Looking for all the best attractions in the Queen City? Our guide to all the best things to do in Charlotte is all you need!
Full of history, Charlotte, North Carolina, was nicknamed the “Queen City” in honor of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the queen consort of British King George III during the city’s founding.
Although it was also the site of the first gold rush that began in 1799, the city of Charlotte started the Carolina Gold Rush after the nation’s first gold nugget was discovered by a 12-year-old boy.
And though this impressive city is home to plenty of notable history, it’s also noted for quite a few other things, like being home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, the U.S. National Whitewater Center, and much more.
As the darling of the South, Charlotte entices many to travel or live in close-knit communities where the cost of living is low, the weather is frequently beautiful, the outdoors are readily accessible, and the food scene is growing more impressive by the day.
We’ve created this itinerary of the best things to do in Charlotte, NC – so you don’t have to waste time, money, or energy doing it. Instead, you should start packing your bags and rounding the crew together for a vacation of a lifetime in Charlotte, North Carolina!
The Best Things to Do in Charlotte, North Carolina
The best things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina are waiting below to be explored.
From the high-tech NASCAR Hall Of Fame to the Levine Center for the arts and other attractions downtown, Charlotte offers plenty of opportunity for excitement and adventure!
READ NEXT: Planning to explore more of North Carolina? Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best things to do in Asheville.
1) Visit The Billy Graham Library
Dedicated to the religious leader Billy Graham, the Billy Graham Library is an extensive library and original home filled with artifacts.
Initially adamant against a library bearing his name, it wasn’t until the concept of the library was brought to Billy Graham that he gave the go-ahead to its creation.
The vision for the library was explained as “An ongoing crusade” meant to continue for generations to come.
Initially, Graham refused the idea of the library bearing his name because Graham felt that it would detract from the message he’d been preaching for over 60 years. One that points to Christ as the only way to God.
Presented as an ongoing ministry for others to have an opportunity to come to Christ, the Billy Graham Library was established and styled after Graham’s upbringing on a dairy farm. Each tour includes a multimedia presentation that lays a foundation for the exhibits guests interact with.
2) Getaway To Lake Norman
Created in 1959, Lake Norman is the largest man-made body of freshwater in the state of North Carolina and one of many top Charlotte activities.
A popular getaway at all times of the year, at Lake Norman, locals and tourists alike can stroll down historic main streets filled with a refreshing mix of art galleries, boutique shops, and accommodating restaurants.
For those looking to spend some time outdoors, there are plenty of recreational opportunities available at Lake Norman.
From boating and fishing to biking and hiking, Lake Norman is frequently visited throughout the year for its impressive scenery and quaint atmosphere.
For those who love the outdoors, this is one of the best things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Lake Norman is a beautiful spot in North Carolina.
3) Conduct Experiments At The Discovery Place Nature
Formerly known as Charlotte Nature Museum, Discovery Place Nature presents interactive nature exhibits that include live species, like native North Carolina animals.
A hub for science exploration and education, Discovery Place includes four distinct museums in the Carolinas.
Discovery Place Nature is an excellent attraction for the whole family where visitors of all ages can enjoy interactive exhibits and learn intriguing concepts.
Conduct lab experiments, study ecosystems at the rainforest exhibit and aquarium, watch an educational film on the largest IMAX screen in the Carolinas, and more!
- Address: 301 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202, United States
- Hours: 9:30 am – 4:30 pm (Opens at 10:30 am on Saturdays and Sundays)
- Cost: $23-$24 online or $28-$29 at the door
4) Take On The NASCAR Hall Of Fame
Located in Uptown Charlotte, the NASCAR Hall Of Fame honors the heritage and history of NASCAR.
An interactive entertainment attraction, this high-tech venue prevails in a privately developed 19-story office tower, including a 40,000-square-foot ballroom.
Opened in 2010, the Hall Of Fame features a 278-person state-of-the-art theater, an attached parking garage, artifacts, a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, hands-on exhibits, a NASCAR Productions-operated broadcast studio, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame Gear Shop.
Honoring NASCAR icons, visitors can witness how drivers, crew members, team owners, broadcasters, and more are paid tribute to. There are also racing simulators to check out.
- Address: 400 E M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28202, United States
- Hours: 10 am – 5 pm (Closed Tuesdays)
- Cost: $27
READ NEXT: Check out our list of the best things to do in Nashville, Tennessee!
5) Explore The Legacy Of The Charlotte Motor Speedway
A motorsport complex that hosts NASCAR racing, the Charlotte Motor Speedway is also renowned for hosting the Bank of America Roval 400 and the prestigious Coca-Cola 600.
Created in 1960, the 1.5-mile superspeedway hosted the first World 600 and became the first modern superspeedway to host night racing.
Officially known as America’s Home for Racing, this iconic trailblazer in sports, fan amenities, and entertainment has continued to show its dedication to its sport and its fans over the past 60 years of its legacy.
The Charlotte Motor Speedway museum is open Monday-Friday for visitors to explore the history of the 14-time NASCAR Cup Series championship-winning organization.
- Address: 5555 Concord Pkwy S, Concord, NC 28027, United States
- Hours/Cost: Check the website for more info about speedway tours
There are so many fun things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina!
6) Catch A Thrill At Carolina Harbor Water Park
Carolina Harbor Water Park is a waterpark located at Carowinds amusement park. Included in the admission to Carowinds, visitors can get the best of both worlds at the two parks.
Carolina Harbor is a thrillful, family-friendly attraction to take on in Charlotte, North Carolina, featuring giant water slides, wave pools, a three-acre kids’ area, and other large play structures.
Offering a range of rides from mild to wild, this water park has various options to explore thrill-wise. For example, the Boogie Board Racer is the longest mat-racing slide in the Southeast, where riders can settle down for a high-thrill slide of their life!
- Address: 14523 Carowinds Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28273, United States
- Hours: 11 am – 5 pm (Closes at 6 pm on Fridays and Saturdays)
- Cost: Tickets start at $39.99 for daily admission
7) Buy Tickets To A Show At The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center
Named in honor of the people of North Carolina, the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center houses three performance spaces. They include the Booth Playhouse, Belk Theater, and Stage Door Theater.
Designed by renowned architect Cesar Pelli, the center was designed to house these three major performance spaces to present the largest Broadway season in the Carolinas, with more than 18 weeks of Broadway shows and other unique festivals hosted annually.
Inspiring kids and shaping the future of the arts, the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center has won ten Tony Awards, infused more than $50 million into the local economy, and helped shape each Broadway season in New York through its investments in new musicals.
So stop in for a show at this leading national performing arts center for an unforgettable time!
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8) Grasp Onto The Arts At The Mint Museum
North Carolina’s first art museum, the Mint Museum, holds one of the largest collections in the Southeastern United States.
The museum has two dynamic locations, Mint Museum Uptown and Mint Museum Randolph. Both are rated highly by professionals, though each site offers its unique atmosphere.
Mint Museum Randolph was the first art museum opened in North Carolina. Surrounded by a beautiful park setting, the intimate galleries offer a chance for visitors to peer at the art of ancient Americans.
In addition, the reference library has over 18,000 volumes of resources, and visitors can sit down for a lecture or performance at the inclusive theater to learn more about art and history!
At the Mint Museum Uptown, an internationally renowned craft and design collection is housed in addition to a celebrated collection of contemporary art.
This 145,000-square-foot five-story facility includes a restaurant, contemporary art studios, the 240-seat James B. Duke Auditorium, the Lewis Family Gallery, and many more visitor amenities to explore.
Check the website for addresses and hours for the two different locations.
Outside views of the Mint Museum Uptown
9) Select An Outdoor Activity To Try At The U.S. National Whitewater Center
U.S. National Whitewater Center is a viral outdoor recreation ground and outdoor lifestyle brand that invites people from all over the world to participate in rock climbing, rappelling, whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and more.
Whitewater’s mission is to create an accessible space for others to access a lifestyle of lowering barriers and sharing memories outside.
The 1,300-acre outdoor center offers the best recreational activities in the southeastern United States paired with equipment, instruction, accommodations, guiding services, and hospitality services.
And for those with a competitive streak, Whitewater Center hosts numerous events, competitions, and festivals throughout the year to partake in unforgettable memories!
- Address: 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy, Charlotte, NC 28214, United States
- Hours: Open 24/7
10) Tour Downtown Charlotte
Downtown Charlotte, commonly known as Uptown Charlotte, is full of exciting attractions to explore.
Blending traditional industry with creativity and innovation, you can enjoy live music, cocktail bars, tempting restaurants, and rooftop patios. See a show at the Knight Theater or head to the Children’s Theatre for family-friendly fun!
Downtown is also full of food trucks where you can get delicious and cheap meals from local food vendors. There is even a website dedicated solely to Charlotte’s food trucks so you can find the best ones. Tin Kitchen food trucks is a local favorite.
Hit up trending landmarks like the Queen Charlotte sculpture, the Four Corners Statue, and the Firebird installation. Then, take on museums like the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and Mint Museum, or stop for some recuperative shopping at Latta Arcade.
Want to get a taste of the city with an informative local? Join this historic uptown segway tour to discover well-kept gems of Charlotte’s historical past.
If you and the crew want to take on Charlotte’s nightlife, participate in this three-hour brewery crawl of Charlotte’s top three microbreweries—first beer is on the house!
Cozy firepits at a downtown Charlotte brewery
11) Step Back In Time At The Charlotte Museum Of History
The Charlotte Museum Of History preserves and spreads knowledge on Charlotte’s history on an eight-acre campus filled with history.
The historic grounds step back in time to the Revolutionary era. The Alexander Rock house remains the last standing home of a framer of North Carolina’s first Bill of Rights and Constitution.
This building’s construction was completed in 1774. As Charlotte’s last remaining structure of Revolutionary history, it is a testament to ingenuity, craftsmanship, and a reminder of the labor of enslaved people.
Featuring six galleries, which include permanent and rotating exhibits, visitors can take the chance to learn about historical figures and artifacts that helped shape the region and tour the historic grounds.
Learning about the local history here is one of the best things to do in Charlotte!
- Address: 3500 Shamrock Dr, Charlotte, NC 28215, United States
- Hours: 11 am – 5 pm, Closed Sundays and Mondays
- Cost: $10
12) Fly Through The Sky At The Carolinas Aviation Museum
Located on the grounds of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the Carolinas Aviation Museum is one of only a few aviation museums established on the grounds of an airport.
An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the aviation museum was founded in 1992 by the commander of the Carolinas Wing of the Confederate Air Force and aviation enthusiast Floyd Swinton Wilson and his wife, Lois.
Boasting the iconic award-winning exhibition, “Miracle on the Hudson,” the Carolinas Aviation Museum holds artifacts, aircraft, and stories of heroism that inspire visitors to pursue their dreams.
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13) Thrift Your Heart Out At Sleepy Poet Antique Mall
Sleepy Poet Antique Mall’s tagline, “No rhyme or reason, just cool stuff,” can’t possibly describe it any better!
A dreamy antique shop that has everything from antique furniture to vintage clothing outfitters, this Antique Mall is every thrifters dream destination. It is filled with many items ranging from big to small, so it may take a keen eye or multiple visits to grasp all the treasures homed inside this mall.
However, this 55,000-square-foot place leaves room for plenty of adventure and opportunity, so visit this award-winning antique mall during your stay in Charlotte, North Carolina!
- Address: 6424 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28217, United States
- Hours: 11 am – 6 pm Mon-Thurs, 11 am – 7 pm Fri/Sat, 12 pm – 6 pm Sunday
14) Take On A Hike At Crowders Mountain State Park
Spreading across 5,217 acres, Crowders Mountain State Park homes two peaks, The Pinnacle and the peaks of Crowders Mountain.
Offering its visitors stunning views, many visit this state park for its eleven trails that range in difficulty and impressive towering cliffs. On the Ridgeline Trail, hikers can travel through two states.
Bird watchers can take in various species of songbirds and birds of prey at Crowders Mountain State Park. There’s also a nine-acre lake that’s available for canoeing and fishing, and rock climbing is also popular here.
Either way, Crowders Mountain State Park hosts plenty of opportunities to bask in the great outdoors when visiting Charlotte.
Crowders Mountain State Park has amazing rock climbing!
15) Explore The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture
Previously known as the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture was named after the city’s first African-American mayor and first African-American student at Clemson University, Harvey Gantt.
An epicenter for the arts, including theater, music, and dance, the center celebrates the contributions of African-Americans and Africans to American culture.
Using visual art, arts education programs, literature, and community outreach, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture continues to inspire by preserving, celebrating, and presenting the excellence of people of African descent.
- Address: 551 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202, United States
- Hours: 12 pm – 6 pm, Opens at 10 am on Saturdays and closed Mondays
- Cost: Free
16) Stroll Down Little Sugar Creek Greenway
Connecting popular amenities like the Charlotte Nature Museum, Freedom Park, the Metropolitan shopping area, and other amenities, Little Sugar Creek Greenway is the community’s pride.
The greenway extends almost four miles and features a stream restoration made through public commitment and collaborative efforts. The paved trails are easily accessible from dawn to dusk and are constantly filled with bikers, runners, and walkers.
For nature enthusiasts visiting Little Sugar Creek Greenway is a must, especially since it connects to Freedom Park and is one of the most beloved Charlotte landmarks.
17) Visit the Wing Haven Gardens
For nature lovers, visiting the Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary is one of the best things to do in Charlotte.
This relaxing location is where locals and tourists alike come to find some peace and quiet surrounded by greenery and wildlife.
It has three public gardens as well as a bird sanctuary where local birds are protected. Wing Haven Gardens also has yoga classes, tours, and events. It’s one of the best family attractions as well, as young kids can enjoy the serenity of nature.
- Address: 248 Ridgewood Ave, Charlotte, NC 28209, United States
- Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Wednesday – Sunday
- Cost: Free
18) Embrace Modernism At The Bechtler Museum Of Modern Art
Encompassing 36,500 square feet, the Bechtler Museum Of Modern Art is committed to preserving and displaying mid-20th-century art.
Part of the new Levine Center for the Arts located in Uptown, the museum was designed by the renowned architect Mario Botta.
The museum itself was named after the family of Andreas Bechtler, a native of Switzerland and resident of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Bechtler inherited a collection of more than 1,400 artworks mastered by significant figures of 20th-century modern art and seminal figures like Jean Tinguely, Andy Warhol, and Pablo Picasso.
- Address: 420 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202, United States
- Hours: 10 am – 5 pm, Opens at 12 pm on Sundays, Closed Tuesdays
- Cost: $9
There are lots of awesome museums in Uptown.
19) Refresh In The Great Outdoors At The McDowell Nature Center
The gateway to McDowell Nature Preserve, McDowell Nature Center, is a resource for information and educational programs about the area’s local fauna, flora, and communities.
As the oldest preserve in the county, the atmosphere proves to be refreshing and full of native animals and plants. Visitors can find nature in action at the Ozone Garden or in the demonstration compost area.
There are miles of hiking trails available, along with self-interpretive trail guides to take on the encompassing 1,132 acres of McDowell Nature Preserve.
Other activities of interest include paddling tours of Lake Wylie, camping at the McDowell Campground, and environmental education courses available to all ages.
- Address: 15222 York Rd, Charlotte, NC 28278, United States
- Hours: 9 am – 5 pm (Opens at 1 pm on Sundays)
- Cost: Free
20) View Award-Winning Exhibits At The Levine Museum of the New South
The Levine Museum of the New South presents a focus on life after the American Civil War in the North Carolina Piedmont.
Including award-winning permanent and temporary exhibits, the museum focuses on a wide range of Southern-related topics, including post-Civil War history and the revolving neighborhoods that define Charlotte today.
The “New South” in the museum’s name refers to the cultural and economic shift that occurred in the area following the Civil War.
And in this museum, visitors can take up the mantle to explore these exemplary exhibits and over 1,000 artifacts, including life-sized period displays, a one-room tenant farmer’s house, a civil rights era lunch counter, and more.
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21) Walk Through Nature At The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
A world-class botanical garden, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden features 380 acres of woodlands, rolling meadows, and a stunning lakefront property available for adventuring.
This inspiring and unforgettable garden plants a renewed view of nature’s beauty to all who step onto the grounds.
Guests are welcomed by a 100-year-old stained glass dome of the 13,500 Visitor Pavilion to 30 acres of unique and breathtaking gardens, like the children’s garden and the conservatory dedicated to the orchids and tropical plants.
The walking trails feature sparkling fountains, statues, and more stunning displays of outstanding pieces of nature to see on your Charlotte trip.
- Address: 6500 S New Hope Rd, Belmont, NC 28012, United States
- Hours: 10 am – 4 pm (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)
- Cost: $14.95
Where to Stay in Charlotte
Now that we know the best things to do in Charlotte let’s find the best places to stay during your trip to Queen City!
Best Budget Hotel in Charlotte
Quality Suites Pineville – Charlotte was designed to make guests feel at home with its spacious suites, ample living space, and the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring all of the best Charlotte attractions.
Sit down for a breakfast buffet in the morning before following the day’s itinerary!
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Charlotte
Offering stunning views of Uptown, AC Hotel by Marriott Charlotte Ballantyne’s 186 guest rooms are designed with large picture windows to bask in these undeniably striking scenes.
So unwind in the yoga studio or fitness center, step out for some R&R shopping, start the morning with a European-inspired breakfast, and relax in the AC Lounge with tapas and hand-crafted cocktails in hand at this superb mid-range hotel.
Best Luxury Hotel in Charlotte
The Ivey’s Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel located near all the best things to do in Charlotte.
Start the morning with continental breakfast in the Library Lounge, walk merely 350 feet to the nearby Mint Museum of Craft Design to begin the day’s adventure, and settle down in a floating bathtub to unwind from an eventful day of exploration.
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