The City of Kannapolis, a half hour drive northeast of the center of Charlotte, is ready to show off its revitalized downtown, which is anchored by Atrium Health Ballpark, home of the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, and the recently renovated 85-year-old Gem Theatre.
Kannapolis has unveiled a downtown area that is inviting, walkable, and ready for gathering. The downtown restaurants spill out into a wide pedestrian and seating area, dotted with fountains and sculptures.
Whether you’re a baseball fan, a NASCAR aficionado, a history buff, a music-lover, or just a kid who loves to play, there is plenty in Kannapolis to explore. Read on for some attractions you should not miss on your visit.
Also, scroll down for a Google Map of all the attractions in this article.
Atrium Health Ballpark
Atrium Health Ballpark is about more than just baseball. It’s also about community. It’s a public park that’s open every day. The only time you have to pay to enter is when a game or other event is in session. It features a playground and splash pad for kids, and the Atrium Health Walking Track around the concourse. You can buy reasonably priced concessions every day, and you can also enjoy a drink in the outfield bar.
Veterans Park is a peaceful spot for reflection or just relaxing. It also is host to community events and concerts. The focal point of the park is the granite Ring of Honor that displays the names of 1,700 Cabarrus and Rowan County residents who died in service, dating back to the Revolutionary War. In the center of the the Ring of Honor is the eternal flame.
Veterans Park, 119 North Main Street, Kannapolis.
Local Patriot Coffee Roasters
Grab a coffee at Local Patriot Roasting Company, a veteran-owned business that keeps patriotism and respect for service in the forefront. You can “pay it forward” by buying a drink for the service member of your choice — police, firefighter, nurse & EMT, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Navy. Or pay $24 and “run the board,” buying a drink for one of each.
Local Patriot sells some pastries from Eat Cakes, which is next door, but for more selection, stop by there too.
Local Patriot Roasting Company, 139 West Avenue, Kannapolis.
Dale Earnhardt Plaza
No figure looms larger over Kannapolis than hometown hero Dale Earnhardt, so a visit to Dale Earnhardt Plaza is a must. Here he looms especially large, with a 900-pound, nine-foot-tall bronze statue. Every part of the Dale Earnhardt Plaza is rich in symbolism, from the seven sections of the pedestal that represent his seven Winston Cup Championships, to groups of three (three benches, three azaleas planted together) for Earnhardt’s car number. Even the walk around the Plaza is an oval, shaped like a racetrack.
If you want to learn more about Dale Earnhardt, pick up a “Dale Trail” brochure from the Cabarrus County Visitor Center, 10099 Weddington Road, Concord, and visit 15 spots that are rich in Dale lore.
Dale Earnhardt Plaza, 109 West A Street, Kannapolis.
James’ Sweet Spot
Tucked away in a little “mall” on West Avenue, are a few shops, including James’ Sweet Spot. Candy shopping here is a nostalgic experience. Kids can buy a little piece of candy for a dime. Or you can buy them a licorice pipe, or a giant lollipop that will keep them busy and sticky for a long time.
The other half of James’ Sweet Spot is a puzzle shop. In the last year there has been a surge in interest in puzzles. You’ll definitely find something of interest here.
Also in the mall is Old Town Soaps, which offers soaps, bath bombs, lotions, body sprays, beard balm, and more, all handcrafted in nearby China Grove.
James’ Sweet Spot, 133-D West Avenue, Kannapolis
Old Town Soap Co., 133-B West Avenue, Kannapolis
Editions Coffee Shop and Bookstore
Right around the corner from the revitalized West Avenue is Editions Coffee and Bookstore. Buy a coffee or breakfast, browse the shelves of used books, and settle in. You won’t find a cozier spot.
Editions Coffee Shop and Bookstore, 217 S. Main Street, Kannapolis.
North Carolina Music Hall of Fame
Until you see the displays at the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, you might not realize how significant and diverse are North Carolina’s contributions to music. But you can’t miss it here. In just one year, 2009, the Hall of Fame welcomed inductees James Taylor, Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Earl Scruggs, George Clinton, Max Roach, Randy Travis, and Roberta Flack, to name just a few.
Check out pictures and memorabilia from The Avett Brothers, Doc Watson, Charlie Daniels, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and countless other music legends.
The museum is free to visit, but you need to call and set up an appointment.
North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, 600 Dale Earnhardt Boulevard, Kannapolis. 704-934-2320.
Curb Motorsports Museum for Music and Motorsports
While you’re visiting the North Carolina Hall of Fame, you can also visit Curb Motorsports Museum for Music and Motorsports, which is in the same building, and which is also free to visit.
The museum represents the dual interests of Mike Curb — motorsports and music. He made significant achievements in both fields, as a car owner, songwriter, producer and record label owner.
Curb Motorsports Museum of Music and Motorsports, 600 Dale Earnhardt Boulevard, Kannapolis.
Village Park boasts a couple of the most kid-friendly attractions in the region, The Village Park Carousel and the Rotary Express Train.
The Carousel is the only double decker carousel in North Carolina. It was manufactured in Italy and features 1,800 lights and hand-painted Venetian murals.
The Rotary Express Train is aa g-24 scale replica CP Huntington engine with three coaches.
The Rotary Express Train costs $2 a ride. During the Celebration of Lights, you need to make a reservation in advance.
The park also features an amphitheater, playground, walking trails and a splash pad. There’s an ice cream place, The Sweetest Thing, across the street, at 823 West C Street.
Village Park, 700 West C Street, Kannapolis.
Gem Theatre has reopened after renovations and it’s a must-see. Built in 1948, after a fire gutted the original 1936 theater, it’s a single-screen theater with a beautiful lobby and a rare balcony section. Go to a movie here and you’ll feel like you went back in time.
Gem Theatre, 111 West 1st Street, Kannapolis
Eat and Drink
A few places to eat and drink in Kannapolis:
North Carolina Research Campus
It’s not a tourist attraction, but North Carolina Research Campus needs to be mentioned because it’s such a big presence. The 350-acre campus houses a scientific community that includes eight universities and other research groups in the area of nutrition and life science.
The campus of stately buildings and a massive lawn is right at the edge of Downtown Kannapolis. If you’re in Atrium Health Ballpark and look over the home run fence, you’ll see the buildings. The campus is a great place for a walk.
North Carolina Research Campus, 150 Research Campus Drive, Kannapolis