Planning a trip to North Carolina? Start by discovering all the best things to do in Charlotte, NC. Nicknamed Queen City, Charlotte was founded in 1796 and was named after King George III’s beloved wife, Queen Charlotte. Today, Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city and has become one of the most interesting urban hotspots in the Southeast USA—and a must-visit destination for travelers.
The top tourist attractions in Charlotte span the entire gamut of traveler interests. Art lovers can browse priceless artwork at museums like the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Mint Museum. History buffs can learn more about this charming Southern city and the region at the Charlotte Museum of History or the Levine Museum of the New South. Sports fans won’t be disappointed either, with points of interest like the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Hendrick Motorsports Complex topping the list for visitors.
Not sure what to do in Charlotte, North Carolina? Start planning your ultimate trip to the Queen City with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Charlotte, NC.
Must-see places to visit in Charlotte, NC
NASCAR Hall of Fame
Not sure where to start your first day in Charlotte? Make your first pit stop the NASCAR Hall of Fame. At the famed museum, you’ll explore the exhilaration of the adrenaline-inducing sport that draws in race fans year after year. For NASCAR fans and families alike, it’s one of the coolest places to see in Charlotte.
You and your crew will be able to get the full racing experience at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Children and parents alike will love sitting down at their racing simulators to experience all the twists and turns of a pro race travel.
After fancying yourself a new Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the simulator, test your skills with the pit crew challenge. At the interactive exhibit space, you’ll be timed on jacking the car up, changing the tires, and filling up the fuel tank.
If your family or friends in your travel group enjoy a little competition, you’ll love the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Spend time perusing its exciting hands-on exhibits and state-of-the-art theater to enjoy a little family fun.
Admission to the NASCAR Hall of Fame is $27 for adults, $20 for children 4 to 12, and $24 for seniors. There’s also a discounted price of $20 for military members. You can purchase tickets on the official website here.
Once you’ve soaked up racing history, don’t leave the area without digging deeper into the surrounding Second Ward neighborhood. One of Uptown Charlotte’s main neighborhoods, the Second Ward is full of museums, eateries, shops, and plenty of nightlife options, from bars to clubs.
If you’re here on a Saturday, don’t miss the Uptown Farmers Market, open from 8 am until 12:30 pm. Pick up fresh produce from local farmers at the small market for a picnic in Marshall Park, the top greenspace in the area. Before indulging in the nightlife, have a wander around The Green. This small pocket park is a hidden local gem featuring colorful street art installations and benches that are perfect for people-watching.
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Done exploring the NASCAR Hall of Fame? Head over to the Charlotte Motor Speedway to experience the real deal. One of the most popular Charlotte attractions, the race track is located about thirteen miles outside of the city. If you plan your trip ahead of time, you might even get to see a real race and hear the buzzing of the track and the crowd!
If you’re in Charlotte in the racing off-season, the facility offers daily tours and hosts a multitude of concerts and events. Make sure to check out the pit stops and the garages at Charlotte Motor Speedway for an up close and personal experience. And who knows? You might even get lucky and meet a famous driver if it’s a race day!
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
Want to scope out stunning architecture and explore the works of major 20th-century artists in North Carolina? Head to Uptown Charlotte to dive into mid-20th-century art at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Set within the Levine Center for the Arts, this popular gallery tops the list of what to see in Charlotte for art lovers.
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is home to a collection of over fourteen thousand pieces for you to enjoy and be inspired by. Some of the artists displayed in the exhibits include Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.
Along with the art, you’ll be drawn in by the museum’s stunning building. Designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, the building creates a fascinating visual interplay between its design and the natural light outdoors.
After visiting one of Charlotte’s most popular museums, carve out time in your vacation plans to explore the rest of the cool Third Ward neighborhood. One of the most popular neighborhoods in Charlotte’s Center City, the Third Ward is chock-loaded with museums, parks, shops, restaurants, pubs, and bars.
Enjoy the outdoors and catch fun concerts and events at Romare Bearden Park, one of the city’s premier urban parks. Join locals as they cheer on their hometown favorites by catching a Carolina Panthers NFL football game at Bank of America Stadium or a Triple-A minor league baseball game at Truist Field.
PRO TIP: Discover Charlotte’s historic city center on a fun-filled Historic Uptown Segway Tour!
Traveling to Charlotte with kids? Discovery Place is the perfect place to escape a hot afternoon or rainy morning. This interactive science museum was designed to inspire and educate kids and adults alike. With its hands-on exhibits, it’s one of the most interesting, family-friendly Charlotte tourist attractions.
Discovery Place comprises four hands-on museums. Its thought-provoking interactive exhibits explore the cutting edge of science and nature. Fun activities to explore include an indoor rainforest, artificial intelligence, lab experiments, and human body exhibits.
No matter your interest, you’ll love exploring all of the intricacies of science and the natural world among the interactive exhibits.
Not sure where to go in Charlotte for outdoor activities? Look no further than Freedom Park. This popular 98-acre park centers around a 7-acre lake. Freedom Park is not far from downtown, making it one of the most popular places to go in Charlotte for a quick escape from the city.
Freedom Park has something for everyone. You and the entire family can rent bikes for a quick biking adventure or pack up a blanket & picnic basket for a relaxing afternoon away from the big crowds. Practice your swing at the batting cages. Challenge your travel group to games on the basketball courts or a match on the tennis courts. There are even playgrounds here for the little ones to expend some excess energy.
Scattered throughout Freedom Park, there are also food concession stands and plenty of covered spaces with grills to enjoy a BBQ. During the warmer season, the park comes alive with family and friends enjoying the hot Charlotte sun. The public park also offers plenty of festivals in the fall for the city to come together and enjoy live music or films in the evenings.
An amusement park just screams summer. And Carowinds has everything you need for a day of thrill-seeking and fun, family-friendly activities in Charlotte. The park hosts an impressive fifty-seven rides, making Carowinds one of the top Charlotte points of interest for endless summer fun in perfect weather.
Carowinds is home to the largest water park in the South. If roller coasters aren’t your thing, splash around the wave pool or float along the lazy river to cool off and relax.
If you’ve got little ones in tow, Camp Snoopy is a great option at Carowinds. The amusement area features mini-rides for the whole family to chase the thrills.
Need a break from the thrill rides? Head to the plaza to enjoy live entertainment and shows throughout the whole day. Regardless of where you are on the scale of chill to thrill, Carowinds has something for everyone. It’ll keep a smile on your face all day long on your Charlotte trip.
With two separate locations, the Mint Museum is a must-see attraction in Charlotte for art lovers. The Mint Museum is the longest-running museum in North Carolina. It’s home to artwork from the U.S., Europe, and Africa. The gallery continues to support artists from all over the world with their traveling exhibits.
The Mint Museum Uptown is home to the internationally renowned craft and design collection. With its cutting-edge displays and inspiring pieces, it’s a must-see. The Mint Museum Randolph is the original branch and was the first art museum in North Carolina. The Randolph location offers art in the form of lectures, programs, and performances. You’ll also encounter intimate galleries to engage with at this prestigious institution.
If you’re visiting the Mint Museum Uptown with kids, don’t miss the Lewis Family Gallery. Suitable for all ages, the kid-friendly Lewis Family Gallery offers a hands-on hub for sparking creativity. Set the kids loose to create their own arts & crafts, solve puzzles, and pose for pictures.
The entry fee will give you access to both the Mint Museum Uptown and Mint Museum Randolph for two days in a row.
Charlotte Museum of History
History buffs visiting Queen City can’t miss out on the Charlotte Museum of History. If you want to learn the unique history of Charlotte and how this diverse city has come together since 1774, this popular museum is a must-visit. The Charlotte Museum of History is located in the oldest surviving house in East Charlotte, the Hezekiah Alexander House.
The Charlotte Museum of History transports you back in time on a journey through the city’s evolution and its intentions to catapult into the future. The museum aims to preserve the stories of the past and protect the cultural identity of Charlotte’s residents.
Visiting this important museum, you’ll leave with a new appreciation of the city of Charlotte and the state of North Carolina.
PRO TIP: Interested in Charlotte’s history? Dig into its darker side on a Beyond the Grave Haunted History Walking Ghost Tour!
Levine Museum of the New South
Continuing with the history theme, make your next stop the Levine Museum of the New South. This popular history museum revolves around life after the American Civil War. The museum’s exhibits don’t hold back from the truth of the civil rights movement. It whisks you from “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers,” with the goal of prompting reflection and dialogue.
The tour takes you on a journey through a wide variety of cultures and experiences. The Levine Museum of the New South delivers a well-rounded view of how Charlotte overcame adversity and developed into a modern city worth celebrating.
Billy Graham Library
Charlotte is home to one of the most famous evangelical leaders of our generation, the late Billy Graham. His legacy carries on at the Billy Graham Library, one of the most popular points of interest in Charlotte, NC. The famed evangelist’s childhood home also sits on the property.
At the Billy Graham Library, you’ll experience all that made Billy Graham one of the most influential Christian spiritual leaders of the 20th century. There’s an incredible spiritual presence here that moves many and leaves them in awe of Graham’s impact.
Visitors can choose to walk through the property on their own. You’ll also find private tours that include a stop at his home and the Billy Graham Library with a delicious lunch at the Graham Brothers Dairy Bar. Although most famous for its ice cream and milkshakes, other popular items on the menu include sandwiches, soups, and salads.
U.S. National Whitewater Center
Always wanted to go whitewater rafting? Well, here’s your chance! Put on your water shoes and join in on the fun at U.S. National Whitewater Center. For adrenaline-seekers, the center is one of the top Charlotte attractions.
The U.S. National Whitewater Center offers plenty of activities for the whole family. It features an incredible artificial whitewater rafting experience that’ll leave you feeling as if you’re careening down a real river.
Not interested in rafting down the whitewater river? The U.S. National Whitewater Center is home to many other thrilling activities. The center also offers hiking, yoga, rock climbing, mountain biking, and ziplines. They even have a bouldering wall over a pool of water. Prepare to get wet!
Hendrick Motorsports Complex
Motorsports enthusiasts are never disappointed visiting Charlotte. Yet one more stop for the racing fan’s itinerary is the Hendrick Motorsports Complex. Located on Papa Joe Hendrick Blvd, this popular attraction is just one mile from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s a convenient stop either before or after heading to the speedway.
The Hendrick Motorsports Complex hosts a state-of-the-art training facility where racers prepare for upcoming events and races. Also within the complex is the Hendrick Motorsports Museum, showcasing racing trophies and cars.
For NASCAR fans, there’s also a gift shop on-site to get all the racing souvenir gear you need.
Love baseball? Cheer on the Charlotte Knights in Uptown at a minor league game at Truist Field, formerly known as BB&T Ballpark. If you’re in town during the Knights season, join in with the Charlotte crowd by eating a hotdog and drinking an ice-cold soda while cheering on the home team.
If it’s out of season, no worries: Truist Field is one of Charlotte’s premier event centers. The venue is full of opportunities to visit for corporate events, concerts or to enjoy the Charlotte skyline from the terrace.
Crowders Mountain State Park
Looking for a day outside of the city? Get some fresh air and get your heart rate up at Crowders Mountain State Park. One of the most popular Charlotte day trips, the state park lies about twenty miles outside of Charlotte, not far from the state’s border with South Carolina.
Crowders Mountain State Park is home to two of the tallest peaks in the area: Crowders Mountain and The Pinnacle. Both feature a variety of hiking trails with a multitude of difficulty levels for every type of hiker.
Once you reach the peaks, you’ll dazzle at amazing views of downtown Charlotte on one side and the park’s mountains on the other. After your hike, there’s a stunning 9-mile lake in to cool off in when the weather is hot, or go fishing or kayaking.
The hiking trails at Crowders Mountain State Park can get crowded and hot when the sun is up. Get there early in the day to get in a quick hike and enjoy the lake while the sun is in full blaze.
Lake Norman State Park
Home to the largest man-made lake in North Carolina, Lake Norman State Park is the perfect place to spend an active Saturday afternoon or a weekend camping. The state park boasts a thirty-mile single trail for mountain bikers and plenty of off-trail fishing spots.
Lake Norman State Park offers outdoor adventurers some of the most exciting things to do in Charlotte, NC. Don’t miss a chance to rent paddle boards, canoes, and paddleboats to get out onto the water and enjoy the day.
If you choose to stay the night, make sure to attend their stargazing event. Under the dark sky, let the park rangers help you identify the constellations and stars.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
Spread out on 380 acres along Lake Wylie, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden beckons you out of the city and into nature. The park is home to nine historic gardens within a 110-acre radius. The gardens will leave you and your family with plenty of memories and a new love for nature.
At Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, you’ll be able to enjoy walking trails and sparkling fountains at all times during the year. You’ll see flowers blooming in spring, a beautiful light display at Christmas time—and even a Chinese Lantern Festival.
Historic Rosedale Plantation
Located less than four miles from Uptown Charlotte, Historic Rosedale Plantation is one of the must-sees in the Queen City. Built in 1815 and restored in 1993, this North Carolina historic home and gardens sit upon the grounds of the 911-acre former plantation.
There are a variety of tours to take you through life at this Antebellum plantation home, including a haunted tour. The house now hosts a museum that runs through the history of the Historic Rosedale Plantation and its owners.
Camp North End
Want to dig into Charlotte’s cultural scene? Save time for a visit to Camp North End. Housed in a former warehouse complex in Charlotte’s emerging North End Smart District, the ambitious redevelopment project assembles over 40 tenants, representing some of the city’s trendiest businesses.
Within the 76-acre complex, visitors will find everything from food stalls and cafés to art galleries and fitness studios. Start off your Camp North End visit with a cold brew at HEX Coffee before browsing local artwork at Blk Mrkt, DUPP&SWAT, or Windy O’Connor Art and Home.
Wrap up your itinerary with some Latin American street food at La Caseta or a Southern-inspired dinner at Leah & Louise.
NoDa Brewing Company
For a primer into Charlotte’s burgeoning craft beer industry, tap into NoDa Brewing Company. Opened in 2011, the brewery is one of the city’s most popular, offering a vast selection of award-winning craft beers.
Head to the original NoDa Brewing Company taproom on North Tryon Street to spend an afternoon tasting their most popular brews in their sunny beer garden. The brewery also hosts regular events, including live music and food trucks rollin’ on in to feed the beer connoisseurs.
Shopaholics visiting Charlotte should loosen up their purse strings for some retail therapy at SouthPark Mall. Located about 20 minutes south of Uptown, the center is one of the most exclusive shopping destinations in North Carolina.
Visitors will enjoy over 175 stores at SouthPark Mall, ranging from upscale boutiques to department stores. Browse top fashion brands like Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Gucci, and Neiman Marcus before retiring to the Dining Pavilion for some delicious food.
After your shopping extravaganza, check out the center’s outdoor amphitheater, Symphony Park. If you’re visiting in June, try to catch a performance of the world-class Charlotte Symphony Orchestra at their Summer Pops concert series.
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
Fans of arts & culture and architecture need to add the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture into their Charlotte trip itinerary. With its striking modern design, it’s one of the city’s most impressive buildings and an absolute must-see for visitors passing through North Carolina’s biggest city.
Formerly known as the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Harvey B. Gantt Center celebrates the impact of African Americans on North Carolina and American culture as a whole.
The venue’s permanent collection features masterworks from artists like Charlotte’s own Romare Bearden, Hale Woodruff, and Jacob Lawrence.
The Harvey B. Gantt Center also hosts regular special events. Check their official events calendar to see what’s on during your visit to Charlotte.
Recommended places to stay in Charlotte for sightseeing
For travelers, the most popular places to stay in Charlotte lie in & around Uptown Charlotte. The city center is home to most of the city’s top hotels and is the perfect place to tackle all the top tourist attractions.
Located in the heart of Uptown, this hotel offers some of the best value in the city center. The rooms are bright, spacious, and comfortable. Guests will also enjoy great amenities, including an indoor pool and free continental breakfast.
One of the area’s top mid-range picks, this newer hotel charms with its simple modern style. You’ll love ending a day of Charlotte sightseeing with a sundowner at the 22nd-floor rooftop bar.
For a luxurious stay in Charlotte, look no further than this stunning boutique-style hotel. The luxury hotel includes two on-site restaurants & bars, including Merchant & Trade, a 19th-floor rooftop bar overlooking Romare Bearden Park.