things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina

A diverse melting pot of history, culture, arts, and no shortage of craft beer, the urban hub that is Queen’s City dishes up a wide variety of attractions for visitors of all ages and interests to enjoy.

Whether you find yourself engulfed in uptown Charlotte’s luxury hotels and restaurants, the hair-raising Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR events, the historic architecture (spanning Victorian mansions to Craftsman Bungalows), the shopper’s paradise that is Southpark Mall, or the long list of awesome day trips, the list of things to do in Charlotte is second to none.

A hotbed for niche museums, from the Levine Museum of the New South to the Charlotte Nature Museum, and the Wells Fargo Museum, the city’s saying, “Charlotte’s got a lot” will slowly but surely start to make more sense.

Speaking of options, the food scene is just as diverse! BBQ may be the popular dish, but if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’re in for a treat with the abundance of specialty restaurants catering to all sorts of tastes.

So, what are you waiting for? Get planning and get booking!

1 – Ride heart-stopping coasters at Carowinds

Carowinds, Charlotte
credit to Carowinds

Straddling the North Carolina-South Carolina border, Carowinds is a family-friendly park featuring over 100 rides and attractions (including thrill-seekers’ favorites like Fury 325, voted the world’s top steel rollercoaster, and the feared Drop Tower), as well as dozens of restaurants, gentle rides, and water slides scattered throughout its outdoor grounds.

A wonderful way to keep the kids entertained, the park also puts on a range of live performances with Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang.

2 – Feed the fish at the SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium

SEA LIFE Charlotte - Concord Aquarium
credit to SEA LIFE Charlotte – Concord Aquarium

Located up in nearby Concord next to the Concord Mills Mall, the Sea Life Aquarium is the perfect place to introduce curious kids (of all ages) to underwater life thanks to its interactive touch pools, spectacular walk-through tunnel, and thousands of critters on display.

For a next-level experience that the youngsters will adore, opt for the behind-the-scenes option that showcases how the staff cares for giant sharks, rescued sea turtles, and the rest.

3 – Walk a lap of the NASCAR Hall of Fame

NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte

As a NASCAR-mad state and the home of the Memorial Day weekend tradition— the legendary Coca-Cola 600 — Charlotte and stock car racing come hand in hand.

At the esteemed NASCAR Hall of Fame, conveniently located near Downtown, petrolheads regularly drool over the ex-racer cars, while youngsters are drawn to the Disney Cars section and theater.

After learning all about the history of America’s favorite motorsport and browsing the ever-evolving interactive exhibits, grab a bite at the Pit Stop Cafe and take a stroll to nearby Marshall Park!

4 – Take an electric cart city tour

city tour in Charlotte

Can’t be bothered with a walking tour? On those humid summer days, we don’t blame you.

For a completely different view of Charlotte, hop in an electric cart and take a (roughly) two-hour tour to see both the city’s high-trafficked and offbeat attractions.

With a friendly local guide at the wheel, you’ll get a look at Charlotte’s historic district and some of its many impressive skyscrapers while also learning about Charlotte’s culture and getting recommendations for secret entertainment and restaurants you might not read about online.

5 – Get active at the U.S. National Whitewater Center

U.S. National Whitewater Center, Charlotte

Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will adore Charlotte’s U.S. National Whitewater Center, a state-of-the-art facility that combines nearly every high-adrenaline outdoor sport on offer — ziplining, rafting (whitewater and flatwater), rock climbing, yoga, stand-up paddleboarding; you name it, and you can try it here!

The center also runs events and races, so be sure to check the website to see what’s on.

6 – Race against the clock at The Escape Game

The Escape Game, Charlotte, North Carolina

Escape rooms are the ultimate adventure experience for those seeking excitement and challenge.

At The Escape Game in Concord, you and your team will become the heroes of your own story as you enter a fully immersive, multi-room set. Your mission: to crack codes, uncover clues, and solve puzzles that will lead you to victory.

Whether you’re a seasoned escape room pro or a first-timer, there is a game for you. Five unique escape rooms cater to all skill levels and interests. From Prison Break to The Depths, Special Ops: Mysterious Market to Gold Rush, and Playground, each game offers its own set of challenges and mysteries to solve.

Are you ready to step into a world of adventure and test your skills like never before?

7 – Meet lemurs at Zootastic Park

Zootastic Park, Charlotte
credit to Zootastic Park

Just 35 miles north of Downtown Charlotte is one of North Carolina’s most exciting attractions: Zootastic Park!

Hosting an array of private animal encounters (where you can safely and carefully touch and feed the furry critters) with baby spider monkeys, lemurs, armadillos, kangaroos, and plenty more, plus educational programs, the family-friendly attraction offers both walk-through and safari-like drive-through experiences, each unique and noteworthy in their own right.

8 – Catch a few innings at Truist Field

Truist Field, Charlotte

Sports fanatics, listen up!

Around the corner from the Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte’s Truist Field (also known as Charlotte Knights Stadium or formerly BB&T Ballpark) is home to Charlotte’s minor league baseball team, the Charlotte Knights.

The stadium also hosts concerts and other sporting events throughout the year – so whether you’re a die-hard sports fan or just looking for an excuse to have some fun outside on a beautiful day with wonderful views of the city skyline, be sure to check this joint out

9 – Try indoor skydiving at iFLY Charlotte

iFLY Charlotte

Charlotte’s iFLY is the first indoor skydiving facility in North Carolina — a state-of-the-art space that provides a safe and exhilarating way for people of all ages and experience levels to enjoy the hair-raising thrill of jumping from a plane without having to worry about the elements or dangers!

This wind tunnel will have you swooping through the air like Superman (or Wonder Woman!), as you learn how to fly with lessons from an instructor.

10 – Watch an outdoor movie at Village Park

Village Park, Charlotte
credit to city of Kannapolis

About a 30-minute drive from Charlotte, Village Park in Kannapolis, North Carolina is the perfect place to spend a day with family and friends.

Besides the expansive greenery ideal for a picnic under the sun, the locally adored park also showcases a regular Summer Concert & Movie Series (check the website to see what’s playing) and offers a carousel and miniature train rides.

11 – Take a stroll through Freedom Park

Freedom Park, Charlotte

For when the Downtown tourist crowds become a little too hot to handle, this seven-acre greenway set on the shores of a lake offers a much-needed breath of fresh air, dishing up a range of paved trails, tennis and volleyball courts, and picnic areas.

Don’t forget to stop by the Charlotte Nature Museum (AKA Discovery Place Nature) while you’re there!

Directions with Google Maps

12 – Cheer on the Hornets at the Spectrum Center

Spectrum Center, Charlotte

Home to Charlotte’s NBA team, the Charlotte Hornets, this near-20-year old arena in Uptown has become a regional sports and entertainment destination, known for its roaring crowds and electric atmosphere.

Besides the typical NBA season which runs typically from October through to April, the Spectrum Center is no stranger to concerts (with performances from some of today’s hottest acts).

Hot tip: to avoid overpaying for snacks and drinks, consider popping into the nearby Epicentre shopping mall before or after the game!

13 – Attending a magical candlelight concert

candlelight concerts in Charlotte
credit to Candlelight Experience / Fever

Are you a fan of live music? Maybe you’re looking for romantic ideas to do with your partner. How about attending a live musical experience unlike anything else out there?

Taking place amongst specific music venues across Charlotte are candlelit concerts, where the light of thousands of candles will further elevate the music-listening experience, as you take in beautiful tribute concerts of artists such as Adele, Taylor Swift, Queen, and much more.

With tickets starting at $40 USD, this is one evening plan you cannot beat!

14 – Take a [virtual] tour of the Carolinas Aviation Museum

Carolinas Aviation Museum, Charlotte

This aviation museum has more than just a couple of old airplanes hanging around!

Sitting on the grounds of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, this next-generation museum aims to inspire today’s use to get excited about aviation while teaching about the mechanics and human stories of flight, including the famous “Miracle on the Hudson”.

Keep in mind: the physical museum will be closed until 2022 while renovations take place. In the meantime, virtual tours are available and just as educational.

Sponsored placement

Discover A Sensational Dining Experience

Celebrate with an unforgettable twist at Dining in the Dark, where a blindfolded dinner elevates your senses of taste and smell. Perfect for couples, families, and friends looking for a distinctive dining experience, this event invites you to explore flavors and aromas in a completely new way.

15 – Discover Charlotte’s big cats at Tiger World

Tiger World, Charlotte
credit to Tiger World

Very different from your typical run-of-the-mill zoo, this nonprofit animal sanctuary boasts acres of naturalistic habitats complete with a range of international animals that include tigers, lions, anacondas, and kangaroos, with a black jaguar and arctic wolf roaming around too.

Here, on either self-guided or expert-led tours, you can learn all about the importance of conservation and preservation.

16 – Wet your whistle at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery & Biergarten

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery & Biergarten, Charlotte
credit to The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery & Biergarten

If all that exploring has made you thirsty, an ice-cold craft brew ought to do the trick.

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery traces its roots back to Charlotte’s inception and continues the city’s history of German brewing. With a large outdoor Biergarten, fascinating tours (including taste tests, of course) as well as live music on weekends, this brewery is an ideal destination any time of year!

This goes without saying, but if you’re in town in September, its “MECKTOBERFEST” event is essential for party-goers.

17 – Join a haunted walking tour… if you dare

haunted walking tour in Charlotte

Forget about the sports teams and relaxing parks — Charlotte has a dark side!

On dedicated ghost-themed walking tours, entertaining local guides will have you listening to spine-chilling tales of Charlotte’s most haunted locations, from the Charlotte Fire Department, where some say former first responders still haunt its halls after hours; to the Old Settlers’ Cemetery, Bootlegger House, and the old mansions ravished by fires.

Don’t forget your camera (and ghost-repellent), and, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, consider a haunter pub crawl!

18 – Get cultured at the Mint Museum of Art

Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte

One of the quintessential things to do in Charlotte for art-lovers, the Mint Museum of Art features a world-renowned collection that spans the centuries, from ancient to contemporary.

Inside the two locations (Uptown and Randolph) you’ll find both permanent and rotating exhibits exploring American Art, European ceramics, and so much more (not to mention the art studios and museum store), making this must-see for any art aficionado!

For bargain-hunters, the cheapest entry tickets for the Mint as well as the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art are typically found online rather than at the door.

19 – Enjoy a rainy day at the Discovery Place Kids-Huntersville

Discovery Place Kids-Huntersville, Charlotte
credit to Discovery Place Kids-Huntersville

Add the Discovery Place Kids-Huntersville to your list of kid things to do in Charlotte, as the museum has heaps of fun activities that involve both learning as much as action-packed fun.

From interactive puppet shows to a variety of exhibits created to teach children healthy habits from eating healthy to exploring different career ideas, natural sciences, and creative spaces, the abundance of fun to be had here will surely keep your child happily entertained for hours.

Tickets to the museum start at $14-$15 USD each for adults and children.

20 – Turn the page at the Billy Graham Library

Billy Graham Library, Charlotte
credit to Billy Graham Library

Established by Charlotte-born evangelical pastor Billy Graham, this booktopia is regularly thrown into the mix as one of North Carolina’s most unique libraries.

Known for its extensive collection of books and manuscripts on the Bible as well as evangelism, it houses thousands of items in its dairy barn-shaped building, making it a fascinating destination for anyone looking to explore Charlotte’s religious heritage!

After getting your religious reading fix, consider a guided tour of Graham’s home too.

21 – Learn about the history of banking at the Wells Fargo Museum

Wells Fargo Museum, Charlotte

Found in Uptown Charlotte, across from the Levine Center for the Arts, the Wells Fargo Museum dives into the Charlotte-based bank’s deep roots in Charlotte, emphasizing its history in mining and gold.

Learn about Charlotte’s first and oldest banking institution, check out the display of gold nuggets and rare coins, and take a selfie in front of the authentic mid-19th-century Concord stagecoach!

22 – Grab a snack (and a glass of wine) at the 7th Street Public Market

7th Street Public Market, Charlotte
credit to The Market at 7th St

The fan-favorite 7th Street Public Market is the ideal spot to stop for a snack and a souvenir when strolling through the First or Fourth Ward.

When that tummy starts to rumble, curious shoppers can find a little bit of everything here: from fresh chocolate-oozing crepes to cheeses, dumplings, and acai bowls, to handmade crafts and soaps.

Feeling a little cheeky? There’s a wine shop and craft beer bar too.

23 – Unleash your inner Einstein at Discovery Place Science

Discovery Place Science, Charlotte
credit to Discovery Place Science

Nested in Freedom Park, Charlotte’s Discovery Place is one of the city’s most popular family-friendly attractions, with both adults and kids enjoying this hands-on museum that celebrates all things science.

Explore everything from natural sciences to archaeology, wildlife to health care technology, and more! You’ll find a variety of interactive exhibits as well as quizzes, videos, and simulations for every interest.

24 – Admire the beautiful plants at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, Charlotte

Nestled in the Queen City’s historic Belmont neighborhood on 380 stunning acres, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden provides a peaceful escape with tens of thousands of plants across its meadows and foresty.

With its focus on plants and education – as well as its concentration on conservation and sustainability – this is one botanical garden that will make you want to come back again and again!

Kids, in particular, will love the Lost Hollow children’s garden

25 – Get dressed up for the Carolina Renaissance Festival

Carolina Renaissance Festival

Combining a love of history with Queen City’s one-of-a-kind flair, the Carolina Renaissance Festival is one of the unmissable things to do in Charlotte.

One of North America’s largest annual outdoor events for adults and children alike (and home to Charlotte’s very own jousting tournament), this 16th-century-themed gathering, which runs on the weekends in October and November, features everything from stunt shows to belly dancers, circus performers, and hundreds of costumed characters.

Hot tip: be sure to wear your own Renaissance-style costume for the occasion!

26 – Rock out at the PNC Music Pavilion

PNC Music Pavilion, Charlotte
credit to PNC Music Pavilion

With big names in music like Janet Jackson, Shania Twain, and Foreigner, just to name a few, the PNC Music Pavilion is the place to go to catch your favorite artists visiting Charlotte.

Whether you’re visiting for the sole reason to see your favorite artists, or you just happen to be in town for an amazing concert accidentally (love when that happens!), you’ll surely enjoy this music lover’s hot spot.

Word to the wise! If you’re looking for a good deal, try to snag tickets for a Wednesday show.

27 – Learn about glass blowing at Hot Glass Alley

Hot Glass Alley, Charlotte
credit to Hot Glass Alley

The only hot shop in Charlotte, Hot Glass Alley, is a great tourist attraction for those curious about the art of glass blowing. Hosting free demonstrations every month, stop by and watch artists make their magic and mold the glass into unique art pieces while learning about the process.

Don’t forget to check the gallery to admire the artworks, and even take a piece home with you. And if you’re interested in trying it for yourself, schedule a “Make your Own” class, open for anyone older than nine years old.

28 – Explore the vibrant area of Fourth Ward

Fourth Ward, Charlotte

A charming suburb renowned for its decadent history and stunning old houses, Charlotte’s Fourth Ward is a modern-favorite neighborhood decorated with an eclectic past.

Take a free walking tour to see some of the most beautiful examples as well as other historic sites such as Fourth Ward Park, the Old Settlers Cemetery, the pink Overcarsh House, and The old St. Peters Hospital.

Directions with Google Maps

29 – Take a segway tour of the city

segway tour in Charlotte

Despite the occasional cobblestone street, rolling around on a Segway is a terrific, convenient, and ultimately fun way to tick off some of the city’s main haunts.

Typically venturing through Uptown, led by a charismatic local, segway tours skirt past must-see landmarks like Trade & Tryon (Independence Square), exploring vibrant locales like Fourth Ward and the Arts District too.

30 – Put the pedal to the metal at the Hendrick Motorsports Complex!

Hendrick Motorsports Complex, Charlotte
credit to Hendrick Motorsports Complex

Founded by Charlotte-born racing champion Rick Hendrick, NASCAR’s most successful organization has turned the Charlotte region into a hotspot for some of North Carolina’s fastest drivers and cars.

Just a mile from the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, Hendrick’s museum showcases a large range of actual racing cars, with no shortage of awards, trophies, and memorabilia to check on.

For motorheads, it’s a must-visit.

31 – Go golfing. Seriously, do it.

best golf courses in Charlotte
credit to Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club

Ready to have your mind blown? North and South Carolina have more than 900 golf courses between them — so your ideal fairway is never too far away.

Just pick a day and tee off! You’ll be amazed by Charlotte’s variety of challenging layouts as well as its prime locations that provide sweeping views of rolling hills or pastoral landscapes.

Not sure where to start? The Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club and Eagle Chase Golf Club are exceptional; Edgewater Golf Club, about an hour outside of Charlotte, is typically quieter; and the Carolina Lakes Golf Club is known for its quick greens and abundance of bunkers.

32 – Shop till you drop

shopping in Charlotte

For the big spenders and fashionistas, there’s no better way to while away a day than by hitting up Charlotte Premium Outlets, Queen City’s premier shopping destination. With more than 100 stores on over 300,000 square feet of land in Berewick (just south of the city), Charlotte Premium Outlets is a shopaholic’s heaven on earth!

You’ll find all your favorite brands — from Kate Spade to Tommy Hilfiger and Adidas — at huge discounts (25-65% off), spanning the latest trends to timeless classics. Hungry after maxing out the credit card? CPO is also home to a range of lip-smacking dining and entertainment spots – the hearty Charleys Philly Steaks being a great shout any day!

Assuming you’ve got any cash left after splurging at the Premium Outlets, SouthPark Mall is a must-visit — as the 28th largest in the United States, you can only imagine the kind of variety within its air-conditioned walls.

A Charlotte institution since it first opened in 1970, the expansive shopping complex offers a range of luxury stores including Burberry, Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton as well as plenty of high-end American brands — close to 175 stores all up!

33 – Spend a couple of hours at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte

Tucked away in the city’s downtown area, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is a world-class art museum that showcases some of the most renowned American and European artists of recent times.

With its collection numbering upwards of 1400 pieces — including works by Picasso, Pollock, Calder, Warhol, and Matisse — this intimate gallery is one of the non-negotiable things to do in Charlotte for art-lovers.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is open every day bar Tuesday, and entry won’t cost you more than $10.

34 – Head out to the Historic Latta Plantation

Historic Latta Plantation, Charlotte
credit to Historic Latta Plantation

It’s not all Charlotte city life and bustle; Charlotte also offers a range of historic hubs that take you back in time.

A great example is the Historic Latta Plantation, where visitors can explore a semi-antebellum mansion dating back to the early 1800s with a guide dressed in period clothing, as well as wander the grounds walking trails.

Hot tip: If you visit Raptor Center beforehand, keep your ticket to save a few bucks off your entry fee.

Directions with Google Maps

35 – Check out the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame

North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame, Charlotte

One for the petrolheads and sports nuts, Charlotte’s North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame is sure to get the blood pumping.

Featuring a range of exhibits detailing Charlotte’s rich motorsport heritage, this Queen City institution is home to one of America’s largest and most comprehensive collections of racing artifacts — from cars and trophies to photos, videos, and records!

36 – Explore the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture

Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, Charlotte
credit to Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture

Smack-bang in the middle of Charlotte’s downtown cultural district, the Harvey B. Gantt Center is the city’s first and only public art museum dedicated to exhibiting, honoring, and promoting the wonderful works of African-American artists.

While exhibitions change regularly, a couple of incredible past displays have included ‘Contemporary Black Carolina Artists’ and ‘Views from the Front Lines of the War for Black Lives’.

With performances, workshops, and rooftop events to boot, it’s a must for visiting art-lovers.

37 – Take a day trip to the Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate, North Carolina

While there’s no shortage of things to do in Charlotte itself, why not opt for a change of scenery and get out of town for a day? Enter: the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, America’s largest private house and one of the top tourist attractions in North America.

The 8,000-acre estate was built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s, and today features lavish furnishings as well as an art gallery with rotating exhibits, not to mention the beautiful gardens.

38 – Grab a bite at The Optimist Hall

The Optimist Hall, Charlotte

This former plain-woven mill has been renovated into a food hall complemented by retail, and innovative office spaces. Located in the Optimist Park neighborhood, the 120-year-old textile mill has been transformed into one of the most unique projects in the Charlotte metropolitan area.

The Optimist Hall retains many of the property’s original antique elements including hardwood floors, 14-foot ceilings and authentic brick and beams industrial character interiors.

Dedicated to innovation, sustainability, and historic preservation of the heritage rooted in the industrialization of the southern states, the Optimist Hall brings the legacy of Charlotte’s rich history to its 21st-century full potential.

This is an ideal spot to grab a bite if you are looking for an authentic local experience.

39 – Smell the roses at Glencairn Garden

Glencairn Garden, Charlotte

Despite being over the state line in South Carolina, the blissful and serene Glencairn Gardens remains an easily accessible (and essential) part of any Charlotte trip, located just 30 minutes away by car.

Guided tours of this 11-acre Rock Hill oasis are available every day of the week, with plenty of blooming flowers and relaxing fountains to enjoy.

40 – Scream “TOUCHDOWN” during a Panthers’ game

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte

Home to the much-beloved Carolina Panthers‘ NFL team (well, beloved by the locals, that is), Bank of America Stadium is regularly teeming with rowdy crowds, a high-energy atmosphere, and sold-out bleachers.

For those with a serious interest in football, consider the behind-the-scenes guided walks that offer an insider’s perspective into this iconic sports venue and its facilities.

Oh, and did someone say tailgating?

41 – Hang out with hippos at North Carolina Zoo

North Carolina Zoo
credit to North Carolina Zoo

Founded in 1974, the North Carolina Zoo holds the coveted claim to fame of being the world’s largest natural habitat zoo.

That means that, with over 1,800 animals to meet around the grounds, this animal lover’s paradise has room to accommodate something for everyone, from baby bears to penguins, lions, zebras, and more than a cheeky monkey or two!

Be sure to check out the elephant habitat, and tune in to some of the daily keeper talks and demonstrations.

42 – Unwind at a spa

best spas in Charlotte
credit to True REST Float Spa

Uplift your mood to new heights after the healing treatments at Mood House, starting with a 50-80 minute massage, followed by an infrared sauna session, guaranteed to make you feel like your best self.

Seekers of new treatments, head over to True REST Float Spa, offering a zero-gravity pod experience, said to help relieve body aches, and help you enter a restful and relaxed state.

Give your skin the perfect dose of healing it needs with a salt treatment (Halotherapy) at Live Well Sauna + Salt.

43 – Mark our words: visit the Schiele Museum of Natural History & Planetarium

Schiele Museum of Natural History & Planetarium, Charlotte
credit to Schiele Museum of Natural History & Planetarium

Boasting a giant planetarium and an array of permanent and rotating indoor and outdoor exhibits, the Schiele Museum in Gastonia is absolutely unmissable, especially if traveling with kids.

With incredible displays including a dinosaur exhibit, narwhal room, plus outdoor wildlife areas, a farm, a Memorial Wildlife Garden, and a nature trail, not to mention the horror fiction themes about vampires, zombies, and alien invaders, it’s fair to say that this top-rated attraction truly does have it all.

With plenty of sights and attractions in Gastonia itself, it makes sense to spend the entire day there (about 30 minutes west of Charlotte).

44 – Stare into the eyes of Metalmorphosis

Metalmorphosis, Charlotte

After a couple of years of being closed to the public, the obscure, giant metal head that is the Metalmorphosis sculpture is back in action!

Calling itself one of the Seven Wonders of Charlotte, the kinetic head (meaning it can move) is a formidable example of modern art, brought to life by internationally renown Czech Sculptor, David Černý.

45 – Wander around First Ward Park

First Ward Park, Charlotte

It’s not too often that the words “nature” and “Charlotte” are used together, but First Ward Park is an exception.

With a network of walking paths and picnic areas, plus occasional live music and festivals, this urban slice of greenery is perfect for a slow-paced afternoon.

The famous 7th Street Public Market is right across the street, likewise the ImaginOn performing arts building.

Directions with Google Maps

46 – See a show or a museum at the Levine Center for the Arts

Levine Center for the Arts, Charlotte
credit to Levine Center for the Arts

Your one-stop-shop for all things art, culture, and entertainment, the Levine Center is the umbrella organization that houses the likes of the Knight Theater, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Harvey B. Gantt Center, and Uptown’s Mint Museum.

If you’re on the hunt for some indoor entertainment, check the Levine website and you’ll be sure to find something that suits your tastes.

47 – Get flippin’ at Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park

Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park, Charlotte
credit to Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park

Had enough of the walking and exploring, huh?

Good news! There’s an awesome place nearby where kids (who are we kidding… and adults too) can flip, twist, and burn an insane amount of calories on all kinds of unique trampoline setups.

At Urban Air, nestled over on Mint Hill, you’ll find a world of bouncy fun with dodgeball zones, freestyle sections, Warrior course, tubes playground, and the Battlebeam – just to name a few of the jump-tastic attractions.

48 – Shop for antiques at The Depot at Gibson Mill

The Depot at Gibson Mill, Charlotte
credit to Gibson Mill

The largest (and most popular) antique shopping mall in the southern US, The Depot at Gibson Mill, in Concord, makes an excellent day trip from Charlotte.

With a sales floor extending from over 80.000 square feet, this is the best place to search for vintage and new items. From furniture to clothing, there’s something for everyone.

While at Gibson Mill, enjoy all this lively gathering spot has to offer by grabbing a bite at the food hall or trying a refreshing craft beer at the Cabarrus Brewing Company.

49 – Take the kids to Mr. Putty’s Fun Park

Mr. Putty’s Fun Park, Charlotte
credit to Mr. Putty’s Fun Park

A little bit of old and a whole lot of new, Mr. Putty’s Fun Park is the best place to take the kids for an afternoon of distracting family fun!

This outdoor playground offers more than 30 active attractions including bungee jumping (well, the kiddie version), mini-golf, ax throwing, a ropes course, and a handful of competitive midway games at the Challenge Zone.

This underrated outdoor theme park promises bucket loads of family fun.

50 – Get grizzly at Hollywild Animal Park

Hollywild Animal Park, Charlotte
credit to Hollywild Animal Park

“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” — that’s what you’ll be saying, no doubt, at Hollywild.

A mix of zoo meets conservatory (with a sprinkle of Hollywood), this NFP organization is doing a wonderful job at caring and providing refuge for its 300 furry and friendly guests, some of which are endangered, and some of which and ex-film and TV stars.

This one is a little off the beaten path but is worth checking out for its 100-acre drive-through safari alone.

51 – Have fun at Frankie’s of Charlotte

Frankie’s, Charlotte
credit to Frankie’s

Your classic low-key theme park with Bumper Cars, go-karts, a flashy arcade, and a handful of rides (some heart-stopping, some perfect for the little ones), Frankie’s amusement park is a hidden gem on the outskirts of town in nearby Huntersville.

Besides the main attractions, the family-friendly park also delivers some top-quality black-lit bowling and laser tag!

52 – Sit front row at Ovens Auditorium

Ovens Auditorium, Charlotte
credit to Ovens Auditorium

Found in the Bojangles Entertainment Complex, the 2400-seat Ovens Auditorium wields the title of being Charlotte’s biggest performing arts theater.

Okay, so what does that mean? It means that Ovens attracts the biggest, fanciest, most popular names from near and far! From Franki Valli to Wicked (the musical) to Tyler, the Creator, there’s plenty to choose from.

Just check the website to see what’s on during your trip.

53 – Explore the lively Camp North End

Camp North End, Charlotte

Located in a former car factory and military depot, you can find one of Charlotte’s liveliest hubs, Camp North End.

With a mix of art galleries, shopping areas, food halls and hosting music festivals, one could easily spend an entire day exploring the area without getting bored.

If you plan your visit on Wednesdays, you’ll be lucky to catch the local farmer’s market, with fresh produce, local food and an exclusive curation of items each week.

54 – Head to the NC Museum of Dolls, Toys & Miniatures in Spencer

NC Museum of Dolls, Toys & Miniatures in Spencer
credit to NC Museum of Dolls, Toys & Miniatures

A fan-favorite for collectors and kids alike, this peculiar yet incredible North Carolina Museum of Dolls, Toys & Miniatures houses hundreds of vintage dolls, antique toys, and contemporary miniatures that are sure to trigger feelings of nostalgia from decades gone by.

Exhibits include a Shirley Temple Doll Exhibit and Schoenhut Circus Figures, as well as special sections for Boudoir Dolls from the 1920s and 1930s, a Lionel model train village, and so much more.

55 – Hear the orchestra at the Belk Theater

Belk Theater, Charlotte
credit to Belk Theater

Sitting on North Tryon St in the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, the Belk Theater hosts everything from Broadway productions to concerts for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, providing an intimate aura and world-class acoustics thanks to its classic European horseshoe layout.

56 – Check out The North Carolina Botanical Gardens at UNCC

The North Carolina Botanical Gardens

A North Carolina treasure, these gardens are home to a plethora of plants, flowers, and trees both native and representing the wider country and planet.

Listen to the birds in the Polly Rogers Memorial Sensory Garden; admire the Asian influence and water features in the Susie Harwood Garden, or take part in one of the regular greenhouse classes and events!

If you’re planning on exploring the University of North Carolina Charlotte campus, don’t miss these enchanting gardens.

Directions with Google Maps

57 – Step back in time at the President James K. Polk State Historic Site

President James K. Polk State Historic Site, North Carolina
credit to President James K. Polk State Historic Site

A North Carolina gem, this former president’s 150-acre house and gardens (with its own nature trails) is a must-see for history buffs.

After a tour of the cabins on the grounds, an afternoon exploring the museum offers plenty to see in the way of original furnishings and stories of Polk’s personal and political lives.

Friendly for your wallet too, tours led by costumed historians are just $2 for adults and $1 for children while entry itself is free.

58 – Follow the Charlotte Liberty Walk

Charlotte Liberty Walk

A free attraction for all ages, this self-guided walking tour in Uptown Charlotte features an interactive map that will take you to 19 of the city’s most iconic statues and monuments, including the Battle of Charlotte Monument, the Ishmael Titus Marker, and the Queen Charlotte Statue.

The route is about a mile long and can be started anywhere on its loop; just follow the interactive map on your website or join a guided walk.

59 – Solves clues in an escape room

escape room in Charlotte

Any budding Sherlock Holmes out there?

Grab your nearest and dearest (or those random partygoers from the hostel), and muster up all the collective teamwork, problem-solving, and out-of-the-box thinking possible in order to solve the case and make it out of Charlotte’s varied escape rooms!

Escape in order to rid yourself of King Tut’s Curse at Escape Tactic, and think twice after your look twice inside the award-winning ILLUSIONS room at Timed Out Escape.

Crime junkies and lovers of spooky things, don’t miss these themed escape rooms only at The Box Escape Room, and tap into your inner spy as you escape artificial intelligence trickery at the Exit Strategy.

Lastly, make sure to curate the perfect problem-solving team if you’re going to head to Breakout Games, featuring 5+ different themes.

60 – Drive your own NASCAR vehicle!

NASCAR driving experience in Charlotte
credit to Richard Petty Driving Experience

The Richard Petty Driving Experience is just what it sounds like: if you’re interested in speeding down the track at NASCAR speed, just like the pros, the Charlotte Motor Speedway offers a chance for any driver to get their heart-racing behind-the-wheel fix in a REAL car, on a REAL track!

From 5 minutes of solo track time to 40 (a little pricier, mind you), as well as the option for passenger hot laps if you’d rather ride shotgun, there’s a looping thrill for every budget.

Note: This activity is available at a total of 16 tracks nationwide, including Las Vegas and Daytona.

61 – Race against the clock with a scavenger game

scavenger game in Charlotte

Nothing says fun like a little friendly competition, right? Forget about Segway and walking tours for the minute — for an interactive, high-speed, on-foot adventure that takes you to the city’s main haunts as well as some lesser-known locales, a scavenger hunt is the way to go.

Operated conveniently from your phone and costing anywhere between $10 and $30 (give or take), these riddle-solving activities are operated by a range of companies that service different areas of the city (like Uptown or Fourth Ward), including zombie-themed hunts and photo challenges!

62 – Spend the day around Lake Norman

Lake Norman, Charlotte

Only 20 short miles north of Charlotte, Lake Norman is a tranquil oasis and a welcomed change of pace from the hectic inner-city lifestyle.

Along its calm waters, go fishing, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, or rent your own boat for a day; around its shores, take a hike, or check out the quaint towns of Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville, each home to family-run shops and restaurants and a handful of microbreweries.

Directions with Google Maps

63 – Catch a live show

live shows in Charlotte
credit to Visulite Theatre

With its commanding history as a little-known local gem and diverse selection of performances, from stand-up comedy to Neil Young and Beatles tribute shows, to touring Broadway productions and burlesque, the historic Visulite Theatre is a must for any traveling entertainment buff.

The fully-licensed venue has a pit area (who’s ready to mosh) as well as two levels of comfy seating.

A widely known famous entertainment hub featuring fun for all ages, Bojangles Coliseum hosts a great variety of events, including comedy shows, music concerts, and children-oriented concerts with theatrical performances.

64 – Get active in Crowders Mountain State Park

Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina

A North Carolina treasure, this gorgeous park about 35 minutes from Charlotte (next to Gastonia) features 9 wildflower-lined trails ranging from 1.9 to 15.6 miles all up.

With beautiful views that stretch for some 25 miles on a clear day, plus towering cliffs and plenty of camping, boating, fishing, and paddling spots, it’s not hard to see why thousands of Carolinians flock here for some fresh air and peace.

65 – Watch NASCAR at the Charlotte Motor Speedway

NASCAR at the Charlotte Motor Speedway

We’ve already mentioned the chance to drive a NASCAR car, however, seeing the pros in action is just as exhilarating.

Every year, the Coca-Cola 600 race (the longest competition of all) and Xfinity Series take place at this famed course, just a short drive (in a regular car, that is) away from Charlotte.

Hot tip: if dates line up, don’t miss the FREE monthly “cruise-in” Cars and Coffee events — a morning where motor enthusiasts show off their custom rides in the parking lot.

66 – Hang with hawks at the Carolina Raptor Center

Carolina Raptor Center
credit to Carolina Raptor Center

Home to majestic eagles, vultures, hawks, and falcons all waiting to say hello, the family-friendly Carolina Raptor Center out in Huntersville is a must for any animal lover.

A smiling staff member at the 57-acre center will guide you through a meet-and-greet, show off some of their favorite birds (if they’re up for it), and provide plenty of photo ops with the local wildlife.

Be sure to stroll along the 3/4-mile Raptor Trail, where over 20 species of birds will soar overhead.

67 – Take the kids to ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center

ImaginOn The Joe & Joan Martin Center, Charlotte
credit to ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center

A world-class library, theater, and arts center all in one, ImaginOn is a gem of both education and entertainment.

The youth-focused space offers dozens of different programs for kids from toddlers to teens each week (Friday morning Story Time comes highly recommended) as well as performing arts events like dance shows or book readings by international authors.

A year-round calendar is available, with plenty of options for the whole family to explore together.

68 – Score a unique souvenir at the Sleepy Poet Antique Mall

Sleepy Poet Antique Mall, Charlotte
credit to Sleepy Poet Antique Mall

Hidden out in the suburb of Collingwood lies 60,000 square feet of nostalgic treasures.

At the charming Sleepy Poet Antique Mall, you’ll find everything from antique furniture and vintage clothes, to vinyl records, cowboy boots, and precious jewelry — if you’re after a unique souvenir, this is the place to find it.

69 – Gain insight into Southern history at the Levine Museum of the New South

Levine Museum of the New South, Charlotte
credit to Levine Museum of the New South

A visit to the Levine Museum of the New South is in order to gain a deeper understanding of the U.S. South, and the efforts for the unity of communities of all different backgrounds.

With an aim for respect, inclusion, and diversity, the Levine Museum is chockful of fascinating exhibits, from learning about independent Black communities in Charlotte, to how the south went from cottonfields to skyscrapers, and stories and examples of cruel slavey practices that took place in Charlotte.

Admission to the museum is free.

70 – Stop into the Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary

Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary, Charlotte
credit to Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary

A small yet enchanting oasis of flowers, fountains, and wildlife, this peaceful green space in the southern suburbs is the perfect place to spend a morning.

Besides walking through the gardens, Wing Haven also offers educational programs for kids and adults alike, and sells plants if you’re keen to test out your own horticulture skills.

Hot tip: on the same street you’ll also find the Elizabeth Lawrence House & Garden, an equally worthy destination.

71 – Try the best wineries and breweries

best wineries and breweries in Charlotte

Going on a wine or beer tasting tour is one of the most fun activities to do with friends on a trip, besides being a great way to delve into local culture.

Inspired by the Spanish tapas culture, Barcelona Wine Bar features a wide selection of the greatest wines from all around the world; with two locations in Charlotte, the Dilworth Tasting Room provides high-quality wines and cocktails, perfect for an evening with friends in their open-air patios.

With a fast-growing craft beer scene, Charlotte counts over 50 breweries, meaning that choosing the best isn’t easy. Wooden Robot Brewery ranks among the most popular, with a rotating selection of beers; producing award-winning beer, The Olde Mecklenburg is Charlotte’s oldest brewery and a must-visit; but many more are worth mentioning, such as NoDa Brewing Company, Charlotte Beer Garden and Suffolk Punch Brewing.

When it comes to drinking, Charlotte has a lot to offer. For the best whiskey, try Great Wagon Road Distilling and for rum, check Seven Jars Distillery.

72 – Take a ride on the side-splitting Funny Bus

Funny Bus, Charlotte
credit to Funny Bus

Tours of the city that are both funny and informative? Yes, please!

The witty, sharp-dressed guides on these tours will show you all there is to see in Charlotte’s most iconic neighborhoods — from Uptown luxury to the funky NoDa art scene — while also providing local tips for shopping, dining, museums, or history lessons.

Unlike your typical bus tours, you’re bound to be cracking up the whole way through.

73 – Whizz around corners in a go-kart!

karting in Charlotte
credit to K1 Speed

At K1 Speed in Concord, you’ll get the chance to take a spin in one of their high-performance racecars, drifting around corners and feeling that adrenaline rush.

There are plenty of options for sessions: from an individual ride to time trials or even birthday party options — it’s up to you! Plus, they’re open every day until at least 10 pm, so you’re sure to find a session that suits your schedule.

74 – Sip a cocktail at a rooftop bar

best rooftop bars in Charlotte
credit to Nuvolé Rooftop Twenty

Charlotte’s skyline is growing ever higher, meaning that the city now has a number of great rooftop bars to enjoy a handcrafted cocktail (or five).

Cloud Bar by David Burke in Uptown dishes up complete 360-degree views of the city; the swanky Nuvolé Rooftop Twenty Two boasts the highest rooftop bar in the city; while Whiskey Warehouse offers a more laid-back, neighborhood-style feel for anyone trotting around the Plaza Midwood area.

As for centrality, it’s hard to go past Rooftop 210, a wide terrace sitting smack-bang in the middle of the Epicenter nightlife zone.

How to get to Charlotte?

With prices as low as $50 USD, an airport transfer is the perfect way to get around the airport chaos, and straight to your adventures in Charlotte.

After landing at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, head straight to arrivals to meet with your pre-arranged airport transfer, which will offer seamless transportation from the airport, straight to the door of your hotel in town.

Where to stay in Charlotte?

The Ivey’s Hotel, located in downtown Charlotte offers true modernity and luxury with warm hospitality and close proximity to some of the main sights in Charlotte. Enjoy a latte and pastry at the Library Lounge cafe, and in the evening, wind down from the fun with a cocktail at Sophia Cocktail Lounge, all inside the hotel.

Are you visiting Charlotte for work and play? Then stay at the Hilton Charlotte Uptown, raved by many for its central location, only a few feet away from the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Enjoy the comfortable and clean rooms, each equipped with a spacious workspace. Grab your breakfast at the hotel, served daily in buffet style.

For those looking for a budget option, you cannot go wrong with a comfortable stay at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, located close to sights to see like the Billy Graham Library and the Bank of America Stadium.

Where to go next?

When in Asheville, take a serene hike through the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains, and see black bears with your own eyes (safely) at the Western North Carolina Nature Center.

Start your journey to Atlanta with a peach daiquiri and a delicious meal with panoramic views of the city up above at the Polaris rotating restaurant. Move on to Savannah, for a scenic drive through the Isle of Hope Historic District and beautiful Forsyth Park.

A ghost tour is a unique way to get to know any city, however, in Charleston, it’s one of the best ways! Make your way to explore historical sights and stunning gardens at the Magnolia Plantation.

A perfect day in Raleigh includes a day on a pedal boat at Pullen Park, as well as Raleigh’s other beautiful parks full of color including JC Raulston Arboretum.

History lovers will have a field day exploring the historic U.S. sights in Richmon, Virginia, starting with a scenic canal cruise through the Canal Walkway in Richmond, one of the U.S., first canals.

Final thoughts

If a good time is what you’re looking for, then Charlotte must be on your list of U.S. cities to visit.

From bohemian breweries to innovative and relaxing spas and stunning natural sights, we’re sure that you’ll end up gaining a new appreciation for the Queen City each time you visit.

Don’t forget to try that BBQ!

Happy travels!

Evan Bryce Riddle is a versatile and ambitious content producer whose passion for globetrotting runs deep. When he’s not crafting travel content, Evan is the Content Executive at Australia’s leading digital marketing agency, managing end-to-end video production and written content to build brands to 7 and 8 figures. Evan has also spearheaded content for world-leading digital media channels (TheRichest, TheTravel), written multiple published books, photographed weddings, and hosts the coveted MegaMinds podcast – a handful of highlights from his 10+ year content and marketing career. Where does the love for travel come from? Born in Melbourne, Australia but having grown up in Hollywood, Evan fell in love with international jetsetting from a young age. Fast forward to today and he’s visited 30+ countries, highlighted by a 4-year stint in vibrant Montreal.