Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and most of us are looking for a unique way to celebrate with that special someone. Your know, that one-of-a-kind activity that says I’ve been thinking about this for months and today is all about us. We’ve got you covered in Gaston County. From a candlelit dinner to more unconventional activities, Gaston County offers just the right mix of romance and recreation. Choose from these outdoor and culinary adventures to win the heart and taste buds of your partner.
Paddle the South Fork River
For an afternoon of exclusive one-on-one time, paddle the calm waters of the South Fork River. From two public launch points around Cramerton’s Goat Island, you can paddle out and back up to four miles. Boat rentals are available at The Floating Goat. Be sure to call ahead to reserve your boats and while you’re downtown, pick up a picnic lunch at Doffer’s Canteen, known for rice bowls, tacos, and great service.
Hike Crowders Mountain State Park
A day on the trail is an ideal time to reconnect. The best thing about hiking at Crowders Mountain is that 11 trails provide options for any level of hiker. Beginners will enjoy the Turnback, Fern, and Lake Trails for relatively flat, scenic terrain. Experienced hikers might desire the challenge of more distance and elevation gain on the Crowders and Kings Pinnacle Trails leading to the park’s two peaks. Views of the surrounding Piedmont are well worth navigating steep segments of these trails.
Walk the Highland Rail Trail
Downtown Gastonia is home base for a winning combination of greenway stroll and dinner at one of the hottest new restaurants in Gaston County. A 1.6-mile stretch of the Carolina Thread Trail constructed along the historic Carolina and Northwestern Railway, the Highland Rail Trail is flat, paved and perfect for biking, dog walking, and strolling hand-in-hand. Extend your trip with the 1.5-mile Rankin Lake loop. Don’t be late for your reservation at Webb Custom Kitchen, a historic downtown movie theater restored to its former Art-Deco elegance. Custom cocktails, craft beers, and premium wines, along with specialties like braised pork belly, slow-roasted prime rib, and center-cut filet are served while vintage movies play on the screen above the showcase kitchen. For Valentine’s Day brownie points, reserve a table on the balcony.
Shred Some Singletrack
For the adrenaline-fueled couple, Gaston’s mountain biking trails offer miles and climbs reminiscent of the western North Carolina mountains. From the twisty singletrack of George Poston Park to more than 30 miles of trails at the U.S. National Whitewater Center USNWC, the only challenge with this date is choosing a place to ride.
Run the Hearts-a-Bustin’ 5K
Start off your Valentine’s Day celebration on February 11 with a run through Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. The Hearts-a-Bustin’ 5K loops runners through the garden on the Persimmon and Seven Oaks Preserve Trails. Participants enjoy garden admission and one guest pass with race entry. Overall winners get an annual family membership and an orchid from the garden conservatory.
Combine a Valentine’s Day walk or run with shopping along Belmont’s 1.75-mile downtown loop. Between legs of your run, stop in at The Station, Main Street Cycle’s adjacent taproom, for a local brew; Walk and Run Belmont for the latest running gear and tips; and Tastebuds Popcorn to choose from flavors you’d never even imagine existed, like cilantro lime, maple bacon, banana pudding, and strawberry lemonade.
Fling Discs on Goat Island
The 18-hole disc golf course on Goat Island is surrounded by the South Fork River with heavily treed fairways and a pedestrian bridge connecting to the restaurants and coffee shops of downtown Cramerton, all ingredients for a romantic, active Valentine’s Day outdoors.
Take the Frigid 5K Plunge
For couples not easily satisfied with typical date night fare, the USNWC is holding their annual Frigid 5K Run & Plunge on February 11. The route takes runners on the Whitewater Center’s flowy trail system through hardwood forest along the Catawba River. New this year, the end-of-race polar plunge takes place in a 16-foot-deep pool underneath the center’s new Deep Water Solo free-climbing towers.
Tour the Catawba River Tree Canopy
What better way to build trust than navigating aerial obstacles and flying through the tree canopy at high rates of speed 60 feet in the air? The perfect Valentine’s Day teamwork test is the USNWC zipline and adventure course. Zip more than 1,500 feet between platforms on ropes courses designed to challenge you physically and mentally. Another option is to reserve a spot on the Canopy Tour, a three to four hour zip-climb-rappel adventure along the banks of the Catawba River and historic Tuckaseegee Ford Trail.
Drop a Line at Rankin Lake Park
For solitude-seekers, an afternoon of fishing at Gastonia’s 80-acre Rankin Lake Park might be just the Valentine’s Day hangout for you. The paved greenway surrounding the lake, along with boardwalk bridges and two piers, provide ample access to designated fishing areas. There’s a nominal fishing fee ($1-3) and a tackle loaner program if you need to borrow a rod and reel.
From competitive events to outdoor sports and downtown dining, there’s a romantic adventure awaiting you in Gaston. Now pop the question—not that question, the “Want-to-hang-out-on-Valentine’s-Day?” question—and plan that special holiday for you and your sweetie in Gaston County.
Originally written by RootsRated for Gaston County Gov.