Visiting Statesville, NC: Alpacas, History, Hot Air Balloons, Family Fun

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Statesville, NC is a hidden gem just two hours from the Upstate, SC that has something for all interests! If you’re looking for a new place to explore, Statesville could be your next destination.

Thank you to Visit Statesville, NC for inviting us to experience their beautiful town.

Have you been to Statesville, NC? I had never been until now and wow, what a cute little town full of interesting places to visit and things to do – perfect for a family trip and not far from the Upstate, only two hours. 

I’ll tell you all about why you should visit Statesville and things to do there to make it a memorable weekend with your family. 

About Statesville, NC

Statesville was founded in 1789 and is full of history. And if you’ve ever heard of Statesville, it’s likely because you have been to the Carolina Balloonfest in October. This is the biggest Hot Air balloon festival in our region. In fact, so many pilots live in the Statesville area that the town is known as the Ballooning Capital of the East. Of all the neat things to put a town on a map for, this is by far one of the coolest distinctions. 

hot air balloon
Hot Air Balloon

This was my first visit to Statesville and it was one surprise after another. We toured an alpaca farm, interacted with cool animals at a rescue ranch, and learned all about how people did laundry in the 18th century (which is far more interesting than you’d think) at Fort Dobbs. Statesville is only two hours from the Upstate and can definitely be done as a day trip but I think it’s also a hidden gem for a family getaway for a few days. 

Things to do in Statesville, NC 

We packed as much as we could in our two-day adventure but there is a lot more to do in Statesville ,NC!

Serenity Alpaca Farm

Imagine being surrounded by fluffy alpacas, getting to interact with them (after they judge you), and learning all the cool facts about these amazing creatures? That’s what you can do at Serenity at Stony Point Alpaca Farm. We loved our visit here and learned so many neat things about alpacas. Plus, I got to hold a baby alpaca, which was easily a highlight of my entire year. Take a tour here and you’ll easily fall in love with alpacas. Read our full review of Serenity Alpacas for all the details.  

226 Walker Valley Drive, Stony Point, NC 

serenity alpaca farm
Holding a baby alpaca

Galaxy Arcade 

For some family time playing games together, head to the Galaxy Arcade in downtown Statesville. They have lots of old-school video games, pinball, virtual reality, air hockey, and a back room with lawn games. Bring quarters or break your dollars at the machine on site. 

209 W Front St, Statesville, NC 

Ft. Dobbs Historic Site

I love history but I really wasn’t expecting the treat that Fort Dobbs Historic Site brings. We had a tour from Jason, who dressed in period clothing despite how hot it was, and gave us an amazing tour of the replica fort, which includes tables, chairs, beds, and guns from the 1700s when the fort was in operation during the French-Indian War. It was so, so cool! Both my kids also really enjoyed learning about the history and talking to the men and women who worked there making shoes, cooking over open fires, and crafting spoons and tools. This was one of our favorite stops and I’d definitely recommend heading here during your trip to Statesville. Guided tours are $2/adults and $1/kids. 

438 Fort Dobbs Rd, Statesville, NC

Rescue Ranch 

A beautifully large property that houses over 80 rescue animals, Rescue Ranch offers both private and public tours with hands-on animal experiences. Plus, the massive, inclusive playground will be an absolute hit with the kids as it has climbing apparatuses, zip lines, swings, and spinning things (I have no idea what they are called). We loved meeting all the cool animals like the fainting goats, tortoises, and snakes but our favorites were the bunnies, birds, and miniature horses. Bring a picnic and stay awhile! Tours last about 90 minutes and are $20/adult and $10/kids for the public tours and $30/adults and $15/kids for the private tours. No pets allowed. 

1424 Turnersburg Highway, Statesville, NC 

Hazy Red Vineyard

I had never picked muscadines in my life and only had them once or twice. My daughters had never had them so we were excited to try this new pick-your-own adventure. Meeting Lorne, one of the owners of Hazy Red Vineyard, was a lot of fun. His land had been in the family since the mid-1800s and they have been growing the muscadines only in the past decade or so. They have a few different kinds that they grow and pick and the season lasts from early summer to around mid-October depending on the weather. 

These muscadines were amazing. They were sweet and tart and juicy and addicting. I’ve never had muscadines like this before and was very happy to walk out of there with more than a gallon of them! Plus, their health benefits are spectacular. You need to put this place on your list when you visit Statesville. 

375 Jane Sowers Road, Statesville, NC

Emerald Hollow Mine 

This mine is super unique and fun. It’s the only emerald mine in the world where the public are allowed to prospect and it’s also where the largest emerald in North America was found. You can go digging in the creek or dirt for gems (we found a small emerald!) or use the sluice with enriched buckets. Whatever you choose, this is a place you need to visit. Read our full review of Emerald Hollow Mine

484 Emerald Hollow Mine Drive, Hiddenite, NC 

Creekin' at Emerald Hollow Mine
Creekin’ at Emerald Hollow Mine

Statesville Sculpture Garden

This is a cute little sculpture garden in downtown Statesville with some unique art. We liked walking around there after our dinner at Smokin’ Southern Cantina since it’s right across the street.

202 N. Center Street, Statesville, NC

Where to Eat in Statesville, NC 

There are several great restaurants in Statesville and we only visited a few places, which I’ll tell you about below. For more recommendations, you can see the Visit Statesville website.

Andrea’s Ice Cream 

We went here twice. First, we went to get ice cream and it was amazing. They have Blue Bell and the flavors are the absolute best. Then we went back again the next day to get their bagels (only made on Fridays and Saturdays) because I just adore bagels and will go to great lengths to get good ones. Don’t miss this gem when you visit. 

115 S Center Street, Statesville, NC

Lake Mountain Coffee

This is quite possibly the prettiest coffee house I’ve been in. It’s two levels and the second level looks down on the first floor. There is a lot of seating and they have excellent coffee and baked goods. My kids loved the muffins. They also have beer and wine so you can certainly relax here for any occasion. 

110 W Broad Street, Statesville, NC 

Smokin’ Southern Cantina 

A take on Tex-Mex cuisine with some pizza and burgers thrown in for good measure. The reason I’d recommend this place is because it has something for everyone, no matter their taste. We had quesadillas, fries, and nachos. Everything was good and it took a while to decide what to order because the menu was fairly extensive. I really wanted a margarita but held back – next time!

121 N Center Street, Suite 103, Statesville, NC 

Vanilla Bean Bakery 

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Vanilla Bean had boba tea so that’s what I got instead of coffee because I absolutely love boba (or bubble) tea. I had Green Tea with pomegranate popping bubbles and it was so delicious. They also have coffee and pastries and the staff were really nice and helpful. 

127 W Broad Street, Statesville, NC

Where to Stay in Statesville, NC 

We ended up staying in a beautiful AirBnB less than a mile from downtown Statesville but there are a lot of places to stay in the area. 

Visit Statesville recommends several hotels and AirBnBs on their website that you can check out and see what works best for your family. 

Overall Mom Review of Statesville, NC

I thought Statesville, NC was quite the gem of a town. We had so many new experiences and came away with a new appreciation for alpacas, rescue animals, muscadines, history, and real mining operations. Almost everything we did was new to us, which was awesome because my daughters and I are always looking for our next new adventure and Statesville delivered. 

I think going to the Carolina Balloon Fest would be an amazing experience as it’s the city’s most popular event but there are so many other reasons to visit this area, which is certainly within a weekend trip for families in the Upstate and even a day trip. 

So if you’re looking for that next adventure, consider heading up to Statesville to cuddle an alpaca, get dirty gem mining, and learn about history at Fort Dobbs while eating those freshly picked muscadines!

Visit Statesville
Visit Statesville Website | Facebook

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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