Gastonia is a small city in the Piedmont of North Carolina, about west of the major United States city of Charlotte. In 2016, Gastonia had a population of 75,535, making it the third largest city of the Charlotte Metro.
Gastonia is the principal city and county seat of Gaston County, a large county comprising of several small towns. The population of Gaston County was 213,445 in 2015.
Interstate 85 and U.S. Highways 321 and 29/74 provide highway access.
While rather inconvenient, it is possible to travel to Gastonia by train. Amtrak serves the town via its Crescent train between New York City and New Orleans, however trains arrive in the middle of the night. The unmanned is located at 350 Hancock St.
A Greyhound station is located just east of downtown.
Although there is a city bus system and taxis are available, a car is practically necessary for effectively visiting Gastonia.
- Downtown Gastonia is home to numerous historic buildings from the early 20th century, the Gaston County Courthouse, and other County and City administrative offices. The downtown area has been the backdrop for several movie and TV productions due to its consistent historic look.
- The Schiele Museum of Natural History includes a planetarium, numerous collections pertaining to natural history and geography, national traveling exhibits, and a Nature Trail including a Backcounty Farm, Grist Mill, and Catawba Indian village with demonstrations of historically applicable crafts and skills.
- The Gaston County Museum of Art and History is in adjacent Dallas in the historic Hoffman Hotel and has exhibits on local history, art from around the region, and one of the largest collections of carriages in the country.
The city adjoins and is often considered a larger part of several smaller towns on its periphery. These towns are not a part of Gastonia and are their own municipalities in greater Gaston County. They are listed below.
- McAdenville - "Christmas Town USA" hosts a nationally renowned Christmas light display as the entire town is decked out in millions of lights and decorations and visited by thousands every year. This quaint mill town is experiencing dramatic growth and renewal and is on the South Fork river.
- Belmont - A suburban town of roughly 10,000 with a very walkable revitalized downtown that is home to numerous shops, bars, and restaurants. Also home to Belmont Abbey College, including a monastery and nunnery designed in the Gothic style. Belmont is also home to the nationally recognized Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens.
- Bessemer City - A suburban town of roughly 5,000 people that was laid out on a perfect grid system. Home to FMC's 'Lithium' facility that manufactures numerous products derived from lithium including batteries, electronics, and pharmaceuticals.
- Mount Holly - Located on the South Fork River across from the U.S. National Whitewater Center (artificial river with rapids) and convenient to I-485.
- Dallas - The oldest incorporated town and the original county seat of Gaston County. Dallas has numerous historic buildings including the Old Jail, Historic Courthouse, Hoffman Hotel, and many buildings on the historic courthouse square. The Hoffman Hotel houses the Gaston County Museum of Art and History.
- Cramerton - Home to the exclusive Cramer Mountain Country Club.
- Lowell, Ranlo, and Spencer Mountain - Former mill towns that are indicative of small piedmont textile towns.
Below are the two shopping areas of Gaston County.
Eastridge Mall- Small shopping mall anchored by Belk, JCPenney and Dillard's with about 50 small specialty stores.
Franklin Square- Shopping area with big-box stores from Target, Home Depot, Toys R Us to Gander Mountain and also a variety of specialty stores and restaurants.
Local specialties of Gaston County include:
Fish Camps - Fish Camps are a fried seafood lover's dream. The decor and service are simple, but the food is great.
Livermush - Livermush is similar to sausage and often served with breakfast or on sandwiches. Livermush is available in many local 'dive' style eateries.
Barbeque - BBQ in Gastonia is predominantly 'Western NC' style. R.O.'s has become nationally known due to its unique spicy slaw that is the dominant ingredient in R.O.'s style of BBQ.
Tony's Ice Cream - Consistently voted the best ice cream in the Charlotte Metro, Tony's makes their own ice cream in a variety of flavors on-site and distributes to numerous retailers across the region.
SunDrop, a highly caffeinated citrus flavored soft drink, originates in St. Louis, Missouri, but is bottled in Gastonia and is a hometown favorite. Sweetened iced tea ("Sweet tea") is another local favorite.
Numerous additional hotels are located 15-20 minutes away in nearby Charlotte.