I spent four years living in and exploring all the best things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In this guide, I’ll share all the popular attractions in Charlotte, but I will also reveal some personal favorite things and local tips that you won’t find in other guides.
With family-friendly activities, great restaurants, shopping, arts, culture, and sports — there’s something to do in Charlotte for everyone!
Table of Contents
- 29 Best Things to Do in Charlotte
- NASCAR Hall of Fame
- Blumenthal Performing Arts Center
- Freedom Park
- U.S. National Whitewater Center
- Discovery Place Science
- Levine Museum of the New South
- Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
- Billy Graham Library
- Mint Museum
- Knight Theatre
- Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
- Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture
- Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe
- The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery & Biergarten
- 7th Street Public Market
- Sleepy Poet Antique Mall
- Plaza Midwood
- Optimist Hall
- Camp North End
- Lake Norman
- Crowders Mountain State Park
- Catch a Sports Game
- Go shopping
- Little Sugar Creek Greenway
- SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord
- McDowell Nature Preserve and Center
- Carolina Renaissance Festival
- FAQ About What to Do in Charlotte
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29 Best Things to Do in Charlotte
NASCAR Hall of Fame
Journey through racing history at this interactive NASCAR museum.
If you’re a racing enthusiast, you’re in luck. Charlotte is known as the home of NASCAR, and the impressive Hall of Fame museum is a must-stop.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame, situated in the Uptown area of Charlotte, exhibits racing artifacts from throughout NASCAR history. Displays include championship cars, trophies, race suits, and tributes to NASCAR drivers. The museum also has interactive exhibits like racing simulators and the High Octane theater. The Chevrolet and Glory Road exhibits are especially popular.
The Charlotte Motor Speedway, which is where races take place, is located about a half hour northeast of Concord. Hendricks Motorsports Museum is also near here.
Blumenthal Performing Arts Center
Catch broadway shows, concerts, and other performances at this popular Charlotte theater.
Catching a show at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center is definitely one of the best things to do in Charlotte. Here, there are shows and performances for audiences of all ages.
You’ll find a lineup with everything from Broadway plays and musicals, to dance performances, to concerts and comedians. The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center is a world-class performance theater right in the heart of North Carolina.
The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center has three main stages housed under one roof: the Belk Theater, Booth Playhouse, and Stage Door Theater.
Take a walk through Charlotte’s expansive city park, perfect for families.
Visiting Freedom Park is one of the most budget-friendly and enjoyable things to do in Charlotte, especially if you have kids.
This 98-acre park is located just south of Uptown. It’s made up of a 7-acre lake, sports facilities, a playground, gardens, and paved nature trails. It’s the perfect place for visitors of all ages to play, relax, and soak up some nature amidst the city.
Freedom Park is also home to a Charlotte nature museum: Discovery Place Nature. This kids’ museum has interactive exhibits and live animal encounters. And at just $8, Discovery Place Nature is one of the more affordable ticketed Charlotte museums.
Scream, laugh, and enjoy the thrills of this Southeastern amusement park.
Carowinds is an amusement park located 20 minutes south of Uptown on the North and South Carolina border.
Carowinds is a great, family-friendly park to visit if you like rollercoasters, rides, and theme park experiences. There are over 60 rides in total, with options for all ages, from twisting roller coasters to gentle rides for kids. There’s even a waterpark!
Some of the best and biggest roller coaster rides at Carowinds include Fury 325, the Intimidator, and Afterburn.
🎃 Pro Tip: If you’re a big fan of Halloween, visit Carowinds between mid-September through October. The park transforms into “Scarowinds” and goes all out. There are Halloween-themed experiences and actors dressed as themed characters roam the park to scare you.
U.S. National Whitewater Center
Get your outdoor adventure on at this world class recreation center.
Charlotte may be a city, but you can still find a ton of outdoor attractions in Charlotte!
The U.S. National Whitewater Center is home to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. It’s the place to be for all things rafting, from lowkey water activities to intense rafting and kayaking on class IV rapids.
The U.S. National Whitewater Center also has activities like ropes courses, zip-lining, rock climbing, and trails for mountain biking. It’s a family-friendly destination that’s suitable for all ages and abilities. Located just a half hour west of Uptown, it’s one of the most interactive outdoorsy things to do in Charlotte.
Discovery Place Science
Let your kids explore, learn, and tinker away at this hands-on STEM museum.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (704) 372-6261 | Discovery Place Science Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 4:30 pm Monday – Friday, 10:30 am – 4:30 pm Saturday, Sunday | Entrance: $23-$29 adults, $20-$26 seniors, $18-24 children
Discovery Place Science is a hands-on science and technology museum located in Uptown Charlotte. For families interested in all things STEM, add this museum to your Charlotte bucket list.
Discovery Place Science is filled with interactive exhibits and labs that allow kids to explore and learn on their own terms. Notable exhibits include an indoor rainforest, hands-on animal activities, and the Explore More Future lab. This museum also has an IMAX dome theater!
Levine Museum of the New South
Learn about post-Civil War Southern history, and deepen your understanding of contemporary issues.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (704) 333-1887 | Levine Museum of the New South Website | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 11 am – 9 pm Wednesday, 10 am – 5 pm Saturday, 12 pm – 5 pm Sunday, Closed Mondays | Entrance: Free
Levine Museum of the New South is a community-oriented museum with a focus on Southern contemporary issues. It shines a light on difficult historical events. It also creates discussions around things like race and empathy in the Charlotte community and beyond.
Through permanent and rotating exhibits and educational programs, this Charlotte museum tells the story of how history shaped the city and piedmont region. This includes the transformation of cotton fields to skyscrapers and events like the Greensboro sit-ins. This family friendly museum is located in the heart of Uptown Charlotte.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
Reconnect with nature at this scenic and tranquil botanical garden.
Just 30-45 minutes southwest of Charlotte’s center is Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. This nearly 400-acre garden sits close to the South Carolina border along the shores of Lake Wylie. It features lush gardens, a tropical plant and orchid conservatory, garden trails, a dozen fountains, and more.
This garden is the perfect escape from the city if you’re in need of some peace and tranquility. It’s scenic, quiet, and filled with plants native to the Carolinas.
Billy Graham Library
Tour the library, home, and dairy farm of religious leader, Billy Graham.
You may be interested in visiting the Billy Graham Library if you identify with Christian and evangelical beliefs. The library is located just 15 minutes southwest of Uptown. This unique Charlotte attraction is the former homeplace and now library of evangelist, Billy Graham.
At the Billy Graham Library, you can tour a barn building with a 40-foot glass cross, explore multimedia exhibits, and see Graham family artifacts up close. You can also stroll the garden grounds and grab an ice cream at the dairy barn.
Visit North Carolina’s first art museum and enjoy an expansive collection of historical and contemporary works.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (704) 337-2000 | Mint Museum Website | Hours: 11 am – 6 pm Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, 11 am – 9 pm Wednesday, Friday, 1 pm – 5 pm Sunday, Closed Monday | Entrance: $15 adults, $10 seniors & students, Free for ages 5-17
In 1936, Charlotte’s Mint Museum opened and became North Carolina’s first art museum. Today, it continues to be a center for diverse contemporary art, craft, and design. Visiting is one of the best things to do in Charlotte!
There are countless galleries of permanent and rotating exhibits here. Works include American, African, and European art. Additionally, there are Native American crafts and contemporary designs of today.
There are two museum locations. Mint Museum Uptown has five stories that feature more contemporary work. This location is also home to the Lewis Family Gallery—a hands-on art space for kids. Mint Museum Randolph has more ancient and historical works, including ceramics. It’s located just southeast of Uptown.
Enjoy live music, dance, and more, at this mainstage Charlotte theater.
In addition to the three stages at the Blumenthal, the Knight Theatre is one of the main performance stages in Uptown Charlotte.
Here, dance and music are the main events. Local performances by Charlotte Ballet and the Charlotte Symphony are regular, in addition to visiting artists. Seeing shows here (especially Charlotte Ballet) is one of my personal favorite things to do in Charlotte.
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
Ponder mid-century modernism and other modern artworks.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (704) 353-9209 | Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Monday, Wednesday – Saturday, 12 pm – 5 pm Sunday, Closed Tuesday | Entrance: $9 adults, $7 seniors, $5 for ages 11-18, Free for under 18
Upon reaching the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Uptown, you’ll be greeted with a shimmering and reflective statue of a firebird. This sculpture is just a taste of all the interesting and thought-provoking artwork that’s inside this modern art museum.
Expect to see works by artists like Pablo Picasso, Jean Tinguely, Andy Warhol, Joan Miró, and others. Mid-century modernism and other modern styles are the main focus here.
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture
A contemporary museum celebrating and displaying works from the African diaspora.
The Harvey B. Gantt Center is an epicenter for contemporary African American art in the Charlotte community and beyond. This museum celebrates and displays artwork that reflects the African diaspora. This includes visual art, music, dance, literature, and more.
The permanent collection of the Harvey B. Gantt Museum is the John and Vivian Hewitt Collection, with 58 works of African American art. This family-friendly museum in Uptown also features rotating exhibits, so there’s always something new to see.
Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe
A colorful and eclectic Charlotte bakery famous for its macarons and pastries.
A visit to Charlotte just isn’t complete without a stop at Amelie’s. This eclectic French bakery is a Charlotte institution and one of the most famous things to do in Charlotte.
Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe has three locations in Charlotte: NoDa, Park Road, and Carmel Commons.
Amelie’s is famous for its delicious pastries, baked goods, and drinks. But the macarons are an all-around favorite. I personally love their lavender lemon macarons and seasonal tarts. Amelie’s is super family-friendly and it’s a great place to enjoy some treats, relax, or even work.
The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery & Biergarten
Enjoy German beer and food, and “prost!” to a good time.
Charlotte is named after German-born Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. However, this homage to Queen Charlotte isn’t the only German thing about this city.
The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery & Biergarten is a Charlotte-born brewery. It’s known for its traditional, yet premium-quality German beer. They also serve German fare like pretzels and sausages.
OMB is family-friendly and located in southwest Charlotte. It has an open, airy space and lots of patio seating.
👉 Love Beer? Check out this original Charlotte brewery tour.
7th Street Public Market
Taste food from multiple local vendors right in Uptown Charlotte.
If you’re in Uptown and don’t know where to eat, head to 7th Street Public Market! This friendly, community-oriented food hall has a number of vendors to choose from. This includes options like pizza, dumplings, sandwiches, and more. 7th Street Public Market also has a coffee shop, wine shop, and retail shop with products by Charlotte-makers.
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Sleepy Poet Antique Mall
Sift through shelves and booths to find hidden antique treasures.
Located in South Charlotte, is Sleepy Poet Antique Mall. This antique mall is an absolute must for anyone who’s interested in vintage items and antique furniture. The space is massive, and there are tons of shelves and booths to wander through. You can easily spend an afternoon exploring this antique mall, and there are so many unique gems to find.
Experience a more local side of Charlotte in this quirky, artsy neighborhood.
NoDa is Charlotte’s arts district, and one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. It’s located 10-15 minutes northwest of Uptown on North Davidson Street, hence the name “NoDa.” Spending an afternoon here is one of my favorite things to do in Charlotte.
This neighborhood is known for its local, artsy vibe. You’ll find tons of colorful murals and unique small businesses and restaurants. Some personal favorite spots include Pura Vida, Cabo Fish Taco, and Smelly Cat Cafe. NoDa also has frequent outdoor markets.
Enjoy a diverse foodie scene and unique shops in this walkable neighborhood.
Plaza Midwood is another great neighborhood worth visiting in Charlotte. It’s just south of NoDa and similarly, has a walkable main street with shops and restaurants.
Some of the businesses you’ll find here include vintage shops, dive bars, and tons of top local restaurants. Some of my favorite spots include Cilantro Noodle, Common Market, and Midwood Smokehouse. There’s a real laid-back, low-key, and trendy vibe in this neighborhood, and it’s also one of the best places to stay in Charlotte.
A lively food hall filled with mouth-watering eats by local vendors.
Optimist Hall is Charlotte’s largest food hall. If you’re feeding a large group or want to go somewhere you can eat and hang out, Optimist Hall is a lively place to be.
This food hall is outfitted with more than a dozen local food vendors. You can find everything from sushi to barbecue, to Indian street food and so much more. Coffee shops, cocktail bars, and places for dessert can be found here, too. Optimist Hall even has places for games and events, and it’s located right by the light rail!
Camp North End
A former industrial plant turned thriving creative hub.
Camp North End was once an old Ford assembly plant. But since it reopened to the public in 2017, it’s become and continues to grow as a repurposed urban park. It’s filled with local restaurants, shops and events, and workspaces. Camp North End is a canvas for public art.
Here, you can wander through gardens and natural landscapes. You can also take classes, and attend events like art exhibitions, farmer’s markets, and more. Overall, Camp North End is a unique, family-friendly place to spend an afternoon in Charlotte.
Spend a sun-soaked summer day on Lake Norman, just outside of Charlotte.
Lake Norman is the largest man-made lake in North Carolina. It’s situated just north of Charlotte and makes for the perfect summer day trip outside the city. It’s a relatively warm lake, so it’s great for swimming, boating, and other water sports.
Lake Norman State Park is one of the best places to go for easy beach access. It also has hiking trails, campgrounds, and other outdoor activities.
🛎️ Need a Place to Stay? Check out Lake Norman vacation rentals.
Crowders Mountain State Park
Take a city refresh at this nearby state park, with eleven trails and sweeping views.
Crowders Mountain State Park is about one hour west of Charlotte. This state park has two mountain peaks that offer sprawling views of the surrounding piedmont. Numerous hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult can be found here. The Ridgeline Trail is a popular one and goes through two states.
This state park has spots for rock climbing, fishing, paddling, and more. It’s also a great nature area for birdwatching.
Catch a Sports Game
Get tickets to see major and minor league teams play right in the Queen City.
For a small city, Charlotte’s big on sports. Two major league teams call this city home. The NFL’s Carolina Panthers play at Bank of America Stadium, and the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets play at Spectrum Center. The Charlotte Knights are another popular team that plays baseball at Truist Field (also known as BB&T Ballpark) in Uptown.
No matter what sport you’re into, there’s a good chance you can catch a game while you’re in town!
Shop til you drop at one of Charlotte’s major shopping malls.
With a number of cool local businesses and a few major malls and stores, Charlotte is the perfect place to go on a shopping spree. If you’re into bigger name brands and luxury, the SouthPark Mall is the place to go. If you want to shop your trendy and staple brands, Premium Outlets and Concord Mills are where you should shop. There’s also an IKEA in northeast Charlotte.
Little Sugar Creek Greenway
Enjoy a peaceful stroll along Charlotte’s growing and expansive greenway.
Currently, Little Sugar Creek Greenway is a nearly 10-mile urban trail. It meanders along Little Sugar Creek and through nature areas, providing a refreshing green space to walk, run, and bike. It connects major Charlotte places like Freedom Park, Central Piedmont Community College, and Park Road Shopping Center.
When it’s complete, 19 miles of trail will extend from North Charlotte, through the main city, and down to the Carolina state border.
SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord
Let your kids play, explore, and discover everything-sea-life at this nearby aquarium.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (855) 450-0512 | SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Website | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Monday – Thursday, 10 am – 5 pm Friday, 10 am – 6 pm Saturday, 12 pm – 5 pm Sunday | Entrance: $23 adults, $20 children | 👉 Sea Life Charlotte Concord Admission Ticket
Located inside Concord Mills Mall just north of Charlotte is the SEA LIFE aquarium. This aquarium features 10 interactive zones and is the only ocean tunnel in North Carolina. You can expect to see sea creatures like sharks, turtles, stingrays, and thousands of fish.
If you have kids, this is an ideal Charlotte attraction for families. There are exhibits for the kids to learn about sea life in creative and interactive ways. They can also get up close and personal with animals. And since it’s located in the mall, there’s a little something for everyone nearby.
McDowell Nature Preserve and Center
A peaceful, undeveloped nature area with paved trails for walking.
Head to McDowell Nature Preserve if you’re looking to get away from the chaos of the city. This largely undeveloped park sits along the tranquil waters of Lake Wylie close to the South Carolina border. It has over a thousand acres filled with easy nature trails and it’s great for families and dog owners.
The McDowell Nature Center is also located here. It has educational exhibits and programs, as well as live animals and a play area, making it a great thing to do in Charlotte with children.
Carolina Renaissance Festival
Transport yourself back to medieval times with games, re-enactments, and more!
If you plan on visiting Charlotte in the fall, consider visiting the Carolina Renaissance Festival! This annual event will transport you into a medieval world of colorful characters, castles, and a whole lotta turkey legs.
The Carolina Renaissance Festival is a family-friendly affair. You can expect re-enactments and shows, as well as food, drinks, and arts and crafts. Dressing up is not required, but definitely encouraged. Overall, it’s a fun and unique Charlotte attraction that’s sure to be memorable.
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FAQ About What to Do in Charlotte
What are the most popular things to do in Charlotte?
What is the difference between Uptown and downtown Charlotte?
There is no difference between Uptown and downtown Charlotte – they are the same place. Locals simply refer to the downtown Charlotte area as “Uptown.” So, when visiting, be sure to say “Uptown Charlotte!”
I hope you enjoyed this guide to the best things to do in Charlotte! Next up, see my guide to the best things to do in North Carolina!
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