Things to do in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte SkylineCharlotte, North Carolina, is the biggest city in the Piedmont region. Known for its natural beauty, its large young professional population, and one of the headquarters of NASCAR, Charlotte is thriving small city with a lot to offer its residents. You'll find no shortage of things to do in Charlotte this weekend, whether you're looking for family fun, adult nightlife, outdoor adventures, or indoor activities. The "Queen City" has you covered!


Top Attractions in Charlotte, NC

The United States National Whitewater Center, one of the top things to do in Charlotte, NC, showcases the Piedmont's vast natural resources while providing lots of opportunities for fun. The Center offers adult- and kid-friendly activities, including: ropes courses, zip lines, rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, and much more. The Center offers summer camp programs and field trips for children as well as team development exercises and clinics for adults. Charlotte natives rank the Whitewater Center highly among activities in the region, and there's enough activities to fill several return trips. For more fun for all ages, try the Carowinds theme park, one of top-rated and most fun things to do in Charlotte, NC. Located on the border of North and South Carolina, just 15 minutes south of Charlotte's city center, Carowinds has been one of the top destinations in the area since 1973. The park features thrill rides and roller coasters, rides suitable for young children, waterpark rides, and various live shows and entertainment.

Shopping is another popular activity in the Charlotte area. There's plenty of malls and outlet locations around the city and its suburbs. For a relaxing day of retail therapy, we recommend checking out Charlotte Premium Outlets, SouthPark Mall, Northlake Mall, Carolina Place, and Concord Mills. Smaller, but popular, retail locations in Charlotte include The Shoppes at University Place, Metropolitan Shopping Mall, and Atherton Mill.

NASCARAlong with Daytona Beach, Charlotte is one of the headquarters of NASCAR. Racing fans can take advantage of a number of awesome experiences related to NASCAR and the history of auto racing. The NASCAR Hall of Fame, located in Uptown, is a popular museum attraction that chronicles the history of auto racing, showcases classic NASCAR stock cars, and honors drivers past who have earned their place in the Hall of Fame. Many NASCAR teams have their headquarters in the Charlotte area, and offer public stores where visitors can purchase team merchandise. At Hendrick Motorsports, you can tour a small museum dedicated to the team's history in addition to the team store. Other car museums in the area include the Wellborn Muscle Car Museum and Richard Petty Museum. Race fans can sign up for a ride-along NASCAR Racing Experience, or even a solo driving experience, in a real NASCAR racing car! While this is a high-priced option, it's absolutely worth it! And last but certainly not least, watch a NASCAR race or a race from a number of other series at Charlotte Motor Speedway.


Now, let us take through some of the best things to do in downtown Charlotte, NC. A word of note: unlike other cities, Charlotte's "downtown" area is referred to as Uptown. While this may be slightly confusing, don't worry! To make things simple, we'll be sure to refer to this area as Uptown for the remainder of this guide. That being said, there's lots of entertaining and educational things to do in Uptown Charlotte. Uptown, which is divided into four Wards, is home to most of Charlotte's museums. Some of the top-rated art museums in the area you should check out include: Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Mint Museum Uptown, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture. History buffs will enjoy the Wells Fargo Museum and Levine Museum of the New South.

Uptown is home to a number of city's best parks and greenspaces, with lots of opportunities for outdoor fun and free events throughout the year. Just south of the Second Ward, the Little Sugar Creek Greenway is one of Charlotte's most popular outdoor attractions. While improvements to the Greenway are still under development, you can currently enjoy walking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, a swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, and other amenities. Elizabeth Park, Romare Bearden Park, First Ward Park, Fourth Ward Park, and Freedom Park are other popular choices in the Uptown area. If you're a fan of spectator sports, you can catch the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats at Spectrum Center in the First Ward, and the NFL's Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in the Third Ward.

Romantic Nightlife For Couples

Bars and NightlifeCouples looking for romantic date ideas will be happy to hear that Charlotte has a great up-and-coming nightlife, centered mainly on Uptown. Fun things to do in Charlotte at night include the area's many restaurants, bars, clubs, and performing arts venues. While there's lots of great date-night restaurants to choose from, we'll make it easier by recommending a few local favorites. For an upscale fine-dining experience, impress your date at The Fig Tree Restaurant. For cheaper but tasty fare, try authentic Peruvian chicken at Viva Chicken, classic Southern soul food at The King's Kitchen, or a sandwiches and burgers from Pinky's. For regional cuisine, sample classic Southern barbecue from Midwood Smokehouse, authentic Cajun cuisine at Cajun Queen, or unique Vietnamese fare at Lang Van. For after-dinner drinks, hang at one of Charlotte's top-rated bars, like Tyber Creek Pub, Howl at the Moon, Jeff's Bucket Shop, Hattie's Tap and Tavern, or the Thirsty Beaver Saloon.

For evening entertainment, Charlotte has a number of venues for live music, theater, and other fun nighttime activities. Popular theaters and music venues in the city include The Fillmore, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Music Factory, Ovens Auditorium, and CenterStage. Other fun things for couples to do in Charlotte, NC, include: exploring the shopping and dining options at EpiCentre, attending a Murder Mystery Dinner Party, bowling at 10 Park Lanes, or catching a Minor League baseball game and weekly fireworks display at BB&T Ballpark.

Family-Friendly Fun With Kids and Toddlers

There's lots of educational and fun things to do in Charlotte, NC for families with kids or toddlers. Charlotte has a number of attractions specifically catered to young children. Discovery Place is a popular attraction for families, with four locations in the area. Discovery Place Science is located in Uptown, and features interactive science exhibits, learning labs, a small aquarium, and an IMAX theater. The museum includes activities appropriate for various age levels, including adults, teens, and grade-school children. Discovery Place Nature is located in the southern part of the city, in the Freedom Park neighborhood. The Nature site focuses on educating kids on the natural world and animals, and offers live animal encounters, nature trails, and a planetarium. Discovery Place Kids has two locations in the Charlotte suburbs: one in Rockingham and one in Huntersville. Both locations cater to younger kids, including many activities appropriate for toddlers. Kids can learn through play at interactive exhibits and presentations on science, theater, art, the workplace, nutrition, and racing cars.

AquariumThere's a number of other things to do with kids in Charlotte and the surrounding area, and your family is sure to find something to fill the weekend. Kids and adults alike love the large aquarium at Sea Life Charlotte-Concord. Watch beautiful birds of prey take flight at the Raptor Center, and learn more about human pioneers of flight at Carolinas Aviation Museum. Kids and teens can enjoy library reading rooms and theater performances at Imaginon. Practice a new sport, try laser tag, play arcade games, go indoor rock climbing, and much more at Sports Connection. Finally, young racing fans can take to the track themselves in a go-kart at Concord Speed Park.

Free Options This Weekend

Looking for free things to do in Charlotte, NC? You've got options! One of the most popular free attractions in the Charlotte area is the Billy Graham Library. Located at the famed religious leader's home, the site now offers museum exhibits on Graham's work and his influence on American history, as well as a tranquil memorial garden. Free music is another popular activity in Charlotte that won't break your budget. Enjoy free seasonal concerts in Romare Bearden Park with the Party In The Park series, or at the US Whitewater Center with the River Jam series. Enjoy weekly free nights at many of the area's museums, and the always-free University of North Carolina-Charlotte Botanical Gardens and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library system. Art-lovers will enjoy a free Gallery Crawl every Friday in the South End neighborhood, and a public art scavenger hunt sponsored by the local Arts & Science Council.

Around the Area

North Carolina mountains and forestsMany of the most popular things to do near Charlotte, NC in the surrounding Piedmont region are centered around the area's natural beauty. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the area's gorgeous forests and waterways. Popular destinations for hiking, camping, wildlife spotting, and more include Cherokee National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, the Catawba River, Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve, Crowders Mountain State Park, Uwharrie National Forest, and the McDowell Nature Preserve. Other popular attractions around the area include the Land of Oz theme park, North Carolina Transportation Museum, Reed Gold Mine tours, and President James K. Polk Historic Site.

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