Best Things To Do in Charlotte
You don't need to be a NASCAR aficionado to enjoy Charlotte's top to-dos; the Queen City is much more than its reputation for high-octane racing may let on. The Uptown district plays host to some of the city's most popular museums, including Discovery Place and the Mint Museum Uptown, along with some of the area's best restaurants. When you're ready to explore outside of Uptown take a spin through NoDa's (North Davidson) art displays. Sports fans have a crop of newly minted frachises to root for, including the NFL's Panthers, the NBA's Hornets and the AHL's Checkers. For some, a Charlotte visit feels incomplete without experiencing the fervor of NASCAR at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. If you can't make it to Concord, North Carolina, for a race, stick around town and make a pit stop at the NASCAR Hall of Fame instead.
Updated April 10, 2019
- #1View all Photos#1 in Charlotte9.7 miles to city centerRecreation, Sports, Swimming/PoolsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND9.7 miles to city centerRecreation, Sports, Swimming/PoolsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Take your pick between more than 30 different land and water activities at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, a 1,300-acre facility northwest of downtown Charlotte along the Catawba River. At the world's largest man-made whitewater river, you'll have your choice of a variety of activities, including kayaking (both flatwater and whitewater), stand-up paddle boarding, and, of course, whitewater rafting. If you'd prefer to stay dry, the center can accommmodate you there, too: land activities include mountain biking, rock climbing and zip-lining, with plenty of running trails and obstacle courses for those with a competitive edge.
Past travelers said the center is a great place to take your family for the day – though visitors admit tickets can get pricey.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Charlotte0.1 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.1 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Discovery Place is Charlotte's science museum. Past visitors say this kid-friendly playtopia is a great place to spend a day with the family. Here you'll find interactive, hands-on exhibits that cover a variety of scientific concepts like physics and earth science. You can design and conduct lab experiments, build mock structures and study different ecosystems with the museum's rainforest exhibit and aquarium. Discovery Place also boasts the largest IMAX screen in the Carolinas, featuring an ever-changing program of educational films.
Careful not to forget the needs of its youngest visitors, the museum also offers exhibits for wee ones, like the KidScience section. This early childhood area features soft building blocks, a water table and a sound wall, plus a section designed just for toddlers. It's this exhibit variety that has recent travelers offering so much praise for the museum and learning center.
- #3View all Photos
One of the many museums representing Charlotte's exploding art scene, the Mint Museum Uptown is home to a wide variety of American and European art. This is the second Mint Museum location; the first – Mint Museum Randolph –occupies the original branch of the United States Mint on Randolph Road (in the city's Eastover neighborhood). The building in Uptown houses many contemporary exhibits, including a traveler-approved collection of costumes and textiles. There's also the world-renowned Craft + Design Collection, a special collection of international studio glass, fiber, jewelry, furniture, wood and clay art (recent visitors said this section is a must-see).
The museum floor is larger than the map lets on, according to reviewers, so set aside a good chunk of time to explore all the mediums the Mint has to offer.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Charlotte0.2 miles to city centerCafes, Shopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.2 miles to city centerCafes, Shopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
For a taste of Charlotte's home-grown produce, head to 7th Street Public Market, located about half a mile west of the city center. At this indoor marketplace, you'll find a selection of local produce, wines, flowers and sweet and savory treats. Among the vendors hawking local goods is one of the city's favorite pizza joints, Pure Pizza, known for using ingredients sold right in the market. If you make your market stop in the morning, trade in your usual Starbucks drink for the freshly brewed java available at Not Just Coffee, another vendor permanently stationed at the market. Pair your caffeine jolt with a breakfast sandwich from The Yolk and enjoy the bustling scene.
Past visitors said the market is a great place for breakfast, though they cautioned that tables are hard to come by in this relatively small space.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Charlotte4.7 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Museums, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND4.7 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Museums, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
An ode to "America's Pastor," the Billy Graham Library sits just a few miles from where Graham grew up. Sprawling across 20 acres about 10 minutes southwest of Uptown, the site allows visitors to explore the Graham family home (restored using 80 percent of its orginal materials), a Christian bookstore, a "Journey of Faith" exhibit detailing Graham's life, the Memorial Prayer Garden and a lunch eatery, the Dairy Bar.
Past visitors who were familiar with Graham said this was a must-see and described the grounds as "peaceful" and "moving." Highlights included the library, Graham's personal memorabilia and the garden. Others who were not familiar with Graham said it was a nice stop, but not necessarily a must-do. However, many conceded that the lack of an admission fee made it worth the visit, even if they did not know much about Graham or his family.
- #6View all PhotosfreeBB&T Ballpark#6 in Charlotte0.4 miles to city centerSports, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.4 miles to city centerSports, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Home field for the Charlotte Knights – the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox – BB&T Ballpark is a hit with locals and visitors for its incredible skyline views, delicious food and affordable seats. Situated in Uptown, the ballpark is easily accessible from any of the city's Uptown hotels.
Past visitors raved about the park saying there are no bad seats. Visitors were also pleased with the food options and recommended attending a game on a Friday night when there are fireworks after the game.
- #7View all Photos
The term "New South" relates to the people, places and a period of time – from 1865 to today. The Levine Museum of the New South is one of the most comprehensive post-Civil War history museums in the country. Permanent exhibits like the 8,000-square-foot "Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers" focuses on history specific to the Charlotte area, with six different "environments" or spaces that use careful set design to illustrate how the South has changed since the Civil War. Along with this ever-popular exhibit, the museum also offers a rotating roster of temporary exhibits, all serving to educate and challenge the museum's visitors.
Though the museum's focus may be more skewed to Charlotte and the surrounding Carolina Piedmont, recent visitors said you don't need to be a resident of the Queen City to appreciate the carefully curated displays. However, travelers do note that younger children may not find the museum quite as interesting as the neighboring Discovery Place, located about a 5-minute walk northwest.
- #8View all PhotosfreeFreedom Park#8 in Charlotte2.6 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND2.6 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Boasting nearly 100 acres, Freedom Park is a refreshing (free) escape from the Uptown hustle and bustle. Situated on the east edge of the Myers Park neighborhood (about 3 miles north of the city center), the "Central Park of Charlotte" is popular year-round thanks to the various walking and biking paths, not to mention the abundance of picnic spots. Amidst the dog walkers, joggers and families, you'll also find four baseball fields, 12 tennis courts and a basketball court, among other recreational facilities. Several events take place here throughout the year, including the Festival in the Park in September and the Kings Drive Art Walk every May. Though they warn it can get crowded, travelers highly recommend planning an afternoon trip here, saying it's a great place to take pictures.
The best way to get to Freedom Park is to drive. Parking is free, but limited. Plan to station your car on one of the streets surrounding the park, such as Princeton Avenue. Keep in mind while there are bathrooms here, there are no food or beverage facilities. However, within about a mile of the park, you'll find a bevy of restaurants and shops, including Starbucks, as well as locally-owned eateries, such as Kid Cashew, The Summit Room and JJ's Red Hots. The park is open daily but tennis court hours vary by season; check the park's website for the latest hours.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Charlotte0.5 miles to city centerMuseums, SportsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.5 miles to city centerMuseums, SportsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you think the NASCAR Hall of Fame is just a museum full of plaques dedicated to drivers gone by, think again. This 150,000-square-foot site keeps things buzzing with high-tech exhibits, racing simulators and a 278-seat theater, among other features. Travelers say visitors new to the high-octane sport will appreciate the Heritage Speedway exhibit, which details NASCAR's six-decade history using authentic artifacts and educational films. Meanwhile, the Race Week exhibit provides visitors a more intimate and interactive view into how a NASCAR team preps for race day. Here, visitors can practice a pit stop, walk through a full-size NASCAR Lowe's hauler, call a race and get behind the wheel of one of eight racing simulators.
If you don't consider yourself much of a car aficionado, you shouldn't be deterred from making a pit stop here, according to past visitors.
- View all Photos12.3 miles to city centerSportsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND12.3 miles to city centerSportsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you're hungry for a taste of NASCAR culture at its finest, take the 16-mile drive northeast of downtown Charlotte to Concord, where you can catch a race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Keep in mind that a visit here is more of an experience – it's nomral for die-hard fans to camp near the speedway. It's best to snag your tickets at least a month ahead of race day; last-minute tickets are a possibility, but you'll have a tough time purchasing them without breaking the bank.
For a more affordable – albeit less adrenaline-fueled – visit, consider taking one of the daily tours. The Feel the Thrill Speedway Tour allows travelers to see areas that are off-limits during race days, including the Winner's Circle. Past visitors say this tour, which costs $10 for kids and $12 for adults, is an informative introduction for uninitiated race fans.
- View all Photos10.4 miles to city centerAmusement ParksTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND10.4 miles to city centerAmusement ParksTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Carowinds is one of North Carolina's favorite local amusement parks. You'll have your pick of family and thrill rides, including Fury 325 (and also the world's tallest and fastest giga coaster). If you need to cool off, Carowinds also boasts its own water park, Carolina Harbor. The park includes a 27,000 square-foot wave pool, a 3-acre kids pool and a lazy river, among other attractions. Plus, entrance to Carolina Harbor is included with your Carowinds admission.
Past visitors highly recommend a stop at Carowinds if you're traveling with your family. Though travelers commend Carowinds for its ability to appeal to a wide range of age groups, visitors aren't as pleased with the number of extra expenses the park charges. In addition to general admission, be prepared to fork over $16 for parking and $14 to $30 for a single meal or all-day dining package (Carowinds does not allow outside food or beverages.)
- View all Photos9.5 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND9.5 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Situated about 14 miles northwest of Charlotte in Huntersville, North Carolina, the Carolina Raptor Center operates largely as a rehabilitation center for injured, sick and orphaned raptors. The facility also serves as an education and conservation center where visitors can see these fascinating creatures up close. The center hosts more than 35 different species of raptors, which you can see and learn about on the nearly mile-long outdoor nature trail that is set up similar to a zoo.
Past travelers said a visit to the center makes for a great daytrip, especially if you're traveling with kids.
Explore More of Charlotte
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.