If authentic experiences served up with southern hospitality are on your “to do” list this season, Sanford, NC is the place to be. To make the most of your visit, we’ve put together a checklist of a few things you’ll not want to miss.
- San-Lee Park
Enjoy some fresh air while exploring 177+ lush acres of San-Lee Park. Hike through the park’s many winding paths or ride your mountain bike on the trails. Pack some PB&J’s to enjoy a picnic or fish in one of San-Lee Park’s well-stocked lakes. If you’re a birdwatcher, be on the lookout for songbirds such as the Great Crested Flycatcher and Hooded Warbler. (San-Lee is featured on the North Carolina Birding Trail list.) You’ll also want to check out the paddle boat rides, available seasonally.
- White Pines Nature Preserve
Looking for even more wide-open spaces? White Pines Nature Preserves boasts 275-acres of some of the most beautiful nature preserve you’ll ever experience. Nestled between the Rocky and Deep Rivers, the preserve was named for the white pines that once thrived there during the last ice age over 10,000 years ago. Today, preserve temperatures can be as much as ten degrees cooler than nearby cities, making it a cool place for visitors as well as white pines to escape the summer heat. Hiking trails are open year-round and offer spectacular views of the forest and rivers. You might even be able to spot one of the many animal species that inhabit the preserve.
- Golf Galore!
Get ready for golf, golf, and more golf! With four award-winning public golf courses in the area, Sanford is your go-to destination to swing a club. Voted one of the top golf courses in the world, Tobacco Road Golf Course is an extreme course with skill-challenging greens that aren’t the typical shape or size. For a more leisurely round of golf, Carolina Lakes Golf Course prides itself on being playable for golfers of any skill level; and Quail Ridge Golf Course offers a pleasant, affordable course as well as a full grill, so families to spend the day on the links. Rounding up the list is the Sanford Municipal Golf Course, offering beautiful views of blooming azaleas, pine trees and Buffalo Creek while you golf.
- Sanford Antique Mall
Take a step back in time and discover the priceless treasures of the Sanford Antique Mall. With 75 dealers and more than 18,000 square feet of showroom, visitors are sure to find a hidden gem to bring home. Enjoy browsing through china, glassware, vintage jewelry and clothing and more. Peruse the eclectic collection of period furniture such as Victorian, American Primitive, Art Deco, Queen Anne and Mid-Century Modern. With a constantly changing inventory, there’s always something new to discover at the Sandhills’ largest antique mall.
- Historic Railroad House
If the Sanford Antique Mall piqued your interest in history, head to the Historic Railroad House to learn about the Town of Sanford’s beginnings. As the oldest house in Sanford, the Railroad House was originally built for the family of the first depot agent after the Raleigh & Augusta Airline Railroad was extended from Raleigh to what is downtown Sanford today. Narrowly escaping destruction in 1962, the Railroad House now serves as a local museum for visitors.
- Depot Park
After your visit to the Historic Railroad House, take a stroll around Depot Park. Cool off with a splash in the popular interactive fountain during the summer or join the holiday tradition of the Christmas tree and train lighting in December. Be sure to check out the Old Steam Locomotive #12 at the center of Depot Park. With more than 100 years of history, this locomotive is an impressive sight for children and adults alike. Depot Park offers a one-of-a-kind, lively atmosphere in the heart of downtown Sanford for work, play or relaxation.
- Mural Art Trail
As you wind your way through the city, be sure to take in Sanford’s popular Mural Art Trail. These larger-than-life works of art capture the city’s rich history and imagination, including the Tobacco Mural celebrating Sanford’s rich agricultural roots and the “Off to War” WWII Mural honoring Lee County veterans. Other more whimsical murals capture the spirit and creativity of the area, such as the Dream Mural and the Fairview Dairy Mural — the first of its kind in North Carolina, featuring 3-D cows. This memorable must-see will certainly leave you with some “Instagrammable” photos to share with friends and family.
- Mann Center of North Carolina
If you’re a fan of the arts, you’ll definitely want to visit the Mann Center of North Carolina on your trip to Sanford. Described by as “The Crown Jewel of Lee County,” this historic former school building now serves as the Arts and Community Center of Lee County. Throughout the year, the Mann Center is the home of various community theater events, concerts and other productions, as well as the perfect venue for parties and events. While you’re there, be sure to check out the Miller Art Gallery featuring local artists from Lee County and the surrounding region. Explore the works of over 50 artists and take home a one-of-a-kind treasure.
- Local Eateries and Drinkeries
All that activity is bound to make you hungry, so stop by one of Sanford’s iconic eateries or drinkeries to satisfy your appetite and quench your thirst. Local favorites like Fairview Dairy Bar and Mrs. Lacy’s Magnolia House are perfect for lunch, while The Flame Steakhouse and La Dolce Vita Pizzeria are sure to fill you up at dinner. Local Joe’s, Hugger Mugger Brewing Company and Camelback Brewing Company are some of the town’s most beloved establishments to grab a drink. Or satisfy your sweet tooth with an ice cream cone from Yarborough’s Homemade Ice Cream or a freshly baked doughnut from Sandra’s Bakery. Drop in at any one of these delicious spots, and there’s no chance you’ll leave Sanford with an empty stomach.
- Temple Theatre
Top off your visit to Sanford by catching a show at the historic Temple Theatre. Built in 1925, the theatre was originally a popular spot for Vaudeville shows and stars as it was conveniently located near the train station. Over the decades, the theatre housed road shows, presented community productions and screened movies. Today, it serves as the perfect location to attend professional stage productions or special events throughout the year.