The Queen City is just waiting for you to visit and explore all of the exciting museums, amusements and more it has to offer. Charlotte is home to the Panthers, the Hornets, NASCAR and the amazing US National Whitewater Center plus plenty of art, culture and food for those less athletically inclined. Visit one of the best children’s libraries in the country, ride a rollercoaster and see the ballet, maybe even all in one day!
5 Things You Must Do in Charlotte
Rev Your Engine
Charlotte is the home of NASCAR. The company has a headquarters in the city and many teams and drivers are based just north in Mooresville, also known as Race City USA. Catch a race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway before heading to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Learn about some of your favorite drivers and see some of their memorabilia at the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Public Showroom and The Petty Museum. If you’re interested in classic cars, the Mustang Owner’s Museum, Morrison Motor Car Museum and Memory Lane Motorsports and Historical Automotive Museum are full of colorful vintage vehicles and paraphernalia. Ready to get behind the wheel? Book one of these racing experiences and hop on the track yourself.
Every great city has a wealth of museums, and Charlotte is no exception. Start at The Charleston Museum of History, which is focused on the settlement of the Carolina Backcountry and is steward of the Hezekiah Alexander Home Site, a National Register of Historic Places site built around 1774. The Levine Museum of the New South picks up after the Civil War and chronicles the history of the South through modern times. At the Gaston County Museum you can see North Carolina’s largest collection of horse drawn vehicles as well as authentically refurbished rooms in the main building, a former hotel built in 1852. The Schiele Museum of Natural History includes a farm, planetarium, interactive prehistoric sites and a short nature trail perfect for all ages.
Discovery Place has four hands-on museums in the area that all advance STEM education, while entertaining the whole family. Kids will also enjoy ImaginOn, a one-of-a-kind library, theater and education space ranked as the No. 1 children’s library in the country. For a “museum that moves you,” check out the North Carolina Transportation Museum, which includes an authentic train station built in 1898, and be on the lookout for the reopening of Carolinas Aviation Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, coming in 2022. Make one last stop at the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, where inductees include James Taylor, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, The Avett Brothers and many more.
There is so much great food to sample in Charlotte, and a perfect place to start is the 7th Street Public Market, whose mission is to celebrate the food culture of the Carolinas and promote local and regional farmers, food artisans and entrepreneurs. The space also serves as an incubator for emerging small businesses and provides entrepreneurial education to those involved. All that plus dumplings, crepes, pizza and beer makes this a can’t miss spot. Another way to taste the best dishes in Charlotte is by booking an experience with Feast Food Tours, some of which include a stop at lauded restaurant Sea Level NC, where you’ll find the only farm-to-fork oysters in the state.
After you’ve eaten your fill, you’ll definitely want to check out Charlotte’s thriving craft beer scene. The Old Mecklenberg Brewery offers one of the best brewery tours in the country and has a fabulous biergarten, the largest in the southeast, that will transport you straight to Munich. Aficionados head to Brewers at 4001 Yancey for a selection of 35-40 beers and ciders from beloved brands like Victory, Sixpoint and Southern Tier, along with locally inspired house brews. Other favorites include NoDa Brewing Company for prize winning beers, Sycamore Brewing for live music and food trucks, along with a wide variety of suds, Lenny Boy Brewing Co. for kombucha and wild ales, and Pilot Brewing Co. for limited, small batch releases.
Make a New Friend
Walk or drive through Zootastic Park, a privately owned, hands-on zoo with over 250 animal species, or drive a little further from the city to visit the North Carolina Zoo, the world’s largest natural habitat zoo. Lazy 5 Ranch offers drive through safaris and wagon rides of the property where over 750 animals from six different continents live. To learn about global conservation of endangered species, swing by Tiger World, where you’ll meet more than just lions, tigers and sloths – oh my! More of a bird person? The Carolina Raptor Center has a Raptor Trail where you can spot 30 different birds of prey and Wing Haven is home to beautiful gardens specifically designed as a bird sanctuary. For a laugh, book a farm tour or alpaca yoga session at Good Karma Ranch.
Start at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, whose 100 acres include a children’s garden and tropical plant conservatory, or Freedom Park, Charlotte’s answer to Central Park, with a lake and sports facilities. The Charlotte Rail Trail, Little Sugar Creek Greenway and Carolina Thread Trail are all great for walking, light hiking and biking, which you can do with the help of the Joy Rides non-profit bike share system. Step up your adventure level by rock climbing the massive dome of Stone Mountain State Park, wandering through the granite extrusions of Big Rock Nature Preserve, fishing at Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve, or hiking and bouldering at Crowders Mountain State Park.
5 Things You May Not Have Considered in Charlotte
Soak Up Some Culture
As the 15th most populous city in the US and largest in North Carolina, Charlotte has plenty of arts and culture on display. While the Charlotte Symphony’s season runs from September to May, the Summer Pops series at Symphony Park is a local favorite. The nationally recognized Charlotte Ballet is dedicated to bringing new works to the stage, while still embracing beloved classics. There are also many theaters in the area found at the Blumenthal Performing Arts complex and the Levine Center for the Arts, which is also home to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, internationally-renowned Mint Museum, with art and design from around the world, and The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. You can also go on a self-guided public art walking tour to check out galleries like Goodyear Arts, a non-profit residency space, and LaCa Projects, which features Latin American contemporary art, and see the imposing Metalmorphosis sculpture, one of the seven wonders of Charlotte.
Take a Different Type of Tour
There are plenty of ways to see the city, but if you’re looking for a tour that’s unique to Charlotte, try one of these. Charlotte NC Tours has many different options, but we’re a fan of the hoverboard options and the “Fried Chicken, BBQ & Brews Scooter Tour.” If you’re looking for a spook, try a Carolina History and Haunts tour to learn about the city’s ghastly past. And if you scare easily, the Funny Bus Comedy City Tour will keep you laughing as you absorb the past and present of the city of Charlotte.
The US National Whitewater Center brings excitement to Charlotte with over 30 different recreational activities. You can whitewater raft, kayak or stand up paddle board, enjoy the ropes course and climbing walls, mountain bike and even ice skate. If those are a little too intense for you, enjoy a relaxing yoga class or one of the many festivals at the center. For something a little less heart-pounding, drive over to Lake Norman to enjoy the historic streets surrounding North Carolina’s largest man-made lake, lounge on the beach, or swim at Ramsey Creek Park. You can also take a sightseeing or dinner cruise on the Catawba Queen or Belle, two replica Mississippi riverboats.
Historic Brattonsville and Historic Latta Plantation are both living history museums that teach the stories of the plantations, the enslaved people who lived there and what life was like in the areas through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The Matthews Heritage Museum is housed in one of the oldest buildings in town and restored to show what the pre-electricity home looked like when it was built in the late 19th century. Those interested in presidential history will want to visit the President James K. Polk State Historic Site, which features reconstructed log cabins on the site where the future president spent his early years. If you ever wanted to step into the world of the Hunger Games, tour the Henry River Mill Village Historic District, an abandoned mill town that served as District 12 in the movies. A preserved building still in use today is the Davis General Store in Croft, which sells essentials and unique items to locals. Looking to feel the rush? The gold rush, that is. Visit Reed Gold Mine, the site of the first documented gold find in the US, and do a little gold panning yourself.
Catch a Thrill
Charlotte and the surrounding area happens to be home to some great outdoor action venues. Everyone in your group will have a blast at Carowinds, a giant amusement park with the insane Carolina Harbor Waterpark, the tallest/fastest/longest giga coaster in North America, as well as Camp Snoopy and more. If all of that sounds exhausting to you, have a slightly tamer night of fun with laser tag, mini golf and go kart racing at Frankie’s.