20+ Things To Do In Charlotte, NC For An Unforgettable Trip

Last Updated 23 Apr 2024 by Fiona Perisone

Planning to visit Charlotte, North Carolina? As the state's largest city, Charlotte is a bustling metropolis filled with exciting things to do and see. From world-class museums to gorgeous natural landscapes, Charlotte has a lot to offer. With its delightful historic architecture, southern hospitality, vibrant nightlife, and diverse culinary scene, Charlotte is an excellent city to explore. Visitors can enjoy a multitude of attractions suitable for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. It's a city that is certainly worth experiencing.

This lively and energetic city is brimming with various activities and attractions catering to tourists and locals. Whether you're scheduled for a weekend getaway or are a long-time resident who's looking for new things to do, Charlotte won't disappoint. There's no need to fret if you're unsure where to start. This list is all you need for an interesting and fun itinerary.

Let's explore some of the best things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina, so you can have an unforgettable experience whether you're in the mood for indoor or outdoor experiences — or both!

Things To Do In Charlotte, North Carolina

1. Visit A Museum

Paying a visit to a museum is among the top things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina. From art to aviation, history to motorsports, Queen City has something for everyone.

the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Source: Tripadvisor

Visiting the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is one of the best things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina, and some may even say this art museum is a must-visit for those who appreciate art (particularly modern art) and culture. Situated in Uptown, the Bechtler Museum is an integral part of the recently established Levine Center for the Arts. It is the second building in America that Swiss architect Mario Botta designed. The museum was constructed between 2005 and 2009 and opened for public viewing on January 2, 2010.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art features an impressive collection of 20th-century art focusing on mid-century European modernism. It features masterpieces from noteworthy artists such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Joan Miro, Barbara Hepworth, Alberto Giacometti, and many more influential artists worldwide.

One of the highlights of the Bechtler Museum is the permanent exhibit "The Bechtler Collection: A Modernist Legacy," which showcases the museum's extensive collection of modern and contemporary art. This exhibit features over 1,400 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, providing a comprehensive overview of the major artistic movements of the 20th century.

Explore the Mint Museums

The Mint Museum is a cultural institution that encompasses two museums situated in separate parts of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mint Museum Randolph

Located in the Eastover neighborhood amidst a stunning park setting, the Mint Museum Randolph held the distinction of being North Carolina's first art museum and was opened in 1936. It showcases ceramics, decorative art, and ancient American, European, and African art, among other collections within its galleries. The Mint Museum also has a theater where lectures and performances are often held and a library with over 18,000 volumes. For those who enjoy immersing themselves in art and culture, it's the perfect destination.

Mint Museum Uptown
Mint Museum Uptown

Source: Tripadvisor

The second museum, the Mint Museum Uptown, forms a part of the Levine Center for the Arts and is located at 500 South Tryon Street. Boasting an internationally acclaimed collection of American and contemporary art, along with a Craft+Design exhibit, the museum is spread over 145,000 square feet and is housed in a five-story building that features a plethora of amenities. These include the James B. Duke Auditorium, which can seat up to 240 people, the Lewis Family Gallery, art studios, a restaurant, and a museum store that offers souvenirs.

The Mint Museum Uptown, which was inaugurated on October 1, 2010, was designed by Machado and Silvetti Associates and showcased artwork created from a diverse range of materials such as glass, wood, ceramics, and more.

Carolinas Aviation Museum

For aviation enthusiasts and those intrigued by the history of flight, the Carolinas Aviation Museum is among the top attractions in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Carolinas Aviation Museum features a wide range of aircraft and exhibits, showcasing the evolution of aviation from its earliest days to the present. 

One of the museum's highlights is the "Miracle on the Hudson" exhibit, which tells the incredible story of US Airways Flight 1549, which crash-landed in the Hudson River in 2009. The exhibit includes the actual Airbus A320 aircraft that made the emergency landing, as well as artifacts and personal stories from the passengers and crew.

In addition to the "Miracle on the Hudson" exhibit, the museum also features a variety of other aircraft, including military planes, helicopters, and commercial airliners. You can explore the inside of many of these aircraft and learn about their history and design.

Discover Science and Nature at the Discovery Place

The Discovery Place ensures that adults and children have an enjoyable, invigorating, and educational experience. A hands-on science museum in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, it features all kinds of interactive exhibitions, educational programs, and a giant IMAX Dome Theatre. This innovative establishment encourages creativity and scientific exploration to cultivate and encourage curious minds. 

It also features diverse aquariums, a state-of-the-art lab space, and an indoor rainforest, making your learning experiences even more unforgettable.

Discovery Place Nature, formerly known as Charlotte Nature Museum, offers a wonderful opportunity to understand better and connect with nature by giving guests an immersive environment. With all kinds of exhibitions and experiences, this establishment blends enjoyment with education, creating a lasting impression on everyone who explores the place.

Charlotte Museum of History

Visiting the Charlotte Museum is one of the top things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina, for anyone who is interested in the history of Charlotte and the surrounding region. The Charlotte Museum's exhibits cover a range of topics, from the Native American tribes who lived in the area before European settlement to the Revolutionary War battles that took place in the region to the growth and development of Charlotte as a major city.

The "Changing Places: From Black and White to Technicolor" exhibit is one of the museum's most sought-after displays. It delves into the history of the African American community in the region, showcasing artifacts, photographs, and personal stories. Another highlight is the exhibit on the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, a document that is believed to have been signed in Charlotte in 1775 and which declared the colony's independence from Great Britain more than a year before the National Declaration of Independence.

The Charlotte Museum is also home to the historic Hezekiah Alexander Homesite, a restored 18th-century farmstead that provides a glimpse into daily life in colonial times. The site includes a log cabin, a kitchen building, and a reproduction of a one-room schoolhouse.

Explore the Schiele Museum of Natural History

Visiting the Schiele Museum of Natural History is one of the great things to do in Charlotte if you're interested in learning about the natural history of the area. The museum has exhibits on dinosaurs, Native American artifacts, and regional wildlife, as well as a planetarium that offers shows throughout the day. Be sure to check out the Butterfly Garden, where you can see a variety of butterflies up close.

Levine Museum of the New South

For history buffs and those keen on understanding the history and culture of the American South following the Civil War, the Levine Museum of the New South is among the top things to do in Charlotte.

Located in the heart of Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, the Levine Museum of the New South offers a fascinating glimpse into the region's past, present, and future. The Levine Museum exhibits cover a wide range of topics, from the Civil Rights Movement to the region's evolving economy, and are designed to educate and engage visitors of all ages.

One of the highlights of the Levine Museum is the permanent exhibit "Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers," which takes visitors on a journey through the history of the South from the end of the Civil War to the present day. This exhibit includes interactive displays, artifacts, and multimedia presentations that help visitors understand the complexities of Southern life and culture.

2. Explore the Billy Graham Library

Billy Graham Library

Source: Tripadvisor

The library is located about 10 minutes from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and this beautiful facility is dedicated to the life and work of Reverend Billy Graham, one of the most influential religious figures of the 20th century. Here, you can see exhibits on Graham's life and ministry, including a replica of his childhood home and a display of some of his personal effects. The Prayer Garden outside is a serene and peaceful space where you can reflect and meditate. The bookstore offers a variety of books, Bibles, and souvenirs for purchase.

3. Visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame

NASCAR Hall Of Fame

Source: Tripadvisor

Charlotte is known for its racing heritage, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame celebrates that with interactive exhibits, historical artifacts, and iconic race cars. Visiting the NASCAR Hall of Fame is one of the top things to do in Charlotte for anyone who is into cars or car racing, and some may even consider it one of the best Charlotte attractions.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame offers an intriguing insight into the history of stock car racing and showcases some of the sport's most renowned vehicles up close. You can also take a look at the racing simulators, providing a hands-on experience of what it's like to drive a NASCAR race car. This distinctive encounter is one of the top things to do in Charlotte that you wouldn't want to miss.

4. Visit the Freedom Park

Freedom Park

Source: Tripadvisor

Freedom Park is a large park with walking trails, playgrounds, a lake, and plenty of open green space for picnics and relaxation. Stroll around the lake, watch the ducks, or rent a paddleboat for a fun activity. For families visiting Charlotte, there's an array of activities at this location, including a spacious playground for kids and sports fields and courts for basketball, volleyball, and tennis. With something for everyone, it's a highly recommended destination and among the top things to do in Charlotte.

5. Explore UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens

UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens

Source: Flickr

Unwind, relax, and have fun by spending a day at the Charlotte Botanical Gardens. Located at 9090 Craver Road Charlotte, these gardens are at the University of North Carolina and boast various plants. Visiting this botanical garden is one of the top things to do in Charlotte for plant lovers.

The McMillian Greenhouse houses five different environments within its 4,000 square feet, while the Ralph Van Landingham Glen is home to many plants. The Susie Harwood Garden is spread across 3 acres and features an Asian-style gazebo, arched bridges, and a moon gate. Meanwhile, the Dinosaur Garden highlights primitive plants surrounding a full-size skeleton sculpture of the Deinonychus, a fascinating treat for the eyes.

These gardens offer a delightful experience to people of all ages and are definitely worth visiting at least once. You can simply enjoy a leisurely stroll while soaking in the sights and learning more about the plants and trees growing here for an educational, enthralling experience.

6. Take a Bike Ride Around the Little Sugar Creek Greenway

Little Sugar Creek Greenway

Source: Tripadvisor

Little Sugar Creek Greenway is a gorgeous area to explore. Plus, it's wheelchair-accessible. You can spend a day walking around a small area, soaking in the greenery and the sun, or have an adventurous bike ride to try and cover as much of the 800-acre area as possible. The greenway connects schools, parks, neighborhoods, and open spaces, offering visitors an urban oasis where they can relax and unwind.

Each section of the greenway is a sight to behold, with various design elements and materials creating an intriguing blend reflecting local history. The greenway has a welcoming, relaxing atmosphere for a perfect outdoor experience. It wouldn't be unusual to revisit Little Sugar Creek Greenway more than once, so don't be surprised if you find yourself drawn back to this attraction! 

7. Interact With Birds at the Carolina Raptor Center

Carolina Raptor Center

Source: Tripadvisor

The Carolina Raptor Center is a conservation initiative that focuses on safeguarding birds of prey. Situated within the expansive Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, it occupies an area of 5 acres. It features a 3/4 mile Raptor Trail that houses over 25 species of native and exotic raptors, such as eagles, hawks, falcons, merlins, vultures, and kites. The trail offers ample shade, making it a great experience even on a sunny day, where you can enjoy around 30 enclosures of raptors and other species of birds. 

Aside from the Raptor Trail, the center has a medical facility with experienced medical staff that evaluate and treat approximately 800 to 1,000 raptors annually. This makes the center a safe haven for birds.

Whether you're an experienced birdwatcher or simply looking for a novel experience, the Carolina Raptor Center is worth a visit.

8. Check out the US National Whitewater Center

This outdoor adventure center is a great option if you're looking to get active and enjoy the beautiful North Carolina scenery. The whitewater rafting course is the main attraction, but the center also offers ziplining, rock climbing, hiking, and mountain biking. The center offers the "Canyon Crossing" ropes course for those feeling adventurous. Following your activities, you can head to the center's restaurant and bar to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a refreshing beverage.

9. Shop at Charlotte Premium Outlets

If you want to shop before your flight, this is the place to be. The outlets feature over 100 stores, including designer brands like Michael Kors, Kate Spade, and Coach, and popular retailers like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour. Be sure to stop by the food court for a quick bite or a cup of coffee.

10. Walk around Lake Wylie

Lake Wylie is a beautiful lake, and it is a great option if you're looking to get outside and enjoy the North Carolina scenery. Around the lake, there are hiking trails that provide stunning views of the water and the surrounding natural beauty. If you're interested in fishing, you can rent a boat or hire a guide for a chance to catch largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie. The lake is a popular spot for boating and kayaking enthusiasts to indulge in their hobbies.

11. Visit Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Source: Flickr

This beautiful garden is a great option if you're looking to relax and enjoy some natural beauty. In the garden, visitors can explore various plant life, including roses, orchids, water lilies, and a greenhouse filled with tropical plants. The garden is encircled by hiking trails that offer exquisite vistas of the surrounding region. Be sure to visit the gift shop for a souvenir or a plant to take home.

12. Visit the NoDa Arts District

This neighborhood is known for its artsy vibe, with galleries, performance spaces, and plenty of street art. Walk down North Davidson Street and check out the murals and sculptures, or stop into one of the many galleries or shops. Be sure to visit during the monthly Gallery Crawl, where the neighborhood comes alive with art, music, and food.

13. Visit McDowell Nature Center

McDowell Nature Center is a beautiful natural area, and it is a must-visit for anyone who loves the outdoors and wants to experience the natural beauty of Charlotte. The preserve encompasses more than 1,100 acres of forests, fields, and wetlands and includes more than seven miles of hiking trails that wind through the landscape.

Nature Center

If you plan to visit McDowell Nature Preserve, the Nature Center is an excellent starting point. The center features interactive exhibits that delve into the region's natural history and provide valuable information on the plants and animals you will likely encounter during your visit. The center's knowledgeable staff can answer any queries you may have about the preserve and its inhabitants.

Hiking

McDowell Nature Preserve offers hiking trails of varying difficulty levels, from easy to moderate, and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including Lake Wylie. When planning your hike, it's important to remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring sunscreen and water for your trek.

Fishing

The 56-acre Lake Wylie is a popular spot for fishing at the preserve. Within the lake, there are several species of fish, including bass, crappie, and catfish, which are regularly stocked. Be sure to bring your equipment, as rentals are unavailable on-site.

Picnicking

Numerous picnic areas are scattered throughout McDowell Nature Preserve, making it an ideal spot to enjoy a meal with friends or family. The picnic areas are equipped with grills and tables, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Don't forget to pack a delicious lunch and soak in the stunning natural surroundings.

Birdwatching

Visiting McDowell Nature Center is one of the top things to do in Charlotte for birdwatchers, as McDowell Nature Preserve is a sanctuary for numerous bird species, such as bluebirds, woodpeckers, and herons.

Bird watchers can bring their binoculars and observe the diverse range of bird species while hiking through the preserve. Additionally, the preserve offers birdwatching workshops and guided birding hikes throughout the year to enhance the birdwatching experience for enthusiasts.

14. Seeks Thrills at Carowinds

Carowinds

Source: Unsplash

For both thrill-seekers and families, Carowinds is the ultimate destination! This 400-acre amusement park, situated on the border between North and South Carolina, boasts over 60 rides, shows, and attractions, making it a perfect adventure for visitors of all ages.

One of the highlights of Carowinds is the collection of roller coasters, including the famous Fury 325. Among the park's exhilarating coasters, the world's tallest and fastest "giga coaster" stands tall at 325 feet and reaches speeds of up to 95 miles per hour. Other noteworthy coasters include the Intimidator, an adrenaline-pumping ride inspired by NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt, and the Carolina Cyclone, a classic looping coaster that has been delighting visitors for over four decades.

15. Explore Charlotte Motor Speedway

Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the premier motorsports destinations in the world! Located just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, this iconic track is home to some of the most thrilling races in the NASCAR circuit. For car racing enthusiasts and NASCAR fans, it is among the top things to do in Charlotte.

The Bank of America ROVAL™ is one of the main attractions of Charlotte Motor Speedway. This unique 2.28-mile road course combines portions of the speedway's traditional oval track with a challenging infield section. This course is the site of the NASCAR Cup Series playoff race and is considered one of the series' most exciting and unpredictable tracks.

Along with the Bank of America ROVAL™, Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts a variety of other significant NASCAR events throughout the year, including the Coca-Cola 600, the NASCAR All-Star Race, and the Bank of America 500. Fans can also take part in pre-race activities, including driver autograph sessions, pit tours, and more.

16. Visit Lake Norman

Lake Norman

Source: Unsplash

Lake Norman is a beautiful lake located just north of Charlotte, North Carolina! Visiting this lake is one of the best things to do in Charlotte for anyone looking for outdoor recreation, scenic beauty, and relaxation.

Lake Norman, covering an expanse of over 50 square miles and boasting more than 500 miles of shoreline, is the largest artificial lake in North Carolina. The lake is a favored destination for water enthusiasts, with a range of activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, and other water sports available. Visitors can find numerous marinas and boat rental facilities situated around the lake.

Along with water-based activities, Lake Norman presents a variety of other outdoor recreational options. The lake is surrounded by several parks and nature preserves, including Lake Norman State Park and Jetton Park, which offer hiking trails, picnic areas, and other amenities.

For those looking for a more leisurely experience, Lake Norman also offers several scenic drives and viewpoints, including the Lake Norman Scenic Byway and the Cowans Ford Dam Overlook. Visitors can take in the stunning views of the lake and the surrounding countryside and even spot some of the lake's resident wildlife, including bald eagles and great blue herons.

Take a leisurely walk along the historic main streets, brimming with a delightful blend of art galleries, unique boutiques, and welcoming eateries.

17. Stop By The Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary

Wing Haven Gardens And Bird Sanctuary

Source: Flickr

If you want to escape the city's hustle and bustle and connect with nature or family attractions that everyone can enjoy, you must check out Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary. Wing Haven is a historic home and garden that was once the residence of Elizabeth and Edwin Clarkson, two avid birders, and gardeners who dedicated their lives to preserving the natural beauty of Charlotte. Currently, the property serves as a tranquil refuge and educational center accessible to the public.

The garden features a variety of plants and habitats, including a formal garden, a woodland garden, and a bird sanctuary. You can stroll through the various paths and trails, taking in the sights and sounds of the natural world.

Bonus: Located on the same street and within a five-minute walk, you can also discover the Elizabeth Lawrence House & Garden, an equally impressive and worthwhile destination.

18. Go For A Charlotte Liberty Walk

Charlotte Liberty Walk is one of the unique things to do in Charlotte and an inspiring outdoor exhibit that celebrates the city's history and patriotism. This self-guided tour is a necessary stop for those intrigued by American history and the heritage of freedom. The self-guided tour allows you to explore at your own pace and take in the city's history and culture. The walk is free and open to the public, providing an inclusive and captivating experience for all.

It features 15 stations along a half-mile route through the city, each showcasing a different aspect of Charlotte's role in American history. The stations include historical sites, statues, and markers that tell the stories of Charlotte's patriots, soldiers, and citizens who fought for liberty and independence.

19. Explore the night Scene

EpiCentre

Source: Flickr

One of the best things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina, at night is to explore its night scene. Charlotte has a vibrant and diverse nightlife scene that offers something for everyone. Whether you desire a relaxed evening with friends or a night out on the town, Queen City offers something for everyone.

One popular destination for nightlife in Charlotte is the EpiCentre, a multi-level entertainment complex located in the heart of downtown. The EpiCentre features a variety of bars, restaurants, and clubs, including rooftop venues with stunning views of the city skyline.

Charlotte has several neighborhoods with unique nightlife offerings for those looking for a more relaxed atmosphere. In Plaza Midwood, you'll find a mix of dive bars, craft breweries, and live music venues. In NoDa, the city's arts district, you'll find an eclectic mix of bars, galleries, and performance spaces.

Charlotte, North Carolina, is also home to several world-class performing arts venues, including the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and the Knight Theater, which offer a range of concerts, plays, and musicals throughout the year. It is advisable to conduct thorough research and book tickets in advance.

20. Discover Under The Sea at Sea Life Aquarium

Sea Life Aquarium

Source: Tripadvisor

Plunge into an enchanting underwater world at Sea Life Aquarium in Charlotte! With over 5,000 sea creatures and interactive exhibits, this destination is a must-visit for anyone fascinated by marine life. From stingrays to sharks, seahorses to sea turtles, you'll discover a world of enchantment and adventure. With interactive exhibits, educational programs, and unforgettable experiences, Sea Life Aquarium is the perfect destination for a family adventure or a solo escape into the ocean's depths.

21. Learn about Wildlife at Zootastic Park

Zootastic Park

Source: Flickr

Zootastic Park is a charming wildlife sanctuary and educational center located in Troutman, North Carolina, about 35 miles north of Downtown Charlotte. For those seeking to bask in the magnificence and magic of the animal kingdom, this park is an essential stop.

Zootastic Park houses an extensive collection of animals from across the globe, including lions, tigers, bears, zebras, and kangaroos. You can get up close and personal with these amazing creatures through guided tours, interactive exhibits, and hands-on encounters.

22. Catch a Live Game

Charlotte is a city with a thriving sports scene that offers something for every sports fan! Whether you're a die-hard fan or a casual observer, catching a sports game in Charlotte is an unforgettable experience.

Charlotte is the proud home of various professional sports teams, such as the Charlotte Hornets (NBA), Carolina Panthers (NFL), and Charlotte FC (MLS). These teams play in world-class facilities like the Spectrum Center, Bank of America Stadium, and the new Bank of America Stadium. In addition to professional sports,

Charlotte is also a hub for collegiate sports, with several universities and colleges located in the city. Sports enthusiasts can attend exhilarating games featuring renowned schools such as UNC Charlotte, Davidson College, and Queen's University.

Attending a sports game in Charlotte is about the action on the field and the lively and energetic atmosphere in and around the stadium. Fans can enjoy various pre-game and post-game activities, including tailgating parties, food and drink vendors, and fan zones with games and activities.

About the Author

Fiona is a veteran travel consultant, photographer and travel writer at planetrider.com. She has spent many years as a corporate travel consultant and decided to actually live the life rather than plan it for others!

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