Charlotte Travel Guides

Super useful & totally free Charlotte travel guides, written by experts who love Charlotte

Aerial view of the downtown and skyline of Queen City on a sunny day, Charlotte Mini Guide
The Queen City on a bright and sunny day

Why We Love Charlotte: Charlotte is a small city that combines the friendly, laid-back vibes of the South with all the fun attractions of a bigger metropolis. It’s seen incredible growth and change over the last decade. Today, Queen City is a vibrant cultural hub. It’s known for its major league sports teams, a rich arts scene, and impressive restaurants. Charlotte is located in the heart of North Carolina, making it a fantastic base for exploring all the state has to offer. It has something for everyone—visitors and locals alike. 

Best of Charlotte

Things to Do

The Hudson Hornet displayed inside at the NASCAR Hall of Fame
A Hudson Hornet on display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame (photo: Roman Korotkov / Shutterstock)

Charlotte has some seriously fun activities for all ages and interests. These interactive, educational, and entertaining attractions are sure to impress:

  • NASCAR Hall of Fame – Experience the history of NASCAR. This Uptown museum has interactive exhibits and iconic racing artifacts.
  • U.S. National Whitewater Center – This world-class recreation center is known for its whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and more. 
  • Carowinds – A family-friendly amusement park with over 60 rides and a water park! It puts on fun events for Halloween and Christmas.
  • Blumenthal Performing Arts Center – Uptown Charlotte’s main stage for Broadway shows, theater performances, concerts, and more.
  • Discovery Place Science – An interactive and educational kids’ museum for all things science, technology, and discovery.

👉 Explore all things to do in Charlotte.

🗺️ Where to Stay

Charlotte offers unique options for where to stay. These three areas are the most popular because each one offers a different atmosphere and experience:

  • Uptown Charlotte – The heart of Charlotte. Uptown is the best place to stay for popular attractions and events.
  • NoDa – Charlotte’s arts district. NoDa is perfect for first-time visitors who want a more local experience.
  • South End – Just south of Uptown, South End is a trendy area that’s catered toward foodies. The atmosphere is lively and fun.

👉 Read the complete guide on where to stay in Charlotte.

View of the people at the outdoor market in downtown North Davidson
Outdoor market in downtown NoDa (photo: nolichuckyjake / Shutterstock)

🛎️ Best Hotels

Exterior view of the The JW Marriott with a clear blue sky in the background
The JW Marriott in Uptown Charlotte (photo: CLS Digital Arts / Shutterstock)

The majority of hotels are located in Uptown Charlotte, but there are many accommodation options to choose from. Here are some top-rated hotels:

  • JW Marriott Charlotte – A newer hotel in Uptown Charlotte with great views, a rooftop bar, and tons of amenities.
  • The Ivey’s Hotel – A beautifully decorated and luxurious boutique hotel located in the heart of Uptown Charlotte.
  • Drury Inn & Suites Charlotte Arrowood – A family-friendly hotel that’s located 15-20 minutes south of Uptown Charlotte. It has family rooms and is close to Carowinds.

🍽️ Best Restaurants

View of meat and side dishes in Let’s Meat KBBQ
At Let’s Meat KBBQ

Charlotte has a range of cuisines and restaurants throughout the city. Here are some of my top picks:

  • 7th Street Public Market – An Uptown Charlotte food hall with restaurants, cafes, and shops, all with a focus on Charlotte-made things.
  • Optimist Hall – A fun and lively food hall with over a dozen vendors. Come here for diverse cuisines and popular North Carolina foods.
  • Let’s Meat KBBQ – A cool Korean BBQ restaurant where meat is cooked at the table. Its popular sister restaurant, Seoul Food Meat Company, is next door!
  • Haberdish – A NoDa restaurant that serves up elevated Southern comfort food. It’s known for its fried chicken!
  • Midwood Smokehouse – One of the best places to get Carolina barbecue in Charlotte. It serves other barbecue styles, too.  

🚗 Best Day Trips

Scenic view of the lush green landscape from the Crowders Mountain
View from Crowders Mountain
  • Crowders Mountain State Park – A nearby state park with 11 trails and a ridgeline that offers sprawling views of the Piedmont.
  • Lake Norman – North Carolina’s largest man-made lake just north of Charlotte. An ideal day trip for swimming and boating.
  • Asheville – A vibrant and artsy city located 2.5 hours west of Charlotte. Asheville is known for its beer and Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • Greensboro – A small city with family-friendly attractions and important historical sites. Greensboro is located 1.5 hours northeast of Charlotte.
  • Greenville, South Carolina – Greenville is a small city with a beautiful and vibrant downtown scene. It’s just across the South Carolina border. 

🏘️ Best Neighborhoods

A water tank tower near an industrial area with outdoor seating
Camp North End (photo: 26ShadesOfGreen / Shutterstock)
  • Uptown – Also known as “Center City,” Uptown Charlotte is where all the action is in terms of arts, sports, and museums. 
  • NoDa – An arts district with a charming “downtown” filled with local restaurants, shops, and colorful murals.
  • Plaza Midwood – Similar to NoDa, Plaza Midwood is a walkable neighborhood with great restaurants and local bars.
  • South End – Charlotte’s unofficial foodie neighborhood with vibrant cuisines from around the globe.
  • Camp North End – An industrial district that’s been transformed into an urban park for shopping, dining, art, events, and more.

🍸 Best Bars

A bar tender pouring cocktails drink in the glasses
Idlewild is one of the best Charlotte bars for creative cocktails
  • Merchant & Trade – A trendy rooftop lounge in Uptown Charlotte known for its craft cocktails and skyline views.
  • Barcelona Wine Bar – A Spanish restaurant and wine bar in South End with a great selection of wine, drinks, and tasty tapas.
  • Idlewild – This NoDa cocktail bar has a cozy atmosphere and no menu. Bartenders ask a few questions and make you a custom drink!
  • Sugar Lounge – A newer Charlotte lounge that serves up creative mocktails—perfect for those who want to go out, but not drink. 
  • Chasers Charlotte NoDa – An upbeat gay bar outside of NoDa that’s great for dancing and seeing drag shows.

🍰 Best Desserts

A plate of stacked colorful macarons
A visit to Charlotte isn’t complete without getting macarons from Amelie’s
  • Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe – You can’t leave Charlotte without stopping at this quirky cafe for its tasty macarons and other baked goods!
  • Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream – Jeni’s may be a chain, but its unique flavor combos make it worth visiting! There are 3 locations in Charlotte.
  • Reigning Doughnuts – A doughnut window in NoDa where you can get hot, classic doughnuts with fun toppings.
  • Two Scoops Creamery – One of Charlotte’s best ice cream shops serving up fresh, homemade ice cream in tons of flavors.
  • Villani’s Bakery – A New York-Italian-style bakery that makes from-scratch pastries, cakes, and other sweet treats.

🖼️ Best Museums

Exterior view of the Uptown Mint Museum with the huge buildings in the background
Uptown Mint Museum (photo: meunierd / Shutterstock)
  • Discovery Place Science – An educational kids’ museum. Here, kids can explore and learn about science and technology through hands-on exhibits.
  • Mint Museum – An art museum filled with contemporary and historical work by American artists and creators from around the world.
  • Bechtler Museum of Modern Art – A modern art museum that focuses on mid-century modernism and other modern art styles.
  • Harvey B. Gantt Center – A museum that celebrates and reflects on the history of the African diaspora through the art of all kinds.
  • Levine Museum of the New South – A history museum that shines a light on historical and modern-day issues of the South and the Piedmont region.

🌳 Best Parks

Aerial view of the waterpark surrounded by seating area and buildings in First Ward Park
First Ward Park
  • Freedom Park – The largest park in Charlotte. Freedom Park has a lake, nature trails, playgrounds, and even a kids’ museum!
  • First Ward Park – An urban park in Uptown Charlotte that has public art, interactive features, and open green space.
  • Romare Bearden Park – Another urban park in Uptown with statues, water features, and benches for relaxing.
  • Independence Park – A scenic and walkable neighborhood park. It has nice landscaping and sports complexes for baseball, soccer, and tennis.
  • Marshall Park – This small park has an amphitheater and a pond, and is ideal for snapping photos of Uptown Charlotte.

Charlotte Travel Advice

🗓️ Best Time to Visit

Fall and summer are the best times to visit Charlotte. Temperatures are pretty mild throughout the year but the summers are quite hot.

  • 🍂 Fall – Fall is arguably the best time to visit Charlotte because of its vibrant foliage, autumn activities, and mild weather.
  • 🌞 Summer – Summers are hot and humid, but the city is busy. There are more events and extended attraction hours this time of year. 
  • ❄️ Winter – Winter in Charlotte is cold, but mild. Temperatures rarely fall below the 30s. 
  • 🌼 Spring – Spring can be pretty in Charlotte, but it’s also notorious for being a rough allergy season. Pollen is no joke in the Piedmont.

🚌 Getting Around

Driving is the easiest way to get around Charlotte. However, the city has a Light Rail system and many areas are suitable for walking, biking, and scootering. 

  • 🚶‍♀️ Walking – Walkable parts of Charlotte include Uptown, NoDa, Plaza Midwood, and South End. 
  • 🚗 Driving – You don’t necessarily need a car to get around, but it does make reaching certain attractions easier.
  • 🚇 Public Transit – Charlotte has a Light Rail system with one main line that connects Uptown to north and south Charlotte.
  • 📲 Ride Share – Ride shares like Uber and Lyft are widely available throughout the city and metro area.
  • 🚴‍♀️ Biking – Charlotte isn’t the most bike-friendly city, but there are greenways and paths for biking.
  • 🛴 Scooters – Riding scooters around Charlotte is quite popular. You can rent them locally or through apps.

👉 Tips & Things to Know

  • 🚆 – Charlotte has a Light Rail – Charlotte’s Lynx Light Rail has one main Blue Line. It runs from UNC Charlotte in the north, through Uptown, and down to South Boulevard. 
  • 🚧 – Construction is common – Charlotte is a growing city. Construction on roads and buildings is prevalent in Uptown and beyond.
  • 🚗 – Traffic can be crazy – The combination of frequent construction and typical rush hour traffic can make the highways really backed up—especially Highway 77. 
  • 🏘️ – Venture outside of Uptown – Head outside of Uptown for a more local Charlotte feel. NoDa, Plaza Midwood, and South End are great places to start.
  • 🌦️ – Weather can be unpredictable – Overall, temperatures are pretty mild (apart from summer). However, weather can vary and often change quickly.

🧳 What to Pack

  • 👟 – Sneakers – Keep your feet comfy with a good pair of sneakers whether you’re at a museum, a sports game, or just walking the city. 
  • ☀️ – Sunscreen – The sun can really beat down on you in the summertime. Protect yourself and prevent sunburn with some sunscreen. 
  • 🤧 – Allergy Medicine – If you visit in the spring, pack your allergy medicine. Pollen can be heavy and will coat everything outside.
  • ☂️ – Umbrella – North Carolina’s infamous for its short summer rainstorms. Don’t let it ruin your fun. Bring an umbrella just to be safe. 
  • 🧊 – Water Bottle – You’ll want to have water, especially when it’s hot and muggy in the summertime. Bring an insulated water bottle to stay hydrated and cool.

👉 Read our North Carolina packing list.

🤓 Facts & Info

  • Census Population (2021) – 879,709 (city), 2,660,329 (metro area)
  • Time Zone – Eastern Time (UTC -4 during daylight savings)
  • Area Codes – 704, 980
  • Airports – Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
  • Nickname – The “Queen City”
  • Demonynm – Charlotteans
  • StateNorth Carolina
  • CountryUnited States of America

💵 Costs & Budgeting

  • 3 Star Hotel Room – $125-$225/night
  • 1 Bedroom Apartment Rental – $75-$150/night
  • Rental Car – $50+/day
  • Public Transit Ticket – $2.20 for one way, $6.60 for one-day unlimited
  • Ride Share from Downtown to Airport – $20+
  • Take Out Meal for Two – $30-$50
  • Sit Down Dinner for Two – $50-$75
  • Draft Beer – $6-$8

FAQs About Visiting Charlotte

Is Charlotte safe for tourists?

Charlotte is safe for tourists. The city does have a crime rate that’s a little higher than average, but it’s nothing to be scared of. Charlotte is safe to visit as long as you follow basic city safety precautions.

What is the best month to visit Charlotte, NC?

October is the best month to visit Charlotte, NC. Temperatures start to cool down but the weather can still be warm.

What is Charlotte, NC best known for?

Charlotte, NC is best known for its NASCAR attractions, as well as major league sports teams like the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Hornets.

Is Charlotte, NC a good place to live in?

Charlotte, NC is a good place to live in. The city has a lot to offer people of all ages and the cost of living is lower than the national average.

Is Charlotte a walkable city?

Charlotte is walkable in some neighborhoods. This includes Uptown, NoDa, Plaza Midwood, and parts of South End.

Meet Our North Carolina Travel Expert

Lea Rose, Travel Lemming Writer

Lea Rose Allbaugh

Lea Rose Allbaugh is a freelance writer from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. She’s currently based in Chicago (except for when she’s on a traveling stint), and is obsessed with all things travel. She caught the travel bug back in 2015 during an exchange to the Netherlands, and has been traveling ever since. Through her writing, she hopes to inspire others to get up and go experience the world. Aside from travel, she loves reading, writing, and anything creative. She writes on her website Written World.

👉 Read Lea Rose’s Article

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