Charlotte was such a sweet surprise. I knew that it was surrounded by beautiful nature, outdoors activities, and was North Carolina’s largest city. However, I soon found out how colorful and dynamic this southern city was, especially for a solo traveler. From amazing food, athletic teams, to all of the different neighborhoods to explore you won’t run out of things to do in Charlotte, NC. There is as much to do inside the city as there was to do right on its’ door step. The fact is Charlotte is not only a city that is growing exponentially with a thriving economy, but it also offers really great opportunities to get outdoors. This fall I wanted to catch some fall leaves and decided to see the fall foliage in North Carolina and see the Queen City aka Charlotte.

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What is Charlotte most known for?

Not only does Charlotte has some amazing attractions and outdoor activities It also is known as the banking capital of the United States, home to professional sports teams the Carolina Carolina Panthers, and the NBA Hornets. Also, this is one of the epicenters of Nascar and is home to the Nascar Hall of Fame. Charlotte was named to honor Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, married to the British King George III when the city was founded. Hence the nickname the “Queen City”. From the adventure activities that will exhilarate you at the US White Water National Center, to the arts and cultural history you will find at museums; one will find the Queen City is full of surprises.

Prior to working with the CRVA and Charlottesgotalot.com, I did not know all of the things Charlotte offered for tourists. The Queen City is the 15th largest in the USA, so you will find many unique things to do in Charlotte, NC.

The Best Time to Visit Charlotte, NC

The best time to visit Charlotte is for sure during the Summer and Fall months. The weather is mild in Charlotte, North Carolina and that is why so many are moving to the Queen City. I personally really enjoyed my time in October while the leaves were changing. I would suggest coming when the U.S. National Whitewater Center is running rafting trips.

Unique Things to do in Charlotte, NC

There are many unique things about Charlotte. Not only is Charlotte one of the largest cities in the United States, it is also one of the greenest. Charlotte has been named a top 10 city for urban forests by American Forests and is dubbed the “Tree City”.

Nascar Hall of Fame

Sarah Fay travel blogger standing in the Nascar Hall of Fame hall honoring drivers.
Nascar Hall of Fame

The Charlotte Speedway and Queen City have always played an important role in Nascar. In 2010 that relationship was cemented when they built the Nascar Hall of Fame. The interactive exhibits allowed me to learn about this high intensity and technical sport. I even was able to try a simulator car that professional drivers use to practice. (By drive more like crash every other minute). One of my favorite exhibits was racing the clock to change tires and put gas in a car. I can barely change a tire, but Nascar crews are able to complete it in 12 seconds.

Definitely, a unique thing to do in Charlotte, the Nascar Hall of Fame is great to learn more about the sport. It also is a tribute to the Nascar drivers, crew, and team owners that made the sport what it is today. Maybe if you are lucky you can catch a race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Nascars only 600-mile track.

NODA Explore the Street Murals and Arts Neighborhood

One thing that makes a city unique is its character that is made up of the neighborhoods that create the fabric of the city. Here in Charlotte one of those Neighborhoods, NODA is where the artistic fabric of the city is woven. NoDa stands for North Davidson and is an eco-friendly community, neighborhood, and center of artists and musicians in Charlotte, North Carolina. Want to listen to live music in Charlotte? Head to JackBeagle’s NoDa for live music in a laidback environment. There was an outdoor stage when I went in October so this place is sure to be a good spot in the spring and summer as well.

Have a sweet tooth while exploring NoDa’s beautiful murals? Then check out Reigning Donuts owned and operated by the same owners of Haberdish one of the best restaurants in Charlotte. I was lucky to experience a delish dinner there more information on that below.

Camp Northend.

On my last day in Charlotte, I wanted to do something relaxing and I decided to go to yoga with Counter Culture Club in Charlotte. It is interesting over the past decade Charlotte has skyrocketed in the craft brewery scene, however I don’t drink so I love to find things that offer a different perspective of a city. This was a great group started for those looking to embrace and be a part of a community geared towards those who live an alcohol-free lifestyle or are interested in drinking less.

They organize yoga on Sundays at Camp Northend a center of innovation and creativity in Charlotte spanning 76 acres. It was great to get outside and do some yoga surrounded by murals, a redesigned urban area, and learn more about the Counter Culture Club. I also got to get some very good coffee at one of Charlotte’s amazing cafes Hex. Come to Camp Northend to explore more local businesses, shop, and eat really good food in a unique area of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Funny Bus– Top Funny Thing to Do In Charlotte, NC

A unique and funny thing I did was join Funny Bus on there laugh out loud tour that allowed you to bring your own snacks, juice, coffee, drinks of whatever sort on board as we cruised around Charlotte. The guide was a stand-up comedian that really gave me the laugh out loud experience I needed on a Saturday night in Charlotte. It was nice to see the city in a lighthearted and fun manner. I found the driver and the comedian telling the history of Charlotte a delight and it was for sure a unique thing to do in Charlotte. The tour was 90 minutes of laughing at funny jokes (not for the faint-hearted), learning about the history of Charlotte, and seeing different neighborhoods that make the Queen City special.

What do locals do in Charlotte, NC  

Check out sunrise at the Airport Overlook Park in Charlotte with the skyline in the background.

Locals of Charlotte are referred to “Charlotteans” and will often be found at a Charlotte Panthers or Hornets game. They are proud and love their city. Charlotteans will check out their favorite BBQ joint and tell you the best BBQ sauce is vinegar-based.

A local told me to check out the sunrise at the Charlotte Departures Overlook at the airport. I pulled up to a park looking over the airport departures with Charlotte in the background and knew it was the right decision that morning. I caught a beautiful sunrise over the skyline of Charlotte with the airport in the foreground. It is definitely a perfect spot for photographers.

Locals are lucky that they have the light rail and one of the best public transport systems in the country. So even if you are not a local you will find it easy to get around like a local with the Charlotte Light Rail. 

When I was in town, I saw many locals grabbing some ice cream at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in the South End Neighborhood. The South End neighborhood is a trendy and youthful neighborhood full of great food, nightlife, and is easily accessible by the light rail.

What are the top attractions to visit in Charlotte?

Uptown Charlotte Museums

There are many museums to visit in Charlotte, while I could not visit them all during my time there here are three of the top ones that I chose to visit each showcasing a different aspect of the city’s history and culture. These museums are also perfect because they are all within walking distance to one another and can be done on the same day. Perfect if you are only in Charlotte for a short amount of time. The Levine Museum of the New South and the Mint Museum recently was awarded a grant for augmented reality to enhance the visitor experience by the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte. Now visitors can use the AVO app allows for an augmented reality experience that adds value by making it feel as if a museum employee or expert is sharing about the exhibits the visitor is experiencing at the moment. 

Levine Museum of the New South

A history museum to me is as important as the food and experiencing the city in the present day in my opinion. Especially when it is done as well as the Levine Museum of the New South. What is the New South you ask? Well, it is the period from after the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the end of slavery, to the present. The New South refers to the period of expansion of southern cities, the reinvention of the south from cotton farmers to manufacturers, and urban lifestyles. The interactive and thought-provoking exhibits really connected visitors with the spirit of Charlotte and its’ past.

Address: 200 E. Seventh Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

Price:

  • Adults $10.00
  • Seniors, Students, Frontline workers, and Active Military: $8.00
  • Children (6-18): $6.00
  • Ages 5 and under: FREE

Hours:

  • Monday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday – Thursday: Closed
  • Friday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Saturday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (9 a.m. – 10 a.m. special hour for senior and at-risk guests)
  • Sunday: 12 noon – 5 p.m.

The Mint Museum

On the first impression, the Mint Museum looks like a piece of artwork in itself. The beautiful 5 story building houses an internationally acclaimed Craft and Design collection, as well as American, European, and contemporary art. Luckily, I was able to check out one of their new exhibits In Vivid Color that opened on October 16th, 2020. The experience of the Mint can happen in your own home as well with the Mint Museum from Home virtual tours. Also, if you happen to be in Charlotte on a Wednesday from 5 pm-9 pm the Mint Museum is FREE! Currently, the Mint is asking guests to secure a timed entry ticket before their visit.

Address: 500 South Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

Price:

  • Adults $15
  • College Students / Seniors (65+) $10
  • Children 5 – 17 $6
  • Children 4 and under Free

Hours:

  • Mon – CLOSED
  • Tues 11 AM – 6 PM
  • Wed 11 AM – 9 PM
  • Thurs – 11 AM – 6 PM
  • Fri – 11 AM – 9 PM
  • Sat 11 AM – 6 PM
  • Sun 1 – 5 PM

What are the best outdoor activities in Charlotte?

One of the reasons Charlotte is so burgeoning is because of the sheer amount of outdoor activities on the Queen City’s doorstep. Only 2 hours away and you will reach the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway, or check out the nearby Uwharrie National Forest and stay in a Getaway Cabin (I did it was amazing!). The fact is Charlotte has many outdoor activities from whitewater sports, to biking and hiking through some beautiful state parks and national parks. Where ever your adventuring soul wants to go you can take it in Charlotte, North Carolina.

US Whitewater National Center

I probably could write a whole post gushing about how much I loved my experience at the US Whitewater National Center. That is probably because I spent ALL DAY there and it was an outdoor lover’s paradise. There were over 1300 acres and 50 miles of trails at the US Whitewater National Center. The center offered outdoor adventure activities, such as mountain biking, ropes courses, ziplines, whitewater rafting, as well as restaurants on-site to fuel up. I was lucky to catch the whitewater rafting trips before they ended on October 18th for the season and was so happy I did. My group was fantastic (all women) and we did the adventure trip going through all of the man-made whitewater courses. Honestly, I could not tell the difference because they were all class 3 or 4 rapids that felt like the real deal to me.

However, any time of year locals and tourists alike can experience the outdoor activities in Charlotte at the USWNC. November through February the Whitewater Center turns into a winter wonderland with ice skating and lights decorating the center at night. Check out the calendar for activities that are going on daily and hours.

Address: U.S. National Whitewater Center 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway Charlotte, NC 28214

Price:

  • 1 Day Pass: Youth (9 years & under): $49 per person, Adults (10 years & up): $59 per person.
  • 2 Day Pass: Youth (9 years & under) $89 and Adults (10 years & up) $109 per person.
  • There are also annual passes and single activity tours.

Hours:

  • Pass Activities 10 am-6:00pm
  • Main Grounds 7:00 am – 7:00 pm

Ropes course at the US Whitewater national center in charlotte, nc. The bridge is in the canopy of the forest.

Lake Norman

Escape a short half-hour drive to Lake Norman a beautiful and peaceful place great to rget outdoors in the warmer months. A great spot for lunch or brunch is Hello, Sailor with a great outdoor dining space and view of the Lake. Lake Norman has over 520 miles of shoreline to explore and here you can rent SUP, Kayaks, jet skis, and boats to have some fun on the water.

Uwharrie National Forest

Things to Do in Charlotte, NC- pisgah covered bridge with beautiful fall foliage in background.

An hour outside of Charlotte is the Uwharrie National Forest. Whether you want a night in the woods at a Getaway House, check out the North Carolina Zoo, or just take a hike in nature this spot has beautiful trails and country sights like the Pisgah Covered Bridge. I stayed at Getaway House on the edge of the Uwharrie National Forest and loved getting out there especially in the fall for the colorful foliage. If you want to stay at Getaway I have a code for you! Sign up for my newsletter below to get access to $25 USD OFF your stay!

The Uwharrie National Recreation Trail is 19 miles long, but you can do what you want on the trail check out AllTrails for amazing hikes in the area as well as the Badin Lake Loop.

Maybe glamping is not your style and you want to find some campgrounds to really get into nature? Then check out TheDyrt for some great camping recommendations, pictures, and reviews of sites.

Charlotte B-Cycle

Roam and explore Charlotte’s urban greenway trail system spanning 52 plus miles. Rent a Charlotte B-Cycle bike to cycle around the city and get outdoors while adventuring through different Charlotte neighborhoods like the South End and NoDa neighborhood.

Price:

  • 30 minutes $5 USD
  • 24 Hours (no need to dock) $30 USD

Where do locals eat in Charlotte, NC?

Haberdish

I cannot sing enough praises for Haberdish after I had the most delicious three-course meai and an amazing mocktail. The modern take on Southern cooking like grandma used to make, and the interesting concept and infusion of Charlotte’s past as a Milltown and the eclectic neighborhood of NoDa makes this a must-try on your visit to the Queen City.

While here I ate enough for two, I ordered the Fried Chicken which they are known for, BBQ Ribs, mac and cheese with crispy chicken skins, roasted cauliflower, deviled eggs, and a very interesting and yummy PB and J Bacon Plate. Don’t forget the dessert and try the Banana Pudding a southern classic.

For mocktails, they can create you anything and make it easy by having the choices already on the menu. Also, they are known for their cocktails so if that is your jam then you can enjoy that too.

Hours:

  • Tuesday – Thursday 5pm – 10pm (last reservations at 9:30pm)
  • Friday 5pm – 11pm (last reservations at 10:30pm)
  • Saturday 11:30am – 11pm (last reservations at 10:30pm)
  • Sunday 11:30 – 10pm (last reservations at 9:30pm)

Address: 3106 N. Davidson Street Charlotte, NC

Price’s Chicken Coop

For a low key, laidback, southern fried chicken establishment come to Charlotte’s acclaimed Price’s Chicken Coop. Guy Fieri even made a stop and featured it on his show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. This spot is fire and you won’t disagree with me, but you need cash only and will have to find a place and call it a picnic to eat.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Address: 1614 Camden Road, Charlotte, NC

7th Street Public Market

The 7th street Public Market supports smaller businesses to showcases the local food culture of the Carolinas. With over 10 businesses that are women-owned, BIPOC, and giving back to the local community if you come here to eat you are doing good. Also, the perfect thing about it is it is right around the corner from all the Uptown museums.

Hours: 10am- 5pm

Address: 224 E. 7TH ST, Charlotte, NC 28202

The Suffolk Punch

The Suffolk Punch is a brewery, coffee bar, and outdoor hang out space in the South End seemed like an interesting experience so I wanted to check it out and came here to grab the best Pumpkin Pie Latte and breakfast burrito I have had in a while. It was super easy to access since it was right off the light rail line for those who don’t have a rental car. Also, I love spots like this that also give me something to enjoy when I meet up with friends and don’t drink. I can grab a yummy coffee to stay warm.

Hours:

  • Mon-Fri 7:30am-10pm
  • Saturday 10am – 10pm (brunch ’till 3)
  • Sunday 10 am – 9 pm (brunch ’till 3)

Address: 2911 Griffith St, Charlotte, NC 28203 , On the Light Rail Station @ New Bern Station

Is Charlotte, NC worth visiting?

One amazing outdoor thing to do in charlotte, nc is go whitewater rafting at the US Whitewater national center!
Whitewater rafting with the all girl crew at the US Whitewater national center!

My answer: Absolutely! Charlotte has a unique blend of the outdoors, culture, and food gems that make a city enviable. It is a city to explore the different pockets of distinct neighborhoods, challenge yourself with outdoor activities, experience the fall foliage, and enjoy some awesome local food and culture through the many museums. I was pleasantly surprised by Charlotte and whether you want to explore after coming into town for a game or Nascar event, a conference, or for a weekend getaway I am sure there is something for every type of traveler in this vibrant city.

Where to stay in Charlotte?

Booking.com

Want more ideal outdoor destinations for your next vacation or wanderlust?

Check out my guide to the Berkshires or be on the lookout for my experience at Getaway House in North Carolina!

Looking for the best things to do in Charlotte, NC? Here is a guide to Charlotte for adventure and culture seekers for the perfect vacation.

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