15 Best Things To Do In Sanford NC

Sanford is an interesting place, and definitely a must-see for locomotive enthusiasts.

It was named after C.O. Sanford, who was an influential engineer who built the majority of the rail lines in the area that eventually became Sanford.

The city was a pivotal location during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars thanks to the Endor Iron Furnace.

And many notable people like the Hardy Boyz and Lita from WWE, Nascar driver J.D. McDuffie, and illustrator and cartoonist Jack Pittman have lived here.

Here are Things to Do in Sanford, NC.

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Ole Gilliam Mill Park

Ole Gilliam Mill ParkSource: Flickr.com/Donald Lee Pardue | CC BY 2.0 GenericPin

Ole Gilliam Mill Park is a replicated mill village, including a big mill pond.

The Ole Gilliam Mill was built back in 1850, and it was destroyed in a flood in 1928.

It was replicated in 1979 up the creek from the original version.

The building is the main attraction of the park and it’s actually functional and grinds mill on a weekly basis.

They sell bags of milled hominy, cornmeal and grits, which is a nice touch and a bit more useful than the average souvenir.

The park is open to the public every day from sunrise till sunset, except for several days throughout the year when it’s reserved.

But during the Ole Mill Crank-up, you can not only see the mill in action, but also enjoy food trucks, blacksmith demonstrations and more.

For more about the Crank-Up schedule, visit their website.

Address: 4717 Carbonton Rd #4637, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

Yarborough’s Homemade Ice Cream & Grill

Yarborough's Homemade Ice Cream & GrillSource: Flickr.com/Gerry Dincher | CC BY-SA 2.0 GenericPin

Locals already know all about Yarborough’s Homemade Ice Cream & Grill, and they likely have some fond childhood memories here.

It’s been a local establishment for more than 50 years.

They have more than 30 different flavors of ice cream.

The surprising thing here is that they also have a full menu that includes things like hot dogs, burgers, soups and sandwiches.

You can get a milkshake, malted or not, sundaes, banana splits, floats, freezes, and waffle cones.

You can either stick to tried and true classic flavors like Rocky Road, Cookies ‘N’ Cream or Strawberry, but I suggest trying one of their more unique flavors, like Bubble Gum, Coffee, Kate’s Chocolate Malt, Lemon Custard, Caramel Nut Fudge, or Mollie’s Follie.

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Address: 132 McIver St #4341, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

Railroad Depot park in Sanford, NC

Railroad Depot park in Sanford, NCSource: Flickr.com/Donald Lee Pardue | CC BY 2.0 GenericPin

Whoever is in charge of marketing in Sanford understood the assignment, and the result was the Railroad Depot Park.

It’s an interesting conglomeration of railroad museum and park.

There’s a railroad house and the railroad depot, as well as a decommissioned train that’s great for kids to play on, and for photo opportunities.

Aside from the trains, there are also benches, picnic tables and fountains.

It’s now used for celebrations, concerts and city events.

The park will be closed soon for renovation, however.

The city of Sanford hasn’t released a specific date for the shutdown, but you can visit this website for updates about the renovation.

Address: 106 Charlotte Ave, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

White Pines Nature Preserve

White Pines Nature PreserveSource: Flickr.com/NC Wetlands | Public Domain Mark 1.0Pin

If you want to get a good idea of the state’s biological diversity, like nature walks, or want to check out some great hiking trails, then you should visit the White Pines Nature Preserve.

White pines don’t grow in the region naturally (they did around 10,000 years ago but the climate warmed up and they couldn’t survive there anymore), but temperatures at this nature preserve allow for it because of the bluffs and rivers nearby.

Some of the plants you’ll see include Catawaba rhododendron, Catesby’s trillium, bloodroot, trout lily, Dutchman’s britches, and Jack-in-the-pulpit.

And some of the native fauna include wild turkeys, pileated woodpeckers, broad-winged hawks, beaver and white-tailed deer, muskrats, gray foxes, salamanders, various species of frog, and the world’s biggest population of a federally endangered type of minnow called the Cape Fear shiner.

There are several different hiking trails, all of which are great for nature walks.

To check out maps of the trails, go here.

Address: 548 S Rocky River Rd, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

Deep River Sporting Clays

As a city girl from WV, this place really amuses me! It’s 65 acres of woods, and they have a sporting clay course with 13 shooting fields that are changed up every month, where you can shoot these sporting clays.

They even supply the guns and ammo!

Now, it gets even better. The staff there can change things up to meet your experience level, so if you’re a beginner, definitely tell them that so they can teach you.

For more advanced hunters, they have a wobble deck with a 25-target practice field that’s built on the wobble trap.

You’ve got the option to use rabbits, flurry and crossing targets.

They also have a shooting pavilion, which is only for members (and their guests), which is fair.

A lot of ranges are member-based. It has 8 lanes and they allow all handgun calibers, and only the .22 rifle caliber.

There’s nothing quite like this where I’m from, so trust me, you should take advantage of this if you like target shooting or hunting!

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Address: 284 Cletus Hall Rd, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

Temple Theatre Sanford

Temple Theatre SanfordSource: Wikimedia.org/Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD | CC BY-SA 3.0 UnportedPin

This is the perfect destination for theater fans, or anyone who loves the glitz and glamor of the 20s!

The Temple Theater was first opened in 1925 as a vaudeville house.

It was renovated to accommodate plays and events in the modern age.

It still maintains its historic Art Deco design and brick details on the front.

The ceiling has ornate tin artwork on them that’s awe-inspiring.

Seriously, just look up once you get to your seat!

Check out their calendar to see what’s playing!

Address: 120 Carthage St, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

Kiwanis Children’s Park

Kiwanis is a great place for kids to play, and for people of all ages to get out and exercise.

It’s got a gorgeous, colorful, and most importantly, inclusive playground.

This means that children of all different abilities can use it. It also has a splash pad, which is free to the public.

It’s strongly suggested that you should wear water shoes or some sort of sandals at the splash pad, pets aren’t allowed in it, and children who have not yet been toilet trained must wear a swim diaper.

The walking trail is ½ a mile, and it’s all paved, which means it’s something that you can do if you want an easy walk, or if you want to bring the kids along with you.

Address: 101 Park Ave, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

San Lee Park

San Lee ParkSource: Wikimedia.org/KLaCour | CC BY-SA 4.0 InternationalPin

The San Lee Park is more than 177 acres, and the ideal place to take kids to a playground, go camping, enjoy a day fishing, or hit the mountain bike trails!

It has hiking trails, mountain bike trails, a nature center and multipurpose room (which can be rented) picnic facilities, campgrounds, a playground, and two lakes that are stocked for fishing.

Paddle boats are even available for rental seasonally!

Here’s the skinny on the mountain bike trail.

You have to wear a helmet or face a $100 fine, and sign in at the upper trailhead.

It’s considered a difficult trail and you should definitely take someone with you if you go.

If you take the really tricky sections slowly, then they aren’t so bad, and some of them you can bypass altogether.

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Address: 760 Pumping Station Rd, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

Endor Iron Furnance, Sanford, NC

Endor Iron Furnance, Sanford, NCSource: Flickr.com/bobistraveling | CC BY 2.0 GenericPin

If you’re into spooky abandoned places, then the Endor Iron Furnace is definitely something worth investigating.

Mining was a major industry in Sanford, especially when it was combined with the innovation of locomotives, and the Endor Iron Furnace was used to process much of the minerals and metals in the state.

It’s 35 feet of tall stacked stone, and it can be found at the end of a mile long path located in a 426 acre nature park. Its location was chosen because people were getting ore from the Deep River nearby.

The path to the furnace is littered with little bits of ore and pig iron dropped by people from another era as they worked at the furnace.

Some things you need to know about it are that it’s fenced off, and there definitely SHOULD be “no trespassing” signs around it, though there are signs that tell you that excavation in the area will be met with charges and fines.

The path to it is past the fence.

Don’t pick anything up near the furnace or on the path to it.

It can be a dangerous place, so you should definitely make a call to the NC Historical Society for permission to view the site.

Address: Sanford, NC 27330, United States

Smoke and Barrel

Alright, alright, I know. Not everyone wants to go to kid-friendly place.

Some of you want to go get your alcoholic beverage on, and I promise I won’t disappoint you, either!

Smoke and Barrel is the place to be when it comes to both smoked meats and brews in Sanford.

It’s a pub, so they serve a number of slow-cooked and smoked meats, like beef brisket and smoked pork, as well as deli sandwiches and hand-made sides to go with their delectable and savory sandwiches and meats.

They also have 12 craft beers from North Carolina on tap.

Try Peachy Hive if you want a pale ale, Ace Pineapple Cider for a unique cider, Red Oak if you want an amber lager, or Irrational Passion if you want an IPA.

Head over on the weekend to enjoy live music along with your delicious food and drinks!

Address: 120 S Steele St, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

Priority Farm LLC

Priority Farm LLCSource: Unsplash.com/Dušan veverkolog (Representative Image) | Unsplash LicensePin

If you’re looking for an adorable activity and want to make some memories with the kids, or learn some new skills as a parent, then head to Priority Farm.

One of the things they do is mentor kids from single-family homes, sort of like the Big Brother program, and they teach both kids and parents gardening skills and how to raise animals.

There are tons of animals, including alpacas, Levi the livestock guardian dog, chickens, an angora rabbit, mini Scottish Highland cows, and mini donkeys.

And the most exciting news for kids and animal lovers: you can feed the animals!

You can also take educational tours and go hiking on the trails, so a visit to the Priority Farm is sure to please the whole family.

Address: 1042 Buckhorn Rd, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

Tobacco Road Golf Club

Tobacco Road Golf ClubSource: Wikimedia.org/Joe Gay | CC BY-SA 3.0 UnportedPin

If you’re a golf fanatic, or you love one, then you should definitely look into purchasing entry to the Tobacco Road Golf Club as a gift.

Even if it’s a gift to yourself, you can thank me later for the suggestion!

It costs around $215 to get in, and it’s a public golf course.

But it’s one of the courses that every golf enthusiast and pro has on their bucket list! It’s on the Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses (it sits at #50, and a lot of people think it should rank higher).

What’s the big deal about this course?

Well, it was built by architect, Mike Strantz.

Even if you don’t know that name from his other work, what you should know is that he poured all of his architectural genius and creativity into this course.

We’re talking boomerang-shaped par 5s, holes where you have to take crazy shots over deep chasms, dunes that create blindspots so you can’t get a clear view of fairways, as well as dramatic elevation changes, and sand barrens.

It’s a challenge, but it’s a fun one, and it’s one that not many people can say they got the chance to experience!

Address: 442 Tobacco Rd, Sanford, NC 27332, United States

Mural Art Trail

Mural Art TrailSource: Flickr.com/Gerry Dincher | CC BY-SA 2.0 GenericPin

Herb Thomas mural on North Steele Street in Sanford, North Carolina

Art and history lovers should check out the Mural Art Trail.

It’s a self-guided tour through downtown Sanford and Jonesboro that showcases many commissioned art murals.

These art murals are not only visually stunning works of art, many of them depict pieces of the area’s history.

There’s a mural that depicts 1951, 52 and 53 Nascar Champion driver, Herb Thomas with his prized car, the Hudson Hornet.

An “Off to War” WWII tribute commemorates the difficult time soldiers had saying goodbye to their loved ones before they shipped out.

There’s also an interesting 3-D Tobacco mural that features a mule whose head sticks out, and a butterfly wing mural that’s designed for you to take pictures in front of.

It can be a fun day out with the kids, something new to do on the weekend, a creative date idea, or something to light the fire in a young artist!

Check the trail map here.

Big Bloomers Flower Farm

Big Bloomers Flower FarmSource: Unsplash.com/Zoe Schaeffer (Representative Image) | Unsplash LicensePin

If you have a green thumb or an eye for design, then head over to Big Bloomers Flower Farm.

They have more than 4,000 plant variety, and their inventory changes all the time.

They pride themselves on stocking new and unique plants. Their biggest, busiest times are in the Spring, in April and May.

But you’re missing out if you’re not hitting them up in the Fall and Winter for other seasonal favorites, like pansies, mums and Poinsettias!

To check out what they have in stock, visit their website here.

Address: 275 Pressly Foushee Rd, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

O.T. Sloan Park

If you’re a sports enthusiast or athlete, then you need to make your way to the O.T. Sloan Park.

There’s a T-Ball complex with 4 fields, a volleyball area, 6 tennis courts, a dog park, and a regulation sized swimming pool.

There’s even a disc golf course! It’s a short course with some elevation changes, wooded tunnels and field holes that keep it interesting.

There are also picnic tables, restrooms and a shelter with a grill.

It can be a fun day out with friends, or a great place to take the kids to burn off some excess energy!

Address: 1420 Bragg St, Sanford, NC 27330, United States

Conclusion

Sanford is an interesting place that provides a lot of venue variety and different experiences to be had.

Whether you’re interested in animals and nature, sports, or just grabbing a bite and a good beer, you’ll definitely find something to do here. Make sure you add some of these places to your list!

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  • Sarah ThackerPin

    Senior Travel Writer, Travelsc

    Sarah is a writer from Ohio, currently living in West Virginia. As an avid baking enthusiast, she always scopes out the best food in an area and can make gre...

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