Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Like a Kid in a Cotton Candy Factory

Spin-your-own cotton candy. A gumball machine as big and bright as the family Christmas tree. Saucer-sized lollipops. A kaleidoscope selection of confections from wall to wall. That's what you'll find at the Cotton Candy Factory, a bright and cozy candy shop on the idyllic small-town Main Street in historic downtown Belmont, just over 20 minutes from uptown Charlotte. And the cherry on top? It's all for a good cause.

We don't frequent candy shops, but the signboard out front welcoming us in to spin our own cotton candy was too intriguing to pass. Inside, we found a magic sugar wonderland, complete with a cloud of pink cottony goodness we made ourselves.
You'll find the cotton candy machines and someone eager to help you use them at the check-out counter at the back of the store. It costs $3.50 per cotton candy cone you spin yourself. There are also shelves of prepared cotton candy containers in all shades of the rainbow that make for good gifts.

The Cotton Candy Factory was established by Holy Angels, a non-profit that provides specialized care for children and adults with mental, physical and developmental disabilities. The shop's profits go to support Holy Angels' mission. It also employs some of the people Holy Angels serves.

Why cotton candy? Not only is it a fun treat for kids of all ages. Holy Angels chose the theme to pay homage to the cotton industry that helped build Belmont for many years.

The store is open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and closed on Sunday. You can park in one of the on-street spots on Main St., or in a municipal parking lot just across the street (access the lot from Glenway St.).

Once you've indulged, run off the sugar high at Stowe Park right next door. The park sports a playground, bathroom facilities, a walking path, picnic tables and a gazebo. The park is adjacent to two railroad tracks -- one active and one retired. There's a parked train car on the retired track that is fun to explore up close. And if you're there a while, you're likely to see a real train roll through town on the active track.

If you're feeling especially adventurous (or hopped up on sugar), take an urban hike on the Carolina Thread Trail Belmont to Cramerton Sidewalk Connector. This easy 1.3-mile (one way) sidewalk trail connects the towns of Belmont and Cramerton within Gaston County. It runs along S. Main St. and Eagle Rd. You'll see a Carolina Thread Trail sign just past the train tracks between the Cotton Candy Factory and Stowe Park.

This is a fun, novel excursion, sure to delight both kids and adults looking to get out and do something a little different.

How to get there:
The Cotton Candy Factory is at 21 N. Main St., Belmont, NC 28012. Park on Main St. or in the municipal parking lot just across the street from the Cotton Candy Factory by the train tracks. Access the parking lot from Glenway St.

Don't forget to pack:
  • Your inner child. Or a kid you know.
  • Money: Candy starts as low as a quarter for the gumball machine. A spin-your-own cone of cotton candy is $3.50.
  • Water: To take the edge off your sugar high. And to stay hydrated while you play.
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: Stowe Park does offer some, but not complete shade. The sidewalk connector trail will leave you exposed as well.

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