenues from travel amounted to $24.8 million, or $365.59 in tax savings to each county household
From the 2010 study “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties”