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Charlotte Travel Guide

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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 blow through some dough, follow fellow shoppers to the SouthPark's mall district or 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.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Charlotte

Take your pick between 24 different land and water activities at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, a 500 acre facility northwest of downtown Charlotte. 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 say the center is a great place to take your family for the day — though visitors admit tickets can get pricey.
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Recreation Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
U.S. National Whitewater Center
Take your pick between 24 different land and water activities at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, a 500 acre facility northwest of downtown Charlotte. 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 say the center is a great place to take your family for the day — though visitors admit tickets can get pricey.
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#2

#2 in Charlotte

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 Mint Museum of Craft + Design, a special collection of international studio glass, fiber, jewelry, furniture, wood and clay art (recent visitors say this section is a must-see). The museum floor is larger than the map lets on, so set aside a good chunk of time to explore all the mediums the Mint has to offer.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Mint Museum Uptown
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 Mint Museum of Craft + Design, a special collection of international studio glass, fiber, jewelry, furniture, wood and clay art (recent visitors say this section is a must-see). The museum floor is larger than the map lets on, so set aside a good chunk of time to explore all the mediums the Mint has to offer.
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#3

#3 in Charlotte

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.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Discovery Place
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.
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#4

#4 in Charlotte

Free
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 Local Loaf and enjoy the bustling scene.
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Cafes Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
7th Street Public Market
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 Local Loaf and enjoy the bustling scene.
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#5

#5 in Charlotte

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 say 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.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Levine Museum of the New South
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 say 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.
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#6

#6 in Charlotte

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. If you want to see a race (and all the activites that go along with it), you'll need to plan your trip for May or October. It's best to snag your tickets at least a month ahead of race day; last-minute tickets are possible, but you'll have a tough time purchasing them without breaking the bank.
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Sports Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Charlotte Motor Speedway
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. If you want to see a race (and all the activites that go along with it), you'll need to plan your trip for May or October. It's best to snag your tickets at least a month ahead of race day; last-minute tickets are possible, but you'll have a tough time purchasing them without breaking the bank.
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#7

#7 in Charlotte

Free
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 open to parkgoers. Several events take place here throughout the year, including the Festival in the Park in September and the Kings Drive Art Walk every April. Though they warn it can get crowded, travelers highly recommend planning an afternoon trip here. "A breath of fresh air! The park is attractively laid out and we enjoyed a pleasant walk around the lake," one TripAdvisor reviewer shared.
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Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Freedom Park
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 open to parkgoers. Several events take place here throughout the year, including the Festival in the Park in September and the Kings Drive Art Walk every April. Though they warn it can get crowded, travelers highly recommend planning an afternoon trip here. "A breath of fresh air! The park is attractively laid out and we enjoyed a pleasant walk around the lake," one TripAdvisor reviewer shared.
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#8

#8 in Charlotte

Situated about 14 miles northwest of Charlotte in Huntersville, 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 approximately 25 different species of raptors, which you can see and learn about on the 3/4-mile outdoor nature trail that is set up similar to a zoo. There's also a rotating schedule of events on the weekends, including live bird presentations on Saturdays and Sundays. Past visitors say a visit the center makes for a great day trip, especially if you're traveling with kids. "The guides are extremely knowledgeable and the talks they give are very well done," one TripAdvisor reviewer said.
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Zoos and Aquariums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Carolina Raptor Center
Situated about 14 miles northwest of Charlotte in Huntersville, 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 approximately 25 different species of raptors, which you can see and learn about on the 3/4-mile outdoor nature trail that is set up similar to a zoo. There's also a rotating schedule of events on the weekends, including live bird presentations on Saturdays and Sundays. Past visitors say a visit the center makes for a great day trip, especially if you're traveling with kids. "The guides are extremely knowledgeable and the talks they give are very well done," one TripAdvisor reviewer said.
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#9

#9 in Charlotte

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 Sprint Cup hauler, call a race and get behind the wheel of one of eight racing simulators.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
NASCAR Hall of Fame
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 Sprint Cup hauler, call a race and get behind the wheel of one of eight racing simulators.
... more

#10

#10 in Charlotte

Carowinds is one of North Carolina's favorite local amusement parks. You'll have your pick of family and thrill rides, including the Intimidator, a roller coaster inspired by Dale Earnhardt (and also the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in the southeast). If you need to cool off, Carowinds also boasts its own water park, Boomerang Bay. This 20-acre park includes a 34,000-square-foot pool, a 1,000-foot-long lazy river and 11 water slides. Plus, entrance to Boomerang Bay is included with your Carowinds admission.
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Amusement Parks Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Carowinds
Carowinds is one of North Carolina's favorite local amusement parks. You'll have your pick of family and thrill rides, including the Intimidator, a roller coaster inspired by Dale Earnhardt (and also the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in the southeast). If you need to cool off, Carowinds also boasts its own water park, Boomerang Bay. This 20-acre park includes a 34,000-square-foot pool, a 1,000-foot-long lazy river and 11 water slides. Plus, entrance to Boomerang Bay is included with your Carowinds admission.
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